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How Do I Become a Playwright?

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  • Written By: Alan Rankin
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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The steps to become a playwright are different from those involved in other writing careers. Playwrights, unlike most other writers, including screenwriters, cannot do all their work in isolation and expect the resulting play to be successful. Stage actors and directors can offer insights to make a play more viable for live performance. Luckily, there are many programs available to help the aspiring writer who wants become a playwright. In many cases, however, the playwright-to-be may have to rely on personal contacts and local theatre groups for support.

Stage drama is the oldest of the dramatic arts, with the exception of narrative poetry. It originated with the ancient Greek playwrights, such as Sophocles and Aristophanes. Many of the dramatic concepts created by these early writers are still in use in modern times. Stage drama was once the most popular form of entertainment, and the British playwright William Shakespeare is considered the greatest writer in history. In modern times, even with competition from various forms of popular media, stage drama is still a thriving industry, with large and small theatre companies active around the world.

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If you want to become a playwright, start by watching and reading as many plays as you can. Make note of your favorite plays and writers and focus on what draws you to them; these may provide guidance for your own writing. If you are a student, take appropriate courses, and not just in creative writing. Acting, directing, and theatre technical classes will help you understand the tasks of those who will one day produce and perform your plays. If you are not in school, seek out local theatre companies and volunteer; aside from providing valuable professional contacts, this will give you a feel for the demands of theatrical production.

New York City and London are the world centers of theatrical production, but competition is fierce, and entry can be difficult for those who are not already established. Many writers recommend a local start for anyone trying to become a playwright. Find actors and directors at school or local theatre groups and start your own drama company. Live readings and feedback from these performers will help you develop your play into a viable production. Early on, you will make mistakes, as all writers do, but they will be seen only by your co-workers and perhaps small local audiences, not by influential agents or producers.

Of course, the most important step to become a playwright is to write. Pay attention to feedback, either from professionals or friends and family, and rewrite often. In the United States, the Dramatists Guild offers fellowships for beginning playwrights; similar programs exist in other countries. Once your work has been performed locally and successfully a few times, consider relocating to New York, London, or another big city with a thriving stage drama community. Establish a personal network with other stage professionals, use the Internet as a resource for connection and promotion, and always keep writing.

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