Palanca Award-winning playwright teaches crash course on writing plays for theatre

BusinessMirror interviews Dr. Joem Antonio
Dr. Joem Antonio, now a six-time Palanca Award winner and Best Playwright at last year's Short+Sweet Festival, was once a beginning playwright too. He hopes to help others get started through his crash course, "How to Write Plays for Theatre." Here's our interview with him on this topic.

What are the common difficulties that beginning playwrights encounter?
Many. Some begin at the story level: is this story suitable for a play, film, or print media? Many aspiring playwrights have a hard time discerning this.

Another difficulty is making their instructions clear; scriptwriting, after all, is “imperative literature” or the art of putting instructions on paper as guideline to a great performance.

Mainly, the struggle lies in coming up with material that is appropriate for the stage.

How different is theatre from other mediums of storytelling?
The difference between drama and short fiction is simply that imagination is sufficient for short fiction but drama is meant for performance. This leads to the another comparison between drama and film: drama is meant for live performance in a limited space. Also, it can be performed again and again by different actors, directors… by different theatre companies. For film writing, once the film is recorded and made, that’s it. The script is dead after filming.

What will you cover in your crash course?
I will cover what makes drama distinct from short fiction and film, even more than what I’ve said earlier in the previous question. I will review the participants on the basics of story structures, and I will cover the different instructions a playwright uses in writing the story. After that, I will discuss the different ways to optimize the unique qualities of theatre in telling a story. The aim is, of course, to find a story that is best told through theatre and not in any other medium.

Lastly, I will discuss the science behind the format necessary in writing a script.

What will participants of the crash course leave with?
I aim that they leave with a greater consciousness of how the theatre medium works and, hopefully, with some great ideas for whatever stories they want to tell onstage.


Ready to write your own plays? Head over to Storywriting School to register. Dr. Antonio also teaches other writing courses, which you'll find here: writing workshops and courses at Storywriting School.

Joem Antonio talks about his Master Class for Short+Sweet Manila 2015

PTV 4 interviews Dr. Joem Antonio on Short+Sweet Manila 2015
PTV 4 interviews Dr. Joem Antonio on Short+Sweet Manila 2015
Dr. Joem Antonio, Storywriting School founder and course creator, will conduct a master class during the Short+Sweet Manila Festival 2015. Short+Sweet is a festival of ten-minute plays. Dr. Antonio's play, "Death in Ten Minutes," garnered awards in last year's festival. This year, he's giving back to the theatre community by holding this master class on storywriting. It will be on September 6, 2015, from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM, at the Samsung Hall in SM Aura. The fee is P500. To enroll, you may email

We interviewed him to find out what he'll be teaching.

What will the topic of your writing master class be?
My topic will be Compact Scriptwriting. It’s the art of being able to optimize story, theme and impact in a stage play that has a ten-minute limit.

Why did you choose this as a topic?
I think that Compact Scriptwriting is a very timely topic for a festival such as Short+Sweet. Aside from the fact that Short+Sweet promotes ten-minute performances, I believe that the ten-minute play format is the perfect answer to those who want to participate in theatre but have neither the time nor the resources. Compact Scriptwriting is about ensuring that the script will be both fun and challenging for everyone involved without compromising content, finances, and time.

Is it possible? If poetry can be profound in a few lines, then a ten-minute play can also be such. If a thirty-second commercial can emotionally move audiences, then so can a ten-minute play do the same.

What areas of this topic will you cover?
I will be reviewing everyone in terms of coming up with the basics of a story and a script. A story will have the elements we are all familiar with since elementary; the difference is, we will be looking at these elements from the perspectives of a playwright, of performers, and of an audience.

We will also review the different instructions a script gives to its potential performer. One has to see that a script is “imperative literature” or “a piece of literature whose art is to give instructions.” The participants will then have to learn how to write their instructions clearly so as the play becomes performable on stage. Part of this is that the participants will have to learn how to imagine the performance and to translate it into words.

After reviewing the participants on these two basics, the next area is to apply these basics to something more advanced: how to tell a well-layered story onstage by means of theatrical instructions.

What will participants leave with after attending your master class?
At least, that they leave with a clearer understanding of how the elements of story and a script work from a playwright’s perspective, as well as learning how to allocate within a ten-minute limit. At most, become more aware of how the different combinations of these elements can make for a rich experience without breaking the ten-minute limit.


We hope to see you at Samsung Hall for this master class. If you're a beginning playwright, you might also be interested in his crash course, "How to Write Plays for Theatre." You'll find his other course schedules here: Storywriting School writing workshops and courses.