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Thinking Through Playwriting - TFT00066M

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  • Department: Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Lisa Peschel
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Module summary

We understand that, as new MA students, you come from a wide range of undergraduate courses, and with very different levels of practical experience in writing for the stage. Therefore, this intensive Autumn Term module, which will run from Week 2 to Week 5 inclusive, is designed to lay the theoretical and practical foundations for your studies with us by focusing on these areas:  

  • Four key aspects of the playwright’s craft (creating character, plot, dialogue, and the world of the play) and how to manipulate them in your writing.

  • How playwrights have contributed to theatre-making in different historical contexts.

  • Workshopping for playwrights:  how to run your own group feedback sessions and support each other as a community of writers

  • Research for playwrights:  how to use playwriting manuals, other writers’ creative works (plays, screenplays, etc.), and traditional academic sources to enhance your own writing.

  • Writing reflective essays:  how to reflect upon, and write about, your own writing process.


Thus, the module will explore a range of analytical and practical skills that will be useful to you in your study of playwriting, and will extend and deepen the knowledge you already have. We will develop your understanding of what research is and does, and how it can be conceived of practically as well as theoretically. We will analyse live theatre productions and dramatic texts, alongside contextual historical and theoretical material. Using discussion, writing, spectatorship, analysis and independent work as methodologies for learning, this module will lay the foundations for the rest of your MA studies, and will equip you for the exciting challenges ahead.

Professional requirements


Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2019-20

Module aims

The aims of the module are:

¿ to introduce you to fundamental analytical and practical skills

¿ to develop the collaborative, mutually supportive, pro-active, qualities indispensable to all successful theatrical practice

¿ to explore a range of plays and playwriting manuals, methods to analyse these works, and ways to apply lessons learned to your own writing

¿ to place contemporary playwriting in its historical and cultural context

¿ to develop your ability to conduct traditional academic research to enhance your ability to write on a range of contemporary and historical topics

¿ to develop your ability to identify and manipulate key elements of drama

¿ to enhance your ability to analyse your own research and writing process


Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module you will be expected:

¿ to have acquired some of the skills of the playwrights’ craft:  the ability to generate short scripts that establish a coherent play world with appropriate structure, character, dialogue and stage visuals

¿ to have gained a new understanding the work of key playwrights and approaches to playwriting and to be able to use their work to inform your own writing

¿ to have gained experience in methods of academic research to enhance the range of topics you can write upon

¿ have developed your ability to write a critical analysis of your own work, both of the research and writing process and of the finished script.


Task Length % of module mark
Multiple-scene Script
N/A 70
Reflective essay
N/A 30

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Multiple-scene Script
N/A 70
Reflective essay
N/A 30

Module feedback

Students will receive written feedback on their summative work within the 20-working day University feedback policy, and will receive written feedback on their formative work within 20 working days or sooner, with an option of an individual follow-up meeting if any aspect of the feedback is unclear to the student or if more guidance on interpreting the feedback is requested.

Indicative reading

Adiseshiah, Siân, and Louise Lepage (eds.) Twenty-First Century Drama: What Happens Now. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

Bentley, Gerald Eades, The Profession of Dramatist in Shakespeare's Time, 1590-1642 (Princeton: princeton University Press, 1972.

Castagno, Paul C. New Playwriting Strategies. Abingdon: Routledge, 2011.

Catron, Louis E. The Elements of Playwriting. Long Grove, Illinois: Waveland Press, 2018.

Edgar, David. How Plays Work. London: Nick Hern, 2009.

Egri, Lajos.  The Art of Dramatic Writing.  New York:  Simon & Schuster, 2003.

Kiely, Damon. How to Read a Play. Abingdon: Routledge, 2016.

Smiley, Sam. Playwriting: The Structure of Action. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005.

Stephens, John Russell. The Profession of the Playwright: British Theatre, 1800–1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Taylor, Val.  Stage Writing:  A Practical Guide. Marlborough: Crowood Press, 2002.  

Tichler, Rosemarie, and Barry Jay Kaplan. The Playwright at Work. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2012.

Waters, Steve. The Secret Life of Plays. London: Nick Hern 2010.

Wright, Michael.  Playwriting in Process:  Thinking and Working Theatrically.  Newburyport, MA:  Focus Publishing, 2010.  

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.