Category Archives: Original Content

5 tips to make the most out of a writing workshop

Writing can be something many prefer to do alone, but for others, being able to share ideas and feedback with fellow playwrights is an important part of creating a play. So today we’re taking a look at how to make the most out of workshops… 

Often trying to create a play just sitting on your own at your desk can leave you either lacking motivating or with a serious case of writers’ block.

Workshops allow you to not only learn the skills a playwright needs, from structure to creating pacey dialogue, but also gives you the chance to flesh out your ideas further by sharing them with others.

Paula David of The Write Network runs The Page to Stage workshops that takes writers through the process of creating a first draft. She told us how, “As a playwright I’m aware of the need to see a new play on its feet during the creative process.”

“The journey to become a writer can be a long and lonely one. Workshops are one way of helping writers on that journey by giving them knowledge, support and a safe place to explore.”

As such a valuable tool for playwrights, it’s important to make the most out of workshops, so here are our top tips:

1- Know where to look

You may be reading this thinking you’d love to go to a workshop, but where do you even find one to go to? Great question! And also great news, as LPB  are running some next month, from lyric writing to writing for TV, and we’d love to see you there.

Other wonderful places to look are: Papatango theatre, Soho Theatre and Arcola Theatre. It’s also always good to check the website of a theatre you love just in case!

You can also find out more about Paula’s Page to Stage workshop mentioned above here. There are also the Raising Our Voices workshops run by Aime Taylor (posted about on here), which are for playwrights from the LGBTQ+ community, and we’ll be chatting to Aime a bit more later in the article…

2- Find the right workshop

Now you know where to find workshops, it’s about choosing the right one for you. A two hour brainstorm has a very different feel than a sustained 10 week course that encourages you to develop a play.

Both are fantastic, but if you come to one expecting the other, you’re bound to be disappointed. Figure out what would be most valuable for you and look for workshops based around that idea.

Time and cost are also important factors when looking at workshops.  Aime of the Raising Our Voices workshops told us how important it was to make her workshops free and accessible.

She said: “I wanted to launch a project that would support writers and makers right from the beginning of their process to getting their work onto a stage or platform. I wanted to create something that was free to come to and flexible for people that have to work day jobs around their making.”

3- Don’t be afraid to speak up!

I’ve definitely felt scared to share my ideas and work before, especially with other writers, because what if it’s just not good enough?

But if you feel like I do, workshops are probably the best place for you to go to. Getting to be in a room of creative people sharing ideas might sound daunting to begin with, but it’s a great environment to gain confidence in. You can learn from other writers, who will also learn something from you!

As Paula says, workshops are “a safe place to explore, make mistakes, share and get feedback.”

It’s easy to be intimidated, but something I always have to remind myself is that there are no stupid questions; workshops are about making you a better writer, so ask all the questions you’ve got!

4- Come brimming with ideas

Some workshops are about helping writers create a first draft. Others can be about learning particular techniques through writing exercises, or just about having writers meet to share ideas.

Whatever the workshop is about, it’s good to have a rummage through that dusty desk drawer beforehand and see what ideas you’ve got hidden away. A lesson on structure could ignite an idea about that short play you wrote years ago, giving it new life.

At the back of my notebook, I have a short sentence scribbled down for every idea I’ve had or piece I’ve written, because I never know when creativity will strike, and which play it will strike for.

Being in a room full of other writers is certainly the place to get those creative juices going, so don’t just take one idea with you.

Aime told us how important it is “to read through your own work before attending and think of  what you may like to focus on during the workshop. Go in with questions, be prepared that they may not all be answered, but it’s good to have some ready. Take a notebook and pen, make notes, jot things down.”

5- Know it doesn’t end at the workshop

When workshops end, it feels a bit like the end of school, a sort of bitter sweetness as you say goodbye. But the benefits of attending a workshop don’t just end when the sessions end.

“I have attended quite a few workshops myself and they have all been inspiring and informative in their own way. I have gained confidence, writing buddies and a valuable skill set from attending,” Paula said.

The community of writers you’ve become a part of is an incredible resource, and just like Paula found, you’ve now got writing buddies you can continue to share ideas with and can even work on projects together. Don’t be afraid at the end of the sessions to suggest you continue to meet up.

Can workshops help me get into the theatre industry?

