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Who can forget, “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.” Or “You can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just ’cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!” Or “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.” Whether you can name the person who actually penned those lines or not, they’re etched in your mind forever. A lot of the magic that goes into the theatre and the cinema is due to the tireless imaginations and undeniable talent of playwrights and screenwriters. A major in playwriting and screenwriting will have you honing your writing skills and crafting your art to create original plays and scripts that ideally will live in your public’s mind for years to come. Working on one-act farces, full-length musical productions, short films, long films—you’ll take your cue on how to pace and plot a story through each so that it attracts and holds an audience’s attention. Through words and ideas alone you’ll sculpt believable characters and you’ll learn how to make them move through the world and deal with affecting problems and challenges. You’ll practice making the audience love them, hate them, fear for them, and cry with them. Once you’ve studied the technicalities of writing for the stage and screen, you’ll eventually be set to join the ranks of the professionals.

This is not a strictly tests-and-papers major. Much of your learning will come in the doing; you’ll learn how to write plays and screenplays by actually writing them and then discussing them with professors and other students. But you’ll also learn how to write well by studying the work of established writers as well as learning why the classics have endured. Here’s one major where you’ll sit back and watch a movie or go to a play—but only to study the work in action in order to see how the writing affects and is affected by the other elements of the production.

Keep in mind that not all colleges pair these two fields, and not all colleges offer them as majors. Often, they are offered as concentrations within broader disciplines, such as theatre, film, or creative writing.


  • Business of Theatre

  • Contemporary Cinema

  • Developing Dramatic Action

  • Full-Length Play Production

  • History of Theatre

  • Living with Television

  • One-Act Play Production

  • Perspectives in Literature

  • Plays and Productions

  • Principles of Play Directing

  • Script Analysis

  • Traditions in American Films

  • TV Dramas

  • Writing Poetry

  • Writing Short Fiction


The best preparation for a major in playwriting and screenwriting is a solid selection of courses in English, history, languages, and other humanities to polish up those writing skills. You should also take some courses in math and science. Then grab a notebook and get your great ideas on paper. It’s never too soon to start. Reading plays and scripts is also great preparation for your major in this field.