Writing a Short Play


Writing for the stage is more than just telling a story. Playwright Dave Armstrong will help you develop the skills to create compelling, well-paced scenes and snappy dialogue that will work well on stage. By the end of the course, you will have written a short play.

You will be expected to work on your play in between each class, with the final class including a reading of each completed short play.

Target audience:
This course will appeal to anyone who enjoys writing, with a particular interest in writing for performance.

Learning objectives:
By the end of this course you will have:

  • Learnt techniques that will help your future play writing – how to write effective, compelling characters and create scripts that will engage an audience
  • Discussed and developed aspects like character, structure, action and conflict
  • Honed your editing skills for turning that first draft into a finished product
  • Completed a short play

Course outline:
Session 1:
Introduction and creating a story. What do you want to say? Who might your characters be and what do they want? What is the climax of the play? Story beats, cards and outlines.
Session 2: Creating compelling scenes, changes in status, and believable characters.
Session 3: Dialogue and subtext. How do you write good, realistic, witty and compelling dialogue?
Session 4: First drafts. How do you write a good first draft, or even a bad one?
Session 5: Rewriting. How do you turn a first draft into a final draft?
Session 6: Final read-through of scripts and feedback

You will receive constructive feedback from the tutor and your peers that will allow you the chance to develop and build on your writing skills. Discussion and participation are at the heart of this writing workshop.

You will be expected to work on your play in between each session.

There is a short break half-way through each session, and tea/coffee is provided. You are welcome to bring your own refreshments if you wish.

Class limit:
This course is limited to a maximum of 12 participants, so please enrol early.

Dave Armstrong is one of New Zealand’s best known playwrights. His plays include Central, Niu Sila (with Oscar Kightley), The Tutor, King and Country, Le Sud, The Motor Camp, Rita and Douglas, where we once belonged (with Sia Figiel), The Motor Camp, Kings of the Gym and Anzac Eve. Dave has won the Chapman Tripp Theatre Award for Best New New Zealand Play three times (Niu Sila, The Tutor, where we once belonged) and his play Central won the 2015 Writers Guild SWANZ award for Best Play. Dave’s works for children include Magnolia Street, the children’s opera Kia Ora Khalid (with Gareth Farr), both commissioned and produced by Capital E, as well as adaptations of Margaret Mahy’s The Singing Bus Queue and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Dave co-wrote children’s movie, Kiwi Santa, which was released in late 2017.

“I wish the course had been longer! I enjoyed every moment. The time went very quickly. Dave Armstrong was a fabulous tutor, and shared lots of strategies for writing a short play. Highly recommended”, Writing a Short Play participant (2018)

“Really impressed with Dave Armstrong’s demeanour and ability to engage us all. superb knowledge and delivery of the course. A real pleasure to attend. more than met my expectations”, Writing a Short Play participant (2018)

Relevant links:
School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies
International Institute of Modern Letters
Armstrong Creative

For further information:
Continuing Education, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140.
Phone 04 463 6556,  Email: conted@vuw.ac.nz

Please note: Courses need a minimum number of enrolments to go ahead. If your course doesn’t reach the number required, we’ll have to cancel it. If this happens, we’ll contact you by phone or email about a week before the scheduled start date and arrange a full refund. Please check your emails regularly.