Writer’s Block: A Play in One Act

                                         (Lights up on a messy dorm room. JASON sits on the bed with a laptop. KATIE lounges on a beanbag with a magazine. They’re both college age, dressed casually, and seem at home in the chaos. JASON is visibly frustrated) 

JASON

Goddamn it! Remind me why I thought taking playwriting was a good idea?

KATIE

(doesn’t look up)

Because you love it.

JASON

That’s a freaking lie. This is the worst class.

KATIE

Only because you keep procrastinating. Now, you’d better focus, or you won’t meet the deadline.

JASON

(grumbling)

Just because you’re the best in the class doesn’t mean you can lecture me.

KATIE

I’m not lecturing you. Yet.

JASON

Feels like a lecture.

KATIE

Then you probably deserve one. Now stop putting it off.

(They fall silent as JASON begins to type. After a couple of beats, he sighs)

JASON

Ok, so I have my main characters and my setting, but I need an objective. Care to help?

KATIE

Who are the characters?

JASON

One is an army captain, the other is a biologist. They’re at a coffee shop.

KATIE

Laser sharks.

JASON

What?

KATIE

Why else would a biologist meet with a high-ranking member of the army? They want to create Laser Sharks.

JASON

Brilliant! Too bad they’re in land-locked Oklahoma.

KATIE

Ok then, what about aliens? The biologist wants complete access to dissect whatever aliens get captured by the military.

JASON

That…might actually work. Thank you.

(Silence as he begins typing. KATIE switches to a different magazine)

JASON

Ok, here’s what I’ve got so far. Jim, the biologist, wants to dissect an alien to prove his theory on interspecies travel. He meets with Diana, a government agent who is trying to convince him that aliens aren’t real.

(pause)

What am I missing?

KATIE

Make Diana an alien.

JASON

No.

KATIE

Why not? It would be a nice twist and add some motivation to her character.

JASON

But then they can’t be together.

KATIE

Are you writing a play or a weird romance novel?

JASON

I’m just saying that it’s a possibility.

KATIE

Yeah, but it’s boring. Let her be the alien, and he can dissect her when he figures it out.

JASON

Damn, Katie, that’s brutal.

KATIE

And entertaining.

JASON

Still.

(pause)

Say, what was your play about?

KATIE

A grandma who believes she’s a superhero, so she keeps getting into impossible situations with her home-health aide. It’s pretty funny!

JASON

You know I hate how creative you are, right?

KATIE

(grins)

Oh, I know.

JASON

(cracks knuckles)

Ok, so aliens disguised as humans. I can work with this.

KATIE

Better hurry up. Deadline is an hour away.

JASON

I know that! Let me work on it.

        (KATIE shrugs and retreats to her magazine. Silence falls as JASON works on his laptop for a few beats.)

JASON

Ok, I think I’ve got it. Jim, the biologist is meeting with Diana, a government agent, to discuss the possibility of aliens. Diana is adamant that they don’t exist, but Jim is insistent. Eventually, we learn that it’s Jim who is the alien, and he wants Diana to know that an attack is coming, but he can’t do so without blowing his cover.

(pause)

How does that sound?

KATIE

I like it! Jim being the alien is a nice twist, and an attack gives it some tension. Now, how’s the dialogue.

JASON

It’s…coming along.

KATIE

Better get on it. I’ll get us some coffee..

(KATIE exits stage right, leaving JASON alone. JASON begins pacing as he tests out some lines)

 

JASON

“You don’t get it, do you? Aliens are coming, and we need the government to step up!”

(pause)

No, too Independence Day. What about “Have you heard anything on the satellites?”

(pause)

No! Ugh.

(pause)

“Excuse me, mam, but do you have a moment to talk about our alien overlords?”

(laughs)

Hell no.

(JASON finally sits and begins typing as KATIE returns with two mugs full of coffee. She hands one to JASON and resumes her place in the beanbag.)

 KATIE

How’s it going?

JASON

I think I’ve about got it. How do you feel about the phrase “Small humans with their small brains?”

KATIE

A bit on the nose.

JASON

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

(pause)

Hey Katie, what if this doesn’t work out?

KATIE

(looks up)

What do you mean?

JASON

I mean, what if I’m making a mistake? Writing doesn’t exactly bring in the big bucks. Maybe I should have been a lawyer like my dad.

(KATIE joins him on the bed)

KATIE

You can’t think like that. It’s true that you’ll probably make more money as a lawyer, but that’s not what you want. What happened to your dream of publishing your first novel at 27?

JASON

Yeah….

KATIE

Besides, you’d make a terrible lawyer. All those rules and regulations would just hold you back. Writing is much more lenient.

JASON

But what about the money? Being a novelist is difficult, and I want to make sure my degree is worth what we’ve paid for it.

KATIE

Let me ask you this. Do you enjoy writing?

JASON

You know I do.

KATIE

And are you willing to do whatever it takes to become published?

JASON

Yes!

KATIE

Then make it work. A degree is a neutral object; it’s up to the person receiving it to make it a success or failure. Just because you’re struggling now doesn’t mean you’ll always struggle.

JASON

Yeah, but it doesn’t feel that way. Besides, I’m already getting crap for it at home. Who wants to have a writer in the family when they can have lawyers and doctors? It just feels like I’m the outsider now.

KATIE

Screw what they think! You don’t need your family’s approval to do what you love. Unless you love to do things like…committing murder. If so, you’ve got bigger problems.

(JASON hits her with a pillow. They laugh.)

KATIE

Seriously, though, my point stands. You don’t need them. You’re a grown-ass adult and can become whatever you want to be. It’s up to you.

JASON

Yeah! I’ll do it. I’ll prove that creating worlds is as hard as defending someone in court. I’ll make them see how valuable my degree can be!

KATIE

That’s the spirit! Now, how about earning that degree? You’re running out of time.

JASON

I know! Hush and let me work.

(KATIE nudges him as she moves back to the beanbag. They go silent as JASON types for several beats.)

JASON

Ha! Finally, I’ve got three pages of a play ready to turn in. Do you want to read it over?

KATIE

Sure!

(JASON hands her the laptop and takes a sip of his coffee as KATIE reads his play. After a moment, she hands it back)

KATIE

This is good! Since I helped write it, am I getting partial credit?

JASON

Hmmm, I dunno. How does 10% of the profits sound?

KATIE

Let’s see…ten percent of zero is…Zero! You have a deal.

(JASON shakes KATIE’s hand as she hands him the laptop.)

KATIE

Now, there is one problem that should be addressed.

JASON

Yeah? What’s that?

KATIE

You know the assignment was ten pages, right?

JASON

(goes white)

Ten…pages? How the fuck am I supposed to write seven pages in twenty minutes?

KATIE

(grabs another magazine)

I guess you’d better get started.

(JASON groans and chugs his coffee as KATIE resumes her magazine. Lights fade to black)

 


 

The prompt for this play was to “create a ten-minute play with one setting, two characters, and a central object.”

This is my interpretation. What’s yours?

 

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