Help me find a one-act.
April 2, 2008 2:17 PM   Subscribe

I've been given the opportunity to direct a one-act play of my choice, and I need help finding one.

I really just have no idea where to start looking for good on one-acts.
Here are the preferable requirements:
-a cast of five or less
-sets that are not wildly elaborate (as in, i could do a painted backdrop, bookshelves, chairs and a table, but i couldn't do a full-scale plantation style porch, complete with trellises and a second floor. fucking tennessee williams.)
-Less than thirty minutes.
-Something that's a little dark and touches on heavy themes, but has funny moments and ultimately some levity.

the last one is where I'm having some trouble. I can punch in total cast: less than five on the dramatists play service's website, but it's harder to find out the content and quality from a list of titles. So I thought I'd ask the hive about it.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew to Media & Arts (15 answers total)
There's a huge field, and your limitations aren't even that limiting. As you're the director, I think it's important to find something you'll really really love... so...

What plays do you like? What do you love about theater?

If you answer these questions carefully (no need to write a novel), chances are that some people will have plays leap to mind that you'll be able to connect with -- rather than just having to suggest things that they've loved, either in the recent past or as part of some other earlier zeitgeist.

Such as: contact me and I can probably send you a three-actor play that an acquaintance of mine wrote. It recently had a staged reading at a local professional theater, it's *hilarious* and definitely somewhat dark . It's written for three males, which kind of bums me out, but you might like it.
posted by amtho at 2:25 PM on April 2, 2008

I'm a big fan of Jose Rivera's work.
posted by EarBucket at 2:32 PM on April 2, 2008

All in the Timing is a collection of one-acts by David Ives. You can't go wrong with any of them, but "Sure Thing" is awesome, the best of the best. More levity than you want perhaps, but simple one man, one woman, a book, a table set like a cafe and a bell. Although, comedically it's a bit more complicated.

This link appears to have the scripts for each one act in the book.
posted by sneakin at 2:33 PM on April 2, 2008

I directed David Mamet's one act "Bobby Gould in Hell" in high school a few years ago. I really enjoyed the play and the experience. It's dark, funny and full of all kinds of themes. I think I remember it being less than 30 mins. Maybe take a look at that?
posted by sdsparks at 2:33 PM on April 2, 2008

Snowangel, by Lewis John Carlino. Just a man and a woman, and a minimal set. It is "dark" and "heavy," but it's flexible enough that you have some leeway to go in a more dramatic or more comedic direction with it.
posted by Jaltcoh at 2:37 PM on April 2, 2008

I'm not sure of the degree of levity you're looking for, but Edward Albee's The Sandbox may hit all your points, and calls for a cast of five players. The set itself needn't be wildly elaborate: when we performed it, we used a turtle-shaped sandbox and a beach umbrella in lieu of an actual beach backdrop, and played one of those "relaxation" CDs of captured beach sounds. The entire thing is poignant in a ludicrous sort of way, which I think lends a balance when paired with the leitmotif of death. At any rate, the audience appeared to enjoy it, and it was a delight to perform.
posted by numinous at 2:57 PM on April 2, 2008

No Exit by Sartre is a little longer, but you could cut it down a bit.
posted by MythMaker at 3:02 PM on April 2, 2008

Seek ye the plays of Christopher Durang.
posted by wittgenstein at 3:53 PM on April 2, 2008

Second Durang, especially 'dentity Crisis
posted by junkbox at 4:01 PM on April 2, 2008

Still Life by Noël Coward, the play from which the film Brief Encounter was made. One set: a railway café.
posted by zadcat at 4:37 PM on April 2, 2008

The first act from Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman, if it doesn't have to be a complete play. Dark, funny, and FRACKIN' AMAZING. Swear you won't regret it.

Three people, minimal set, about 25 minutes if I remember correctly, and everything you're looking for.
posted by WidgetAlley at 6:08 PM on April 2, 2008

3rd Durang, my personal fav is Naomi in the Living Room.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 7:28 AM on April 3, 2008

Have you seen the Small-Cast One-Act Guide?

Also, previously.
posted by mediareport at 8:22 PM on April 6, 2008

Response by poster: I read a lot of these, and I think could mark more than half as best.
For people and set and some other restraints, plus the fact that the show (which was four one-acts done by four directors) was shaping up to be very very dark without my contribution, I ended up going with a David Ives, "The Universal Language." I was going to do sure thing at first, but this is a yearly thing, and apparently someone had done it the year before I came to school.

(oh, and Widgetalley: my school's theatre co. did the pillowman last fall, funnily enough.)
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 2:12 AM on June 25, 2008

I was going to come in and suggest Ives's Variations on the Death of Trotsky, which is also from All in the Timing. But, hey, you picked one already! whoops!
posted by dismas at 1:32 PM on June 25, 2008

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