I wrote this play for a 10 minutes playwright competition held in Canada. The rule of the competition states that the first line of dialogue has to start with “I see a rabbit.” I hope to improve as a playwright, so any comments on weaknesses and strength of the play would be appreciated. Thank you for your time.
I see a rabbit.
Nigel: Englishman, over 40, educated, smartly dressed.
Simon: Englishman, over 40, educated, smartly dressed.
NIGEL and SIMON are sitting at a table. On the table are a pile of papers, a typewriter and two cups of tea. SIMON has a diary in his jacket pocket. NIGEL has just explained to SIMON his problem. SIMON is thinking.
Simon: I see a rabbit.
Nigel: I see a rabbit.
Simon: I see a rabbit (Little pause. SIMON gives up.) That’s a tough one Nigel. This competition is not so forgiving.
Nigel: Yes, and it ends on the seventeenth.
Simon: Then at least you have given yourself plenty of time to write a play and post it.
Nigel: The seventeenth of December, Simon. And it is not posted, it is emailed.
Simon: Why, we’re standing on December.
Nigel: Yes, Simon.
SIMON looks at his diary.
Simon: Nigel, the seventeenth is on Monday.
Nigel: Thank you, Simon
Simon: Today is Saturday.
Nigel: Simon, I invited you to my house to advise me on writing a play, and not to remind me, I am sitting on a Turkish barber’s chair. Now advise me! Please!
Simon: (Irritatingly.) Well since advice is the only reason why I am ever invited to your house, then …
Nigel: Thank you.
Simon: (Keeping his temper in control.) So we have a rabbit. I see a rabbit. A ten minutes play with the opening line, that has to be “I see a rabbit. I see a rabbit.”
Nigel: (Thinking loudly.) I only wish it opened with a question.
Simon: Why so?
Nigel: Listen to this. (NIGEL gets a page from the pile and starts to read.) “Has Vera not come back yet, Michael? Is your ladyship at home this afternoon? I believe this is the first country house you have stayed at, Miss Worsley?”
Simon: Why that's Oscar Wilde, from his play “A women with no importance.”
Nigel: “Going on to the Harlocks, tonight, Margaret? Did you hear what I was playing, Lane? Who is she?”
Nigel: And with “A Florentine Tragedy” it adds down to seven. Seven of the nine plays that the great Oscar Wilde submitted, all opened with a question mark.
Simon: I must say Nigel, that is a remarkable find. But surely it is a matter of coincidence.
Nigel: “My Betty be hearty soon? Tommy Kelly get in yet? Where's your tobacco?”
Simon: Arthur Miller.
Nigel: Three of the four most memorable Arthur Miller’s plays also opened with a question mark.
Simon: Bravo Nigel. You have certainly secured the fort.
Nigel: Thank you. Of course I am not saying it is easier to write a play if it opens with a question, but it certainly does help those who favour it.
Simon: It certainly did for Mr.Wilde and Mr. Miller.
Nigel: Yes, but how does it favour me, Simon?
Simon: You just said it.
Nigel: Sorry Simon, I don’t quite follow.
Simon: I see a rabbit?
Nigel: I see a rabbit?
Simon: I see a rabbit?
Nigel: No, no Simon. The rules to the competition are clearly written. I see a rabbit comes with a full stop at the end of the sentence, and not, an asterisk with an option of punctuation mark. No, it was an adventurous try but I propose we stay well clear of that dog.
Simon: I don't see why. It is a creative playwriting competition is it not?
Nigel: Yes, yes it is.
Simon: Well then, you should be applauded for tackling the challenge creatively.
Nigel: Applauded on the mainland, yes. But the competition is in Canada...
Nigel: And I am not sure if our Canadian cousins understand what it is to be creative; after all, I can not credit them for inventing anything useful, can you?
Simon: Why on green hills would you want to write for Canadians?
Nigel: If I want to become a playwright Simon, then I must be able to, explore and craft a play, without being frightened by rules or the audience’s nationality.
Simon: Then I hope you are not accepting your play to be understood by a nation that lacks proper universities and a queen.
Nigel: I accept nothing from others, only from myself. And here and now I can honestly say, I am shamed that I have been held hostage for a month by a rabbit. How Nigel, do I write a play about a rabbit?
Simon: Does it have to be about a rabbit?
Nigel: Go on.
Simon: Just because the opening line refers to a rabbit, doesn’t necessary mean the play has to be devoted to a rabbit.
Nigel: So what we are saying here Simon, I see a rabbit, is nothing more than a kick to get the barrel rolling?
Simon: Precisely. Take Mr. Miller’s opening line, “Where’s your tobacco?”
Nigel: (NIGEL looks at the paper with the opening lines.) That’s right.
Simon: I am fortunate to have seen the play which the line is borrowed from, and I can assure you Nigel, “All My Sons” is far more than a lengthy cigarette commercial. (NIGEL is in thought. Little pause) Nigel, what you are looking for is a new focal point. Instead of a rabbit, it can be, oh I don’t know, two people in search of courage.
Nigel: I do like, in search of. Yes. Very clever Simon.
Simon: Thank you
SIMON drinks his tea.
Nigel: I have surprised myself for not thinking of it. Yes (Excitedly.) Shall we give it a morning run?
Simon: (Stunned.) I don’t mean to suggest we should perform the parts.
Nigel: This is no time to procrastinate. (NIGEL goes to SIMON.) We must bottle the ideas and convert them into action. (NIGEL takes SIMON’S cup and puts it down.) You will not be needing this thank you…
Nigel: It is all part of theatre. (NIGEL gets SIMON on his feet and moves him to an empty space.) Now if we have you standing over here.
