Summer is officially over, and fall is kicking into gear. Even if you’re not a student, we all seem to get swept up in the “back to school” phase. The playfulness of hot August days are replaced with a studious feeling as the autumn crisp settles in. Deadlines start to loom and, if you’re like us, a bit of inspiration may be needed. So we decided to round up some of our authors and ask for the best advice they would give to aspiring playwrights, composers and lyricists. Take a read, get inspired, and then, go write. (Miss Part 1? Check it out.)

Samuel D. Hunter
The Whale, Pocatello

“If you’re anything like me, when you’re first starting out you’re going to write a lot of bad plays.  But don’t resent them – the bad plays are what teach you how to write the good ones.”

Heidi Schreck
Grand Concourse, Creature

“It can be helpful to have a muse. Find a sibling or unwitting friend and make them be in all of your plays. At age ten I sewed a pirate costume for my little brother and convinced him stand in the bathtub and pretend he was Sinbad the Sailor in a well-received performance for my parents. My process hasn’t changed much. I often write for actors I adore, for people who inspire me. Writing can be lonely. It helps to have conspirators.”

Doug Wright
Hands on a Hardbody, I Am My Own Wife

“The great director Lloyd Richards (who brought Lorraine Hansberry’s landmark work A Raisin in the Sun and many August Wilson dramas to the stage) once told me, ‘Always write for an audience that is smarter than you are.’   I think that’s a splendid challenge; it forces you to outwit yourself.”

Crystal Skillman
Geek!, Cut

“Always write what you want and be specific with your writing time – let yourself discover your process. Know that much of that discovery is what doesn’t work. It will lead you to what does work! Some plays will come slow, some quick, but know your play is a wonderful, breathing, living thing. It is like gold. If you show how much you value it when you speak of your work and share it, others will see this too, even if it’s not perfect at first. And know that plays rarely are! Don’t be afraid to be a leader. If you’re a playwright, you already are!”

Marcus Stevens
Yo, Vikings!, Persephone Unplugged

“The hardest thing I’ve had to learn (and I’m still working on it) is to not self-edit as you go. The initial spark of creation is always more interesting and innately theatrical than what comes out if you worry about it being ‘good.’ Write first and write without barriers. You can (and will) always edit later.”

Brad Alexander
See Rock City & Other Destinations

“I see a lot of talented musicals with a killer plot, terrific songs and interesting characters, but they suffer from a tone problem. As you’re creating your show – ideally, even before you create it – figure out the tone. What are the rules of the world? The lexicon? The look? The musical style? What would your characters typically say and also never say? As a composer, establishing the tone is vital to finding the right sound for a show. The more specific I am with my collaborators about tone, the easier it is for us to write the show. Early in the writing process try to draw some pretty thick boundaries around the world of your musical so that you don’t waste any time writing songs or scenes that are fantastic but don’t belong in the show. Not to say that you can’t push those boundaries – sometimes the story calls for it – but consistent tone really helps a show’s identity, which is crucial to really crisp, clear story-telling.”

Diana Amsterdam
Fast Girls, The End of “I”

“Write before you think. Do you edit everything you say before saying it? When a character really gets inside your head, when she comes alive, she will say what’s on her mind onto the page—before you have the chance to think about it.”

Robert Caisley
Happy, Front

“Try writing an opening stage direction that completely mystifies you – so much, in fact, that you might just have to sit down and write a play in order to figure out exactly why it said what it said when you wrote that curious stage direction in the first place. Audiences love a mystery slowly unfolding – so why not try to harness that same sense of mystery when you sit down each day to write. This little trick sparked the creation of Happy.”

Hannah Bos & Paul Thureen
Blood Play, Jacuzzi

“Ideas can come to you at the strangest moments so keep a small notebook with you on the subway and keep your eyes open. Listen to the world.

Write about what moves you. You can write about things that people don’t write plays about. In fact, it’s probably better that way. If something is exciting to you, you really love it, or it makes you feel scared or alive or weird . . . write about it. Talk to old people. Have them talk about their lives. You don’t have to know where it’s going to end up. You’ll figure that out later. Just start writing and see where it goes.”

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