In my experience, the hardest part of playwriting is planning and outlining the story you want to tell. More so than many other writing forms, plays demand so much at once. They are meant to be performed, so playwrights expect their plays to be rhythmic, moving, entertaining, and visual. The words need to jive with directors, actors, designers, and producers. All these expectations can suck the fun out of a writing process, or leave writers feeling overwhelmed and unable to get started.
This class is meant to relieve the pressure of outlining by taking that step out completely. Instead, we will be working backwards. What if your writing told you what would happen in your play, and not the other way around?
The first half of this course will be for making a mess and generating materials that will help you discover setting, characters, and themes for a new play. In this part of the class, your writing may not look much like a play at all. That's OK! In the second half, through collaboration and hands-on workshops, you'll start to shape your generative writing into a play. By the end of the class, you will have a series of scenes and tools to keep your draft going strong. This class is perfect for writers new to playwriting as well as those with some experience with the form.
As reference, we will look at two very different plays with specific, expansive, and colorful worlds—I Now Pronounce by Tasha Gordon Solmon and Lottery Day by Ike Holter. We will also look at non-playwriting artworks including illustrations, poems, essays, and articles to fuel inspiration and get ideas on paper.
Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features.
- Learn how to create vivid and specific characters and settings that will drive your play.
- See how your play can lead you, rather than the other way around.
- Release self-judgment while world building.
- Understand the collaborative nature of playwriting.
- Learn some vocabulary and structure for a new play workshop.
- Detailed feedback from the instructor and classmates on your writing.
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Each week will be a combination of in-class and outside-class readings and writings. Outside of class, you should expect to spend 2-3 hours reading and writing.
Weeks 1-4: Character Creation and Worldbuilding
Weeks 5-7: Navigating Your World
Weeks 8-10: Scenewriting and Workshopping
Caroline Macon Fleischer is a theatremaker, writer, and editor. She has worked as a playwright and dramaturg with companies including Lookingglass Theatre Company, Chicago Dramatists, Chicago Children’s Theatre, and others. She is a longtime member of "Poems While You Wait," a team of poets that writes custom typewritten poetry on-demand. Her writing has been published by American Theatre Magazine, The Rumpus, MAKE Magazine, and more. Currently, she teaches playwriting at The Theatre School at DePaul University and lives in Chicago with her husband, son, and Border Collie.
"Caroline's editorial assessment was far and beyond what I had expected. The overview she provided of my work gave me the sense of inspiration I needed. Then she went chapter by chapter pointing out areas I could expand and draw the reader into the story. The edits she recommended were thoroughly explained."
"Caroline has been lovely to work with. She's communicative, responds quickly, and is clear with timeline and expectations. Her assessment was very thoughtful and detailed, and provided me with a lot of substantive recommendations (rather than vague suggestions). There were critiques, but they were delivered warmly and without harshness. A pleasure to work with all around!"
"Caro does a great job of keeping her class informal and uplifting. She always looks for the best in us. She is constantly there and gives us much time and energy. I felt like I could approach Caro about anything, and she'd be honest and supportive."
"Caro fosters a very supportive and hospitable environment for the incubation of work. Her structure for evaluating each other's work provides a wide range of ways we can improve, without feeling overly critical. Also, Caro is just very passionate about the subject matter, this class is a great fit for her."