Tag Archives: Crash Test Drama

Crash Test Drama Hits Cronulla

I’m embarrassed to admit that, after eleven years in Sydney, I have yet to visit Cronulla. Well now, I have a reason. The lovely Graham Yates and Pat Brennan are launching a Cronulla version of Crash Test Drama.

Pioneered by Harry Paternoster in Melbourne, Crash Test Drama is a great way of trying out and developing ten minute plays!,

The Sydney version starting a few years back. The aim is to help writers improve their work by letting them see their 10-minute plays on stage.

Scripts are submitted and directors chosen prior to the event, then on the evening itself, actors turn up at 5.30 audition, read the script, rehearse and then perform (script in hand) at 7.30! It’s hectic and great fun.

I spoke to Graham about why he decided to set up Crash Test Drama:

“ We wanted to encourage the theatre loving community in the Cronulla catchment area by giving them an opportunity to take part and make theatre, and not just watch other people’s work.”

Crash Test Drama takes place in Cronulla Theatre, a 115 seater with an indefatigable membership, which has been producing plays in the venue for over 40 years. The theatre produces four plays a year, each with an impressive seven-week run, and runs weekly drama workshops on Saturday afternoons.

As an alternative to these long-run plays, the theatre recently decided to start some new activities for members, including theatresports, one-act plays and of course Crash-Test Drama.

Graham and Pat hope to encourage writers, directors and performers from Cronulla and the surrounding area to get involved.

“We hope to help people flex their artistic muscles in a safe and friendly environment, and want to create an opportunity for all contributors to receive constructive feedback on their artistic endeavours.”

The guys are running an information session on 1 May 2011 to explain how Crash Test Drama Cronulla will work, as well as providing some hints to writers and directors on how to get the most from the ten-minute genre.

  • Details:
    • Information session, Sunday 1 May 2011, 5pm.
    • First show, Sunday 29 May 2011, 5pm.
  • Location: The Cronulla Arts Theatre, 8 Surf Road, Cronulla, not far from the train station (parking can be tricky, you have been warned!). See Google Map.
  • How to submit: The submission date is yet to be confirmed but those interested in sending a play for the first session should send to crashtestcronulla@gmail.com

Hope to see you there!


Kate Toon is an SEO copywriter, SEO Consultant, Information Architect, Playwright, Poet and Hula Hooper. Call me in Sydney Australia on +612 (0)418 166 458 or email me.


“Sock” wins Judges Choice at Crash Test Drama

I’m pleased to announce that Sock wins Crash Test DramaI won the Judges Choice Award at Crash Test Drama on 29 November 2010 for my ten-minute play “Sock”. It was a night of strong plays with short, snappy dramas in the first half, some challenging stuff and comedies in the second half.

“Sock” highlights the pain, humour and emotion of break-up, and debates whether it’s really okay to pick up a sock from the street and keep it.

Deborah Mulhall’s “The Candidate” took out the People’s choice, a funny skit about a couple of image consultants working to improve the palatability of a Serbian leader. The excellent “God’s will” by Garreth Cruikshank came second and “Sock” came a close third.

Read more results here.

I directed the play myself (a first) and really enjoyed the experience, but I was lucky enough to have two great actors, Matt Thomson, who’s appeared in many of my plays, and Kim Parrish, who took out Best Actress Runner up.

Sock will now be performed at the final on the 13 December with Matt Thomson and Amanda Stephens-Lee (replacing Kim who is on holiday).

Wish us all luck – the top two winning plays from Crash Test go through to the top 100 of Short and Sweet.

How to write a ten-minute play

Stage curtainsFrankly I’m too busy to sit through some three-hour theatre epic let alone write one; there’s the dishes to wash, the dog needs a bath and I’ve got a few episodes of ‘Lost’ just screaming to be watched.

But a ten minute play, well that’s easy. If it only takes ten minutes to watch, it can’t take much longer to write, right?

Well in reality it can be just as tough to write a smashing ten minute play as an awesome long one. All the elements are the same (Character, dialogue, story, dramatic tension and theatricality) but you’ve got such a minuscule amount of time in which to express it all.

Ten minute plays are the in ‘thing’

Apparently the ten-minute format is on the up and up, which isn’t surprising in these times of bite-sized information download. How about trying to write a twitter play in 140 characters?

Here’s mine:

Tweetplay: Lights up. Dead body on stage. Bob: I loved him. Sue: Father? B: Lover. S: My lover! Stab. Two dead bodies on stage. Lights down.

Ten minute play writing tips

I’m not an experienced writer of plays but I’ve made it into Short and Sweet a few times and reached the finals once; so here (in my humble opinion) are my top ten ten-minute play writing tips, plus a few words from writers who are infinitely more successful in this art form than my good self:

1) Make sure it lasts ten minutes

Sounds obvious, but this simple rule is forgotten by many playwrights resulting in their plays being disqualified from competitions. One page of dialogue and stage direction usually works out as one minute of stage action – depending on your spacing and font size.

