Category Archives: Original Content

LPW Play Club #1 – Far Away by Caryl Churchill

To kick off our #PlayClub project, this month we’re reading….

Far Away by Caryl Churchill

Caryl Churchill’s Far Away is a play that looks at conflict and its unsettling effect on our lives, and on our humanity. It was first performed at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, London, on 24 November 2000 and is currently a set text for AS/A Level Drama (WJEC). It explores fear, humanity and the effects of war.

Submissions

As we mentioned previously, we challenge you to write a short, 10 page play (12 font size, please!) in direct response to what you’ve read.

We will accept submissions from LPW members only, so if you’re not one yet but are wanting to submit – what’re you waiting for? It costs less than a cup of coffee a month and you get a whole host of exclusive benefits! Details of how to sign up can be found here.

Our submission window in response to Far Away will be open from
Wednesday 3rd – Sunday 28th April  so please don’t send us scripts before then!

An email will be sent your way once the window is open with full details of how to submit, including; where to send it, our format guidelines and some top tips.

But until then, happy reading for this month, and don’t forget to join the Facebook group discussion!

How to sign up

Play submissions for this project are exclusively for our members (you can sign up for less than 4 quid though and you’ll be helping to support the next generation of playwrights if you do!)

You’re also more than welcome to just read the plays and join in some discussion with us about them on the members Facebook group! We’ll open up a discussion forum on there at the same time we open for submissions, so don’t feel you have to write a play, you’re absolutely fine to just read too.

If you’re not a member yet, sign up now and follow the link as above.

Image source: Nick Hern Books/Royal Court (Far Away Cover) 

LPW: New Play Club Launching Next Week!

Next up on our new content for members is our revamped Book Club – with the chance to have your work read by professional actors! 

#PlayClub

We told you we had more content and opportunities coming your way, and we aren’t stopping just yet. At LPW, we’re delighted to announce our brand new ‘Play Club’ project which is kicking off next week. For it, we’re taking the old online book club into a new exciting direction with more creativity involved! (And, let’s be honest, which writers don’t like being creative?)

Every other month, starting in March, we’ll be setting a play for everyone to read. From this, we challenge you to write a 10 page short play inspired by what you’ve read.

After each submission window, we’ll then select the winner from that round who can look forward to having their play read by actors at the final members meet-up of 2019!

Never fear if you aren’t selected, though, as we’ll be reading 4 plays this year, which means you’ve got 4 chances to get your shiny new short play read. Yep, you read that right, 4 CHANCES.

The first play is announced next week, and anyone is more than welcome to read along with us, but to submit your inspired short play you must be a LPW member. Check below for details about how to become one…

How to sign up

Play submissions for this project are exclusively for our members (you can sign up for less than 4 quid though and you’ll be helping to support the next generation of playwrights if you do!)

Members, check your emails for #PlayClub updates! They’ll automatically be sent to your inbox as and when things are ready to share. We’ll share details of how to submit your plays when the submission window opens in April.

You’re also more than welcome to just read the plays and join in some discussion with us about them on the members Facebook group! We’ll open up a discussion forum on there at the same time we open for submissions, so don’t feel you have to write a play, you’re absolutely fine to just read too.

If you’re not a member yet, sign up now and follow the link as above.

Here’s to reading and writing!

 

Among Angels: A Playwright’s Journey (from first play to full production)

In this guest post, playwright Timothy Graves reflects on the journey of writing his first play: from the initial inspiration to producing it at the Courtyard Theatre for a four week run this April. 

‘Never are we nearer the Light than when darkness is deepest.’

Among Angels’ is my first play.

I have written two novels before – ‘Homo Jihad’ and ‘Pharmakeia’ – both published by Paradise Press. ‘Homo Jihad’ was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize. I have also written a memoir, ‘Human Angel’ which is awaiting publication.

Among Angels’ was my first ever venture into playwriting. I had studied Drama and English Literature at Exeter University many years ago and, more recently, completed a professional actor training at The City Lit. I think both my actor training and rediscovering a love for live theatre later in life, helped prepare the ground for me to embark on the playwright’s journey.

My inspiration for writing the play came from various sources.

Many years ago, I guess you could say I had what those in psychotherapeutic circles might call a ‘transpersonal’ experience. Those more spiritually inclined would probably view it as a mystical encounter. All I remember at the time was just an overwhelming angelic presence. Writing ‘Among Angels’ was, in part, my way of honouring that experience.

