Playwriting Exercise: Frankfurters and Fondue

This series of pictures from dinner parties (and ads showing dinner parties) from the Sixties to now are a bit frighting. From the clothes, to the poses to the menus. I have never, ever been at a party like the ones in these pictures. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

What is good about these pictures is that they’re great fodder for playwriting exercises.

1970s Couple Welcoming Guest To Party At Home Woman Using Phone In Another RoomDinner Party Three

Exercise One

  • For Picture One and Picture Two, start with an automatic writing exercise. Look at each picture for one minute, then turn it over and free write for two minutes. Write whatever comes into your head on to the page. The aim of the exercise is to keep writing for the entire time limit without stopping. If you have to go off topic to do so, that’s fine.
  • Next, answer the following questions for Picture One and Picture Two:
    • Who is the host of this party?
    • What is the reason for the party?
    • Where is the party?
    • Are the other individuals in the picture happy to be at this party? Why or why not?
    • Is this a good party? Why or why not?
  • For each picture, write the inner monologue of one of the party goers. What are they thinking in the moment this picture was taken?
  • For each picture, write a one page scene that takes place right before the picture was taken. Two of the party goers are in the middle of an argument. End the scene right at the moment the camera snaps the picture, what has to happen to go from the argument to the picture?


1970s woman hostess yellow tie blouse setting flowers on dining table

Exercise Two

  • Examine the woman in this picture. This woman is getting ready for her party, none of the guests have arrived. Imagine that this is a very important party for this women. It’s a make or break moment. If the party goes well, her life will change.
  • Based on the above scenario, answer the following questions:
    • Who is this woman? Give her a name, age, family, job.
    • What is the emotional state of this woman as she sets up for the party?
    • What is the make or break situation?
    • Who is coming to the party who could change her life?
    • What is the potential obstacle in the way of this being a successful party – there has to be one!
  • Write a monologue for this character in the moments before the first party guests arrive. Keep in mind all the above details and don’t forget to include that obstacle.

 Download a PDF version of this playwriting exercise!


About the author

Lindsay Price