Pataphysics

The Pataphysics Playwriting Workshops at The Flea Theater are intimate, four-session intensives for new work and new ways of working.

New Work and New Ways of Working

Named for Alfred Jarry’s science of imaginary solutions, the workshops are a gymnasium for the writing brain—curious, particular, and rigorous. Students enter with blank sheets of paper, and leave with pages of notes, fragments, scenes, even entire plays unlike anything they would have written on their own.

Led by Master Playwrights

The Pataphysics workshops are led by master playwrights who are known not only for a distinct and groundbreaking body of work, but also for their ability as teachers. Each workshop, led by a master playwright pursuing his or her own train of thought, is geared to generate new material and new ideas through writing experiments, readings, and interesting talk. Master playwrights have included: Lee Breuer, Erik Ehn, Karen Finley, Maria Irene Fornes, Jeff Jones, Eduardo Machado, Chuck Mee, Paula Vogel, and Mac Wellman.

About Our Participants

Pataphysics workshops are for both developing and experienced writers of any age or aesthetic inclination. Pataphysics students have been produced or developed by, and have received awards from: Humana, The Public Theater, The Flea, Princess Grace Award, Little Theater, SOHO Rep, O’Neill Playwrights Conference, Manhattan Theater Club, Lincoln Center Director’s Lab, Lucille Lortel Playwrighting Fellowship, Printer’s Devil, Horla Theater (London), BRIC Studios, New Dramatists, NYFA, Whitfield Award, Portland Center Stage, New Georges, Clubbed Thumb, HERE, Playwrights Horizons, LaMama, The Cherry Lane Alternative, Annex Theater, Dixon Place, Empty Space Theater, McArthur Foundation Award, The Ontological, Ensemble Studio Theater.

2018 Workshop with Mfoniso Udofia: Writing the Epic

The workshop explores choruses, poetics, non-traditional dramatic structures and asks: How do we compose the literary majestic? And even more challenging: How do we keep the epic rooted in human authenticity? Content and material will focus on the big dreamers of dramatic literature and we will explore dramatists from our shores and beyond. And, of course, alongside understanding the dreamings of others, we will start imagining and then creating epics of our own.

To Apply

Writing the Epic will be held on December 8, 9, and 16. Each session will run from 10 a.m to 2 p.m., for a total of 12 hours of workshop time. Each workshop is limited to 12 writers. The course is $250 with a limited number of partial scholarships available. To apply, fill out the application here. 

Praise for Pataphysics Workshops

“I began writing a brand new full-length, VACUUM, at the ‘Pataphysics retreat with Erik [Ehn] in 2008. The first fifty pages or so were workshopped and read at EST Octoberfest, 2008, directed by Billy Carden and a third draft was presented for their Octoberfest series in 2009. VACUUM was chosen for the 2009 Autumn Artists’ Lodge at HERE and I produced a workshop presentation with my company, directed by Eric Nightengale. VACUUM was a finalist for the 2010 New Harmony Project and is currently a semi-finalist for the O’Neill. It also received a developmental one-day workshop at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park last month, with their intern company, directed by Mark Lutwak.” —Arlene Hutton

“In the first two minutes of taking a workshop with Mac Wellman, I knew I was in the presence of a revolutionary, and I don’t mean to use that label lightly but as an apt description of someone who demands theatre that will open up to its many possibilities rather to continue to suffer under rigid regional theatre rules. It makes for an incredibly charged atmosphere to work in, one where I felt I could begin to see and work within an open landscape rather than being scolded for not adhering to some outdated and corny ideas of what a play should BE. Plus, it was a lot of fun.” —Deron Bos

“I’ve heard several people mention that the ‘Pataphysics workshops are “the place to go” if you want a playwriting workshop. The Flea seems to recognize the importance of the exchange of ideas and experiences between young, or not yet fully “established” writers. I’ve learned so much from the other participants’ work and responses and formed important new relationships. I’ve now taken workshops with Erik Ehn and Mac Wellman, and have found them both to be extraordinarily generous about sharing their experiences as active readers, writers, people. And they’ve planted in my brain a new vocabulary in which to talk about plays, and sent me off wanting to become more active myself.” —Kate Ryan

“Pataphysics is quite simply the best class I’ve ever taught. Why? Because everyone in the room knows why they’re there and comes highly motivated. That cuts through the bull. It lets us work as peers.” —Jeffrey M. Jones

“I took the Jeff Jones and the Mac Wellman workshops at the Flea this year. Both of them offered unique exercises and tools for approaching theater writing. These really are the best workshops I’ve found in New York for playwriting because they genuinely inspired me to continue writing. Both teachers somehow managed to address the specific constraints of dramatic writing while, at the same time, opening up all the unexplored possibilities for new work.” —Anne Marie Healy

“I wrote a play during the weekend retreat and I was invited to the Sundance Institute Writing Lab to work on the play this February. I plan to have a reading of it this June with the Labrynth Company.” —Winter Miller