In providing writers with confidence, feedback and a community, workshops can be really helpful for aspiring playwrights.

For Paula, they were incredibly important: “I had my first short play read at the end of a series of workshops in Brockley a few years ago. It gave me the confidence to keep writing. I have had my plays performed at Stratford Circus and Rose and Crown pub theatre. Over the past four years I have written and produced three of my own plays.”

And it’s because workshops helped her so much that she created Page to Stage, with Paula telling us, “Workshops have worked for me and I would like to help others on their way.”

Though Aime noted that there can be costs and other barriers that prevent playwrights from attending workshops, she had a similarly positive view.

“They are great opportunities to meet and make friends with people, and build connections that may lead to future collaborations.  I’m a great believer in talking about your work with people, and making them aware of what you’re doing.  In my experience it’s these conversations that can lead to things happening.

I also think you always learn something new at a workshop – sometimes they’ll blow your mind for the entire duration, sometimes you’ll walk away with a new perspective on something, or perhaps a new way in to start writing, but they will always change something and hopefully inspire you to head home and write more!”

But it’s important to remember that workshops are about improving your skills as a writer, gaining contacts and receiving support – all vital things, but not a guaranteed way of getting into the theatre industry.

Don’t be discouraged if you’re finding it difficult to get that foot in the door, you’ve just got to keep getting to know people and improving your writing, and slowly but surely things will start to happen.

LPW Online Book club – Fen

The LPW Online Book Club is our latest initiative, exclusive for our members.

Not a member yet? Well, if you want a jump start for your writing for the price of a cup of coffee, what are you waiting for? Sign up here today! (Want more reasons to join and a bit more info? Read this).

This month’s pick

In October 2017, the LPW Book Club is going to be reading Fen by Caryl Churchill.

Why did we pick this?

Caryl Churchill is an iconic playwright, but Fen is one of her less frequently produced works. Even if you’ve encountered it before, analyzing it as a playwright is an entirely different experience. We’ll be approaching the text from a writer’s perspective to look at why it is a modern classic and has continued to fascinate generations of theatremakers and audiences.

And even better? We’re reading it just in time to prep you to submit for the Clubbed Thumb Biennial Commission!

How does it work?

All you need to do is read the play and come on over to our Members Facebook Group to join the discussion! Book club threads will be marked with the hashtag #bookclub, so it will be easy to find the discussion.

When does it start?

We’re giving you two weeks to read the play, and then discussion will start at lunchtime (1pm) on Friday 20 October 2017. Don’t worry if you haven’t finished the play by then, we’ll be starting at the beginning with our discussion, so there will still be a lot that you can get out of it.

However, we can’t be held liable for any spoilers, so if this is something that will bother you, probably best to finish the play before the book club starts.

We’ll be discussing the play in the Facebook Group throughout the rest of the month of October, so if there’s a question or a topic you want to explore with a group of writers, this is the perfect opportunity.

Need a copy?

If you need to buy a copy, you can do so at the link below. (And if you buy through this Amazon Affiliate link, a small portion of the sale will go towards supporting LPW – at NO extra charge to you!)

You can get Fen in this collection of Caryl Churchill’s plays, which also includes Top Girls and other works.

Caryl Churchill: Plays Two (£17.99)

Find out more and sign up to become a member here!

Image: Andrew Bartram via CC Licence (https://flic.kr/p/rPrTfA)

Escaping the ‘tortured artist’ trap

With today being World Mental Health Day, Editor Jennifer Richards takes a look at the toll being a playwright can have on your mental health, especially in an industry that seems to value the ‘tortured artist’.

The ‘tortured artist’ idea is one that has been around since the Romantics. The idea that out of great pain comes great art. It’s a cyclical process: the writer is both tormented by their work, which they belong to like a prisoner, and lives a tormented life they express through art.

As someone who has had experience with mental illness in the past, even just writing those sentences made me a wince. For someone who is struggling, glamourising mental anguish is destructive, and potentially even dangerous.

Surely it’s possible to be an artist without damaging our mental health? We should want to write because we love it, not because we feel our work is dragging us along by the heels, pushing us into emotional turmoil.

But that’s a lot easier to type out here than put into practice. Because the arts have long fetishized pain. So much so that as a new playwright, I felt like if I was enjoying my writing, I must be doing something wrong. I must feel like a slave to my work.

