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DFW Playwrights Alliance Posts

Best Dallas Plays of 2016

In Dallas there is a thriving Arts Community which includes several live theaters.  Some of the productions are incredible, and while they may be a great distance away from Broadway, they aren’t in terms of quality.  So here are some picks for the best plays and live theater productions in Dallas this year.

The Nether | Wyly Theater

Not for the faint of heart, or suitable for children The Nether looks at some futuristic and controversial subjects.  The play centers around a cop with the task of investigating a virtual reality playground that was used for illegal and…extremely disturbing acts.

Deferred Action | Wyly Theater

This is an original play co-written by David Lozano the Lee Trull.  Deferred Action is a heartbreaking story that follows an immigrant living in Texas.  It shows the complications and legal loophole of the US Immigration System and the impact on the human lives that get caught up in it.

Memphis | Theater Three

Memphis tells the story of black music in the 1950’s taking over the airwaves on white radio through the eyes of DJ Huey Calhoun.  Calhoun was loosely based on a real life character.  Calhoun is constantly butting heads with his boss and the racial tensions of a segregated South.

All The Way | Wyly Theater

The Tony Award winning play about Lyndon B Johnson’s first year in office.  The timing couldn’t be better to discuss political high drama and the back biting that goes along with it.  This production was a feather in the cap for the Dallas Theater Center with the artistic direction of Kevin Moriarty, they did a wonderful job with the drama.  Here is a clip of the Broadway version.

The Big Meal | Addison Theater Center

Taking a look at one of life’s constants, The Big Meal follows a family over five generations and countless dinners.  The play was produced by Water Tower Theater it looks at one of the pleasant constants of life.

Jonah | Undermain Theater

Written by New York playwright Len Jenkin, Jonah is a modern retelling of the Biblical story of Jonah and a weekend spent at the Hotel Fish Belly.  One of the most entertaining plays of the spring season.

These are just some of the wonderful productions that have seen the Dallas stage thus far in 2016.  It should also be noted that there was a brilliant production of Wicked that was back in town for the fifth time.  Everyone should catch Wicked at least once.

If you have the chance take in one of the productions at the many theaters throughout the Dallas area.

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How to Write A Great Play

So you want to learn how to write a great play.  Even if your play never ends up on Broadway you can still enjoy the thrill of seeing your work performed live.  There are community theaters and other amateur productions.  So this is where the magic begins.

Create a main character

Start by figuring out who your main character is, after all the play will center around them.  You can combine different traits of people you know, or go to your nearest cafe grab a coffee and start people watching.  Invent lives for the people you see, give them names and jobs.  What is there biggest problem right now?  Let your imagination run wild until a character sticks with you.

Create the conflict

Your play needs some conflict, resolving it is what drives the main character.  A happy character is great but boring to watch on a stage.  Think about the problems your character has and how they would go about solving them immediately.  What does your character want more than anything else in the world right now?  What will stop them from getting it?  All of that is conflict/

Decide where to begin

If you want your character to solve murder mysteries, where is the best place for that to start?

  1. At the scene of the crime
  2. When a distraught relative comes begging for help
  3. When the main character is falsely accused of a crime
  4. When the police come calling looking for help

If this were a movie script then any of those options would work, but plays are pretty linear they don’t have the luxury of jumping back and forth through time nor can they use flashback scenes.  So your play will need a beginning and an end point.

Demonstrate the story with speech and action

Think of watching Sherlock on TV, Sherlock Holmes runs through all the clues in his mind while you watch a series of flashbacks until he solves the crime.  None of that works in a play.  You need dialogue, characters have to tell what they are thinking.  Keep in mind you have a small setting to show what the characters are doing.   The tools at your disposal are dialogue and actions the characters do that the audience can see.

Cut, cut and cut some more.

Should the main character have a family?  Does the murder victim?  Will you create a subplot for the audience to follow?  Okay stop…don’t complicate things anymore than you have to.  Plays are far simpler than a movie or television drama.  If there are too many parts, it becomes too hard to manage everything successfully.

Write and the rewrite

Your first effort probably won’t be that great, in fact your 17th effort may not be that great either.  Writing like any other skill takes practice and lots of it.  Keep going until you’re happy with the results.  Join a writing group and have someone objectively critique your work, you can learn a lot from other writers.

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