by Dylan Southard
The Playwright’s Lab at The Robey Theatre Company has been in existence for many years, serving to develop new plays and new voices that speak to the black experience, both in this country and throughout the world. The lab is dedicated to new work and so has been crafted to help playwrights of all levels of experience to take their ideas from the earliest stages and build them up all the way to completed drafts. The lab consists of ten-week sessions. We meet once a week for three hours on Saturday mornings at the Robey offices located at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, downtown.
The work we do during these sessions can be divided into three parts. The first part is short writing exercises that are completed in class and then shared among the group. These exercises serve to inspire creativity and foster a collaborative and supportive environment among writers while providing fresh perspectives and fun new ways to approach writing. The second part is discussions about the fundamental building blocks of playwrighting; concepts like plot, theme, character and spectacle. We work to understand what these concepts really mean and how writers use them in combination to create great plays. These conversations are facilitated by handouts and online readings provided to the writers.
The third and most important part of the Playwright’s Lab is the work we do on the individual plays that writers are developing. Writers are encouraged to be working on one piece over the course of the session and to submit their writing in process throughout the ten weeks, whenever they feel the need. That work is read by the instructor and the other writers and then a discussion in class among the group is facilitated. Writers have a chance to hear what moments, characters and ideas are staying with the audience and which ones are ringing false. It’s a near constant source of feedback from fellow artists intimately familiar with the journey the writer is on and so it is a very valuable tool as the pieces take shape.
We’ve had a tremendous amount of success over the years with this system. In the past, plays that come out of the program have had readings or staged workshops or even moved on to become full productions both at the Robey and also at theaters throughout
the country. Even for those who don’t aspire to Broadway but who are just looking for a new and challenging outlet for their creativity, the Playwright’s Lab provides a warm and safe space (complete with donuts!) for you to hone your craft, share your inspirations, ideas and to take your plays and your writing to the next level.