Thursday, December 22, 2011

Words of wisdom

A few days before Thanksgiving, I sat in on a playwriting residency being taught by Ben Clawson, one of our teaching artists. He was leading the class in a session where each student pitched an idea for their story and discussed the possibilities (and any questions) with the class. Ben gave some great advice to the students that may be helpful throughout the writing process, but especially so if you are experiencing a block, or still do not know where to begin. I asked Ben if I can share these with you. Here are a few...

"You're telling a story that you want to hear. You are your first audience member."
Often some of the first questions and inevitable uncertainties expressed by our young playwrights include what to write about and whether their idea will be "good enough". The answer to that depends upon the intended audience. If you work from the view that you are the first and most important audience for your play, write one that you enjoy and it will certainly be "good enough". Plus...

"There's the story and then how you present it."
Chances are that when you first sit down to write, you already have a story idea in mind. For example, you might describe the idea by saying: "This a story about a girl who..." or "This is a story that takes place in..."

No matter what idea you start with there are likely to be infinate directions that it can take. This can feel daunting, which may lead to burnout, or writer's block, or an anxiety that you won't be able to start... or finish. If you set some parameters for yourself with number of characters, scenes, locations, then you begin to establish some limitations and focus your writing. I'm not surprised to hear some grumbling here as I don't like an outline any more than the next person does, but the way in which Ben put this idea to the class makes it something more of a framework for how you want to tell you story than a rock-solid outline.

This can also be a fun challenge and may provide some interesting story ideas that you may not have thought about previously.

Still not convinced that a framework can be helpful? Consider this...

"You can take a walk in the woods. It's not too dangerous... if you know where you are going. If you just start walking that's when you get lost."


"[Its] always good to leave room for your story to surprise you."

Have a good sense of where you want to go and be open to some diversions along the way. Just keep in mind the end goal and you'll make it though alright.

Happy writing!

Friday, December 9, 2011

In search of actors and readers

Playwrights Theatre is looking for ACTORS and READERS for the upcoming Madison and New Jersey Young Playwrights Festivals. Interested persons should complete the online survey found at the following link: