Collaborative play writing

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Humanities > School of Language and Literature > Department for Literary Studies > Writing Centre

Tragedy and comedy, staples of the theatre since antiquity
Everyone contributes up to the concluding scene

This is the Wiki play submission site, a planning page for collaborative writing projects that involve play writing. The site may be used as a course requirement in a drama department at a university or in a drama school.

Plans for play writing projects[edit]

Briefly describe plans for play writing projects in sections below. Active projects should each have their own subpage.

An alternative Internet site involving play writing on a public wiki is found at http://www.wikiary.net/~wikiary1/index.php?title=Plays

From monologue to dialogue[edit]

The idea behind this project is to write a play, starting with a monologue and gradually re-writing it into a dialogue. One new character will be added with each re-write and, in this manner the script will eventually be fleshed out into a full play. So the key would be to start with a really good monologue.

Monologue from plays[edit]

Among renowned playwrights, Anton Chekhov wrote a monologue for one man, On the Harmful Effects of Tobacco (1886). The text of "On the Harmful Effects of Tobacco" is seen at http://method.vtheatre.net/doc/tobacco.html

Jean Cocteau wrote The Human Voice (1930), a monologue for one woman speaking on the telephone.

August Strindberg wrote The Stronger (1889), a play with 2 women, but only one of them speak. The text of "The stronger" is seen at http://www.archive.org/details/threeplayscounte00striuoft

Eugene O'Neill wrote "Time before Breakfast" (1916), a one-act play with two persons (a man and a woman), but only the woman speaks. also Hughie (1942), a one-act play with 2 men, but with mostly one of them speaking. Samuel Beckett wrote Happy Days (play) (1961), a play with one woman and one man, with only the woman speaking. In two other Beckett plays, Krapp's Last Tape (1958) contains one man and Not I (1972) one woman. Harold Pinter wrote Landscape (play) (1968) with one man and one woman, but since they do not interact, this amounts to two monologues for the price of one. Sam Shepard wrote Kicking a Dead Horse (2007) with one man, almost a monologue, except for one woman arriving late in the play, and a dead horse.

Among lesser known more modern plays, Kristen Thomson wrote I, Claudia (2001), a one-woman play.

Monologue from short stories[edit]

A second possibility is to adapt a short story in monologue form into a play. Renowned examples of this kind include Victor Hugo's The Last Day of a Condemned Man (1829), Nikolai Gogol's Diary of a Madman (1835), Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground (1864), Thomas Mann's Death in Venice (1912), Franz Kafka's A Hunger Artist (1924), Louis-Ferdinand Céline's "Cannon-fodder" (1949).

The text of "The Last Day of a Condemned Man" can be read at http://www.archive.org/details/worksofvictorhug05hugoiala

"Diary of a Madman" at http://www.archive.org/details/mantleotherstori00gogorich

"Notes from Underground" at http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Notes_from_Underground

Monologue from diaries or confessions[edit]

The diary format may be particularly conducive to such adaptations. Famous memoirs comprise Confessions (St. Augustine) (397), by Augustine of Hippo, "Chronicles of the reign of Henry III and Henry IV of France" (1621) by Pierre de L'Estoile, Samuel Pepys's diary (1669), John Evelyn's diary (1697), Confessions (Jean-Jacques Rousseau) (1782) by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Histoire de ma vie (Story of my Life, 1794) by Giacomo Casanova, Carlo Gozzi, "Memorie inutili" (Useless memoirs, 1797), Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821) by Thomas de Quincey, Mémoires d'outre-tombe (Memoirs from beyond the grave, 1848), by François René de Chateaubriand, A Confession (1882) by Leo Tolstoy, and Franz Kafka's Diaries (1948). In a more modern, popular if not frivolous vein, there is Bridget Jones's Diary (1996) by Helen Fielding.

Augustine's confessions are found at http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Confessions_of_Saint_Augustine

Pepys' diary at http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Diary_of_Samuel_Pepys

Evelyn's diary at http://www.archive.org/details/diaryjohnevelyn00braygoog

Rousseau's confessions at http://www.archive.org/details/confessions01rousgoog

Gozzi's confessions at http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/33225

The memoirs of Casanova at http://www.archive.org/details/jccld10

The memoirs of de Quincey at http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Confessions_of_an_English_Opium-Eater

The memoirs of Chateaubriand at http://wikilivres.info/wiki/Chateaubriand%27s_memoirs

Tolstoy's confessions at http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/A_Confession

Monologues in play forms adapted from confessions have already been written, such as The Year of Magical Thinking (2007) by Joan Didion: consisting of one woman and I Am My own Wife (2003) by Doug Wright, consisting one one female transvestite.