But that belief isn’t just unhelpful, it’s dangerous. What we should tell ourselves is that writing, like anything, is down to determination and talent. Writing is a passion and (fingers crossed) a job, but it is not something that should be damaging us.

Feeling like a tortured artist isn’t ‘natural’ –  it’s a warning sign

Sometimes we may be frustrated if we can’t finish a scene or figure out what it is that isn’t working in our script, but if writing is taking a toll on our mental health, we mustn’t cast this off as us finally managing to be that ‘tortured artist’.

Instead, if we’re struggling, it’s time to step back from the laptop (or typewriter if we’re feeling old school) and go and ask for help, either from a friend, family member or trained practitioner.

This isn’t to say that plays you write can’t be about pain. The beautiful thing about playwriting is we get to share stories and these can be deeply personal ones that may even require us to focus on an area of our lives we would much rather ignore.

Use your struggle, don’t be owned by it

As someone with a disability, my scripts often draw from this experience. But it is cathartic to write about my pain rather than upsetting, and this difference is really important. Our work should be like our counsellor rather than our jailer.

But, as I said above, the tortured artist idea extends beyond just the belief that we should be a slave to our work. It also suggests that those with mental health conditions are more likely to turn to creative professions. And research does suggest there is some truth in this.

The numbers

A research project published in Nature Neuroscience found in Iceland that creative people were 11% more likely to carry the genetic variation for mental illness, and for people in Sweden and the Netherlands, this rose to 25%.

A 2012 study also found that writers are 120% more prone to suffer from bipolar disorder.

The research makes for a harrowing read but what is much more important is that it does not simply get dismissed as evidence for the ‘tortured artist’.

It instead should be used to highlight how the arts need to focus more on mental health awareness. Particularly because the theatre industry can be especially tough on mental health with the pressure and infrequency of the work, with playwrights often having to be financial unstable due to the low paid nature of the job.

Remember: You’re not alone

Stephanie Silver, who is the Producer for Actor Awareness, recently organised a Scratch Night where the theme was Mental Health. She told me: “Rejection is never nice and this industry is all about being liked, getting five stars, trying to rise above the hundreds of thousands of others chasing (often) the same goal, so it can get you down. My mind often wanders down dark tunnels, but I push myself to stay positive and make goals.”

“I think as an industry we need to keep talking about it, even implement awareness of the industry’s ups and downs into the curriculum at drama school. For a writer, I always think attending a group is great as you can meet like-minded people. What would be nice is more accessible workshops for things like this that don’t cost £40 or more.”

As writing is typically such a solitary task, there are definitely benefits in increasing opportunities of bringing artists together. Writers groups, workshops and courses are all great ways of meeting fellow artists, who are the most likely people to understand the more negative side of the theatre industry.

Contrary to what is expected of writers, it’s important to remember not to completely cut ourselves off. Instead, we should confide in our colleagues and friends when we find things difficult – they’ve probably experienced the exact same thing.

Just like Stephanie is doing, more people need to be talking about mental health in the arts. Because the industry shouldn’t be fetishizing pain or embracing the idea of the ‘tortured artist’.

So, how to move forward?

We should keep writing harrowing stories, and sharing painful tales that will help change the way others think, but we shouldn’t be doing this at the expense of our mental health. The brain is the tool of the writer, and first and foremost, should always be looked after.

If you need more help and don’t know where to go, contact the Samaritans on 116 123

Lyric Writing For Playwrights: An Introduction (LPW Workshop)

Are you interested in using lyrics in your plays or even writing for musical theatre? Learn how to channel your playwriting skills in a new direction to open new doors.

This half-day intensive uses encourages participants to open their imaginations and work with language in a new way as they explore the intricacies of lyric writing.

Playwrights generally have a good instinct for compelling turns of phrase, but turning these into songs requires a different skillset. Powerful dialogue, or even beautiful poetry, do not necessarily translate into effective song lyrics.

Whether you want to write for a band or a West End stage, there are certain patterns and tricks that songwriters use to make their lyrics compelling and exciting.

