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Off Campus Writers' Workshop - OCWW

Mary Ruth Clarke - Back by Popular Demand: The Compelling Scene Contest

  • January 28, 2021
  • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
  • Remote


Registration is closed

Remote Session (OCWW may add a live session with separate registration) 

Whether you are writing a play, screenplay, teleplay, or adapting a novel or memoir into one of these dramatic forms, riveting scenes are the key to a gripping story intended to be performed by actors. 

This workshop will deep dive into your scenes.  Participants are invited to submit their scenes ahead of time to the instructor, who will critique them and select the most compelling to be read by professional actors at the workshop. 

The workshop will begin with a brief overview of what elements make for great scene work:

  •    A desire on the part of each character in the scene
  •   How they go about getting what they want
  •   The conflict/obstacle to them getting what they want**
  •   An escalation
  •   And an emotional change from the beginning of the scene to the end

***Conflict doesn’t mean people shouting at each other!  Because that doesn’t usually get a person what they want.  Ask yourself:  What’s getting in the way of what my characters want, and how does each of them go about getting that?  (Hint: Oftentimes, they try this, that, and the other thing.)

We’ll then jump right into reading your scenes, followed by a Q&A with the instructor and the professional actors.  (Much can be gleaned from their perspective on how they approach scene work.) If your scene doesn’t make the cut, you will still have a hard copy critique from the instructor.

Submission criteria: Comedy, Drama, Dramedy
Plays, Screenplays, Teleplays
Aim for no more than 3 characters (but no worries if there are more)
Maximum 6 pages, less is better

How to format a play:  Here’s the formatting criteria for the Dramatists Guild:

How to format a screenplay or teleplay:  Here’s a good guide:  (especially the link to John August’s site)                                       

This workshop is for playwrights, screenwriters, teleplay writers, as well as novelists and memoirists.

Please see Manuscript and Contest Guidelines on the OCWW Website for details.

Mary Ruth Clarke co-wrote and starred in the original Meet the Parents and co-adapted it into the blockbuster version, starring Robert De Niro. Her play Bonhoeffer’s Cost  has been produced at The Agape Actors Co-op in Austin, Texas, Philadelphia's Beacon Theater, and the Provision Theater in Chicago.  Agape also produced her farce Suffer The Long Night, co-written with her “Meet The Parents" partner, Greg Gliennaas did the Meta Theater in LA.

Her play Address Unknown was produced in Chicago by 20% Theater Company, and Fury Theater; her solo performance, I Could Kill Him For Dying, ran at Three Cat Productions in Chicago, and her musical, Fay Burns! had a 28 Hour Workshop and two staged readings at Chicago Dramatists, where she is a Resident Playwright and heads up the screenwriting and television classes. 

Recent Saturday Series staged readings include Alice and Celia and Whatever It Takes, a comedy screenplay, directed by Second City’s Pat McKenna, and her play Right In Front of Us.

Mary Ruth is a screenplay consultant for clients in LA and Chicago, a Resident Playwright at Chicago Dramatists, where she heads up the screenwriting program, and teaches screenwriting at Story Studio.  She lectures regularly at the Chicago Screenwriter’s Network, and has presented workshops for the Off Campus Writer’s Group, the Chicago Independent Film Project, and Renaissance Theaterworks Milwaukee. She is a member of the Writer’s Guide of America East and the Dramatists Guild.

Mary Ruth will accept Comedy, Drama, Dramedy, Plays, Screenplays, and Teleplays up to 6 pages for critique. Please see manuscript guidelines on the website:

We offer free student memberships at a discounted rate of $5.00 per session. You must send verification of your student status. Please contact Claudia Katz at for details

9-9:30 Socializing 

9:30-12 Program 

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