29 Plays Later – Day 28 & Day 29

29 Plays Later – Day 28 & Day 29

The 29 Plays Later Challenge is over, finally over. 190 people began and 116 completed a new play each day in February (that’s 61%). We’ve exasperated our loved ones, toiled on our birthdays, and embarrassed ourselves on the radio. I’ve personally written a total of 86,364 words, plus 6109 on this blog (including this).

Day 28 – The Complete and Utter History of the Universe – Day 17’s challenge was to “write a play that is shorter than a millisecond or longer than a millennia.” I researched a play for the long challenge but then chucked it out and did the former: Dramatis Personae, in which the story takes place through an exhaustive list of character descriptions.  For Day 28 we had to revisit one of the previous challenges, so it made sense to complete the super long play, which is longer than the universe, longer even than a really super long meeting. Cosmic! It’s shit though.

28_-_THE_COMPLETE_AND_UTTER_HISTORY_OF_THE_UNIVERSE_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 24pp, 2 actors)

Day 29 – A Talking Bonobo Chimp Called ‘Smiles’ – After teasing us with the possibility of an agglomerate challenge of all the previous challenges, the challenge was simple. Clothes. But it was hard to start. Two people didn’t submit their last play (aaargh!), and I thought I’d be one of them. (Five people didn’t submit their first play, what?). Thank goodness for Gordon’s gin. Following my play about a talking dog, I seem to be obsessed with sentient animals. Here is the heroic, instructive and tragic life of a bonobo.

29_-_A_TALKING_BONOBO_CHIMP_CALLED_SMILES_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 11pp, 4 actors – version 1 April for performance at The Space)

Following the hashtag #29playslater, everyone seems tired but broadly happy, with a pervading sense of ‘what now?’ for which I have no answer. If you’ve enjoyed any of the plays, then that’s my job done. Exit stage left.

aj.

29 Plays Later – Day 25. Day 26. Day 27.

29 Plays Later – Day 25. Day 26. Day 27.

As we near the end of the 29 Plays Later challenge to write a complete new play every single day in February 2016, I find myself exhausted, with a constant headache the size of Canterbury. One could turn in monologues, or the “two-page dialogues that aren’t exciting” our quizmaster Sebastian Rex has criticized – but what would be the point? What is the point anyway?  Seriously? But this is no time to get philosophical, we’ve got plays to write!

Day 3 – Google’s Choice – It seems so long ago! This monologue was shortlisted for the Space Theatre’s monodrama festival, One. I intend to redraft it and record it.

03_-_GOOGLES_CHOICE_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 4pp, 1 actor)

Day 25 – Google’s Choice: A Reconstruction of the Black Box Recording – The challenge was to rewrite one of your own plays from memory. Portraying doing this for “Google’s Choice” as different iterations of a data extraction exercise from a damaged black box recording added new layers of meaning and mischief.

25_-_GOOGLES_CHOICE_RECONSTRUCTION_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 4pp)

Day 26 – Hundreds of Sparrows – Written as a response to the ‘abstract theme’ of veganism. Bell is a mature depressed vegan woman who tries to strangle her dog, Toby. The dog remonstrates. Yes, it’s a talking dog, half Labrador retriever, half cockney Russell Crowe on a bender. “Dogs talk constantly. You people just never listen.” There is dognapping, warring vegans, and very dark humour. Finally Bell has to try to decide whose life is more important – hers or the dog’s…

Hundreds-of-sparrows-15-March-2016-AJ-Dehany (pdf, 20pp, 3 actors)

Day 27 – Nazi Pirates of the Caribbean… with Zombies (and a Chainsaw) – I will actually write the movie for this title, but this is not it. Instead I told the tale of L’Homme à tête de chou, who dreams of walking between the two towers. He falls in love with the shampoo girl, murders her, gets incarcerated in an asylum, and escapes to pursue his dream. This is interspersed with scenes documenting the nefarious activities of property developers, terrorists, and politicians. An exercise in sustained disrupture and continuous discontinuity.