Although ‘Among Angels’ is predominantly focused on the Chemsex issue in the LGBTQ+ community and the protagonist, Chris Johnson, is forced to deal with a set of traumatic given circumstances that would break many a strong-willed person, there are angels in the play – gay angels to be precise – who come to his rescue.

I also knew the playwright Sarah Kane quite well and was inspired by her writing and her ability, at times, to use personally traumatic experiences as a source of inspiration to create great art; the personal  is also powerful and political. Kane explored the darker aspects of the human psyche and often communicated this to an audience in poetic form. In ‘Among Angels’ there is a chorus of angels who, at times, break the fourth wall and directly address the audience. When they do so, they often speak in verse.

But addiction and not psychosis – as in Kane’s ‘4.48 Psychosis’ – is the territory of ‘Among Angels.’ Addiction to methamphetamine or crystal meth to be specific. Theatre will always play an important role in reflecting and exploring what the lived human experience is all about. Narrative will always continue to explore, in different ways, the interplay between light and dark.     

Other sources of inspiration come from various plays I have seen.

The Inheritance’ by Matthew Lopez, moved me to tears. The writing was heart-felt and like many other members of the audience at The Young Vic last year, I was deeply affected by the dramatic representation  of gay men, towards the end of the first half of the play, who had died during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s.

The fact that these gay men were spirits – and of course there are the angels in ‘Angels in America’ – I feel added a further dimension to the work and was an incredible example of how theatre can transport an audience through crossing boundaries; in this case the boundary between this world and the next.

Granted, a Shakespearean audience would, on the whole, have believed in the fairies, the witchcraft and the magic. But despite our modern technology and scientific discoveries, I still feel there is a propensity for a modern-day audience to suspend disbelief and enter into that magical ‘what if’ state of mind. There is, I believe, still the need to challenge an audience’s ontological beliefs.

I wrote the first draft of ‘Among Angels’ during the summer months of last year.

I find morning the best time to write – after breakfast and a strong coffee. I generally feel refreshed from sleep and my mind is alert. I also may have had certain breakthroughs pertaining to certain characters, relationships or narrative structure through dreams – the wisdom and insight  of which can quickly dissipate during the day; an early start to writing helps to minimise this.

In September, I participated in a short ‘Page to Stage’ course at The Arcola Theatre in Dalston.

Run by Rebecca Jones, this course proved to be a baptism of fire on the production side of things. Even though myself and other emerging playwrights on the course were often only showcasing the first few scenes of a full-length play, we were responsible for sourcing props, costume, casting the actors, hiring rehearsal space, finding a director and liaising with the sound and lighting designer.

This was an invaluable experience on two levels: Firstly, it gave me the confidence to produce my own play. So when the Courtyard Theatre in Hoxton became interested in ‘Among Angels’, I was ready to take responsibility for producing the play In addition, watching the opening of my play at ‘The Arcola’ was an interesting, if somewhat uncomfortable experience. I realised that I didn’t want my play to open in the way that it did! One thing was certain – a major redraft was on the cards…

Attending a short LPW course run by Kimberley Andrews, playwright and playwrighting tutor at RADA, was invaluable.

Kimberley gave excellent feedback during the course and was incredibly insightful in respect to characterisation, themes and narrative structure. She went out of her way to read initial and subsequent redrafts and meet individually with students to help with the editing process; without her input ‘Among Angels’ would not be the play it is today. She recommended I take time to reflect on the inciting incident of the play which was excellent advice because now the play has a much clearer through-line for the audience.

With some initial reluctance, I also ‘killed off’ two of the characters and cut entire scenes from the second half of the play. I also added a final scene which was inspired by a short by Mark Ravenhill, ‘The Mikado’. An inanimate object in the second half of the play is also now deeply imbued with symbolic meaning and relates to the backstory and history of the two lovers  – which gives a greater resonance and emotional depth to the play.

I think there is a time to work in solitude on a play and  be protective of the unfolding creative process – usually during the first draft, when ideas are germinating and the creative juices are flowing. And there is a time for workshopping and getting feedback. In the latter part of the writing process, I also think it is important who is actually giving advice and suggestions and how they are doing it. If it is done well, constructively with insight and informed by a knowledge and understanding of what works well on stage, the feedback will strike a chord and give one the impetus to edit and reshape in a way that feels right.

Plays come in all shapes and sizes. Some are two-handers. Others more epic in scale. Some seek to entertain. Others, more to challenge. Naturalism may be the best vehicle for some material whereas different dramatic styles will be more appropriate to other material. A skilled dramaturg or consultant in the dramatic arts will be supportive of and encourage a diverse range and variety of different dramatic forms.

