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DRAMA 441 A: Beginning Playwriting

Meeting Time: 
WF 3:30pm - 4:50pm
HUT 303
Nikki Yeboah
Nikki Yeboah

Syllabus Description:

DRAMA 441A: Beginning Playwriting 

Class schedule: W/F 3:30pm - 4:50pm (PST) 

Hutchinson Hall Room 303

Fall Quarter 2022 Course Syllabus

Click here for the most recently updated syllabus


Instructor: Nikki Yeboah


In-Person Classes: HH 303

Zoom Classes:

Zoom Office Hours: Fri. 10-10:30 am (PST) and by appointment 


Course Description

Beginning Playwriting is a course where we explore writing for the theater by reading, watching, developing, writing, and discussing plays. We will unpack the art and craft of dramatic writing with a particular focus on process, including action, character, and dialogue. We will deepen our understanding of these components by completing and workshopping writing assignments, providing and receiving productive and empathetic feedback, reading the work of contemporary playwrights, and seeing productions. The course requirements, instructor, and peers will provide the support, structure, accountability, and community that all writers need to create their best work. The course's final project consists of two components: (1) a script treatment, which is a document that maps out the entire story idea of the play before you begin writing, and (2) a fully developed scene from the play.


Course Objectives 

  • Story Development & Process: We will unpack the art and craft of dramatic writing with a particular focus on process and dramatic strategies, including action, character, and dialogue. 
  • Writing Habits: We will develop a professional approach to the writing process by developing good writing habits while discovering our creative voice. 
  • Drafting: We will learn the importance of and approaches to writing and rewriting multiple drafts at various stages in the scriptwriting process before arriving at “the one.”
  • Feedback: We will develop the skills and vocabulary to talk about plays, and recognize structure, story, and content problems.
  • Stage Play Structure: We will learn about, analyze, and create plays modeled after the traditional Well-Made Play 3-Act Structure.
  • Knowledge of the Field: Demonstrate a familiarity with the works of contemporary playwrights. 


I urge you to see as much theater as possible this semester. See anything and everything on campus and off. We will attend one performance together as a class.


Required Text and Materials: 


Goldfinger, Jacqueline. Playwriting with Purpose: A Guide and Workbook for New Playwrights (Routledge Publishing Group; 2021). On Canvas

Dramatic Texts: I have placed all books on course reserve at the Odegaard Library

How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel

Straight White Men by Young Jean Lee

The Thanksgiving Play by Larissa FastHorse

What The Constitution Means to Me by Heidi Schreck

School Girls or An African Mean Girls Play by Jocelyn Bioh

Slave Play by Jeremy O. Harris (Library e-book or hard copy)

Free scriptwriting software options:



Other Options:



Highland 2

Causality (Curious about this one)


Additional readings and resources will be available on the course’s Canvas site; in addition, you will be asked to provide electronic and hard copies of your work for reading purposes. 

What to Expect in Class

This class will be run as a workshop. Each week we will read about a different component of the writing process. We will also read a play that best highlights the dramatic strategy we are focusing on.  

We will share and provide feedback on our work in an atmosphere of trust and respect. Your participation in critiquing the work of others is as meaningful as the act of writing itself. You will learn as much from each other's successes and failures as from your own and develop the skills and vocabulary to talk about plays, and recognize the structure, story, and content problems. In order to make this otherwise terrifying process a little easier, we will start each critique by telling the writer what we like about their work and then follow up with questions before offering any suggestions. 

Co-Creating a Brave Space

Some of the plays we will read in the course - and perhaps some of the plays you or your classmates will write - may examine issues related to race, class, gender, violence, and so forth. If you find yourself uncomfortable with a particular reading, that is okay. I have been very uncomfortable with, felt triggered by, disliked, and even felt disgusted by some of what I’ve read and/or seen in the past. The theater has and will always be a space for questioning our beliefs, and our society, and pushing our boundaries. It is where artists go to bare their souls, heal their trauma, guide us toward a better world or reveal the hopelessness of this one. As a result, discomfort is to be expected. Individual and societal growth cannot happen unless we expose ourselves to the things that make us uncomfortable. 


Everyone has different boundaries and triggers. As a Black woman, I am often triggered by plays that include scenes of violence against women, those that touch on racism, or worse, plays that REFUSE to bring up race when it feels so necessary to the work. However, my growth as a scholar and artist would not have been possible without exposure to the things that made me uncomfortable. It gave me something to push back against in my own work. I am much better at articulating my political stance and creative vision as a result of engaging with works I either didn’t like or made me uncomfortable. You are welcome to voice your discomfort with any of the material either in private to me or to your peers collectively because engaging in dialogue is also a huge part of how we grow. I will always be there to support you. I hope you don’t immediately shut things down because you feel uncomfortable because that is limiting. My intention is that our classroom is a brave space, a supportive space. 

Writer’s Block

Writing is a discipline. The only ones that make it in this industry are those that consistently show up and do the work. Learning to write toward a deadline will be a HUGE part of your success. Here are some suggestions if you ever run into trouble: (1) keep a writing journal to record ideas, overheard conversations, made-up conversations, research, images, settings, sounds, etc. (2) read the textbook and work on the activities within (3) talk to your peers (4) talk to me for tips on overcoming it [but I’m not giving you an extension]


List of Submissions (in order of deadlines)

Deadlines Submissions

10/8 Character Profiles (10 points)

10/15 Critical Statement + Bibliography (10 points)

10/24 Mini Reflection Paper (2 points)

11/05 Plot Outline (13 points)

12/3 Scene Draft (10 points)

12/9 Public Reading (4 points)

12/12 Final Project (23 points)

Ongoing Collaboration/Participation (8 points) 

Ongoing Pre-Class Exercises (8 points)

Ongoing Timed In-Class Reflections (10 points)

Catalog Description: 
Writing exercises and drafts of a one-act play provide first experience in writing for performance. Readings of representative one-act plays introduce genres and writing styles.
GE Requirements: 
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated: 
July 22, 2022 - 2:22am