Waynesburg University has seen many plays performed at the Goodwin Performing Arts Center. While most were written by professional playwrights, some were created by students and faculty and performed as one act plays.
Professor of Theatre Edward L. Powers and senior English major Rachael Crosbie have written many plays. Powers’ most recent performed creation was “The Waiting Room”, which premiered last fall ast semester. Crosbie presented her play “Listen” in the 2018 Spring semester. As theatre veterans, these two have experience and advice on how a play should be written.
There are many factors that drive playwrights. For Powers and Crosbie, writing is for more that just enjoyment. For Powers, writing plays is about what is being created. He sees a play as more than just words on a page.
“We write because we have a desire to create life,” Powers said.
For Crosbie, play writing is a creative outlet to work on a genre that isn’t her strong suit. t
“I like to write in general. I usually write poetry,” Crosbie said. “Writing plays is my way of writing fiction without writing fiction. I’m not really good at writing fiction. Plays are another way for me to write a story without everything that entails fiction.”
Creating themes or a story for a play can come from anything, Powers said. Where the ideas come from depends on the playwright and their ability to create scenes with just their mind and creativity.
“Inspiration comes from a writer’s own imagination and his or her willingness to grasp these ideas that just flit their way through their minds and grab hold of one of theses ideas and run with it,” Powers said.
While imagination can have endless possibilities, there are challenges writers have to face. “Sitting in front of that blank screen, and developing the discipline to write is the biggest challenge,” Powers said.
Crosbie’s biggest hurdle, she said, is creating character lines that sound like the character’s personality and how a real person would sound like.
“[Writing] dialogue that was not contrived or unwarranted [is challenging],” she said. “I’ve had to think every time I wrote a line ‘is this consistent with the character and is this consistent with the narrative I am trying to push forward?’ I’ve had to buckle down and really see what was happening at the moment.”
Both Crosbie and Powers have own tips on writing an effective play. Crosbie said not to think so hard about what you are putting on paper.
“A lot of people, myself included, when they first start getting into play writing, you worry so much about what the character says and you think it has to be profound and poetic,” Crosbie said. “It doesn’t have to be.”
Powers said balancing natural dialogue and keeping a play from becoming slow is important.
“Time on stage is compressed time,” he said. “We have to keep in mind that we still need to keep it natural, but the characters still have a job to do to conveying the story and moving the story along.”
. While sitting down and letting imagination run wild is fun in of itself, writing down those ideas are difficult, Powers said.
“I find writing for the stage to be the hardest job in theatre because if I’m an actor [or] a director, I have the script here,” Powers said.“So I have a foundation, a basis. As a writer, I’ve got nothing. I’ve got an empty computer screen or old school, and empty sheet of paper and a typewriter.”