Day 14 of 29 Plays Later was a toughie, with a list of writing constraints that would make the clever members of the Oulipo group blench.

Challenge 14 – Due 15/02 at 10am GMT

Let’s be super duper strict. Below are the rules for your play:

1. There are six named characters in the play, but only four of them appear
2. One of the characters begins every sentence with the letter B (every sentence, not every line), another starts every other sentence with Y.
3. You may use between 5-9 pauses in the play, but at least two of them need to be in the middle of a speech. 1>2m>
4. One of the characters is over 70
5. Every line of dialogue must have one of the following: either 6 words, 13 words, 19 words, 27 words, 54 words or 113 words (you can punctuate as you see fit)
6. The play will contain four scenes/acts
7. One of the scenes will be without words, but all the characters are present on stage, and the action should last a minimum of 5 minutes.
8. The other three scenes have a minimum of 15 lines of dialogue, and each must contain one silent action
9. Two of the characters fall in love during the play, and two fall out (can be the same two, if you like)
10. Wine will be drunk, wine will be spilled, wine will be thrown

Several challengers decided enough was enough, and vowed to ignore all this. Many had a go at it, but joylessly. I got a certain amount of pleasure, but it was limited and phoned-in. It’s one thing to write a novel that doesn’t use the letter e, and it’s another to do it to a 36-hour time limit without the space for the constraints to thrillingly liberate the imagination. Poets take this space and use it all the time – using rhyme is a kind of Oulipian constraint: in order to make the words rhyme you might have to take a different route than you would if you were just writing prose. The constraint of rhyming makes you think differently.

I kept to the constraints, all of them. It led me to quite a strange place I couldn’t have predicted when I exasperatedly started to work on a script. My silent scene is inspired by film-maker Michael Haneke‘s chilling long semi-static shots in CachéIn the third scene of Day 14’s very short high school play we cut into five minutes of the characters desperately trying to hide while off-screen/off-stage with deafening volume a kid shoots up the school.

Day 14 – The Massacre on Valentine’s Day

14_-_THE_MASSACRE_ON_VALENTINES_DAY_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 10pp, 4 actors)

aj.

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