Michael Olsen – waving to strangers

In 1993 I wrote, produced and directed my first play, Cannibals of the Heart.  Since then, my work has been performed across Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Europe, Africa and the US.  (As well as Norfolk Island!)  Two Women & A Chair, probably my best-known play, has been performed at the Edinburgh and Prague Fringe Festivals.

Most of my plays have won awards on the Victorian one-act festival circuit, as well as festivals in the UK and New Zealand.  They’re tried and true and easy to produce.  They offer actors and directors plenty to challenge them—and plenty of rewards when they get it right!

My plays range from comedies, to dramas, to black comedies and fantasies.  From intimate two-handers to youth group productions.  They cover both sexes.  They range from young to old and those in-between.  The sad, the lost, the ordinary and the heroic: they’re all here.  My work has stood the test of time and will, I hope, continue to delight and enthrall audiences.

With over 30 years’ experience I’ve developed my own set of rules for writing a one-act play:

1.         Make it continuous action.  No multiple scenes.  No lights-up, lights-down.  You have 30 minutes of stage time.  That’s all you have.  Make it work.

2.         Don’t make it prop or costume intensive.  Do producers really want all that clutter?

3.         Your ending needs a twist, more often than not.  Leave your audience with something to talk about in the foyer afterwards.

4.         Have only a small number of characters.  Your piece will be easier to cast—and much easier to transport to festivals if that’s what you’re into (see also point#2)

5.         Jettison any or all of the above rules if the story dictates, and you’re still able to put it on stage.

All I’m really doing when I sit down to write is waving to strangers—you, the audience—and hoping in some small way you are all waving back . . .

You can find Michael’s plays here

Be sure to follow Michael’s Facebook page to stay up to date with what he’s up to in the theatre world!


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