Pataphysics Playwriting Workshops

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

Pataphysics 2015


Dates: Saturday October 3, 10, and 17
Times: 10am-2pm
Price: $325
Deadline to apply: September 4

Adventurous theater needs adventurous criticism—sometimes from inside theater-making itself. In October, critic Helen Shaw will lead a Pataphysics workshop for those interested in writing about experimental performance, whether as makers who are hunting for vocabulary to talk about their own work (and in the work’s own terms) or as critics trying to approach unconventional pieces. The act of writing itself can help us understand difficult and elusive work. How do we think about audience response, especially to work that deliberately provokes and disturbs? How do we honor the makers’ intentions while still thinking critically? The workshop will include looking at writing about the theater, fine arts, music and sociology to expand how we “describe” theatrical document and event—and we’ll work on and share our own writing so that we can come closer to understanding the interlocking worlds of art and the critical impulse. (Please note, there will be some shows you must go see to participate in this workshop.)

Applicants should submit:
1. Cover letter
2. Bio
3. 10 page writing sample
4. List of five “shows” recently attended, which can include gallery visits, concerts, political rallies…but primarily theater/dance events.

E-mail your application materials to

Helen Shaw is the Dance Editor for Time Out New York, where she has also written about theater since 2005. Her work has also appeared in The New York Sun, The Village Voice, PAJ, TheatreForum (where she is a contributing editor), American Theater, Playbill and elsewhere. She twice curated the Prelude Festival, twice served as an Obie Judge, sits on the Lortel and Drama Desk committees, and teaches at NYU. She also wrote the introduction for Mac Wellman’s The Difficulty of Crossing a Field and is currently at work on a book about Wellman and his (dangerous) work.

About Pataphysics

New Work and New Ways of Working

The Pataphysics Playwriting Workshops at The Flea Theater are intimate, four-session intensives for 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.

Workshop Structure

The workshops are structured around the idea that whatever is most immediately interesting to a teacher will make for the most engaging class. They’re an opportunity for writers, emerging and experienced, to challenge their own assumptions using strange muscles and surprising parts of the brain.

Each workshop meets four times over two consecutive weekends at The Flea. Class size is limited to thirteen and admission is by application. The Flea Theater runs these workshops at cost. Grants from The Flea Theater and private donations provide a limited number of scholarships for those who would not otherwise be able to attend.

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

Stay Informed

To receive notification of upcoming classes, add your name and e-mail address to the Pataphysics mailing list by e-mailing us here. When a class is scheduled we will inform you 2 months ahead of the date.

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.