2) A sketch is not a play

Make sure the play has some kind of story ‘arc’. Two blokes exchanging wisecracks in a pub is all very well, but if we’re not taken on some kind of journey, we get to the end of the play and think, ‘So what?’

In the words of Gerry Greenland, a successful Sydney based playwright and expert ten minute play writer:

“A ten minute play can be many things but it’s not a sketch. One approach is to write the minutes leading up to the climax of a humorous or dramatic story, and then the climax itself where the characters undergo a change, preferably a self-revelation, and where the action preceding the beginning of the play is self-evident. Simplicity, a single through line and compression are the key ingredients.”

Or Pete Malicki who currently runs Crash Test Drama Sydney and a fan of the ten minute play format who says:

Telling a 10 minute story is what makes a 10 minute play great. Too many writers drag a joke out to the point of torture or attempt to condense an epic emotional journey into the length of two ad breaks.”

3) Write a play not a screen play

If you’re lucky enough to get your play read, it will probably be done script in hand in a pokey room somewhere, with no props, costumes, lighting changes or the ability for an eight foot mechanical dinosaur to storm the stage halfway through. Keep your play simple and ensure it doesn’t overly rely on any of the above to tell the story.

4) Leave something for the actors to do

I’ve read many scripts that intricately dictate the movements and actions of everyone on stage. ‘Susan giggles nervously, coughs, smoothes her skirt, reapplies her lipstick, checks her mobile and says “Hello”’. Perhaps a simple ‘nervous’ would suffice. Then the actor gets to think of lots of clever ways to show ‘nervousness’. Remember, they’ve studied acting in college and are often quite good at it.

5) Leave something for director to do

Again, plays that list every position and movement of every actor and prop on the stage, leave the director little room to manoeuvre. By all means put it in, but don’t get too precious when the director decides to do things differently.

6) Ensure there is some tension or conflict

Plays about nothing much sometimes work, but plays with some tension or conflict really pull the audience in. It doesn’t have to be a car chase, a violent exchange or an explosion. Sometimes, the simple annoyance of someone having eaten the last muffin can be enough to create the necessary drama. Plays without drama are just dialogue.  If your character ends the play in the exact same place (mentally, physically or spiritually) where he started, he must have gone on some kind of journey to get there.

In the words of the Godfather of the ten-minute genre, Alex Broun

“The secret to a really good ten minute play is a great middle. Something needs to happen around the four to six minute mark that both raises the stakes and accelerates the action. It’s like the car’s been cruising along at sixty and suddenly it accelerates to one hundred. The play speeds towards a thrilling but inevitable conclusion. If you get that right the audience will get so caught up in the characters and story they will forget they are even watching a play.”

7) Avoid exposition

Exposition (or the part of a play in which the background to the main conflict is introduced) is a killer in ten-minute play: a) It uses up loads of stage time, and b) if you have to explain the story with a lengthy narrative it’s probably too complex for the format.  Also, don’t feel you have to explain everything; audiences are quite clever at reading between the lines and will work it out.

Successful NSW playwright Donatella Parise sums it up nicely:

“Leave out the crap. The audience will understand what you’re saying, without the actors saying it.”

8 ) Introduce your characters quickly

We need to warm to and understand your characters quickly. Use the actor’s skill to portray a personality trait rather than explaining it to your audience in words, for example, a nervous character is tessellating the beer mats before his friend arrives, a vain character quickly picks something out of his teeth and winks at his own reflection while his date is ordering. Show it, don’t say it.

Dona sums it up nicely again:

“You don’t have the luxury of introducing all the characters in detail, so whatever you do reveal about them has to be interesting, inspiring and essential.”

9) Make it interesting to look at

If you want your ten-minute play to be shown in the theatre as opposed to on the radio, aim to make it theatrical. So many plays are just two characters sat at a table chatting – DULL! Often actors are forced to stride up and down the stage meaningfully for no reason at all, just for something to do.

10) And I woke up and found it was all a dream

Just because it’s short, doesn’t mean you can skimp on the ending. Try to avoid a cliché and don’t feel pressured to wrap it all up nicely with a little bow. Open-ended plays with no resolution can work and leave the audience with something to discuss in the interval.

Finally, of course you must enjoy it. A fair few of my plays have been damned awful to begin with or have been massacred on stage. It took me a while to let go and just enjoy the thrill of writing and the bigger thrill of seeing my work on stage.

What do you think makes a great ten minute play?

Please add comments below!

New play wins Peoples choice vote at Crash Test Drama Sydney

Crash Test Drama - Kate ToonCrash Test Drama 2010 enjoyed its second show on Monday 10th May, with a strong line-up of plays dealing with everything from salami to suicide to reality TV.

My play “Between a Rock and a Hard Place’ won the Peoples choice vote and was offered a spot in Crash Test’s finals on 2nd of August, alongside the winners of April’s show, and June and July’s upcoming shows. The play also managed a Best Actor award for Kim Knuckey and a Best Actress Runner up award for Imogen Carn!

Full Report

First up was Mary Zegura’s comedy ‘A New Love’, a classic comedy of mistaken identities with a message of acceptance at its core. Directed by Garth Campbell, who also acted along-side Peter Lawrence, the Italian-Mama Joan Rodd and Justine Keim, is was a fast and funny start to the evening.

