Curriculum

387P Playwriting Workshop (Instructor: Steven Dietz. Taught each Fall.)
An intensive exploration of the craft of playwriting and the art of rewriting — with a particular focus on active Narrative Strategies: what makes a play move and change? — push forward? — come to life? This rigorous writing workshop 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's your play about?” and “How is the story structured?” to “What happens in your play?” and “What does your story need?”

387P Playwriting Workshop (Instructor: Suzan Zeder, Lynn or New. Taught each Spring.)
This innovative playwriting workshop draws upon a variety of body/mind techniques and disciplines to encourage students to explore the multiple languages of visual, verbal and kinesthetic vocabularies in conceiving and developing their work. It also employs unorthodox feedback strategies preferring open-ended perceptual and generative response to evaluative criticism.

Guest Playwriting Seminar
In semesters when the Michener Center brings in a guest playwright, there will usually be a playwriting readings courses offered through the MCW. Topics vary with the choice of playwright:

  • Alice Tuan: Toward the 21st Century 
  • Naomi Iizuka: Political Theatre 
  • Sherry Kramer: The Perception Shift 
  • Denis Johnson: Favorite Plays


390 Professional Development Workshop (Instructor: Kirk Lynn/Suzan Zeder)
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 guest director experienced in new play development.

388L Collaboration (Instructor: Steven Dietz. Taught alt. Springs.)
This course — which brings together graduate candidates in Playwriting, Acting, Directing and Design — is designed to investigate the generative and collaborative process in a tangible, hands-on way. The focus of the work is two-fold: to develop practical skills (and exercise existing ones) designed to assist in the generation of new work with a group; and to create new, original, short pieces (driven by collaborators of various disciplines) that will be refined, revised and re-imagined.

398 Playwriting Pedagogy (Instructor: Suzan Zeder/Kirk Lynn. Taught alt. Falls.) [Studies]During the course of their careers, most playwrights will eventually find themselves teaching playwriting in some context. Whether it is in the formal structure of a college or university theatre program, or in a community workshop, or in a drama of language arts curriculum in a high school, elementary or middle school classroom, or as a guest artist leading the obligatory master class, sooner or later, most playwrights will face a room full of young, or not so young, writers clamoring for guidance. The purpose of this course is to provide playwrights with a variety of techniques, strategies, activities, exercises and resources to help develop their own approaches to teaching the art and craft of playwriting.

180J Playwriting/Directing Colloquium (Kirk Lynn.)
This one-hour course required of all playwriting and directing MFA candidates is intended to give structure and time to area-wide conversations. A container for postpartum sessions on works in production, business seminars, mentoring and strategy sessions, the course will give a regular home to existing activities and alleviate difficulties with scheduling and attendance. The course will give students a greater voice in outlining and fulfilling their own needs and desires through the alignment of resources, the clearing up misunderstandings and the outlining of disagreements. As issues of note in the profession arise locally and nationally the colloquium will be a place for an area-wide discussion. Playwriting and directing faculty will be invited to attended all sessions, but those available will be specifically scheduled to lead conversations around individual areas of expertise.

387R Narrative Strategies: Time (Instructor: Steven Dietz. Taught alt. Springs.)
This is a topics course — not a writing workshop — which 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 ten 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.

387R Essential Story-making for the Stage (Instructor: Steven Dietz. Taught alt. Springs.)
A skills workshop devoted to the particular challenges of creating narrative for live theatrical performance. The semester will be divided into 3 parts: Adaptive Story-Making (working from a specific source); Interpretive Story- Making (working from prompts/images/etc.); and Generative Story-Making (working from scratch, from within).As this is a Topics course, no single play will be developed -- however students will complete multiple writing assignments (short plays, monologues, outlines, narrative assessments, etc.) as part of their investigation of narrative creation from three specific points of entry (Adaptive/Interpretive/Generative). This course is recommended for any of our grad story-makers in Playwriting, Directing, DTY, Design, and Dramaturgy — in the hopes that they will develop and deepen their portfolio of narrative skills.

387R Playwriting for Youth (instructor: Steven Dietz/Suzan Zeder)
This writing workshop will issue playwrights the singular challenge of making compelling and memorable theatrical pieces for and about young audiences. Strategies for creating these new plays will include: 1) adaptation of existing story material, 2) generating new stories from prompts, and 3) mining the events of our own childhoods to discover seminal narratives that can be explored and dramatized. This course is recommended for all professionally–directed playwrights, whether you have previously written plays for young audiences or not.

355T Entrepreneurship in the Performing Arts (instructor Kirk Lynn. Alt. Falls starting in 2012)
This three-hour upper-division course will be open to both graduate and undergraduate populations by consent of instructor. The course will explore contemporary strategies for sustaining a life in the arts. Covering topics such as: 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 will be a publicly presented, self-produced work. Throughout the semester local and national guests will provide mini-workshops in the areas of their expertise. The course is intended to increase student understanding of best practices in development and administration of entrepreneurial, artist-led performing arts organizations.

326 Playwriting II: Playing and Writing (instructor Lynn. Alt. Falls) explores the connection between playing and writing—examining the rites, rituals, and cultures of play in an effort to create new avenues for the development of dramatic text. We’ll be continually expanding the brief definition above (play as an activity of entertainment) to include: How play begins and ends in both time and space? Who participates in play? What is at stake when one plays? What does it mean to cheat? How do children learn through play? How do jokes and wordplay function? We’ll then apply these lessons to the creation of dramatic text. Through discussion and in-class writing exercises we’ll link our study of the nature of play to dramatic terminology such as: plot, narrative, character, stakes, conflict, dramatic irony, and resolution.

355 Playwriting III: Revision (instructor Lynn. Alt. Springs)
A study of revision that includes, 1) reading an early draft and a revised draft of two plays (ne a recognized classic and one a critically acclaimed contemporary work). 2) Engaging one another in a faux correspondence in imitation of Chekhov’s “Selected Letters” to sharpen our ability to diagnosis the problems with a dramatic text and to prescribe a course of action. 3) Workshops in Ending Plays, Dramatic Irony, The Central Question, Mapping Your Progress, How to Know When You’re Done, Cutting Text, Feedback, Structure, Collaboration, & Beginning Relationships with Producers and Directors.

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