Short Plays and One-Acts

John Pielmeier stars in A Chosen Room.

Bruce Somerville, me, and Nancy Lane in “A Chosen Room.”

The art of writing short plays is akin to the art of writing short stories – other than the way the piece is laid out on the page, there is not a lot that these brevities have in common with their longer cousins. The world of theatre is filled with wonderful short plays that have tried their darndest to expand into full-length evenings, and most of the time the longer versions fail to capture the charm, flavor, or whatever that made their originals sing. Most of my shorter pieces – which are more or less skits or acting exercises – explore my sense of humor, something which is very present in my longer stuff but not as evident to the reading audience as it is to the theatre audience. (There was one production of Agnes that, just listening to the laughs coming from the theatre while standing in the lobby, made me think I was eavesdropping on a Feydeau farce.)

The art of the one-act I find a bit more challenging, something which I haven’t explored to a great extent. (I’m talking about true one-acts, plays that run between forty minutes and an hour.) The only play I’ve written that fills this bill is A Gothic Tale, my Isak-Dinesen-inspired play contained in the Haunted Lives collection. Evening would fill that bill too, if I ever finished it to my satisfaction. My first play, A Chosen Room, was very much a one-act, though I kept thinking of it as a full-length, which doesn’t really matter any more since I don’t share it with anyone.