There is one ongoing project in this section: "French chronicles of the 1590s".

French chronicles of the 1590s[edit]

"French chronicles of the 1590s" is based on "Chronicles of the reign of Henry III and Henry IV of France" (1621) by Pierre de L'Estoile.

The initial version of this play written by Robert Lalonde is based on a free ebook version available at http://self.gutenberg.org/eBooks/WPLBN0002828035-French-Chronicles-of-the-1590s-and-Francis-de-Sales-by-Lalonde--Robert--Dr-.aspx?

See

French chronicles of the 1590s

Making a Renaissance play Shakespeare-like[edit]

Shakespeare as the standard of playwriting

Reflections on collaborative playwriting in the English Renaissance theatre have been published in the journal Theatre Research International, 1989 http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=3061952

A second source of information is a more recent book by Heather Anne Hirschfeld: Joint enterprises: collaborative drama and the institutionalization of the English Renaissance Theater. Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2004, presented in part at

http://books.google.fr/books?id=tT_lXKFK1roC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Joint+Enterprises:

a book reviewed by Brain Walsh in Renaissance Quarterly-Volume 58, Number 1, Spring 2005, pp. 345-347.

at http://muse.jhu.edu/login?uri=/journals/renaissance_quarterly/v058/58.1walsh.html

One idea is to start with an entire public domain play and rewrite it, each writer being responsible for specific scenes, often done in Elizabethan days. The best choices might be plays with strong scenes but with important flaws liable to be improved.

There are 3 ongoing projects of this kind.

Cardenio[edit]

Double Falshood (1727) by Lewis Theobald is an adaptation of the lost The History of Cardenio by John Fletcher (playwright) and William Shakespeare. The lost play is described at the Lost Plays database: http://www.lostplays.org/index.php/Cardenio. Gary Taylor (scholar) adapted it in Renaissance-style speech. Stephen Greenblatt and Charles L. Mee adapted it in modern style.

Only a small part of the original version of the Theobald play, perhaps 1%, sounded like either of the 17th century authors. The purpose of the project is to make the Theobald play more Shakespeare-like, or at least more Fletcher-like. At the present moment, the text has almost entirely been reshaped and sounds much more like an 17th century work. The names of most of the characters have been changed back to the original version of the story, namely the Cardenio episodes contained in chapters 24, 27, 28, 29, and 36 of Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote (1605 and 1615).

The original text of "Double falsehood" is available at http://www.archive.org/details/cu31924013363894

See

Cardenio

A Yorkshire Tragedy[edit]

Plays of the Shakespeare Apocrypha may be used, such as A Yorkshire Tragedy (1608). As with Cardenio, the text has been almost entirely reshaped.

The original text of "A Yorkshire Tragedy" is found at http://www.archive.org/details/supplementplays00shakiala

See

A Yorkshire Tragedy

Aglaura[edit]

Other playwrights listed in English Renaissance theatre may be used, such as Aglaura (play) (1637) by Sir John Suckling (poet). The text has almost entirely been reshaped to sound like a more important 17th century work.

The original text of "Aglaura" is seen at http://www.archive.org/details/poemsplaysandot06suckgoog

See

Aglaura

Making a Renaissance tale or pamphlet Shakespeare-like[edit]

The Murder of John Brewen[edit]

Works from playwrights listed in English Renaissance theatre may be adapted for other works than the theatre, such as The Murder of John Brewen (1592), a prose pamphlet written by Thomas Kyd. This text has been reshaped into a 17th century-type play.

See

John Brewen

The Countess of Challand[edit]

Tales of the Italian Renaissance writer, Matteo Bandello, may be pilfered, as Shakespeare did, directly or indirectly via other authors, for a few of his plays. Among over 200 published tales (1554, 1573) is "The Countess of Cellant", available at the following site:

http://www.archive.org/details/novelsmatteoban01bandgoog

In the English translation, Cellant is a distortion of Challand, as in the town of Challand-Saint-Victor in the Aosta Valley region of north-western Italy, and so the collaborative play is renamed "The Countess of Challand".

