Thursday, November 1, 2012

To "Wright" Plays

by Lauren Gunderson

In preparation for Lauren Gunderson's upcoming PlayMath Class at the PF New Play Institute, we invited her to explain her class and what she loves about teaching it in her own wonderful words.

I love leading PlayMath classes because I'm a nerd for theatre. God I love plays. Don't you? I love them. I love talking about them, arguing about them, imagining them. I love the feelings I discover watching them in the hands of great actors, I love the surprising poetry that beams forth from the page, the pulsing silences earned by great directors, and I love digging deep into the structure of plays to figure out how the damn things work.

And it's the working that we convene to explore together from the greats and from each other in class. It's the working that makes us playwrights. The "wright" in playwright comes from the archaic English word "to work". A wright is a craftsman, a builder, a maker of new things. We gather to learn how to wright plays, not just write them.
 I lead the discussions we have about our imagination-fueled, dream-bent artform in a very technical way. I think of PlayMath as the rudimentary engineering skills that even the most wild-minded architect must know. If we are designing the palace of our plays, we need to know how to build a bathroom. 

So we discuss form and shape of dramatic storytelling. We use diagrams and mathy metaphors to describe action and plot-planting. We find the equation for the ending, then write towards it. 

All of this cold, calculation might seem anti-art (not wild, emotional, or dramatic enough). But its exactly drama. Drama is an efficient form of storytelling and needs technical framework to support the complexities of a full house of characters that earn a climactic revelation. PlayMath exposes the framework of your play (the scaffolding, the spine) so that we can spend more time on minarets, the gardens, and the hidden passageways.  

Because playwrights are designers and builders, engineers and architects of drama. By understanding and honing these technical skills of storytelling, we are better able to undergird the play we want to write no matter how soaring or strange or small. 

Let's build. 

Sign up for Lauren's PlayMath Class on our website

Be sure to check out Lauren's website at

Lauren also blogs for The Huffington Post Arts. Check her out.

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