Theater Teacher Megan Schy Gleeson is a champion for new works and new voices in theater. “New work is empowering and important to have in the world,” Schy Gleeson says. “We need to hear people’s stories, and people need to feel empowered enough to tell them.” Her playwriting class, offered last semester, gave students an opportunity to develop and share new stories through their own plays.
Prior to this course offering, CA students had opportunities to explore playwriting through New Noises (The Massachusetts Young Playwrights’ Project), departmental studies, and student organizations such as the What’s On Your Mind new play project and festival. In response to this excitement around playwriting, Schy Gleeson proposed a semester-long playwriting class, which was offered first in fall 2019 and again this past semester.
With a strong emphasis on reading and writing, playwriting is offered through both the Performing Arts and English Departments. Schy Gleeson says that the English Department was welcoming of this cross-listing, excited to offer students this unique learning opportunity. Similarly, many students in the course wove in previous academic experiences into their work, including individuals who had been involved in CA’s feature film project and screenwriting course. Schy Gleeson says this opened up an exciting conversation throughout the course about the differences and overlap between play, screenplay, novel, and poetry.
Throughout the semester, Schy Gleeson invited professional playwrights from the Boston area to visit the class and provide feedback on students’ work. These guests included Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro P ’93, Deirdre Girard, Alexa Mavromatis, and Andrew Siañez-De La O. These playwrights come from a wide diversity of ages, life experiences, interests and backgrounds, and according to Schy Gleeson, offered a “lovely array of insight” into students’ work. “All of the guest playwrights added to the class in really constructive ways,” Kyra Lauren ’22 says.
Guest playwright Andrew Siañez-De La O visiting Concord Academy’s playwriting course.
Kyra, who has been involved in playwriting at CA since 9th grade, says that more CA students have become involved with and passionate about playwriting in recent years. Kyra credits Schy Gleeson’s dedication to building out the playwriting program at CA, including offering this class in conjunction with the English Department, as one of the reasons for this increased interest.
The course allowed students to explore the creative process involved in the art and craft of writing a play. Schy Gleeson says students confronted important questions through their work: “How do we look at character? How does dialogue reveal character and relationship? How do we look at how a plot unfolds? How do we look at the key events that create a play and the building blocks that help a full on story emerge for an audience?” She encouraged students to lean into the nonlinear nature of the creative process and says they developed more patience for themselves as both writers and creative thinkers throughout the fall.
At the end of the course, each student presented a final draft of a one-act play as well as a reading of a scene from the final draft of their play for an invited audience. Schy Gleeson notes that many students made major changes during the rewrite process and took creative risks. Students in the course delighted in seeing their peers’ work during these final presentations. “It was fun to see how thoughtfully they saw into each other’s work, and how generous they were with offering up support and appreciation for the growth they witnessed in their peers,” Schy Gleeson says.
Though the course has concluded for the year, many students plan to continue working on their plays. Others hope to turn their work into a screenplay or a short story. Kyra is even considering turning their one-act play from this class into a two-act musical. Schy Gleeson says, “It is really exciting to see students so exceedingly passionate about creating their stories.”