Need inspiration? Hire a playwright.

by Kitty Felde

Are you like me? If you had your life to do over again, you wish you’d gone to graduate school for playwriting? Now you have a grown up job, maybe kids, no money, no time. Oh, well.

There is an alternative: create your own Masters of Playwriting program.

No, you don’t have to join the faculty at UC Irvine. All you need to do is identify what you need as a writer and find the person or persons who can teach you.

MY MASTERS IN MARCH

It’s been an interesting month for me as a playwright. Last weekend, I took a Megabus trip up to Philadelphia to attend an all-day playwriting bootcamp with Paula Vogel, courtesy of the play development program at PlayPenn. Today, I’m sitting in a classroom at Catholic University in DC for an all-day intensive with Michael Hollinger. Next weekend, I’m having a table read in my living room of my LA Riots play “Time of the Troubles” directed by Linda Lombardi, the literary manager at Arena Stage – who I met at another play development program in DC known as Inkwell. Fifteen hours of playwriting instruction in a month with a price tag much cheaper than graduate school!

IDENTIFY THE WRITER YOU NEED TO LEARN FROM

LA is a city full of wonderful writers. Is there one you’ve always wanted to have coffee with? Write them. Ask them. They may say yes.

FIND OUT ABOUT WORKSHOPS

LA also attracts a who’s who of wonderful writers who pass through town. Is there a talk back session after their play? Are they teaching a master class somewhere? Paula Vogel was in Philly for the opening of a new play. PlayPenn invited her to teach her bootcamp on a day when her show was in tech. Forty writers paid $200 each to spend the day soaking up Vogelisms.

CREATE YOUR OWN

What about a writer who has no immediate plans to come to LA? Put together your own master class.

My DC playwriting group Playwrights Gymnasium decided to invite Michael Hollinger (“Opus,” “A Wonderful Noise,” “Red Herring”) to come to town. We figured out a budget (his travel expenses, lodging, food, a stipend), found free space at a local college to hold a seminar (in exchange for free tuition for a pair of grad students), figured out how much other playwrights would pay for such a seminar ($99 with lunch and an early bird price of $79), advertised on a Facebook page (filled up in a week!)

WE ALSO LEARN FROM OUR OWN WORK

There’s nothing like hearing your own work out loud to learn what works. And what doesn’t.

Staged readings are fairly cheap – particularly when you’re doing them in your own living room. Costs include printing, plus coffee and wine and nibbles. Gas money for actors is helpful. A small check is even more welcome.

You can get feedback from your troupe – or not. Or invite playwrights you trust. Or a dramaturg. Or a director. Or thank your actors and send everyone home.

I’ll let you know what I learned from my reading. And from my Masters in March.

2 Comments

  • By Nancy Beverly, March 22, 2014 @ 6:16 pm

    Golly, these are BRILLIANT ideas! Thanks for posting them 🙂

  • By Robin Byrd, March 23, 2014 @ 10:43 am

    Ditto! Simply brilliant. Thanks a million.

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