Templates and Checklists

Picture above is by Methawee Krasaeden.

I've been having discussions about templates. 

The first relates to competitions. Do competitions award prizes to plays (or other forms) that follow a similar format. Or if there are similarities does it relate to the trend at the time, should one exist. Many theatres want plays that say something about now and the lives we lead. Many find that frustrating, including myself. Can't it just be entertaining. Perhaps. But perhaps that's what West End musicals are for. And to be honest, if it doesn't say something about life today, it needs to pack something else that is equally emotive.

I've read the last few Papatango winners. All great. We were lucky to see Orca's early progress and I saw Matt Grinter direct as well. There was a great use of UV-visible ink on the ceiling of Hamilton House to tell a backstory in Stomping on Shadows. So, do they follow a model or merely an aesthetic. Model suggests something more definable and followable. I'm not sure I can see the model clearly enough yet in those I've read. But there may be style elements.

A few characters: less than 6
Inciting incident could be someone new entering the world e.g. returning (Coolatully), entering (TomCat) or maturing (Orca).
10-15 scenes
Usually 2 people in a scene. Never more than four. Never more than 8 pages.
One or two locations
A suspense plot - something in the distance that may or may not happen and will be resolved at the end of the play
An emotion plot usually centred on family. Pseudo (e.g. IRA) or real. Sometimes focussing on loyalty or duty.

Here is snapshot of it:


The purpose of the suspense plot could be to keep people in the seats at the start e.g. what will the retired astronaut do now an asteroid is heading for earth. But if want to feel anything other than a fast food fillip of an action movie, we need something else a little deeper. Is he saving the earth or something else as well, his family or his own self-esteem?

I wouldn't hold to tightly to the %s but these are things that each person should decide themselves. My view are that these tools are like paints. I'm always happy to have more colours, but I can make the lot with just blue, red and yellow. And if I want to make the sky purple, that's what I'll do.

So in Tick-Tock, the theme was life choices. The suspense plot was would Jenny find out she had a father. The emotional plot was what the effect of this secret would have on everyone's relationships. A friend suggested that the emotion plot could be lower than 90% if its powerful. But I suspect if its strong or primal and occurs early on, you'll be dealing with it for most of the play.

I've included some elements of the Hero's journey but not all of them. Since they mostly apply to quests and superhero type movies they can be overly prescriptive for a checklist that is meant to be universal.

In a future blog, I'll talk about the Character Checklist.