Category Archives: Original Content

Taking matters into her own hands: Tamara von Werthern on putting women’s voices onstage 

After noticing that her plays were getting programed by female producers, playwright Tamara von Werthern wondered if she could help make opportunities for other underrepresented playwrights. In this guest post, she shares her journey into founding Fizzy Sherbet and creating new opportunities for women writers.

2016 was a bit of a shit year in many respects, but for me, it was surprisingly productive. After concentrating on developing my full-length play almost exclusively for several years, I decided to write and send out some new short plays parallel to my efforts. My youngest child had started nursery in January which gave me three hours each week to write. And somehow, by sending things to every opportunity going, I managed to have five different new short plays performed or staged as readings throughout the year. It was such a joy to turn up at a venue, sit in the audience, and watch my play unfold without having lifted a finger to put it there (apart from clicking ‘send’ of course).

A funny thing I had noticed was that all the producers, programmers and directors, who had picked my plays and decided to include them, were women. I wondered if it had something to do with my subject matters, with the predominantly female casts, or maybe the fact that the female experience, whatever that may be, is quite central to my work. It might have been a coincidence, but I was intrigued.

Being exposed through my work at Nick Hern Books to Tonic Theatre (we publish Lucy Kerbel as well as her excellent Platform series of plays with large female casts), I was also keenly aware of the imbalance of female vs male playwrights in the UK. Just under a third of writers of original work for the stage produced are female (according to the latest British Theatre Repertoire Report), and the gender disparity gets worse the higher up you go, so that in the West End there is the lowest percentage of female writers represented on stage.

But then it dawned on me that while I have been lamenting the fact that I have it harder to get my plays on than my male colleagues (statistically speaking), I was also in a really good position to be part of changing this trend. It’s easier than you might think to take matters into your own hands.

Fizzy Sherbet, a new writing initiative exclusively for women writers was born when I mentioned the idea to the mother of one of my children’s friends, Olivia Trench, over a coffee/playdate. Olivia happens to also be Drama Development Executive at Eleven Film, and her enthusiastic encouragement (as well as her offer to share the reading!) brought the idea a step closer to reality.

Both Olivia and I read a lot of plays in our respective jobs and we felt confident that we would be able to pull it off together. When Lily McLeish, who is a wonderful theatre director and a passionate advocate of gender equality in the theatre came on board, we started to get even more excited. Lily has experience of directing as Katie Mitchell’s associate in large venues (she most recently worked with her on Cleansed at the National Theatre), and as an accomplished director in her own right. Lily and I have been working together for a while now, and I know that she is excellent on text work, so I thought – this is shaping up pretty good! This also gave us a great grounding to begin approaching potential venues.

When we were then offered the Hackney Attic, a lovely cabaret-style venue above the Hackney Picturehouse, where one of my shorts was shown in 2015, as a venue, there was no holding back. We launched Fizzy Sherbet with a Facebook page, and were amazed by the response. Not only did the plays pour in and we received over 200 submissions, but they were also accompanied by messages of gratitude, expressions of delight at the existence of a new initiative supporting this cause and offers of friendship all around.

It was all rather heart-warming and encouraging. And what a treasure trove we had opened!

We read plays on space travel, on scientific discoveries, on the Iranian revolution; plays set in supermarkets, in the sky, under the surface of a lake. We read plays that were heartbreakingly sad and ones that made us laugh out loud. Plays about porn and about dying parents. Political plays, personal plays and plays that were both. The characters included every age, gender definition and even characters from the animal kingdom. It was an enriching and eye-opening experience. Every time we had put the kids to bed, brewed some coffee and opened our laptops, there was a tingle of excitement at what we would discover this time.

When we had first discussed how we wanted to run Fizzy Sherbet, our concern went beyond female playwrights, to the related issue of gender inequality on stage. We wanted to encourage the creation of more interesting, varied and gratifying parts for women to play. When we counted up the characters of the plays we read we found that across the board two thirds of characters were women and one third men.

We were very excited and and hugely encouraged to discover that in this case an exclusively female group of playwrights without any steering in regards of subject matter, delivered a great variety of writing but with a clear natural predominance of female characters. This made us wonder: could the predominance of male characters on our stages might simply be led back to the fact that currently there are more male playwrights being performed in the UK than female?

In our case, simply supporting female writers was indeed part of the solution.

Fizzy Sherbet took place at Hackney Attic on 24th January at 7.30. see: https://www.picturehouses.com/cinema/Hackney_Picturehouse/film/fizzy-sherbet-plays

 

Gifts & Gear: The Best Stuff for Writers in January 2017

‘Gifts & Gear’ is a new monthly series where a playwright shares their top recommendations for writers.

BONUS: This is a really easy way to support LPB and keep our blog running without  any cost to you!  If you do your Amazon shopping this month by clicking through our links, a small portion of the sale will benefit LPB, at no extra charge to you.  (And you don’t even have to buy what we recommend – it works for anything!)  Read on for the details!

For January 2017, our Gifts & Gear recommendations are from A.C. Smith, Director of London Playwrights Workshop and co-founder of this blog. She’s won writing awards from the RSC and Soho Theatre and is currently working on a new piece for the Bush Theatre’s Emerging Writers Group.

Read on to find out what she relies on to keep her writing going:

 1. Stainless Steel Magnetic Board

“If you’re a visual thinker, this can be a lifesaver. I wanted a whiteboard for ages to be able to get ideas out on, but didn’t feel very creatively inspired by the ugly, plasticky look.

This is great because it lets me make notes directly on the surface and post research or inspiration in the same place with magnets. This has been a big help for my current project.

