Script Workshop

Mario Farwell

Mission


St. Louis Writers’ Group Workshop provides playwrights and screenwriters with a supportive environment in which to hear their work read and receive constructive feedback.

Format
Workshops are comprised of two components:

Reading
A cold, unrehearsed reading of a full-length or shorter dramatic work. (As time permits, scenes and synopses may also be presented and discussed, provided they are for dramatic projects.)

Discussion
A facilitated discussion where audience members (including readers) have an opportunity to provide candid feedback to the author.
While the discussion will naturally be of a shorter duration than the reading itself, each component is of equal importance.
Responsibilities

The Playwright and Facilitator each have important responsibilities that jointly contribute to the success of the workshop.

1. Playwright
The more a playwright knows about what he wants to learn about his play, the more effective the workshop will be. To achieve this, he should evaluate his expectations and understand his responsibilities.
The playwright…

2. Facilitator

In recent years, the role of the facilitator (in more formal settings, Dramaturg) has become increasingly important. While moderating the discussion is one responsibility, it is by no means the only one. The facilitator should be ready to guide the playwright through the entire workshop process.

3. The Discussion

That so much emphasis is placed on “The Discussion” is perhaps additional proof that theater is a collaborative process. Candid feedback is essential to helping playwrights improve their work. As important as a discussion is, however, that does not mean it has to be run in a rigid, stiff manner. Indeed, the best discussions allow for free-flowing give and take on the part of all participants. Below are guidelines to help facilitators create that setting.

When the reading of the play is complete, the facilitator should begin the discussion by reminding the audience of basic ground rules:

Writers are asked to remain silent during the discussion. They are encouraged to use the time to take in all feedback without attempting to defend their work or answer questions. They may want to make notes about comments they don’t understand or on suggestions they like. A guest may pose a specific question, but the author cannot answer until the end of the discussion, when the facilitator turns it over to the author for the final word.

The facilitator should moderate the discussion in a way that yields as much feedback as possible in the amount of time available. It requires flexibility and fast thinking. Here are some tips to help anticipate the unexpected:

Two Caveats
The playwright should never read a part in his own play. It interferes with his primary responsibility: to listen to how the dialogue sounds. It is better for a less experienced reader (or even an audience member with no experience) to read a role than for the playwright to do so. Only in the most extreme circumstances (the non-arrival of a previously confirmed reader and a shortage of audience members) should the playwright read a part. In these rare cases, the role he reads should one of the least important.
Under no circumstances may the playwright serve as his own facilitator. To do so short circuits the process completely. If no one is available to facilitate, the reading can be postponed. Alternately, the author may distribute copies of his script and invite audience members to send feedback in writing. To have a discussion where the author attempts to serve as his own facilitator is pointless.
Conclusion

Thank you again for your interest in the St. Louis Writers’ Group Workshop. Please contact us if you have any questions.