Writing for Vaudeville eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 543 pages of information about Writing for Vaudeville.

3.  Other Title Considerations

A short title seems to be the playlet fashion today; but tomorrow the two- or three-word title may grow to a four- or five-word name.  Yet it will never be amiss to make a title short.

This same law of good use points to a similar variation in the context of even the short title—­I mean that every little while there develops a fad for certain words.  There may at any time spring up a wide use of words like “girl,” or “fun,” or color words, like “red " or “purple” or “blond.”  But your close study of the vaudeville of the moment will show you when these fad-words may be used advantageously in a title.

You need never worry over-long about a title for your playlet if you put the emphasis in your own mind upon the fact that your title is an advertisement.


But when you have a playlet manuscript that is full of laughter and vibrant with dramatic thrills, and even after you have sold it to a manager who has produced it, your work as a playlet writer is not done.  You still must cut and polish it until it is a flawless gem that flashes from the stage.  As Edgar Allan Woolf expressed it to me in one of our conversations: 

“The work of the author of a one-act comedy is not over until, after several weeks of playing, his playlet has been so reshaped and altered by him that not a single dull spot remains.  Individual lines must be condensed so that they are as short as they possibly can be made.  The elimination of every unnecessary word or phrase is essential.  Where a line that develops the plot can be altered so that it will still serve its purpose, and also score a laugh on its own account, it must be so changed.  Where lines cannot be changed, bits of comedy business may perhaps be inserted to keep the audience from lapsing into listlessness.  For it is a deplorable fact that a vaudeville audience that is not laughing outright at a comedy becomes listless.  Vaudeville managers never book a playlet that makes an audience smile—­for while the humor that brings a smile may be more brilliant than the comedy that gets a laugh, it must always be remembered that vaudeville audiences come to laugh and not to smile.  Some of the biggest laughs in every one of my many acts I put in after the acts had been playing some weeks.  And I attribute whatever success they have had later in the best vaudeville theatres to the improvements I have made during their ‘breaking in’ periods.”

To sum up:  While no two writers ever have written and never will write a playlet in precisely the same way, the wise beginner chooses for his first playlet a comedy theme.  Your germ idea you express in a single short sentence which you consider as the problem of your playlet, to be solved logically, clearly and conclusively.  Instinct for the dramatic leads you to lift out from life’s flowing stream of events the separate incidents you require and to dovetail them into a plot which tells the story simply by means of characters and dialogue skillfully blended into an indivisible whole, flashing with revealing meaning and ending with complete satisfaction.

Project Gutenberg
Writing for Vaudeville from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook