I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being. – Oscar Wilde
Today I’m teaching playwriting workshops at a district event of the Sears Drama Festival. In my experience, the best way to introduce playwriting is in sections and steps: today we work on the character step, then conflict, and then maybe tomorrow some dialogue. If you approach playwriting with a capital “P” and in big letters – PLAYWRITING – it can get overwhelming. The big picture is always overwhelming, isn’t it? And being overwhelmed can lead a young writer just starting out into thinking they suck, have no talent, and should never write again. My job is to try and circumvent those kind of thoughts. Sections and steps.
Whatever step I happen to be teaching, I always try to throw in the concept of audience. The audience is what makes theatre unique. The audience is part of the theatrical experience. Playwrights must always consider the audience when they write. Playwright must be able to answer the question: “What do I want the audience to take away from my play?”
Most young writers never consider the audience. They’re getting out their feelings, their thoughts, it’s a one-to-one experience. Which is completely valid. For awhile.
I tell students that the theatre experience is a circle. Human beings sharing what it’s like to be a human being – round and round it goes. Your play goes out in the audience, the audience reacts sending their energy back onto the stage, which gets picked up by the actors who in turn continue to send their energy out into the audience. And so on. Sounds rather ooky-spooky, artsy-fartsy, to be sure, but it’s true. It’s what defines theatre. It’s what makes me love theatre more than any other form. It’s what makes me hate theatre when the audience doesn’t respond.
If you are writing, what’s your answer to the question? What do you want the audience to take away from your play?