Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My Playwriting III Experience by Ruth-Ellen Perlman

I registered for the Playwriting III class with Rebecca Tourino for several reasons:  some of my friends had taken classes with her and recommended her highly; I knew that without a class, meaning deadlines, I wouldn’t do any work over the summer; and, finally, the class ends with a directed reading and I was excited about that.  I had written a play called Ecstasy and after a “living room reading” of it, put it away for about eight months.  That was the play I chose to rewrite in Rebecca’s class.

The schedule of the workshop was intense:  four weekends in a row, four hours on Saturday morning and four hours on Sunday evening.  In between we had to read each other’s plays, for discussion in class over the weekend.  In addition, of course, we had to work on our own plays, revising and occasionally doing exercises.  So this was a demanding setup that required a high level of commitment.

About Rebecca.  She definitely lived up to the praise she received from past students of hers.  The first amazing thing she did was to establish a structure for discussing each other’s work.  She explained the method, and then we actually had to practice it with hypotheticals!  It seemed somewhat forced while we practiced it, but in fact it was excellent.  Having the structure made it much easier to share our work with strangers, knowing that we would get feedback in a helpful, rather than a hurtful, manner.  What was incredible, though, was how quickly the group of six strangers bonded, becoming colleagues and friends well before the four week session was over.

Often each weekend session began with a number of question-and-answer exercises to help us identify elements that could be strengthened or, sometimes, let go.  I found these to be hugely helpful, since I’m basically an intuitive writer – it’s great to have the tools to be more analytical about my writing.  As the weeks went by we became deeply involved in the progress of our classmates’ work, so that by the last session we could cheer for each other’s progress as well as feel good about our own.

As I write this, rehearsal for my reading is just days away.  I’ve met with my director, participated in the casting and learned quite a bit about what the actors need to prepare for a reading.  This is a whole other process, tremendously absorbing and exciting.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Update:  it was fantastic!  There are few things as rewarding as hearing your words spoken by amazing actors.  The New Play Lab offers an unmatched opportunity to put a new play (excerpt, but still!) in front of an audience. The process has given me the motivation to find new outlets for my play, based on the enthusiastic response it received from audiences, actors and my fabulous director!


Rebecca Tourino will be teaching Playwriting I this fall at Freehold Theatre. More information on her Playwriting class can be found here.

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