UNIVERSITY COURSES

SPRING 2023

Playwriting: Worldbuilding from the Ground Up (PWC 300)

Instructor: Lucas Baisch

FROM THE INSTRUCTOR

The human-made structures of the world now outweigh all biological life combined. Our matter is taking up space. Through this material bounty, the way we relate to narrative has transformed. The creative act of “worldbuilding” allows us to find ourselves in this pool of things. Are you a writer who feels stunted by the density of your ideas? Who needs help massaging the great soup you wish to work from? In this class we will write from abundance, faithful to a philosophy of excess. Through your wealth of pages, the ingredients and rules of your playworld will begin to reveal themselves. You will learn the landscape of your story through language, period, genre, systems of faith, of governance, and then be encouraged to break the patterns you yourself create. In this class we will consider what your play’s social world looks like, what it smells like, what music it encourages. We will sit with a basic toolkit of generative strategies, then sculpt out what dramatic writing could look like as a form intended for live performance. We will draw from plays and non-plays, linear and experimental, examples of and writings on video game design, interactive media, installation art, dance, and architecture, to make pieces of theatre that embrace the uncanny, the political, and the speculative. This course is open to students coming from any level of experience looking for guidance through a process of discovery.

Topics in Playwriting: Queering the Page (PWC 310)

Instructor: C. Meaker

FROM THE INSTRUCTOR

Since “queer” is not just an identity but an act or action, how can playwrights write queer plays? How does queerness live on stage and page? I have no idea, but we’re going to explore it together by engaging queer texts and practicing our queer writing through exercise, play, and failure. By reading and dissecting works from acclaimed queer makers, you will craft work in alignment with your evolving definition of queer theater/playmaking. We will utilize trope, genre, camp, cliché, and gaiety in hopes of creating a body of queer work ready for workshop and critique. In this class you will work on in-class writing exercises and hold robust discussions about queer theater on the road to crafting substantial new work(s) (45-50 pages). Works may include playwrights Haruna Lee, Taylor Mac, Tanya Barfield, Madeline George, C. A. Johnson, Mashuq Mushtaq Deen, and Reza Abdoh, as well as critical writings from Audre Lorde, Jack Halberstam, and José Esteban Muñoz, among others.

Both Spring 2023 courses are also available at the graduate level as Topics in Writing for Screen and Stage (PWC 510).

SUMMER 2023

Topics in Writing for Screen and Stage: Advanced Pilot Writing (PWC 510)

Instructor: James Anthony Tyler

FROM THE INSTRUCTOR

It's time to raise the stakes. It's time to incorporate those dramatic tools into a highly entertaining pilot that will keep your audience glued to the screen...And it's time to do it fast...I mean, really fast–because that’s how it happens when you actually write for television. This course will expose you to the pace of the industry, while also sharpening your craft. Through in-class exercises, participants will experiment with developing complex and active characters that both push the story forward and speak in dialogue that is rich and contains subtext. We will analyze accomplished shows, and each student will write two original pilots, one comedy and one drama. For both shows, students will create a pitch document that includes an outline/beat sheet, character descriptions, and themes to be tackled in the show before they start work on the pilot script. Let's get started on creating the next Breaking Bad, Abbott Elementary, Squid Game, Modern Family, Godfather of Harlem, or The Wire!

PAST COURSES

FALL 2022

Topics in Playwriting: Expanding Theatrical Possibilities Through Genre Writing (PWC 310)

Instructor: Marvin González De León

FROM THE INSTRUCTOR

If you’re like me, you think that some of the most innovative, impactful social critiques and explorations of the human condition of the last 50 years have come from sci-fi, horror, westerns, mystery, romance, and fantasy literature and film. In fact, because metaphor and symbol are at the heart of both the theatre and these types of genre writing, the theatre is uniquely fertile territory for the type of social critique that genre writing does best. While we are most accustomed to seeing these types of genres depicted in TV, film, and popular fiction, this class aims to expand students’ ideas of what types of stories are possible on the stage. Through explorations of film, literature, plays, and theory—coupled with writing exercises and writing workshops—this class will give playwrights interested in sci-fi, horror, westerns, mystery, romance, and fantasy the foundation and space they need to work toward the completion of their own play in the genre of their interest.

Writing for Television (PWC 320)

Instructor: Sofya Levitsky-Weitz

FROM THE INSTRUCTOR

It’s no secret that playwrights are a wanted entity in television these days. We’re great at character development and dialogue, and we’ve honed our unique voices. These are all elements that make playwrights uniquely suited to a career in television. In this class, you’ll learn the foundations of writing an original pilot – great as a sample or even for future development. This class is perfect for anyone interested in learning how to use their playwriting skills to write for television. And it's great for poets, screenwriters, novelists, or any other writers who want to know how playwriting translates to the small screen. We’ll go from ideation and brainstorming phase, to outline, to first draft, while also learning tools for revising. The class will also include discussions and opportunities to discuss career development and the industry at large. 

Both Fall 2022 courses are also available at the graduate level as Topics in Writing for Screen and Stage (PWC 510).

SUMMER 2022

Writing for Television: Writing the Television Pilot (PWC 320)
Topics in Writing for Screen and Stage: Writing the Television Pilot (PWC 510)

Instructor: Christina Ham
Credits: 4 undergraduate, 3 graduate

Saturdays, June 4 - July 30
3-hour weekly Zoom meetings + asynchronous work

FROM THE INSTRUCTOR

Do you love watching television and have ever wondered how the creators wrote their pilot for that hit t.v. show you love to watch? Or, are you a writer in a different medium and have always wanted to try your hand at writing for television? Or, perhaps you are already familiar with the medium and would simply like the accountability and deadlines to write your next pilot? Today, there are over 500 broadcast and streaming shows made for television for the average American who watches close to 6 hours of television a day. This is an industry that continues to need new material. This intensive course will provide a primer for understanding the inner workings of a writer’s room and generating content within it. This course will be modeled on a professional writer’s room and as such all students will be required to actively participate. Students will be expected to participate in the development and breaking of story while learning to pitch ideas, create outlines, and reading and providing feedback on your colleagues’ work. Each of these steps will be instrumental in aiding you with creating your own pilotmost important if you are interested in future staffing opportunities and/or development.

