Writing for Vaudeville eBook

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

“Today, all these things are taboo.  A vaudeville audience resents having the ‘protiasis’ or introductory facts told them in monologue form, as keenly as does the ‘legitimate’ audience.  Here, too, the actor may not explain his actions by ‘asides.’  And ’mistaken identity’ is a thing of the past.

“Every trivial action must be thoroughly motivated, and the finish of the playlet, instead of occurring upon the ‘catabasis,’ or general windup of the action, must develop the most striking feature of the playlet, so that the curtain may come down on a surprise, or at least an event toward which the entire action has been progressing.

“But the most important element that has developed in the playlet of today is the problem, or theme.  A little comedy that provokes laughter yet means nothing, is apt to be peddled about from week to week on the ‘small time’ and never secure booking in the better houses.  In nearly all cases where the act has been a ‘riot’ of laughter, yet has failed to secure bookings, the reason is to be found in the fact that it is devoid of a definite theme or central idea.

“The booking managers are only too eager to secure playlets—­and now I mean precisely the playlet—­which are constructed to develop a problem, either humorous or dramatic.  The technique of the playlet playwright is considered in the same way that the three-act playwright’s art of construction is analyzed by the dramatic critic.”


We have seen what the playlet is not.  We have considered the various dramatic and near-dramatic forms from which it differs.  And now, having studied its negative qualities, I may assemble its positive characteristics before we embark once more upon the troubled seas of definition.  The true playlet is marked by the following ten characteristics: 

1—­A clearly motivated opening—­not in soliloquy form.

2—­A single definite and predominating problem or theme.

3—­A single preeminent character.

4—­Motivated speeches.

5—­Motivated business and acting.

6—­Unity of characters.



9—­A finish that develops the most striking feature into a surprise—­or is an event toward which every speech and every action has been progressing.

10—­Unity of impression [1]

[1] See page 30, Writing the Short-Story, by J. Berg Esenwein, published in “The Writer’s Library,” uniform with this volume.  Note the seven characteristics of the short-story and compare them with the playlet’s ten characteristics.  You will find a surprising similarity between the short-story and the playlet in some points of structure.  A study of both in relation to each other may give you a clearer understanding of each.

Each of these characteristics has already been discussed in our consideration of the dramatic forms—­either in its negative or positive quality—­or will later be taken up at length in its proper place.  Therefore, we may hazard in the following words

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Writing for Vaudeville from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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