ELA 4: What Playwrights Do: The Writing

Playwrights write plays. Big shocker, right? Well they also have to format the plays. That means proper dialogue, stage direction, and pretty much anything that prevents the actors from silently standing there staring at the audience...unless that's what they're going for. But we're pretty sure that'd get pretty creepy, pretty fast.

4th GradeLanguage Arts
Elementary and Middle School4th Grade
LanguageEnglish Language

Transcript

00:23

Why? We're glad you asked!

00:24

First things first, the playwright shouldn't even think about starting the writing process [Coop discussing the writing process]

00:28

without completing the planning process first.

00:30

By planning out the play beforehand, the writer will already know the characters, settings,

00:34

conflict and plot points of their play… all before they write a single word.

00:38

Sounds pretty nice, huh?

00:39

It’s like lining up at the finish line before the race even starts. [Guys stood at a tracks finish line]

00:42

Once that's done, all that’s left is to put all that good pre-planned stuff into the

00:46

proper play format.

00:47

And what do we mean by play format?

00:48

We're talking about the text features, of course. [Coop discussing the text features]

00:51

And if you've forgotten what features make a play a play, never fear!

00:53

Shmoop is here, with a handy-dandy checklist.

00:56

First is the Cast of Characters. [Page of cast of characters]

00:57

This comes at the beginning of the play and is used to explain who is in the play and

01:01

what they're like.

01:02

It's important for the actors to learn who they are and how they should act.

01:05

We suggest messing with one of your actors and saying, "this character secretly thinks [Girl discussing character with other actress]

01:09

they're a potato."

01:10

See how they act that one.

01:11

Second are the setting descriptions.

01:13

These descriptions tell us where each scene takes place and how it’s supposed to look.

01:16

It also gives the director and the set designer clues to what the stage should look like. [Example of set descriptions]

01:20

Hopefully it’s more “beach” and less “post-apocalyptic space rodeo,” but no [Actresses on set in post-apocalyptic setting]

01:24

matter what it is, they have to make it happen.

01:26

Third and probably most importantly comes the dialogue, which is really the bread and

01:30

butter of any play.

01:31

After all, a play is all about actors speaking lines to one another, and how the heck are

01:35

they supposed to do that if you don't write them any lines? [Mime artist performing on stage]

01:37

It’s a play, not an onstage mime convention.

01:40

And last but not least comes the stage directions.

01:42

If you want an actor to run across the stage or jump for joy or fall over in a fit of laughter,

01:47

well, you better write it down!

01:48

Stage directions tell the actors how they should move onstage, and unless you want everyone [Girl in a banana costume and guy dressed as a chicken]

01:52

standing completely still the entire time, you should probably include 'em..

01:55

And that's your basic checklist!

01:57

Once you've planned out your play, be sure you have a good grasp on these four text features,

02:01

and how they work.

02:02

Otherwise your play might end up looking like a mime convention, which...might be cool at first? [Mime artist on the street]

02:06

But would probably get old after two hours of a guy pretending to be in a box… [Mime artists on stage pretending to be in a box]