Exploring this Job

Many playwrights started their careers while still in school by writing scripts for school plays. Participate in your school’s theater club, school plays, and community theater groups. Take as many English and writing classes as you can. They will help hone your writing skills. As most playwrights also are self-employed, business classes will help to learn business skills. Many local theater groups sponsor contests and competitions. Search these out as a way to get exposure for your play.

The Job

Simply put, playwrights write plays. They conceive of the characters, setting, scenes, dialogue, plot, action, and themes of a story to be presented onstage by live actors. The story, called a script or book, must be written in the correct format with words to be spoken by the actors written next to or under each character’s name. Explanations or descriptions of each scene or setting are set off between passages of dialogue.

Playwrights create comedies, tragedies, thrillers, mysteries, dramas, musicals, and other types of plays. They may write original works or may adapt stories from literary, historical, or other narrative sources. Plays may be written for full-length three act productions, one-act short plays, monologues, experimental theater, and other types of shows.

The playwright involves his or her characters in actions that have conflict, purpose, and a resolution to the events in the story. The story includes the actors’ and actresses’ dialogue and directions for actions on stage, which are then interpreted by the director, the set designer, the performers, and many others to bring the play to life.

In some instances, a producer may request changes in the script. The playwright makes these revisions and may also attend rehearsals to further tighten up the script or make changes from the producer or director’s notes.

Playwrights have an extremely difficult job. They must not only write a good script but also must find a producer willing to finance the production. In some instances a producer has an idea that he or she wants developed and will hire a playwright to write a suitable script.

The life of a playwright is a solitary one. Most of their work is done alone. Once a script is developed and written, the playwright shows the script to people until it is accepted for production. They may submit them to theater houses, production companies, theatrical or literary agents, competitions, publishers, and other venues for plays. This existence leads to a great deal of stress, which many playwrights feel is balanced out by seeing their play produced on the stage.

Some playwrights also teach drama and literature or do other work in theater to support themselves until they can write plays full time.