Summer is a season of vision. Vision can be defined many different ways, but I love to think of it as ambition mixed with focus. As a student at Emory University who is majoring in playwriting, I spend my fall and spring semesters studying hard and getting inspiration. So, when the summer rolls around, I’m ready to dive deeper into my playwriting work.

Get a sneak peek into what I’ve been up to this summer — and read about the many lessons about theatre and the power of vision that I’ve learned along the way.


Female playwright

Photo of Dylan Malloy by Jack Randall

Recently, a play of mine entitled Venus, and What Else is Nocturnal received production in The Blank Theatre’s 30th Annual Young Playwrights Festival in Los Angeles. This festival annually produces 12 plays selected from nationwide submissions by playwrights between the ages of 9 and 19. The production was live-streamed. It allowed me the life-changing experience of rehearsing on Zoom with some brilliantly talented professional actors (who have performed for groups such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+) over the month of July.

Each day of rehearsal was a crash course in how to adapt physical work for a digital setting. We used technology like green screens and Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) to make it look as though socially distanced actors were in the same room together. (Magic!) I’m so grateful to The Blank for the opportunity to bring this play to life in such an innovative and moving way.

The rehearsal process reminded me that playwriting involves constant learning and adapting. As technology evolves, the variety of tools at our disposal expands. Staying informed about shifts in the industry makes us as writers more flexible and versatile. However, this need to learn extends beyond just keeping up with the latest technology. Reading nonfiction or listening to podcasts over the summer is a surefire way to stay informed about the world and to fuel yourself with inspiration for your work.


Having a clear vision empowers your learning. Studying playwriting has taught me that anything can provide inspiration for a story, from a news article to a song, to an interview. It doesn’t matter how strange the topic is!

One helpful playwriting tip is to write down things you read, watch, or listen to that particularly inspire you — sort of like a research log. If you can go back through the list and identify common traits that appear throughout — like a theme, setting, or character type — then you may find inspiration for your next story! This intentional process sharpens your creative vision by reminding you of topics that make you curious and the types of stories you want to tell.

No amount of research is ever wasted in the grand scheme of your writing. For example, I’ve spent a lot of time learning more about technology, a topic that really engages me and appears throughout much of my work. All this reading prepared me ahead of time for this summer’s work of shifting Venus to a remote setting and connecting virtually with actors. You never know how unique rabbit trails will help you later in life — and the surprise factor adds excitement to your work.


This summer also taught me about how to use the idea of vision to create a cohesive body of work. I’m in the process of completing a years-long playwriting project, and here is my mission statement for the endeavor: The River Cycle, a five-play cycle about loneliness, legend telling, and environmental crisis in rural Colorado, where I grew up. (Venus is the first installment.) The fifth and final play, The Groundwater, is in development and is currently set to be produced this fall as a staged reading by Emory University’s Oxford College theatre department.

A play cycle is defined as any number of plays that connect in some focused way. Cycles can cover any topic. Characters don’t have to overlap between stories, but there is always a common thread. Some playwrights utilize cycles to examine life in a particular part of the world over a long period of time. Other playwrights might use their work to explore certain themes.

Writing my own cycle has come with a massive learning curve, and I’ve written countless pages that will never see the light of day! But over the past couple years, I’ve learned that focusing on a vision gives writers endurance.


Creating a mission statement for your writing focuses your ambition on an end goal. Whether you want to write one play or an entire play cycle, identifying the “why” behind your work gives you a clearer sense of vision. Think of it like an elevator pitch that defines your writing but still allows enough broadness for you to explore bursts of inspiration along the way.

Here are some questions that could help you clarify your mission statement:

  • What themes do you like to explore?
  • Who would enjoy your plays?
  • What do you hope the audience takes away from your writing?

These statements often change over time, which is natural because it means your work is growing and evolving! When we use specifics to define our writing, we give shape and structure to our ambitions. It enables us to visualize the goals of our work and the impact on the world that we want it to have.

As summer draws to a close, I’m eagerly preparing to return to Emory, reconnect with my friends, and begin the fall semester. I’m so thankful for this summer’s unexpected opportunities and the lessons about vision that they taught me. ♦

Dylan Malloy is a student at Emory University double majoring in playwriting and arts management. She recently won the 30th Annual Blank Theatre National Young Playwrights Festival, and one of her plays received a production by the Hollywood-based Blank Theatre in summer 2022 with professional actors. Other plays have been produced by Emory University’s Lenaia Playwriting Festival, Oxford College New Play Festival, and the Emory Oxford College theatre department.

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