Among Angels’, to a certain extent, plays with theatrical form: The fourth wall is broken, the narrative timeline is non-linear, there is a modern-day chorus that raps about the dangers associated with methamphetmaine, most of the cast play multiple characters, and yes – there are angels! During the short course at LPB, I was made to feel that these were some of the strengths inherent in the work; and for this I am truly grateful.

My advice to anyone who is writing their first play…

You have to love the shared experience of live theatre and its’ potential to be a transformative experience in order to write for it. And yes, some theatre doesn’t quite hit the mark. But isn’t it interesting when it doesn’t?! What can we, as emerging playwrights, also take from these experiences, that will help us to write plays that will engage, empower and challenge our audiences even more?

I would also recommend that, at some point in the journey of giving birth to a play, it’s probably a good idea to get some constructive feedback from someone you trust and who knows their stuff! And finally – as with all forms of creative writing – don’t be scared to go to those places that a part of you might be reluctant to go to. Therein, often lies the creative power and the inspiration. After all, more often than not, what do we do as writers – of novels, poems or plays – do but dig deep down into our guts and serve up a portion of ourselves for the greater good of the wider community.

Timothy Graves is currently seeking publication for ‘Among Angels’ which opens on the main stage at The Courtyard Theatre, Hoxton, London on 3rd April for a four week run. It is directed by Peter Taylor, director of the award-winning play ‘Glitter Punch’, and performed by Seraphim Theatre Company. BOOK YOUR TICKETS HERE. 

@timothygraves69  @SeraphimCompany

 

LPW: #WriteHacks coming soon!

As promised, we’ve got some exciting content coming up for our members this year and the of first our new initiatives will be making its’ way to you this March. 

#WriteHacks

As playwrights, juggling the whole writing thing with every day life is hands down one of our biggest challenges.  Often, by the time we tick off enough of our to-do lists to sit down and get some actual writing done, we’re then slapped in the face with a blank page, not knowing how to fill it.

It’s pretty easy to end up in a frustrating cycle where we hopelessly try to squeeze everything and then feel guilty when our creative brain doesn’t quite fire up in the way we want it to, when we want it to.

The truth is, there aren’t many writers who have time to sit in front of their laptop all day casually typing up their latest masterpiece without distraction. And even those who do aren’t immune to writers’ block , scrolling through Instragam or watching the kettle boil instead of writing. The trick with it all really is to make the writing time we do have, fully count. 

With that in mind, we’ve created #WriteHacks, a series of life hacks for writers which will land in your inbox every day throughout the month of March.

Each day, you’ll receive a different ‘hack’, designed to boost productivity, inspire you and give you the motivation to write more.

We’ve collected hacks from a really exciting bunch of people from playwrights to producers (and of course. the LPW team!) so you won’t want to miss out on getting these wise words thrown into your inbox during March!

How to sign up

This resource is exclusively for our members (you can sign up for less than 4 quid though and you’ll be helping to support the next generation of playwrights if you do!)

Members, CLICK HERE to sign up to receive #WriteHack emails.

If you’re not a member yet, sign up now and follow the link as above.

 

LPB launch new Script Consulting Service

We know how important feedback is for new and emerging writers and we also know that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to receiving it. Plays are all different, writers are all unique and have various requirements – from wanting structural advice on an early draft to getting their play submission ready!

So, we’ve decided to give our Script Consulting Service a good old overhaul to make sure we can help as wide a range of writers as possible with developing their work. 

It wasn’t that our old service wasn’t working. In fact, we’ve helped plenty of writers redraft their work this way and watched on proudly as they have gone on to have success with their plays (from rehearsed readings to full productions!). We still think that offering a 90 minute Skype chat along with written notes is a great way to deliver feedback and fuel the vibrant discussion that is invaluable in helping a writer to develop their work. So, this option is still on the table for those who want to use it!

We’ve also added in a few new options to meet the needs of  a wider range of writers. You’ll now be able to opt for a written report only which is perfect for those who would rather work through their notes alone and because it takes us less time, it’s cheaper.

We’re also offering feedback on the first 10 pages of script and the premise; this will help writers to find out if they’re on the right track with their idea and if they’re going to grab the attention of a reader in their opening scenes!

And, if none of these options suit your needs, we’re now offering Creative Development, where you can pay by the hour for individual feedback/ mentorship.

Whichever option you choose, you’ll get matched with one of our experienced script consultants who will work with you to get the very best out of your script!

We’ve also worked hard to keep the cost of our services down whilst ensuring we are able to pay a fair wage to those involved . And, LPW Members pay 20% less on all of these services. So, find out more about joining here

Find out more

Read the full details of our script consulting services here and feel free to get in touch at scripts@londonplaywrightsblog.com with any questions you might have.

We look forward to working with you!

Induced Structural Collapse – Writing a Text From Inside the Skin of its Forebear

why this sky will be presenting their show Portents as part of The Space’s Spring Season. The play began as the result of devised workshops and in this guest post, writer Nat Norland shares his tips for deconstructing and reworking the original text to create something new. 

I can’t really talk about how I started writing Portents, because I didn’t start writing it.

The first draft was written by a friend of mine off the back of a number of devised workshops I directed, playing with ideas related to conspiracy theories and self taught artists. I made a slightly clumsy attempt at staging it, and then I put it in a box and forgot about it for quite a long time.

And then I took it out the box, and decided I wanted to hack it to pieces.

Not completely to pieces, maybe. In situations like this, you have to be quite clear with yourself about exactly what you want to keep, and what you want to make your own. In my case, I wanted to hang on to a lot of the content and tone of the piece, while tearing out as much of the characters and structure as I could. Of course, new themes and ideas started to creep in – something that had been largely about conspiracy theories began to be increasingly preoccupied with language and religious experience – but the main thrust of the rewriting was about unmaking the structure, collapsing it from the inside out.

So, with all that said, here’s a few ways of tearing a play’s insides out and putting them back in stranger:

1 – Killing the authorship

Before I start talking about slicing things out, lets talk for a minute about splicing things in. One of the really freeing things about doing a heavy rework of an existing text, rather than starting from scratch, is that it releases you from the idea of a unitary authorial voice. Since you’re immediately dealing with lines you’ve written coexisting with lines you haven’t, authorship starts to feel like another structure that can be played with and bent out of shape. To this end, I started experimenting with including direct quotations from different sources, spliced unceremoniously into the flow of scenes. It felt in some ways similar to music production – if you’re remixing something, why not try throwing in other samples for added texture?

It quickly became apparent that different sources lent very different flavours. Song lyrics were fun – not as finely wrought as poetry, but more stilted than prose – making them stick out immediately in an interestingly jarring way. I also played with transcripts from television interviews, and, owing to the aforementioned religious themes, snatches from the Bible.

I think this is a technique where trial and error is really valuable. Pulling from a lot of different places, and seeing what was pleasantly and unpleasantly incongruous. At the very least, it makes for an enjoyable process.

2 – Gutting the dialogue.

Portents, Portents Mk I, pre-disembowelment Portents, had a number of scenes which were just characters talking to each other. In the same place, about the same things, at the same time. This crops up in plays occasionally, I’ve noticed. There was a flavour to them that I really liked, but I wasn’t that interested in people talking to each other in the same place at the same time any more. Somehow that framework had to go.

There’s a number of ways you can go about this, but I think setting some sort of formal constraint that runs counter to one or more of the scene’s internal rules is often a really good place to start. That kind of rule bending can force your writing into some really interesting and unexpected places, without the burden of knowing exactly where you’re going beforehand. And dialogue scenes have a whole lot of internal rules to tear into – characters talk to each other, roughly alternating lines; they’re generally assumed to be in the same neighbourhood of spacetime; they respond to at least some of the information presented to them by their partner in conversing.

In my case, I tried keeping one character’s lines exactly intact, while stripping out and replacing the other’s. The new lines had to either seem to be from an entirely different time and place as the originals, or to completely ignore the other participant in the conversation. This threw quite a disconcerting sense of distance into the scene, but didn’t completely paper over the original flavour.

3 – Shuffling the grammar

Of course, you can’t throw in a sense of distance between two voices when there’s only one voice talking. Somehow, that distance has to come between the voice and the audience. Finding a rule to twist to that end was less obvious, particularly as the speakers were generally addressing the audience directly

My solution here was based on parsing speed: how quickly an audience can understand what’s being said to them, syntactically and semantically. The slower and less completely an audience can process what’s being said, the more conceptual distance they feel between themselves and the speaker. Like something interfered with the text before it reached them.

I suppose a more extreme way of doing this might have been to have the speaker talk in another language, but too much of the information would have been lost on a predominantly english speaking audience. Also, I’m rather too unilingual to have been able to write it. So instead, I attacked the grammar of the speeches. You if you can rewrite a sentence using malapropism, repetition and start stuttering to make it harder considerably harder to process without as a reader or listener, without taking making it impossible. It can be done to a lesser degree than that, or to a much greater one, till the text feels like half ordered words with their meaning hidden half out of sight.