This workshop will cover:

  • Inspiration – finding and nurturing song ideas
  • Structure – finding the right frame for your idea
  • Rhyme – when to use it, when not to, and the wisdom to know the difference
  • Feel & Flow – how to judge the ‘singability’ of your lyrics
  • The basic ‘rules’ of lyric writing – and also how and when to break them.
  • Where to go next – ideas for continuing to develop your skills as a songwriter

This workshop is primarily targeted at people who want to write songs for characters (building on their skills as playwrights), but that doesn’t mean you need to be interested in writing for musical theatre.

Each participant will complete a series of writing exercises during the workshop, that will see them leave with lyric ideas and a clear plan for how to take these forward and continue to develop them into complete songs.

Who this workshop is for

This workshop is open to all.

Participants who already have some basic knowledge of songwriting may be familiar with some of the material covered, but they will be challenged to use this in new ways through the writing exercises.

Please note that you do not need to be a musician or have any previous experience of writing music. However, a love of good songs is strongly recommended!

Preparation

There is no need to prepare work in advance, but participants will need to bring a notebook and pen for writing exercises.

If possible, participants should also bring a rhyming dictionary or a smartphone with internet access.

When and where

Date and time: Saturday 11 November 2017 from 10.00am-1.00pm

Venue: Theatre Delicatessen Broadgate, 2 Finsbury Avenue, London EC2M 2PA (nearest tube: Liverpool Street/Moorgate)

Cost: £41.50 members / £55 non-members*

*You can become a member for the price of a cup of coffee a month – this supports the blog and as a thank you gives you access to special benefits, resources, and discounts. Join here: www.londonplaywrights.org/join

How to book

Members booking:

Please click through to access our members portal and book at the discounted rate.

https://www.londonplaywrights.org/members-booking-lyric-writing/

Non-members:

Click the button below to book.

Pay Now Button

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

About the Workshop Leader

A.C. Smith is a scriptwriter, songwriter, and the Director of London Playwrights’ Workshop. As a lyricist, she has been shortlisted for the Kevin Spacey Artists of Choice Awards and the Perfect Pitch Awards. As part of Barlow & Smith, her work includes DREAM QUEEN (Globe Theatre), VANYA’S (development support from Old Vic Workrooms and Criterion Theatre), THE GAME (St James Studio), THE NEXT STEP (HighTide), and numerous cabaret engagements including the Queen’s 90th Birthday Celebration Gala. Their debut album CHRISTMAS IN THE CITY can be found on iTunes. She A.C. studied songwriting with Book Music & Lyrics, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Royal Opera House, and the Institute of Contemporary Musical Performance, and is currently a member of the Mercury Musical Developments Advanced Writers Lab.

Image: George Kelly via Flickr Commons CC Licence

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

 

Writing For TV: Making the Transition From Stage To Screen (LPW 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.

Preparation

There is no need to prepare work in advance, though each participant will be asked to submit in advance a burning question or topic they would like to see covered. You will likely want to bring a notebook and pen to take notes.

When and where

Date and time: Saturday 11 November 2017 from 2.30-5.30pm

Venue: Theatre Delicatessen Broadgate, 2 Finsbury Avenue, London EC2M 2PA (nearest tube: Liverpool Street/Moorgate)

Cost: £41.50 members / £55 non-members*

*You can become a member for the price of a cup of coffee a month – this supports the blog and as a thank you gives you access to special benefits, resources, and discounts. Join here: www.londonplaywrights.org/join

How to book

Members booking:

Please click through to access our members portal and book at the discounted rate.

https://www.londonplaywrights.org/members-booking-writing-for-tv/

Non-members:

Click the button below to book.

Pay Now Button

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

About the Workshop Leader

Sumerah Srivastav is a playwright and television writer currently on contract to EastEnders. She has been identified as a rising star in the BBC’s 2017 New Talent Hotlist and is currently one of fifteen writers invited onto the MediaXchange and Creative Skillset’s Advanced Writing for HETV drama programme. As a playwright she has been a member of the Royal Court’s Critical Mass and Studio Writers’ programmes, Stratford East’s Musical Theatre Initiative, Orange Tree Writers Collective and The Criterion playwright programme. Her plays include Jigsaw, Veiled & Vinegar, The Fairy King, Space Invaders, Downfall and Border Liesand have been performed at Soho, Tristan Bates, Redbridge Drama Centre, Contact, Orange Tree and The Pleasance. She has a number of projects for stage and screen in development and is represented by Kitson Press Associates.