SPRING 2022

Playwriting: Exploring the Writer’s Theatrical Voice (PWC 300)
Instructor: Raquel Almazan
4 credits

FROM THE INSTRUCTOR

In this course, the writer will develop a technique that is individual, yet grounded in fundamental dramatic writing skills. Writers will write weekly scenes and journal entries and be guided through exercises to develop facility with storytelling, plotting, stage action, dialogue, and thematic unity. They will read select plays by contemporary playwrights of color as inspiration and as a catalyst for their work. The class will analyze these plays to identify a variety of skills, themes, and concepts within four categories: Language as Identity, Intersection of Arts and Activism: The Playwright as Activist, Form and Aesthetics, and Gender Narratives. Writers will utilize key elements of dramatic writing (time, place, action, voice) in short exercises and scenes, and writers’ work will be read and discussed at each class session. The heart of this course is about providing a collaborative space where the writer is liberated to find, explore, and expand their theatrical voice to create a series of short works or a full-length play.

 

Topics in Playwriting: Human Rights and Social Justice (PWC 310)
Instructor: Catherine Filloux
4 credits

FROM THE INSTRUCTOR

Are you passionate about making change? In a climate where human rights and social justice are obscured by “fake news,” we will explore writing plays that expose truths. This class will inspire you to focus on diverse perspectives, tell a story from a unique angle, and feature communities not often heard from. You will write about not just what you know, but what you care deeply about. In this course, you will create a short play about human rights or social justice based on an article and photograph. You will examine research and oral histories. And you will create a communal workshop atmosphere with other writers. In a collaborative approach to problem-solving, we will discuss each other's work for the rewriting process, and writers will receive ongoing individual mentorship. Playwright and novelist Kia Corthron will join the class as a guest speaker and model for social justice playwriting.

FALL 2021

Playwriting (PWC 300)
Instructor: Sheri Wilner
4 credits

FROM THE INSTRUCTOR

This playwriting workshop is designed to teach you the fundamentals upon which all dramatic writing is based. Although our focus and intent will be on writing plays, the building blocks you’ll learn in this class are the same ones you’ll use if your passion is writing for television, film, video games or whatever new ways we’ll tell stories in the future. Each week we’ll examine such crucial dramatic elements as character, objective, action, conflict, climax, dialogue, and theme in depth; through a brief lecture; by reading and viewing plays, and by doing writing exercises that help you understand and practice a particular skill. But the best way to learn is to write a play—especially one in which you let yourself make mistakes, take risks, try bold experiments and learn there’s no such thing as a bad play when you have an earnest intention to tell a meaningful story. You’ll work on two different scripts—a ten-minute play and a one-act (30-45 pages)—and by the end of the course have a clear understanding of the most essential elements of dramatic writing. You’ll also have a chance to work with actors, who will join us twice a semester to perform excerpts of your work. All along the way, we’ll make sure to remember that what we’re writing is called a play. And that is what we’ll try to do as we work and learn. Play. Let’s not try to be perfect or brilliant, let’s just try to tell the stories that won’t get told unless we tell them.

 

Writing for Television (PWC 320)
Instructor: James Anthony Tyler
4 credits 

FROM THE INSTRUCTOR

This course will introduce television series structure and how to keep stakes high in your pilot script so you can keep an audience glued to the screen. Through in-class exercises, participants will experiment with developing complex and active characters that both push the story forward and speak in dialogue that is rich and contains subtext. We will analyze accomplished shows, and then each student will write original scenes for in-class workshops and discussions. Students will also develop an original series idea and create a pitch document that includes an outline/beat sheet, character descriptions, and themes to be tackled in the show before they start work on their own pilot script. Let's get started on creating the next Mad Men, Queen Sugar, The Sopranos, This Is Us, or The Wire

SPRING 2021

Themes in Playwriting: Excavating Your "Stuff" (PWC 310) 
Instructor: Tori Sampson
4 credits

FROM THE INSTRUCTOR

This class is about discovering and writing your “stuff.” To be a playwright you must take the time to discover your voice and that’s what we will be excavating in this class. Your voice is you and you are your stuff. Your stuff…well, your stuff is what’s going to make your plays original and truthful. 

Let’s dig into some great examples of playwrights who wholeheartedly offer pieces of themselves and by doing so help to unlock truths within audiences. Then, let’s play! And write! And write and play until you are writing a play only you can pen. 

You will read, write, share, listen, and ask questions of yourself and fellow playwrights. You will draw pictures and illustrate memories. You will learn that playwright is often misspelled h-o-n-e-s-t-y. Catharsis comes in multiple structures. It is not reserved for spectators alone. This class is about you: the playwright. Your stuff is waiting on you to boldly and beautifully release it to the world. C’mon...your voice is waiting…you know you want to. 

 

 

FALL 2020

Playwriting (PWC 300)
Instructor: Philip Dawkins
4 credits

FROM THE INSTRUCTOR

The course's online format offers a distinct opportunity to explore what it means to be creators of live, in-person content when the definitions of "in-person" are changing every day. Through the study of various approaches to playwriting, including mold-breaking visionary responses to the current moment, Playwriting (PWC 300) will provide a generative and collaborative space not only to learn the basics of the form but to challenge and reshape them to meet the future.