Playwriting How-To

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Art of Dramatic Writing
by Lajos Egri
A classic text; essays on the craft and art of stage writing
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The Art of the Playwright: Creating the Magic of Theatre
by William Packard
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Blunt Playwright: An Introduction to Playwriting
by Clem Martini
The Blunt Playwright guides new students of playwriting through the intricacies of playwriting in a direct, informative, and entertaining fashion. It examines dramatic structure, discusses the creative process, explores the nature of character in dramatic work, provides a number of writing exercises that are useful for generating text, and cites local and international playwrights throughout.
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Characters in Action: Playwriting the Easy Way
by Marsh Cassady
Amazon.com Books: Dr. Marsh Cassady thoroughly understands his subject and offers an excellent method of teaching it to inexperienced writers. The twelve chapters of this book provide a complete survey of every step in playwriting from the germination of an idea to its complete development into a theatrical production. He covers the basics of writing for theatre, creating characters in conflict, plots and subplots, structure and dialogue and winning an audience. Cassady provides some basic rules, but the reader learns most from the countless examples and anecdotal illustrations from amateur and professional playwrights. The book is ideally suited to be a basic text on the art of playwriting.
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The Crafty Art of Playmaking
by Alan Ayckbourn
For the first time, Alan Ayckbourn shares all of his tricks of the playwright’s trade. From helpful hints on writing to tips on directing, the book provides a complete primer for the newcomer and a refresher for the more experienced. Written in Ayckbourn’s signature style that combines humor, seriousness, and heady air of theatrical sophistication that Noel Coward would envy, The Crafty Art of Playmaking is a must-have for aspiring playwrights and students of drama.
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The Dramatist’s Toolkit: The Craft of the Working Playwright
by Jeffrey Sweet
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Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes
by Stephen Sondheim
Along with the lyrics for all of his musicals from 1954 to 1981 — including “West Side Story,” “Company,” “Follies,” “A Little Night Music” and “Sweeney Todd” — Sondheim treats us to never-before-published songs from each show, songs that were cut or discarded before seeing the light of day. He discusses his relationship with his mentor, Oscar Hammerstein II, and his collaborations with extraordinary talents such as Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, Ethel Merman, Richard Rodgers, Angela Lansbury, Harold Prince and a panoply of others. Best of all, Sondheim appraises his work and dissects his lyrics, as well as those of others, offering unparalleled insights into songwriting that will be studied by fans and aspiring songwriters for years to come. Accompanying Sondheim’s sparkling writing are behind-the-scenes photographs from each production, along with handwritten music and lyrics from the songwriter’s personal collection. “There is so much to be learned and appreciated from ‘Finishing the Hat.’ It’s filled with fascinating, entertaining, unique and compelling lessons from a man who encompasses the essence of what is truly great about American Musical Theatre.” –Michael Feinstein
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See also “Look, I Made a Hat”
Or browse Amazon’s selection of Sondheim CDs and DVDs

How to Read a Play
by Ronald Hayman
From the jacket: Ostensibly an introductory guide to the art of translating the printed page of a play into dramatic mental images, this book is really a witty, basic handbook to drama and all the elements that compose it. How should we read stage directions? How can we imagine the theatrical effect of a sound effect? What about the effect of colors, costumes, groupings, relative positions on the stage? The book becomes a basic guide to the art of the drama.
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Letters to a Young Artist: Straight-up Advice on Making a Life in the Arts-For Actors, Performers, Writers, and Artists of Every Kind
From “the most exciting individual in American theater” (Newsweek), here is Anna Deavere Smith’s brass tacks advice to aspiring artists of all stripes. In vividly anecdotal letters to the young BZ, she addresses the full spectrum of issues that people starting out will face: from questions of confidence, discipline, and self-esteem, to fame, failure, and fear, to staying healthy, presenting yourself effectively, building a diverse social and professional network, and using your art to promote social change.
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Look, I Made a Hat: Collected Lyrics (1981-2011) with Attendant Comments, Amplifications, Dogmas, Harangues, Digressions, Anecdotes and Miscellany
by Stephen Sondheim
Picking up where he left off in “Finishing the Hat,” Stephen Sondheim gives us all the lyrics, along with excluded songs and early drafts, of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Sunday in the Park with George,” “Into the Woods,” “Assassins” and “Passion.” Here, too, is an in-depth look at the evolution of “Wise Guys,” which subsequently was transformed into “Bounce” and eventually became “Road Show.” As he did in the previous volume, Sondheim richly annotates his lyrics with invaluable advice on songwriting, discussions of theater history and the state of the industry today, and exacting dissections of his work, both the successes and the failures. Filled with even more behind-the-scenes photographs and illustrations from Sondheim’s original manuscripts, “Look, I Made a Hat” is fascinating, devourable and essential reading for any fan of the theater or this great man’s work.”
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See also “Finishing the Hat”
Or browse Amazon’s selection of Sondheim CDs and DVDs

Making Plays: The Writer-Director Relationship in the Theater Today
by David Jones, Colin Chambers (Editor), Richard Nelson
Particularly interesting for the involvement of playwright Richard Nelson, author of “Some Americans Abroad” and “The General from America.”
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The Musical Theatre Writer’s Survival Guide
by David Spencer
For its practitioners, musical theatre is an art, a passion, and a lifelong love. But it’s also a complex landscape involving not merely principles of craft about book, music and lyrics, but also principles of collaboration, script/demo presentation, project/production development, venue, business, and — everybody’s area of uncertainty — politics. In “The Musical Theatre Writer’s Survival Guide,” award-winning musical dramatist and teacher David Spencer provides a guide-to-the-game that helps you negotiate all those aspects of the business and more. If you’re taking your first steps, Spencer’s counsel, anecdotes, and instructions will save you years of blindly stumbling about without results. Likewise, if you’ve been around the block a few times, “The Musical Theatre Writer’s Survival Guide” can rescue you from the kinds of career-stalling traps, bad habits, and false assumptions that lead to dead ends. “Consider ‘The Musical Theatre Writer’s Survival Guide’ your new best friend in the business.” –Alan Menken, composer, “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Beauty and the Beast”
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Naked Playwriting: The Art, The Craft, And The Life Laid Bare
by William Missouri Downs, Robin Russin
Well-written, comprehensive, and filled with illustrative examples, Naked Playwriting includes both innovative and tried-and-true writing techniques, sage advice from veteran writers, a short study of the major schools of dramatic thought, and writing anecdotes.
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Perfect 10: Writing and Producing the 10-Minute Play
by Gary Garrison
Perfect Ten is the perfect nuts-and-bolts primer for writing and producing the hottest trend in American theatre today: the ten-minute play. Look in any small or medium-sized theatre and you’re bound to run smack up against it. This new creative form is growing faster than anyone can keep track of, with a whole new generation of artists embracing it. Writing with the same sharp wit and wise, conversational voice of The Playwright’s Survival Guide, Garrison demystifies the process of writing and producing the ten-minute play by breaking it down structurally, dramaturgically, and theatrically.
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Playmaking: Children Writing and Performing Their Own Plays
by Daniel Judah Sklar
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The Playwright’s Guidebook
by Stuart Spencer
The Playwright’s Guidebook, is a clear, concise, and engaging handbook. Spencer addresses the important principles of structure, includes insightful writing exercises that build upon one another, explores the creative process, and troubleshoots recurrent problems that playwrights actually face.
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The Playwright’s Handbook
by Frank Pike, Thomas G. Dunn
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Playwrights on Playwriting
by Toby Cole (Editor), John Gassner (Introduction)
The classic collection of essays by playwrights from the canon.
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The Playwright’s Process: Learning the Craft from Today’s Leading Dramatists
by Buzz McLaughlin
Unique among playwriting manuals, this volume offers readers instruction tested in playwriting workshops and based on interviews with famous dramatists. Quotations from authors such as Edward Albee, Arthur Miller, Marsha Norman, Wendy Wasserstein, and others reveal methods concerning every facet of playwriting, from developing the initial idea to producing a workable piece, and more.
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Playwriting Seminars 2.0: A Handbook on the Art and Craft of Dramatic Writing with an Introduction to Screenwriting
by Richard Toscan
“A treasure-trove of information, philosophy, and inspiration” (Theatre Journal). This new edition covers all aspects of writing full-length plays with an expanded treatment of screenwriting for Hollywood and independent film as well as diagrams of key elements of dramatic structure. Key exercises are included for developing ‘voice’ as a writer and for creating the essential dual plot structure that supports intriguing characters in today’s theatre. Many professionals in theatre and film are quoted on key parts of the art and craft of playwriting and screenwriting.
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The Playwright’s Survival Guide: Keeping the Drama in Your Work and Out of Your Life
by Gary Garrison
The Playwright’s Survival Guide is written for both aspiring and established writers looking for an emotional, spiritual, or even just plain practical connection back to what’s important–the writing.
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Playrights Teach Playwriting
Joan Herrington, Crystal Brian (eds.)
These essays by such well-known playwrights as Chris Durang, Marsha Norman, Tina Howe, Tony Kushner, David Henry Hwang, Marie Irene Fornes, José Rivera, Romulus Linney, Mac Wellman, Donald Margulies explore the pedagogy of playwriting, offering fascinating and valuable insights into the way established playwrights communicate their own creative methods to young writers.
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The Playwright’s Workbook
by Jean-Claude Van Itallie
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Playwriting in Process: Thinking and Working Theatrically
by Michael Wright
A hands-on compendium of games and activities to help writers stimulate creativity, exercise skills, and practice their craft.
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Playwriting Master Class
by Michael Wright (Editor), Mead Hunter
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Playwriting at Work and Play: Developmental Programs and Their Processes
by Michael Wright
Editorial Reviews: “A groundbreaking work on new play development.”
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The Power of the Playwright’s Vision: Blueprints for the Working Writer
by Gordon Farrell
Every playwright has his or her own vision of life — and seeks to express that vision on stage. Over the past two hundred years, the world’s greatest dramatists have been constructing models, or blueprints of their visions, to make sure that what is in their hearts gets put on stage. This book distills that genius and innovation into a practical manual.
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Putting on a Play: The Young Playwright’s Guide to Scripting, Directing, and Performing
by Nancy Bentley, Donna Guthrie, Katy Keck Arnsteen (Illustrator)
Library Binding
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Scriptwork: A Director’s Approach to New Play Development
by David Kahn, Donna Breed
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Solving Your Script: Tools and Techniques for the Playwright
by Jeffrey Sweet
The techniques Jeffrey Sweet uses to write his award-winning plays and which he teaches for New York’s Actors Studio are now in a book. He describes principles, introduces exercises and analyzes work some of his students have written in response. The result is a workshop between covers. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies (Dinner With Friends) says, “New and seasoned writers, as well as teachers of playwriting, should find Solving Your Script a welcome addition to the small number of truly valuable books on the craft of playwriting, Sweet’s own Dramatist’s Toolkit notably among them.”
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Stage Writers Handbook: A Complete Business Guide for Playwrights,
Composers, Lyricists and Librettists

