This article is part of the “Write For” series, a collection of writings produced by the University of Central Arkansas Department of Writing to highlight incredible organizations that rely on professional writers. To learn more about Professional Writing and the opportunities it offers graduates, click here.
We may never know if William Shakespeare did any Professional Writing back in the 1600s when he wasn’t writing timeless plays, but it’s safe to say that performing his pieces today requires the skills of professional writers. The Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, a 7-year-old nonprofit theatre production based on the University of Central Arkansas campus, relies on a number of talented writers to keep the stage lights on and auditorium seats filled.
Rebekah Scallet, creative director of the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, said all the behind-the-curtains writing is currently done by her and a number of the organization’s board members. One of the theater’s most important documents is the annual brochure, a document that provides information on the season’s upcoming performances. Producing a quality brochure is critical, because other documents–from press releases to posters–borrow from the language found in the brochure.
The theater’s 2012 brochure contains a unique combination of information and engaging language. Professional writers who enjoy showing their creative side can appreciate the brochure’s performance descriptions, which include sentences like, “Mistaken identities, missed signals, and mischievous mayhem abound in one of the Bard’s most romantic and delightful comedies.” Scallet said the brochure allows writers to use flowery wording and alliteration that would seem out of place in other professional documents–say, for instance, grants.
Because the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre is a nonprofit, a portion of the organization’s funding comes from grants–non-repayable sums of money from the government or other grant-makers. Applying for a grant is generally a lengthy, writing-intensive process that Scallet said requires a “detail-oriented writer who can clearly connect the organization’s mission to the outline of grant questions.” She also stressed that a grant writer be able to write clearly, conveying a point thoroughly and concisely.
A well-polished grant has often been combed over by many pairs of diligent eyes. “So much of our writing is collaborative,” Scallet said. The organization’s team-oriented approach to composition is made easier through technology. A great deal of the theater’s writing is done using Google Docs, an online tool that tracks multiple writers’ contributions to a single document.
In addition to brochures and grant applications, the theater’s writers also produce programs that are handed out at performances and social media posts that promote each event. The wide variety of content produced by the theater requires versatility. Scallet said that one of the most valuable traits that a writer would develop while working with the theater is the “ability to switch gears quickly and put on one hat in the morning and another in the afternoon” because of the organization’s relatively small size.
If you’re passionate about theater but the idea of performing onstage gives you stage fright, consider channeling your inner professional writer in the interest of organizations like the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre. The words you’d write probably wouldn’t be recited for audiences hundreds of years after your death, but without them, the show wouldn’t be able to go on.