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Mamet Structure

David Mamet is a famous American playwright. His plays feature repugnant characters, male bonding, profanity, and violence. When DramaTech theatre performed Speed the Plow, Let's Try This! performed an improv show following one of the performances. To keep in the spirit of the evening, we performed this play in the style of David Mamet. The play structure combines elements of Glengarry Glen Ross and American Buffalo; familiarity with these plays (or their movie versions) might be useful to the director.

One of the more interesting things that happened in the show happened during Scene 9. At this point, the Desperado character has just talked the Don character into giving him a major role in the plan. When the Kid finds out that his part has been usurped, he gets mad. He's trying to prove himself to the Don and his big chance has just been taken from him. The Kid pleads with the Don that he can do it, but the Don has made up his mind. The Don divulges that the Kid is not up to the task. The war of words escalates. It ends with the Kid physically attacking the Don and the Don easily subdoing him.

Greg Kinsey (The Don) and Steven Buckley (The Kid) played their parts perfectly. Greg played an infuriating asshole. Steven played an angry kid pushed out of control. When the scuffle began, the audience gasped. As an audience member reflected later, "I thought they were really going to fight." The conflict was that visceral. Even us fellow players felt it. It was one of the most believable acting moments I've ever seen. To Greg and Steven, it was just an act. Since this is a scenic archetype, the nature and outcome of the conflict was agreed upon ahead of time; the players felt safe and in control, even if their characters didn't act that way.

Without the safety of the predetermined plot, this moment would not have been possible. Picture yourself in Greg's place if this had been a normal improv scene. Your character has just been abusing Steven's character. He looks genuinely pissed off. His face is red with anger. Then, he attacks you. If I had been in the scene, my reaction would have been: "Shit! I've pushed Steven too far; he's genuinely attacking me." I would not have stayed in character. Because Greg knew that it was all part of the plan, he was able to stay in character. It should be noted that Greg and Steven are experienced improvisers that had been playing together for a long time. I knew ahead of time that they could handle the emotion and physicality of the exchange.

Characters

  • The Don: in charge of things, bonds with the Kid
    • At the beginning of the show, he's likable. By the end of the show, we hate him.
  • The Kid: young, naive, gopher for the Don
    • He's the closest to being a protagonist. Of course, things end badly for him.
  • The Mark: the crime will be committed against him/her
  • The Loser: naturally born loser, tries to be in the community, but is rejected by the leaders of the community
  • The Desperado: smooth, willing to do anything to get back in the game
    • Unlike the Loser, he has high status and accomplishes his goal.

Scenes

  1. (Don, Kid) Introduce Don and Kid (Don's place)
    • Establish father/son-like relationship between Don and Kid
    • Establish that the Kid is a bit clueless
    • Ends with the Don going somewhere (where he will meet Mark)
  2. (Desperado, Loser) Desperado and Loser get in financial trouble
    • Something like gambling / racetrack losses
    • Desperado is way down, but he's confident he'll get out of it
    • Loser is down as usual, but there is no sign of hope
  3. (Don, Mark) Don meets Mark (probably Mark's place)
    • Don finds out about an opportunity to make get some money at Mark's expense (illegally)
  4. (Desperado, etc.) Desperado confronted
    • Establish that he's really in trouble
    • He calms down the situation by being smooth
  5. (Don, Kid) Don recruits Kid (Don's place)
    • Don hatches a plan to pull one over on Mark
    • Kid is gung-ho
    • Kid is assigned to a small part of the plan
  6. (Don, Kid, Loser) Loser enters and finds them finishing up
    • He wants in on the plan, Don refuses, the argument builds, Loser insults Kid, Don stands up for Kid, Don sends Kid on the first part
  7. (Loser, Desperado) Loser spills the beans
    • Desperado runs into Loser and Loser lets slip what Don is up to and that he's not in on it
    • Loser tries to get Desperado to bring him in
  8. (Kid, Mark) Kid executes first part
    • Kid meets Mark and executes first part of the plan OK
    • Mark sees Kid though, so he can finger him later
  9. (Don, Kid, Desperado) Desperado confronts Don
    • Desperado makes a case to get in on the action, his case is good
    • Kid enters and argues that he can do it himself
    • Desperado is right, Don assigns them both to it, with Desperado in charge
  10. (Desperado, Kid, etc.) Desperado and Kid execute the thing
    • Kid gets caught
    • Desperado gets away with the loot
  11. (Don, Kid, etc.) Don or Kid
    • Don is faced with helping Kid or helping himself
      • Note: finding a way to make this happen is one of the more tricky parts of this archetype
    • In the end, Don chooses himself to the devastation of Kid
    • Kid is off to jail
  12. (Don, Desperado) Don and Desperado split the winnings
    • They are both bastards
    • Kid is no big loss to Don
  13. Fountain
    • This reflection game to concludes the show