There are other ways you could experiment this as well, perhaps tacking semantically rather than syntactically, loading sentences with double meanings and incongruous ideas in order to slow parsing speed.

4 – Letting go of determinism

One of the common features of all these structural destabilisations is pulling things out of context, breaking the rules of where words and lines have to be situated. In the final section of Portents, I tried to bring all these different distortions of structure together, and deprioritise context even further, by leaving the order in which lines were spoken up to chance.

I wrote down pages individual, isolated lines – some of them lines of dialogue culled from the original text, some of them quotes from other sources, some of them lines grammatically scrambled using an algorithm called a Markov chain*, and then allowed the performers to read from them in an order of their choosing. Because there could be no predicting what was said moment by moment, all meaning had to emerge slowly, from the lines taken together, en masse.

Although this sounds like giving up an awful lot of control over the text, there are a lot of different ways you can try to manipulate what meaning emerges. The most obvious one is deciding what lines to throw into the mix – different ingredients result in different effects. You can also try adding back in subtler overarching structures. I split the lines the performers could choose from into five different sections, and then had them start selecting from section one, and slowly move all the way down to section five, at their own pace (an idea mostly cribbed from Terry Riley’s in C).

As with everything before, the randomness lives within rules, and the rules can be changed and rewritten. I think, more than anything, you just have to experiment with it. Tearing the structure out of a text can be a really liberating thing. You just have to let yourself enjoy it.

*Markov chain text generators take a piece of source text and calculate the probability of one letter coming after a short string of others across the source. They then use these probabilities to generate a new text. They tend to produce text that retains the tone of the source, but often makes no logical sense at sentence level. In any case, they’re a lot of fun to play with. This is the one I used when writing Portents.

Portents runs at The Space from 26 February – 2 March 2019. Book tickets here

LPW: New members’ content for 2019!

Here at LPW, we’ve been working hard to create a whole range of new content for our members’ in 2019. We’re so excited about it that we couldn’t keep it under wraps any longer. Each project will be launched individually as we go along but in the meantime, here’s a sneak peek of our plans for the year ahead…

#WrAP2019

We’ve already kicked off the new year in style, with around 200(!) of you taking part in our January playwriting challenge, #WrAP2019. If you haven’t had chance to take part this year, don’t worry – the resources have a permanent home over on the members’ site so you can work through it all at your own pace, whenever you choose to write your next play!

Member meetups with FREE sharing and feedback sessions

As well as the chance to meet other writers socially, this year’s member meetups are also going to include free feedback sessions where you’ll get the the chance to share your work with other writers and get tips and advice from the LPW team!

The first of this year’s member meetups takes place on Saturday 2 March and writers will be invited to bring in 5 pages of their #WrAP2019 scripts for sharing with the group. If you didn’t take part in #WrAP2019, still come along, just bring 5 pages of a script you’re working on. Although tickets are free, booking is essential so nab your spot here.

NEW Online workshops and resources

As always, our online workshops and courses are included in the monthly subscription fee and remain on the website for you to use whenever you fancy (there are already courses on there on redrafting, writing in dialect, tackling writers’ block and more!)

We’ve also been busy programming a really exciting line up for this year and we’ve got some brilliant courses coming up including ‘The Play Submissions Checklist’ which will help you get your play competition ready and ‘A Guide to Self Producing’ which will empower you to get your own work on stage.

We’re also working on some useful new resources and you can expect to see some of these popping up on the website soon – including practical advice on which theatres accept unsolicited scripts and how to get formatting right.

PLUS- we’re always working on fresh ideas for content so watch this space for further announcements throughout the year!

Creative Challenges

When our members talk, we listen – and we’ve certainly had a loud response to WrAP – both times round! We’re guessing you guys a) enjoy a challenge and b)like working alongside others to achieve a common goal. With that in mind, we’re currently cooking up a new summer playwriting challenge which you’ll be able to sign up to take part in.

In the Spring, we’re also going to be launching ‘Life Hacks for Writers’, where we’ll be offering a series of practical tips and hacks to make writing life that bit easier, straight to your inbox. More on this to come soon!

20% off our NEW Script Consulting Service and all workshops

Next week, we’ll be relaunching our Script Consulting Service with the aim of making it more accessible and we’re really looking forward to working with as many of you as possible. Members get a 20% discount on all Script Consulting services.

