Seven Paragraph Plan
Paragraph 1: Lead
GRAB Our Attention
Your audience is Socorro High School students. Write as if you are writing for the school
Two types of leads can really catch a reader’s attention.
Number one: the zinger. The zinger is a catchy, one-sentence grabber that plays off the
production or content of the script. This type of lead has tons of room for creativity; however, it
must be extremely clear and extremely concise (don’t go above one sentence).
Nikki’s parents ran away, Luis’s hooked on cocaine, Jackie’s a child
prostitute—and you thought your neighborhood had issues! Last weekend, Pauly
Shore High School paid tribute to the abandoned children of America’s ghettos in
their production of “Runaways.”
And number two: the dramatic describer. If a show has a very captivating opening moment, or
one that is perhaps definitive of the play on-hand (i.e. the ballet fight-dancing which opens West
Side Story), the dramatic describer works well. This is oftentimes good for plays of a more
A procession of silhouetted actors filed listlessly through the auditorium, as
projectors and television screens displayed slide after slide of familiar images --
protesters, candlelight vigils, men in orange jumpsuits and the voices of
newscasters repeating the name "Matthew Shepard." So began Harold & Kumar
High School's recent production of "The Laramie Project”…
Whatever you choose, make sure it’s clear, concise, correct, and grabs the eye.
Paragraph 2: The Story
Before detailing into the plot of the play, add a tidbit about the history of the show. When
was the play written? How long was it on Broadway? Has it won any notable awards? If
the play, performing school, or writers/composers/lyricists have not been mentioned
before or in this section, do so.
Look for this information on the internet, library or even the Director’s Notes that are
usually found in the show’s Playbill.
For the story synopsis, write two or three well-crafted sentences that covers the major
plot elements of the script (and only the major plot elements). Mention major characters,
and key settings and timeframes as well as what happened in the plot. Keep your
reading audiences interested in the play/musical on-hand—for example, use a
cliffhanger to finish out a synopsis rather than cover every major plot element until the
final curtain. Perhaps with more weighty shows, finish off the synopsis by mentioning
some of the major themes in the production.
Paragraph 3: The Overall Production
Make some broad observations here. What production element anchored the show?
An inventive or unusual concept? The cast’s energy? The choreography? Technical
elements or effects? A specific actor or ensemble? Write two or three very considered
sentences about this, but only if you considered the show to be a success.
Quentin Tarantino High School's production was anchored by the
exceptional talent and versatility of the ensemble. Every member of the
38-person cast helped convey the riveting truth behind the intricate script,
making each of the characters clear-cut, complex, and captivating.
If the show fell short in key areas, describe it without criticizing it too much. If there were
major problems, don’t put them here. Include them further down, or merge them with
Paragraph 4: The Leads
There are three options for writing about leads: (1) Mention each of them separately (if
there are more than one), (2) Combine mentions (if in your opinion their performances
were of equal standing), or (3) Not mention them at all. If you feel you should criticize
the leads—and if they were weak, you should—it’s best not to do it here, where it would
be totally obvious whom you’re criticizing, but later in the review, where you can state in
a more indirect manner. Everybody who saw the show may realize you’re criticizing the
leads, but it’s a little easier for performers to take that way. Remember not just to say
something was good. Say how and why it was good.
Paragraph 5: The Supporting Characters and Ensemble
Haven’t gotten to the featured actors yet? Really liked that vocalist, dancer, or cameo?
What about an ensemble you really enjoyed? Or that great choreography? This section
has the most freedom concerning your ability to write about specific performance
elements you enjoyed. Criticisms about all aspects of performance—ensembles, minor
characters, and leads—are appropriate here. Do not hesitate to criticize performers,
when warranted, but justify all criticisms with specific and persuasive examples.
Paragraph 6: Tech
Sets. Costumes. Lights. Sound. Props and Effects. Stage Crew. Makeup. Pick two or
three technical elements which were most integral in the success (or problems) of the
production, describe their major facets (for example, what costumes were most notable),
and explain why they was successful (or problematic). Realize that tech aspects can be
easy or hard in any given show. It’s a lot harder to do sound for a full-scale musical
than for a black-box play, and your words of praise or criticism should reflect this. Try
not to criticize the techies more than the performers unless you feel that is justified.
Paragraph 7: Closer
Like your lead, there are many different styles of closers, some more appropriate for
different types of shows/productions than others. Some options to consider: if the
emotional content of the script was particularly difficult, commend the performing school
on a successful production; if the production has social, political, or emotional
implications attached to it, mention those. Using references to the show (i.e. puns) can
be extremely helpful here. Try to write a punchy “squib” lines, a strong “sound bite”
phrase of the kind you often see quoted in newspaper ads for shows. Have fun with
your closer, but make sure you don’t go over the top.
Two rules: (1) Any negative criticism mentioned here should be combined and
overshadowed by a positive criticism, and avoid all criticism about specific elements of
the show. (2) Try to measure your praise here, using “rave” language only for
rave-worthy shows, and using only those words that actually do describe what you saw
Use lots of rich nouns and verbs, and refrain from using extraneous adjectives and
adverbs. They make the review sound phony.
Don’t say how the audience felt, because you don’t know—but it’s fine to say what the
audience actually did.
Oh, and spell everybody’s names correctly—performer names, character names, and
the names of the playwright and composer.