How to Become a Playwright: Education and Career Roadmap
Learn how to become a playwright. Research the education, career requirements and experience required for starting a career as a playwright.
Playwrights are writers who create stories that take place on stage. They develop characters who are then brought to life by actors, and the words they write, once performed, create a piece of art that can entertain, educate and move an audience.
While a playwright may not need formal training to work in the field, enrolling in a bachelor's degree program can help students develop their playwriting skills and work with prospective actors and directors. The table below includes the requirements to become a playwright from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree|
|Degree Field||English or a similar program related to playwriting|
|Experience||Entry-level; playwrights may gain training on-the-job|
|Key Skills||Writers need to be creative, be good storytellers and have the discipline to sit down and write on a regular basis|
Step 1: Enroll in a Bachelor's Degree Program
Like all writers, playwrights look for a fresh way to tell stories and cultivate their ideas into a finished product. It is essential for playwrights to know the structure of playwriting, which includes writing dialogue, developing characters and integrating facts and information into the scene. A bachelor's degree program in playwriting or screenwriting can also teach aspiring playwrights the creative and technical aspects of theater through classes in acting, directing, drama history and literary criticism, lighting, scenery and costume design. In some programs, students may develop a script with a faculty member and have it produced by the college theater department.
- Consider a master's degree. Although not required for a career as a playwright, a master's degree has the added benefit of providing additional exposure to a wide range of professional opportunities and contacts. In addition to advanced courses in playwriting, collaboration with theater professionals is built into many programs and ranges from working with professional actors, directors, and costume and set designers to contributing to readings and full productions.
Step 2: Write and Develop Scripts
While the theater community celebrates new visions and compelling work, getting a play to go from a script to a staged performance is an endeavor that requires enormous amounts of perseverance. It's important for a playwright to write, rewrite and write again to develop an arc of a story, improve character development and tighten up scenes. Having readings with actors, workshopping plays and participating in rehearsals will also help a playwright hone his or her craft.
- Direct scripts. One way for playwrights to get their words on stage is to direct their own work. Not only can directing offer additional career opportunities, but it will give playwrights a chance to rewrite scenes and dialogue during rehearsal.
Step 3: Enter Playwriting Contests
Local theater groups often sponsor contests, which are a good way for a playwright to gain exposure. Although some contests may offer a modest cash prize, the greater benefit for playwrights is the opportunity to have their script included in staged readings; sometimes, the winning play is even fully produced.
- Build relationships with theater professionals. Organizations like the Playwrights Foundation will offer a wealth of information on classes, workshops, script submissions and collaborative opportunities with other theater professionals. As an emerging playwright, you can also learn about fellowships sponsored by arts foundations that offer career-advancing stipends and grants.
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