Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session
Introduction to Playwriting is dedicated to process. Students learn to write plays by writing plays. The primary goal of the course is to encourage students to write quickly, fluidly, and fearlessly. Students will write one 10 minute play (approximately 10 pages) each week, or a 10 page scene which will be outlined in an assignment. Our emphasis is on experimentation and process.
The course will introduce the traditional approach to theatre which is rooted in character and narrative structure, with emphasis on a play's arc through its beginning, turning point, and ending. In class exercises are designed to circumvent students' first lines of defense, to silence the negative editor voice, to experience trusting first instincts, and to encourage students to write both visually and concretely. Each week's assignment will introduce another element of craft, including high and low context dialogue, revealing action, the power of the unspoken word, disrupted ritual, etc.
After a session devoted to the ground rules of giving and receiving constructive feedback, work is read in class and the group responds. Character maps, clustering, storytelling from personal experience, and monologues are the starting points. Reading is a component; a short play or scene by a contemporary playwright will be read and discussed each week in class. These plays introduce students to the wide world of individual voices and styles, from David Ives' comic, "Sure Thing," to Jose Rivera's poetic magical realism, "The Winged Man," to Donald Margulies carefully orchestrated, "Last Tuesday."
Rewriting follows feedback. The process may also include seminars with guest playwrights and seeing local productions. The final project of the semester will be a reading of the completed plays.
You will write a 10 minute play (approximately 10 pages) each week this semester or a 10 page scene which will be outlined in an assignment. Your final project can be either:
Your goal should be to write between 10 and 15 pages a week. Many of these will be "false starts" that you throw away. Keep going.
I urge you to see as much theatre as possible this semester. See anything and everything on campus and at the Huntington, the ART, and the small theatres at the Boston Center for the Arts as well. We will try to plan one or 2 performances that we attend as a class.
This class will be run as a workshop. Each week we will be reading our work out loud and critiquing it. We will create an atmosphere of trust and respect in order to mitigate this fairly terrifying process. Your participation in critiquing each other's work is as important as your own written work. You will learn as much from each other's successes and failures as from your own. We will be developing the skills and vocabulary to talk about plays, to recognize structure, story and content problems.
We will start each critique by telling the writer what we like about his or her work. We will follow up with questions: was anything confusing? Was the story line clear? Was the conflict strong enough? Were each character's wants strong enough, etc.
The factors in consideration beyond the quality of your writing include: