Less Than Three

28 Plays Later – Challenge #18

So your challenge for today – write a play using emojis, gifs, and any other non verbal imagery that is now used as forms of communication.
Perhaps the entire play is in emojis, perhaps only the stage directions, perhaps use them sporadically in the dialogue.
Either way, use them!
USE THEM, I say!



Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_stevanovicigor'>stevanovicigor / 123RF Stock Photo</a>




DAVID closes the lid of his laptop, and picks up the phone.

DAVID (texting): U there? (smilie)

SARAH picks up her phone and looks at it, then grins softly.

SARAH (texting): I was just writing to you. (grin emoji)

DAVID (texting): Me too! But then I realized I’d have to wait for you to read email. (beat) I was just thinking about that last day on the boat (ship emoji)

SARAH: (texting): You mean when were in the hot tub and things got… (gif of couple in hot tub about to kiss) ???

DAVID (texting): (blushing smiley) Yeah… that…

To read the entire play, click the link below:

2018-18 – Less Than Three

Frapping Pachelbel

28 Plays Later – Challenge #17

Let’s be super duper strict. Below are the rules for your play:

1. You must have 4 characters in the play – and the gender for 3 of them must be undefined! You can add two more – but only if they are not human.
2. One of the characters plays the banjo – really badly, and one character only speaks in rhyming couplets (can be the same if you like).
3. There must be a minimum of 3 pauses in the play, one of them must be a super long pause (think Pinter to the power of Pinter).
4. One of the characters has had relations with everybody else in the play (as well as characters that are mentioned but not seen).
5. Every line of dialogue must have one of the following: either 7 words, 12 words, 22 words, 29 words, 56 words or 99 words (you can punctuate as you like).
6. The play will contain three acts/scenes, but you can add one more if it’s a dream.
7. At some point, everybody on stage falls down to the ground.
8. Each scene/act must contain one person being told off for shouting (even though they didn’t shout), and another person revealing a big secret (even though it may not be true).
9. Each scene/act must have at least 10 lines of dialogue and 10 lines of actions.
10. Oh – and you must pick one letter of the alphabet (not Q, X or Z) for each character (each one can have a different one or the same) that they are not allowed to use in their dialogue at all.


Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_alenavlad'>alenavlad / 123RF Stock Photo</a>



(a dark fantasia for string quartet… and banjo)



VIOLIN 1 (V-ONE), VIOLIN 2 (V-TWO), and CELLO enter from different directions, greet each other with awkward hugs, and then take their seats, leaving the chair between CELLO and V-TWO open.

CELLO (somewhat annoyed): I thought we were starting at two. Should we start warming up?

Before anyone can respond, CONDUCTOR and VIOLA enter together, pausing to share a kiss before they arrive at the group. They should be giggling and laughing like new lovers who were just having a quickie in one of the dressing rooms.

V-TWO:  Oh, look, though late, they’re alive!

Methought the pair would never arrive.

V-ONE:  Still significantly tardy, though, Conductor and Viola.

CELLO: Of course, they’re late. I bet they were busy canoodling. Brazen pair.

V-TWO: You imply that you and our baton holder

Never exhibited behavior bolder.

CELLO (to VIOLIN 2): Would using normal sentences cause your death?


To read the entire play, click the link below:

2018-17 – Frapping Pachelbel

Any Audience will Do

28 Plays Later – Challenge #16

Choose your favourite venue in the whole wide world – it can be a theatre you love, or another space, or somewhere (real or imaginary) that you would love your next play to be staged at.

Now write a play for that space.
Make sure it fits the stage size.
Make sure it fits the artistic remit of the venue.
Make sure it suits the audience that goes there…


Copyright: choreograph / 123RF Stock Photo




KATIE: Good evening, ladies and gentlewoman. I’m so glad you’re here for my one-woman show.

KATIE steps onto the plywood.

KATIE: I thought I’d start by dancing for you.

KATIE looks around, as if waiting for an orchestra to start.

KATIE (giggling): Oops!

KATIE steps off the board and over to the dresser, where there is a red and white record player. She places a record on it, and switches it on, then lifts the arm onto the record near the middle. Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” plays.

KATIE (demonstrating): Now, it’s very important that you start with good posture, and then you do all your warm ups. In first position: tendu and back, tendu and back, side and back, side and back, and back and first, back and first. Now the other side (she repeats the actions on the other leg).

Now I will dance properly.

To read the entire piece, click the link below:

2018-16 – Any Audience Will Do

Red Sand, Hot Coffee

28 Plays Later – Challenge #15
Let’s write a saga…

Massive, huge stories that span over years and years.