Photo Credit: bancerz via Pixabay (CC00 Licence)

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

 

How to perform your own work: A chat with Nicole Henriksen

Ever wondered what goes into a one-person theatre show? Or how to get the guts to perform your work? Read Editor Jennifer Richards’ Q&A with Nicole Henriksen to find out…

Writers performing their own work is a type of theatre I’ve always been scared of entering. As a playwright, I love hiding behind my laptop, having someone else express my thoughts on stage.

But Nicole Henriksen is bringing her theatre debut, Makin’ It Rain, to London. It’s everything I’m scared off: a one-person show where she performs her own work, and it’s also autobiographical about her time as a stripper.

Wanting to find out more about how writers perform their own work, I caught up with Nicole ahead of her debut for a chat.

Q&A with Nicole Henriksen

JR: How did you make the transition from doing stand-up comedy in 2011 to performing theatre shows now? And what encouraged you to make this change?

NH: In a lot of ways, I was never a comedian. I made comedy shows, and occasionally I performed “straight” stand-up comedy, but I was a performer.

I made comedy shows that were subversive, alternative, and bold. They centred on characters, multimedia, and shameless whimsy. They weren’t the work of a comedian, they were a performer exploring their voice.

And once I’d explored that voice by writing five comedy shows over as many years, it had run its course. The world of comedians is so boring and sad in many ways, and I’d grown tired of so many comedians always trying to get a joke into every moment.

Of course though, I’d made some fierce and fast friends, and found my voice and my purpose, as a performer and person, but I was tired and frankly uninspired by how little expression is possible in comedy.

If a comedy show has a serious moment, people question if it’s comedy, or what purpose that serious moment served. But a theatre show can be funny, serious, sexy, absurd, poignant, and so much more without it’s genre or purpose being questioned.

I enjoy the freedom of theatre. And the community that goes with it, pretentious though it can be, isn’t often as single-minded as the comedy community can be.

JR: With performing your own work, do you write a script that you strictly follow, or do you just have a general structure to the piece you follow more freely?

NH: This is definitely where the comedy background comes in.

I was one of those comedy performers who was a performer first, and a writer second. This meant the performance was my focus, not on crafting the “best” jokes.

I wrote my jokes as dot points, and allowed room for improvised asides and moments, to give each performance the feeling that it is a performance. It’s live, and anything can happen – I can handle anything, that’s what the hours put into performing are for.

When I was exploring theatre, it seemed to make sense to keep the same approach. With Makin’ It Rain (my theatre debut), it seemed obvious to take the same approach. I think some people would find that too stressful to mention, but for me, the performance is everything, not the words.

Makin’ It Rain Promotion Shot

I also know how to express myself and speak in a manner that’s both articulate enough to be taken seriously, yet clear and non-pretentious enough to be understood by as many people as possible.

So, the shows are mapped out, and the beats clear, but the wording may shift ever so slightly from night to night, or if an audience is more of a comedy crowd, the comedic moments might have extra beats, for example. And if they’re a quieter crowd, then those quiet, softer moments, are amplified, and I often feel able to give these moments extra beats, and allow them to hang in the air for a moment longer.

JR: A lot of writers draw from personal experience, and your work in Makin’ It Rain  is autobiographical. But I know I could never perform something I’d written that forced me to be vulnerable on stage; what is it that allows you to be able to perform such personal, autobiographical work?

This is something I discuss in my new theatre show, A Robot In Human Skin, which explores my anxiety. I felt for most of my life I was performing, that’s why I wanted to be on stage so much growing up, and still now.

I wanted people to see how much effort I was putting into just being a person, I wanted them to praise me for all this silent performing I was doing on a daily basis. And that’s exhausting, pretending every second of every day, never truly switching off.

So standing on stage naked talking about the time my mother said I should keep weight off after falling very ill as a teen, doesn’t seem as daunting as exposing to people, who’ve known me for some time, that I was often pretending when I was in their company.

I’ve also seen how much it affects people to see someone speaking a truth on stage, especially when it’s a truth that also discusses a somewhat hidden industry, such as that of sex work. Yet it also explores relatable moments, such as falling back in love with an ex, because they’re the only one you can open up to.

