My philosophy of teaching is very much like the way Picasso painted - make sure the basics are learned (i.e. structure, dramatic arc, character development and voice, dialogue, etc.) and then let that go in order to create.
Usually my first session is spent getting to know the writers – who they are and why they are drawn to theater writing, what motivates them, what are their influences, and build on that.
Understanding the class will have writers of different levels and experiences, we’ll start with a few short exercises which will help me gauge how to move forward and how to best help, then we'll move on to the work at hand. If you have a play in progress, fantastic – let’s make it the best play possible! If you are looking to start something new, the above-mentioned exercises are the perfect impetus to use as a jumping off point.
Besides the writing exercises, I like to use some class time for having scene work read aloud (after all this is for the theater) followed by a moderated discussion. Having your work read aloud is so vital to the process, and allows the playwright to ascertain if what they put on the page transfers to the spoken word in the way they intended.
I have a few mantra’s besides the usual “write what you know” and “write from the heart.” The first is that comedy and drama aren’t mutually exclusive, and quite often it’s easier to get an audience to emotionally invest in difficult subject matter if you can make them laugh about it first. The other is always listen to what your characters are saying – take dictation and see where it leads.