Taking the Lore Out of Teaching Playwriting

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Abstract

At the Pedagogy Symposium of the 2023 Mid America Theatre Conference held in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the United States, a doctoral candidate presented the early findings of his dissertation thesis. Andrew Black’s research focused on how current professors in academia teach subjects using the methods they themselves had been taught, specifically playwriting to US undergraduates. He outlined his research propositions including three signature pedagogies that this paper will examine more in depth as this author has been teaching playwriting for the past seven years at a small, private US college. When encountering the issues outlined in Mr. Black’s research, adjustments were made to how the course was structured with the biggest change being the inclusion of the Tectonic Theatre Company’s Moment Work technique of play creation into the class. Student outcomes and experiences in the playwriting courses improved and will be shown through student evaluations and Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) recognition. This paper will outline how to make these fundamental changes to playwriting pedagogy and encourage others to stop relying on the folklore of how to teach a subject and interrogate how best to revise their theatre writing courses.