Playwriting (M.F.A. and Certificate)

Tarell Alvin McCraney, Chair

Anne Erbe, Associate Chair

Due to the current and inevitable future disruptions of COVID-19, neither Yale School of Drama nor Yale Repertory Theatre will produce a season of plays in 2020–2021. In service of our mission, the School of Drama is temporarily extending the M.F.A. and Certificate programs by one fully funded year of study. All sections pertaining to production work in this chapter of the bulletin refer to a typical production schedule and are not necessarily applicable for the 2020–2021 academic year.

Yale School of Drama’s Playwriting department seeks to engage artists who possess a singular voice and who can, with their command of language, set forth imaginative circumstances that entice audiences and challenge current forms. We are interested in students who are eager to learn and grow within a community of fellow artists and form lifelong artistic bonds.

As one of the oldest playwriting programs in the country, made up of practitioners and life-long learners, it is crucial that we identify the roots of racism in our structures and in our practices, interrogate our current models, and invest in a future led by students and instructors imagining systems/culture that do not lean on, celebrate, or uphold supremacy.

We begin those practices by asking three important questions:

Why are you writing? Playwrights must accept the heavy, sometimes lonely, task of bringing their intimate voice to the page. Now called to practice, students are asked to dig deeper into their imaginative responses and forge specific theatrical visions that urge staging. The aim of the program is to engage with students’ instincts and offer methods and means to keep exploration deep, personal, and sustainable while giving them room to innovate and to find ways toward practice unforeseen yet necessary for the creation of their work.

With whom are you making art? New work is at the center of the School of Drama, and students in the playwriting program are asked to keep a sharp and generous eye on what collaborators are bringing to bear. Playwrights learn the time-honored practice of collaboration and begin to find new ways of collective creation that evolve forms and strategies of theater making.

To whom are you writing? How is theater made with rather than for audiences and communities? The playwright is asked important questions about connection to audience and community: What portion of humanity are you illuminating or examining, and whom are you inviting to witness, examine, with you? The Yale School of Drama and by default the playwriting program seek to embrace the widest and most invigorating forms of live storytelling; how then do we also embrace the widest and most engaged audience?

Yale Cabaret

The Playwriting department believes that Yale Cabaret is an essential part of life and practice at Yale School of Drama and encourages all its students to participate in the Cabaret—not only as writers, but also as theater artists wearing a variety of hats. Playwrights must also balance that participation with the demands of their writing schedules and assigned rehearsals.

Plan of Study: Playwriting

Throughout the year, all playwrights are required to take part in the Hansberry Welcome (DRAM 7a), Fall Workshop (DRAM 47a), Spring Workshop (DRAM 47b), and The Playwrights’ Studio (DRAM 177a/b). The required sequence of courses is detailed below. Each term, a student is required to take at least one writing course and/or anchor class. More than one writing workshop/course may be taken. In addition, throughout the year, the playwriting department hosts guest classes and workshops with visiting artists.

Students are encouraged to take electives as audits beyond their required credit courses. Electives may be selected from other departments of Yale School of Drama or from Yale College with the approval of the chair. The department recommends playwriting students enroll in at least one course in Design and an additional course in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism during their three years at YSD. Among the electives for consideration are DRAM 102a/b, Scene Design; DRAM 141b; Law and the Arts; and DRAM 191b, Managing the Production Process. All plans of study must be approved by the chair.

Production

The four-year plan posits no admissions or production during the 2020–2021 cycle. Admissions may resume in spring of 2021–2022, and production in various steps after the 2020–2021 cycle.

Class of 2024

Required Sequence

Year one (2020–2021)
Course Subject
DRAM 3a/b Toward Anti-Racist Theater Practice
DRAM 6a/b Survey of Theater and Drama
DRAM 7a Hansberry Welcome
DRAM 17a/b First-Year Anchor Class
DRAM 37a The Process for Playwrights: Impossible Theater
DRAM 47a Fall Workshop: Lessons from My Teachers
DRAM 47b Spring Workshop: Readings with Actors
DRAM 177a/b The Playwrights’ Studio
DRAM 344b Advanced Professional Projection Design
Year two (2021–2022)
Course Subject
DRAM 7a Hansberry Welcome
DRAM 17a First-Year Anchor Class (Tutorial)
DRAM 21a Founding Visions
DRAM 47a Fall Workshop
DRAM 47b Spring Workshop
DRAM 50a The Collaborative Process
DRAM 51b New Play Lab
DRAM 87b Serial Television and Series Writing
DRAM 97a Industry Practice I
DRAM 147a Writing for the Ensemble
DRAM 163b Text Analysis I
DRAM 177a/b The Playwrights’ Studio
DRAM 187b Features: Adaptations
Year three (2022–2023)
Course Subject
DRAM 7a Hansberry Welcome
DRAM 27a/b Second-Year Anchor Class
DRAM 37a The Production Process for Playwrights
DRAM 47a Fall Workshop
DRAM 47b Spring Workshop
DRAM 67b Libretto Writing for Musical Theater
DRAM 87b Serial Television and Series Writing
DRAM 177a/b The Playwrights’ Studio
DRAM 187b Features: Adaptations
DRAM 217a Langston Hughes Tutorial
DRAM 248a Designers and Directors Workshop I
DRAM 350b The Choreographic Imagination
Year four (2023–2024)
Course Subject
DRAM 7a Hansberry Welcome
DRAM 37a/b The Production Process for Playwrights
DRAM 47a Fall Workshop
DRAM 47b Spring Workshop
DRAM 66a Lyric Writing for Musical Theater
DRAM 87b Serial Television and Series Writing
DRAM 97b Industry Practice II
DRAM 177a/b The Playwrights’ Studio
DRAM 207a Draft to Draft
DRAM 207b Carlotta Tutorial
DRAM 317a Fall Tutorial III
DRAM 327b Spring Tutorial

