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June 11 - June 17

Kenyon Playwrights Conference

About the Program

Write every day, surrounded by some of the most exciting early-stage play development in the U.S. and U.K. That’s the intensive Kenyon Playwrights Conference experience, which includes morning-long seminars led by literary managers and resident faculty, the space to write in the afternoon and hear scenes from your plays read, and the opportunity to sit-in on rehearsals while three commissioned plays take shape with the creative teams from powerhouse international companies.

To create an extraordinary opportunity for aspiring and working playwrights, the Kenyon Institute has partnered with three companies to commission new work. Seattle’s ACT has premiered or developed 22 new plays since 2006, which have gone on to have over 60 productions elsewhere in the country, including Broadway. Roundabout Theatre Company has grown from a small 150-seat theater in a converted supermarket basement to become the nation’s most influential nonprofit theater company, as well as one of New York City’s leading cultural institutions, with five stages on and off Broadway. The Old Vic, one of London’s most storied theaters and the original home of the National Theatre, has launched generations of new plays and some of Britain’s most celebrated actors, most recently under artistic directors Kevin Spacey and Matthew Warchus.

The artistic staff of the guest theatres, along with Institute faculty, will lead small-group morning seminars focusing on essential topics in play development. Learn more about the essentials of plot and character in seminars with our resident faculty, who will offer exercises that will serve to generate new work or allow you to reinvestigate a current play. Present your work, whether it’s a play you’ve brought to the conference or one you’ve just begun, in morning sessions led by the three literary managers. Afternoons are for writing and revision. In the evenings, you’ll have additional opportunities to hear scenes from your works-in-progress read by an ensemble of young Institute actors.  You’ll receive feedback from some of the industry’s most respected directors and new-play development experts, as well as a national community of playwrights who assemble for the Conference.

Each of the three professional theater companies, along with the Kenyon Institute, has commissioned a new play by an established playwright. You’ll have the opportunity to learn more about their process and the craft of playwriting in three afternoon master classes.

Throughout the week, the commissioned plays will be developed in rehearsals and table readings where you will be able to see the new scripts develop. And you will be the first to see these new works onstage, culminating in readings with a professional cast and lively post-show talkbacks with your fellow playwrights, led by resident director Christian Parker.

A Typical Day

9:00 am


You’ll take part in two types of classes: two seminars, led by artistic director Wendy MacLeod and associate artistic director Ben Viccellio, where you’ll explore the crucial role of character and plot through in-class exercises. The three literary managers will each offer morning seminars during which you’ll present a new scene or an excerpt from your play, read by our student actors, for feedback and discussion. You’ll leave with a writing prompt to fuel your daily writing process.

12:00 pm

Lunch in Peirce Hall.

1:00 pm

Writing time.

Because each day you will be asked to write or rewrite a short scene, you’ll probably want to spend the afternoon writing. This can also be your time to work out at the athletic center or walk or bike on the Kokosing Gap Trail while thinking about your work in progress.

4:00 pm

Master classes (optional).

You will have a master class with one of the visiting playwrights, who will share his or her processes and lead exercises that will stimulate your writing. Wine-and-cheese receptions following each master class will give you a chance to meet the creative teams from our partner companies.

5:30 pm

Dinner in Peirce Hall.

Sit down with your classmates and enjoy a relaxed dinner overlooking the magnificent Central Ohio countryside. The Conference has a dedicated private dining room and its own outdoor patio meal space.

7:00 pm

Readings (optional).

Come out to the Open Barn, where you can sign up to have scenes read by our student company for an audience of your colleagues, led by experienced directors, who work in new play development. Later in the week, you’ll be the first to hear plays still in process by our three commissioned playwrights. Come out for drinks at the Village Inn, or, if inspired, go home to write!