The Craft of Master Playwrights
Instructor: Anton Bonnici
What makes the most beloved works of Western drama so ingenious and rich? The answer lies in the fundamental conventions of theatre, interpreted by each master playwright in a unique way. This course will take us on a critical journey through classical and modern plays in pursuit of three core concerns of dramatic convention: “first impressions,” “dialogue & tension,” and “climax.” Whether you are a theatre lover looking to expand your knowledge or a playwright seeking to sharpen your skills, this is the course for you!
The first few minutes of a play are among the most precious. The opening beats of a performance introduce the world of the play and its protagonists, conditioning the entire work of art. We will start our course by analyzing three very different yet equally effective ways of introducing a play, as found in Peter Shaffer’s Equus, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, and Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire.
Dialogue & Tension
A performance without tension, be it comic, tragic, or aesthetic, is a flat or “dead” performance. In this part of the course, we will turn to the work of Caryl Churchill (Top Girls), David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross), and Marsha Norman (Night, Mother) to see how the manipulation of dialogue directs, builds, diffuses, or explodes tension on stage with the specific intention of taking the audience on an emotional journey.
Most unforgettable performances build up to a climax that brings together a play’s narrative, themes, and aesthetic in a profound and unique way. We will conclude our course by examining three climatic excerpts from plays renowned for their power on stage: Norman’s Night Mother, Shaffer’s Equus, and Williams’ Streetcar, observing how master playwrights weave together the various threads of their narrative to devastating effect.
Maximum enrollment: 10
October 3 – 24, 2020
12 hours (4 weeks)
5 Rue des Fontaines du Temple