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Animal Play

In honor—sort of, sideways—of Groundhog Day1, here is a zoological playwrighting exercise.

  1. Write a scene for three non-human animals. (Make these characters original; i.e. no Simba, no Babe, no Gromit, etc.) They can all have human intelligence and talk, but they must retain the fullness of their bestial natures.

  2. Revise the scene for human characters, adding a human situation and setting—but keep as much of the original dialogue as possible intact. You may sublimate specific lines and actions when the only alternative is gaudiness or utter violation of character, but make every effort to keep, one way or another, all the animality of the first version.


  1. According to AccuWeather, Punxsutawney Phil has an 80% accuracy rate. According to Punxsutawney Phil, AccuWeather’s biting, blustery forecast for this February and March, 2013, is hot air. Early spring this year, says Phil. 

Thoughts on the Art of Playwrighting

Relation Between the Characters’ Lives and the Playwright’s Themes

The life & action on stage should emerge & proceed affectively, propelled by palpable (not conceptual) desires. Subject thought to feeling and word to deed rather than the other way around. Even Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons, possibly the most intellectual character in the English-speaking theatre (Nils Bohr notwithstanding), as a character wants the monastic peace & quiet of a simple life in the country so that he is free every day to tell God how much he (Thomas) loves him, as if God were a beloved father & wife all in one. Sir Thomas has been called by the ultimate & most beloved authority to think & pray as a vocation, and he WANTS to read & speak his devotions the way a born mathematician yearns for the airy freedom of numbers away from the muddy entanglements of the mundane ground. Sir Thomas wants to protect himself & his family from sin, stay out of Hell, maintain good graces with the King of kings. When threatened by the worldly king, Henry VIII, as well as by the serpent-wolf Lord Cromwell, Sir Thomas will subordinate his elegant speech to the actions of a fox: he will evade, not confront, as Cromwell sets iron trap after iron trap.

The playwright, Robert Bolt, was probably writing thematically about things like individual & intellectual freedom. He originally wrote A Man for All Seasons as a radio play in 1954, and, again thematically, I hear a vigorous reproof of McCarthyism.

Bolt imagined & constructed lives full of feeling, wants, & fears, and ended up with a play of high-flying ideals.

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