As I waded through the submission opportunities that had mounted in my absence, I sighed again at the preponderance of ten-minute play festivals, all of which boldly reminded us writers that these theatres (and the audience body at large?) “PREFERRED COMEDIES.” Why did this single sentence, “WE PREFER COMEDIES,” irk me to the marrow? Let me see. Oh, shit. To hell with itemizing my grievances about it. Suffice to say, I’m bored stupid with skit plays, which is all you can get out of ten-minutes’ playing time. There can be no character development, no deep relationships or conflict. You just set up your gimmick, you introduce zany characters who enter to drop their zingers, and you’re out of there (“keep them doggies rollin’”).
That this is the current state of affairs for the dramatic arts wounds me. The most condemning thing I can say about this new play trend is it reminds me of the difference between the art the Greeks created, and the paratheatricals that the Romans ingested--until they died off as a culture. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want “Mrs. Boodles Trained Poodles” or He-men setting themselves on fire while mid-trapeze to set the tone for what can be expected out of a night at the “theatre.” Nothing personal, because escapism has its place, but it’s like it’s become our only staple, and it’s all you can find on most menus anymore. –What’s even more condemning is most people won’t even know what I’m referring to, that Greek vs. Roman comparison is lost to modernity. Having to argue against this imbalance makes me feel like a goofy parent trying to remind their children that they must work a little spinach into their sugar diet. It’ll rot your teeth!
Now that I’ve laid that platform, one of my favorite things about our GLIDERS week, was that the actors found the funny lines in the script—and they made these characters not just funny but more sympathetic. By genre, GLIDERS is a drama, but it’s meant to reflect our lives so there is humor in it, as there should be. As I said, it’s about finding a balance, and with drama, a spoonful of sugar does help the “medicine go down.” It also gives the audience breathing room. The comic relief enables us to return to the story with renewed interest, and it helps us relate to the characters, to recognize certain traits, and to be able to laugh at ourselves. Thank God.