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Introduction to Playwriting

DRAM 251/3.0

A hands-on introduction to the craft and techniques of playwriting.

Learning Outcomes

After completing DRAM 251, students will be able to:

  • write a play – which includes being able to:
    • construct a believable and engaging plot;
    • write believable and engaging dialogue for multi-faceted characters;
    • understand how the text of a play can conceal and reveal emotional subtext;
    • exploit the supposed “limitations” of the live theatre to their advantage, using symbolism and theatrical techniques to convey a story;
    • accept dramaturgical advice from others in a professional way, unencumbered by shame or defensiveness, and use it in their writing;
    • work collaboratively with directors, actors, designers and stage managers in script workshops and in rehearsal.
  • and understand, and assist in, the playwriting of others, which includes being able to:
    • create, and recognize and analyze the inner plot structure of plays written by others;
    • and critically analyze playwriting by others, and offer useful and coherent dramaturgical support.


As there appears to be no better way to learn to write plays than by writing plays, each student will write the first draft of an original one-act play of 15 to 30 minutes in duration, on a topic of the student’s choice, under the guidance of the instructor and with input from the instructor, the teaching assistant, and fellow students.

Students will submit a few pages per week of their developing scripts, to be read by fellow students and instructors, who will then offer written critiques and suggestions. This means, of course, that each student is also expected to read some of their classmates’ work, and offer responses, including suggestions for improvement or further development.

That is the central activity in this course. However, in addition, there will be weekly video lectures by Prof. Lazarus on such topics as building a plot; writing dialogue; understanding theme and message; working with such concepts of action, motivation and subtext; and expressively exploiting the limitations of the live stage. There will be Online Discussion Forums in which students are invited to respond to the ideas put forth in the video lectures. There will also be four other writing assignments which students are expected to complete during the term.


Fall 2018
Course Dates: 
Sept 6 - Nov 30, 2018
Exam Dates: 


20% - Exercises (x4)
30% - Online Lab Discussions
50% - The Play

**Evaluation Subject to Change**


Professor John Lazarus (lazarusj@queensu.ca)

Instructor message

Welcome to DRAM 251: Introduction to Playwriting! I’m your instructor, John Lazarus. I’ve been a working Canadian playwright since 1970, and have taught playwriting for about 25 years, first at Vancouver’s Studio 58 and then here at the Dan School, beginning when it was the Queen’s Drama Department in 2000. I’ve also taught sporadically at my alma mater, the National Theatre School of Canada, and at Vancouver Film School.

After graduating from N.T.S. in 1969, I lived in Vancouver for 30 years, working at various times as an actor, critic, broadcaster, playwright, screenwriter and teacher. My own plays include Babel Rap, Dreaming and Duelling, and Village of Idiots, as well as four one-act plays for young audiences, published by Playwrights Press as the anthology Not So Dumb. I’ve also written for film, TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and blogs. I look forward to working with each of you.


Time Commitment

Students can expect to spend approximately 10 hours a week in study/practice and online activity for this course.

Course Resources


SOLUS is Queen’s Student On-Line University System. You’ll have access to a SOLUS account once you become a Queen’s student. You’ll use SOLUS to register for courses, add and drop courses, update your contact information, view financial and academic information, and pay your tuition.

About OnQ

onQ is Queen's online learning platform. You'll log into onQ to access your course. All materials related to your course—notes, readings, videos, recordings, discussion forums, assignments, quizzes, groupwork, tutorials, and help—will be on the onQ site.

About Credit Units

Queen’s courses are weighted in credit units. A typical one-term course is worth 3.0 units, and a typical two-term course is worth 6.0 units. You combine these units to create your degree. A general (three-year) BA or BSc requires a total of 90 credit units.

Computer Requirements

To take an online course, you’ll need a high speed internet connection as well as a microphone and speakers to be able to watch videos, hear sounds, and participate in interactive online activities. A webcam is recommended but not necessary.

System Requirements:

  • Laptop or Desktop computer purchased within the last 5 years. (mobile devices are not supported)
  • Windows Vista SP2/Mac OSX 10.9 or higher
  • Up to date versions of Firefox, Internet Explorer or Safari. Please note that Google Chrome is not recommended for use in our courses.
  • Most recent version of Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash

 See also Getting Started.


The deadlines for new applications to Queen’s Arts and Science Online courses are in our Upcoming Application Dates section.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees vary depending when you start, your year, faculty, and program. Fees for Summer Term 2018 first-year Distance Career Arts & Science Domestic students are as follows: for a 3.0-unit course, $685.90; for a 6.0-unit course, $1371.80 See also Tuition and Fees.

Grading Scheme

The information below is intended for undergraduate students in the Faculty of Arts and Science. Academic Regulations in other Faculties may differ.

Letter Grade Grade Point

GPA Calculators
Have your SOLUS grade report handy and then follow the link to the Arts and Science GPA calculators.

How does this affect my academics?
See the GPA and Academic Standing page.

Follow the link above for an explanation of how the GPA system affects such things as the Dean’s Honour List, requirements to graduate, and academic progression.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Grading Scheme
Please follow this link to the FAQ's

Campus Bookstore

All textbooks can be purchased at Queen’s Campus Bookstore.

Non-Queen’s Students

All Queen’s Arts and Science Online courses are open to students at other universities. Before applying as a visiting student, request a Letter of Permission from your home university that states that you have permission to take the course and apply it to your degree. See also Apply.

Academic Integrity

Please see Queen’s policy statement on academic integrity for information on how to complete an online course honestly.