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Playwright


Description

Theatrical productions usually fall into a specific genre like comedy, tragedy, pathos, absurdity or satire. Samuel Beckett, Anne-Marie MacDonald, Aristophanes, David Mamet, Bertolt Brecht, Wole Soyinka and Eugene Ionesco have all written brilliant and intelligent plays for the stage. The ultimate vision and goal of writing a play is to see it performed by actors on a stage, yet only a handful are lucky enough to experience this achievement. Theater is not as prevalent in our cultural society as it once was since new media such as film and television have taken over. Nevertheless, the playwright's work is the source of all that happens on stage. They create a make believe world in which the audience can learn, be engaged and entertained.

Playwrights take already written works or examine real-life themes and turn them into scripts. Playwrights are considered the glue that holds a stage production together. Many playwrights toil for years trying to find a stage and publisher for their work. Although rejection is more prevalent than acceptance, true playwrights are known for their persistence, self-discipline and tenacity. They have the ability to express ideas and thoughts intelligently and poetically, create memorable characters and depict scenes that fascinate us.

Every playwright has his or her own method and style of creation. Some work with intricate and sophisticated outlines, following traditional forms, whereas others write off the top of their head. Many people underestimate the amount of serious thought and work put into writing a play. A good play is filled with imagery, figures of speech and a deeper meaning beyond its literal surface. Writing for theater is both a learned skill that must be practiced over time and a natural gift. Playwrights use their imagination to create and weave stories. They often base their work on personal experiences, although their work often includes some form of research. Playwrights are also quite familiar with rewriting and revising their material. A good play, like a good poem needs a good edit.

Over time, theater has also been a political forum to artistically speak out against social woes and angst. For example, following WWII, many absurdist playwrights wrote about the brutality and sadness of the present culture in a satiric voice. Although this type of theater is not blatant, it works on a deeper and more powerful level.

For any playwright to be taken seriously, they must produce a portfolio of their best published work. A good way for playwrights to build a portfolio is to submit short stories, poems and plays to non-paying literary journals (sort of like volunteering) and make a name for themselves. Also, entering literary contests, joining theater groups and volunteering at a theater will help them perfect their craft. Playwrights must be willing to put in lots of work before any positive results are visible. The more one writes, the better confidence, skill and ability one will attain.

In order to supplement a steady income, most playwrights work part-time in other jobs or occupations. Unless one is independently wealthy, it is economically hard to live as a playwright. When a playwright becomes established and successful, they may begin writing full-time since they earn enough money from published works -- the true dream of every writer. Again, playwrights must learn to accept rejection and not take it personally. The majority of playwrights work for years, if not a whole lifetime before they get noticed. Finally, if you ask a playwright how to become a good writer, they will basically tell you to start writing as much as you can. Those who write plays are playwrights.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Good playwrights know how to express ideas beautifully, intelligently, creatively and clearly in writing. They create brilliant characters, depict landscapes and historical fields and describe awesome images that readers grow to love, hate and know by heart. They are usually knowledgeable in a particular area of interest, which is usually evident in their work. Serious self-discipline is required to work because when or how hard to work is up to the playwright. Playwrights should like the idea of entertaining an audience through their writing. Finally, playwrights must be able to withstand rejection and have confidence in their abilities as a writer.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Conceive of and write plays and other material for publication
  • Research similar literature and plays to establish ideas, factual and historical content and to obtain other necessary information
  • May organize ideas for an outline before writing
  • May choose and develop a theme or subject about which to write
  • Write plays for the stage and publication to inform, educate and entertain
  • Write dialog, content and action for plays
  • Write and rewrite work until editors, producers and writers are satisfied with it
  • Regularly meet with directors, producers and publishers
  • Adapt themes from various fictional, historical or narrative sources
  • There is no such thing as a typical day for a playwright. They usually split up their time between the theater and their writing studio, which is often their own home. During the writing stage, they spend much of their time working alone, thinking and writing at home or wherever they are comfortable. The pressure of deadlines, long solitary hours, rejections, unwilling producers and publishers and sporadic work can be stressful. Once the play is in rehearsal, the playwright, who often directs the play, will take an active role in the production, sometimes making revisions. Successful playwrights spend many hours each day writing.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • The majority of playwrights are freelancers and work from contract to contract. Some are lucky enough to get commissions from theater houses and not only write original scripts but also adaptations of classics. Others may work for universities and colleges, literary magazines and journals, religious organizations, publishing firms and other related establishments. Playwrights often publish and market their work themselves, or submit their work to publishers.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Advancement opportunities for playwrights are limited and based on the amount of work and effort one is willing to personally put in. However, a playwright working consistently for one theater house may eventually get a job as a house writer or be commissioned to put on a predetermined number of plays. Also, playwrights can become poets, novelists, production managers, journalists, editors and publishers. Many playwrights teach English, drama or creative writing at the secondary or postsecondary level, especially as a form of supplementing their income. Some playwrights may become theater critics for newspapers and magazines.
 

  Educational Paths  
There is no required educational path for becoming a playwright. In fact, some of the most successful playwrights do not have postsecondary educations. Nevertheless, many playwrights have university degrees in English, theater, drama, creative writing or journalism. Talent and ability, as demonstrated by a portfolio of work or a manuscript, are important production and publishing criterion.

Since a postsecondary education does not ensure success as a playwright, experience is the best teacher in this field. University or college training can be useful in developing research skills, theater knowledge and professional contacts. Playwrights can also attend writing conferences and theater workshops or take creative writing correspondence courses. Again, the best training a playwright can gain is by writing and writing as much as they can, including school assignments. Find websites that publish plays and scripts for free and volunteer for school literary journals and in various jobs within theater. Also, keeping a journal and jotting down thoughts and ideas will help aspiring playwrights developtheir own voice, characters and ideas.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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