Happy World Theatre Day
March 27 was World Theatre Day!
Perhaps you celebrated by way of a Disney+ Hamilton watch party or by diving into the pages of a Pulitzer Prize winning Lynn Nottage drama (Sweat is available via our ACTC Library database). Maybe you did a bit of reminiscing on the ghosts of your own onstage or backstage past or put pen to paper to craft a monologue or scene.
I have worked in the theatre as amateur and professional - backstage and on onstage and, most often, as a playwright and educator - for over thirty years. To say theatre has transformed my life would be an understatement. I love the art of drama for many of the reasons detailed below and more.
Some do it for enjoyment. For others, it is also a vocation. Either way, theatre offers many life lessons.
1. Theatre enhances self-esteem, encouraging many to open up and come out of their shell.
2. It’s a collaborative art, too, literally not something you can do on your own. Go, teamwork!
3. Like writing and speech classes, practice in theatre exercises communication. That is the most sought-after skill of many employers today.
4. Empathy is as direct a consequence of theatre experience as any other, as it is an artform that challenges artist and audience to see the world through the eyes of someone else. We need that today more than ever.
5. And it’s fun!
Theatre’s personal, scholarly and community benefits are clear, but the performing artform’s nationwide economic impact is huge, as well. According to data collected from the Theatre Communications Group, nonprofit arts organizations employ over two million Americans and generate over 135 billion dollars in annual economic activity. Theatre carries its fair share of that load.
This year, in recognition of World Theatre Day, take time to explore your imaginative creative side. (You didn’t think you were getting through this without an assignment, did you?) Write a monologue or a short play. Included below are a couple playwriting lesson plans to guide you.
A monologue is defined by Wikipedia as, "a speech presented by a single character, most often to express their thoughts aloud, though sometimes also to directly address another character or the audience."
Write a short monologue. Use one of the three prompts below to guide you.
Grab a newspaper. Pick a headline and write a monologue from the perspective of someone
within the story.
Use literary sources. Write an inner monologue for your favorite fictional character.
Go to Pixabay.com and type in the word “faces.” Pick a face and make them the character in your monologue.
Below is the text of a one-minute play.
(Lights up on two young ones.)
A – What if I told you I built a time machine? Where do you want to go?
B – Take me back to last Thursday.
A – Five days ago?
B – I bombed Mr. Merritt’s math test. I really want another chance.
A – You don’t want to back to the Jurassic period?
B – Too dangerous.
A – Or Medieval times? You could ride with the Knights of the Round Table?
B – Way too dangerous.
A – Wouldn’t you like a bird’s eye view to some great moment in history?
B – I’m not the most adventurous person you could have asked. I really just want another crack at that math test.
A – Okay. If you’re sure.
B – Wait! No. I’m wasting the opportunity of a lifetime, aren’t I?
A – Yes, you really are.
B – Take me back to last Wednesday.
A – Six days ago.
B – Yeah, Wednesday was pizza day at school, but my dad didn’t know that and he brought pizza home for dinner. So, like all I ate for lunch and dinner was pizza. It was the greatest day ever.
A – That was the greatest day ever? Fine, but I’ll be at the Globe Theatre four hundred years ago watching a live performance of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet or maybe I’ll travel to see the pyramids being built or hear the Beatles in concert.
B – Okay, but if you could drop me off at last Wednesday on your way, that would be awesome.
Imagine time travel was real and you had an opportunity to teleport back through the years, decades, centuries. Where would you want to go? What would you want to see? Why?
Free write for five minutes on this subject.
Then, write a two-character short play or scene, like the scene included here, that involves the idea of time travel. Maybe your characters want to see the building of the pyramids or the first WrestleMania or perchance something more intimate is in order - a scene with a forty-year-old character confronting their ten-year-old self, for example. The possibilities are endless.
A three-time First Among Peers Teaching Excellence Award winner, Jonathan Joy has taught at ACTC for 11 years. He currently serves as Associate Professor of English/Writing for the college. Writing credits include 50 plays, 150 children’s stories, and dozens of attempts at poetry. Joy’s Read Me A Bedtime Story column for the Ashland Beacon won a 2020 Kentucky Press Association award. The children’s stories therein are also featured on the Professor Theo's Mystery Lab podcast (ProfessorTheo.com). Joy lives in Huntington with his wife, son, and dog.