Playwriting

Bring your story to the stage.

Spring Classes at Chicago Dramatists are here and will remain online! Chicago Dramatists is offering more classes than ever before so you can go “back to school” in a wide range of new and returning classes. We happily accept students from all around the world and invite you stay in with us and create your next great work. Take the leap and join us here at Chicago Dramatists.

Learn the art and craft of this time-honored form. Enrich your writing and hone your playwriting tools, with one of our many courses. Writers are afforded the opportunity to collaborate with actors, dramaturgs, and directors: leaders in the field of dramatic storytelling. Come to class, and bring your story to the stage.

Choose the class that suits you and click on the class’s name to go to the details page.

Please Note: Network Playwrights receive $25 off all class registrations, but you must be logged into your account for the discount to be applied. This also includes discounts for Resident Playwrights and Tutterow Fellows. You will be prompted to login when attempting to register. If you do not know how to get into your account, enter the email associated with your account under “Forgot Your Password” and an account reset will be sent.


Spring Classes

Playwriting Fundamentals
7 Wednesdays 6:00pm – 9:00pm CST
Mar 31 – May 12
Instructor: Marsha Estell

Looking to kick off your playwriting career?  Get started with “Playwriting Fundamentals,” at Chicago Dramatists!  Study the core essentials of writing your first play, and cover everything from dramatic structure, to character development, to writing realistic and vibrant dialogue.

This class is ideal for students who consider themselves beginners.

From Aristotle To Binge-Watching
7 Tuesdays & Thursdays 6:00pm – 7:30pm CST
Apr 01 – May 18
Instructor: Emilio Williams

The golden age of TV is based on dramatic rules that have been around for thousands of years. Students of this seven week cohort will meet twice a week to learn from what HBO, Netflix, and Disney stole from the best theater theorists. We will learn the art of dramatic writing, for the stage or the screen, by looking closely at the most popular TV shows of our era, in a combination of micro-lectures and class discussions, with plenty of opportunities to share new pages and receive feedback. Explore how popular culture can help us improve our own writing, and how we can get inspired by disciplines outside our own.

The Early Bird Registration Discount is not applicable for this course. Network Discounts still apply.

This class is for writers at the intermediate level.

“Scene Shop” Play Development (Thurs.)
7 Thursdays 6:30pm – 9:30pm Apr 15 – Jun 10
OR
“Scene Shop” Play Development (Sat.)
7 Saturdays 10:00am – 1:00pm Apr 17 – Jun 12
Instructor: Will Dunne

Self-contained weekly sessions offer character, scene, and story tools to help you write and revise your script, professional actors to read the work you bring from home, and constructive group feedback in a supportive setting. If you ever need to miss a session, you can always make it up in the other Scene Shop section that week. Workshop members are eligible to participate in the Scene Shop Showcase, a night of staged readings presented twice yearly in the Russ Tutterow Theatre.

The Early Bird Registration Discount is not applicable for this course. Network Discounts still apply.

This class is ideal for students with experience ranging from intermediate to advanced.

Memoir Theatre
7 Saturdays 1:00pm – 4:00pm CST
May 01 – Jun 12
Instructor: Wendy Hammond

Memoir Theatre:  Writing the stories of our lives. Students will play writing games to unearth  what you care about, what enrages you, what hurt you, what shamed you, what lifted you, what you lost, what you gained, how you triumphed. Learn from memoir pieces by Roxane Gay, Jesmyn Ward, David Sedaris, Kiese Laymon, and Jeannette Walls, and talk about ways to make theatre from memoir. In the last class (on June 12) each student will read or perform a short memoir piece, for a Zoom showcase.

This class is ideal for students of every level: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.

The Poetics of Playwriting
7 Sundays 1:00pm – 4:00pm CST
May 02 – Jun 27
Instructor: Marisela Orta

Over the course of seven-weeks, students will read five assigned plays and participate in class discussion to explore how to employ these narrative tools in their own writing. Using writing exercises and assignments, students will have the opportunity to experiment with these new tools to deepen their own playwriting craft. In this supportive class environment, we will learn by doing—we will experiment with these tools and take risks to push our writing in new directions.

The Early Bird Registration Discount is not applicable for this course. Network Discounts still apply.

This class is ideal for students with experience ranging from intermediate to advanced.

