Writing for Vaudeville eBook

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

Or there may first pop into his mind a story in its entirety, full fledged, with beginning, middle and ending—­that is; thoroughly motivated in every part and equipped with characters that live and breathe.  Unhappily this most fortunate of occurrences usually happens only in the middle of the night, when one must wake up next morning and sadly realize it was but a dream.

4.  The Newspaper as a Source of Ideas.

A playwright, let us say, reads in the newspapers of some striking characters, or of an event that appeals to him as funny or as having a deep dramatic import.  There may be only a few bald lines telling the news. features of the story in one sentence, or there may be an entire column, discussing the case from every angle.  Whatever it is, the bit of news appeals to him, and maybe of all men to him only, so he starts thinking about the possibilities it offers for a playlet.

5.  Happenings of which the Playwright is Told or Which Occur under his Notice

Some striking incident rises out of the life about the playwright and he sees it or hears about it, and straightway comes the thought:  This is a playlet idea.  A large number of playlets have been germinated so.

6.  Experiences that Happen to the Playwright

Some personal experience which wakens in the mind of the playwright the thought, Here’s something that’ll make a good playlet, is one of the fruitful sources of playlet-germs.

But however the germ idea comes to him—­whether as a complete story, or merely as one striking incident, or just a situation that recommends itself to him as worth while fitting with a story—­he begins by turning it over in his mind and casting it into dramatic form.


For the purpose of illustration, let us suppose that Taylor Granville, who conceived the idea of “The System,” had read in the New York newspapers about the Becker case and the startling expose of the alleged police “system” that grew out of the Rosenthal murder, here is how his mind, trained to vaudeville and dramatic conventions, might have evolved that excellent melodramatic playleet. [1]

[1] As a matter of fact, Mr. Granville had the first draft of the playlet in his trunk many months before the Rosenthal murder occurred, and Mr. MacCree and Mr. Clark were helping him with the final revisions when the fatal shot was fired.

In this connection it should be emphasized that the Becker case did not make The System a great playlet; the investigation of the New York Police Department only gave it the added attraction of timeliness and, therefore, drew particular attention to it.  Dozens of other playlets and many long plays that followed The System on the wave of the same timely interest failed.  Precisely as Within the Law, Bayard Veiller’s great play, so successful for the Selwyn Company, was given a striking timeliness by the Rosenthal murder, The System reaped merely the brimming harvest of lucky accident.  And like Within the Law, this great playlet would be as successful today as it was then—­because it is “big” in itself. [end footnote]

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Writing for Vaudeville from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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