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Course content

This highly successful programme offers specialist pathways in Playwriting and Dramaturgy. We concentrate on the process of writing for live performance, together with an ongoing evaluation of the work in process. Through practice and reflection, we enable you to establish a distinctive, individual approach as both a writer and dramaturge. Projects include site-specific work, writing for a specific audience, verbatim theatre and interdisciplinary collaboration.

We support the development of texts for performance, alongside intellectual understanding of the diverse forms and contexts in which live performance can be made and the writer/dramaturge’s role in this. We examine texts from a wide range of periods and cultures. We engage with work that is innovative, or which challenges established notions of practice.

Opportunities to collaborate

Dramaturgs and playwrights study side by side, and examine creative and dramaturgical issues from various perspectives as writers, spectators and creative collaborators. There are opportunities to collaborate on an Interdisciplinary Project with MA Performance Makers and composers from the Department of Music. Final project texts, performed and directed by industry professionals, are presented at the Soho Theatre in London, attended by key industry representatives. Graduates are highly successful in obtaining commissions, dramaturgy posts and artistic directorships. Recent successes include:

  • Tena Štivičić (Three Winters National Theatre 2015)
  • Finn Kennedy (Artistic Director, Tamasha Theatre Company 2015)
  • Melissa Bubnic (Beached at Soho Theatre 2015)

All students receive Professional Orientation and support towards career development.

Modules & structure

Autumn term 

All students take the Writing Projects module: you will work on three diverse, short playwriting projects. Each addresses particular generic issues that relate to writing for live performance, and you will engage with the specific challenges and demands of differing circumstances of text development and production. These will vary from year to year, but they are likely to be selected from the following:

  • Theatre as Event – site-specific performance
  • Authenticity and Live Performance – verbatim theatre
  • Writing for Specific Audiences – children’s/young person’s theatre project
  • Creative Collaboration – multimedia collaboration with MA Performance Making and Studio Composition students from the Department of Music

You will also take the Dramaturgy module, which has two main elements: analysis of dramatic text (these will include classics and modern classics, as well as new plays); and analysis of live performance seen by the group (including some visual, environmental or non-text-based work). During the module you will assemble a portfolio of critical analyses and creative writing projects for assessment.

You will also take one contextual module alongside students from other Masters programmes, to be selected from a list of options that will vary from session to session.

Spring term 

You will develop your work on Dramaturgy with the term-long practical workshop module Creative Intervention in Text. This will examine: translation; adaptation of work from other media for live performance; and the re-writing and/or adaptation of extant plays; planning and curating seasons of performance work. You will assemble a portfolio of creative projects for assessment.

You also start work on your Final Project the personal Dissertation-equivalent project that will be the core of your work for the next six months). Weekly seminars and workshops will examine themes relevant to the range of projects chosen, and a first draft or outline will be produced. Each project will be the focus of individual tutorials, and then a class workshop led by a guest dramaturg, director or playwright as appropriate. You will then plan the next phase of the research or development of your project.

You also take another option from the list of contextual modules shared with students from other Masters programmes.

Summer term 

You will present the second draft of your project for another phase of tutorials and group workshops.

Playwriting projects will then be prepared for some form of public rehearsed reading or scratch performance, in extract form – with the writers involved in all aspects of the work.

Dramaturgy projects will be given practical support of an appropriate, equivalent kind. You will further develop your work, with tutorials and workshops and public presentation of work as appropriate, before writing and submitting the finished project.

Throughout the year, various seminars and workshops will examine diverse issues that affect writers today, and these will be led by visiting professionals as appropriate.

Assessment

We deploy a range of assessment approaches, each appropriate to the module taken. Students taking Writing Projects will submit three short playtexts for assessment. Dramaturgy is assessed by a portfolio of analytic reviews, and Creative Intervention in Text by a series of short creative writing projects and writing exercises. Each of the contextual option modules is assessed by a 4,000 word essay. Final Project leads to the production of a playtext (Playwriting), or a Dissertation or equivalent practical project (Dramaturgy). 

Careers

Numerous playwrights completing this programme receive high-level professional development opportunities, commissions, awards and full-scale productions of their work at major new writing centres in the UK, USA and in continental Europe. Many also work for at least part of the time in the fields of script development (for theatre and television), and in theatre publication.

Recent playwriting alumni include:

  • Ben Musgrave, whose Pretend You Have Big Buildings won the Bruntwood Prize (2006) and received a main house production at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
  • Allia V Oswald, whose Dirty Water won the Alfred Fagon Award (2007) and was given a rehearsed reading at the Royal Court Theatre
  • Adam Brace, whose play Stovepipe was a High Tide Festival winner (2008), and was staged recently by the National Theatre and published by Faber

In each of these cases the award-winning play was the writer’s Final Project from this programme.

Dramaturgy alumni work in professional literary management for mainstream and fringe building-based companies, as well as on freelance script development programmes in the UK and internationally. These include:

  • David Lane, who now has an extremely busy career as a freelance dramaturg, teacher and playwright
  • Francesca Malfrin, who is currently developing translation projects of Italian plays with a range of agencies, including the National Theatre Studio

Visit the Dramaturgy and Writing in Performance - MA page on the Goldsmiths, University of London website for more details!

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