Writing for the Stage: The Playwright’s Handbook
Crowood Theatre Companions
Writing for the Stage is not the first manual designed to assist tyro playwrights struggling to complete work and then get it produced, nor will it be the last.
However, any aspiring writer should definitely consider picking up a copy of this volume written by Anthony Clark, who at various times has been a playwright, a director, an artistic director and perhaps most relevantly the course leader for an MA in dramatic writing at Central St Martin’s. If anyone can be said to have been there and done that in this context, it is Mr Clark.
The strengths of this book lie in its sensible, methodical structure, practical advice and thorough overview of just about every aspect of their project that any aspiring playwright will need to consider, complemented by much allusion to plays and playwrights from every period and genre.
For the most part, it reads like something put together from many years of lecturing about the subject, distilling all of those pearls of wisdom that have been shared in person with students. This means that to open, there is a short history of dramatic arts, as well as an overview of what it might take to be a playwright.
On the writing front, it includes suggestions about how to structure a play, how to present it and even what to do if, heaven forfend, someone is afflicted by that dreaded blight, writer’s block.
There are chapters on interactions with other key players, particularly agents, producers and directors but also those whom one might wish to approach in an effort to get your show on to a stage and perhaps even generating some kind of financial reward, even if not necessarily enough to live on.
Having considered the creation and promotion of the play, the writer then helpfully takes readers through every element of staging, from composing a creative team and casting to rehearsals, previews and that wonderful Nirvana, opening night, not to mention the reviews that might follow, whether good or bad.
Some might wonder whether there is any point in publishing yet another book on such a popular subject. The answer is indisputably “yes” since different people respond in different ways to direction, training and guidance.
What might be an inspiration to one up-and-coming playwright could be pure tedium to another. In that context, Writing for the Stage is a helpful volume that should be considered for any prospective playwright’s bookshelf and reading list.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher