WIP by Gabriel Flores Benard

With the end of February came the beginning of March, and with March came the new Creative Writing unit: playwriting. I had only known snippets of the playwriting unit from what others had said. I knew we were fated to write and act out our own plays, which both excited and scared me. The first day was memorable, setting the tone for the unit to come. As we pulled out our notebooks, our instructor delivered our prompt: 

For five minutes, write a list of all your obsessions! This is a free write, and you will not be sharing this part, so don’t be afraid to write out all of them. 

I wrote out what could have been an encyclopedic testament to all the things I loved. After the five minutes had concluded, the following prompt ensued: 

Alright everyone, now what I want you to do is imagine your childhood. What are the first things that come to mind when you think of childhood? What colors? 

Standard prompts, nothing out of the ordinary. Then, the next prompt shook things up a bit: 

Think about your childhood again. Who is the first person that comes to mind? Write thirty“I-” statements from their point of view.

I did not expect this prompt, and I didn’t expect the first thing to come to mind was my best friend back in elementary school. I hadn’t thought about him in a while, and all of a sudden, a flash flood of fond memories rushed at me. I jotted down what I remembered of him, and recalled all the things we did together. It was a solid five minutes of nostalgia that enticed me. Then came the playwriting activity the prompts were building up to: 

Alright, what I want you all to do is to look at the statements you wrote, and I want you to write a scene using three of the chosen lines. 

In 20 minutes, I wrote a play about my childhood friend, and got two of my close friends to act it out. Now THAT was fun. I delved into the mind of my old friend and created a world from that mindset. That was a taste of what it was like to write plays, and it was tantalizing. That scene wasn’t perfect by any means, but I left the class that day feeling content. I wanted to learn how to be better at writing a play. I volunteered in class whenever I could to act out characters from plays we had read the previous day. To become another character is an exciting experience, and a valuable tool in writing. To embrace your characters, you have to understand them, and I believe acting them out is a great way to understand your characters. I’m excited to see how my playwriting skills develop throughout the unit, and I can’t wait to see what I write into existence, and what I bring to life.

Playwriting in Person by Isabella Hansen

I started my first playwriting unit over zoom. Locked in my room, I would gaze at my computer screen as the Creative Writing department attempted improv games over the computer. Lockdown hit my freshman year, preventing me from gaining an in person playwriting unit. It was the same scenario with my Sophomore year and I vividly remember worrying over the fact that I might not ever get an in person playwriting class. And even if we did, would I be prepared? I have only ever had online playwriting units, would I even be qualified? I was both nervous and excited to start my first ever in-person playwriting unit and gain the experience of both acting and writing. 

Fun is the least I can say about our playwriting unit. We have had Drag Shows with the theme of a Greek tragedy, almost busted our vocal cords trying to reach certain pitches and did scene work using fake words. I have been having a blast and all the expectations that I had about  in-person playwriting were drastically exceeded. One of my most favorite components of playwriting is watching my plays being performed in front of me. One assignment we had was to bring a play to class that we would like to see performed. I brought my most recent play about a smoothie shop and almost had to be resuscitated after my peer’s killed their performance as the characters I picked for them to play. Playwriting is our last writing unit of the school year and will always be my favorite unit. Acting and doing fun improv games and scene work with my classmates will be experiences I will always cherish. Although I can’t complain about zoom playwriting, I was lucky after all to even get a playwriting experience, I am very happy with the certain aspects of playwriting I can do now.

Playwriting by Sophie Fastaia

A few weeks into our playwriting unit, our artist in residence, Ella Boureau, assigned a play called Medea, by Euripides. The play tells the story of Medea, the daughter of King Aeetes of Colchis. Medea is left by her husband Jason who marries the king’s daughter, Glauce. Medea pleads and begs to stay in Corinth with her sons, but is exiled from Corinth, Greece by Creon the king out of fear of Medea’s revenge. Out of jealousy, anger, and hatred towards Jason, she uses witchcraft, poison, and a sword to kill. She murders their two children, Creon, and Glauce, his new wife, to make Jason grieve. She wants Jason to be left with nothing, even if she has to live with the agony that she has murdered her dear children. 

