Chess and Playwriting

I will admit, I’m fascinated by the portion of my little grey walnut that allows me to write plays. Sometimes the steps my brain takes to get from point A to point B in a play seems quite logical. Sometimes, mostly after a play is finished and I’m reading through, I look at the script and have no clue where the idea came from. How did those words get on the page? And most importantly – it couldn’t have been me that wrote those words. Absolutely fascinating.

So, I was interested to read this post on the Flux Theatre Ensemble website that compares chess to playwriting.

“….all of a sudden I knew which direction my pieces needed to move without actually knowing the exact moves I needed to make. It felt very much like the muscle that takes over in playwriting when a certain amount of momentum has been achieved, and I follow that intuitive current wherever it wants to go.”

This happens to me all the time. The first moment and the last moment are well defined but the path between A and B is not clear at all. Sometimes it takes two or three or four cracks at the path to get it right.

The post goes on to basically state that great chess players are better than good chess players because of practice. Great chess players have enough games under their belt to be able to assess the board. And perhaps that is the same with plays. The more you write, the better you are able to assess the board and see where the play needs to go. The more you do, the more control you have over your walnut.

I do know that I feel more comfortable and more confident with every play I write. Even when something is challenging (and I love a good challenge no matter how much it makes my brain hurt) I’ve practiced enough to have confidence in my skill.

Interesting. Your thoughts? What is the process of playwriting to you? A chess game? Black jack? Scrabble? (I’ll stop now)

About the author

Lindsay Price


  • My answer possibly too formal, in the Kirby sense of form, but to write for the stage and only do just that will limit the possibilities for the playwright.

    Hang lights, build sets, study and watch the designers, especially the costumieres. They solve tons of problems quickly and for a playwright that a “problem” can easily equate to a blockof any kind while writing.

    A playwrights imagination needs to be informed with all aspects of theatre as an artistic and commercial medium. So get out there, act, build, design and do it again … go get em !