The Playwriting Program at Washington University offers many unique opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students. Our Playwright-in-Residence, Carter W. Lewis, has designed a pathway of courses to teach the art and craft of playwriting through both scholarly study and practical collaboration with artists in the field. 

Each semester provides development and production opportunities for our writers with fellow students, faculty, and guest professionals from around the country. Some of the highlights of the program are the annual A.E. Hotchner Playwriting Competition & Festival,  Student World Premieres, Visiting guest professionals, and a myriad of student-sponsored opportunities for playwrights to see their work realized.

The Performing Arts Department's ongoing commitment to playwriting is reflected in the caliber of professional guest dramaturgs, award-winning visiting playwrights, and the ongoing support and success of many of our Washington University playwriting alumni.

Courses in Playwriting

Introduction to Playwriting: L13-351

This is a beginner’s course in playwriting. Students learn the basic elements of character development, storytelling, structure, dialogue and the elemental differences between behaviorally driven dialogue and prose narrative. It's a hands-on course with many writing exercises and read-back sessions, the perfect "playground" for students wishing to test their abilities in the area of performance-oriented writing. No playwriting experience required. The class is offered as "wait list only". Prerequisite: None.

Advanced Playwriting: L15-473

Advanced Playwriting is a continuation of writing skills and exercises learned in Introduction to Playwriting. It will move beyond the elements of the well-made play, toward less linear work, breaking with realism, and action created thru language. It will also look at the approach of the writer thru the prism of Multiple Intelligences. The course will make use of actors within the class structure, placing playwrights and actors together in the collaborative script development processes. Those collaborations will include professional actors in the classroom and collaboration with a University Acting Class. Prerequisites: Introduction to Playwriting and permission of the instructor.

Playwriting Workshop: L15-505

The workshop is a writing laboratory for those students who want to continue coursework beyond Intro and Advanced Playwriting. It is a writing intensive course with a “high volume of pages”. It is a class that is only offered at the request of students who wish another level of playwriting - and is essentially a writing group with the instructor as mentor and dramatrug. Prerequisites: Introduction to Playwriting and Advanced Playwriting.

Dramaturgical Workshop: L15-403

A laboratory course that investigates dramaturgy from four vantage points: New Play Dramaturgy, Institutional Dramaturgy, Dramaturgy of Classics/Translations, and Dramaturgical Approaches to Nontraditional & Devised Theater. This is a “hands-on” course where student dramaturgs will not only pursue the scholarly study of dramaturgy, but will work actively and collaboratively with playwrights, actors and each other. Prerequisite: Introduction to Playwriting.

A.E. Hotchner Playwriting Competition & Festival

This annual playwriting competition & festival are open to all undergraduate and graduate students at Washington University. Many past "Hotch" plays have gone on to full production in the Performing Arts Department season and at various professional venues around the country.

Learn More About the Competition

Other Playwriting Opportunities

The Performing Arts Department offers many opportunities for our student writers to have their work developed and produced. Our very active student groups and their ongoing interest and dedication to the Art of Playwriting sponsor several of those opportunities.

Day O' Shame is a 24-hour playwriting slam.  Writers, actors an directors converge on a Friday night, and by Saturday night they fully produce six short world premieres.  Annual.  Produced by the student group Thyrsus.

No Shame Theatre is a student-driven playwriting group open to all Wash U. students that meets once a month. The group invites writers to bring in scenes, short plays or writing experiments to be read/explored/discussed by writers and actors present. Annual. Produced by the student group Thyrsus.

Ten-Minute Play Festival is an event of five or six selected short pieces that receive full production. Produced by Cast n’ Crew in selected years.

Site-Specific Work:
 Writers are given the opportunity to write for locations around campus. Some of those locations: a loading   dock, underground tunnel, a parking garage, a student apartment and yes, even a men's restroom. Produced by the student group Thyrsus in selected years.

Student-Produced Full-Length World Premieres
: These plays are usually chosen via a student-run playwriting competition called Thyrmpetition. The selected play is chosen, developed and produced for an on-campus venue. Produced by the student group Thyrsus in selected years.


"Very simply, without becoming involved with the Performing Arts Department, I would not be doing work that I love in graduate school. The playwriting classes created space where I could be vulnerable while I experimented with different forms of storytelling and strived to find my voice as a writer, scholar, and citizen."

―Andie BerryClass of 2017