27_-_NAZI_PIRATES_OF_THE_CARIBBEAN_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 10pp, 4 actors)

A very honorable mensh to the mighty Sarah Mann who has basically won at 29 Plays Later with her peerless 29 Play Slater, in which twenty-nine famous actors all play Kat Slater out of Eastenders. “Not all models look like Brad Pitt. But none of them look like Homer Simpson.”

Two more to go!!

aj.

29 Plays Later – Day 24 – The Antic Notion

29 Plays Later – Day 24 – The Antic Notion

For Day 24 of 29 Plays Later we were challenged to write around themes of memory.

Tennessee Williams invented the term “memory play” to describe The Glass Menagerie and it has since been used to describe plays like Pinter’s Old Times and Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa. In such plays “the scene is memory and is therefore non-realistic” though the primary mode is realistic. I’d call Conor McPherson’s The Weir a memory play. It’s a ghost story. It’s several ghost stories, but it never leaves the pub. Spooky!

Day 24 – The Antic Notion – A densely nineteenth-century gothic ghost story with several narrative layers and a circular structure. The rich language is drawn from Robert Macfarlane’s Landmarks, and the effect is reminiscent of Joyce in eyeliner or Ligotti‘s weird fiction.

24_-_THE_ANTIC_NOTION_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 7pp, 2 actors)

aj.

POSTSCRIPT: This play has been adapted for film by experimental video artist Duncan Ward. Watch online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aajctX_y6Ok

 

29 Plays Later – Day 23 – Ein Vereinigtes Königreich (A United Kingdom)

29 Plays Later – Day 23 – Ein Vereinigtes Königreich (A United Kingdom)

The challenge for Day 23 of 29 Plays Later was to write a play in a different language (with a as bonus challenge to put in a surprise ending).

Now, I’ve seen how rabid fans of Game of Thrones get about spoilers, and someone recently let slip to me the bombshell about the new Star Wars film – THANKS, RICH (I can’t believe Jar Jar Binks is dead). So I’ll give you the link and then we’ll have an image of some soldiers and below that the spoiler text to read afterwards or instead.

Day 23 – Ein Vereinigtes Königreich (A United Kingdom) –  Complete text in German followed by English translation. For English language performance, possibly start in nonsense German and ‘fade’ into English.

23_-_EIN_VEREINIGTES_KOENIGREICH_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 21pp, min 3 actors)

cropped-resigs021

***SPOILERS***

You got it! It’s a counterfactual history in which Germany won the First World War. The title refers to the German Empire rather than Great Britain. By all means ‘comment’ below and let me know at what point you figured it out. There’s kind of a punchline ending I’m not convinced would work on stage so I might need to add a fifth scene. My original idea for an ending was to have some big event that was the same in both timelines – both our timeline where the Allies won WW1 and the fictional timeline where the Central Powers won. There was still a Second World War but it was probably started by the depleted France and didn’t last very long. Possibly the fifth scene could be on 9/11. In fact, I might do that. Why didn’t I think of that sooner? Damn. Or, as we say in England: Ach, scheisse!

Day 23 – Ein Vereinigtes Königreich (A United Kingdom) – Complete text in German followed by English translation. For English language performance, possibly start in nonsense German and ‘fade’ into English.

23_-_EIN_VEREINIGTES_KOENIGREICH_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 21pp, min 3 actors)

Tschüss, aj.

29 Plays Later – Day 22 – Meursault

29 Plays Later – Day 22 – Meursault

Our challenge for Day 22 of 29 Plays Later was to take a famous first line from literature and then go off somewhere else with it.

The opening of Albert Camus’s L’étranger goes like this: “Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure.” The novel is normally translated as The Stranger these days, but the copy I first read was still The Outsider. I took The Outsider and mixed it up with the plot and characters of The Outsiders, Jean-Luc Godard’s 1964 new wave film Bande à part (usually translated as Band of Outsiders).

