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Writing A Short Play

Playwriting Inspiration


Playwriting Inspiration


Students will demonstrate their understanding of how inspirations for plays are found by thinking of personal experiences in their lives that could inspire their plays.


Scripts or cuttings of scripts for each group (not included), laptops or access to a computer lab


Invite the students to sit in a circle on the floor for “story time.” Read or tell them a story from your childhood. Invite others to share stories from their childhood but don’t let story time go longer than 10 or 15 minutes.


Explain that many plays and musicals come from experiences in people’s lives. It does not mean that their play necessarily is an exact replication of their experience (although sometimes it is). More often, playwrights take emotions, or characters, or one moment to inspire an entire play.


Put the students into groups of about 5 and give each group a script and tell them to read, as a group, the first scene or act (or the equivalent thereof). They may read it however they want in their groups, whether that’s aloud or on their own. This will take a while but that is OK! Tell them that as they read be thinking because when they are done, they must come up as a group with five possible inspirations that the playwright could have had to write this play. They can be emotions, made up characters, historical events, ANYTHING!


After they have come up with five possible inspirations, have them take out laptops/go to a computer lab. But before they move or get laptops and become distracted, tell them what they will be doing. Tell them that this will be solo work so there can be some chit-chat but not much. 


They will be researching the playwright who wrote the script excerpt that they read. They should be looking for stories and facts about their childhood, relationships, romances, education, where they lived/travelled etc. They may also research the time period that the play was written in. From the research they find, they need to come up with at LEAST one more inspiration that the playwright could have had. Explain that the five they came up with in their groups was based on interpretation from the text while this one should be based on their research. Tell them to print out (or write down if printing is not an option) any important facts, names or dates that they may need because they will be explaining their research and inspiration to their groups and they will be turning in their research. Also, during the time that they are allotted for this research, they need to think of one experience, character, or feeling from the playwright’s life that could have possibly inspired this play. It does not need to be the exact same as the play, but something that could have sparked the idea for the playwright.


Put laptops away/return to classroom and get back into their groups. Each person should share their researched idea and their personal idea for the inspiration for the play.


Bring the students back together and call on a few people to share what they found as inspiration. How did their ideas change before and after their research? If they are comfortable sharing with the class, what was their personal experience that they thought could have inspired the play?

BUT does it really matter whether or not we know exactly what the playwright’s exact inspiration was? The interpretation of the play is all up to the audience.



Have the students bring out a piece of paper and tell them that we are now focusing on the short plays that each student will write. Each student needs to write down at least ten life experiences or influential people in their lives that could potentially be inspirations for their plays. Make sure to stress the idea once more that it does not mean that the play has to be exactly about the experience, it just means that the emotions or issues are present. 


Check to make sure that everyone has written down ten items but let the students keep them. Tell the students that they don’t have to use these ideas, it is just to help them start thinking and being creative. Their playwriting project is not something that you can write the night before, they need to be thinking about it starting now.