After we had read the play and analyzed it thoroughly, Ella told us that we were going to have a performance called “Drag Medea.” We were expected to dress up in any type of drag: feminine, masculine, or a mixture of both. Ella wanted us to portray the passionate, agonizing role of Medea and become unhinged, capturing the anger, heartbreak, an emotion that Medea had felt in the play. It took me a few days to choose a song, as I was anxious about lip syncing in front of everyone. Aria, my fellow creative writer and I, chose to perform “Dancing On My Own” by Robyn. We had very few days to practice; I had no idea what to expect, what to choreograph, or who was to play each role. The next night, I was rummaging through my closet, when I came across a gray baseball cap. An idea popped into my head as I tried the cap on; I should become Jason, the douchebag husband of Medea.  

On the day of the performance, I came to school with a heavy bag full of makeup, a men’s flannel shirt, and a black vest. Everyone was dressed in costume: Oona in a cheerleader outfit and heels, Hazel in a blond wig and emerald cloak, Ella in a tophat and drawn on mustache, Parker in a lovely blue dress and lipstick, and me… in an extremely baggy men’s dress shirt and a cap that had “Jason” taped to the front. Ella rushed everyone outside as we sat in a circle of chairs; the show had begun. Hazel and Ester came through the door, lip syncing with confidence and pacing around each other like cats in a fight. Excitement and adrenaline rushed through me as I clapped and cheered. I was glad that the first act was done, giving me an idea of how the show was going to go. People lip synced to their songs that blasted out of the loudspeaker on the deck, one song ending, another beginning. 

My breath refused to slow down as my name was called out. Aria and I went up front, amongst the row of eyes staring at us. When the music started to play, I became Jason, lip syncing with all the emotion that I had, falling on my knees in exaggeration. I collapsed on the floor when Aria stabbed me with a foam sword, pretending to be murdered. The song started to die down and was followed by applause and many smiles. I felt relieved that the song was over and proud that I was able to go up in front of my department and perform in drag. I realized that I was capable of going outside of my comfort zone and enjoying performing, even though I thought that I could never do such a thing.

On Dialogue and Playwriting by Zai Deriu

Playwriting in general has never been my strong suit. I attribute this largely to the fact that for various uncontrolled circumstances, playwriting units have always been given the short end of the stick during my time in CW. Covid-19 broke out in the middle of our sophomore year playwriting unit, and the following years had to be done online entirely. Playwriting is such a performance and community based unit, so having it online was simply not as effective. Poetry and fiction, although they suffered from the online format, had more of a chance.

Additionally, I notoriously hate writing dialogue in all forms of writing, which is unfortunate as I consider it to be a primary aspect of playwriting. Everything about putting any speech into my work feels gross. Not only does it feel clunky and unnecessary, but I hate the way it looks on the page. Quotation marks are my least favorite form of punctuation. They look weird. The lovely thing about writing, however, is that then I simply don’t use them. In fiction I typically opt to put my speech in italics (or not use dialogue at all.) With playwriting, however, I am a bit more trapped, as it is difficult to dodge dialogue in this format.

Our playwriting unit culminates in each student turning in one completed ten minute play. Mine was inspired by fairytales, focusing on a character being cast away after their brother becomes convinced they are a monster. I’m happy with how it turned out, as I think I found a way to work with my strengths. 

I think what I usually find so irritating about dialogue is that realistic speech tends to contain so much filler that I feel as though I have to decide between realism or conciseness. In this play, however, cutting away dialogue actually helped to bolster my whimsical tone. Leaving long pauses between most lines made the entire piece seem more like a dream. If it were to be put on stage, I imagine the actors would utilize this to act out their characters in the absence of sound.

Despite all my feelings around writing dialogue and playwriting, I am quite pleased with my work this year. I am happy to say I am confident in the work I have done. It feels nice to leave my last CW playwriting unit on a good note.

Writing About Strangers by Jude Wong

We are now in playwriting class. At the start of the class, we were given homework which consisted of eavesdropping on people around us, whether it be on the way home from school or to a job. Many junior writers struggle to make dialogue feel realistic, the exercise was to help us be able to embody our characters using lifelike dialogue. I take the bus to school every day and listen to people around me. Often I sit at the back, among the more rowdy folks, these are the people who fit the focus of most of my writing. This exercise is to help my dialogue become more real for readers.

In my play a group of guys throw a ball around the back of the bus, and annoy and bully other riders. I incorporated a lot of teenage jargon into that space to create connections between characters and show their own internal conflicts.

I also enjoyed writing the play because it was set in an enclosed, claustrophobic space, the bus. I found it exciting as I personally had not written or seen a play unfold on a bus. I feel it caused the character dynamics to be shown even more clearly as all the characters were trapped in close contact, forcing interaction. I will also say a lot of my play is based on true events which multiplies the realism in each action and word. 

Draco: Nah, what’d he do?

Diesel: Bro, he’s been selling off answers like crazy.

Dunce: Yeah heard he got caught by the damn hall monitors, fuckin 

try hard brats. It’s like bruh how?!

Draco: Where the hell was he last year? I’d of 

bought that shit up quick.

Dunce: Ey man, we all know that expulsion

was bullshit.

This is a small excerpt from my most recent play. To further increase realism I added a character with a potential mental illness as gaps in public healthcare is a big issue in San Francisco right now. Instead of posing this character in a negative light, I raised him as the hero in the story, defeating the bullies and being cheered on by the surrounding crowd. 

Big man steps towards him, a rumble grumbles within Big man. He clutches his stomach. Jonas looks at him, then suddenly skitters out. Diesel and Dunce peek their heads in. The bus remains stopped due to the commotion. Thick orange vomit launches out of the Big man’s mouth and splatters across the three dudes. Draco’s mouth is wide open as it falls upon him. The three dudes fall to their knees, defeated. Big man roars loudly in victory. Jonas, in safety, cheers him on along with the bus people who weren’t hit. Besides the vomit victims, they all cheer in the form of beating on their chests and growling in favor of the Big Man.”

I believe writing is all about observation and interpretation. Look around and listen, there is a play on every corner.

Saying “Bye” to Performance Fears by Starlie Tugade

How many people can say they’ve written a play, or been in an intensive class taught by a playwright from New York? I’m sure there are some people out there, but not the majority of the population. A couple of months ago, I couldn’t either. In Creative Writing, we have a playwriting unit every spring, taught by an artist in residence. As a freshman (or freshpeep as Heather likes to call us), I’m fully immersed in my first playwriting unit, and I can easily say that it is one of the most fun things about Creative Writing, but it is also one of the scariest.

A few weeks ago, Ella, our playwright in residence, assigned us drag performance as a character in the play we were reading. We had a week to choose the song we were lip syncing to and choreograph, before performing in class on Friday. This assignment was somewhat of a wake-up call to me, because before, I had naively assumed that as writers, we would have to perform our own work, but not put on “Performances” with a capital P. However, being an introvert wasn’t enough to deter me from performing, and so I came up with a song and started thinking about different ways to choreograph my performance. I enjoyed coming up with different ways to act out my character alongside the song, and the night before, I put on a performance for my family, in hopes that my stage fright would disappear. That worked for the most part, but in the hours preceding the performance, my nerves were still present. 

One of the things that I love most about Creative Writing is how supportive the environment is, because everyone is ready to support and lift up one another. The nerves I had faded the minute I watched the first performance and felt the energy all the Creative Writers radiated. We were all here to enjoy an afternoon of fun and bravery to make a fool of ourselves in front of each other. When I got up on stage, my nerves were gone, and I performed better than I even imagined I would. Afterwards I was riding on a high, and I’m never going to forget the love that the community gave me as I stepped past my comfort zone.

