How Off the Page Came About

Phone booths are like feedback; timeless and still valuable.

Phone booths are like good feedback: timeless and still valuable.

Ever since I started teaching creative writing seven years ago I’ve enjoyed watching students develop their writing through feedback and workshops. Workshops offer students the opportunity to receive feedback directly from their audience, the opportunity to watch readers react and the chance to hear how readers interpret the text without writer interference. These interactions along with constructive feedback help many writers bring work from draft to publication.

Along with reading work prior to workshops, I had students read one another’s works in class; there’s something powerful and humbling about hearing your words in someone else’s mouth. Today, in my workshops and seminars I have students read their peer’s plays, monologues and poems out loud. These experiences are educational and entertaining. Through performances student writers can see what’s working and hear what isn’t.

But most of my students aren’t actors. Sometimes my students humor me by acting out scenes and reading dramatically and the classes and I appreciate the effort. Still, I wanted more. Off the Page (a name coined by Jenn Ashworth) was born. I pictured actors bringing writers’ characters to life; adding dimensions to page and depth to story. I wanted performances that allowed writers to see characters with words stuck in their throats; dancers stuck in first position; characters engaging in a crowded bar devoid of background (because someone had forgotten to recreate the scene). Off the Page offers writers the chance to see the holes in narrative before submitting pieces for publication. Equally as important, Off the Page allows writers to take work from work-in-progress to a piece that works.

After the performances, writers and actors explore choices and presentation both on and off the page.

Actors. Writers. Feedback.

How can I do it by myself?

I don’t.

I’ve been very fortunate to have surrounded myself with talented people who believe in my dreams and help me bring them to life. Naomi Kruger came on board when Off the Page was an idea I toted around in a notebook. Together we are envisioning and creating partnerships to make Off the Page adaptable to various situations.