Cheryl Coons
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Architecture of Musicals: The Power of the Female Voice

Class Info

This class is currently full. If you would like to register, please fill join the waitlist.

Instructors: Cheryl Coons
Class Date: Saturdays, 3-5pm Eastern; March 16 - May 18
Maximum Students: 14

AST: 4pm-6pm
EST: 3pm-5pm 
CST: 2pm-4pm
MST: 1pm-3pm 
PST: 12pm-2pm
AKST: 11am-1pm
HST: 10am-12pm


Class Summary

“The key to a musical book is a larger-than-life central character, preferably, but not always female, overcoming tremendous obstacles to get what she wants.” 

– producer Margo Lion (Hairspray, Caroline or Change)

Powerful women have been at the center of musical theatre stories, climbing every mountain, since the earliest days of the form. Until recently, though, most of the writers who crafted their stories were male. In this 10-week course, we’ll focus on practical insights, culled from musicals written and composed by women, that support bookwriters, lyricists and composers who are in the process of creating musical theatre work. 

We’ll dig deep into both the timeless craft principles and the breathtaking innovations that drive each musical’s success. We’ll look at both the “forest” (musical genre, storytelling style, dramatic structure, song plot), and the “trees” (songforms, lyric craft elements, key scenes.) We’ll talk about the unique story and song challenges the female architects of these musicals faced, and the innovative solutions they discovered. 

Along the way we’ll also explore some questions contemporary musical theatre writers of all genders might ask themselves…Does my musical pass the Bechdel Test, and why should it? And how do I solve a problem like Maria? Or a better question: is Maria really a problem?

Musicals we’ll study in this course include (but aren’t limited to), Hadestown (Anaïs Mitchell), Fun Home (Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori), Once on This Island (Lynn Ahrens), Mean Girls (Tina Fey and Nell Benjamin), Waitress (Sara Bareilles and Jessie Nelson), Wicked (Winnie Holzman), for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf (Ntozake Shange), Frozen (Kristin Anderson-Lopez and Jennifer Lee), The Secret Garden (Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon), and Bella (Kirsten Childs).


Class Requirements

There are no official requirements for this class, but you should bring an eagerness to learn and participate in class discussion.


Class Expectations 

•        Class participants will read and listen to cast recordings or watch film versions of key musicals.  

•        Class participants will participate in discussions on topics related to craft and perspective.

•        Class participants, as their schedules permit, will explore supplementary materials provided by instructors for each week’s topics.


Class Outcome

•        Musical writers will have a grasp of the structure of musicals, and musical craft components, to support them in creating their own work.

•        Musical writers will appreciate the values and perspectives that female writers bring to the process of collaborative storytelling.

•        Musical writers will be familiar with key works across musical genres, written by women.


  • Refunds

    The Dramatists Guild does not provide refunds; however, it is possible to receive credit towards a future course instead. Please email for more information.

    Unfortunately, DG is unable to offer financial aid at this time.

  • Financial Aid

    Unfortunately, at this time financial aid is not available.

  • Instructors and Community

    The faculty at the Dramatists Guild is comprised of some of the country’s leading playwrights, songwriters, educators, and industry professionals. Please be aware that instructors are subject to change prior to the start of the semester. In the unlikely event that such a change does occur, all DG students will be notified as soon as possible.

    The Dramatists Guild endeavors to create a safe space in which all students feel encouraged to participate as freely and confidently as possible. Although we generally try to group students by skill level, writers from a variety of backgrounds will inevitably be in class together. Students are expected to be inclusive, communicative, and welcoming to one another, regardless of previous writing experience.

    All students should arrive on time to class, disengage from electronic media (other than the Zoom platform upon which the class is taking place), and remain present for the entire class period. Please note that the Guild is unable to record any courses. If you are unable to attend a class, it is your responsibility to contact your instructor, in advance of your planned absence, in order to coordinate a sufficient make-up strategy.

  • Class Sizes

    Unless otherwise noted, all foundation classes have a maximum of 14-15 students and all writing workshops (including specialty writing workshops) have a maximum of 10 students. 

    The number of students in each course is limited in order to ensure that every participant has a meaningful classroom experience.

  • Contact Us

    Feel free to email us at, or call the Guild office at (212) 398-9366.