I’d really recommend it for any writer looking for something a bit more dynamic than a computer screen or a blank page.”

Master of Boards Stainless Steel Magnetic Memo Board – 60x40cm (£28.99)

Set of 12 Stainless Steel Magnets (£13.95)

2. The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker

“This book is my writing secret weapon. If you attended a workshop or have done script consulting with me, there’s a good chance you’ll have heard me mention it. I know if I’m hitting the beats outlined in a ‘Rags to Riches’ story, for example, that structure is going to work. (And if I’m not able to hit them, I probably haven’t been honest enough with myself yet about what kind of story I’m trying to tell.)

Christopher Booker simplifies the core ingredients that go into a compelling story, while providing painstaking detail about the narrative structure of a wide range of examples. If you liked Into The Woods or other similar Jungian-based books, this should be right up your alley. Booker draws on a similar archetypal framework, but with a bit more creativity and openness to subversive twists, in my opinion.

It’s the size of a doorstop, but he provides a neat, page-long summary at the end of each plot structure, so you really only have to dip in as much as you’d like to. (And if you think it’s too fat for your bookshelf, you can always get the e-book!)”

Paperback – The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker (£12.91)

E-Book Version (£11.51)

3. The Clean House And Other Plays by Sarah Ruhl

“Sarah Ruhl is a fantastic American playwright whose work has been produced on Broadway; she won a MacArthur Genius Grant a few years back, but is less well known this side of the pond.

What I love about her plays is the way she combines the mundane details of life with a wild, visual imagination. She’s not afraid to stretch the limits of theatricality. In one play, a man braves a snowstorm to cut down the tree of life; in another, there is a chorus of stones. (That’s right, rocks that come to life and speak.)

Several years ago I received this book as a Christmas gift, and read the entire collection on the plane flight home (instead of sleeping) – all the plays except one, because the experience of reading her work  was so beautiful I didn’t want it to end. I waited a year before dipping into the last one, and it provided comfort and inspiration on a really crappy day. This is a great collection, and it has pride of place on my bookshelf.”

The Clean House And Other Plays by Sarah Ruhl (£15.99)

E-book version (£9.72)

4. Pilot G-Tec C4 Rollerball Pen 0.4mm


“These are the best pens in the world and no one will convince me otherwise. Yes, like many writers I’m a bit of a pen fanatic, and I do like to vary my choice of writing implement on my mood. BUT, this is the pen I find myself returning to over and over again, and use probably 80% of the time.

Why do I love it? Great ink flow, comfortable grip, and a really fine line – which makes it much easier to decipher notes written in a hurry or in the back of a darkened theatre.

Bonus tip: When one of my plays is rehearsing, I devote a different pen colour to each reading or rehearsal – the lines that were great in the first reading may feel clunky by the last rehearsal (or vice versa) and this is a really easy way to keep track of what I was thinking and when. Plus, changing colours is just more fun! They come in a huge range including red, blue, green, orange, violet, and more.”

Pilot G-Tec C4 Rollerball Pen 0.4mm Pack of 3 (Pack of 3 – £6.35, Single pen –  £3.57, Box of 12 – £20.89, )

5. Fingerless Gloves


“If I’m 100% honest, this last pick is aspirational – something I want to get rather than something I already have. Because there is nothing as miserable as writing when your fingers are so cold it hurts (been there, done that).

I was in Budapest this December and I came across a woman weaving in one of the Christmas markets, wearing fingerless gloves. I tried to sympathise with her about how cold it must be, but she said actually the gloves were great and her fingers stayed quite warm. If they’re good enough to survive the Hungarian winter, they must be warm enough for my drafty London flat. So that’s what’s going in my Amazon basket this January!”

WomenFLOSO® Ladies/Womens Thinsulate Thermal Fingerless Winter Gloves (3M 40g) (£5.99)

Men: FLOSO® Mens Thinsulate Thermal Fingerless Gloves (3M 40g) (£6.95)

 

Image: MissMessie via Flickr Commons CC Licence

Happy New Year from London Playwrights Workshop!

So, here we are – 2017! Firstly, we’d like to wish you all a happy new year and say a huge thanks for all your support last year.

2016 saw our blog and London Playwrights’ Workshop grow and grow: from producing our first festival of new writing as part of London Writers’ Week, to having the pleasure of working with lots of you on our workshops. Over 3000 of you now follow us on Twitter and our round-up of opportunities seems to get bigger and brighter every week. We couldn’t do any of this without your continued support!

Like you, no doubt, we’ve got big plans in store for 2017. Watch this space in the coming months for a whole host of exciting things LPW will be working on this year. As always, we’ll be bringing you the latest opportunities, offering you an array of useful and creative workshops and doing our best to support the emerging writers of London – and beyond.

And what about you? Perhaps 2017 will be the year you write your first play, finally re-draft that piece you’ve been putting off for ages, or even produce your own show?

Well, to kick start those writing goals, London Playwrights’ Workshop has come up with a bumper programme of writing courses for the new year. From creative workshops to give you a boost of inspiration, to practical classes which focus on professional skills and getting your work on stage – we’ve got all bases covered for the emerging writer in London. You can check them all out (and of course, book your place!) here.

And don’t forget, our Script Consulting Service runs all year round if you’d prefer some one-to-one support.

Wishing you all a successful year of writing!
The LPW Team

Photo credit: Alexander Baxavanis via Flickr Commons 

 

Spring 2017 Workshops from London Playwrights’ Blog

**Please note: we are no longer taking bookings for our Spring Workshops**

Is 2017 the year you’ll finally crack that structure problem? Discover a whole new side of your voice as a writer? Or get the funding that will see your play produced?