by Dana Singer
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The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot)
by Samuel Beckett
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Working on a New Play: A Play Development Handbook for Actors,
Directors, Designers & Playwrights

by Edward M. Cohen
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Writing: American Theatre Wing (Working in the Theatre Seminars)
by Robert Emmet Long (Editor)
For more than 30 years, the Wing has produced the Working in the Theatre seminars, a series that features the greatest names in theatre. In book form for the first time, these compact volumes-at an affordable paperback price for gift-giving-are for students and for anyone with a passion for the theatre. Here are the inside, behind-the-scenes words of the actors, writers, directors, and producers who make Broadway, off-Broadway, regional theatre, and London’s West End come alive.
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Writing the Broadway Musical
by Aaron Frankel
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Writing Drama
by Yves Lavandier
Writing Drama is an invaluable tool for screenwriters as well as theatre writers (or indeed anyone interested in the process of . . . writing drama!). It’s also a fantastic book for producers and development executives, as it analyzes in detail those tools — like dramatic irony or the real three-act structure — which are often ignored or misunderstood by mainstream literature on the subject. Whether you’re a writer, a development executive or a producer, if you’re bored with rigid rules — or were never totally convinced by them — and are looking for more flexible yet efficient tools, then Writing Drama is for you.
Available from the publisher:
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Writing Your First Play
by Roger A. Hall
Explores all aspects of how to write a first play. Thoroughly updated, including a new chapter on
how to market your play once it is written.

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Young Playwrights 101: A Practical Guide for Young Playwrights and Those Who Teach Them
by Jonathan Dorf
A complete handbook for young playwrights and those who teach them, and for anyone who wants practical advice about the craft and business of playwriting.
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