*The 20% discount also extends to our in person workshops which we’ll be announcing later in the year *

Online Book Club

Each month, we pick a play to discuss online and we’ll be continuing to do this throughout 2019. This year, we also plan to include some recommendations for playwriting books to help you to develop your craft even further. Please join the Facebook Group if you’d like to take part in the discussion – we’d love to see you there!

Growing our playwriting community!

Being a member of LPW is not just about getting access to all these benefits, it’s also about being a part of our playwriting community, through our Facebook Group and meetups, members can get support from other writers and we’ll be looking for ways that we can expand on this sense of community throughout 2019.

If you have any ideas about how you’d like to interact with other members, feel free to email us at members@londonplaywrights.org.

Your support is vital to our organisation

A couple of years ago, we were faced with a conundrum: how could we continue to bring playwrights all the latest opportunities for free whilst making sure we covered our running costs? From this our membership scheme was born (read more about this here) and we were thrilled that so many of you got behind us and offered your support. As a result, we’ve been able to cover our core costs and continue in our quest to support the next generation of playwrights.

But, we want to do even more! In the future, we’re hoping to be able to upgrade our website so it’s easier for you guys to use and we’d love to create more opportunities to empower writers to actually get their work on stage. The fact is, to do this, we need YOU! So please continue to support us – we’re extremely grateful!

All this for the price of a coffee?

Yup! We’re keeping the cost of a monthly subscription at £3.63 per month but of course, you’re welcome to contribute more if you can and wish to.

The bottom line is, the more members we have, the more content we can create – and the more we can expand on our work to support emerging writers. If you’re not a member yet, please consider signing up – you can find out more here.

Thanks for your continued support and we hope you’re as excited about the new content as we are!

Catching the Devil: Writing in Response to a Well Known Play 

Playwright Athena Stevens’ short play, Recompense, is being performed at Shakespeare’s Globe as part of Dark Night of the Soul: The Feminine Response to the Faustian Myth. In this guest post, she shares her experiences of writing in response to a well known play.

If we are very lucky, a playwright’s commission comes with a set of boundaries and guidelines. There is little so overwhelming as an open ended prompt. “Write about anything you want” can quickly become the kiss of death as the parameters quickly become unwieldy.

To be commissioned to write a response to a well known play almost feels like a relief.

Until you start doing your research that is.

When Michelle Terry approached me a year ago with the request to write a feminine response to Faust, I knew I wanted to become more familiar with the story before putting pen to paper. So I started reading. Then I started asking. A fellow feminist wrote a university dissertation on the Faustian Bargain, so we had coffee. A friend in the US was a professor of religion at an Ivy League school, we had late night Facebook chats on how one quantifies the value of a soul. Others told me of their interpretation of a Faustian Bargain: it was a quest for power, it was a form of self hatred, it was to give oneself a temporary advantage which could never be repaid, it was to give up what was most valued in the world, it was to give up what was valued least.

After a while I came up with one question which unified everything: Are we even talking about the same play?

I’m a plotter by nature. While impressions and ideas are important, I have to be able to tell a well made story in order to feel like I’m doing my job well. Like questioning the Devil, the longer I interrogated the backbone of Faust, the more bewildered I got and, to be perfectly honest, the less I wrote.

As much as writing a response to a well known play feels like it should give you a huge amount a structure, very often the task becomes so daunting it can seem that we have no place to put pen to paper at all. Who are we to respond to Marlowe, or Shakespeare for that matter? Perhaps it were better nothing were to begin?

Walking around my London office I somehow didn’t feel like committing that kind of career suicide for the sake of keeping my mouth shut. So I started with some very basic and simple steps towards putting pen to paper, even if it meant throwing it all away in the process.

1. Look at the original prompt, then look at the promotional materials.

 The Globe’s website was pretty clear on what is was I needed to be focused on, and it wasn’t where my gut instinct was taking me. The central question of the festival was: what would I sell my soul for? It was not:  What would women sell their souls for, or what is the value of a soul, or even how would Faust be different if she were a woman? None of the academics mattered. Rather, I had a deeply personal question to ask, and then had to come up with a script that answered that question.

2. You are HERE, and that’s exactly right. 

Whatever you feel like is your connection to the play, that has to be your starting place. It does nobody any good to read all sorts of academic articles or the moral ambiguity of Faust if you simply are enchanted with the idea of being able to talk to devils. By all means do your research, but don’t let scholars or literature teachers, or even critics tell you how you should relate to your play. Your way ‘in’ is completely valid, and as long as you are answering the questions put before you, it doesn’t matter if your in is the story as a whole or a single word choice.

3. They were writing for then, you are writing for now.

It sounds really obvious and yet sometimes it needs to be said, centuries can separate you and the author you are responding to. Yes, human nature can be universal, and sure the more things change, the more they stay the same. However, artistic sensibilities have changed. The narrative tools we use to tell stories have progressed, and, most importantly, what was once considered to be cutting edge is sometimes quite simply an everyday occurrence now. Figure out how to keep the stakes as high as they once were, even if the original problem seems easily solved today. My job was never to write a new Faust, nor was it to prove myself a comparable playwright to Marlowe. My job was simply to put the Faustian bargain within the context of my life.

4. Nothing is sacred. 

I’m probably the last person Marlowe would ever expect to have a decent response to his play. The idea that a brain injured, thirty something, single, immigrant woman could even show up to a production of Faust never crossed his mind, much less that I would be granted a commission to speak to it. The world keeps changing and it is our jobs as artists to give voice to those changes. As writers it is never our job to write a ‘modern’ anything. Instead, it is our job to lend our voice and our times to give a new shade to the story that has already been told. It might be that simply shifting the setting of a familiar tale is enough to throw it into new light, or perhaps the story has been waiting for someone of your exact background to throw it on it’s head. Never be afraid to put your own voice towards redefining the work of the canon, its author was a mortal just like you and was confined by their place and time in the universe,

5. Whatever you do, just keep writing. 

Writing is rewriting. Sorry. There’s no getting around it. Even Ayn Rand talks about sitting at her desk and simply not wanting to do the work. I say this not because I hold Rand up to be some extraordinary writer, but because if the high priestess of hard work paying off admits to the struggle, why do you think you are immune? Set a reasonable page quota daily (mine is four pages) and meet it. If you go over, great. If you don’t meet it, the days you exceeded your goal help to fill the gap. Keep writing, slowly consistently, even with a good amount going straight to the trash, just getting the words down is progress.

Athena Stevens’ short play Recompense is being performed at Shakespeare’s Globe as part of the Dark Night of the Soul Festival between 5 January and 1 February. The festival brings together a chorus of women’s voices to respond to the Faustian myth, asking the question: What would you sell your soul for? Find out more about the festival and book tickets on the Shakespeare’s Globe website.

Happy New Year from London Playwrights’ Blog & Workshop!

So, as 2018 draws to a close, we’d like to take the opportunity to thank you for supporting us in this past year. Whether you’re a LPW member, a reader of our blog, a workshop participant or someone we’ve script consulted for – we are super grateful for your support!

This year has been nothing short of amazing for us. We kicked off with #WrAP2018, which saw over 150 of you step up to the challenge of writing a play in January. We’ve had the privilege of meeting lots of you at our workshops and meetups, we’ve run online workshops, partnered with London Writers’ Week for the third year running, and posted hundreds of opportunities – which many of you have reported success with!

It has also been fantastic to see our membership scheme grow and grow, which has meant we’ve been able to keep bringing you all the opportunities, content, and resources you find on the blog for free.

So, what’s coming up in 2019?

Well, as we did last year, we’re kicking off with #WrAP, which is going to be packed full of everything you need to write a play in January (if you haven’t signed up yet, there’s still time! Read this for more info!). Our first members’ meetup will take place on 2 March and for the first time, will include a free feedback session for your work. And we’re currently working hard on building an exciting array of new projects all designed to continue supporting emerging writers do what they do best – write plays!

We couldn’t be more excited about the year ahead and we hope you’ll keep supporting us in 2019 and beyond.

Here’s hoping this is your year to shine as a playwright and that we can continue to support you on your journey!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

From The LPW Team

Fireworks in Harlesden, London. Image by Billy Hicks (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons.

Write a play in January! 5 Reasons why you should take part in #WrAP2019

Want to find out more about why you should take part in #WrAP2019? Here, our Head of Writer Development and #WrAP2019 producer Kimberley Andrews,  gives you the lowdown and her top 5 reasons for why it’s worth giving it a go!

1.  It’s the perfect New Year’s Resolution

With Christmas looming you’re probably starting to think about your New Year’s Resolutions. Mine usually consist of a diverse selection of overly ambitious aims such as taking up a wild and daring new sport (NB, I don’t do any sports) or eating a fiercely unbearable cocktail of superfoods on a daily basis for the whole year. Not to mention my ‘Writerly Resolutions’ which include bold and completely unattainable commitments such as ‘I will set my alarm for 4am every day to make more time for writing’, or ‘ I will make it big in Hollywood this year’.

