Livin Tired by Marcus Gardley, SFSU One Act Festival

Below is a sampling of the courses offered in the playwriting program at San Francisco State. In addition, students have the opportunty to take a wide variety of creative writing courses, covering fiction, poetry, cross-genre, teaching, and more. The University's Theatre Department also offers numerous courses that might be of interest to the playwright.

To learn more about the B.A., M.A. and M.F.A. programs, click here

Playwriting Course Sampling
(Undergraduate courses are 300-699, Graduate course are 700 and above)

CW 510/810 - Plays: Read and View
"Still another suggestion: go to the theatre now and then and watch the stage." - Anton Chekov to A.P. Chekov, May 8, 1889. Taking our cue from Chekov we'll go "watch the stage" in this process seminar. From the zany world of Charles Ludlam to Mamet's re-imagining of the Faust story we'll look at how a play is translated from the page to the stage. Our first step will be to the study the text looking at plot, story, structure, theatrical syntax, character, spectacle and the world of the play; then move on to attend a local production or view a performance video. We'll look at the implications of production choices (how they illuminate or obscure the text), discuss the "event" driven nature of the theatre, and expand our own theatrical "memories." We'll use these discussions and outings as triggers for our own creative and critical writing.

CW 513 - Craft of Playwriting
This course focuses on the basic craft elemnts of playwriting: scene, story, dialogue, character and conflict. Lectures supplemented by discussions of student and professional writing.

CW 609/809 - Directed Writing
This is an individual study class in which you work on your writing with the instructor at times to be arranged between the two of you. You should contact the instructor you'd like to work with the semester before you want to take the class. The Creative Writing Office can tell you who will teach this course, which instructors teach which genres (fiction, poetry, or playwriting) and how to contact the instructors.

CW 825 - Playwright's Theater Workshop (GreenHouse)
In this workshop course we'll engage with the process of moving a play from "the page to the stage." Working with actors and directors from the Bay Area theatre community we will produce staged readings of three full-length play s and a collection of shorter works. All readings will be presented at Teatro de la Experanza. Through a collaborative rehearsal period, playwrights will interact with their play in motion, gaining information for further entry into the work. A series of generative and analytic exercises will be assigned through the course of the semester. A final production journal will include rehearsal notes, play synopsis, image equations, and formatted script.

CW 855 - M.F.A. Workshop in Playwriting
Students will be expected to concentrate on revision of a play, on bringing work to a finished state with specific attention to scene objective, plot, and act design. Writing excercises focus on craft elements: building beats, dialogue, character, and conflict. Methods of critique are explored for class presentations.

CW 856 - M.F.A. Workshop in Short Plays
In this course we'll explore plays and playwrighting as an active form of theatre. Wešll shrink the distance between the written word and the acted word by putting the work we create directly on its feet. In this way we'll be able to turn our attention not only to the solitary writing experience, but also to the writer's experience in the artistic interactions that bring plays to theatrical life.

We'll concentrate on short plays and scenes in order to focus our attention on the fundamental building blocks of plays and the theatrical experience; and we'll work in an improvisational and free-wheeling atmosphere that is conducive to risk-taking and stylistic experimentation.

In addition, this course is a practicum in dramaturgy, as it applies to the development of original plays. We'll get acquainted with the style of play evaluation and critique employed by this program ­ a method grounded in a writeršs perspective, and emphasizing the ability to be useful and creative rather than critical. As we work through the semester we'll consider our approach in a step by step manner that can serve as a model for your work together in the program, and as a basis for your work outside of the program. We'll also explore the nature of play development itself, in terms of both how itšs currently practiced and how we think it ought to be practiced.

CW 882 - Architectonics of the Play
Architectonics: Of or pertaining to construction. In this MFA Creative Process course we delve into the "construction" of a variety of contemporary plays. How does the theme of a play help determine its construction? What are the organizing images the playwright is employing? What is the relationship, the dialogue, between the themes and images and the architecture of the play? We'll start with a discussion of traditional dramatic structure and then cast our net in ever widening circles looking at science, memory, music, poetry and architecture as possible structural examples. Writers under consideration include: Wilde, Pinter, Churchill, Suzan Lori-Parks, Len Jenkins and Jose Rivera. Preference will be given to MFA playwriting students.

CW 882 - Playwriting from a Queer Perspective
In this playwriting process class we will investigate what it means to write from a "Queer" perspective. Jill Dolan writes that "Queer skids on the slipperiness of its investments, its identities, it human composition, the multifacetedness of its interventions in culture." Eschewing an historical review we will study a variety of contemporary playwrights through the frame of four triangulations: Love/Sex/Desire, Body/History/Witness, Gender/Butch:Femme/Camp, and Coded/Coming Out/Assimilation. These triangulations will frame our reading of texts and our own writing. Two group presentations, informed by our work, will be required over the course of the semester. Writers under consideration include Richard Greenberg, Charles Ludlam, Claire Chafee, Kate Bornstein, Jonathan Harvey, Chay Yew, Holly Hughes, Tim Miller, The Five Lesbian Brothers, and Paula Vogel. The course is limited to 12 students with preference given to MFA playwriting candidates.
More Curriculum Info
The Creative Writing Academic Programs

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"And oddly enough, everything starts with a word." Pablo Neruda