The setting is the environment in which the conflict can take place. The conflict and setting will also contribute to the action (or things that happen) on stage. You can set your play in any location you choose and as many locations as you would like. You can have a single location or multiple locations however, there are pros and cons to each.
When creating a play imagine that the life of the character is continuous and the play takes place on the most important day or set of days in this character’s life. Now you cannot stage the continuous life of this character uninterrupted because it would take too long, so you are choosing to show us the most important parts, of the most important day. Because you are selecting the most important events that happened on this day, all essential conflicts and actions should happen on stage. You want to make sure that the audience gets to be present for the major events, this will engage them more and allow them to feel as though they are part of the play.
If you choose to set your play in a single location your play will be easier to produce and will be more accessible to theater companies later. Having your play in one location also allows your set to be detailed and specific. Your designer is only working on one location so the designer can focus on specifics. The catch is that you have to choose a location where multiple characters would logically meet and engage in the story and conflict. If for instance you have set your play at a school, you may want to choose a location at the school that everyone would use like a courtyard or cafeteria rather than a classroom because you will create an opportunity to introduce more characters. Setting your play in one location can be difficult, but if it is possible, try to achieve it.
If you choose to set your play in multiple locations then you are only limited by your imagination. You are free to take your audience to any location you choose at any moment, free from limitations. The drawback to this is that the more locations you choose to add into your play, the more money it will cost to produce it which can limit your accessibility, and the set design for each location will be less detailed than if you set it at one location. I have done plays with over 50 locations and some locations had to be suggested through lighting and sound only. Do not limit your creativity. Write your play the way you want, it is your play.
Playwriting Activity 1: Selecting a Single Location for your Play
- Choose a theme you wrote down earlier in the Theme chapter. Pair the theme with a type of conflict. Choose 3 settings in which this conflict can take place. Compare and contrast the choices. What characters would interact here? What possibilities does the location give you, are there drawbacks. Once you have compared the attributes of each set, select one.
- Find a friend or partner and discuss your findings. Do you both agree with your findings? If not discuss and see if you can discover a location that might serve the play better.
Playwriting Activity 2: Creating Multiple Locations for your Play
- Choose a theme you wrote down earlier in the Theme chapter. Pair the theme with a type of conflict. Choose 2 settings in which this conflict can take place. Ask yourself “What possible locations are located within this setting?” Can you tell your story fully in these locations? Compare and contrast the choices. What characters would interact here? What possibilities does the location give you, are there drawbacks. Select your favorites.
- Find a friend or partner and discuss your findings. Do you both agree with your findings? If not discuss and see if you can discover a theme you can agree on.