Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Chelsea Rep Lab Playwriting Classes

My colleagues and I at Chelsea Rep Lab have been working on expanding our program. In the spring, we will offer a beginning class on Sunday afternoons, and an advanced class every other Monday night. We are quite excited about it. Because we're connected to an acting school (The Acting Studio), every student gets to go through the rehearsal process with actors and a director.
One of my former students, Gregory Cohan, has just written me about his experience in the beginning and advanced classes this year:
"When Anne came to one of the monthly Labs do to give a crash-course in playwriting it opened up a whole new perspective. I remember after doing some writing exercises to get our pens to the paper, Anne was running out of time and said something to the extent of, "If anything, taking a playwriting class will make you a stronger actor." I wanted to be a stronger actor, and it just turned out I really liked to write. One of my favorite components of Anne's class was our reading assignments. We were given plays to read, some one-acts and even some full lengths (depending on the class level) and we sat around and broke them down: protagonist v. antagonist, themes, dramatic images, rhythm, etc... It made you look at pieces of work differently. This carried over into our own work as playwrights. We would read our plays or scenes in class, and it was very similar to how an actor might approach a scene that they're given in a class: what does "A" want? What' does "C" want? "A" wants "B" in spite of "C". I'll never forget that formula. We would break down beats and the rhythm of writing, we would discuss the choices we made, why we made them, and how we can make them much more specific which in turn would result in a more interesting moment or scene to an audience. We would talk about how to make a scene build, how to make it arc, how to keep it moving forward. These are things one might hear in an acting class, from a director or an instructor, but approaching the material from the playwright's perspective definitely helped to crystalize it. This type of critical analysis and thought is something that has helped immensely in approaching new scenes and even audition sides. It's helped me to break down ambiguous material much more effectively and make choices that are clear and interesting."
So, if that isn't a good reason to teach, I don't know what is.

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