Playwriting and Dramaturgy Courses

By Mariza Halliday - Last update

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What are Playwriting and Dramaturgy?

Playwriting is the art of writing a story or script for a play or performance. Most plays are usually performed on stage in front of a live audience. Playwrights may write their original new work or may adopt an existing work such as a novel into a play, or may create a new version of an older play or a play written in another language.

Playwrights will usually still have some involvement with the play once they have completed the script and may attend some rehearsals to make changes and update the script if something is not working or something needs to be added or removed. Dramaturgy is the study of dramatic composition and how it is adapted to be acted. Dramaturgy ensures that a performance has a foundation and structure to work from.

A Dramaturg or Dramaturge is a dedicated person on the creative team whose role is to support the development of the play by asking questions and starting conversations about research and providing context to help the artists as they work together to tell the intended story. It is the job of the dramaturge to give the playwright feedback during the revision process to help the playwright achieve their goals for the play.

What 3rd level courses are available?

Universities and colleges in Ireland are offering Playwriting and Dramaturgy courses in the following subject areas:

  • Playwriting & Dramaturgy – Cultivate your skills as a writer of dramatic texts and increase your knowledge of theatrical structures and forms.
  • Playwriting – Gain the skills and knowledge needed to pursue a career in theatre and related industries as a playwright.
  • MA in Playwriting – The study of modern and contemporary theatre and performance in theory and practice.
  • MA in Playwriting & Dramaturgy – The study of the practical theatrical crafts of playwriting and dramaturgy.
  • Drama and Performance Studies – Analyse, explore, and reflect critically on contemporary theatre and performance.
  • Drama and Theatre Studies – The study of the core knowledge of theatre-making, critical perspectives, and theatre history.

Studying Playwriting and Dramaturgy in college

Courses will cover all theory work through lectures, assignments, tutorials, and taught modules. Assessments will take place continuously with written examinations and practical assignments combined to achieve a qualification.

Many full-time Playwriting and Dramaturgy courses run anywhere from 1 year to 4 years depending on the course and modules selected. There are also part-time courses and night courses available so you can be sure to fit in your studies no matter what your schedule is like.

You could also consider work experience or work shadowing in theatres or drama clubs to gain real-world experience. Work Experience will not only allow you to obtain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the industry, but it will also give you a chance to do some essential networking with other theatre professionals and make lasting connections.

Career options

After completing a course in Playwriting and Dramaturgy you will be able to get started in a career that uses specific knowledge of dramatic texts, theatrical structures, and forms.

Playwrights work freelance which means that they don’t earn a stable income each month but rather are paid a lump sum for each script they write that is bought by a theatre company or studio.

Playwrights can work with theatre companies to help them develop new plays – usually, the director will head up the project and lead rehearsals but may draw on the playwright’s expertise in storytelling to make sure that the play remains coherent and well-structured. In these cases, the playwright will usually be called a ‘dramaturg’.

If you want to be a playwright, be aware that you will probably need another career too. Even successful playwrights don’t tend to earn enough from playwriting alone to pay the bills. The skills you’ve gained writing for the stage will be similar to those needed to write for film, TV and radio drama, and advertisements so this could be a viable option alongside your playwriting.

Other options include becoming a script reader for theatre, film, or broadcasting companies to assess the potential of the script and summarise its contents. Story liners work on long-running TV or radio dramas to come up with new storylines that will be engaging for the audience.

You could work as a script editor and liaise between the producers and screenwriters on new storylines and developments or you could take on a role running playwriting workshops.

Related jobs include:

  • Playwright
  • Dramaturg
  • Actor
  • Theatre Director
  • Theatre Stage Manager
  • Arts Administrator

Further study

After completing a course in Playwriting and Dramaturgy you may choose to pursue further study in a specialist field to increase your knowledge base and skillset. Postgraduate study can also be used as a means to change career focus or to gain professional qualifications required to practice in certain career areas such as teaching, arts management, public relations, and drama therapy, to name a few.


Are there any particular qualities you need to study Playwriting and Dramaturgy?

The main quality for playwriting is the ability to write a good script but there are some things you can do to help nurture and develop this skill.

You can read lots of plays and see lots of plays and make sure to see a variety of both new plays and older classics.

Get involved in shows, drama clubs, and acting classes and learn about plays and how they work even if you aren’t the writer.

Write as much as you can, what you write may not always be good but it could spark inspiration for your masterpiece – just keep writing and creating, you could even join or start a writing group.

Where can I study Playwriting and Dramaturgy?

Explore your options here

Did You Know?

· Although plays were written in 1600, only about 30% of men and 10% of women in England could read at the time.

· Before becoming Pope, Pope John Paul II wrote a play called The Jeweller’s Shop which played the Westminster Theatre in 1982

· The character of Elphaba in Wicked was named after the author of The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum

· The term Off-Broadway isn’t geographical. Broadway theatres have 500 seats, off-Broadway have 100-499 seats, off-off-Broadway have less than 100 seats

· Playwrights were paid about £6 a play in Shakespeare’s time.

Mariza Halliday

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