Needless to say, most of these resolutions have been ditched before the end of January and whilst I can happily forget the idea of taking up a sport, falling off the wagon with my writing aims leaves me feeling demoralised and I find this really kills my motivation.

#WrAP2019 might sound like another  outlandish January plan but it differs in the fact that you’ll see results in relatively short space of time. Seeing how much you can achieve in just one month will give you a massive boost for the year ahead! It’s also completely possible to achieve your goal – and we know this because people actually did write entire first drafts when we ran #WrAP last year.

2. You can’t fail

Unlike a resolution that requires you to abstain from something you really love for a whole year or FAIL(!) completely, you can’t actually fail WrAP. It’s true that some of those who took part last year didn’t manage to finish their plays in a month but you know what, they still had more than they started with at the beginning of January. That sounds like success to me. Even if you only get a few pages down, you’ll have sown the seeds of an idea you’ll be able to develop as the year goes on. Plus, you’ll have the #WrAP2019 emails in your inbox (and live on our members site) to refer back to as you go along.

3. It’s even better than last year

Well, last year’s WrAP was phenomenal. And that’s not us blowing our own trumpets – that’s based on the amazing work that the 155 writers who took part managed in the space of just one month.  Some people completed a whole first draft in January, others wrote a few scenes, others fleshed out an idea which formed the basis of the project they worked on for the rest of the year. It was amazing to have so many writers working alongside each other, albeit digitally, to achieve a common goal.

#WrAp2019 will work in pretty much the same way as it did last year (if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!) with participants receiving prompts straight to their inbox to guide them through the process of writing a play –  but this year, we’ve got even more exciting stuff coming up…

We’re going to be throwing in some bonus content which looks at the building blocks of playwriting so rather than just focusing on the page count, you’ll have even more of a chance to develop your craft and to become a better writer.

We’ve even got a new content producer on board called George, who has experience in delivering digital content and supporting writers (and is also an emerging playwright) who will be working with me to make sure #WrAP2019 is even better than last year!

In addition to this, we’re also going to be giving you the chance to share your work at the next members meet-up so you can get feedback from other LPW members, and I’m also going to turn up armed with some tips for redrafting (which will be useful if you’re thinking of entering any of the big competitions coming up in 2019). You can read more about that here.

4. It’ll make you a better writer

This might sound like a bold claim and admittedly, there is no scientific evidence to back this up nor any guarantee that completing #WrAP2019 will mean your play gets snapped up by a producer. But based on the old adage ‘practice makes perfect’ I don’t see how committing to your writing in January could not make you a better writer in some (even small) way.

With writing prompts, mini workshops, and exercises to banish writers’ block, you should feel motivated to write as much as you can in January and whilst you’re doing that, you’re bound to discover some stuff about playwriting and you voice that will no doubt improve your work. There’s also something magical about working to a tight deadline which unlocks something in your writing – you might not come up with your most polished piece of work but you’re more likely to write something you feel connected to, once you’ve let go of the idea of perfection in favour of getting it finished.

5. It’s not going to break the bank

We know January is that notorious month where we desperately await payday, subsisting on slightly stale mince pies and the Bounty Celebrations that no one ever bothers eating over Christmas. But, if you’re already a member of LPW , you can access #WrAP2019 for absolutely no extra cost. if you’re not a member yet, it’s only going to cost you the price of a coffee to join. And weren’t you giving up coffee for 2019 anyway…?

We should also mention that by becoming a member, you’ll also be helping us to continue the work we do to support emerging playwrights, so you’ll also be doing a good deed! Find out more about joining here. 

You can also find out more about signing up for #WrAP2019 here. And feel free to ask questions by commenting on this post, tweeting @LDNPlaywrights or emailing members@londonplaywrights.org 

Team #WrAP2019

Kimberley Andrews 

Kimberley is a co-founder of LPB and is Head of Writer Development. She’s worked with many writers through the workshops she programmes and delivers, and also works as a playwriting tutor & script consultant. A playwright herself, she’s passionate about helping others to be the best writers they can be. 

George Bailey

George is the LPB intern and also works at Chichester Festival Theatre in digital projects. He’s an emerging playwright and has worked with many writers through mentoring schemes he has managed with theatres. He is keen to help everyone and anyone in their writing; whether it’s their first draft, first play or first time picking up a pen! 

Featured image by Marco Verch via Flickr CC