I dragged these two masterpieces into some kind of absurdist existential new wave caper movie for radio. There’s more plot than the whole movie, and I was filling in dialogue for the fifteen chapters until 2am, so it’s as rushed and hammy and confused as ever, but you get the gist, or as say in French, le gist.

22_-_MEURSAULT_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 42pp, 4 actors)

Check out the other challengers at #29playslater and check my main Mann Sarah Mann. À bientôt!

aj.

29 Plays Later – Days 18-21

29 Plays Later – Days 18-21

The past four days of the 29 Plays Later challenge have brought me two satisfyingly fun pieces – a farce, and a revue – and two clear failures. Imagine me in a Travelodge in Leeds on my birthday, exhausted and trying to write about the Eastern Bloc for my nineteenth play of the month. Who made months so long anyway?

Day 18 – The Second ‘I’ in Liaison – I usually do titles last so the challenge was to begin with the title. Mine was kindly donated by the mighty Tom Elkins. I improvised a farce starting with a man triple-booking himself at a restaurant and trying to maintain three meals at once. Instantly painting myself into a corner, I just had to keep painting! Obeying its own absurd logic the farce built to a satisfyingly ridiculous conclusion.

18_-_THE_SECOND_I_IN_LIAISON_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 25pp, 5 actors)

Day 19 – The Obedience of Kolya S – Write about what you don’t know. I do this every time anyway. I started with this East European film I saw over twenty years ago and can’t remember properly. I wish I could track it down. There was some kind of revolution or siege, and a final grainy tableau where they find the weird little guy they’re after in a pile of bodies in a big net. I got thinking about Václav Havel‘s mixture of politics and absurd theatre, and Heinrich Böll‘s stubborn and eccentric protagonists struggling to sustain personal life against a background of war and political upheaval. I failed to create a coherent play in the little time I had on my birthday. Nice first line though: “I found myself with a nun in a cupboard of bread. I said to myself “Whatever happens, I’ll be eating bread.””

19_-_THE_OBEDIENCE_OF_KOLYA_S_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 10pp, 3 actors)

Day 20 – 1996: The Year in Revue – Write a play with twenty characters to celebrate the twentieth birthday of the Space Theatre. One challenger wrote a football match, another poured vitriol on the crappy challenges we’re being given. I created a revue, a mixture of surreal satirical sketches, songs, stand-up and skits telling the tale of 1996, the year of the mad cow, Dolly the sheep, GM Frankeinstein food, Take That and the Spice Girls, royal divorces, and tragedies on Everest, in Manchester and Dunblane.

20_-_1996_THE_YEAR_IN_REVUE_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 15pp)

Day 21 – Nuestro Pueblo (Our Town/Our People) – We were sent a text about visionary/outsider art. I went to my well-thumbed copy of Colin Rhodes’s book and picked out Simon Rodia who between 1921 and 1954 constructed the so-called Watts Towers (pictured) using ad hoc materials in a rough area of LA that would later experience massive race riots. I poured in content and didn’t create any characters or a good narrative, but there’s a kernel of an idea about not submitting and building a future.

21_-_NUESTRO_PUEBLO_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 12pp)

Speaking of which: eight more plays to go! Follow the hashtag #29playslater.

aj.

29 Plays Later – Day 17 – Dramatis Personae

29 Plays Later – Day 17 – Dramatis Personae

Our challenge for Day 17 of 29 Plays Later was to “write a play that is shorter than a millisecond or longer than a millennia.”

I got cosmic and spent the evening researching gnosticism, creationism and the Big Bang theory, the moral implications of complex systems theory,  explanations for the evolution of bigger brains and human intelligence, deep-learning systems in AI, composing music with recurrent neural networks, the overview effect, and sharing and hoarding in the Neolithic and Bronze ages, and Marjolijn Dijkman’s science fictional timeline from 2008 to 802,701.

