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Writing for Performance and the Entertainment Industries

Abigail Docherty

Writing for stage, screen, you-tube and digital platforms, video games, performance poetry, stand-up comedy, installation and performance art, has never been more popular. The golden age of television has diversified to become the golden age of streaming, with Netflix and Amazon creating exceptional opportunities for new writers to enter the industry.

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Writing for stage, screen, you-tube and digital platforms, video games, performance poetry, stand-up comedy, installation and performance art, has never been more popular. The golden age of television has diversified to become the golden age of streaming, with Netflix and Amazon creating exceptional opportunities for new writers to enter the industry.

The MicroMasters® in Writing for Performance and the Entertainment Industries offers both an experimental and industry-relevant opportunity to hone your skills as a dramatist or performance artist across many genres, as well as preparing you practically for engaging successfully with the film/TV /theatre/digital media and industries.

You will receive world-class teaching from academics from the University of Cambridge as well as expert advice from writers and directors who have navigated highly successful careers. We will delve into themes across all performance genres, including: dialogue, narrative structure/story-telling, and character psychology. You will learn how to write outlines and story-bibles, how to pitch an idea to a producer, and how to present your work to the industry of your choice.

We want to build innovative writers who disrupt traditional performance practices and are professionally resilient in the market-place. This creative writing program will help you build your entrepreneurial confidence by our engagement with audience theory, performance theory, and anti-fragility theory. This course would suit those already working as professional dramatists/writers who wish to broaden their portfolio, as well as those involved in associated creative industries. Literary agents, editors, you- tubers, stand-up comics, performance artists and poets, and those involved in managing writers in the entertainment and media industries would all benefit from insights gained in this course.

The courses within the MicroMasters can be studied independently, but to gain the most from the course, we recommend following them in sequence. In particular Writing successfully for the stage: structure, plot and dialogue follows on from Finding your voice as a playwright: scenes, themes and characters.

For those interested in continuing onto a full Master’s degree at the University of Cambridge, this graduate level MicroMasters® offers the chance to experience the expertise of our dynamic world-class tutors, led by published playwrights Abigail Docherty and Fraser Grace, at a time and place to suit you. If accepted to the full program, following our normal application procedures, those who have studied the MicroMasters® in Writing for Performance and the Entertainment Industries will have completed 30 credits (15 ECTS) of the full 180 credit program.

The University of Cambridge has long produced famous performers such as Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and Rowan Atkinson. Our recent alumni includes Sara Collins and her award-winning novel, The Confessions of Frannie Langton.


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What's inside

Seven courses

Finding your voice as a playwright

(36 hours)
This course explores how to develop your distinctive dramatic voice as a playwright. We will examine how to choose resonant themes, create powerful characters, structure scenes effectively, and find your creative flow. We will also consider how audiences receive and contribute to the creative process. By the end of this module, you will have completed several new scenes of a play and created a lead character for a piece of stage writing.

Writing successfully for the Stage

(36 hours)
This course explores how to transform ideas into structured story arcs with resonant plot points. We will examine dialogue writing, form, and the relationship between theme and style. We will study stage direction, music, and set design to develop the metaphoric world of a play.

Building your Screenplay

(36 hours)
This course explores how to build a screenplay that conveys its central meaning through strong visual images. We will analyze the work of filmmakers such as Jeremiah Mosese, Mustashrik Mahbub, and Melina Matsoukas to understand how global film and TV industries reflect our social and cultural concerns.

Business Success in the Screen Industries

(36 hours)
This course explores business models for the writer-entrepreneur, examining how successful writers, animators, and producers have found commercial outlets for their creative practice. It covers maintaining resilience and motivation, creating a market for your work, and using social media to build a professional profile. Expert networking and business skills are essential for a successful career as a screenwriter.

Digital Platforms in Performance

(36 hours)
This course explores writing for digital platforms, including video games, radio dramas, and YouTube channels. Students will learn how to find a digital form that stimulates them as writers and how to reach a target audience online. By the end of this module, students will have completed several pieces of script in a range of digital mediums of their choice.

Reconceiving Space: Installation and Performance Art

(36 hours)
This course explores the intersection of story, space, and performance art. We will examine the work of Ai Weiwei, Joseph Beuys, Kara Walker, Maria Abramovich, and Joan Jonas, considering how they use narrative and performance to create immersive and thought-provoking experiences. Students will develop their own distinctive voices as performance or installation artists, experimenting with space, language, 'liveness', and sound.

Stand Up!; Comedy Writing and Performance Poetry

(36 hours)
This course introduces writing and performing stand-up comedy and performance poetry. Students will learn to write and perform five minutes of material, exploring structure, timing, and personal charisma. We will engage with performance poets and examine successful stand-up scripts.

Learning objectives

  • Specialised knowledge of histories, forms, and traditions of writing for performance and entertainment as well as the cultural contexts of innovative practitioners and practices within performance and entertainment.
  • A detailed understanding of key performance/entertainment components within the discipline, to include: ideational sources, body, space, image, sound, text, movement, environment
  • How to create effective structure within a scene, how to edit your scene, and think like a dramaturg/script editor; how to create effective character
  • Advanced awareness of the relevant market and distribution demands of entertainment industries
  • Developed advanced self-management skills to include working in planned and improvisatory ways, as well as the ability to anticipate and accommodate change, ambiguity, creative risk-taking, uncertainty and unfamiliarity

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