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  • Inflexible Dynamo

Giving Yourself Every Advantage, or Shameless Book Plug

We all have different ideas about playwriting and development, and that's great. I've fielded more than a few questions about the workshopping aspect of allowing other folks to comment on your work. Some have told me it's invasive to have other people suggest things you can do to better your work. Well, yes, I agree: it's invasive. But rewriting your play for you (well-meant or not) is in no way a part of a developmental workshopping process (DWP).

A DWP is designed to alert the playwright to what other people--in the best case, theatrically educated people, but really anyone who's prone to analytic thinking--have to say. It's like being let in on what your audiences might really think. You want a happy, fulfilled audience, and a DWP can help you anticipate what your thousands of loyal fans might walk away with.

DWPs are definitely not about ceding artistic control. Not in the least. DWPs are all about playwrights endeavoring to get a wider, more advantageous perspective on their own work. Many of us work in a "locked room": solely and without collaboration. Therefore what's in the playwright's brain is only one point of view. And that is what is needed for the playwright to create a work that is purely from their own heart.

But no playwright can control the reactions or opinions of their audiences (sorry, Dave). All a DWP does is give the playwright a chance to see what reactions others might have. Whatever actions the playwright decides to take or not take based on this information is always 100% completely up to them. Plays, unlike some other forms of dramatic writing, are always completely the inviolable property of the creator. Playwrights can either act on the data they receive, or they can ignore it.

I wrote Workshopping the New Play: A Guide for Playwrights, Directors and Dramaturgs not because I wanted a book with a really long title but because I believe all playwrights should have the chance to hear what's in other people's brains when exposed to their work. It's an aid, a tool, a technique designed to give playwrights an extra advantage. No more, no less.

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