Educational programmes for playwriting
In Flanders and the Netherlands, there is a wide range of educational programs for those who want to become professionally skilled writers. Are you looking for a full-time training that is mainly aimed at developing plays, or do you want to orient yourself within a programme that offers a broader range of expertise? In this article, we show the way along art schools, other institutions and their different structures and forms.
Full-time courses in Flanders
Although, in Belgium, writing is often not taught as a separate discipline within many art schools, there are a number of places where a greater focus is placed on training writers for theatre, film or performance. The most recent one is probably the Writing and Making programme at Luca School of Arts in Leuven. Although drama and performing arts are the starting point of this academic bachelor, the main focus is on creating texts that come to life in a performance. Students not only write for theatre, but also for film, television, games, new media, spoken word, radio, music... and thus develop their own authorship.
In Antwerp, students can enroll for an academic bachelor's and master's degree in Spoken word at the AP Hogeschool, which focuses on three fundamental pillars: writing, stage and media. In this programme, literary texts are transformed into an authentic story and collaborations with students from the drama and dance courses, as well as with organisations and companies from the broad working field, are set up.
In Brussels, the Ritcs offers the bachelor of Directing & Writing, which is a broad interdisciplinary and multilingual theatre maker's study programme in which developing your own writing language is central and you are constantly working towards performances. The Ritcs also offers a one-year master's in Directing & Writing which focuses on developing your own practice. Also in Brussels, the Institut National Supérieur des Arts du Spectacle (INSAS) offers a bachelor degree in Theatre and Communication Techniques, where writing techniques for theatre, film, radio and television are taught. After the bachelor there are several master degrees spread over the course of one or two years which you can follow, in which you focus even more on the aspect of your preference.
In Ghent, KasK also welcomes aspiring writers, although the main focus within the Drama programme is on training “autonomous drama artists” and students only have to decide at a later stage in their training what function they will fulfil within the creation process of a theatre production. After first acquiring a broad basis in which various aspects of theatre and experimentation are explored, students can focus on an - often hybrid - practice as a maker, writer, actor, etc.
Full-time courses in the Netherlands
There are a number of programmes in the Netherlands that are exclusively concerned with the training of writers, and this in a variety of disciplines. For example, there is the Creative Writing programme at ArtEZ University College for the Arts in Arnhem, where students can develop as writers of poetry, documentary, literary non-fiction and drama.
If you are looking for a specific focus on writing for theatre, you should definitely take a look at the University College for the Arts in Utrecht (HKU). The HKU offers a four-year bachelor's programme in Writing for Performance in which students are trained to become professional playwrights, but can also focus on writing for other media forms. Scenario, prose, poetry, film, TV, radio and reflective writing are part of the programme.
The Image & Language department at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie is not a typical writing course, since it takes visual art as its starting point. From there, it takes the step towards creating language. The programme welcomes art students who think in and through language, and whose works occupy a position in the space 'between' traditionally defined disciplines such as literature, film and the visual arts.
Unlike in Belgium, the Netherlands does not (yet) have a master's programme in creative writing. To bridge the gap between education and professional practice, the Slow Writing Lab was established in 2015 by the Dutch Foundation for Literature and others. In this year-long trajectory, a number of selected students gain a lot of writing experience. Unfortunately, you cannot apply for this, but you can make your interest known to your former writing school.
For aspiring writers who want to become independent authors, but do not have the time to fully immerse themselves in a full-time course, the School of Writing (Schrijversvakschool) in Amsterdam offers a four-year part-time course. The course is given in two periods of three hours a week each and covers the genres prose, poetry, drama, scenario and essay. Each student chooses one of these genres as a main subject in the second year.
If you are interested in developing your talent for playwriting, but do not want to follow a full training programme, there are various art education organisations in Flanders and the Netherlands that offer professional playwriting courses.
In Flanders, WISPER is one of the main arts-educational organisations. WISPER organises artistic courses for people that are over 18 years old in Ghent, Leuven, Antwerp and in the summer also abroad. There are courses both for absolute beginners and for more advanced amateur artists. You can attend courses in theatre, dance, music, photography, literature and visual arts. As far as theatre is concerned, WISPER offers both acting and writing courses.
Creatief Schrijven (‘Creative Writing’) is another organisation that is engaged in artistic education. Creatief Schrijven offers advice, training, publication and performance opportunities for (aspiring) writers. Besides courses and advice on i.a. columns, essays, non-fiction, poetry, prose and blog text, Creatief Schrijven also engages in playwriting. There are courses to learn how to write theatrical dialogues or monologues, how to master the required techniques for adaptation and much more.
