Allison Page, celebrating the unconstrained imagination.
Playwrights: always tryin’ to figure out how to get produced. In 2016 that sometimes means staying within the limitations of submission criteria like “Cast of 1 or less” or “One small set” or “Can be performed in a tiny attic” and while I *get* that, because we all have the budgets we have, I always love it when playwrights have absolutely not given a fuck and/or didn’t have those limitations. And so, in honor of not giving a fuck, here are examples of things playwrights have included in their scripts, and still got them produced:
Two swimming pools (a show with one pool is like, I mean, c’mon, do we have no standards?)
Working piano which comes out for 2 minutes (WHAT LUXURY. SUCH EXCESS.)
Harp strung with barbed wire (ouch)
House with a collapsable ceiling (assuming that was written while drunk but ok)
Rain/storm/hurricane (bonus points for more than one per show, and for rainstorms that last more than 30 seconds)
City bus (Yes, a whole bus)
Everything in that Spiderman show
Really big trees (plural)
Gas chamber (for Sherlock, no less)
Talking meatloaf (okay I wrote that in high school, that was me, it wasn’t produced but I’m still laughing that I wrote a part for a talking meatloaf)
Dead body played by a living person through the entire play (maybe that sounds less crazy, but saying “Yes, hi, I’d like to include in the budget payment for an actor to just lie on the floor” seems insane to me)
Probably everything about 2666
Enormous tentacled alien
Cast of 25 with no doubling (SOMEONE’S RICH)
A full library
Spaghetti monster (okay, that was a sketch, but the spaghetti monster puppet was AMAZING)
The rubble of a giant mansion that’s been destroyed (bonus points for making the actors pull things out of the rubble they’ve been walking on and sitting on, over and over again)
A character who cuts off their own face (and then, if memory serves me, someone picks it up later, so you have to have a face to pick up)
Those really tall old timey unicycles
Giant 1950s computer with flashing lights and lots of beep boop sounds, and which shot paper out of itself — enough paper to go all over the room.
20 person sword fight
Working dictaphone w/ wax cylinder
Giant man-eating plant (must sing)
Cuttin’ the junk off of two characters on stage
Two rats, one diseased
Shout out to all the people building really, really weird stuff because someone wrote it down somewhere and now somebody has to build an elephant. This is clearly just a smattering. If you have a favorite impossible piece of theater madness, leave it in the comments!
I’m going to go write something with weird stuff in it.
Allison Page is a writer/actor/director in San Francisco.
I did produce a kids’ play of Matilda where we had to have a small bookshelf full of books, which would be heavy to move around, so I wrapped different sized cereal boxes with paper and slapped titles on the “spines.” The play I just wrote requires an actress to be just a talking head–not metaphorically but literally. But I’m hopeful that it can be staged with just a little ingenuity.
To paraphrase Paul Vogel, as told to me by another playwright/teacher, “Alway try to write one impossible thing in your play.”