At London Playwrights’ Blog, we’re already gearing up for 2017, and hope we can help make this your best writing year ever!

From the creative to the practical – and everything in between – we’re bringing back some of our most popular workshops and some brand new opportunities as well.

Career Development & Self-Producing

Your Self-Producing Toolkit: Intensive Workshop
Saturday 25 February 2017 from 10.30am – 5pm

Could 2017 be the year your play is produced? The answer is yes – if you’re willing to make it happen! This information-intensive (but fun) workshop will provide a detailed introduction to everything you need to know to produce your own work, empowering participants with the skills and confidence to get their work onstage. Participants say: “Was fantastic.  Packed with detail and constructive knowledge.” (All levels)

Introduction to Writing for TV
Saturday 11 March 2017 from 10am-1pm

Introduction to Writing for TV is the perfect primer for playwrights looking to expand their skillsets or screenwriters looking for real-life advice and industry pointers. Drawing on her personal experience, Sumerah Srivastav covers practical and creative aspects of how to build a career writing for the small screen. (All levels)

The Arts Council & Beyond: Fundraising for your Play
Saturday 11 March 2017 from 2-5pm

Fundraising For Your Play is a half-day workshop that will provide participants with the information they need to successfully raise the funds to create their artistic projects. Guest Workshop Leader Lynette Linton will cover the key steps that lead to a successful application, sharing tips and strategies from her own experience. If you’re thinking about producing your own work, this is a workshop not to be missed! (All levels)

Creative Development

Unlocking Structure (LPB Workshop)
Saturday 11 February 2017 from 10am-1pm

How do you know if you’re telling the very best version of your story? Learn how to make structure a tool to unlock the seed of your original idea. In this half day workshop, you will get grips with how structure works. Through practical creative exercises and group discussion you will unravel the basis of structure and discover how it can help you as a playwright. You’ll also have the chance to map a structure for your own idea and to gain valuable feedback from the group.  (Emerging writers, story idea required)

Pitch Like A Pro: How to Sell Your Idea
Saturday 11 February 2017 from 2pm – 5pm

If you want to be a professional writer – putting words on the page is only half the battle – you also need to be able to talk about your idea and convince others to  invest in it. This half day workshop combines practical exercises & real-life advice to help you build the skills and confidence to share your idea successfully in a variety of settings. (All levels, story idea required)

Ongoing Writing Workshops

The Playwright’s Journey – with Kimberley Andrews 
18 January – 8 March 2017 on Wednesday evenings from 7-9pm (8 sessions)

This eight week course guides emerging writers in the process of developing their play. Delivered in a small-group format, The Playwright’s Journey provides a solid grounding in the fundamentals of playwriting (character, structure, etc) alongside the opportunity to share and get feedback on your work. (New and emerging writers)

Finding Your Voice – with A.C. Smith
9 February – 6 April 2017 on Thursday afternoons from 3-5pm (8 sessions, no class 9 March)

Finding Your Voice is an eight-week, intermediate-level course that uses exercises to unlock the imagination and challenges writers to identify and develop their strengths.  Participants say: “Wonderful”, “I really enjoyed the diversity of the task list”, “A great learning and sharing experience”. (Intermediate+ writers only, writing sample required.)

Image credit: Alexander Mueller via CC Licence

Introduction to Writing for TV (LPW Workshop)

*Please note: we are no longer taking bookings for this workshop**

Interested in writing for TV but not sure how to start? Curious about how to get your work seen by the right people? Wondering how to juggle the creative and industry demands of creating stories for the small screen?

During this intensive half-day session, playwright and screenwriter Sumerah Srivastav will guide you through the practical and creative steps of building a career in writing for TV.

Many writers successfully work both for stage and screen, but it isn’t always the easiest thing to know how to get started. While creative careers always have an element of unpredictability, there is a standard career progression many TV writers follow. This course will cover how to get started on the ground floor, and tips for success to build this into a career.

Whether you’re a playwright looking to expand your creative output, or a screenwriter looking for practical industry insight, this workshop will help connect you with the resources you need to pursue writing for television.

Who this workshop is for

This workshop is open to all.  There is no need to prepare anything in advance, though you will likely want to bring a notebook and pen to take notes.

When and where

Date and time: Saturday 11 March 2017 from 10am-1pm

Venue: Theatre Delicatessen Studios, 30 Marsh Wall, London E14 9TP (nearest tube: Canary Wharf)

Cost: £41

How to book

Please click the link below to book your place:

 

Places are reserved on a  strictly first come first serve basis, so early booking is advised.

About the Workshop Leader

Sumerah Srivastav is a screenwriter and playwright with a background in TV & feature film production and commercial radio. As a playwright her stage plays have been performed at Soho, Tristan Bates, Redbridge Drama Centre, Contact, Orange Tree and The Pleasance. She is currently under commission to Redbridge Drama Centre and the Migration Museum. In television Sumerah is a regularly commissioned writer under contract on EastEnders whilst also developing her own original drama series called The Rising. Sumerah is represented by Kitson Press Associates and more info can be found at www.sumerah.com.

Photo Credit: Mario Carvajal via Flickr Commons CC License

Curious about our other workshops?  Check out the full listings here!

 

Finding Your Voice – with A.C. Smith (LPW Workshop)

*Please note: we are no longer taking bookings for this workshop**

What does it mean to have a ‘voice’ as a writer? Why is it important? And how do you go about discovering yours?

Dialogue, character, structure – every writer who wishes to create plays needs to master these basic building blocks. But what’s next? How do you use these tools to say something that really feels worth saying? How do you find and share the stories only you can tell?

