Butler workshops inspires playwrights


Butler’s Theater Department partnered with The New Harmony Project to present a playwriting workshop on Feb. 27. The workshop was open to students and members of the community.

Edward Fry, development director for The New Harmony Project, said the workshop involved writing exercises, advice and a question and answer session.

Edward Fry, development director for The New Harmony Project

Edward Fry, development director for The New Harmony Project

Fry said the organization is in its 29th year.

“Our primary work takes place every year at our main conference, but throughout the year we present these workshops as an opportunity to get the word out about who we are,” Fry said, “but also as a nonprofit organization who believes in the work of script writing and what good story is.”

The workshop was led by playwright and actress Jessica Dickey. Dickey has been with New Harmony as a writer and actor, and is now working on the board for the organization.

She has written and published three plays including “The Amish Project”, “Charles Ives Take Me Home”, and “Row after Row”, and has an upcoming fourth play, “The Guard”, which will premier this fall.

Jessica Dickey

Jessica Dickey, a playwright and actress

“In a workshop like this, I want to be helpful in play-writing as a craft,” Dickey said. In addition, she said building characters and appreciating one’s own work is important to the craft.

Dickey has experience on both sides of the theater, so her mission is to help writers see art in various perspectives.

“I want to convey to everyone who has come that everyone can write and everyone should write. And that writing is simply putting pen to paper with what you’re experiencing in the moment or what you know, feel, or what is true for you,” Dickey said.

“That is step one really and everyone can do that, even someone who has no interest in ever producing or finishing a play, I believe its good for the soul and good for the self to write.”

Participants of the workshop spent two hours writing. Dickey led the writers through exercises that included writing a letter to themselves at 85 years old, writing a monologue through the perspective of a photo chosen at random, then another monologue through someone watching, a memory where everyone was present, and finally a list describing 10 things without using metaphors.

Writers were told to develop scenes based on a single picture. The idea is to write what one sees and practice different styles.

Writers were told to develop scenes based on a single picture. The idea is to write what one sees and practice different styles.

Dickey referred to this type of writing as generative writing and believes it can help writers  put what they wrote into images, voices, or even characters that can be developed into a finished body of work.

Learning different styles of writing, Dickey said, is similar to a singer memorizing songs from different genres.

“It was really fun and inspiring, and its always touching to see that there are people all over the country who are writing and making art, and are creative and looking for each other for support, and to help them keep going and to keep working and writing,” Dickey said.

Dianne Timmerman, Butler’s Theater Department Chair, said the writing workshops are helpful for students of all majors.

Dianne Timmerman, Butler's Theater Department Chair

Dianne Timmerman, Butler’s Theater Department Chair

“I think the opportunity to interact with a professional arts organization is valuable for English majors, for theater majors, and certainly as we saw today for the general community who turned out of course,” she said.

“I think it’s a wonderful partnership between two organizations. I think we provide New Harmony with curious, interested students, young and older, and they certainly provide us with a really wonderful professional opportunity for our students.”