Content of Plays


MimeTroupe 'During the life span of Babyboomers . . . we have come to be ruled by a shadow (now no longer secret) government of spy agencies, right wing billionaires and military fanatics. Our oceans have been turned into chemical dumps, half the world's rain-forests have vanished, holes have appeared in our ozone layer, and our hopes for the future have been buried under a steadily mounting pile of unimaginable weapons. During the same period, a single topic has dominated the American stage: personal relationships.'

-- Joan Holden



The revised and expanded paperback and e-book editions

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Here's the full Table of Contents and ordering info for the new edition.

The Content Unit has been revised and expanded (with many new examples from the most recent plays) for the new edition, Playwriting Seminars 2.0, but many Content pages remain available on the site. You can also see the revised Content Unit and the opening chapters of the Structure Unit with Amazon's Look Inside feature (click on the cover image).

Primary Areas of The Content Unit

A Note on Dual Plot Structure

The content of plays (and films and novels) rests on a structure of plot. The concept of dual or twin plots is one of the core understandings of Playwriting Seminars 2.0 and was first suggested by the great Shakespearean scholar A. C. Bradley. This insight has a long pedigree, but the real proof of the concept is in the practice of playwriting: It is nearly impossible to find produced plays by contemporary playwrights who don’t use this dual plot structure.

   These twins (or pairs) are called suspense and emotional plots in this Handbook since the terms capture the key differences between them, but what they are named matters far less than the impact they have on contemporary playwriting. Why playwrights use this dual plot structure may owe much more to the way human beings have always told lasting stories than to theoretical understandings. Demonstrating this key part of the playwright’s craft is one of the goals of the new edition of Playwriting Seminars.

   While it may be difficult to acknowledge for those who make a strict distinction between so-called "high" and "low" art, this dual plot structure crosses media from theatre to film and genre novels, and is found in work as seemingly dissimilar as Hamlet and The Hunger Games. Plot structure is essential -- the desire for that and why people respond to it is probably built into our DNA -- but what is created on top of that plot structure out of characters and story ultimately determines the way audiences and readers will respond.

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