Class of 2023

Required Sequence

Year two (2020–2021)
Course Subject
DRAM 3a/b Toward Anti-Racist Theater Practice
DRAM 7a Hansberry Welcome
DRAM 27a Second-Year Anchor Class
DRAM 37b The Process for Playwrights: New Orleans Godot
DRAM 47a Fall Workshop: Lessons from My Teachers
DRAM 47b Spring Workshop: Readings with Actors
DRAM 67b Libretto Writing for Musical Theater
DRAM 177a/b The Playwrights’ Studio
DRAM 187b Features: Adaptations
DRAM 337b Theater and God
Year three (2021–2022)
Course Subject
DRAM 7a Hansberry Welcome
DRAM 27b Second-Year Anchor Class
DRAM 37a The Production Process for Playwrights
DRAM 47a Fall Workshop
DRAM 47b Spring Workshop
DRAM 87b Serial Television and Series Writing
DRAM 177a/b The Playwrights’ Studio
DRAM 187b Features
DRAM 217a Langston Hughes Tutorial
DRAM 248a Designers and Directors Workshop I
DRAM 350b The Choreographic Imagination
Year four (2022–2023)
Course Subject
DRAM 7a Hansberry Welcome
DRAM 37a/b The Production Process for Playwrights
DRAM 47a Fall Workshop
DRAM 47b Spring Workshop
DRAM 66a Lyric Writing for Musical Theater
DRAM 87b Serial Television and Series Writing
DRAM 97b Industry Practice II
DRAM 177a/b The Playwrights’ Studio
DRAM 207a Draft to Draft
DRAM 207b Carlotta Tutorial
DRAM 317a Fall Tutorial III
DRAM 327b Spring Tutorial

Class of 2022

Required Sequence

Year three (2020–2021)
Course Subject
DRAM 3a/b Toward Anti-Racist Theater Practice
DRAM 7a Hansberry Welcome
DRAM 47b Spring Workshop: Readings with Actors
DRAM 66a Lyric Writing for Musical Theater
DRAM 177a/b The Playwrights’ Studio
DRAM 207a Draft to Draft: Teach What You Write
DRAM 317a Fall Tutorial III
DRAM 327b Spring Tutorial
Year four (2021–2022)
Course Subject
DRAM 7a Hansberry Welcome
DRAM 37a/b The Production Process for Playwrights
DRAM 47a Fall Workshop
DRAM 47b Spring Workshop
DRAM 87b Serial Television and Series Writing
DRAM 97b Industry Practice II
DRAM 177a/b The Playwrights’ Studio
DRAM 207a Draft to Draft
DRAM 207b Carlotta Tutorial
DRAM 317a Fall Tutorial III
DRAM 327b Spring Tutorial

Courses of Instruction

DRAM 3a/b, Toward Anti-Racist Theater Practice Required of all playwrights, this course meets both within individual departments and across disciplines, with students and faculty members as fellow learners, using readings, viewings, and discussions in pursuit of these goals: to identify the roots and branches of racism and white supremacy in the structures and practices of theater making in the United States, including at Yale School of Drama and Yale Repertory Theatre; to interrogate where the practices do harm and hinder; and to invest in the future by inviting students and faculty to imagine and uplift systems and cultures that do not depend upon or promote supremacy, to build a more just and equitable field. Subtitling the course “New Visions” in Playwriting, and using the text All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks, the department seeks to forecast and create a field that works from an ethic of love.

DRAM 6a/b, Survey of Theater and Drama Required of first-year students. See description under Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism.