The night’s second play was Prue Clark’s ‘Marburg’, an epic and heart-felt drama looking at the lives of three different men in rural Australia, where prejudice, miscommunication and recklessness lead to a dramatic conclusion. Directed by Uma Kali Shakti and performed by Jim Gosden, Tim Selby and Steve McGrath. Prue’s play was given the Playwright’s Encouragement Award for a cleverly-constructed and thoughtful ten-minute story.

Next up was ‘When Life Becomes a Play’, Felix Carlyle’s satire on writing, acting, and the thing that is a ‘short play’. First-time Crash Test director Raj Maneshwar deftly handled the play’s shifts in ideas, as well as the surprising ending – which caught the next play’s participants off guard! Acted by Kym Parrish and Alison Hodge, and their ‘real-life’ counterparts Maite Arriaga and Colleen Henry. And who could forget Kyrill the barman!

To finish the first half was ‘Castaway Island’, written and directed by Craig Delahoy. This spoof on reality TV and its inner-workings proved very popular with judges and audience alike, and was offered a spot in August’s finals, winning both the Judges’ Choice and the Popular Vote Runner-up. Acted with brilliant comic timing and flare by Justine Scali, Gerry Sont, and Barton Williams.

After the interval was Kate Toon’s ‘Between a Rock and a Hard Place’, a comedy about two British travellers stuck in Jenolan Caves. Directed with heart and a fun spirit by Amelia Tranter, it wooed over the audience to win the Popular Vote and a place in the finals. Acted with wonderful precision and comic timing by Kim Knuckey and Imogen Carn.

Following this was Graham Yate’s ‘Oh Errol’, directed by Nir Shelter. The play looked at the awkward moment when a guy realised his mate had slept with his girlfriend. The comedy of ‘how-to-woo-a-woman’ was acted by Paul Pavlakis and Michael McCrann, and Michela Carattini as the woman caught between the two.

Second last for the night was ‘On the Road to Nowhere’ by Vee Malnar, a comedy-drama about a man and woman who are travelling together, and have a quick stop at a pub. Tempers soon flare. Performed by Matt Thompson, Deborah Peebles, and Martin Estridge as the man with the wise words. Directed by Felix Carlyle.

And rounding off the night was Melissa Lee’s ‘For the Sake of Salami,’ directed by Con Nats, about a group of friends whose views and opinions test the patience of the hosts who have invited them to dinner. It featured the ensemble of Jade Carden and Mauritzio Degliesposti as the dinner hosts, and Fleur Beaupert, Angeline Bilas and Bianka Demets as their difficult guests.

Congratulations to Craig Delahoy’s ‘Castaway Island’ and Kate Toon’s ‘Between a Rock and a Hard Place’ for being selected for the finals. Thanks again to the wonderful actors, directors and writers for another great evening of new writing and committed work!

The Results

Judges Pete Greenaway, Jackie Greenland and Gerry Greenland had a tough night of decision-making after the enjoyable and fast-paced line-up of tonight’s plays.

Judges’ Choice: Castaway Island

Wins a place in the Crash Test finals on 2nd August 2010

Written by Craig Delahoy

Popular Vote First Place: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Wins a place in the Crash Test finals on 2nd August 2010.

Written by Kate Toon

Popular Vote Runner Up: Castaway Island

Written by Craig Delahoy

Best Actor: Kim Knuckey

Best Actor Runner-Up: Michael McCrann

Best Actress: Justine Scali

Best Actress Runner-Up: Imogen Carn

Playwright’s Encouragement Award: ‘Marburg’ by Prue Clark

Next Crash Test Drama on June 7th – here we come!

Crash Test Drama – New Play ‘Betweenarockandahardplace”

Crash Test Drama - Kate ToonThe plays for Crash Test Drama May have been announced and one of them is mine.

Monday 10th May – Plays
1. A New Love
Written by Mary Zegura
Directed by Garth Campbell

2. Marburg
Written by Prue Clark
Directed by Uma Kali Shakti
Director’s protegee, Mei

3. When Life Becomes A Play
Written by Felix Carlyle
Directed by Raj Maneshwar

4. Castaway Island
Written and directed by Craig Delahoy


5. Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Written by Kate Toon
Directed by Amelia Tranter
Director’s protegee, William Russell

6. Oh Errol
Written by Graham Yates
Directed by Nir Shelter

7. On the Road to Nowhere
Written by Vee Malnar
Directed by Felix Carlyle

8. For the Sake of Salami
Written by Melissa Lee
Directed by Con Nats
Director’s protegee, Melissa Lee


Monday 10th May 2010
Newtown Theatre, crn King and Bray Sts, Newtown.
8x 10 minute plays, $10 at the door

More shows are coming up in June, July and the finals in August. Dates will be as follows:

  • Mon June 7th
  • Mon July 5th
  • Mon August 2nd (FINAL)

Submissions are still open for May-July. If you’re interested in submitting a play, please read the guidelines on the Crash Test Site.