Students inspired by playwriting challenge

The “30 Pages in 30 Days” playwriting competition described in our February Calendar inspired a high school theater class. Here, their teacher shares the impact that the Prescott Park Arts Festival’s project had on his students.

"I had first heard about the contest through social media. My wife saw it in a friend's newsfeed on Facebook (we're theater people) and passed it along to me. I was in the middle of teaching a scriptwriting course, and it seemed like an exciting opportunity to get the kids to produce something for the outside world, rather than just our own eyes in the classroom. As a teacher, you're always looking for ways to make subject matter applicable and real for the kids.

I posted a link on our Google classroom site to toss out the idea, and then followed up in a conversation in class. My students were instantly psyched at the prospect of tackling a longer piece than the short scene exercises we had been writing, and working with important social themes at that. We had just gotten through a small study of theme and premise in playwriting, and they were boiling with ideas. We investigated the contest website, had initial brainstorming discussions, and then did some storyboarding to build an idea around a theme. From there, I guided their process through critique, along with their peers. It's a workshop-style course, so we were constantly reading new bits of the work to each other, talking process, and offering critique and suggestions. In the end, every one of them had more than 30 pages of material. A few reached 60 pages and had to pull back in scope before they became full length plays!

We had a lot of fun, and it's something I'd absolutely consider doing again. Whether you're teaching theater or an English/writing class, this was a fantastic way to give gravity and stakes to coursework, while working under a real professional deadline. It felt like much more than just another assignment, and helped us practice time management, revision, big picture thinking, and also the delicate skill of making each scene work to accomplish multiple objectives for your story simultaneously."

Bill Viau, Teacher
Granite State Arts Academy

 
Photo courtesy of Granite State Arts Academy