Finding Your Voice is an eight-week, intermediate-level course that will help you develop and discover your own unique voice and style.

This is the course for you if you’re looking for:

  • New ways to make your writing stand out from the crowd
  • Greater confidence in sharing your writing and talking about your work
  • Fresh techniques to get excited by your writing or beat a creative block.
  • A stronger sense of knowing who you are as a writer
  • An intensive experience to inspire your greatest creativity

Finding Your Voice features a mixture of at-home assignments and in-class writing exercises. Writers will be expected to prepare work to share in class every week – because the best way to develop as a writer is to write.

The class has a supportive and encouraging atmosphere to encourage writers to take risks and uncover new aspects of their unique voice.

Discovering one’s voice as a writer is an ongoing journey, but this class will give participants a leg-up in identifying their distinctive qualities and trusting this process of discovery.

Course Structure

The first four weeks of the course contain focused exercises that help writers hone their instinct for story, and unlock their strengths in relation to character, language, and world-building.  There is a one-week break in the middle of the course to allow participants to reflect and process their discoveries.  The final four weeks build on this foundation, with increasing freedom for the writers to tailor the exercises to their own needs and skills while continuing to produce new work every week.

Please note that this is an exercise-based course designed to open up new creative avenues, sharpen the writer’s toolkit, and extend the imagination.  This class is not suited to writers who only want to focus on a single work or material of their own choosing.

How to apply

Writers are asked to submit:

  1. A 3-5 page writing sample
  2. Our short application form (click below to download)*
Download

Please email both documents to
workshops@londonplaywrightsblog.com

*Please note that places may be filled as applications are received, so it’s best to apply early if you want to ensure the best chance of getting a place on the course.

When and where

When:9 February – 6 April 2017 on Thursday afternoons from 3-5pm (please note there is no class on March 9)

Where:RADA Studios, 16 Chenies St, London WC1E 7EX (nearest tube: Goodge Street)

Cost: £160  (payable by BACS following acceptance on the course)

Previous participants say

“I enjoyed the interaction with the entire group, including the instructor.  She created a nurturing, sensitive, focused environment and truly encouraged us to achieve things we didn’t feel equal to.”

“I really enjoyed the diversity of the task set, which allowed for exploration.”

“The class has been very useful in giving me confidence to share my work and realise my strengths and weaknesses.  The feedback was always very salient and encouraging. I learnt tremendously from all my friends.  Thank you so much for this class.”

“It was a great learning and sharing experience.”

About the workshop leader

A.C. Smith is a scriptwriter and songwriter.  She is a Playwriting Tutor on the MA Text & Performance at RADA, where she previously served as Head of Academic Studies.  She has won awards for her writing from the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Soho Theatre, and has also been shortlisted for the Kevin Spacey Foundation Artists of Choice Awards and the Perfect Pitch Award as a lyricist/librettist for musical theatre.  Her writing has been performed at the Soho Theatre, HighTide, RADA, Southwark Playhouse, Theatre503, and Pleasance Theatre, among others. She has worked at First Born Films as Development Executive, working on new feature film projects, and has worked as a writer/dramaturg with physical theatre & dance projects with Theatre Re and Jorge Crecis. She is Co-Founder & Director of London Playwrights’ Blog.

Image: Andy Morffew via Flickr Commons (CC Licence)

Curious about our other workshops?  Check out the full listings here!

Your Self-Producing Toolkit: Intensive Workshop (LPW Workshop)

*Please note: we are no longer taking bookings for this workshop**

Does the idea of self-producing your play leave you feeling confused?  Uninspired?  Even terrified?  Time to discover that self-producing is its own creative activity – and not as hard as it seems.

Back by popular demand – everything you need to know to get your play onstage! 

This day-long workshop provides an intensive introduction to self-producing, giving participants the confidence, practical skills, and troubleshooting insight to successfully produce their own work.

Why should I self-produce?

While a few lucky writers are fortunate enough to find theatres eager to produce their work at the beginning of their careers, the vast majority need to find other ways to get their work onstage: to build their careers and gain the valuable experience of seeing their writing performed.

In our experience, writers tend to be a bit less inclined to self-produce than directors or other creatives, but this need not be so!  Self-producing takes hard work, but it’s incredibly empowering to realise that you don’t need to win a major award or get a big commission to see your work onstage – you have the skills to make this happen right now. (And this can be the first step towards those other exciting milestones.)

About the workshop

The workshop covers the core information you need to know to get your play on in a theatre, including:

  • Approaching venues (which theatres to approach, how to write query emails, pitching your project, and negotiating your contract)
  • Budgeting and fundraising (how to generate and manage a budget, crowdfunding, grants, Arts Council funding, and sponsorships)
  • Building your creative team, including casting (how to create a casting call and structure auditions/interviews, where to advertise and find the right people, navigating the rehearsal process, and tips for managing your relationships with other creatives)
  • Publicity and industry outreach (developing a marketing plan, designing flyers and other marketing materials, social media advertising, and inviting agents, theatres, and reviewers)
  • Time management and the key stages of self-producing (a step-by-step walkthrough of your key milestones, setting priorities, and troubleshooting common problems for new producers)

Through a combination of interactive exercises, sharing information and case studies, the workshop will connect playmakers to the resources that will enable them to see their project through to conclusion.  The workshop is focused on playwrights, but is open to any theatremakers who are interested in producing their own work.

All participants will be given detailed handouts they can use for reference after the course.  Although the day will be information-intensive, the approach will be friendly and encouraging, and will be equally welcoming to people from all backgrounds, with plenty of time devoted to answering questions.

