Many people have tinkered with playwriting or at least fantasized about it—after all, everyone wants to work with dialogue and characters in telling a story, as our whole lives are made up by what we tell each other and what we observe.  In an age where we can tell stories using many different media, playwriting remains the oldest and on some level one of the most satisfying means, in part because it is live and because we get to pass on our thoughts and our dreams in a very immediate way to a willing audience.

Each week, students will bring in short pieces, either based on suggested assignments and exercises or else pieces of a larger work in progress.  The other members of the workshop will read the script aloud while the playwright listens—professional acting skills are not required and, in fact, may disguise the very things in the writing the group needs to hear.  Following the reading, there is a moderated discussion wherein people share their experiences of the work in progress and the playwright gets to decide what they will next do to develop their work.  3-5 short segments may be read in an evening, with additional discussions about various writing techniques, play marketing, copyright issues, casting and producing plays, etc.  Guest artists may visit—and once a year, a public reading may be set up (if warranted) with professional artists reading work for the public developed by the class.

This proposed class is not designed to create the next DEATH OF A SALESMAN or ANGELS IN AMERICA.  Nor is it necessarily designed to create long full-length plays (although it is possible and allowable to work on them piecemeal and many people do, if the project they’re exploring takes on that kind of life).  Rather, it is an exploration of what makes a good play/good storytelling by the sharing of both stories and skills, with students along the way developing brainstorming techniques, conquering writing blocks, and creating a positive atmosphere for sharing and developing materials.  It is a workshop that can be taken both by experienced theater folk and by total novices, with both benefitting from a mixture of professional and personal life experiences.  Each member progresses at their own rate while benefitting from reading for each other and becoming a group “sounding board.” Students are expected to come even when they DON’T have something new of their own to read—often, the discussions of one person’s work opens and unlocks the very problem someone else was having, which allows them to go back and create.  Participation not only develops writing skills but also critical thinking and analytical story skills.