Review of 'Playwriting 101: The Rooftop Lesson'

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Analysis of “Playwriting 101: The Rooftop Lesson” A short play is usually filled with a theatrical energy of diverse anthologies. The time allotted may be only ten or fifteen minutes, so it must be able to capture and engage the audience with some dramatic tension, exciting action, or witty humor. Just as in a short story, a great deal of the explanation and background is left for the reader or viewer to discover on their own. Because all the details are not explicitly stated, each viewer interprets the action in their own way and each experience is unique from someone else viewing the same play. Conflict is the main aspect that drives any work of literature, and plays usually consist of some form of conflict. In “Playwriting 101: The Rooftop Lesson,” Rich Orloff explores these common elements of plays and creates an original by “gathering all clichés into one story and satirizing them” (Orloff as cited by Meyer, 2009, p. 1352). The unique nature of “Playwriting 101: The Rooftop Lesson,” is that it is a play about plays, or perhaps a play within a play. The scene takes place in the present on a rooftop of a large urban building with three nameless characters known only as the Jumper, the Teacher, and the Good Samaritan. The characters names become simple representations of their common qualities, and can therefore be of either sex; however the Good Samaritan and the Jumper must be of the same sex. The teacher is lecturing on the art of good playwriting using an act consisting of a would-be Jumper and a Good Samaritan. In the examples that the teacher shows, the Jumper is about to end his life and a Good Samaritan is trying to save him. This scene is a commonly used conflict that is used to grab a viewers’ attention, and the Teacher pauses and replays it numerous times to show the elements of good playwriting to the audience. So to what extent can theatre really imitate life and when does it become a cliché? The truth is that the entire plot can be


References: Orloff, R. (1951). “Playwriting 101: The Rooftop Lesson.” In The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature Ed. Michael Meyer. 8th ed. Boston: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2009. Pp. 1352-1358.

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