Step onto the Write the World stage this month with your own one-act play. Composed of a single scene or a series of scenes, the one-act delivers a powerful punch. Like the short story, this genre requires the writer—you!—to make every word count, every gesture, intonation, and stage direction. This month, raise the curtain on an important event or experience that will change the characters involved, and let the drama unfold.
STRUCTURE: A play is divided into acts. Act 1 typically serves as an introduction to the characters and setting; act 2 focuses on the emerging conflict; act 3 builds into the climax and then provides the resolution. In a one-act, you're compressing all these parts (character, setting, conflict, climax, and resolution) into a short space. But, you can use scenes to break up the sequence of events. A new scene shows a change in location or in time. For example, perhaps your first scene takes place in the character’s kitchen, and the next scene at a bus stop.
CHARACTER: As your play develops, deepen your characters by answering as many questions about them as you can. Although you won't include all these details in your play, developing your understanding helps you know how a character will speak or react, how they might feel inside, and what motivates their actions. In a separate document or on a scrap of paper, can you answer the following:
• How old is he?
• Where was she born?
• Who is their closest confidant?
• What is her earliest memory?
• What does their bedroom look like?
• What is one secret she holds?
• What makes him feel embarrassed?
• What is she afraid of?
• What do they wish for more than anything else?
• What makes her mad?
Most importantly, the central event in your play should have some influence on the main characters. Ask yourself: "How is this experience causing the characters to see themselves or the world around them differently?"
STAGE DIRECTION: In writing a play, you aren't telling a story to be read, but rather a story to be spoken aloud and embodied by the characters on stage. (Be sure, dear playwrights, to read your draft aloud and often!) In order to translate your written vision into live action, you must include information that tells the reader (and actors) the setting of the scene, who is speaking, who the characters are, and any movements or gestures that take place. Here are some formatting tips:
- Use parentheses to set off stage directions—the information you are conveying to the readers and actors that the audience will then see on stage. Example: (Jeremy picks up a newspaper and pretends to read, all the while keeping his eyes fixed on Sarah.)
- At the beginning of each scene, provide stage directions in present tense that communicate the setting and the situation. Example: (It's 9 pm at the playground. Charlotte and Caleb are arguing again, as it starts to rain.)
- Whenever a new character enters the play, provide a 1-2 line description. Example: (In the dugout, Charlotte and Caleb find Marco, a middle-aged man—dressed in a suit—who's also seeking shelter from the rain.)
- Each line of dialogue should have the character’s NAME in capital letters at the beginning of the line.
(For a model of how to communicate stage direction, check out the WtW One-Act Exemplars in Resources.)
Who is Eligible?
Young writers ages 13-18
600 – 1,000 words
Kim Peter Kovac
is a consultant in theater for young audiences and new play development, as well as the co-founding director of the Kennedy Center's New Visions/New Voices and and co-founding editor of Write Local. Play Global., the international TYA playwrights network. Previously he served as Artistic Director of Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences (where he produced some 100 new plays) as well the Vice-President of ASSITEJ International, as well as on the boards of TYA/USA and IPAY. He is also a poet, with over 150 pieces published in print and on-line in journals from Australia, India, Ireland, Dubai (UAE), England, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, and the USA.
What’s Different about Write the World Competitions?
- Best Entry: $100 (Our guest judge’s commentary on the winning piece, and an interview with the author will be featured on Write the World’s blog)
- Runner up: $50 (Our guest judge’s commentary on the piece will be featured on Write the World’s blog)
- Best Peer Review: $50 (Our guest judge’s commentary on the best peer review and an interview with the reviewer will be featured on Write the World’s blog)
- Prizes: The winning entrant(s) will receive $100, and the best peer-reviewer will receive $50.
- Professional Recognition: The winning entry, plus the runner-up and best peer review, will be featured on our blog, with commentary from our guest judge.
- Expert Review: Submit your draft by Monday, May 11 and get feedback from our team of experts—authors, writing teachers, and educational professionals.
May 4: Competition Opens
May 11: Submit draft for Expert Review (Optional. We will review the first 100 drafts submitted.)
May 15: Reviews returned to Writers
May 19: Final Submissions Due
May 29: Winners Announced
Our Food Writing Competition opens Monday, June 1.
Stay tuned for more details!