Joan MacLeod: Playwright
On Drama
 
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We Are All Learners, We Are All Creators

Drama is such a profoundly human art form.  In the end it is a real live person that delivers our text.  That end result impacts where I like to begin when teaching dramatic writing—in the body.  Dramatic writing students need to understand that the page is just a spring board, a starting point. 

Even in my first year course, which is primarily a lecture course on dramatic technique, I start by getting everyone on their feet. What a character is doing, feeling, how he or she is moving—all that effects speech and ultimately the script as a whole.

By the end of the first hour everyone has created a character and performed a monologue from that character’s point of view.  It’s a very quick and sometimes scary way to begin but it seems to work—whether you’re a grad student completing your final draft or a poet tackling drama for the first time or an eighteen year old fresh out of high school—it’s not so much a lesson in creating theatre as a real theatrical experience, an exchange between performer and audience.  It isn’t an imitation of how theatre works.  It is theatre.

I see my students, particularly in the workshop, as apprentices.   My job isn’t just to teach craft and technique or to simply be a dramaturge.  I want to give writing students a sense of what a writer’s life is and, in particular, what a life in the theatre is.   I also want to bring as much of that world as I can into the class room—through the way I approach student work, through ongoing critical analysis of new work from both theatre and film, through visits from professional writers and practitioners, through field trips outside the classroom to theatres and festivals, and through my own continuing evolution as a practicing theatre artist.