Drama -- Short Play

There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside of the dullest exterior there is a drama, a comedy, and a tragedy.
--Mark Twain

The conventions of drama will be familiar to most readers. If you've ever been to a school play, seen Cats, or read Shakespeare, you probably know what to expect, at least as far as the technical elements go. There's usually a setting, characters, costume, dialogue, lighting, and sound. There's usually an audience, and there's usually a stage.

However, it's been my experience that this is deceptively simple, and in trying to write plays I discovered that without the right combination of these elements there was no drama. The mark of a good play is when all the parts come together to create something spectacular, like a symphony made of many different instruments. But if even one of those instruments is out of harmony, the whole things sounds like rubbish!

And so for this blog post I've decided to show rather than tell. Below you'll find a short play I'm working on. It is, admittedly, quite rough, and I'm hoping that you'll let me know what instruments need tuning. If you decide to write a short play of your own, leave me a comment so I can check it out. Good luck, and remember, all the world is a stage.


Inside Job

A bank in the middle of the night.

Two desks and chairs are set up, one stage left, another stage right. On each desk is a lamp, computer screen, papers, pens. Waste bin on floor beside each desk.

A long counter along back of stage. Counter is positioned such that the side on which the teller would stand is facing audience -- ie. the audience views the scene as though looking through the back wall of the bank.

Soft yellow lighting.

Curtain rises.

Very long pause -- at least 30 seconds -- all quiet.

Two robbers, BIZZ and BUZZ, enter stage left. Both dressed in all black clothes -- both have black gloves, large black backpacks, black ski-masks. They creep on tips of toes across stage, but BUZZ accidentally knocks over a waste bin, which makes loud metallic clang.

BIZZ: Shhhhhhh! You nincompoop! Do you want us to end up in jail?

BUZZ: Sorry. My bad. The place seems so different in the night time, and I can hardly see a thing through this mask.

BIZZ: (pointing to ceiling) You see those cameras up there? If it wasn't for the mask they'd know it was you who let me in. Just try and be quiet, will ya?

A spotlight illuminates the backdrop and moves from left to right. BIZZ quickly lays down flat on the floor, while BUZZ turns and looks at the passing light. The sound of a car passing from speakers. BIZZ stands up and looks at BUZZ. Pause.

BUZZ: Only a car going by. Thought the worst for a minute there.

BIZZ: Let's just get this done and get out of here. Are you sure the alarm isn't going to go off?

BUZZ: Of course I'm sure. I set up the access code, and it said it was disarmed.

BIZZ: Fine so. Fine.

They walk slowly on tips of toes to center front. They stand side-by-side, facing the audience. BIZZ holds out his hands and mimes touching an imaginary wall. He puts his ear to the imaginary wall then steps back and looks at BUZZ.

BIZZ: How is it that you're the president of this place and you don't know the combination to the vault?

BUZZ: Well, I never needed to know. It's the managers who open and close this thing. And maybe it's because the share-holders don't exactly trust me. Who could blame them in light of recent events?

BIZZ: And you're sure about the money being in there?

BUZZ: At least eight million dollars. Cold hard cash.

BIZZ removes his backpack and takes out a stethescope. He puts the buds in his ears and extends the other end to the imaginary wall with his left hand. He reaches his right hand out and turns it, as though spinning a combination lock. Sound of clicks from speakers. BIZZ spins his hand the other direction. More clicks. Spins other direction. More clicks. Still listening through stethescope.

BIZZ: I think I've almost got it. That sounds right. Almost there. Got it!

Sound of latch releasing and hinge creaking over speakers. BIZZ and BUZZ shake hands earnestly. They step through the imaginary vault door to the very edge of stage, facing audience.

BIZZ: A room full of money. I've never seen such a beautiful thing in my entire life. Christmas has come early this year! Let's get the cash in the bags and get out of here.

They mime taking piles of money and putting it in their backpacks.

BUZZ: What are you going to do with your share?

BIZZ: I was thinking of getting a house in the Hamptons, and maybe a little sports car. That and pay back my debts to the loan sharks. There's going to be nothing but possibilities for me from now on. What about you?

BUZZ: I was thinking on retiring early. Maybe move to somewhere with a nice warm climate...

Sound of a hinge creeking. BIZZ and BUZZ turn back. Curtain falls and there is the sound of vault door slamming shut. BIZZ and BUZZ are on edge of stage, still visible to audience, facing curtain.

Pause -- 5 seconds. BIZZ and BUZZ turn and face one another.

BUZZ: Oh yeah. The door has an auto close mechanism.

BIZZ: And let me guess. It can only be opened from the other side.

BUZZ nods his head.

BIZZ: We're screwed.

Light fades out leaving BIZZ and BUZZ in darkness.



Anonymous said...

Lines from three different songs came to my mind, the first and most obvious, so therefore not useable, Daniel Powter, "So you had a bad day".

Second, if in need of a righteous tone, the title of Modest Mouse's CD: "Good News for People who Like Bad News".

Third, if in need of a hopeful tone, from Modest Mouse song "Float On" --

"I backed my car into a cop car, the other day.
Well he just drove off, sometimes life's ok.
I ran my mouth off a bit too much, oh what did I say.
Well you just laughed it off, it was all ok.

And we'll all float on, ok."

Would Bizz and Buzz (I might just get fish to name them Bizz and Buzz because I love it) pick the same song if they wanted music?

Having fun, thanks.

January 10, 2010 at 7:41 PM
Jon said...

I think that Bizz would pick "You can't always get what you want" for a theme song! But anything by Modest Mouse would work as well... great band!

And I think Buzz might like Lou Reed's "Perfect Day"... a hint of irony seems to be either his ambrosia, or his poison.

Thanks for stopping by and for your thoughts. If you get those fish let me know so I can send out tiny little balaclavas for them!

January 11, 2010 at 1:31 PM
Harlequin said...

another grand prompt and example; and some fine and irreverent comments from ff.... I'd expect nothing less ;)
thanks for this one.... this will be a bit of stretch for me.... looking forward to it.

January 12, 2010 at 9:56 PM
Jon said...


Thanks! And yeah... she is irreverent, isn't she!

Hope you have fun if you decide to give some drama a try.

January 14, 2010 at 1:00 AM
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator. January 16, 2010 at 11:43 AM