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New Teacher Feature: Miriam Tobin and the Basics of Playwriting

Welcome Seattle-based playwright, theatre artist, and writing instructor, Miriam Tobin, joining us this fall with her upcoming class on October 21, Basics of Playwriting for Writers of All Genres. It’s all about the drama—Miriam shares what makes her class suitable for all storytellers and what keeps her compelled to create!

New Teacher Feature (1)Q&A with Miriam Tobin

How would you describe yourself as a writing instructor?

I’m very interactive as an instructor and believe in the classroom as a place of conversation. This is probably due to my background in the theatre and working in collaborative spaces. Instructing, to me, is as much about bouncing ideas around a group as it is about presenting a syllabus.

What excites you about teaching at Hugo House?

So many great writers have passed through Hugo House, and I’m honored to be among them. What excites me most about teaching here is the hunger that the students have for learning.

Who is your class best suited for? What would you like your students to take away from the class?

My class is best suited for anyone interested in playwriting—so writers of all genres and experience levels. Though this is a “basics of playwriting” workshop, it’s really more about the elements of drama. We’ll be diving deep into what makes a compelling story; how to create tension and suspense; and how structure, characters, action, and style all play off of one another. Students will write a mini play that can then expand upon on their own. I hope they take away a real joy for playwriting.

Where do you find inspiration?

I’m currently working on a play based on different mythologies from around the world, so I’m finding inspiration in other stories. I’ve been reading hundreds of folktales, and it’s pretty incredible how much overlap there is in how different cultures have explained fear, disease, natural disasters, and death. Maybe this is morbid, but I’m feeling inspired by all the demons I’m reading about, whether they’re told as tricksters or thieves or witches or child snatchers. They’re helping me add a mischievousness to my own writing, like I have permission to go deep and dark and really explore human emotion.

What challenges are you working through as a writer, in your writing practice?

I’m not the most scheduled writer, so my biggest challenge is probably meeting the page. I’m working hard on creating routines and rituals that get me there on a more regular basis.

Tell us about an author, poem, idea, storyline, sentence—something that has you currently captivated.

I love the concept of the house in Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi. After I read it, I couldn’t stop thinking about this idea that a house can contain a whole world, or a whole world can exist inside a house. I keep returning to the image of an ocean at high tide beating against the walls of a house full of statues—it’s both haunting and exhilarating to imagine.

Miriam BC Tobin (she/her) has performed on stages across the US and Europe and has taught drama to youth in Seattle, NYC, Denver, and on a farm in the Czech Republic. She founded MBCT; Modern But Classical Theatre in NYC to de- and re-construct classic plays into highly physical adaptations.

Her play The War of Women received a roundtable reading at The Lark and several of her plays premiered at Goddard College’s Ten-Minute Play festival. Honors & awards include a Hedgebrook residency, PEN Writing Scholarship, Newington-Cropsey Fellowship, the London Dramatic Academy Fellowship, and she was a Pipeline Theatre PlayLab semi-finalist.

Miriam was the fall 2020 Editor-in-Chief of The Pitkin Review and is currently a dramatic writing editor with The Clockhouse. Her work appears in multiple issues of The Pitkin and Smith & Kraus. Miriam also runs SCRiB LAB, a writing organization aimed at creating community through experimentation.

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