The Playwright

Wright or Write or Right? When the Play’s the Thing, Which is It?

Shakespeare was a writer of plays. So, was he a playwrite? A playright? Or a playwright?

It certainly seems that “write” would be correct, because that’s what a playwright does — he writes. Right?

But a writer of plays is someone who creates — or sometimes repairs, rewrites or reconstructs — something specific (a play). He or she builds or constructs a play. A “wright” is someone who creates, builds, or repairs something specified. The word derives from Old English wryhta or wyrhta. You see it used for professions such as shipwright or wheelwright.

According to Merriam-Webster, the first known use of the word playwright was in the year 1616, which was the year Shakespeare died.

Thus, the writer of plays is a playwright, but the action of creating a play is called, in modern English, playwriting (just like screenwriting).

So, now you know what’s right! Right?

Playwrights and Play Actors

Unhand Me Desdemona

“Let’s play like….”

Remember, as a young kid, this wonderful suggestion that inevitably unleashed your child’s enthusiastic and unfettered imagination? It brought such fun and richness to what then seemed like a long day.

A play “wright” must retain and nourish this “child’s imagination” that allows a soul to “dream up,” describe, and give voice to whatever characters populate a particular plot, and whatever actions and outcomes drive that plot.

But it’s the actor who must ultimately “play like” — who must breathe life into the characters and situations that make up a script. The actor is the essential “tool” of the play “wright,” who hammers out the right words to tell the story. A play may be read — and some scripts are more suited to this than others — but it is always the actor who truly makes a character live, at least for the space of a performance.

The actor and the writer have a mutually dependent relationship — one requires the other, though each is independent. A director may serve as an additional, independent “tool,” interpreting the writer’s words and conveying that vision to the actor. Such a director brings an additional imagination to the mix. Occasionally, the writer is the director. Both situations are good. They give a script a variety of “lives” on the stage.

A writer’s heart cherishes the good actors who embrace a script’s characters and allow audiences the opportunity to experience and enjoy the writer’s creations.

When you act out a character, you are bringing your own imagination to that character and the plot. You are the ultimate communicator and entertainer in the relationship between writer and audience. The writer, director, and audience depend completely on you. You are important!