by Eli Clark ‘07
Writing at Yale is really exciting. The playwriting professors are amazing and there are many outlets for having your work read.
- Classes: If you are interested in playwriting, you should take some of the classes that are offered. Click here for an overview of some of the classes offered each semester. The Creative Writing Concentration includes a playwriting track with courses offered by Donald Marguiles’s (Pulitzer Prize winning playwright of Dinner With Friends) and Deb Margolin (highly revered performance artist and one of the acting teachers). Different teachers have different methods of teaching playwriting, but each class is helpful. I would suggest taking classes from different teachers. Some teachers are known for teaching structure. Deb Margolin has an amazing ability to open up both writers and actors to new possibilities.
- The Yale Playwrights Festival: This is a festival of student-written shows presented as staged-readings in a campus performance space. Spread over two weekends, the plays debut with casts of Yale actors. Each reading is followed by a talkback with the playwright, director, and their mentors. Keep a lookout for notices about the deadline. You will submit a copy of your play to the Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies office and approximately two weeks later, about seven playwrights are chosen to become a part of the festival. They are then given two mentors–one from inside Yale (usually a professor who is also a playwright or a graduate student at the Drama School who is working as a professional playwright) and one outside mentor (an established playwright from outside of the Yale community-). You will then meet with your mentors who will give you suggestions about how to restructure and edit your play. This process gives playwrights a good opportunity to learn how to edit their work (as most of the playwriting classes are devoted to churning out first drafts), and also is an amazing chance to speak to working playwrights about how to work as a professional writer after college. In February, a director will be assigned to each writer by the DUS of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies (with the permission of the writer) and the director and the writer will choose Yale actors to read the play.
- Theater of Desire Cabaret: Deb Margolin, mentioned above as a playwriting and acting professor, started the Theater of Desire Cabaret last year. This “open mic night of theater” happens every other Monday from 6pm to 8pm at GPSCY (the graduate student bar, located next to the Theater Studies office on York Street). The idea of this cabaret is to provide Yale theater students with an opportunity to try new things–read new work, practice a monologue, cover themselves with peanut butter and pretend to be a pinecone–basically whatever you desire to perform. Deb brings donuts and coffee to every Theater of Desire, and the audience is made up of other performers. This is a great space to try out new work, to find actors to read for you, or to read your work yourself. It is a really safe space full of people who are really excited to see you succeed.
- Productions: There have not been enough full-scale productions of undergraduate work, but this can and should change. In order to do a production of you work, you should go about the same process as you would for any other show. Find a space, find a director, find actors, and just do it. The Yale acting community is a very talented and eager one, and you will certainly find actors who are excited about working on original plays.