Writing the Full-Length Play

I’m so excited to be teaching at Grub Street this spring – it’s going to be a really fun class. For those of you considering taking my Writing the Full-Length Play class, here are some details about what the class will cover. The class will be tailored to the needs and interests of the students. If you are writing a musical, for example, you should take this class. If you are writing an experimental hybrid multimedia puppet dance piece that includes spoken words, I can help with that too. If you are writing a 3 character, single set, 90-minute comedy-drama, you can write it in this class. If you want to adapt a short play into a longer play, something you’ve written in another genre or something from the public domain, you should totally take this class. Ok, you get the idea. Feel free to contact Grub Street with any further questions if you are wondering if this class will be right for you.

Writing the Full-Length Play is designed for both beginners and more experienced writers.

If this is the first time you are writing a play, you will:
• Discover a supportive community of other writers.
• Learn the fundamentals of playwriting including character, dialogue, conflict and plot.
• Get lots of help getting started with writing exercises, prompts and assignments.
• Plays are meant to be heard out loud – hear new pages every week!
• Get feedback and encouragement.
• Read and discuss inspiring new plays, and learn how to use them for inspiration.
• Learn how to format your play and other professional skills.
• Suddenly have a whole play – that you wrote!
• Get detailed advice tailored to you and your writing about what to do with your work.

If you have written plays before, you will:
• No more writing alone – discover a supportive community of other writers.
• Brush up on those fundamentals including character, dialogue, conflict and plot.
• Plays are meant to be heard out loud – hear new pages every week!
• Learn to articulate your writing goals and challenges, and receive feedback and encouragement.
• Discover new methods for writing and revision.
• Read and discuss inspiring new plays, and learn how to use them for inspiration.
• Learn professional skills including writing synopses and artistic statements.
• Get detailed advice tailored to you and your writing about what to do with your work.

Class Structure
Each class is 3 hours long, giving us time for writing exercises, discussions of outside readings, reading newly written scenes out loud and giving/receiving feedback.

Every week the outside reading will include one or two new plays from the contemporary canon. These are plays that have been produced in the last twenty years, received multiple productions, been hailed by critics and audiences, are innovative or provocative, etc. They will give you a good sense of the variety of writers, subjects, structures and styles that are flourishing in contemporary theatre today. I’m still finalizing the reading list, but I will likely include plays by Neil LaBute, Sarah Ruhl, Adam Rapp, Lynn Nottage, Stephen Karam, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Suzan-Lori Parks, Douglas Carter Beane, Sheila Callaghan, Kenneth Lonergan, and Paula Vogel. We will also read Backwards and Forwards by David Ball, and a few fundamental acting and directing theories for reference.

We will do writing exercises at the beginning of each class. There will also be several writing prompts based on the discussion topics and outside readings that you will be able to use in any way you wish to do writing on your own. Most prompts will focus on a particular scene, character, element or moment from one of the plays we’ve read. An example of a prompt is “Like Stephen Karam’s Speech & Debate, write about three misfits teaming up against a common enemy.” Other fun writing assignments may include overheard conversations, guided imagery, writing the bad version, improvisations, playing with status and tactics, etc.

Discussion Topics will include:
Structure and Story
Things Audiences Love
Character and Empathy
Conflict: Objective and Obstacle
Action: Cause and Effect
Is Crying Dramatic?: Internal and External Events
The 5 W’s of Revision
How to Listen to Your Play
Breaking the Rules & Other Practical Stuff

And this is so cool: Grub students can get an exclusive discount on Final Draft screenwriting and playwriting software! Final Draft gives you templates for every kind of dialogue based writing you will ever want to do, and makes sure your scripts are automatically formatted properly. It also has all kinds of other helpful shortcuts and things. It’s what most professional playwrights, television writers and screenwriters use.

For more about Grub Street, their fancy new HQ, and to sign up, visit www.grubstreet.org.

Writing the Full-Length Play
10 Sundays from 6:15-9:15pm at Grub Street headquarters.
Begins April 15th.
Start and finish a full-length play in this workshop for both new and experienced playwrights. Students may be at any stage in the process– you may be hatching ideas, have a few pages written, or have already completed a draft. Conquer the blank page and revisions with interactive exercises and assignments. Master strategies for creating compelling structure, action and character development. Hear new pages out loud and learn how to make the most of feedback. Learn what to do with your completed play.


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