Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing

Scriptwriting: Presentation and Workshop Samples

Playwriting and Social Justice

Carolyn Gage

Playwriting offers a unique vehicle for challenging the dominant narrative because the writer creates an alternative world in real time and real space. Will the audience have a transformative encounter or an antagonizing collision of values? We will be exploring various dramaturgical strategies that playwrights have employed, and how these have been tailored for particular genres (musicals, dramas, farce), socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds of intended audiences (Lower East Side vs. Broadway, Peoria vs. New York) and the particular social issue being addressed (colonialism, ableism, homophobia). How do alternative narratives disrupt the tropes and conventions, the dramaturgical “shorthand,” of mainstream theatre, and how can social change playwrights exploit this disruption? Finally, are there limits of tolerance for an audience and what are the penalties for crossing those?

‘Get Shorty’: One-Act Plays and Short Film as a ‘Way In’ to Scriptwriting

James Patrick Kelly and Elizabeth Searle

Are you curious to try scriptwriting but have no idea how to 'break in'?  Short films and One Act Plays provide a do-able entree for neophytes into the worlds of film and theater writing. We will share very practical advice on creating a one-act work, entering the film and theater festival circuit, and building on those beginnings to work toward full length productions.  We will view/perform brief examples of this form and discuss as a group the elements that go into making a dramatic piece stand on its own, no matter how short.  

The presentation will combine lecture, staged-reading excerpts and some in-class brainstorming and freewriting exercises.  We welcome students from all genres to consider trying their hand at scriptwriting, ‘in short’.

From Page to Stage

James Patrick Kelly, Michael Kimball, David Mura, Elizabeth Searle

Screenwriters and playwrights James Patrick Kelly, Michael Kimball, David Mura & Elizabeth Searle will use staged readings of scenes from film and theatre (cast with student volunteers) that illustrate some of the key elements in character, relationship, and story development that can make dialogue come to life. Topics to be covered will include: anticipation, reversal, character progression, dramatic tension, suspense, story & the three-act structure. Script excerpts from Raging Bull, Good Will Hunting, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Iceman Cometh, etc, etc, etc.

Open to students of all genres; the lessons of live drama and its unique demands can also be applied to other forms of narrative.  We all want to keep our audience on the edge of their seats, eager to hear every word. 

Writing and Marketing the 10-Minute Play

Michael Kimball

With help from visiting (and volunteer) actors, playwright Mike Kimball will illustrate some essential elements of the compelling 10-minute play and share some secrets of how he gets his plays performed onstage. Topics to be covered will include: sketch vs. story; the barely naked stage; action, activity, and dialogue; character development; the three-act structure in miniature . . . and finding your theatre community.

Open to students of all genres; the lessons of live theatre and its unique demands can enlighten all forms of narrative. 

Putting an End to Wild West Shows: Making Native American Theater Legitimate Rather Than a Novelty

William S. Yellow Robe, Jr.,

William S. Yellow Robe, Jr., a member of the Assiniboine Tribe and one of the leading Native American playwrights in the country, discusses his relationship with the art medium of theater; he has specialized in playwriting to develop the Native American tribal voice within an art medium introduced to the Americas through colonialism.  Yellow Robe will share his unique perceptions of how to overcome Euro-American and European ethocentricities encountered while working within the art medium, and move from novelty to legitimacy.

How Learning the Rules of Screenwriting Can Help Your Prose

Norit Koppel

In this presentation we will become familiar with the limitations built into screenwriting, and discover how these very limitations can in fact liberate the story we are trying to tell. We will learn that bare can lead us to elegance, directing us to ask: Is this necessary? How badly do I want to say this? Am I exhausting the reader’s attention? Is less better in this case, or do I allow myself the freedom to go in this direction for a while?

After reading excerpts pulled from novels and short stories, we will examine the scripted version of the same material, before screening the produced result. We will then take our own writing from the class and adapt it into screenplay structure, experiencing the challenge of screenwriting firsthand.