Peter (hujhax) wrote,

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... wherein Peter posts his devising exercises.

For what it's worth, here are the five-minute "devising exercises" I wrote for the radio-serial auditions at the BNTC.  Basically, we watched some improv, and then had five-minute stretches to write pieces based on what we saw.

For the first one, I picked a simple "jump" exercise, where Ferstenfeld came in with a simple objective ("Give an employee a promotion"), and it was his scene partner's job to find creative ways to not give that to him.  I ended up with this:

          INT. OFFICE - DAY

          MIKE sits at his desk.

          SAMANTHA sits opposite from him.



                    Don't worry -- it's good news.


                    The Johnson and Johnson account? 
                    You've got it.

                    I'm sorry -- the...

                    That's right.  The grande
                    enchilada.  You'll manage your own
                    team, interface with our clients,
                    and hey -- it goes well?


                    Corner office.  Boom.

                    I thought Frank was up for this one

                    Frank's out.  Let's say his mouth
                    made some promises his ass couldn't
                    lay on the line.


          Frank, carrying a box, pokes his head in.

                    Boss, I've gathered up my things,
                    and --

          Mike shouts to the open air.

                    Security, take this loser out of my

          Frank tiptoes back out.

                    We've lost Frank, too?

                    Look -- I'm an honest guy, and my
                    currency is pure golden truth. 
                    We're cutting things down to the

                    I'm not gonna take an account just
                    because we don't have personnel.

                    Great, we'll -- wait, what?

          John, carrying a box, pokes his head in.

                    Bye, guys.  I'll see myself out.

                    Take your penny-ante lamprey-sucker
                    ass out of my building!


          John exits.

                    Yeah.  You want me to run a major
                    corporate advertising account
                    without our best copywriter and
                    without our best artist.  Not

                    Yeah, you say that now.  Did I
                    mention... additional benefits?

          Samantha gets up to leave.

                    I'm going.

                    What?  Where?  Where would you go?

                    Wherever Frank and John are
                    headed?  That's where I'm going,
                    Mike.  Good-bye.

          She exits.

                    Corner office is all mine, I guess.


Yes, I wrote it in screenplay format, because five minutes is not enough time to figure out the default theater-script settings on Celtx.

Next up, I wrote a piece based on a "slideshow", which in this context, means a sequence of five tableaux that imply a story.  This one was a western, so I rolled with that:

          INT. SALOON - DAY

          Classic western saloon.  Three cowboys -- THE SHERRIFF,
          BLACK JAKE, and TIMID RANDY sit at the table playing cards.

          In the background, a piano tinkles.

                    Raise you five.

                              TIMID RANDY

                              BLACK JAKE
                    Call.  Four aces.

                    Eh.  Not likely.

                              BLACK JAKE
                    That's the cards, Sheriff.  You
                    don't never rule the laws of


                              TIMID RANDY
                    G-g-guys -- it's just five bucks! 
                    Ain't nothing to get --

          CLARISSA sways in, wearing a bright red dress.

          She drapes herself over Black Jake.

                    Boys.  I reckon there ain't no
                    problem here.

          She casts an eye towards the sheriff.

                    And if there is, well, I reckon
                    there's nothing you or any of your
                    pimply-faced little deputies can do
                    about it, right?

          The sheriff is silent, but gets angrier and angrier.

                              TIMID RANDY
                    C-c-c-come on!

          Clarissa raises a finger at the sheriff.

                    Guessin' you're... "powerless" in
                    more ways than one, right, sheriff?

          She lets the finger go flaccid.

          The sheriff leaps out of his chair.

                    Black Jake, you's breaking the law!

                              BLACK JAKE
                    What law?

          The sheriff draws his gun.

                    Reckon I'll think of somethin'.

          Long beat.

                              BLACK JAKE
                    You ain't got to do this, sheriff.

                    Need you reachin' some sky, Jake.

          The piano stops.

          In a flash, Black Jake draws and fires.

          The Sheriff slumps over the table.

                              TIMID RANDY
                    Oh my g-g-g-god.  G-g-g-g-god!


          Timid Randy gathers up the chips and scampers away.

          Black Jake gets up and nudges the sheriff's body to the

                              BLACK JAKE
                    Let's go.



Finally, we had another "jump" set in a women's prison.  This was the only time I wrote something that was not a scene:

Day 20

They want my beans.

All I'm trying to do is get my stint done, thirty days, thirty nights, back out into the world.  I'm trying to keep my head down.  I'm trying to stay out of trouble.

I'm a nice person.  Things should be alright.  Right?

Celia wanted the top bunk.  I gave her the top bunk.  The Ruths wanted the sunny spot in the exercise yard.  I got out of their way.  But now?

Today, Loretta came along.  Sat by me.  Smiled.  Smiled, the whole time, with that smile that doesn't quite reach her eyes.  And she asked for my beans.

I mean, come on.

I guess... I guess it wasn't about the beans.  Y'know, she doesn't even like beans.  But Loretta... Loretta likes control.  She knocks something out of your hands, just to do it.  She even has the guards doing things for her -- she cajoles, she bribes... she runs the place.

And here I am, just doing my thirty days, keeping my nose clean.  And the scary thing is, somebody like Loretta sees that, and she knows... she knows that I'm out of her control.  She knows I'm in my own mind, thinking about... about Thomas Mann, about 19th-century Venice, about the Éroica symphony.  She knows I'm somewhere she can't get to.  Can't control.

So now she's after my beans.  Just one good thing.  One thing that she knows makes me happy.  And she's taking that.

Anyway, there we were in the exercise yard.  There she was, smiling, and friendly, and still... still cold.  Still unyielding.  And every time I said no, she was so friendly, so smiling, and so... "no".  And the whole time, it just scraped away the friendliness.

And then she was threatening me.  Heavily implied threats, but a threat nonetheless.  Over beans.

"You know 'hangry'?" she asked.  "It's when you get so hungry that it makes you angry."  And she laughed.  But it was like the goddamn Joker.

And still, there was no way I was going to yield.  Every time, I smiled, and shrugged, as innocuous as ever, but I didn't give up my beans.  Not now.  Not after I've given up everything else, every little thing I love.
Dammit, I'm holding onto this.  If somebody cuts me, somebody cuts me.  But tomorrow, at the mess hall, I am eating my goddamn beans.  God himself won't stop me.

None of it was the strongest stuff I've ever written (hey, five-minute time limit, I gots an excuse).  We were told to submit one of them as a writing sample at the end of the audition.  I went with the third one, as it looks like our production might include a fair number of monologs, or at least some lengthy speeches that drill down into one character's point of view.
Tags: theater, writing

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