Who this workshop is for

This workshop is targeted at people taking their first steps into self-producing, or who have self-produced their work in a limited way but are looking to expand their knowledge in this area, or want more confidence in pitching their work.  Whether you have a specific project already in mind, or are just starting to brainstorm the possibilities, this workshop will leave you better equipped to bring your work to life onstage.

Feedback from previous participants:

“Dense in information, very engaging and oh-so-practical!  Inspired to create and produce more work now.”

“So much was covered with examples and useful anecdotes.”

When and where

When: Saturday 25 February 2017 from 10.30am – 5pm

Where: Theatre Delicatessen Studios, 30 Marsh Wall, London, E14 9TP (nearest tube: Canary Wharf)

Cost:  £80 for the full day workshop (lunch not included)

How to book

Please click the link below to book your place:


Places are reserved on a  strictly first come first serve basis, so early booking is advised.

About the Workshop Leaders

The workshop is led by the co-founders of London Playwrights’ Blog, Kimberley Andrews and A.C. Smith, both of whom have personal experience successfully producing their own creative projects, in addition to their other work as playwrights. They also produced the Dark Horse Festival which took place as part of London Writers’ Week 2016 with funding from Arts Council England.

Kimberley Andrews has written an ongoing introductory series on how to produce your own work, focusing on fringe venues in London; she has co-produced several of her own projects at venues including the Hen & Chickens and Rich Mix Studios.  As a writer, she has worked with BBC Drama Writers’ Academy and as a Playwriting Tutor at RADA, among other projects.

A.C. Smith has self-produced work at venues including Theatre503, RADA, Rose Theatre Bankside, The Pheasantry, and as part of Barlow & Smith also crowdfunded and self-produced an album of original songs. As a writer, she has won awards from the RSC and Soho Theatre, and previously worked at RADA as Head of Academic Studies.

Photo credit: Wonderlane via Flickr Commons (CC Licence)

Curious about our other workshops?  Check out the full listings here!

The Arts Council & Beyond: Fundraising for your Play (LPB Workshop)

*Please note: we are no longer taking bookings for this workshop**

Want to produce your own work but stuck on how to raise the money?  Unsure how to approach the Arts Council for funding?  Curious about what other funding options are out there?

Fundraising For Your Play is a day-long workshop that will provide participants with the information they need to successfully raise the funds to create their artistic projects.

About The Workshop

Participants will be walked through one of the most daunting processes for emerging theatremakers: making an application to the Arts Council.  The workshop will cover prep and planning, how to write a compelling application, and top tips for success.

The workshop will also cover approaches to fundraising beyond the Arts Council, and how to put together a strong strategy to support your project.

No preparation is required for the workshop, and it’s not necessary to have chosen a fundraising project. However, those that already have a creative project in mind are encouraged to come in prepared to talk about their idea, as there will be dedicated time given to questions from everyone and discussion of these prepared projects.

Who This Workshop Is For

This workshop is targeted at people looking for additional guidance and support in making successful funding applications.  The workshop will assume a basic knowledge of how to put together and manage putting together a project, and will focus most intensively on the financial side of self-producing.  Whether you are making your first application, looking to make the leap to Arts Council Funding, or just seeking tips to improve your hit rate with your funding applications, this workshop will have something to offer you.  The day is targeted at playwrights, but theatremakers from all backgrounds are welcome.

Feedback from previous participants:

“The openness and responsiveness of the organiser and workshop leader to connect individually to everyone’s reasons for being there whilst still covering the range of detail of the workshop.”

“Was fantastic.  Packed with detail and constructive knowledge.”

When and where

When: Saturday 11 March 2017 from 2-5pm

Where: Theatre Delicatessen Studios, 30 Marsh Wall, London E14 9TP (nearest tube: Canary Wharf)

Cost:  £41 for half-day workshop

How to book

Please click the link below to book your place:

 

Places are reserved on a  strictly first come first serve basis, so early booking is advised.

About the Workshop Leader

Lynette Linton is a playwright and director who has successfully raised funds for her own projects from the Arts Council and other sources, most recently for her play #LIGHTIE. She trained on the StoneCrabs Young Directors Course where she was also awarded the Jack Petchy award. Directing credits include Naked by Jessica Burgess (Vault Festival 2015), Pornado (Theatre Royal Stratford East), This Wide Night (Albany), Stunted, (Rehearsed Reading, Theatre Royal Stratford East) and Co-Director on Chicken Shop (R&D, Theatre Royal Stratford East). As Assistant Director: Gutted (Theatre Royal Stratford East).  Her writing has been performed at venues such as Theatre Royal Stratford East, Soho and Bush Theatre. Her new play CHICKEN PALACE, will be at a site-specific location in association with Theatre Royal Stratford East. Lynette is currently Associate Director of the Gate Theatre

Photo credit: Got Money via Flickr Commons CC Licence

Curious about our other workshops?  Check out the full listings here!

15 Best Gifts for Writers: 2016 Christmas/Holiday Gift Guide from London Playwrights Blog

It’s true, writers can be difficult people to buy gifts for. What should you get for that person who is forever hunched over their laptop and if you get it wrong, will your mishap be immortalised in the lines of their next play? Well, with the festive season fast approaching, we thought we’d spare you the embarrassment and share with you our top picks for writers in 2016. Whether you’re buying for a loved one or just fancy treating yourself, we’ve got all bases covered in this year’s list: from practical solutions to common writerly problems to luxury splurges!

