Writing for Vaudeville eBook

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

A Definition of a Playlet

A Playlet is a stage narrative taking usually about twenty minutes to act, having a single chief character, and a single problem which predominates, and is developed by means of a plot so compressed and so organized that every speech and every action of the characters move it forward to a finish which presents the most striking features; while the whole is so organized as to produce a single impression.

You may haunt the vaudeville theatres in a vain search for a playlet that will embody all of these characteristics in one perfect example. [1] But the fact that a few playlets are absolutely perfect technically is no reason why the others should be condemned.  Remember that precise conformity to the rules here laid down is merely academic perfection, and that the final worth of a playlet depends not upon adherence to any one rule, or all—­save as they point the way to success—­but upon how the playlet as a whole succeeds with the audience.

[1] Study the playlet examples in the Appendix and note how closely each approaches technical perfection.

Yet there will be found still fewer dramatic offerings in vaudeville that do not conform to some of these principles.  Such near-playlets succeed not because they evade the type, but mysteriously in spite of their mistakes.  And as they conform more closely to the standards of what a playlet should be, they approach the elements that make for lasting success.

But beyond these “rules”—­if rules there really are—­and far above them in the heights no rules can reach, lies that something which cannot be defined, which breathes the breath of life into words and actions that bring laughter and tears.  Rules cannot build the bridge from your heart to the hearts of your audiences.  Science stands abashed and helpless before the task.  All that rules can suggest, all that science can point out—­is the way others have built their bridges

For this purpose only, are these standards of any value to you.



The kind of playlet is largely determined by its characters and their surroundings, and on these there are practically no limits.  You may have characters of any nationality; you may treat them reverently, or—­save that you must never offend—­you may make them as funny as you desire; you may give them any profession that suits your purpose; you may place them in any sort of house or on the open hills or in an air-ship high in the sky; you may show them in any country of the earth or on the moon or in the seas under the earth—­you may do anything you like with them.  Vaudeville wants everything—­everything so long as it is well and strikingly done.  Therefore, to attempt to list the many different kinds of playlet to be seen upon the vaudeville stage would, indeed, be a task as fraught with hazard as to try to classify minutely the divers kinds of men seen upon the stage of life.  And of just as little practical value would it be to have tables showing the scores of superficial variations of character, nationality, time and place which the years have woven into the playlets of the past.

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Writing for Vaudeville from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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