Help! Fix My Play: Tips and techniques to bring your writing to life

650 433 Play Penn

with Robert Smythe

Join Guggenheim Fellow and Philadelphia Magazine’s “Best Professor” (“Best of Philly”) Robert Smythe for a workshop that helps you build a foundation for playwriting success. This class is perfect for new/emerging writers, as well as more experienced writers who want to add to their toolkit, or sharpen what’s already there!

In this class, we’ll take the general themes and concepts that first led you to conceive of writing a play and make them specific.

We’ll work on getting the story out of your head and into a form that can be understood and interpreted by your future collaborators: the other artists who will eventually direct, perform, and design because they’re inspired by your words. By the time you finish the first five-minute exercise, you’ll be surprised at what you have inside you.

You’ll learn how to use tension and rhythm, and how to reveal states of mind through personal moments. You’ll write scenes and monologues. And love it. You’ll discover that, in addition, or even instead of all the other things you thought you were, you are a writer of plays. Not because someone told you that you are, but because you know you are.

In each class, you’ll spend time writing and then you’ll share what you’ve written with the rest of us. After you get feedback, you’ll continue writing outside of class for an assignment, or you might just want to continue writing because you’re so excited about getting stuff down on paper.

As we move through the course, we’ll explore how to write for the stage: not just how to write words for actors to speak, but how to make things happen: how to create excitement and surprises, and interest and emotion, so that when people act out your play or see it in a performance, they’ll understand exactly what you mean. And that is extremely satisfying.

Playwriting Technique 2, offered in future semesters, will use these skills to build structure, from crucial moments right to the end of the play.

Free Reading of YOUR New Play

If you register for a PlayPenn class by January 14, 2018, then you can apply for the opportunity to have your unproduced full-length plays given a public, professional staged reading. PlayPenn will produce one student’s play as a reading with a professional director, professional actors and a PlayPenn Dramaturg in Philadelphia, PA in the spring/summer of 2018. The play many not have had a professional production. PlayPenn will cover the costs of the reading, but the student is responsible for their own housing and transportation. If you register for a class by the deadline then additional details will be emailed to you after January 14, along with a submission form.

January 16-February 6 (Tuesday Nights), 6pm-9pm

Adrienne Theatre Rehearsal Room, 2030 Sansom St, Philadelphia, PA (parking and other info will be provided after registration)

Robert Smythe is an acclaimed theater artist and the founder of Mum Puppettheatre, the only regional theater in the United States dedicated to puppetry, serving as its Artistic Director for 23 years. During that time, he wrote, directed and performed over 20 original productions using puppets, masks and human actors, leading Mum on international tours on four continents. According to Philadelphia City Paper, Smythe’s work with Mum “sparked the Philadelphia theater renaissance that continues to this day.” Smythe has won numerous awards and honors, including Guggenheim, Pew, and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, and six solo performer fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts; he’s won six Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theater in areas ranging from education to choreography; and he was the first artist to receive a commission from the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts: the resulting collaboration between him and the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Stravinsky’s “l’Histoire du Soldat,” won the 2011 Barrymore Award for Outstanding Collaboration. Smythe is the founder of the Playwriting Program for the International Puppetry Conference at the Tony-winning O’Neill Theater Center. His ground-breaking application of narrative theory to puppetry, “Reading a Puppet Show: Understanding the Three-Dimensional Narrative,” was published in The Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance, and his work on motor contagion was been published in Acta Psychologica. He received his MFA in Playwrighting from Temple University, where he was a University Fellow. In 2010, in their annual “Best of Philadelphia” issue, Philadelphia Magazine named him “Best Professor”.



Register Here

Click the link below to visit our Reservation Page, where you can view all classes, select, and register for this class using our new checkout feature. For questions or to inquire about payment plans, please email


*Students must register for a class by January 14, 2018 in order to be eligible to submit for the free spring Education reading.

“An unbelievable environment of support and encouragement. Continuously encouraged growth of any idea that was presented in the class.”

-Tom, 2017 Student

“When you leave a PlayPenn class, your brain is so full of ideas and new tools, and your heart is full from this new network of collaborators you have just met. Old ideas are revived by the teachers, the tools, and the people in the room. I always leave the class ready to work.”

-Jamie, 2017 Student

“The classes are a great opportunity for theater makers and theater lovers to gain useful insight to the playmaking process, as well as helpful tools to apply in any creative endeavor.”

-Andrew C., 2017 Student