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The Core: Building a Craft, Shaping a Practice
Playwriting Workshop I
Playwriting Workshop II
New Play Dramaturgy
Advanced Collaboration Workshop
Professional Development Workshop (PDW)
Narrative Strategies: Time
Playwright/Director Colloquium (CQ)
The Expanded Core: Deepening Artistry, Broadening Outreach
Entrepreneurship in the Performing Arts
Pedagogy for Writing and Performance
Narrative Strategies: Adaptation
Plays for All [formerly Playwriting for Youth]
Directing, Screenwriting, Design, Integrated Media, Reading/Performing the Canon, Digital Storytelling, etc.
COURSES OFFERED [partial listing]
Playwriting Workshop I [1st year, required; offered all years]
An intensive exploration of the craft of playwriting and the art of rewriting — with a particular focus on active narrative strategies: the tangible and intentional choices that make a play move, turn, push forward, and change. This rigorous workshop employs both writing exercises and the creation of a "full length play in 30 pages". It further demands that playwrights interrogate not merely the chassis of their story (structure, arc, composition), but also the engine (motion, drive, the particular vigor of a living event) — with a particular emphasis on three primary creation/revision strategies: Motion, Status and Time. This course seeks to redirect the fundamental dramaturgical questions from “What is your play about?” to “What happens in your play?” and “What does your story need?”
Playwriting Workshop II [1st year, required; offered all years]
This workshop focuses on the generation of new writing for performance -- but also goes beyond that to explore and develop necessary qualities of consciousness, articulation and discipline. Here are questions that often arise: Are you able to direct your thinking about writing and performance into avenues of appreciation, action, rigor, and improvement (your own and others)? Are you able to articulate your thoughts about writing and performance in conversation? Do potential collaborators understand your projects as you represent them? Is your work itself a truthful articulation of your values? In addition to regular in-class readings and conversations, writers give weekly responses to a classmate they are paired with as a respondent. This course also seeks an expansive definition of what it means to develop a “beginner’s mind": a state of permanent studiousness with an ever-expanding understanding of what is possible in one's work.
New Play Dramaturgy [1st year, required]
Dramaturgy is a verb as well as a noun. The class encourages all theatre-makers to think and act dramaturgically. Playwrights and directors learn how to connect, explore, and respond to a new play with authenticity and authority; develop a hands-on understanding of the varied responsibilities, tasks, techniques and strategies of a dramaturg; and examine the distinctions between the attributes, roles and function of the word. Students engage in several methods of text analysis, examine a play's parts to learn more about the whole, and transition from talking about the play on the page to the play in three dimensions. At the most fundamental level, students discover the significance of asking a play and its creators: what, how, and, the most important question of all, why?
Advanced Collaboration Workshop [required, offered alternate years]
This course — which brings together MFA candidates in Playwriting, Directing and Design — is designed to investigate the generative and collaborative process in a tangible, hands-on way; develop/refine practical skills necessary for this kind of work; and explore a creative process which is "driven" by a different discipline (designer, director, playwright, performer) each week. Early semester projects focus on the "Vignette": short pieces developed through the application of close questioning. Late semester work centers on the "Epic": pieces of still very modest length but huge narrative/theatrical ambition. Each collaborative piece is subsequently discussed, interrogated, and often re-imagined.
Professional Development Workshop [2nd year, required]
Second-year M.F.A. students develop projects in preparation for a professional workshop with a guest director. Working closely with a dramaturg and a cadre of actors, playwrights explore, rehearse, revise and discuss plays in a variety of contexts in class and in a 3 to 5 day workshop with a theatre professional experienced in new play development. Recent guest artists include Madeleine Oldham (Berkeley Repertory Theatre), Anne Kaufman (director), Braden Abraham (Seattle Repertory Theatre), Maria Striar (Clubbed Thumb), Megan Carter (dramaturg), Jeremy Cohen (The Playwrights' Center), Ken Rus Schmoll (director), Deborah Zoe Laufer (playwright), and Dan Rothenberg (Pig Iron Theatre Company).