Want to support London Playwrights’ Blog without spending a single penny? We’ve provided links to everything we’ve recommended here using the Amazon Affiliates scheme. Even if you DON’T buy the original item (and purchase something different), if you click through any of our links to access the Amazon website, we’ll get a small percentage of the sale to help us keep running the blog, and it won’t cost you anything extra. So if you’re planning on doing any shopping through Amazon this holiday season, we’d really appreciate it if you clicked through from here first. Thanks!

Here are our hand-picked gifts for the London Playwright in 2016:

1. Writer’s Bag

 

Without adhering too much to stereotypes, writers need space in their bag for more than just their laptop: books, pens, wads of illegible handwritten notes. Why not treat them to a stylish and practical bag? Our favourite is this Herschel Supply Company Casual Daypack (£62.34), it’s got a specially lined laptop pocket inside as well as loads of room Shakespeare plays and the like – plus it comes in a variety of trendy colour combinations.

2. High Quality Notebooks

 

Notebooks can seem like an obvious gift for writers but that doesn’t mean you should give them a miss. Writers always like a notebook and it’s definitely a treat to jot things down in something that’s a little bit fancy. (By this point, you can bet they’ve used up all of last year’s supply!) You could go for something classic like a Moleskine Notebook (£10.50), or we love these kitsch Happy Jackson Notebooks (£8.95)– and for the fashionistas out there, this Kate Spade New York Journal (£25.95)
is perfect.

3. Cross Pens

There is more to life than a standard biro. A ‘posh’ pen can make a really special gift for someone – these are gifts that last. We are BIG fans of Cross, who create beautiful writing instruments and are a friend of playwrights. (They’ve generously provided support for emerging playwright schemes, including our own Dark Horse Festival.) For a really luxurious writing experience, the Century Pen by Cross (£22)is a timeless classic. If you’re looking for something fun, the Cross Edge Rollerball Pen (£29.99) comes in a selection of funky colours.

4. Alan Ayckbourn ‘The Crafty Art of Playmaking’

 

The sheer number of playwriting books on the market can be overwhelming. This one, however, manages to marry an entertaining read with some really solid playwriting advice. The anecdotes in this book make for cosy winter reading and with Alan Ayckbourn being such a prominent presence in theatre over the last 40 years, it also gives a fantastic insight into theatre making in recent history. These are tips for success from a man who knows what he’s talking about (paperback £8.99)

5. Script Consulting

 

Photo credit: mpclemens via Flickr Commons (CC License: https://flic.kr/p/56VBoB)
Photo credit: mpclemens via Flickr Commons (CC License: https://flic.kr/p/56VBoB)

What to buy for the writer who has everything? Why not ditch the idea of buying them a ‘thing’ at all and get them some valuable feedback on their writing? At the London Playwrights’ Workshop we run a Script Consulting service which gives targeted, personalised feedback and a written report to help develop a script in progress. If your loved one would benefit from an outside eye to kick start their new year’s resolutions and get that that play finished, then this would be the perfect gift. (£150)

6. Kindle/ e-reader

Speaking from personal experience, a Kindle can change your life. How else can you carry your whole book collection with you at all times? Even better – you can even store PDF’s of your latest draft to work on the go and save money on printing in the process. Writers lov hardcopy books, but even the most resistant skeptic will be impressed with the reading experience on today’s models. Propel a writer into the future with this snazzy Kindle (£56.99)– also, if you sign up for Amazon Prime (you can get a 30 day free trial here), you get access to over a million titles at no extra cost.

7. Writers Book of Days (*2015 Top Seller*)

“Write every day” – never has a piece of advice been so easy to say and so hard to follow. Thankfully Judy Reeves’ book has an endless supply of encouragement, inspiration and short reflective essays to keep your imagination sharp and help you turn up to your daily appointment with the page. It has notes on everything from establishing a routine to coping with loss, how to tell the truth and how to structure a killer sentence. Among its most useful features are writing prompts for every day of the year, but really what makes this book great is Reeves’ wonderful comforting voice, which makes me feel like I can write anything. No writer should be without it. (£15.99/ Kindle Edition £7.59)

8. Into the Woods (*2015 Top Seller*)

Structure is an ongoing challenge for most playwrights, and this book provides a fascinating grounding in how to construct a story so readers can’t turn away. Combining how-to tips with helpful examples, this title demystifies the story-making process. This is one of those staples you’ll find yourself turning to time and again – the writer’s version of the gift that keeps on giving. (£6.99/ Kindle Edition £5.49)

9. Writers and Artists Year Book 2017

A staple of every serious writer’s bookshelf, this vital book has everything you need to get a piece of writing finished, and get it noticed. Covering all disciplines of writing from playwriting to illustration, its pages are packed with essays and articles from experts, but the real meat of this book is in its list of over 4,500 industry names to help you get your work, and yourself, some attention. They’ve also published a guide targeted specifically at playwrights (Playwriting (Writers’ and Artists’ Companions) £14.99), which could create a lovely set for an emerging writer. (£16/ Kindle Edition £12.95)

10. Story Cubes

For something fun – and a little bit unexpected – it’s worth checking out these story cubes! Just give a roll of the dice, and watch the story unfold. This is a great way to brighten up a writer’s desk, but it’s also a 5* rated game for the whole family! If you’re stuck on plot, or just want to add a bit of playfulness to the writing experience, these little gems have you covered. (£9.99)

11. Funky Paperclip Cuff Links

Cuff links are a great gift for a stylish guy (or lady who likes cuffs), and these are a charming way to give a nod to being a writer. Casual enough for every day – or perfect for a press night – these are a unique gift for the writer in your life. (£8.95)

12. Elegant pen necklace

Not a cufflink person? This classy pen necklace (£13.88)
is a stylish way to make sure your writing implement is always to hand. (Also, perfect for the writer who always loses pens!)

