Resisting lore in playwriting education : an investigation into the pedagogy of playwriting
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In September of 2006, the Dramatists Guild's magazine, The Dramatist, asked the question, "Can Playwriting Be Taught?" on its cover. Inside, Marsha Norman (Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright) called this question "age-old." And yet, in the United States, there are, as of this writing, 58 MFA programs in playwriting. There are over 90 organizations devoted to developing plays and playwrights. Playwriting is, in fact, being taught--in lots of places. And playwriting classrooms are attracting a diverse pool of learners--students from differing cultures of literacy, non-binary and transgender students, differently-abled students, and students who are just taking the class for the fun of it. However, the pedagogical models in the field appear to be traditional, handed down from one instructor to another. Paul Gardiner observes that there has been "scarce research that interrogates playwriting pedagogy" (Gardiner and Anderson 177). Is this lack of interrogation the reason people keep asking if teaching playwriting is even possible? This research study is designed to contribute to the conversation. This qualitative research study involved meeting with playwriting instructors around the country, observing them in classrooms, and examining documentation created to support the instruction. This research will investigate the following questions: Is playwriting instruction, in fact, generally lore-based? What are the signature pedagogies of the field and the various ways to deploy them? What are the key challenges in the playwriting classroom and solutions for dealing with them?