Playwright

 5 October 2012

The playwright or dramatist is the author of a production, the writer or adapter of the original play. Often they work alone, but sometimes they also collaborate with a director and the cast.

Writing for theatre requires you to create the essentials of the play.
Writing for theatre requires you to create the essentials of the play.

Playwrights write the script of a play. Writing for theatre requires you to create the essentials of the play: the narrative, the characters, the language, and the tone. Plays can be a work of fiction, but there are also stage productions based on real events. 

Playwrights might:

  • compose their own plays from scratch
  • create plays as a result of workshops with directors and actors, on a particular theme or to mark an occasion
  • adapt existing works, for example films or books, into plays for the stage – it might be necessary to depart from the original book in order to make a story work as drama
  • help recreate a play written in another language. Even if you don't speak the original language, you might be asked to use a basic translation of the script as a base, adding in the right wording and flavour to make the play sound more natural and convey its themes correctly in its new translated state. This is often called 'free translation'.

It is up to the director, cast and creative team to interpret the playwright’s text. 

The demands of writing for theatre are different from those of a book. The sets and staging, light and sound effects are often substitutes for description.

How do I get into writing plays? 

You need to love writing, and particularly writing for theatre. You should read, and try out writing, as many plays as possible.

Find out what other playwrights are writing, and what kind of plays you like to write. Investigate what sort of plays your local theatre is putting on. Good English skills are vital, and at school, it may also help you to study drama and/or theatre studies. 

Many playwrights have also done some directing, acting, stage managing or other theatre work.

You need to be able to understand how directors approach scripts, so that your writing is as 'in tune' with the needs of the stage as far as possible. Many playwrights have done some directing, acting, stage managing or other theatre work in order to build these skills.  

Creating enough of a name for yourself that directors know about you and want to put on your plays is a challenge. Many playwrights who go to university get involved with student theatre to gain this experience. Taking a student production to a fringe theatre festival is one way to start getting your work noticed. 

Unlike publishing novels, involving a publisher is not always the most important stage of playwriting. Your aim should be to get your play on stage rather than on a bookshelf.

There is no one way to break into playwriting, so do as much as you can to immerse yourself in theatre and make connections that might help you. Submit your work to any companies who are taking submissions, enter 'new writing' contests, and aim to network with and meet as many people who work in theatre as possible. 


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