My Senior Thesis by Parker Burrows

When I first learned about the senior thesis project all the way back in my freshman year, I was terrified. I couldn’t fathom the scale of the project, that every senior in the department would have to showcase their mastery of writing by producing a book’s worth of work. It was too much for me to even think about as a freshman. 

Now, as a senior who is less than a month away from the final thesis deadline with almost a full final draft completed, the project still hardly feels real, but for different reasons. Throughout my life, I’ve had a habit of picking up long-term projects and dropping them soon after, whether it’s a lengthy book, a video game, or learning a complicated skill. I had formed an idea about myself that I wasn’t someone who was good at committing to projects, and this thesis has amazingly shattered that idea. Looking back at all the work I’ve completed, it’s hard to believe the hours I’ve consistently put into creating these poems that I’m so proud of. I found myself canceling plans to spend time writing and editing work. I’ve brought my notebook everywhere just to scribble down new ideas for improving my thesis whenever I can. This thesis is a document of what I’ve learned from my time in Creative Writing just as much as it’s a monument proving that I am capable of committing to something I am passionate about. 

My Three Tones and The Voice of a Writer by Jesper Werkhoven

A creative voice is something especially unique. It’s why not everyone is in Creative Writing, and it’s how we flaunt our writerly blood over the creatures in Theater, among others. Everyone has their style; just within the Sophomore class, we have a writer who scribes poetry based off of ever-complex familial connection, a writer who infuses the medium with taboos that most wouldn’t touch in order to fully express both themselves and their identity, a writer who crafts mystifying and beautiful mental landscapes, a writer who orates both generally-historical and culturally historical works with conviction, a writer who can birth something vastly interesting from the purest mundanities, and last but not least, a writer who is me! Whether it’s a fantastical battle between a guy and twelve elder gods, or a disastrous future where a slightly better trained guy fights bug-people under the payroll of platypus-people that juice people-people into smoothies for fuel, I’ll write about it as long as it has nothing to do with anything real.

We all have our voices. Burgeoning ones, at least, ready to sprout into something truly unique! However, despite these descriptions, the voice is never one thing. It’s a style, yes, but it’s more like a preference than something concrete. I had to use my most likely limited knowledge of my fellow Sophomores to describe them, and I do not feel like I have done their voices justice. That’s what’s so beautiful about them! What I’ve found most interesting about my personal voice is how it changes, not from piece to piece, but from form to form. Creative Writing 1 tackles Poetry first, then Fiction, then Playwriting, and I’m sure my preference for fiction writing is known far and wide by now. But, unfortunately, I can’t write only fiction all the time, and discovering my voice in the other genres has been highly interesting.

In poetry, mystique and vagueness is king. Not to an absurd, caricaturing level, but generally a sprinkling of subtlety helps rather than hurts. I love to take a more fictional approach, too, describing burdened knights wandering an infinite abyss rather than some dude doing something infinitely less interesting but endlessly more “real.” Poetry’s simple, bite-sized snap writing is refreshing to bite into every now and then, considering my fiction writing generally requires a lot of self-imposed preparation for worldbuilding’s sake (it’s really fun). I even throw in a game reference in the title for fun.

Then with playwriting, I’ve found that I enjoy a comedic approach first and foremost. Back at the very beginning of the 2022 unit, I came up with the idea that would become When a Man Has Nothing, He Will Have R/Atheism, my main piece for the unit. It follows caricatures of an intense debate; religion versus atheism. Is God real, or is he not? Personally, I’m atheist, but zealots are some of my favorite characters. Religious language is very appealing, both phonetically and connotationally. On the other end, the inclusion of very specifically r/atheism in the atheist caricature helped a lot on the comedy side. Their names were chosen accordingly as well; Penrod Weevil not being the best name to take seriously, and Crozarias being a bit over-the-top. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed writing in a grounded setting; not a single elder god, despite a brief hint at Crozarias’s cult that I forgot to develop, or enormous space fleet. Just too crazies arguing with each other… until I revised it, and, with the nudging of the instructor to include an event that they could reacting, put them smack-dab in the middle of a nuclear war, made Crozarias the cause of said war, and then made him and Weevil have an epic duel where they both died at the end. I’m incredibly proud of what it became, and sorely disappointed it was not chosen (a mistake was made). My next one will be a court drama, and the murderer will be called Crawzunga.

