Hungry for Words

I spent a weekend in Vermont recently, working with young writers who were hungry to try new things.  Their pens were constantly poised, their voices spoke out clear and strong from circles of eager ears.  Their energy, diligence and openness will be with me, living and breathing in the crisp spring morning of my mind.  And it was very cool indeed to hang out with some fellow writers of other genres.  Big thanks to the fine folks at the Champlain College Young Writers’ Conference for inviting me along for the wild rumpus.

Some great news hot off the presses is I am a new member of Accomplice Writers Group along with James C. Ferguson.  Thrilled to be joining these fine folks cooking up new plays!



New Year, New Plays

When I first began to think I wanted to be a playwright/actor/director/theatre maker, I was told to be patient, to stick with it, to learn to define my own success, to work together – and that it would probably take me 10 years to get where I wanted to go.  Here I am, ten years later, and there are so many exciting projects to look forward to in the New Year, my first New Year’s resolution is to stay healthy so I can do it all!

The 3rd Annual Boston One Minute Play Festival will feature a couple of tiny plays of mine, among many many other tiny theatrical moments by many other local playwrights.  I love how this festival captures our local zeitgeist and asks playwrights to write plays that speak to each other, and speak volumes, collectively. If you can’t make it in person, you can watch it on Sun Night at 11PM Eastern on where it will also be archived for later viewing.

Speaking of collective voices, I am working on a couple of devised theatre projects.  These collaboratively crafted pieces are unfolding bit by bit, and I’m very excited to see where they lead… but there’s no telling when they might be ready for public consumption… I’ll keep you posted!

The 6 Weeks 6 Plays challenge – I am looking forward to leading this as well as trying to write a new play each week myself!

Master Scriptwriting  – professional actors, visiting artists, team teaching, cross-genre discussions, and a public reading are all pretty thrilling stuff, not to mention the plays and screenplays that these students are going to be working on.  I’m beyond excited to see these things grow.

The Spring Play at Mount Ida – I’ll be directing again at Mount Ida College this spring. Following last year’s successful One Act Play Festival, we are putting on a full-length play!  I have been thinking about plays with flexible cast sizes, strong female roles and a minimal design aesthetic for the entrepreneurial band of talented young thespians that is the Mount Ida Drama Club… more on this soon!

Here’s to challenges, full plates, and the pay-offs of long-term resolutions – happy & healthy holidays to you all!

Knowing and Not Knowing, Part I: Direct Address

When should you let your audience “in” on what’s happening?  When should you keep it a big, heavy, elephant-in-the-room secret?  All plays have some elements of both – one of the jobs of the playwright is to measure the balance between what the audience knows and doesn’t know, and how and when to withhold or impart information. Sometimes when you want the audience to know something, the quick and dirty way to accomplish that is to just tell them.  Why bother with fancy tricks to get your most important exposition across?  Want your audience to know that one character thinks the other one is crazy?  Just tell them!


[Aside] Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t.

This is a nice little essay about the use of direct address in a few contemporary plays.

A couple of my favorite examples of plays that use monologues spoken straight to the audience (aka an aside or in a slightly different sense, a soliloquy) are Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation.  These plays are a story being told and acted out for the audience.  The play is aware of itself being a play, and the characters consistently break the fourth wall.  Like a Greek chorus, they narrate story as it goes along.  So, yes it is an old contrivance, and a very effective, if blunt, instrument.  And yes, sometimes blunt is an excellent thing.

Frenzy and the Treats

Turns out April really is the month to get inspired to write that new play.  Budding playwrights (and dialogue-based script writers of all forms): meet Script Frenzy!  Script Frenzy dares you to write 100 pages of a new script in the month of April.  So, if November and NaPlWriMo is too far away and you’re ready to get started right away, in fact, you were ready yesterday… looks like the way to go.

They have some great resources on their website, like information about script formatting, a list of all the free and not-so-free software available, and all kinds of articles and advice.  I love love love that all this is available for free online.  And I love that I can share about it here on this blog of mine.

But dare I say it, the more computerized my everyday world becomes, the more I treasure my work as a playwright. After all, I spend all those hours on my computer alone writing because a play brings people together – bodies, imaginations, emotions, and intellects – in time and space.  And because nothing beats being in a room with a bunch of other people hearing the brand new pages of your script you just wrote last night out loud, sharing ideas and feedback, debating and discussing and deliberating and eating brownies while bawling and guffawing and holding our collective breath and leaning in close….  I suppose there’s probably an app for all that now, minus the brownies. And I am indecently attached to my iPhone. But I’ll take a room at Grub Street any day.  BYO brownies.

April Showers Bring First Drafts

The magnolias are blooming, the sun and the rain are playing hide and seek.  Clearly April is right around the corner.  And with April comes more light, more color, the promise of summer and a reprieve from all that darkness and cold that keeps us cooped up all winter. But don’t trade in your computer and your thinking cap for flip flops and sundresses just yet, because April is the perfect time to start writing a new play!  Maybe you’ve heard about those folks who try to write the first draft of a whole novel in just one month for NaNoWriMo. Maybe you’ve even heard about the folks who do this same thing, but for writing plays, also in the month of November, called NaPlWriMo.  Everyone has their own strategies to make this impossible task possible.  They write a certain number of words per day, or per week, but they all just keep those pens and keyboards moving and clicking. It’s an inspiring concept that connects writers from around the globe, gives you a goal and a deadline, and lots of encouragement to write and keep writing.  

My Writing the Full Length Play class begins at Grub Street on April 15th. The course is 10 weeks – which is more than twice the time of NaPlWriMo. My hope is that it will be ample time for playwrights of all experience levels begin writing something new, hear it out loud, work on revisions and even prepare to send it out into the world.   Writing is never easy, no matter how much you’ve written before.  But having others going through it with you can get you to set aside the necessary time and all those unnecessary fears to just do it. I hope we will all be inspired by the example set by NaPlWriMo, and the goal of starting something new and writing it all the way through to the end.  I know I am!

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

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.