I didn’t use any of it. Last week Sarah Mann sent me a screenshot of the character descriptions (dramatis personae) from one of her plays and it was hilarious and suggestive and to me worked as a thing in its own right. Day 17 felt like a good opportunity to construct a story wholly out of prefatory descriptions of the characters and thereby write a play shorter than a millisecond.

This is strongly influenced by J.G. Ballard’s experimental short story “Answers to a Questionnaire” in which we are presented with one hundred answers without their questions, leaving us as to tease out implied narratives and connections.

If you think the millisecond short ‘play’ itself is sheer sport, then have a look at Samuel Beckett’s notorious short play Breath, which at 25 seconds is comparatively epic. It’s a dream of mine to present Breath as an evening performance with an interval.

Day 17 – Dramatis Personae
DRAFT VERSION – 17_-_DRAMATIS_PERSONAE_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 9pp)

PUBLISHED VERSION IN DARK MOUNTAIN 11 (pdf, 8pp)

aj.

29 Plays Later – Day 15 & Day 16

29 Plays Later – Day 15 & Day 16

The challenge for Day 15 of 29 Plays Later was to write about “your idol”; I have trolly-loads of idols – an idolatrolly. Where to start? Episodes from the history of music are a good source of drama and lols. I decided to develop an idea I had about the composer Handel and Jimi Hendrix being neighbours. This really happened, give or take two hundred years. You can visit Handel’s London house at 25 Brook Street and Hendrix’s flat next door at 23 which last week opened to the public as a museum. I wrote a comedy about the two musicians, one with his religious belief and royal patronage, one with his stone-free liberationism, not hitting it off but then influencing each other’s music.

Day 15 – The Persecution and Inspiration of George Frideric Handel as Performed by the Entourage of Jimi Hendrix under the Direction of Psychedelic Drugs (Handel/Hendrix)
15_-_HANDEL_HENDRIX_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 17pp, 5 chars)

Day 16 gave us four clips of Daniel Barenboim playing Beethoven to work with. I decided that even though there’s already a movie based on the story I’d have a crack at the mystery of the famous unsent love letter Beethoven wrote to a lady he referred to as his ‘Immortal Beloved’ – whose identity is still unknown.

Day 16 – Immortal Beloved
16_-_IMMORTAL_BELOVED_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf 20pp, 10 chars)

It’s frustrating that I only have time to lay down first draft filler dialogue to get across the story. There’s good stuff in there but a lot of weak and stupid writing. No time! I hope you’ll forgive me that, for now. Both of these plays are ones I’d like to revisit and write properly and record, perhaps as part of a series of absurdist musical mockumentaries including Day 4’s mathrock mocksposé Piccioni Rosa.

aj.

PS. As if you didn’t know, Day 15’s (working) title is a play on Marat/Sade.

29 Plays Later – Day 14 – The Massacre on Valentine’s Day

29 Plays Later – Day 14 – The Massacre on Valentine’s Day

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.

29 Plays Later – Day 3 & Day 4

29 Plays Later – Day 3 & Day 4

The 29 Plays Later Challenge forces us to write a complete play every day during February. Four days in and we’re already crumbling. Please send ghostwriters. It’s going to be a long haul.

Day 3 – Google’s Choice – We were asked to write a 1-5 minute monologue. I can’t explain mine without badly spoilering it, but it’s about ethical dilemmas presented by the driverless car. I wrote most of it during a poetry reading event that I wish I could have been more attentive to, but… no time for culture!

03_-_-GOOGLES_CHOICE_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 5pp)

Day 4 – Piccioni Rosa – The theme was mathematics. Kids ❤ math. I wrote a kind of surrealist radio mockumentary about a math-rock band struggling to record their first album. They never make any music cos they spend all their time doing sums. With their manager and producer seemingly bent on destroying them, will they ever finish the album?

04_-_PICCIONI_ROSA_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 31pp, 9 chars)

The redoubtable Sarah Mann is doing awesome work, and you can also follow everyone tearing their hair out with the hashtag #29playslater.

aj.