Chicago Dramatists Classes

Screenwriting Essentials 1:

Turn your idea into a story: write for the big screen.

You have a great idea for a movie. It’s time to make it real and turn it into a powerful script. Take your first step with “Screenwriting Essentials 1”. Led by Mary Ruth Clarke, the original screenwriter of Meet the Parents, you will learn the ins and outs of the screenwriting craft. You will learn how to write dynamic and striking images that leap off the page and leave a glowing, searing image in the mind. Develop your hook, your pitch, your log line, and learn all of the elements that bring a screenplay to life. Custom fit to the students in the room, large portions of the class will be devoted to discussing the individual ideas, stories, and scenes of the participating writers. This class is for you and your story; it’s here to help you write your film. Mary Ruth Clarke helps students focus on how exactly to bring their ideas and their stories to life—how to infuse vitality and light into their projects.
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Musical Theatre: The Secret Life of the American Musical

Add to the canon of great American Musicals. Led by award-winning musical theatre writer Cheryl Coons, “Musical Theatre: the Secret Life of the American Musical,” guides students through the rich inner workings of the American Musical. Dedicated to providing a safe space, where students are encouraged to grow, take risks, and sow the seeds of their musical talents, students learn the craftsmanship necessary to write a full-fledged piece of their own. By studying the greats—from Gypsy, to Dear Evan Hansen, to Hamilton—students gain insight into the fundamentals of the form, and use this as a bedrock to find and foster their own unique theatrical voices. This is then coupled with ample opportunities for writers to share work-in-process, helping students discover how to fashion music and lyrics that pierce right to the heart of any audience.

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Political Or Social Play

Fight for change; find your voice.
“Writing the Political or Social Play”
We are living in a turbulent and vital time, and the world feels very much on the razor’s edge of change. Led by esteemed Teacher Douglas Post, “Writing the Political or Social Play” tackles the political climate we live in, head-on. A safe, inclusive space, Post’s class is designed specifically to engage the playwrights around the table, and begs the question: What do you (as a playwright and as a person) connect to viscerally? What cause stirs in you? Students will study the greats of political theater—from Lorraine Hansberry to Caryl Churchill to August Wilson— and will bring in pages of their own to be read aloud and discussed at each and every class. “Writing the Political or Social Play” encourages writers to take political action through their writing, so that we all can engage with the world, with our hands ready and our eyes open.

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Scene Shop

Hone your next full-length play to a razor’s edge.

Led by venerable instructor Will Dunne, author of The Dramatic Writer’s Companion, “Scene Shop” is a peer-based workshop designed to help experienced playwrights in search of guidance as they navigate the new terrain of their latest play.

Each self-contained weekly session is tailored to the individual needs of workshop members and offers character, scene, and story tools to help them craft the specific play they are working on right now. Each session also comes equipped with professional actors who read scenes that the writers bring from home so they can hear their work off the page and get comments from the group. The goal is always to enrich the strengths of the writers and help them craft the strongest play possible in a safe, constructive setting.

Twice a year, workshop members become eligible to present their work publicly in the Scene Shop Showcase in which selected excerpts from plays in progress receive staged readings in the Russ Tutterow Theater. Helmed by professional directors and actors, this event allows playwrights to see their work come to life in front of an audience.

Now in its 12th year at Chicago Dramatists, Scene Shop is an ongoing resource that doesn’t have to end when the quarter does. Many long-term members use the workshop regularly to write and revise their scripts. A choice of three weekly sessions is available: Thursday evenings, Saturday mornings, or Saturday afternoons.
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