Many characters,
several generations.

The bigger – the better.

Oh, and whoever has the most characters (all speaking and all well-rounded)

wins a Brucie Bonus! (although nobody is going to check or verify… or indeed hand it out)

Notes: This challenge hit me on a day when the weather was making my head mushy, and I was having a high pain day thanks to my autoimmune issues, so while the brief asks for a saga, I only wrote a sketch. Per the rules: you don’t have to follow the brief.

mars one





Here we are, ma’am.


I’m not old enough to be a ma’am. Call me Karen. (a beat) It’s awfully dark in here.


Let me just activate the system for you, ma’am.

LIEUTENANT flips a switch on the wall.


Power system, activated


It takes minute to juice up.

The lights slowly rise to ‘normal’ indoor lighting, slightly cool, like fluorescents.


Air filtration system, activated.


Can we take off the masks now?


Not just yet. The system will tell you.


Oxygen mix, optimum. You may now remove any breathing devices.


(stating the obvious)

It’s safe to remove your mask now ma’am.

To read the entire play, click the link below:

2018-15 – Red Sand Hot Coffee

Hair Apparent

28 Plays Later – Challenge #14

Body parts – meet writers, writers – meet body parts.
Hope you have a hoot!

Bonus points? Make the play the most moving, gut wrenching piece of drama ever written, maybe even make yourself weep as you write… but don’t write about illness, decay or death.


Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_iconogenic'>iconogenic / 123RF Stock Photo</a>





STYLIST:                    I do. Do you want to cut?

TESS:                          I…

TRESS:                        Yes. God, yes. You want to cut. You want – say it with me, honey, a stacked, chin-length bob.  With the dark base and the highlights, and that cut, I will be your crowning glory, as I should be, instead of dull, boring… stuff… growing out the top of your head.

TESS:                          Let’s cut. Let’s do a chin-length bob. (she grins into the mirror) Can you buzz the back – not all of it – but an undercut?

TRESS:                        Now we’re talking, sister. Buzz me. Buzzzzzzzz meeeeee. You’ll be so much cooler, and I’ll feel like puppy fur. It’s like, totes win-win, you know?

To read the entire piece, click the link below:

2018-14 – Hair Apparent


28 Plays Later – Challenge #13

Please write a play to be performed to 14-18 year olds.

Use your phone to record as many people as possible talking about an incident in their lives, after which things were changed.
OR Ask them to talk about their own experiences in the light of a subject that you are interested in.
Write a monologue play attributing as many as possible of those memories to one person.


Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_photoagents'>photoagents / 123RF Stock Photo</a>




At the beginning of my last semester of my senior year of high school, I finally broke. I would go to school in a dress and something would shift in the middle of the day – I’d see my reflection in the glass window of a classroom door – and think I’m in the wrong clothes. I’m not supposed to have breasts. But then there were other days when I would go to school with no makeup, in a t-shirt that was baggy enough to hide my breasts, and in jeans I’d stolen from my brother, and I’d feel really good, until I’d catch some other guy staring at my chest.

I was confused. I felt alone, isolated, broken. I couldn’t function.

I asked for help, and it came in the form of Prozac.

I was worried, at first. I’d heard anti-depressants can stifle your creativity, but while that may be true for some people, it wasn’t true for me.

To read the entire play, click the link below.

2018-13 – Wo-man-hood







Theories of Everything

28 Plays Later – Challenge #12
Let’s do a time restriction exercise

Decide how much time you want to write today… Get your timer out and programme into it half of the time you set for today… Start writing about anything. Once the timer beeps – stop writing. Take a short break and then set your timer again for the second half, in which you are to edit the play, make sure it has an extraordinary ending, get the formatting right, Etc.


Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_kjekol'>kjekol / 123RF Stock Photo</a>




SAMANTHA:             Speaking of scary… I have this theory…

ERIK:                          (interested) Okay, lay it on me.

SAMANTHA:             Most stories would be interesting if we saw them from the villain’s point of view.

ERIK:                          (skeptical) The villain?

SAMANTHA:             Yes. Heroes are pretty much interchangeable. Villains – dark characters in general – are more complex.

ERIK:                          (hands SAMANTHA her latte) Interesting. I’ll have to watch something with a good villain in it and see if you’re right.

SAMANTHA:             (laughing) Do that. (She picks up the plate and carries her drink and snack to a table, where she gets comfortable with her laptop.