DRAM 7a, Hansberry Welcome A celebratory welcome of the Playwriting department back to campus and the YSD hearth. Hansberry’s seminal work, A Raisin in the Sun, was based on the spirit of place and home; this three-day intensive, which includes seminar lunches and readings, is required of all playwrights. Some activities are open to students in other departments and affinity groups; please check with the associate chair for details. Anne Erbe

DRAM 8a/b, The Artist as Citizen This course offers theater artists and managers a forum for reading, writing, and discussion, which may be guided or self-directed. Each student has an opportunity to consider personal responsibility to collaborators, the audience, and the broader society, with specific reference to each artist’s personal history and identity. What ethical and practical frameworks should shape our art form and its professional sphere? How might they align with personal practice and with value systems of the wider world? With an individual’s culture of origin? Or with the culture(s) in which we choose to work? What are the obligations and privileges of national and/or global citizenship? How can love and joy be centered when the artist embraces the role of citizen? This course is offered in person in both fall and spring terms and may be taken no more than eight times during a student’s enrollment. James Bundy

DRAM 17a, First-Year Anchor Class/Tutorial Required of Class of 2024 playwrights. Students do a deep dive into the writers and works that influence their own, read a variety of plays and performance theory, participate in discussion, complete regular writing prompts, and share works in progress working on drafts of their Langston Hughes plays. In year two of the course, tutorial, they meet with the instructor about progress on their full-length drafts. Jackie Sibblies-Drury

DRAM 17b, First-Year Anchor Class Required of Class of 2024 playwrights. Students engage in origin storytelling by looking at performance and storytelling practices from their origin points. Over the term students are asked to study, engage, and create works that are shaped by their origin points. Tarell Alvin McCraney

[DRAM 21a, Founding Visions Required of the Class of 2024 in the second year. See description under Theater Management. Not offered in 2020–2021]

DRAM 27a, Second-Year Anchor Class Required of Class of 2023 playwrights. Taught in New Haven, this course begins with a deep dive into writers outside of the playwright’s field of vision or influence. Students are expected to use the tools modeled in the sections to craft new material, drafts in consideration for the Carlotta Festival of New Plays. Tarell Alvin McCraney

[DRAM 27b, Second-Year Anchor Class Required of Class of 2023 playwrights. This course is taught in New York City and is expected to take place in spring 2022. The class includes visits to productions, rehearsals, and meetings with theater professionals, as well as discussion of assigned weekly writing. This course is an immersion in current industry methods and allows students to enhance their own work, drafts in consideration for the Carlotta Festival of New Plays. Not offered in 2020–2021]

DRAM 37a, The Process for Playwrights: Impossible Theater A module on experiments in paper theater, utopian theater, and impossible theater—theaters that enact their work first and foremost in the imagination of their creators and their publics. This course looks at how an understanding of the production can inform the playwright’s work and investigates how plays in production shape publics and public culture. Open to nondepartmental students. Anne Erbe

DRAM 37b, The Process for Playwrights: Symposium on Paul Chan’s Waiting for Godot in New Orleans An extended look at the dramaturgy of the play, the play-in-production, and the years-long event that was Paul Chan’s Waiting for Godot in New Orleans. We examine the structure and dramaturgy of Beckett’s play, Classical Theater of Harlem’s production of Waiting for Godot, and Paul Chan’s transposition of this production to environmental settings in New Orleans, post-Katrina: looking at the larger social, economic, and pedagogical framework of the project and raising questions of art and ethics in a time of disaster, as well as how to view the potential scope and scale of an artist’s work. Anne Erbe

[DRAM 37a/b, The Production Process for Playwrights A practical and conceptual examination of new plays in production, this course looks at how an understanding of the production process can inform the playwright’s work and investigates how plays in production shape publics and public culture. Includes seminars on building relationships with collaborators, rehearsal room dynamics, production timelines, and editing throughout the process. Not offered in 2020–2021]

DRAM 47a, Fall Workshop: Lessons from My Teachers Required of incoming and second-year playwrights, this course explores different ways of teaching playwriting, as taught to Sarah Ruhl by five teachers. It assumes there is no single way to teach playwriting, and it assumes that the ancestors are endlessly valuable as we move the theatrical conversation forward. We discuss the playwright teacher’s work as a writer and as a teacher, including reading writing of the teachers’ former students. This class is offered as an elective to third-year playwrights. Sarah Ruhl

DRAM 47b, Spring Workshop: Readings with Actors Required of all playwrights. Readings, discussion, and development of works in progress. Working with a casting director, writers select actors for their plays. Each writer leads the room in an exploration of an early draft of a full-length play. Anne Erbe

[DRAM 50a, The Collaborative Process See description under Directing. Not offered in 2020–2021]

[DRAM 51b, New Play Lab First-year actors, directors, dramaturgs, and playwrights form three small companies and workshop a new play by a first-year playwright. Each one-act play is given three weeks of rehearsal. Through this process, playwrights, dramaturgs, directors, and actors develop the art of delving into the heart of a new play so that it can be truthfully realized in performance. Not offered in 2020–2021]

