For Playwrights: Virtual Workshops, Prompts, and More to Get You Writing Through COVID-19

Special Features   For Playwrights: Virtual Workshops, Prompts, and More to Get You Writing Through COVID-19
Take free workshops with Young Jean Lee and Lauren Gunderson, watch conversations about craft with Paula Vogel and Tarell Alvin McCraney, find your online community, and more.

Sick of hearing that Shakespeare wrote his best work during the plague? While you may have found yourself with more time to write, if what you're searching for is motivation and instruction, start by checking out these online workshops, exercises, and lectures from the best in the field.

And if you're looking to make an ongoing commitment, we also offer a collection of online playwriting classes you can sign up for now.

Workshops, lectures, and masterclasses you can watch or participate in for free:

Primary Stages’ Lunch-and-Learn Playwriting Prompts (60 mins)
Why not have lunch on Zoom with the playwrights of the Primary Stages Einhorn School of Performing Arts twice a week? Beginning March 27 at 1 PM ET, Adam Gwon, Daniel Talbott, Kate Moira Ryan, Erin Daley, and more will host hour-long sessions featuring writing prompts, guidance, and connection; after which, writers can continue to connect and chat online with each other on the platform. Sign up for the first session, with Ryan, here.

A Zoom Playwriting Workshop with Young Jean Lee (2hr 45 mins)
The Straight White Men playwright offered a virtual workshop based on the same method she uses to teach writing to students at Stanford University. Most of the workshop consists of writing exercises, in which students are given a prompt and a set amount of time to write. Examples include: “Take three minutes to imagine your dream audience member for the show and write down what they would ideally say about your show after they’ve seen it.” Throughout the class, Lee answers questions from students who participated in the live version. Watch it here.

Paula Vogel
Paula Vogel Guzman

Lauren Gunderson: On Structure (1 hr 50 mins)
The Book of Will and I and You playwright breaks down structure in this 2017 Marin Theatre playwriting workshop. Gunderson kicks off the first lesson by asking larger questions about “Why this story?” and even, “What is the point of art?” before offering a guide to structure in dramatic writing—looking at character arcs and plot, using examples from Hamlet, and much more. Watch it here.

YoungArts Master Class With Tarell Alvin McCraney and Joan Morgan (1 hr 5 mins)
Tarell Alvin McCraney, Oscar-winning writer, playwright, and chair of Yale’s playwriting program, chats with author Joan Morgan about what it means to be fearless in one's writing, music as inspiration, ideal working environments, and creative partnerships, among other topics. Watch it here.

A Playwriting Craft Conversation With Paula Vogel (60 mins)
A recording of the How I Learned to Drive playwright’s lecture at the 2016 Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Using Susanne Langer’s philosophy that artwork has a lifespan, Pulitzer Prize winner Vogel kicks things off with a discussion on the different stages of theatremaking, for both the writer and audience. Vogel applies Langer’s idea of the cycle of birth and re-birth to the writing process, a play’s form, and a writer’s voice, among other explorations. Watch it here.

Playwriting Workshop with Bryony Lavery (1 hr 40 mins)
The U.K.’s Royal Exchange Theatre offers a recording of its live streamed workshop with Frozen playwright Bryony Lavery and six students. The British playwright offers exercises aimed at sparking the students’ imaginations and generating ideas for the page. Examples include this Tolstoy-inspired prompt: “Think about a white elephant for 60 seconds,” followed by, “Now think of anything but a white elephant for 60 seconds.” The point of the exercise is to encourage the emergence of a writer’s voice. Watch it here.

Playwriting Workshop with Simon Stephens (1 hr 50 mins)
Tony-winning playwright Simon Stephens leads a playwriting workshop with the U.K.’s Royal Exchange Theatre. Stephens offers a number of writing tasks aimed at generating ideas and pages, including this memory-inspired prompt: “Write a series of sentences that start with the words ‘I remember…”, and draws from his own plays to illustrate specific notes on the craft. Watch it here.

Paid online classes you can sign up for now:

ESPA Online
ESPA, which boasts a faculty that includes Leah Nanako Winkler, Rogelio Martinez, Winter Miller, Joshua Harmon, and Stefanie Zadravec, among many more, will continue to offer online classes as an extension of its long-running writing curriculum. The spring lineup currently includes a First Draft class with Caridad Svich, with more to be announced. The school, which has fostered a vibrant community of writers, directors, and actors in Midtown, offers payment plans, TA-ships, and more to help students in financial need. Find out more here.

Winter Miller’s Online Classes
Never exceeding five students, In Darfur and No One Is Forgotten playwright Winter Miller hosts intimate playwriting workshops via Zoom and Google Hangouts. Class offerings include: Writing a First Draft; Revising a Draft; and The Play I'm Terrified to Write. One-on-one sessions held via FaceTime are also available. Send an email to, subject heading WRITERING for inquiries.

MasterClass Workshops
MasterClass offers a number of video classes with playwrights and screenwriters on its education platform. Featuring workbooks and interactive assignments, writers include Shonda Rhimes, David Mamet, Aaron Sorkin, Mira Nair, and Spike Lee. Users can access the entire collection for $15 a month here.

6 Extra Things to Help You on Your Way:

Read Pulitzer Prize winner Quiara Alegría Hudes’ moving key note, High Tide of Heartbreak—about her personal journey through playwriting and in the American theatre—originally delivered at the 2018 Association for Theatre in Higher Education conference.

Quiara Alegría Hudes
Quiara Alegría Hudes Joseph Moran

Check out the newly launched @theatrewithouttheater to see playwrights like Charly Evon Simpson read from their plays, sneak peeks at upcoming shows like Colette Robert's The Cotillion, micro-interviews with industry folks, and much more.

Subscribe to The Lioness for workplace advice, discussions on art, writing and theatre, and Coronavirus resources from playwright Abby Rosebrock.

Read and share plays and connect with writers you love on NewPlayExchange.

Sign up to the Dramatist Guild of America's email list for updates on community events, business advice during the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual prompts, and more. Last week the Guild sent members a quick writing assignment called The Coronavirus Play Project, asking for two character microplays under 150 words.

Read Sarah Ruhl's Letters from Max for a deeply personal look at the playwright's correspondence with her former student, the late poet Max Ritvo. Inside its pages you'll find insights into Ruhl and Ritvo's writing processes, discussions on art and life, and much more.

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