To read the entire play, click the link below:

2018-12 – Theories of Everything

Nautilus (a memory in three short scenes)

28 Plays Later – Challenge #11

Numbers are so friggin’ awesome, and you can do so much with them – from basic arithmetic to some intense hardcore calculus.
‘But how does that lend itself to a play?’, I hear you ask (I really must do something about all your voices in my head!)

‘Well,’ I respond back to the negative numbers.
What about a dialogue that is structured as a Fibonacci sequence (1 word, 1 word, 2 words, 3 words, 5 words, 8 words, etc…)?

(There were a lot more suggestions, but they’re not relevant to my play).

Notes: I used the Fibonacci sequence for the dialogue structure, but I went up and then back down. As well, the golden ratio (Phi) is referenced, somewhat tangentially. Also, since this piece is pretty short, I haven’t uploaded a PDF, just provided the text.

 Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_josepijosep'>josepijosep / 123RF Stock Photo</a>



(a memory in three short scenes)


Melissa A. Bartell

Continue reading

Gingham Style

28 Plays Later – Challenge #10
Write a jukebox musical using K-pop tunes.


In truth, I hesitated about sharing this one. It’s probably the worst thing I’ve ever written in my entire life. I don’t mean “it’s a bad play by someone who isn’t a playwright.” I mean “Oh, god, who puked this up?”


I committed to documenting everything I wrote for the #28playslater challenge, and that means sharing that sometimes you’re just not into a project so you kind of phone it in.



Photo by Jon Toney on Unsplash


(an appallingly bad musical)



Scene 1

We’re on the prairie. More Little House on the Prairie than Oklahoma. The set is minimalistic. The frame of a house and barn. A horse is tethered outside, and there’s a haystack downstage center.

ANNIE and her sister MARTHA are using pitchforks to move hay from the stack into a wheelbarrow, when CHARLIE enters on his horse (hobby horse).

CHARLIE: Whoa, there girl. (comes to a stop.) Annie, is that you? Are you seriously moving hay?

ANNIE: Horses and cows gotta eat, Charlie, and my Pa is off working on the railroad. He says they’ve made the first cut, and a train will be able to make it through by Christmas!

CHARLIE: Must be fun, working on the railroad instead of stuck on the farm. (shakes his head) Y’all need any help? I’m on my way home from town, but…

MARTHA (popping her head off): Annie, Ma’s gonna have your hide if we don’t get the animals their hay before dark. And you know you aren’t supposed to be talking to boys.

ANNIE (embarrassed): I’m – We’re – Thanks for your offer Charlie, but I think we’d best finish our chores on our own.

CHARLIE (getting it): Ah, yeah. I got – I got chores waiting for me at home, and my Pa’s there with his belt if I don’t finish. I’ll  – uh – see you at church on Sunday?

ANNIE: Yeah. I mean… yes, I’ll – we’ll see you then.

(CHARLIE takes off again on his hobby horse, and MARTHA and ANNIE finish filling the barrow. MARTHA wheels the thing toward the barn, but ANNIE lingers, falling back against the hay, and dreaming. )

ANNIE pulls off her bonnet and tugs her skirt off, revealing a shorter gingham skirt underneath. Think the gingham and muslin version of a school uniform breaks into song, with backup dancers dressed in ‘hot’ versions of prairie garb supporting her.)

To read the entire, appalling thing, click the link below:

2018-10 – Gingham Style

Whale Wishes

28 Plays Later – Challenge #9

Today we’re going dark. But I leave it to you to decide what sort of darkness is right for you.

You can either go into the dark deep blue sea for a bit of animal research (Blue Whale, the animal)

Or you can go into the dark side of humanity.  (Blue Whale, the “game.” You really don’t want to know.)


gray whale baja sur





TINA (V/O): Female blue whales give birth about once every three years, after being pregnant for a year. Whale calves nurse for the first year of their lives, during which they can gain up to 240 pounds a day. The average calf is around 24 feet long and weighs 3 tons. They can live up to 90 years.

FRANK: Tina would love this place.

JOANNE: Would have. Loved. She would have loved this place. (teary). Our daughter is gone, and we’re sitting here in paradise about to go whale watching without her.

FRANK: No, we’re going whale watching for her.

JOANNE: You didn’t ask him about the ashes.

FRANK: I’ll ask him when we’re out on the water. I’m sure we can work something out.

JOANNE (calmer): I want to go down to the water… walk with me?

FRANK: Yes, dear.

To read the entire play, click the link below:

2018-09 – Whale Wishes