$400 – $500

DGI FALL 2019: Architecture of Musicals (Online)

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"Cheryl is an incredible teacher. She gave great context for all the shows we explored, and was so open to discussion and debate." -DGI student

Good musicals require good bones. One of the biggest challenges for musical theatre writers is maintaining a big picture perspective, while developing and revising the individual songs and scenes that contribute to the whole.

This ten week class is about good bones. Really, it’s about great bones. We’ll excavate a variety of musical theatre masterworks, including six of the nine musicals that have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. We’ll dig deep into both the timeless craft principles and the breathtaking innovations that drive each musical’s success. We’ll look at both the big picture (musical genre, storytelling style, overall dramatic structure), and the essential components (song forms, lyric craft elements, character arc through song, key scenes.) We’ll talk about the unique story and song challenges the architects of these musicals faced, and the innovative solutions they discovered. Along the way we’ll also share some gritty behind-the-scene anecdotes about the creation and evolution of some of these shows.

Musicals we’ll discuss in this class include (but are not limited to) South Pacific (1949), How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1962), Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope (1971), A Chorus Line (1975), Working (1977), Sunday in the Park with George (1984), Rent (1994), Ragtime (1996), Next to Normal (2008), Fun Home (2013), Hamilton (2015), and Dear Evan Hansen (2016).

This course is for participants who:

  • Want to grasp principles of successful dramatic structure and song plot in musicals;
  • Want to deepen their knowledge of the background and professional context in which great musicals are created;
  • Want to immerse themselves in studying the musical theatre form.

During this course, participants will:

  • Read and discuss examples from the canon of influential musicals;
  • Analyze key scenes and discuss their function within the overall dramatic structure;
  • Listen to and discuss key songs;
  • Learn to break down/map out the dramatic structure and song plot of exemplary musicals.

At the end of the semester, participants will have learned:

  • How to analyze a work’s dramatic and musical structure and song plot;
  • How to apply key principles of successful dramatic construction to their own writing projects.


Instructor: Cheryl Coons
Meeting time: Mondays, 7pm - 9pm EDT
Fee: $400 (DG members) $500 (non-members)
Duration: 10 weeks
Start Date: September 9, 2019 (Please note that there will be no class on September 23 or September 30)
Limit: 20 students

Please note: If you are applying for the DGI Certificate in Dramatic Writing, please register now to reserve your place in this class. If you are admitted to the certificate program, these tuition fees will be deducted from the overall cost of the program.

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