George Sapio has written what is probably the best, most definitive book on the how and the why to workshop a new play.
While writing may be a solitary exercise, once words are on a page they need to be seen, read, or heard. This is especially true for playwrights who write very specifically for actors and an audience. But a large part of writing is rewriting. For fiction and non-fiction writers it is common to send a draft to a variety of readers for comments. And while it’s possible to do that with scripts as well, a play needs to be read aloud and heard to get the full measure of what works, what is clear, and what needs improvement. Hence, a workshop.
Many theatres will hold readings of plays – that first chance to hear the script out loud. But fewer will take that next step, to workshop a play. To hire a director, a dramaturg, actors, and really explore a script to find the strengths and weaknesses of a script so that it might be developed, giving the playwright the opportunity to make a play stronger.
Sapio, who has experienced play-writing workshops from different points of view, approaches the playwright though this book with insight, and humor, and a load of good advice. And he cuts right to the heart of what we need to know – he doesn’t pad this volume with commentary just to increase the page length.
Some of what Sapio has to say seems like common sense (“Ensuring feasibility for production” or “follow directions when submitting to theatres”) yet the fact that he mentions these things is a reminder that there are many people who don’t follow the common sense rules and need these reminders.
I also liked that the book reaches out not only to playwrights, but to directors and dramaturgs, to remind them of the purpose of the workshop and how to approach a playwright, possibly nervous and defensive of his/her very personal creation.
This book should be required reading for playwrights at all levels and for every theatre that wants to produce new works.
Looking for a good book? Workshopping the New Play by George Sapio is an excellent resource and guide for anyone writing or directing or producing new plays.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.
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Workshopping the New Play: A Guide for Playwrights, Directors, and Dramaturgs
author: George Sapio
publisher: Applause Theatre & Cinema Book
paperback, 161 pages