Playwriting: The Fundamentals – Revised Edition by Professor Effiong Johnson


Chapter One: About Playwriting: Theoretical Foundations
Chapter Two: The Arguments And Critical Issues in Writing
Chapter Three: Roadblocks to Playwriting
Chapter Four: Seen a Market to Shop Ideas?
Chapter Five: Basic Elements in Playwriting
Chapter Six: Ingredients and Styles in Playwriting
Chapter Seven: The Aesthetic in the Script
Chapter Eight: The Playwrights Dossier
Chapter Nine: The Laboratory Experiment .
Chapter Ten: Ten Perennial Questions On
Playwriting Answered
Chapter Eleven: The Playwright and Other Associates
Chapter Twelve: Write that Play (Overall Summary)
Chapter Thirteen: The Nigerian Theatre Milieu:
A Critical Comment

Click Here to Download the Full Table of Contents.

Right on the floor of the public presentation of the first edition in Lagos, Nigeria, 2000, it became apparent that the copies of the first edition would be sold out in a short time. And it was so basically because the “starving” Nigerian “students’ market” had waited for too long for a resource material on the art and study of playwriting. My conviction was confirmed by the reviewer, Nath Mc;Abraham-Inajoh, who stated in his review that he expected the book to sell out itself in a hurry by its sheer delectability. True, in three years, the copies were exhausted.

But why didn’t I think of writing a revised edition since then? I had other books I was writing. First it was my Play Production Processes, then came Visions Towards A Mission: The Art of lnterprerative
, then came Aesthetics: The Dialectic: and Theatrics of Theatre and Communication, and finally, The Art of Acting: A Student-Friendly Anthology. With all these out of the way, with years of teaching the course adding Fresh insights to my body of discoveries in the art of playwtiting and coupled with branded pressures by my students to give them something to support the notes and tutorial contributions,
I had to go back to the drawing board. Really, the need to supply missing links, beef up some segments of the first edition and contribute fresh chapters to the volume, more than anything else, forced out the emergence of the revised edition.

I was excited, oh, so excited with the first edition. And the reason was obvious. It was my first pedagogical baby in the world of publishing. Nothing could be compared with that. But I have also had strong reasons to be excited, very excited, with the revised edition. It has given me the opportunity to re-address certain areas
of the work with mature verve. I have also had the great moment of answering some questions that my playwriting students, from Diploma to Ph.D., have often, repeatedly asked. My excitement also came in tonnes through the opportunity of having the book published in the United States of America. The international status now accorded the book, does generate excitement in another level altogether. Lest I should forget, whereas I was confident that the first edition would be received, I could not anticipate the nature of criticisms that would pour in, on the work that sometimes made my heart pump with trepidation. But in this edition, there is no occasion for such at all. It is like one had cut one’s teeth, after all, and the feeling is relaxed and comfortable. So, here is the Revised Edition of Playwriting: The Fundamentals.

Structurally, a couple of changes have been made in the contents. Whereas the original edition had short but crisp chapters, the additional chapters in the revised edition, are longer. Crisp they are also, but longer. Years of accumulation of knowledge and facts. Experience in scholarly presentation of materials, among others, allowed for the differentials in volume. In the original edition, they were twelve (12) chapters in all. Professor Dapo Adelugba commenting on the chapters in his “Foreword”, described them as “well formulated chapters (in which the reader is exposed to all the details and mode of the techniques and styles of playwriting . . .” However, despite such a positive appraisal, the revised edition has not only added fresh chapters to the work, but also has combined about six chapters to have three—as the ideas could synchronize and flow together within the new packages. The newly added chapters include Chapter One – Theoretical
Foundations, Chapter Seven – The Aesthetics of the Script
(actually a culled out chapter from my book Aesthetics: The Dialectic: and Theatrics of Theatre and Communication), Chapter Ten – Ten Must — Answer Questions On Playwriting and Chapter Twelve Write That Play (also culled out from the Journal Tsebo, my article on playwriting) Write That Play is an interesting recap of most of the points earlier raised. The chapter acts as a beautiful summary of the key points with a pungent emphasis to the reader to WRITE
(Wright). The old chapter One and Three are combined, Five and Six are combined and Big/at and Nine are combined. In all, instead of twelve chapters that the original edition had, the revised edition now comes with thirteen chapters.

