A Brief Note on Ten-Minute Plays

By: Gary Garrison

Executive Director of the Dramatist Guild

First Look Theatre Company

Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing

Tisch School of the Arts, NYU

A ten-minute play is a play with a least two characters that is not a scene, skit, or sketch. Structurally, it should have a beginning, middle, and end, just like any good one-act or full-length play. Reaching beyond the surface, the text should be enriched with subtext. Since we only have ten minutes to bring the story full circle, a dramatic conflict should be posed as quickly as possible. The resolution of that conflict is what plays out across the remaining pages. The true success of the Ten-minute play is reliant on the writer’s ability to bring the audience through the same cathartic/entertainment experience that a good one-act or full-length play accomplishes; ie., sympathetic characters with recognizable needs encompassed within a resolvable dramatic conflict.

While not wanting to oppress anyone’s creativity, recognize that a ten-minute play will undoubtedly be presented in an evening of ten-minute plays. Therefore, elaborate settings, multiple characters, extravagant production values, etc., could conceivably eliminate your play from consideration.

Finally, do your readers a favor: ten minutes means eight or nine pages, but certainly no more than ten pages. READ YOUR PLAY OUT LOUD to see how it times out using standard playwriting format and 12 pt. Times New Roman or Courier font.