Ken Ludwig on How to Make a Farce
Hello TDF Stages readers,
Ken Ludwig is one of the masters of modern stage comedy, boasting hits like Lend Me a Tenor and Leading Ladies. And now he’s writing a regular column for [Breaking Character], the online magazine of Samuel French, Inc., that looks at the essential elements of great comic writing. Who better than Ludwig to understand the mechanics of a stage comedy?
I’ve highlighted his column before, and his latest entry is just as interesting. This time, he takes us inside his decision-making process about his latest play. Where is it going to be set? How many locations will he put in the script? Will those choices affect the cost of future productions or the depth of thinking in the script? It’s fascinating stuff that clarifies how difficult it is to write a play.
A Farce of a Different Color
By KEN LUDWIG
[...] I can simply write the play as the story demands and let the play unfold on a ‘unit’ set the way the Elizabethans and the Greeks did it. A unit set is a single set that can represent a number of locations throughout the play, with the changes enhanced by lighting and props. I’ve used this kind of storytelling in the past: Be My Baby moves from Scotland to San Francisco and back again, visiting hotels, a hospital and a cruise ship along the way. Shakespeare in Hollywood does the same. It sprawls through Hollywood in the 1930s, and, frankly, that made it especially enjoyable to write. Do these two plays attempt to plumb deeper themes than my other plays because of the imaginative, non-realistic nature of their settings? Possibly. But…