Archive for the ‘Writing Exercises’ Category

I go off to glory

June 25th, 2008 No comments

A Little Girl wearing a dress with pockets. She is tap dancing. She is bright and filled with energy and enthusiasm. She speaks in a voice that is loud and strong—vibrant—almost like a stage actor with no recognition that she is in a small room—too much projecting. The girl will periodically stop talking and just tap—tap in place, tap in a circle, etc. At start, she is tapping and humming. She stops and stares.


Oh! Hello! One thousand sincere pardons. Didn’t see you there. But…

[She taps]

I sure am glad you stopped by.


Molly’s my name and…

[She taps]

fortune telling’s my game. [Beat] My ma’ got me started on it. Before she died. Said I had a gift.

[She taps after each boast that follows]

Can predict the future.

[Da da da]

Can see into the past.

[Ta ta ta]

Can talk with the dead.

[She stops all activity]

Talk to my ma all the time.

[She resumes tapping]

When I was a girl. [Laughs] Well, younger than I am right now. I woke up screaming.

[She taps]

I said, I woke up screaming from my sleep.

[She screams the words:]

Fire! Fire! Fire!

[She taps]

Bet you can’t guess what I saw!

[She taps]

Bet you can’t guess.

[She taps with increasing fury]

I was sweating. I was breathing. I was sweating and breathing hard. And then…

[She stops cold]

well… I was right.


[Almost to her self]

Poor mama.

[She reaches into her dress pocket and pulls out a scarf and soft hat. She taps in a circle as she puts on the scarf. She continues as she puts on the hat. She stops when done, facing the person/enquirer, and with a flourish throws the end of the scarf around her neck.]

I go off to glory!

[She taps]

I go off to glory.

[She taps and stops]

You know who said that?


Isadora Duncan


Right before her scarf got tangled ‘round the axle of the car she was riding in.

[Motions with the scarf as though hanged.]

[She smiles and then taps in a circle]

Glory! Destiny! I pulled on my hat and scarf after my mama died and I hit the street.

[She taps]

Much like you see me now.

[She taps]

Stayed with my aunt for a while.

[She taps]

But that was a bust.


Wanna see a picture of her?


My mama?

[She takes out the picture from another dress pocket. It is wrapped. She shows it. She looks at it. She carefully re-wraps it and puts it away. She takes a small flask from the same pocket and hits it. She puts it away. She taps quickly.]

Gotta keep the cold out. Gotta keep it out. Keep that cold cold out. [Stops] Oh, I know what you’re thinking. No…not that. That’s obvious. You’re thinkin’ ‘what does she mean—cold?’ Right? Its summer. July. It’s hot.

[She screams]

Well not here.

[Pounds her chest]

Not here it ain’t.

[Pounds her chest]

Not here.


[She taps wildly. She screams. She falls to the ground. She writhes.]

I want my mama, mama, mama.


There’s gonna be a fire, mama. Gonna be a fire. He’s gonna light a match, mama. I seen it. I seen him. Plain as day, Mama. He’s gonna do it. A fire. Can’t stand us. Can’t stand any of us. Not even little Joe. He’s got matches. Mama?

[Stands up. To the enquirer.]

Say, “Shut up, girl.”

[She taps]

[She stops]

[To the enquirer]

Say, “Shut up, girl.”

[With more urgency]

Say it. [Beat] Say it. [Beat] Say it. [Beat] Say, “Shut up, girl.”

[She repeats this until the enquirer complies.]

That’s what Mama said.

[Reaches in her dress and pulls out a spatula]

She hit me with this.

[She taps]

I’m going off to glory.

[She taps]


Oh. Do you want your fortune?

[She spits]

Companion to the earlier entry.

Great Quote

June 24th, 2008 No comments

There’s a great quote about playwrights from Stephen Sondheim at Intermission.

I’m struck by both the insight and the originality of how it’s put. As quoted: “They invent. They make whole cloth out of nothing. They make a hat where there never was a hat.”

I guess I’m struck by this because I’m in the midst of the playwriting process right now for Ingenuity. It is a completely collaborative process, so we’re doing a lot of generating and sharing, generating and sharing. The bulk of it revolves around exercises that aim at getting to different ways of seeing and exploring a subject. The Ingenuity pieces are operating loosely under the title Know Your Future and there will be tents and other venues around the festival where actors “give” our fortunes.

We’ve also been exploring the many ways in which fortunes are told, which is quite interesting: cards, dice, tea leaves, palms, runes, there is a great one called “The Book of Fate” which apparently Napoleon relied upon, Chinese fortune telling that examines the Chi, etc. But I digress…

The point is just how amazing it is to sit with all of these writers and watch the process of making “whole cloth out of nothing.” Geither spits out few ideas or phrases and whole pieces emerge: people come to life, situations evolve and develop, actions take meaning: a world is created, populated, and breathed to life. Here is an exercise contributed by a classmate that follows Geither’s pattern:

Write a monologue from the point of view of someone who is much older or much younger than you (i. e. child vs. 90 y/o) and who has a specific talent or area of interest that is a part of their daily life (not fortune telling of course.)

In the monologue the fortune teller must do the following things: (in any order)

  • refer to an outside source
  • tell a story from their childhood
  • put something onshow the fortune-seeker a picture
  • eat and/or drinks something
  • throw a tantrum
  • ask fortune-seeker to repeat them
  • use a spatula
  • quote someone famous
  • give a fortune without verbal expression

The point, of course, being that this serves as a launching point–the few strands from which we will make the bolt.

I’ll attach my whole cloth in a separate entry.

Thanks to JD for the quote.

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