13. Vertical computer mouse

If you know a writer who suffers from wrist pain, they will love you forever for getting them this gift. A standard mouse or laptop trackpad twists your arm in an unnatural angle. A vertical mouse works in exactly the same way – but in a much healthier hand position! One of our team received the Evoluent (£97) as a Christmas gift in 2009 – extravagant but worth every penny! – and has never looked back. (Note: women may want to order the ‘small’ size). However, there are options for all budgets, including this popular Anker model (currently on sale for £11.99)

14. Sound Asleep talking pillow

Every good writer has to be a good reader, and this talking pillow (yes, really, hear us out), is perfect for audiobook lovers who like to read in bed. It’s a comfy pillow with a clever speaker concealed inside so you can listen to your favourite book at bedtime without having to wear uncomfortable headphones. Loud enough to be easily heard, but quiet enough not to disturb your partner (we speak from experience), this nifty gift is ideal for book-lovers who find it hard to find reading time in the day, or who just want to drift off to sleep with a good book.(£16.63)

15. Copper angle-poise desk lamp

 

Every writer dreams of their perfect desk, and the perfect desk needs a perfect lamp. Though everyone’s tastes are different, we really love this copper angle-poise lamp from Eglo (£49.26)
– perfect for focused work late into the night, but it’ll look great during the daytime too, and it doesn’t come with a designer price-tag. If you’d rather something more modern, or more whimsical, Amazon has a bewildering array of light fittings to suit any writer’s desk – and remember, whatever you buy after clicking through from one of our affiliate links, even if it’s not one of our suggestions, you’ll be helping support us without paying anything extra. So good hunting!

Featured image credit: Mac9496 via Flickr Commons

Post Contributors: A.C Smith, Sam Sedgman, Kimberley Andrews

How to produce your own work – part 6: Rehearsals

Looking for intensive, personalised advice on your self-producing project?  Come along to our next Self-Producing Toolkit Workshop on Saturday 12 November

In the sixth post in her series on self-producing, Kimberley Andrews shares her experience of the rehearsal process: from finding space to the role of a writer in the rehearsal room.

By now, your show is starting to come together. You’ve booked (and probably paid at least a deposit for) your venue and you’ve managed to get a highly talented bunch of people to commit to working with you. The only way you can back out now is by faking your own death, or better still, actually dying – so if this doesn’t feel like a good option, you’d better get to work on making this the best show anyone has ever seen. How will you achieve this? You’ll rehearse the living daylights out of it, that’s how – the question is, how much rehearsal time will you actually need? And how can you make the most out of the time you have?

PLANNING YOUR REHEARSALS

Image by Sittered via Flickr Commons
Image by Sittered via Flickr Commons

Obviously, you are striving for perfection with your production and there is definitely a temptation to think you’ll need to rehearse twelve hours a day solidly for a year before your show will be performance ready. However, on a tiny budget, you’re highly unlikely to have the resources to do this – and even if you’ve got the cash to pay people to give up their lives for you for a year, would you want to? Over-rehearsing your play could make it stale before the curtain goes up.

That said, it is important to give yourself enough time to rehearse properly.  I once had an actor drop out of one of my shows because he didn’t feel we had enough rehearsal time. At the time, I was bloody furious, but looking back, he had a point: no one wants to be unsure of what they are doing on stage, especially in front of an audience.

It’s all about striking a balance and figuring out what might take up extra time in rehearsal. So, yes, budget for a few extra hours if you need your actors to learn to beat box or play the ukulele but don’t expect to have the time to explore the Stanislavski method in excruciating detail. And, remember – the big sticking point in all this is that you absolutely have to be prepared to work around people’s commitments; you’ll find it much harder to get people to commit to your project if you demand loads of their time!

* All projects are different but as a rough guide, for an hour long show made up of sketches we rehearsed evenings and weekends for 3 weeks. This was worked around people’s schedules so generally, each actor would be called in for no more than 2 evenings (3 hour sessions) and one day of the weekend per week.

Top tips:

  •  Talk to your director, they’ll have done this before and be able to make an informed judgement about how much rehearsal you need.
  • Don’t forget, in most instances, you’ll have to pay for rehearsal space so bear that in mind when deciding how many rehearsals you can afford.
  • Don’t expect it to be easy: organising rehearsals on a small budget is tough and you’re likely to wish you had more time but it’s how productive you can make rehearsals that really counts.
Image by Raghunath via Flickr Commons
Image by Raghunath via Flickr Commons

The next step is to sort out when and where you’re going to rehearse. The first thing I did was to set up a Doodle Poll to get an idea of when my actors were available. I’ll admit, I’m the sort of saddo who gets a bit giddy over Doodle Polls but a pen and paper or carrier pigeons work just as well if that’s your thing. Once I was clear on the availability of the actors (and director) I set about the mammoth task of finding somewhere to rehearse…

FINDING SPACE

I say this is a mammoth task because like any type of space in London, rehearsal space is hard to come by and comes at a hefty price. For a one off show, your venue will usually let you in on the day a few hours before the performance but don’t bank on them giving you any more space than that (make sure you negotiate everything in writing with your venue before you start, see my previous post on this). If you’re doing a longer run or working in a bigger venue, then you might be luckier – but don’t expect anything for free. The good news is, that there are plenty of places offering rehearsal space in London at reasonable prices – it’s just a case of doing your research.