TRILL is an organisation that wants to bring children and young people into contact with art and culture, i.a. by offering them workshops and other activities. They try to stimulate the expression and imagination of this target group through an interaction between young people, artists and society at large. TRILL works together with professional artists and is the result of a merger between Artforum and Urban Woorden.
In Borgerhout, culture house Rataplan organises workshops for children and young people, jazz lovers and spoken word enthusiasts, among others. The non-profit organisation wants to create a place where up-and-coming and established talent can experiment, invent and research. Besides theatre, Rataplan also focuses on jazz, slam poetry, dance, urban arts, children's art, talks and new and urban art forms. What is striking is that the dialogue with the neighbourhood helps to determine Rataplan's identity.
Theatre Malpertuis organises several post-academic learning initiatives for theatre artists (actors, directors and writers). In this way, they want to create a permanent learning environment and offer a place of reflection and a meeting place where all disciplines are addressed: acting, directing, writing. Besides workshops, Malpertuis Studio also offers classes, which are short study sessions to which both professionals and enthusiasts can subscribe. They are intended to refresh a certain subject matter and/or to provide inspiration to all those who wish to learn more. Malpertuis Studio also regularly organises master classes. These are series of lessons given by one (or more) expert(s), which focus on the transfer of knowledge and experience.
OPENDOEK is the umbrella organisation for amateur theatre in Flanders and Brussels and is committed, among other things, to promoting and renewing amateur theatre. The organization also offers various training opportunities, both for beginners and advanced students. Twice a year, OPENDOEK presents a diverse range of courses given by professional teachers. The artistic, promotional and business aspects of theatre are highlighted. Knowledge or experience is not a mandatory prerequisite for participation.
As far as the Netherlands is concerned, there are also many organisations that offer artistic education. Crea is one of them. The cultural centre for Amsterdam students rents out rehearsal studios, a music hall and a theatre, offers more than 30 student offices and also organises courses, including theatre writing courses for beginners and advanced students.
Parnassos Cultural Centre is the cultural centre of the University of Utrecht and offers courses in various art disciplines, including theatre. For example, you can learn how to write gripping theatre scenes or how to translate and adapt existing texts. There are courses for both beginners and advanced participants.
In addition to a four-year part-time writing course, the Writing School (‘Schrijversvakschool’) in Amsterdam also offers various writing courses. In addition to a course in poetry, screenplay, column and prose, there is also a writing course for theatre. The emphasis is on learning to write scenes and to design characters. The content and style of dialogue and the differences between playwriting and other genres are also discussed. The course instructor is an experienced writer who provides stimulating commentary on the texts under discussion and offers insights into writing as a craft. Based on the comments of the teacher and the fellow students, the participants must eventually produce a short, finished play.
In addition, Huis van Puck, the centre for performing arts in Gelderland, offers two courses in playwriting. The basic course, which lasts seven days, focuses on the basics of playwriting. The course is suitable for anyone aged 18 and over who has experience in writing stories. Experience with playwriting is not required. The focus is on questions like: What choices do you make for the storyline? How do you make characters credible? What does it mean to write 'playable'? Each class deals with a clearly defined topic. The follow-up course, which also takes up a full week, builds on the basic course. Anyone who already has experience in writing plays and would like to study playwriting in more depth is welcome. During the classes, you will learn to work with the musicality of a text.
Buitenkunst organises workshops, performances, concerts, talks and more, in the fields of theatre, dance, music, writing, visual arts, photography and video. Professional artists, writers, theatre directors, musicians, etc. will give workshops to beginners and advanced students of all ages in the period between the Ascension weekend and the end of August. During the workshop weekends and weeks, participants stay at Buitenkunst's camping site. The TheaterTalentLab (TTL) is the place to be at Buitenkunst for everyone between 16 and 25 years old who wants to develop him- or herself further in the discipline of theatre. In the summer, participants work intensively in a short period under the guidance of professionals from the theatre world.
Finally, the Expertise Centre for Literary Translation (ELV) is organising an online course in literary translation for theatre Dutch-French this autumn. The ELV is a Dutch-Flemish organisation that aims to boost the quality of literary translation into and out of Dutch through training and the sharing of expertise. They do this by strengthening the knowledge, skills and professionalism of translators, trainers and other institutions involved. The drama translation course, which lasts nine weeks in total, requires one and a half days a week of studying and is open to candidates who already have some professional experience. Every fortnight, students meet online with an experienced translation tutor who will also provide all participants with individual feedback at the end of the course. Participants are selected based on i.a. a CV, a test translation and a motivation letter.