The Playwriting and Screenwriting Program: Courses

Playwriting courses are offered by the Conservatory of Theatre Arts. Screenwriting courses are offered by the School of Film and Media Studies.

Playwriting I
DWR 1000
/ 4 credits / Fall
An introduction to the basic techniques of writing for the stage, beginning with the story. Multiple short writing assignments emphasize character, plot, diction, subtext, and meaning. They include writing from personal experience, adapting a short story and a classical play, and using a current news story as inspiration. Students discuss Aristotle’s elements as they pertain to the scene, apply basic elements of the craft, read several short plays, and attend performances on campus and in New York City.

Screenwriting I
DWR 1010
/ 4 credits / Fall
An introduction to the basic techniques of writing for the screen, beginning with the story. The elements of the story, including character, plot, theme, image, and voice, are analyzed. Students learn the proper screenplay format, write short assignments weekly, and analyze a classic screenplay and its realization in film in their study of screenplay structure.

Hollywood and the Writer
DWR 1230
/ 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
Explores the role of the writer in today’s Hollywood. Through screenwriting and other assignments and lectures, this course introduces basic screenwriting ideas and techniques while covering some of the business concepts that Hollywood is based upon.

Plays and Playgoing
DWR 1250
/ 4 credits / Spring
What makes a play alive, provocative, and vital? Using classics of dramatic literature as well as plays that are new to the stage, students read and examine the ideas and mechanics of the play. An examination of some key texts and theories, including Aristotle’s Poetics, Brecht’s Epic Theatre, Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty, and Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed lead to a fresh look at the old and the new. Students attend plays on campus and in New York City, and meet some of today’s leading theatre artists.

Introduction to Cinema Studies and II
CIN 1500
and 1510 Refer to
Cinema Studies Courses (School of Film and Media Studies) for description.

Screenwriting II: Adaptation
DWR 2000
/ 4 credits / Spring
Using an existing short piece of fiction, students delineate the elements of the story, experiencing their importance and power; translate the short story into a screenplay for a narrative film; and complete two drafts of a 25-page screenplay. In the process, they learn the techniques of adaptation for the screen and a deeper level of dramatic story structure. Emphasis is on discovering the dramatic character when evaluating the merits of a particular adaptation, which extends to evaluating one’s own ideas for a screenplay; introducing genre and story types; and research as a dramatist’s fundamental tool.
Prerequisite: DWR 1010

Playwriting II
DWR 2010
/ 4 credits / Fall
Building on DWR 1000, students read and attend new plays, develop in-class writing exercises, and then write and revise a 30-page play.
Prerequisite: DWR 1000

Shakespeare Then and Now
THP 2205
Refer to Theatre and Performance Courses for description.

The Collaborative Process
DWR 2500
/ 3 credits / Spring
Dramatic writing cannot be effective without an understanding of the collaborative process. Students direct, act, and write in this course, which is taught by a professional theatre director. Each student directs a scene from dramatic literature, writes scenes to be directed and acted by fellow classmates, learns some fundamental exercises for the actor, and develops the beginning vocabulary and techniques of the theatre director.

Theatre Histories I and II
THP 2885
and 2890 Refer to Theatre and Performance Courses for description.

Screenwriting III
DWR 3000
/ 4 credits / Fall
An introduction to full-length narrative and the three-act structure employed by Hollywood. The art and craft of screenwriting are explored through analysis and developing, writing, and rewriting a screenplay (30 to 40 pages). Techniques covered include overlapping dialogue, establishing shots, voice-over, montages, and creating tension and payoff. The business of the screenwriter, how to pitch, and finding work/selling a screenplay are also covered.
Prerequisite: DWR 2000 or permission of instructor

The Writer and the Documentary
DWR 3120
/ 4 credits / Spring
Documentary films are screened and analyzed in class. Field assignments include researching and conducting interviews; written assignments include narration exercises, documentary summaries, and scripts. Students write and produce a short documentary and learn the basics of Final Cut Pro editing software.
Prerequisite: DWR 1010 and CIN 1500

Playwriting III
DWR 3200
/ 4 credits / Spring
Students submit plays to be developed in a reading series with actors and a director. Each class is devoted to one play—rehearsed by the actors and director, read for the class, and discussed by all. The collaborative process and vocabulary of constructive criticism are developed. Writers revise their plays during the semester and actors develop crucial play-reading techniques and flexibility.
Prerequisite: DWR 2010 or permission of instructor

Writers’ Scene Workshop
DWR 3230
/ 4 credits / Fall
Explores the fine anatomy of writing the scene, with emphasis on writers looking at their work from the perspective of the director and on working with actors. Students write and direct a dramatic scene in digital video and learn to produce their video, using Final Cut Pro editing software and the basics of camera/lighting techniques.
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor

Writing for Television
DWR 3300
/ 4 credits / Spring
Screenings and discussion of various forms of the medium, including the sitcom, television movies, and documentary and experimental forms. Students write a script that is critiqued in class and rewritten, with concentration on the world of the story, tone, character, style, dramatic tension, pacing, and evolving narrative.
Prerequisite: DWR 1010 or permission of instructor

Documentary Theatre: Performing Real Life
DWR 3500
Refer to THP 3500 in Theatre and Performance Courses for description.

Adapting Literature for Performance
THP 3725
Refer to Theatre and Performance Courses for description.

Junior Seminar in Playwriting and Screenwriting
DWR 3880
/ 4 credits / Spring
Students develop ideas for their senior project—a play or screenplay. They research, develop, and present their scenarios to the class for response and critique.
Prerequisite: DWR 2000 and 2010; CIN 1500 or 1510; THP 2885 or 2890; and permission of instructor

Making New Plays
DWR 4150
/ 3 credits / Spring
Writers and actors learn tools for working together on new plays. Taught by a playwright and a director, the class studies different collaborative models, including devised theatre, and explores communication strategies for working through creative friction. The course culminates in a final showcase on campus.
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor

Senior Colloquium in Playwriting and Screenwriting
DWR 4880
/ 2 credits / Fall
During the solitary pursuit of writing their first full-length play or screenplay, students come together regularly to share in-process work for feedback and critique. A completion schedule is created, and assignments are given to aid in their scriptwriting discovery process.
Prerequisite: DWR 3880

Senior Project: Playwriting/Screenwriting
DWR 4990
/ 4 credits (per semester) / Every year
The two-semester culminating project for playwriting and screenwriting majors. In the fall, students meet regularly with their mentor and write an outline and rough draft of a full-length stage play or screenplay, culminating in a reading of the draft. The spring semester is devoted to a significant rewrite of the play or screenplay under the guidance of the mentor. This work is expected to be at a professional level.
Prerequisite: for a playwriting senior project, DWR 2010 and THP 2885; for a screenwriting senior project, CIN 1510 and DWR 2000; for a television senior project, DWR 3300 and two DWR electives

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