Narrative Strategies: Time [required, offered alternate years]
This is a topics course that focuses exclusively on the use of Time as a narrative strategy in the plays of numerous contemporary playwrights. This course seeks to broaden a working playwrights' knowledge of “time” as one of the most powerful theatrical tools at their disposal; to explore concrete examples in the form of a dozen or so contemporary plays which bend time to their will; and to engage the participants in ways to directly apply these lessons to their own ongoing and future plays.
Playwriting/Directing Colloquium [required all semesters]
This student-curated and faculty-advised course is intended to give structure and time to area-wide conversations. Colloquium functions as container for postpartum sessions on works in production, regular business seminars, mentoring and strategy sessions, and in-depth "shoptalks" with leaders in the field. Recent guest artists in this course have included: Sarah Ruhl, Molly Smith, Chay Yew, Sean Daniels, Emily Mann, Sarah Benson, Marc Masterson, Aimee Hayes, Mead Hunter, Anne Hamburger, Paul Meshejian, Joy Meads, Beth Blickers, Antje Oegel, Lisa Loomer, Robert Schenkkan, Jason Loewith, Seth Rozin, Stephanie Ybarra, Finegan Kruckemeyer, Lee Trull, Nan Barnett.
Devising Theatre [offered in rotation]
This course is based on the premise that performing artists can create not only the content of a performance but also the method by which performance is composed. Working individually and in groups, students in this workshop course investigate the role of the audience, space, time, media, process, and their own artistic needs in a variety of hands-on experiments, culminating in a devised performance shaped by the concerns of the students themselves.
Entrepreneurship in the Performing Arts [offered in rotation]
This course explores contemporary strategies for sustaining a life in the arts. Topics covered include: fund raising, grant writing, for-profit and non-profit business models, vision and mission statements, filing for 501(c)(3) status, using umbrella organizations, budgeting, marketing, leveraging social media, managing media contacts, and working with unions, agents, managers and producers. The culmination of this course is a publicly presented, self-produced work. Throughout the semester local and national guests provide mini-workshops in the areas of their expertise. The goal of this course is to increase student understanding of best practices in development and administration of entrepreneurial, artist-led performing arts organizations.
Pedagogy for Writing and Performance [2nd year, required; Instructor varies]
As all MFA candidates in this program are expected to teach during their time in school, this course offers both theoretical underpinnings and tangible, hands-on skills for leading and managing a course of study at the high school or college level. During the semester students will develop a teaching portfolio that includes sample syllabi, a comprehensive teaching philosophy and a variety of lesson plans.
Narrative Strategies: Adaptation [offered in rotation]
Every play is an adaptation for this reason: no play comes to us fully formed. We must in every instance employ adaptive/interpretive/structural means to turn a notion or idea or image into a living theatrical work. This is a skills workshop devoted to the particular challenges of creating theatrical narrative from the following angles: Adaptive (from an existing book, story, article, etc.); Interpretive (from an existing trigger, prompt, etc.); Structural (from an existing narrative or theatrical structure). Students complete multiple writing assignments (short plays, monologues, outlines of full-length pieces, narrative assessments, etc.) as part of their investigation into these modes of narrative creation.
Plays for All [offered in rotation]
Formerly Playwriting for Youth, this writing and skills workshop embodies the belief that there is not a "way" to write a play for Children anymore than there is a "way" to write a play for Adults. A play for audiences of All Ages is generated with and interrogated by the very same methods used in any play: theatrical imagination, narrative expertise, and rigorous, ongoing revision. This course explores story structures such as quest, mystery and memory narratives; narratives strategies such as adaptation and generating material from external prompts; and potent questions in the field regarding the need for plays that challenge the current status-quo. This course is recommended for all professionally–directed playwrights, whether you have previously written plays for young/all audiences or not.