Bite-sized, insightful fiction, comedy, and jumbo-sized, less insightful fiction; three tones that make up my personal writing voice. Witnessing and writing about my own creative voice is a lot more enjoyable than hearing my actual voice, and I am beyond excited to grow it into something even more entertaining!

Blink and You’ll Miss It by Gemma Collins

SOTA has an infestation. I came to this conclusion as I was trying to pay attention in class. Everyone knows it’s important to listen to your teachers and follow directions (Duh). In creative writing, it is instilled in us both to always put forth one-thousand percent of effort, and also, that we are constantly thinking from the perspective of a writer; processing everything we see with a macular lens. Since my freshman year, I have learned to take everything I see as the beginning of something. Even if I don’t act on it, there’s a story possible. I write poems, stories, and even plays based on what I come up with from things I’ve seen. This may be partly because of my personal approach, however, creative writing has taught me skills that are applied in many other areas. One of these being a willingness to run with an idea no matter how wild to see what might come of it. Much of the time, I don’t use what I start, but it’s helpful to have a plethora of ideas at my disposal every time we get an assignment and it feels impossible to think of something within the confines of deadlines. (A masterpiece cannot be rushed!) This leads me to how attentiveness in everyday life provides copious ideas for every time I get exhausted from writing about trees, rain, the sound of rain, trees rustling, perhaps a blade of grass—Back to the infestation. As I was diligently paying attention in class the other day, I noticed a blurry black speck in my periphery. I glanced over to see a small (but not so much that it didn’t warrant at least some drama) spider making its way along the edge of the table. It was tiny but had quite thick legs. So I scooched as far away from it as possible and went on with paying attention (although mildly disturbed). This minor incident was furthered by the sighting of a mouse (A MOUSE!) in the hallway. After hours, the furry thing dashed along a row of lockers and ducked into some crevice where who-knows-what-else lives. So essentially, I am saying that if I had a creative writing assignment due the first thing tomorrow, I could do it. You’ll never get stuck when you utilize what you saw on the sidewalk yesterday (plus a bit of imagination) to create something bigger than a splotch of dried-out gum. Getting pooped on by a bird is only bad if you don’t make something out of it.

Play-Right, Play-Wrong by Raquel Silberman

When I was little, I would watch Little Miss Sunshine on repeat. Once a week for a year. This week I watched my own play performed at least twenty times. But the difference is, Little Miss Sunshine never got old and I never doubted if it was a good movie or not. We call ourselves critics when it comes to others, but I have wanted more to curl up in a ball when faced with my own work than I ever questioned the quality of Little Miss Sunshine. This is why I have become fond of the term “self critic,” it is a nicer way of saying we hate ourselves. Our seven week playwriting unit has made me realize something similar: sometimes we need to be embarrassed. 

During our unit, we wrote ten page plays to the prompt of revulsion. The entire week we rehearsed my play, I couldn’t stop worrying that people were going to hate it. I knew people would think I was gross. When the performance day came, I watched everyone’s plays in the audience. My play then came on, I was barely watching it. Instead I was looking at the audience to see what they thought. The lights went out and the audience applauded. I heard someone behind me say: “that was so weird.” What surprised me more than the fact that I hadn’t curled into a ball when my play started was that I didn’t break into tears or feel embarrassed after I heard that, I smiled, because it was weird. Playwriting is a weird process and an even weirder outcome, my weird outcome is that I never would’ve written what I wrote if I didn’t accept that it would make me feel embarrassed. I’ve also noticed that plenty of plays have at least one weird thing about them, depending on what your portrayal of “weird” is. So, today I’m going to watch Little Miss Sunshine again for the first time in years and accept that it was a little weird too.