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=''>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=''>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=''>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=''>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

Flip the Switch

FliptheSwitch via Flash PromptFlip the switch.

(Don’t flip the switch.)


The voices follow her everywhere. She hears them in her apartment, on the subway, in the elevator. They’re a constant undercurrent whenever she listens to music.


A subliminal message of indecision.


Turn it off. Turn everything off.

(No. Leave it on. Let things happen as they will.)


It’s been a week, and then two, and she still can’t decide, and the voices – the whispers of her own subconscious – grow louder, more persistent.


Ordinary switches – lights, power strips, her computer – seem to be urging her toward a greater choice.


The simple act of turning off a light is exhausting.


Cut the power.

(Keep the power on.)


She walks through the rain, holding the pink umbrella she’s has since childhood, imagining switches everywhere. On car doors, on mail boxes, on the sides of buildings.


Finally, her soggy feet carry her inside the tall building, to the private room at the end of the hall on the seventeenth floor.


“Any change?”


The attendant in lavender scrubs shakes his head. “No; I’m sorry.”


She sits on the side of the bed, staring at the monitors, listening to the steady beeping and the machine driven intake and outflow of air.


“Can you call the doctor, please?”


The attendant nods once and disappears.


She lifts the still-warm, wrinkled hand of the man who has been her lifelong constant, providing her with a pink tool set, a Fisher-Price car, petite garden tools so she could work along-side him.


“Pop-pop?” She uses her childhood nicknamefor him. “I know you never wanted this. I’m sorry. I should have listened.”


Her tears wet his skin, roll into the crevices of hands that could braid hair or hang a tire swing with equal finesse.


“I found my old fishing pole in the garage. You taught me how to bait my own hook, and how to stun the fish we caught. I hope… I hope there’s fishing in heaven.”


She knows he can’t hear her words. She understands that there’s no longer any THERE, there.


But she keeps on talking.


The attendant returns with the doctor in tow.


“It’s time,” she tells the woman in a lab coat over a blue suit. “Let him go.”


It’s a solemn moment and yet it’s also mundane. The doctor flips a switch.


Silence falls.

Win or Luge

28 Plays Later
Challenge #8
Let’s be all sporty.

Find your inspiration from a sportical event, or from the culture of sportiality or from observing sportition.
Don’t sport with people’s feelings though, but do feel free to sport at sportspeople who sport their sports-gear.


Win or Luge





ANNOUNCER (V/O): Now making his second run on this, the first day of the luge event here at the Olympic Sliding Center is Alejandro ‘Sasha’ Nowatovski. His time on his first run was an extremely competitive 0.81.09 seconds, but as you know, in single-slide luge, each competitor takes four runs and we total the times of all four.

There is a single beep and then SASHA primes his run. Pushing back and forward.

There are three beeps and he pushes off.

The lights begin to dim as soon as he’s offstage. There’s the sound of a crash, and a scream, and then a crowd screaming.

ANNOUNCER (V/O) (alarmed):  Nowatovski has lost control of his sled. He’s jumped the track. Medics are on scene… We’re returning you to studio…



To read the entire play, follow the link below:

2018-08 Win or Luge

Scenes from a Marriage

28 Plays Later – Challenge #7

OK, so we focus way too much and worry about writing good stuff… how about writing some shite?
Like, proper total crap. (not literally! You know who you are!)
Not as easy as it sounds.
Just have no filters.
Let yourselves go

I didn’t like the “write shite” part of this challenge, but I really responded to the “let yourself go” part. Every year, I do 100 Days of Notecards, where I write a scene or sentence or snippet of dialogue on a 3×5 post-it and stick it on my fridge. To create this play, I pulled a bunch of those notecards (8 I think?) off the fridge and tried to put them in some semblance of order, but without any real connection.


Copyright: <a href=''>bialasiewicz / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Scenes from a Marriage




TIME:  24 years ago

PLACE:  MOM’s kitchen.

LIGHTS UP on WOMAN and MOM at the dining room table. They’re each drinking coffee, and sharing a single slice of cheesecake.

MOM (concerned): You’re moving in with him?

WOMAN (confident): Yes.

MOM: You’ve only known him for five minutes. You know nothing about him.

WOMAN: Actually, it’s been six months.

MOM: Still…

WOMAN (ticking things off on her fingers): I know he likes strawberry-rhubarb pie and singing when he mows the lawn, and wearing socks during sex.

MOM gives WOMAN a gushy-mom look.


To read the entire play, click here:

2018-07 – Scenes From a Marriage