By Eugene Koh
With TheatreWorks’ annual 24-Hour Playwriting Competition just around the corner, eager playwrights all over Singapore are preparing themselves for the seemingly impossible challenge of writing a play in exactly a day. Organised by TheatreWorks as part of their Writers’ Lab Month programme and conducted by Tony Perez, the workshop Writing Site Specifically gave those who were really ‘kiasu’ with the one-page cheat sheet for the competition. During the session, participants learned the basics of dramatic writing, an introduction to human psychology, and tactics specifically for the 24-Hour Playwriting Competition.
Personal pro-tip: watch out for the participants who went through this workshop; we are armed with tricks of the trade under our belts!
Tony Perez kicked off the workshop with two ‘strange’ exercises, as he calls them. The first was to walk around the venue of Haw Par Villa for fifteen minutes while suspending judgement amongst the kaleidoscope of fascinating creatures in concrete and curious travellers, suspending. After sharing our findings with one another, Perez noted that the exercise was to break our individual frames of reference to the world and to penetrate the frames of others. Rather than intellectual or creative, the exercise was supposed to be more spiritual in nature.
The second exercise required us to imagine and draw out our ideal writing room. I created my room with an anti-gravity cloud that replaces my bed. After sharing our individual creations, Perez connected the exercise to the Hebrew word ‘davar’, meaning ‘word’, ‘thought’ or the real ‘object’ itself. Visualisation prevents the playwright from thinking like a cinematographer and allows for a better sense of the playing stage.
Furiously scribbling down notes, we went into the next segment of the workshop: the actual writing. Perez starts off by encouraging participants to draw from our own personal mythologies and stories close to our hearts for their plays. Writing out our plots for our potential plays, Perez gave tips on fundamentals of dramatic writing. In summary, a solid dramatic piece consists of a premise, where a story moves from an initial state to a final state. This change happens because of something big, like a death or separation.
The play should begin as close as possible to the climax, and at least one character must prevent another character to get what they want. With respect to characters, Perez gave participants the lowdown on the basics of human psychology.
Going back to the 24-Hour Playwriting Competition, Tony Perez dropped a few hints in tackling the time pressure and stimuli provided in the competition. Perez suggested bringing at least three ideas ready before the start of the competition, each complete with the premise, narrative and conflict. He also suggested that the stimuli should be incorporated and weaved into the premise of the play, finding a symmetrical pattern the stimuli can provide and working on it.
As the four-hour workshop drew to a close, a tip from Tony Perez lingers. One last heads-up to readers who are now interested in joining this year’s 24-Hour Playwriting
Competition: “Leave the postmodern movement to novels and short stories and out of drama”.
The 24-hour Playwriting Competition 2018 will be held at Haw Par Villa this year, from 14th to 15th July.
For more information, click here.