Artwork by Simon Winheld
What is a Bake-Off?
A bake-off is a quickly written exercise on an assigned theme with assigned elements that folks do within a 48 hour period of time. It is a reaction to plays and works of art that are responding to another writer or artist, preferably centuries apart; the bake-off continues this conversation. Usually, bake-offs have a group participating: when the 48 hour time period is up, the group gathers and reads the bake-offs. I usually offer a play and articles or films on the bake-off topic online. Participants are free to add their own research to the group: music, art, graphics, comic books, films, essays, etc.!
For example, with military veterans at the Wilma, we did a Bake-Off on Joan of Arc. Everyone in the workshop wrote with the following ingredients:
- A girl in a field.
- A visitation.
- Convincing higher authority.
- A philosophical defense of cross dressing.
- Extra-credit: a match.
We had a wonderful cabaret/bake-off and presented the scenes in a marathon cold reading, cast on the spot. Bake-offs can be songs, poems, dada, puppetry….anything. Most bake-offs will be from 5 pages to Nilo Cruz’ DANCING ON MY KNEES first draft…130 pages? It is still the record in the 48 hour period. Create a reading marathon of the bake-offs; a communal event very different from the isolation of writing. To this end, we read aloud all variations on the Dybbuk Bake-off, The Faust Bake-off, The Hitchcock Bake-off, with food, coffee and wine to accompany the reading. Hopefully we break bread together (or other baked items—an actual bake-off); and hopefully other plays will emerge from the conversation during the bake-off.
There are no critiques. Bake-Offs are to theatre what sketching is to oil paintings...please just enjoy each other. Applaud after every bake-off.
And note recruit other friends to write with you. Find space to gather if there is not a theatre available. Living rooms are great.
(Oh yes. And if a full length play emerges as often happens, Paula Vogel gets ten percent--I say that to each workshop and I am still waiting for the checks to arrive...Or you can give the ten percent to a theatre near you!)