Deconstructing the American West
7 Wednesdays 6:30pm – 9:30pm
May 19 – Jun 30
Instructor: Ean Miles Kessler

This course strips the John Wayne veneer off the American West, to expose the dark history (and the stories) that lie at its root. Students will generate new work centering on the American West, exploring ways to subvert common held notions and tropes, by looking through the lens of race, gender, sexuality and more. Each class, students will have their new pages read aloud and workshopped, to receive constructive criticism within a safe space. Time will be allotted to discussing ideas, scenes, and full plays, and writing exercises and prompts will be used to spur creativity. We’ll look at raising the stakes of your work; how to drive the plot forward; the iconography intrinsic to the American West, and how to bring those elements to the stage in theatrical and vibrant ways. We’ll also examine the role that violence plays in a piece, and how to use it effectively to force your character forward. This course culminates in a Zoom presentation of student work in an eighth class, open to the public, with professional actors.

This class is ideal for students with experience ranging from beginner to advanced

Intermediate Playwriting
7 Thursdays 6:00pm – 9:00pm CST
May 20 – Jul 21
Instructor: Sue Pak

Take the next step in your artistic journey with Intermediate Playwriting, and craft a one-act play! You’ll learn all the fundamentals of play construction and theory, explore the elements of dramatic tension, and learn exercises and techniques that will help you develop work that speaks with your authentic voice. Dive deep into character analysis, generating character-driven stories that engage your audience, and make viewers lean into the story that’s unfolding onstage.
Prerequisite – Playwriting Fundamentals, or permission of the Instructor.

This class is ideal for students who consider themselves intermediate.

Advanced Playwriting
7 Saturdays 10:00am – 1:00pm CST
Mar. 27 – May 15
Instructor: Dana Lynn Formby

In this class, you will pitch, outline, and write a long one-act or full-length play. You will add new tools to your writing toolbox that will help you define your voice and speak about your work. You will also develop a system to keep you on track for submitting your work. The class culminates with a scene of your choice by professional actors. 

Prerequisites: The writer has completed at least one play or screenplay, and has some rewriting and/or new play workshopping experience.

This class is ideal for students who consider themselves advanced.

Sister, Soldier, Self-Preserver: Writing Through Storms

7 Thursdays 6:00pm – 9:00pm CST
Jun 03 – July 15
Instructor: Kimberly Dixon-Mays

7 Wednesdays 6:00pm – 8:00pm Central
Jul 15 – Aug 267 Saturdays 10:00am – 1:00pm CST
May 22 – July 10
Instructor: Dana Lynn Formby

A playwright’s choice to write what’s on their mind can feel like choosing between re-living trauma personally, or fulfilling their responsibility as artists. And the workshop experience – so important to developing new work – can amplify this complexity. These dynamics can feel especially true right now, particularly for underrepresented populations. This workshop is designed for Black playwrights who are Female, Femme identifying, Non-binary, and/or identify as women, to explore strategies for writing, with a balance of both self-care and their own larger artistic mission.

This free class is being offered as a part of our Racism and Inequality Free Class Series. Chicago Dramatists is offering this course free-of-charge to up to 8 Black playwrights who are Female, Femme identifying, Non-binary, and/or identify as women. Students will be chosen by a simple application process. Applications close:  May 15 at 6pm CST. Selected applicants notified:  May 22.

This class is ideal for intermediate to advanced students.

Performance Art
7 Saturdays 10:00am – 1:00pm CST
Jun 05 – Jul 24
Instructor: Kestutis Nakas

Astonishing performance happens when the performer takes resolute action to resolve an overwhelming challenge and is thereby transformed . Discover the pleasures of rendering your distilled life experience into playable actions. Create a world of movement, sound and imagery that amplifies you message . Access your imagination and subconscious while embracing risk. In this course, writers will create and perform an original piece of performance art, suitable for a variety of venues: online, cabaret, theatre, film, gallery, and more. You will also mine varied performance traditions, (avant-garde, vaudeville, comedy, religious ritual, circus, pop culture, etc.) digging for valuable methods, insights and modes of presentation to enhance your message. Students will leave the class with an original performance work and the tools to create more. The course culminates with an online performance of student work on July 24.

This course is ideal for writers of every level:  beginner, intermediate, and advanced.

