A podcast by playwrights for playwrights, and everybody else

Podcast 061: Civilization Building with Lauren Gunderson

In the Season 5 finale, Tori and Mabelle talk with Lauren Gunderson about finding her playwriting voice, the catalyst for her free online playwriting classes, and why she writes one impossible thing into every play. She also shares how theater helps people practice living and that “theater at its best reminds us how to be good in this world.”

Listen on Apple podcast, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Writing prompt (courtesy of Lauren Gunderson) 

Stage Directions: The Secret Code of Playwrights. This is one of Lauren’s favorite prompts for herself, to make sure that she’s not just talking, or having the characters talk, at the audience. If you are in the middle of the play, use this prompt as you are rewriting. Or the prompt can be done if you are looking for something to stretch your artistic muscles. You have two pages to write a scene where something changes by the end of the scene for one of your characters. You can have as many characters as you want. Something is risked and something changes during the scene. And..you only have four words of dialogue in the whole scene. You can split them up, you can have none, but mainly it’s a silent scene. What do you accomplish in the absolute gem–the treasure trove–that is stage directions? Stage directions tell us so much–they are secret code for the playwright to actors, directors, designers. What can you accomplish in a look, in a glance, in a gesture? You can slap, you can knife somebody, whatever you want to do, as long as there are no words. But if you need a great closing line, you can have your line, but six words only. Use of all the visual storytelling, gestural storytelling, and all of the subtext you can manage. Playwriting is not just dialogue. That is an absolute myth. In fact, the greatest moments in all of theater are the ones without language. The richness of a play is in the stage directions.

Connect with Lauren:

Watch Lauren’s Online Playwriting Classes on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LaurenGundersonPlaywright

Lauren’s bio: 

Lauren is one of the most produced playwrights in America since 2015 topping the list thrice including 2022/23. She is a two-time winner of the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award for I and You and The Book of Will, the winner of the Lanford Wilson Award and the Otis Guernsey New Voices Award, a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and John Gassner Award for Playwriting, and a recipient of the Mellon Foundation’s Residency with Marin Theatre Company. She studied Southern Literature and Drama at Emory University, and Dramatic Writing at NYU’s Tisch School where she was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship. Her play The Catastrophist, about her husband virologist Nathan Wolfe, premiered digitally in January 2021. She co-authored the Miss Bennet plays with Margot Melcon, and The Half-Life of Marie Curie premiered off-Broadway and at Audible.com. Her work is published at Playscripts (I and You; Exit Pursued By A Bear; The Taming and Toil And Trouble), Dramatists Play Service (The Revolutionists; The Book of Will; Silent Sky; Bauer, Natural Shocks, The Wickhams and Miss Bennet) and Samuel French (Emilie). Her picture book Dr Wonderful: Blast Off to the Moon is available from Two Lions/Amazon. She is the book writer for musicals with Ari Afsar (Jeannette), Dave Stewart and Joss Stone (The Time Traveller’s Wife), Joriah Kwamé (Sinister), Kait Kerrigan and Bree Lowdermilk (Justice and Earthrise), and Kira Stone (Built for This). She is a board member of The Playwrights Foundation.    

Check out the Smith & Kraus website for their Best Selling Series of Books: https://www.smithandkraus.com/

Read Mabelle’s play “The Sunset Tour” on NPX: https://newplayexchange.org/plays/1756277/sunset-tour

Read Tori’s play “The Hunt(s)” on NPX: https://newplayexchange.org/plays/129709/hunts

Join us at the 2023 TYA/USA National Festival & Conference, May 10-12, 2023: https://www.tyausa.org/festival/

ENOUGH! Plays To End Gun Violence: https://www.enoughplays.com/