Reflections on Playmaking Round One
"Adventurous theater in Astoria"

-- The New York Times

Reflections on Playmaking Round One

Our 10th Anniversary of Playmaking is underway and once again students from Horace Greeley Intermediate School (IS 10) are taking part in an afterschool program where they learn to write their own plays from Playmaking instructor Susan Willerman. These young playwrights then see their original works brought to life by professional actors and directors in a evening of staged readings. Each young playwright sees their work performed for the very first time while sitting in a big “Writer’s Chair” onstage. It’s great fun and inspiring to see these kids find a new way to express themselves. Playwriting Assistant, Gina Femia reports on how the first round of this year’s Playmaking program went!

Playmaking students take a bow

Playmaking students take a bow

On February 12th 2015, this year’s newest cohort of Playmaking playwrights got to see their plays come to life, right before their very eyes.  Professional actors and directors worked to bring a wide array of imaginative characters to life in powerful plays that included themes of friendship, abandonment, fear, and forgiveness.

The work began months before and continued through eleven sessions where students who had never even seen a play began their journey of writing one. Playmaking teacher Susan Willerman led students on this journey, having them create a wide array of characters, leading them on sensory exercises and giving them the basic tools and structure for writing their plays.

I was constantly thrilled by the imaginative and eager work that these young playwrights were doing. Rachel enthusiastically jumped into improvisation exercises and showed that quick thinking could lead to high stakes in dramatic work. Labiba was constantly curious and proved to be a natural leader in the classroom. Nicole began as a shy, closed off playwright but quickly gained confidence as she jumped headfirst into improvisations and discussions about characters.   Though quiet, Joel created one of the loudest plays, with colorful characters that included a laptop named Digital and a top hat wearing turkey known as Mr. Delicious.

When the students had opportunities to self-reflect, their insights touched me deeply. Jacob said he noticed that he was able to apply the skills he gained in Playmaking in his regular ELA classes.  Karina shared that she surprised herself by her creativity; she said while she knew she was good at math, she didn’t realize that she had such a large imagination.

These playwrights also expressed interest in continuing their Playmaking experiences beyond the classroom. Upon the completion of his play, Sabiq expressed excitement thinking about how he could continue the story.  Jeremi told me he had many more ideas for future plays that he planned on penning in the near future.

It was a true pleasure to work with all of these playwrights, as well as watch their plays unfold before them. Each one spoke about how happy they were upon seeing their plays acted out and receiving their scripts, signed by all the actors and directors. They formed a deep bond with one another through this class. It is my hope that they also created a bond with theatre and that they will continue to write plays long past the classroom.


Playmaking is based on the work for children created by Daniel Judah Sklar and on his book “Playmaking.” Sklar is also a member of APAC’s Advisory Board.


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