Queen's University

Introduction to Playwriting [DRAM 251]

DRAM 251/3.0  FALL TERM                   

Introduction to Playwriting


INSTRUCTOR: John Lazarus (online) 

DRAM 251 A hands-on introduction to the craft and techniques of playwriting.

Learning Outcomes

After completing DRAM 251, students will be able to:

- write a play

– which includes being able to:

- construct a believable and engaging plot;

- write believable and engaging dialogue for multi-faceted characters;

- understand how the text of a play can conceal and reveal emotional subtext;

- exploit the supposed “limitations” of the live theatre to their advantage, using symbolism and theatrical techniques to convey a story;

- accept dramaturgical advice from others in a professional way, unencumbered by shame or defensiveness, and use it in their writing;

- work collaboratively with directors, actors, designers and stage managers in script workshops and in rehearsal.

- and understand, and assist in, the playwriting of others, which includes being able to:

- create, and recognize and analyze the inner plot structure of plays written by others;

- and critically analyze playwriting by others, and offer useful and coherent dramaturgical support.


As there appears to be no better way to learn to write plays than by writing plays, each student will write the first draft of an original one-act play of 15 to 30 minutes in duration, on a topic of the student’s choice, under the guidance of the instructor and with input from the instructor, the teaching assistant, and fellow students. Students will submit a few pages per week of their developing scripts, to be read by fellow students and instructors, who will then offer written critiques and suggestions. This means, of course, that each student is also expected to read some of their classmates’ work, and offer responses, including suggestions for improvement or further development. That is the central activity in this course. However, in addition, there will be weekly video lectures by Prof. Lazarus on such topics as building a plot; writing dialogue; understanding theme and message; working with such concepts of action, motivation and subtext; and expressively exploiting the limitations of the live stage. There will be Online Discussion Forums in which students are invited to respond to the ideas put forth in the video lectures. There will also be four other writing assignments which students are expected to complete during the term.

NOTE : Priority in the on-campus offering of this course given to students in a DRAM Plan.

LEARNING HOURS    120 (36S;84P)