Ten Commandments for Playwrights

by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee

Twenty years of writing together are well beyond the usual Biblical allotment for collaborations, There are no bylaws in our partnership, and no formulated articles of faith. If we are halfway through our forty years of wandering through the wilderness of hits and flops, maybe this is a good time to pick up the mail from Mount Sinai.

I. There are no commandments for playwrights.

II. Thy typewriter shalt not make graven images of yesterday’s hits.

III. Thou shalt not take the names of the critics in vain; for if thou believest them when they praise thee, thou must also believe them when they pan thee.

IV. Six weeks shalt thou labour in rehearsal and out of town. But remember thine opening night and keep it holy.

V. Honor thy director and thy producer, that thy run may be long in the theatre which the Shuberts giveth thee. But let them not hasten thy handiwork into production; it is earlier than thou thinkest.

VI. Thou shalt not kill the spirit which made thee want to write the play in the first place.

VII. Thou shalt not commit television.

VIII. Thou shalt not steal the shekels of thine audience with a play which doth not let them know what the hell goeth on.

IX. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy times.

X. Thou shalt not covet hits but plays. Thou shalt not covet stars but actors. Thou shalt not covet scenery but imagination. Thou shalt not covet security but challenge. Thou shalt not covet press clippings but a rapt and coughless house.

Lawrence and Lee are the authors of such hits as Mame and Inherit the Wind.


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