Curious about different creative writing genres (I've dabbled in poetry in the past), I was surprised to find that most of the other students in this small workshop were actors, screenwriters, and/or theatre or film majors. They brought perspectives and voices and pieces that knocked my socks off. Once weekly for 2 hours, we cast each other to read our 5-page scenes, followed by a brief discussion of the assigned reading (one play, usually 70-100 fast, enjoyable pages). Prof. Tolan has a lot of wisdom to share, so soak it all up! I feel like I've grown and learned a lot. Would recommend for non-CW-majors!!
An absolutely brilliant class, and an absolutely brilliant professor. If you are accepted into this class (there is normally an application process, as with most creative writing courses), you will experience one of the best courses Barnard has to offer. I enjoyed this class like no other (even in a virtual format!), and I highly recommend it. I do think that those with the most success will be people seriously interested in pursuing creative writing—and specifically playwriting—as a career, but I think it can also be beneficial for others. This course will challenge you in the best way possible. If you want to be a writer: take this class! Professor McLaughlin is thoughtful & intelligent, gives in-depth feedback, is critical without being harsh, and is overall a wonderful individual.
You learn a lot. You grow a lot as a writer and maybe as a person? But, if you're not a regular writer do yourself a favor and pass/fail the course. It's great but just a lot of mental and emotional energy for what was just supposed to be a fun class for me. It was fun, but not relaxing. Ellen has specific things she wants to see out of her students and if you don't get that then don't expect good comments. Also don't expect to know you're grade til it's posted on SSOL. This is a good class and worth your effort, but it's also kinda sucky at times?
worst possible writing class for three reasons. one, we didn't prepare at all for the workshops. we would come in to class, hand out scripts, have people read the parts out loud, and then comment on what we'd just read. no real insight was gained. no real help was offered. total waste of workshop time. two, as evidenced by his idea of workshopping, marcus is completely scatterbrained. he would never respond to emails, forget all of your previous meetings with him, and never read your work thoroughly unless you demanded it. three, the grade is based on quantity not quality. i could've written 65 pages with a crayon and called it avant garde and marcus would've had to give me an A. i know i'm being really harsh here, but i felt completely duped by the other two reviews of marcus. sure, he's a really nice guy. there's no doubt about that. but so is my dad and he doesn't teach a writing class at columbia and charge tuition. i obviously don't believe in the easy A standard when it comes to assessing writing classes. what's the point if all it offers is 2 hours a week of pure pain and an unedited product? i could do that at home with a nice couch and alcohol.
Some would say that I've lucked out with the professors and classes I have taken in the writing program: the accomplished and fabulous, Leslie Woodard (who happens to be the director of the program), and the gifted, Dominican, Nelly Rosario. I just finished a semester of playwriting with Neomi Cress, who definitely knew, like the aforementioned teachers, what she was talking about. Thank god! I went into the class with a limited knowledge of drama and some firsthand experience with the theatre; therefore, I was willing and ready to learn more. By the end I was much more comfortable with playwriting lingo and concepts. I understood what drama stood for and how to achieve it, even on a mediocre level. My writing has improved, I hope, and I now have the desire to pursue this branch of writing. Ultimately, what these teachers want to see by the end of the class (and throughout the course of the class) is some form of improvement and change, drastic if possible. And yes, they want to see how well you've applied what you've learned (i.e. how well you listened and reacted to THEIR ideas and criticism). They need to see that you've grown as a writer, especially if you're a writer who isn't really comfortable with the specific genre in question. No one in my class is/was an expert: some could be considered (naturally) gifted or more open to the art of playwriting. There were some people in my class who, honestly, did not deserve a seat in the room. Not that they solely sucked at playwriting, they simply could not write. And by writing I mean open to change. If the teacher tells you to write another way, DO IT. If she gives you some pointers, LISTEN and fix the problem or get close to fixing it. Professor Cress is a professional. PERIOD! She knows what she says and why she says it. She's a great teacher and knows how to stir a critical discussion. Just write and write and become comfortable with your writing and the characters/stories/lies you're creating. I enjoyed playwriting with Cress immensely.
if you have a serious interest in writitng... take this course! i was reluctant to post a review because i loved this class so much, i may take it again. (and i didn't want every one to take it). prof mclaughlin is a brilliant actor and playwright. i've seen and read her professional work and she is truly extraordinary. i agree with the other reviewer. this is not a course to pad your schedule. the workload is heavy. but if you want to learn, heavy is a good thing. she promptly reads all work given her and returns feedback immediately. she is thoughtful, warm, encouraging and to the point. she doesn't give false praise but neither does she tear people apart. (i hate mean arts profs. i don't think it helps). she shows her years of experience in her ability to give succint notes that get to the heart of your writing. my favorite thing about ellen was that she gave us the permission to write badly and you didn't feel like a horrible person for turning in a lame scene. over the course of the semester, the class got braver and braver. i definitley made great strides in my writing and confidence. a brilliant woman. a brilliant course.
I am graduating in May and I can honestly say that Noemi Cress is far and away the best writing teacher I've taken, met, or heard about in the department...4 people who I've spoken to took her class after having taken Flint's workshop and all agreed that they learned much more about writing effective, compelling drama from Noemi than they did from Austin...It makes you wonder where all the hype about his workshop comes from...Did I laugh much in her class and make friends? No, not really, but I've never taken a class for those reasons and learned more about writing in general and drama, specifically, in her class than in any other I've taken. If you are serious about playwriting, hers is the only class to take. Bear in mind that she graduated the writing dept and the MFA program here at CU, which are feats inappropriate for you to wag your sharpie at. Oh, and for those who think she has "no idea" what she is talking about, she is a professional playwright.
Ellen teaches playwriting at Barnard every fall. I reccomend her class emphatically to people who are very serious about writing. Her approach is intensive-- you will write at least 7 pages a week, read 2 plays a week, and come out of the semester with a complete one-act play. This is not a nice, easy creative writing class to pad your schedule with. But you will quickly learn to get comfortable with a difficult medium, and by the end of the semester your writing will have gotten much better. She is also a lovely woman and a terrific playwright.
Austin is a wonderful teacher who maintains just the right atmosphere for a writing class. He is witty, interested, and pleasant. I found his comments on students' writing very on the ball, but also overly positive. Sometimes I wished he'd be more critical, but on the whole, this is a great class if you like writing plays.