It may be of suggestive value as well as of interest to point out that in olden times the scenario was the only part of the play the playwright wrote. The groundwork of the plot was fixed beyond change, and then the actors were permitted to do as they pleased within these limits. Even today, in the construction of hurried entertainments for club nights at the various actors’ club-houses, often only the scenario or general framework of the act is typewritten and handed to the performers who are to take part. All that this tells them is that on some given cue they are to enter and work opposite so-and-so, and are, in turn, to give an agreed-upon cue to bring on such-and-such a performer. In a word, the invaluable part of any dramatic entertainment is the scenario.
One valuable aid to the making of a clear and effective scenario is the use of a diagram of the set in which the act is to be played. Reference to Chapter IV, “The Scenery Commonly Found in Vaudeville Theatres,” will place in your hands a wide—if not an exhaustive— range of variations of the commonly found box sets. Within the walls of any one of these diagrams you may carefully mark the exact location of chairs, tables and any other properties your action demands. Then, knowing the precise room in which your characters must work, you can plot the details of their movements exactly from entrances to exits and give to your playlet action a clearness and preciseness it might not otherwise possess.
2. The Scenario not an Unalterable Outline
But there is one point I feel the necessity of emphasizing, whose application each one must determine for himself: While you ought to consider your scenario as directive and as laying down the line that should be followed, you ought not to permit your playlet to become irrevocably fixed merely because you have written your scenario. It is often the sign of a dramatic mind, and of a healthy problem too, that the playlet changes and develops as the theme is carefully considered. To produce the very best work, a scenario must be thought of as clay to be molded, rather than as iron that must be scrapped and melted again to be recast.
II. POINTS TO BRING OUT PROMINENTLY
This section is so arranged that the elements of writing discussed in the preceding chapters are summarized, and the vital elements which could not be considered before are all given their proper places in a step-by-step scheme of composition. The whole forms a condensed standard for review to refresh your memory before writing, and by which to test your playlet after it is written.
Every playlet must have a beginning, a middle and an ending. The beginning must state the premises of the problem clearly and simply; the middle must develop the problem logically and solve the entanglement in a “big” scene, and the ending must round out the whole satisfyingly—with a surprise, if fitting.