offers two playwriting courses.
I was in good company under the tutelage of one of the most knowledgeable, welcoming teachers I have ever encountered: Gary Graves
A veteran of the School of Theatre and the local arts scene, Gary
understands first-day jitters intimately and strives to alleviate these fears by immediately establishing the playwriting class as a positive and welcoming space.
"A priority in the class," Gary
says, "is to develop a really constructive and supportive atmosphere rather than a competitive one.
Not only does he
students to support one another, but he
also works to accommodate and encourage people at all skill levels.
continues, "I've designed the class to encompass a really wide range of experience and interests.
Many students have never written a play before and some have written a number of plays."
For many, however, the prospect of writing an entire play sounds impossible.
"I think that everybody has at least one play in them," responds Gary
"Lots of people have thought about an episode in their lives or a story they have floating around in their minds.
According to him, it's all about diving in and demystifying the writing process.
"I really focus on trying to assist the writers to complete a play and not loading a bunch of other work on them," he
"I give them a series of deadlines where they can bring increasingly larger portions of a play into the class to share.
is also quick to note that many students prefer to use their class time to write a couple of short plays rather than one full-length one.
According to him, doing so is an excellent way of coming to understand how to structure a play.
Gary is a fierce advocate for the development of new works, both at Berkeley Rep and elsewhere.
has spent more than a decade as co-director of Central Works
, a Berkeley-based theatre company devoted entirely to the development of new plays.
passion for theatre and encouraging new voices in the field fuels each class, most of which he
begins by asking, "Have you seen any good plays lately?
then heads into a discussion on why any given play was good or bad.
As my playwriting class evolved, our answers grew more sophisticated, but the constant was that we were always encouraged to voice our opinions and engage in a respectful dialogue with one another.
Though many of my classmates and I began Gary's course insecure and uneasy, we left it with many things: confidence, a great deal of respect for our own artistic voices and those of our classmates, a hefty body of work and an itch to keep writing.
, "Once you begin to delve into the practice and art of playwriting, it's a very exciting and extremely engaging mental exercise and artistic expression.
It is immensely rewarding for the students to put their thoughts and ideas to paper.
It is perhaps equally rewarding for Gary
, who delights in the artistic development of his
"I always find it amazing and wonderful to ask people what projects they're working on in the first class and watch those ideas mature over the course of 10 weeks," he