DRAM 66a/THST 414a, Lyric Writing for Musical Theater A seminar in lyric writing for the stage. Required of second-year playwrights. Open to nondepartmental students and undergraduates. Limited enrollment. Michael Korie

DRAM 67b/THST 412b, Libretto Writing for Musical Theater This course combines practical instruction in book writing for musical theater with a close reading of historical and contemporary examples from the genre. Required of second-year playwrights. Open to nondepartmental students and undergraduates with prior permission of the instructor. Limited enrollment. Marsha Norman

[DRAM 87b, Serial Television and Series Writing An intensive practicum of screenwriting for second- and third-year playwrights. Not offered in 2020–2021]

[DRAM 97a, Industry Practice I A module course for students. Topics include protocols for submissions to professional theaters, prizes, and grants; survey of new play dramaturgy models and American new play development programs; and ongoing career strategies. Not offered in 2020–2021]

[DRAM 97b, Industry Practice II A module course for students about to make their way into the industry. This seminar covers refresher topics, including protocols for submitting scripts to professional theaters and agents, writing funding proposals, and ongoing career strategies. Not offered in 2020–2021]

[DRAM 147a, Writing for the Ensemble A seminar for playwrights, directors, and dramaturgs. It explores the history and practice of writing plays for ensemble-based theater companies. Not offered in 2020–2021]

[DRAM 163b, Text Analysis I See description under Acting. Not offered in 2020–2021]

DRAM 177a/b, The Playwrights’ Studio Required of all Playwriting students. A weekly salon with the Playwriting chair Tarell Alvin McCraney

DRAM 187b, Features: Adaptations A reading and writing course around the idea of adaptation, collisions, genre, and transformation. We read plays by black playwrights that are specifically in dialogue with another play, film, or fable. What is it to dismantle, adapt, be in dialogue with, transform, be in conversation with another work of art? What is the position of the writer with regard to the other work of art? Sarah Ruhl

DRAM 207a, Draft to Draft: Teach What You Write A nine-week module course required of all third-year playwrights to focus on teaching what writers have learned to specific community learning centers. This course is designed to help students gain perspective on what to expect upon graduating and how to prepare for instruction and continuing education after graduation. Majkin Holmquist

[DRAM 207b, Carlotta Tutorial An eight-week module course required of all playwrights to discuss and/or explore specific topics and rehearsal challenges around the Carlotta Festival of New Plays. This course allows teams of actors, designers, directors, dramaturgs, playwrights, stage managers, and theater managers to strategize ways to engage particularly powerful and time-consuming issues ranging from representation to intimacy on stage. The hope is that the team leaves with a head start on how to use their limited time and resources to investigate the text fully in rehearsal. Not offered in 2020–2021]

[DRAM 217a, Langston Hughes Tutorial A four-session modular course required of all second-year playwrights to discuss and/or explore specific topics and rehearsal challenges in Langston Hughes Festival plays. This course allows the teams of actors, directors, dramaturgs, playwrights, and stage managers working in the festival to strategize ways to engage particularly powerful and time-consuming issues ranging from representation to intimacy on stage. The hope is that the team leaves with a head start on how to use their limited time and resources to investigate the text fully. Not offered in 2020–2021]

[DRAM 234a/b, Visual Storytelling See description under Projection Design. Not offered in 2020–2021]

DRAM 248a, Sound Designers and Directors Workshop I See description under Sound Design.

DRAM 317a, Fall Tutorial III A weekly 1–3-hour session scheduled with the instructor in New Haven to discuss and explore Carlotta Festival plays. Required of all third-year playwrights. Tarell Alvin McCraney

DRAM 327b, Spring Tutorial A weekly 1–3-hour session scheduled with the instructor in New Haven to discuss and explore Carlotta Festival plays. Amy Herzog

DRAM 337b, Theater and God Required of second-year playwrights. Students study recent plays that contemplate God and discuss how different playwrights allow spirituality into their work, either as a subject or a structure. What makes the theater uniquely suited to mystical experience? We consider the history of religion in theatrical practice (e.g., medieval European mystery and morality plays and West African storytelling traditions) and how the mainstream American theater has become associated with the secular/profane. Students each teach one class, choosing a contemporary American play that they think answers the question, “Where do you find God in our dramatic literature?” Amy Herzog

DRAM 344b, Advanced Professional Projection Design See description under Projection Design.

[DRAM 350b, The Choreographic Imagination This course exposes students to choreographic practices in order to expand the possibilities for what can be imagined and thus composed in theater. We explore means of generating movement, activating space, manipulating timing and dynamic, effectively composing individual and group activity, and juxtaposing movement and language. Practical investigations in class develop physical instincts and movement literacy. No prior experience with dance required—merely openness to learning in motion. Required of all second-year playwrights. Not offered in 2020–2021]