Simon: But I am not an actor.
NIGEL showing SIMON the empty space.
Nigel: We are all actors once we are on stage. Begin!
Simon: I wouldn’t know how to begin.
Nigel: I see a rabbit… (SIMON feeling uncomfortable.) Don't think, feel. Feeling is everything. Be spontaneous.
Simon: I am an accountant!
Nigel: We are in the jungle. We have guns. We are hunters. I see a rabbit.
Simon: A rabbit in the jungle?
Nigel: I see a rabbit.
SIMON hesitates while NIGEL tries to encourage. Both get into character.
Simon: (Hesitantly.) I see a rabbit. John I see a rabbit.
SIMON pretends to aim with an imaginary rifle.
Nigel: Put that gun away man. Are you mad! You want the whole jungle to hear us?
Simon: I am hungry. I haven't eaten since we left camp.
Nigel: We left camp an hour ago.
Simon: (Chuckles. Off character) Very quick, very quick that.
Nigel: (Off character.) Thank you. (NIGEL gets back to character.) Remember, we are here not to shoot rabbits. We are here to shoot tigers.
Simon: (Off character.) Tigers?
Nigel: (Off character.) Yes tigers. Tigers represent fear. If we hunt for tigers, we will overcome fear. Courage Simon, we will need courage.
Simon: (Little confused.) Yes. Of course.
Nigel: Are you with me, Simon?
Simon: (Insulted.) I am standing beside you Nigel.
Nigel: (Sarcastically.) Of course you are. Of course you are. Now where were we? Ah. (In character.) We are not here to shoot rabbits. We are here to shoot tigers. (SIMON still insulted takes aim with his gun. Nigel waits for words.)
Simon: (Lost. Off character) What were we shooting at?
Nigel: (Off character.) Give me your gun. (NIGEL takes SIMON’S imaginary rifle and gives SIMON his rifle.) Here you go. Thank you. Right. (In character.) I see a rabbit, John I see a rabbit. The whole jungle will hear us, I haven’t eaten since we left camp, we left camp an hour ago. (NIGEL gestures to SIMON.) Remember, we are not here to shoot rabbits. We are here to shoot tigers.
Simon: Remember, we are not here to shoot rabbits. We are here to shoot tigers.
Nigel: (Scared.) I can’t see any tigers, can you?
Simon: Then we must search on.
Nigel: How long must we search for?
Simon: Till we meet a tiger.
Nigel: I say we come back another day, when the tigers are accepting visitors.
Simon: Courage man, courage. We will not find courage back at camp. We will camp here till we see a tiger.
SIMON looks through his imaginary binoculars. Little pause.
Nigel: See a tiger yet?
Simon: Not in my sight, no.
Nigel: Any news of a …
Simon: Sshh... We must keep quiet. Tigers keep low when it’s not quiet.
NIGEL getting impatient due to lack of action.
Nigel: There, there, a tiger.
Simon: No, no. That’s no tiger.
Nigel: I swear by its coat, it’s a tiger.
Simon: No, it’s a giraffe.
Nigel: A giraffe, in the jungle?
Simon: Yes, he is standing next to the rabbit.
SIMON gets back at NIGEL. NIGEL accepts he has been upped.
Nigel: (Off character.) Simon, it has become clear sight to what is happening here.
Simon: (Off character.) Yes.
Nigel: Yes. I find myself digging deeper into a hole I was trying to get out from. Instead of struggling on a ten minutes play with, I see a rabbit. I now find myself struggling on a ten minutes play with, I am looking for a tiger. (Dishearteningly.) Call the Turk, Simon, I am ready for my shave.
Simon: You must not give in Nigel, every competition needs a hero.
Nigel: No Simon, I have given it a good go and I will leave it with sour thoughts. Tomorrow I will wake up from this silly notion of being a playwright and carry my umbrella and briefcase with pride.
Simon: Perhaps that’s the problem.
Nigel: What are you saying Simon, I haven’t given it at good go?
Simon: No, you have given it a good thought.
Nigel: Simon, the longer I have gotten to know you, the harder I find it to understand you.
Simon: Read for me what you have written.
Nigel: What on earth for?
Simon: For the competition, read for me what you have written.
Nigel: Alright then. (NIGEL reads from the paper with the opening lines.) Seven out of the nine plays that…
Simon: No Nigel, that is your research, the competition is a play. Read for me what you have written for a play.
Nigel: What is your game! You know very well I have written nothing and that is why I am asking you for your advice.
SIMON gets up.
Simon: If you are asking me for my advice then I shall give it. My advice to you sir, if you want to become a playwright, then you must type!
SIMON starts to exit.
Nigel: But I have no characters, no scenes, no story.
Simon: Have courage, Nigel. With courage and spontaneity you will have your play.
Nigel: I am spontaneous!
Simon: Then type… Type, Nigel, just type. Good night, Nigel.
Nigel: Good night, Simon.
SIMON exit. NIGEL is in thought. NIGEL sits in front of his typewriter and starts to type.
I really liked the core ideas of hunting a tiger and hunting ideas for a play: clever. I liked that Nigel and Simon did something together. I didn't feel like I could tell that much about how Nigel and Simon were different and they dynamics of their relationship from the dialogue. I also think that you may be in slightly dangerous waters going the Charlie Kaufmann route - this is a play about not being able to come up with a play. Having said that, it can work. Good luck with the competition and keep writing.
Thank you for your comment. I see what you mean about Nigel and Simon not being so different. I will keep it in mind next time I write a play. As for the competition, it ended December last year. I was in the runner up group.