November 4, 2013
The Way You Tell ’em
Did you hear the one….?
A one-act play I penned was recently selected as runner-up in the STERTS annual competition and will receive a rehearsed reading in the Cornish Theatre as part of the prize for the same on December 7th, a night I’m very much looking forward to. If anyone is in the Liskeard area, it would be great if you could come along.
The play in question was initially inspired by a joke so I thought I’d revisit why jokes are such a great source of plot ideas. They are plots in miniature. Stories sealed up and ready to go. You’ve got your beginning, middle, end, your conflict, your characters – flaws and all. All you’ve got to do is flesh it out, expand on it, change gender and setting if possible. And no, your ‘adaptation’ doesn’t have to be funny because many jokes (indeed, stories) need an element of tragedy to make comedy (and vice versa) and you can just crank up the aspect you want to emphasize.
Here’s the joke that gave me the idea for ‘The Angel of Szepfalu’:
“It was Ryan’s funeral and the pallbearers were carrying the casket out from the church. When they bumped into a pillar, one of them heard a moan from inside the coffin. They opened the lid and found Ryan alive. He lived for another ten years before he properly died. Another funeral was held for him and, as the pallbearers were carrying out the coffin, Mrs Ryan shouted “Now, watch out for that pillar!”
OK, it’s the way ya tell ‘em… But the point is that they don’t have to be the funniest jokes – just so long as there is a story in there, a universal truth with which your readers will react and engage. Wordplay/puns won’t work so well, go for the story…
From Ireland, Sue Healy is Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre, London, a full-time Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Lincoln. Her book on theatre literary management is published by Routledge, December 2022.
Sue is an award-winning writer for stage, TV, and prose writer.
Her current project, a 6x60minute TV series, is under option. She is under commission with Lone Wolf Media, producers behind PBS’ “Mercy Street”, to co-write the pilot and treatment for a six-part TV series.
Her most recent stage-play, Imaginationship (2018), enjoyed a sold out, extended run at the Finborough and later showed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. Her previous stage productions include Cow (Etcetera Theatre, 2017) and Brazen (King’s Head Theatre, 2016), funded by Arts Council England. Sue’s short plays have been performed at the Criterion (Criterion New Writing Showcase), Arcola (The Miniaturists) and Hackney Attic (Fizzy Sherbet Shorts).
Her radio work includes nine plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (Opening Lines winner), WLRfm and KCLR96fm.
Sue has won The Molly Keane Award, HISSAC Prize, Escalator Award, Meridian Prize and has been published in nine literary journals and anthologies including: The Moth, Flight, Tainted Innocence, New Writer, Duality, HISSAC, New European Writers. She has been writer-in-residence on Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, and at the Heinrich Boll Cottage on Achill Island. She has also benefitted from annual artist residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, and at Ginestrelle, Assisi in Italy.
An academic with a PhD in modern theatre history, specifically the Royal Court Theatre, Sue has presented her research internationally. She spent eleven years in Budapest, editing Hungary A.M. She has a PhD in modern theatre history (Royal Court Theatre) and is a UEA Creative Writing MA alumnus.
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November 5th, 2013 at 15:36
That really worked; I’d forgotten it was a joke by the time I reached the last line, so I felt the best kind of laugh. Good luck with the reading.