5 ways to find space:

  1. How big is your house? While I’m not suggesting you cram
    Image by Jim Sher via Flickr Commons
    Image by Jim Sher via Flickr Commons

    everyone in to your box room and use your single bed as a stage, if you do have a room in your house that’s big enough and you can boot your house-mates or relatives out, then you’ll save yourself a few quid by making use of it – particularly in the early stages when you might just be doing an initial read through of the script.

  2. Are you at university/ college? Or are any of your friends/ team? We managed to swing a bit of space at the University we’d studied at so it’s worth a try!
  3. Do you live near a community centre? Could you stop by and ask them if they could give you a room to rehearse in?
  4. Are you a regular customer at your local pub? Perhaps all those hours spent in your local were not wasted after all – If they have a function room and you’re friendly with them maybe they’ll think about letting you use it at a reduced rate?
  5. If all of the above fails: visit www.rehearsalspace.co.uk – it’s great for rehearsal space in London and you can find decent space in central locations for as little as £10/£12 per hour.

REHEARSAL SCHEDULE

Image by Lidy Ann Aqulno via Flickr Commons
Image by Lidy Ann Aqulno via Flickr Commons

Once I’d got my space sorted, the next step was to pull everything together in to a rehearsal schedule. Depending on the relationship you’ve built with your director, this might be something you’ve agreed that they do, after all, they are going to want to have some choice about what they rehearse and when. In my case, I sat down with the director to do this, which worked out well because it can be a tricky thing to work out on your own.

Here’s what we did:

  • We started by getting our highlighters out and making a snazzy chart with our rehearsal times and actor availability.
  • We then wrote down who was needed in each scene and used our chart to work out what scenes we could rehearse and when. This means that you won’t necessarily be able to rehearse your play ‘in order’ but it’s the best way to be economical with everyone’s time.
  • We did try our best to get everyone in for an initial read through at the start of rehearsals (more on this in the next section).
  • We tried to be considerate with people’s time. For example, if you’re rehearsing a scene with Cumberbatch in it on Saturday morning at 10am, don’t make him stick around all day to do another scene at 5pm, try to do them all in one go if you possibly can. He’s a busy guy, you know.

THE INITIAL READ-THROUGH

Image by Sittered via Flickr Commons
Image by Sittered via Flickr Commons

This is the bit where everyone sits down for the first time and reads your play together; it’s a pretty momentous moment where you get to hear your wonderful actors read out your words in all their glory. And it’s not just a chance for you to take stock of what a flippin’ literary genius you are. This is a chance for the whole team to hear what the play sounds like and for anyone to ask questions. Unless anything drastic happens (and small typo’s aside)this  is kind of  the last point where you can make a few edits (I’m talking small things here though, not a complete rewrite). And, if you’re handing over the play for someone else to direct, it’s probably the last point where questions on editing will be aimed at you.

Image by Nico Kaiser via Flickr Commons
Image by Nico Kaiser via Flickr Commons

Top tips:

  1. Do the prep –  print copies of the script off for everyone before you start and make sure you’ve emailed everyone with the location of rehearsals (including your phone number, particularly if you’re in a building where people need a code to get in!)
  2. Don’t panic if not all of your actors can make it: ask a mate to stand in if you can, it’ll still be helpful to get an overview of the piece.
  3. Don’t be defensive or offended if your work is ‘mis-understood’ and if there is something that can’t be clarified with an explanation from you, be prepared to tweak the script a little.
  4. Be open to suggestions or new ideas but also stand firm if there are things you feel strongly about (this is where it helps if you’re comfortable with the director and have discussed the play beforehand).
  5. Make notes on your script as you go along and ask actors to do the same. Only re-type pages where you’ve made a lot of edits – if it’s just tweaking individual lines, let the actors scribble changes on their scripts and you’ll save paper, time and money!

REHEARSALS

So, all that’s left to  do now is actually get cracking with rehearsals. But where does that leave you as the writer? If you were working with a theatre or larger company, there’s a good chance you’d only be invited to rehearsals as an observer but this different, right? You haven’t simply handed over your script for someone else to rehearse, you’ve laboured over producing the whole damn thing – so, surely you should be able to give your input during rehearsals? Well, in short, not really. If you’ve taken on a director, then you do need to let them direct, if you keep chiming in with your two-pence worth, you could end up slowing down the rehearsal process…too many cooks and all that. So, what should you be doing during the rehearsal period then? Sleeping? Giving yourself a pedicure? Or how about making yourself useful?

How to be useful in rehearsals:

  1. Use the process to improve your writing: take notes on the bits which actors find it difficult to interpret or the things that don’t sound so great to you when read aloud.
  2. Be diplomatic. If you have a major problem with how things are working, talk to the director at the next pause, rather than wading in and stopping the action – it might be that your director is just finding their feet too.
  3. Be approachable: make it clear that you are open to questions or suggestions and you’re willing to offer the team support if they need it.
  4. Do stuff: compile a props list, do the sandwich run or do some work on marketing your show (which, as it happens, I’ll be talking about in my next post).
  5. Be a calming influence, not a force of chaos.
Image Peuro Vallarta via Flickr Commons
Image Peuro Vallarta via Flickr Commons

On a final note, accept that the whole process of rehearsing a show on a shoestring budget is stressful, nerve-wracking and there is never, ever enough time. But it’s still a really valuable experience for an emerging writer and you won’t be helping your work realise it’s true potential if you bring unnecessary stress to the table.

Previous Posts:
Part 1: Getting Started
Part 2: Finding a venue
Part 3: Budget & Profit
Part 4: Building your Team
Part 5: Casting

In my next post I’ll be discussing marketing – how to find an audience, who you should invite and how to advertise your show.