See

The Countess of Challand

Adapting an existing play into contemporary style[edit]

Plays in the public domain may be used, prior to the date of the current Copyright cut-off, and transformed into contemporary language. An example of this type is "Warnings" (1913), a one-act play by Eugene O'Neill. A second option is to take more recent plays available on the Internet where Copyright was waived, for example "Time to Burn" (1997), a one-act play by Charles L. Mee.http://charlesmee.org/html/plays.html

One-act plays can be extended into full length plays. Every year, hundreds of plays are refused by theatre directors. Where do they go? Why not submit it here in the hope of improving it?

There are two ongoing projects for this subsection.

Warnings[edit]

The original text of "Warnings" is seen at http://www.eoneill.com/texts/warnings/contents.htm

See

Warnings

Time To Burn[edit]

The original text of "Time To burn" is seen at http://charlesmee.org/html/timetoburn.html

See

Time to Burn

Adapting a foreign play into English[edit]

Find a foreign language play in the public domain and adapt it into English.

For French and German dramatists, see List of French playwrights, List of German-language playwrights, and List_of_playwrights_by_nationality_and_date_of_birth. Perhaps particularly appealing would be late 19th century social plays.

French theatre[edit]

French theatre with strong social themes include those of Eugène Brieux and François, Vicomte de Curel.

Examples of the more popular theatre include Boulevard Theatre since the 19th century, written In French, plays with hundreds if not thousands of productions, mainly in Paris, but also in New York and London. Only some of these have been translated. Important comic playwrights of this genre include Georges Courteline, Georges Feydeau, and Sacha Guitry, while playwrights in the more dramatic vein include Jean Anouilh, Henry Bernstein, and Edouard Bourdet.

German theatre[edit]

A notable example of a German author with strong social themes is Gerhart Hauptmann, whose plays include The Weavers (play) (1892), The Beaver Coat (1893), The Conflagration (1901), Drayman Henschel (1898), Rose Bernd (1903), and The Rats (play) (1911). Although social conditions have changed, these plays may be fruitfully adapted to new ends.

The first three Hauptmann plays can be found at http://www.archive.org/details/thedramaticworks09971gut

and the second threesome at http://www.archive.org/details/thedramaticworks09972gut

Adapting a novel or short story into a play[edit]

Plays based on a contemporary or older novel or short story may be used.

Moon Hammer[edit]

The goal of Moon Hammer project is to create a theatrical version of a science fiction ghost story Moon Hammer and to recreate a theatrical experience similar to The War of the Worlds (radio) (1938) by Orson Welles, based on the novel of the same name (1898) by H.G. Wells.

See

Moon Hammer play writing project

Other science fiction possibilities[edit]

"Frankenstein", a novel by Mary Shelley is overdue for collaborative dramatization (see novel at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/84 and see also http://knarf.english.upenn.edu/Articles/forry2.html)

"20,000 leagues under the sea", a novel by Jules Verne could also be dramatized http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2488

"Dracula", a novel by Bram Stoker is another possibility: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/345

"Mummy" A merged collaborative version of four titles on Gutenberg would be great.

Adapting historical events into a play[edit]

Plays based on historical events may be used.

Adapting a film-script into a play[edit]

A film-script in the public domain may be adapted into a play, or a Copyrighted film-script significantly changed, or else a script not yet made into a film. Every year, hundreds of film-scripts are refused. Where do they go? Why not submit it here in the hope of improving it?

Adapting a scientific dialogue into a play[edit]

A scientific exchange can be turned into a play.

Adapting a blog into a play[edit]

A blog between several persons can be turned into a play, for example this one on a scientific subject.

http://moultonlava.blogspot.com/2011/01/wallucinations.html

Considerations on copyright[edit]

Here is a point to ponder: if we use a pre-existing, copyrighted monologue as a starting point, will we be violating the copyright? Since the final product will be vastly different from the original text, this may be permissable, but on the other hand, the original text may still be there - word for word - but simply spread out throughout the script. Also, is the copyright on the actual text alone? Or does it include the idea behind the text as well (ie. would paraphrasing the original piece still be violating the copyright)?

Do you have some specific examples of "pre-existing, copyrighted monologue" that you might want to use? I see there are some texts available under free licenses such as the movie playscript Out Of The Blue by Daniel Joseph Pezely, under this license. Also see mothers group also under creative commons license. You can search for more at Creative Commons. There is also GFDL text at the fiction wikia.

Wikibooks-logo.svg Wikibooks has a book on the topic of History_of_Western_Theatre:_Greeks_to_Elizabethans.
Wikibooks-logo.svg Wikibooks has a book on the topic of History_of_Western_Theatre:_17th_Century_to_Now.