One of the most satisfying jobs done to the revised edition, is the provision of a strong foundation on theories—scholarly positions held on writing over the years. These now make the book stand on a very firm foundation. The chapter on questions answered also gives delight to the work and the author as it feels like a huge debt owed the students over the years has at last been redeemed.

You are welcome to the Revised Edition of Playwriting: The Fundamental: where as the title suggests and indeed defends, you are going to come to terms with the fundamentals of playwri ting. The essence here, is not to know these Fundamentals and talk about them. That will be good. But better than that, the essence is to WRITE that play at last, having been exposed to all it takes to make plays. Again, welcome aboard.

Effiong Johnson Ph.D.
Professor of Theatre Arts (Directing & Aesthetics)


It gives me immense pleasure to perform the task of baptism for the first pedagogical work of Prof. Effiong Johnson, one of my colleagues who also happens to have been one of my students in the mid 1980s.

Prof. Johnson’s Playwriting: The Fundamentals is a well researched work written in a pellucid but accessible style which will recommend it to a wide variety of readers, specialists and non-specialists alike. It is a book to students of playwriting and to aspiring playwrights because it does what its title says: it teaches the fundamentals of playwriting.

Teaching is the strength of the book. But teaching in the charming mode of talking and inviting the reader to talk as well. In thirteen well formulated chapters the reader is exposed to all the details and modes of the techniques and styles of playwriting and by the time the reader has gone through all the chapters he/she would feel very highly enriched. Prof. Johnson has also provided at the end of each chapter a summary of the main points. Anyone who feels startled by any of the bulleted points in the summary can always go back to the text of the chapter itself. In this regard, the author has proved to be an excellent teacher and guide.

Chapter one lays the foundation on writing theories, and what a strong foundation that is, and at once convinces the reader that good research has been done on this work. Chapter two puts forward the central arguments held about playwriting and the author’s very defended position in the cross-debates. Chapter three discusses the roadblocks to playwriting which, of course, have to be removed; chapter four enumerates the sources of ideas For playwriting; chapter five discusses basic elements; chapter six seasons the discourses with basic ingredients of and styles in playwriting. There is no doubt that applying such ingredients to the playwriting task would not yield palatable creations. Chapter seven is detailed on the injection of bounties of beauties to the script.

Chapter eight on the playwright’s desirable qualities and attributes, makes both the writer and the would—bes have parameters with which to assess their competence in their choice to become and remain playwrights.

Chapter nine should be especially useful not only to aspiring playwrights and students of playwriting but also to teachers of playwriting who may wish to compare their teaching methods with Prof. Johnson’s. Chapter ten is one in which most playwriting students at any level and existing playwrights would find extremely delightful. Frankly, the ten questions are nearly all the most disturbing questions often asked by students and others on the art. What is outstanding about this chapter which the author intelligently included in the revised edition, is the sheer depth of
knowledge displayed in answering the questions. Anyone who reads the chapter might have had all the guidance needed to write. It is a brilliant chapter.

Chapter eleven elucidates the relationships between the playwright and other central figures in theatre-making, viz, the director, the actor, the designer and the producer. Chapter twelve indeed acts like the overall summary to the whole work. Again, it is one chapter rich enough on its own to stimulate a reader to know how to write. Finally, in chapter thirteen the author critically comments on the Nigerian theatre milieu. A rather biting comment intended to make theatre practice assume its rightful thrusts.

One cannot but commend also the five-page Glossary of Theatre Terms at the end of the book and the rounded nature of the author’s discussion of playwriting within the overall context of drama and the theatre. This book is unique in scope, vitality and vision, and I am proud to have been asked to serve as chief priest at its baptism.

Professor Dapo Adelugba
Department of Theatre Arts
Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria
December, 2009

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