Loud And Clear Weekend Workshop
1 Weekend 1:00pm – 4:00pm CST
Jun 12 – Jun 13
Instructor: Jenni Lamb

This workshop is for playwrights who are looking to hone their writer’s voice and create work that is grounded in their unique aesthetic and experience. Writers will also leave with the tools to create better artist statements. In this two-day workshop, writers will participate in exercises that will allow them to explore and define their voice and create work based in their impulses. In a supportive environment focused on investigation, writers will leave with a clearer sense of their individual voice that will translate into stronger scripts and sharper artist statements.

This course is ideal for writers of every level: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.

Winter Classes

Memoir Theatre
7 Saturdays 1:00pm – 4:00pm CST
Feb 20 – Apr 10
Instructor: Wendy Hammond

Sold out! Register now for the waitlist!

Memoir Theatre:  Writing the stories of our lives. Students will play writing games to unearth  what you care about, what enrages you, what hurt you, what shamed you, what lifted you, what you lost, what you gained, how you triumphed. Learn from memoir pieces by Roxane Gay, Jesmyn Ward, David Sedaris, Kiese Laymon, and Jeannette Walls, and talk about ways to make theatre from memoir. In the last class each student will read or perform a short memoir piece, for a Zoom showcase.

This class is ideal for students who consider themselves beginners.

The Early Bird Registration Discount is not applicable for this course. Network Discounts still apply.


Ten Minute Play

7 Tuesdays 6:00pm – 9:00pm
Mar 02 – Apr 13
Instructor: Neil Blackadder

Get your next 10 minute play ready for our Second Annual Network 10 Minute Play Festival! As always, this festival is open exclusively to Network Members. This year the festival will take place on July 10, 2021. Submissions open April 1, and close April 30. Details of the Festival will be released later in the year! Sign up for this class below, and take your work to the next level!

How do you tell a complete and satisfying story in only ten minutes? This class, offered exclusively to Network Members is a deep dive into the intricacies and nuances of writing in this precise, compact form. Explore the many elements of the ten minute play, including structure, character motivation, diction, and more from acclaimed director and translator Neil Blackadder.

This course is ideal for writers at the intermediate and advanced levels.

This class is available to Chicago Dramatists Network Members only.


Telling Your Truth
7 Thursdays 6:00pm – 9:00pm CST
Mar 04 – Apr 15
Instructor: Dionna Griffin-Irons

This free class is being offered as a part of our initiative to combat racism, and stand alongside those who are fighting for social justice and against racial inequality. To that end, this course is open to students of diverse, multicultural backgrounds as a part of that continued effort. In accordance with Dionna Griffin-Irons vision for this course, this includes students who identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ+, differently abled, and/or as white allies, with preference given to underrepresented voices and those in financial need.

Telling Your Truth brings an immersive online experience that allows writers to experiment with low stakes improvisation exercises and guided peer discussion to unveil high stakes truth to the page. Taught by one of Second City’s best mentors, Dionna Griffin-Irons TYT delves into simple scenic exposition, 4 W’s (Who, What, Where and Why), as writers share their creative voice in a variety of fun, creative risks – impromptu scenes, unforgettable characters, and unapologetic rants from the comfort of their home! Breaking the pattern of solo writing, writers interact and connect in a variety of exercises that fuel memory, truth and spontaneity. This class will be by application only.

This course is ideal for writers of every level: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.

Click HERE for the application.

Submissions close on February 15 at 6pm CST. Applicants will be notified of their status by February, Thursday 18.



Chicago Dramatists Class Fee Policies 

  • If you cancel your registration more than three weeks in advance of the class start date, you will be entitled to either a full refund of your money or a full credit applied to your account for future CD classes. 
  • If you cancel your registration less than than three weeks but more than ten days before the class start date, you will be entitled to a full credit applied to your account (minus a $20 administrative fee). However, there will be no refunds. 
  • If you cancel your registration fewer than ten days but more than three days before the class start date, you will be entitled to 50% of your class fee (minus a $20 administrative fee) applied to your account as a credit. 
  • If you cancel your registration less than three days before the class start date, there is unfortunately neither a credit nor refund option available.
  • Failure to pay fee or arrange payment schedule within 48 hours of registration will result in cancellation of registration.
  • Classes that fail to meet the 50% minimum registrant requirement within 48 hours of class start time will be cancelled. In this case, registrants will receive a 100% refund.
  • Separate discounts cannot be combined.