So, the reactions are my motivation, and the feeling I feel of finally seen is part of it too. I personally wouldn’t be a performer if I wasn’t searching for something on the stage.

Makin’ It Rain Promotional Shot
JR: For writers who are more nervous about performing their own work, what would be your best advice?

My best advice only comes from my life experience, and everyone’s is different. But I’d say, imagine yourself seeing the show you’re making. Imagine yourself three years ago, or seven years ago, even four months ago. Imagine that person coming to the show, seeing someone else expressing something they feel, but aren’t brave enough to express just yet.

Now imagine the impact of seeing your show, imagine how much it could stick with the younger you, how much you wish you’d seen your own show when you were going through that hard time, or finding yourself. You’ve got to do it for all the versions of yourself that need to see it.

I’m always striving to be the person I needed to inspire me and give me strength when I was growing up. And I’m still growing up.

JR: From some fantastic one-person shows I’ve seen, I’ve found that pieces where the writer is the sole performer are often more honest and liberating in a way. What would you say is the best thing about performing your own work?

I haven’t really performed other’s work, outside of in high school, and a short stint in a comedy musical. So I don’t have much to compare it to.

But there’s a moment, that can happen at a storytelling night, during a full length show, or when discussing a topic with friends, that’s incomparable to anything else. It’s a moment of feeling connection with the audience and my work. It’s the “you can hear a pin drop” moment, it’s goosebumps, and it’s a powerful intensity.

Knowing that I’m present in that moment, speaking words that are my own, is something I can’t equate to any other response.

For me, it is better than getting a big laugh in a comedy show, it’s better than selling out a performance, it’s what brings me back to live performance and makes me wonder if I could ever perform as well in another medium.

I’m forever chasing that, and I’d say it’s the best thing about performing my own work.

Makin’ It Rain is  on at Kings Head Theatre until October 7, and you can get tickets here. Nicole has given LPB readers 50% off with the code: cheeky.

 

Promotional shots are provided courtesy of Nicole Henriksen.

Pathways to Playwriting: Awards & Competitions

On this new series Pathways To Playwriting, Editor Jennifer Richards is looking at  different routes into the theatre industry and becoming a playwright. First up: playwriting awards!

Entering playwriting competition can seem like a mystical world sometimes – what are the judges looking for? Will my play even get read? And what actually happens if you win?

London Playwrights’ Blog got to speak to three fantastic playwrights who are all well-versed in the world of playwriting awards: Phil Porter, one of the winners of the first Bruntwood prize and now a judge on this year’s panel; James Fritz, who was a Bruntwood Prize winner in 2015 for his play Parliament Square; and Stephen Jackson, who won the 2015 Verity Bargate Award with his show Roller Diner.

And we thought, who better to ask all our questions to?

Here it goes…

Q: What convinced you to enter?

Stephen Jackson:

“I went to a Verity Bargate Award roadshow in Birmingham where Nadine Rennie from Soho Theatre gave a talk about the award. At the end I asked her if they accepted musicals. She said I could enter it but that the music wouldn’t be taken into consideration – only the script. Roller Diner didn’t seem to fit at all – but I entered in any case – don’t ask me why! After I’d won, I said I’d entered in the way an unlucky gambler rolls the dice. I’d got nothing to lose. I thought Soho would have to be bonkers to choose Roller Diner. But they are bonkers and they did choose it!”

Photograph from ‘Roller Diner’; taken by Helen Maybanks

Q: I’m unlikely to win, so should I even bother entering?

Phil Porter:

“First, a reality check: the number of people that enter awards is only reflective of the amount of people who like the idea of being a playwright. Your chances of winning might be quite slim, but at least your play will be properly considered, and if what you’ve written is as good as you think it might be, then you’re in with a chance.”

“Second: I’ve met all of the final judging panel of the Bruntwood and I know lots of people that will be reading earlier rounds; I promise you that whoever receives your play wants it to be award-winningly good.”

“And third: even if you don’t win a prize it was still worth doing. You finished a play that you can send to people and put on stage and prove us stupid judges wrong.”

Q: But I’ve been rejected before, so should I really submit again?

James Fritz:

“I had entered [Bruntwood] before two times, first just when I was starting out, which didn’t make the longlist, and the second time a few years later – that made the longlist of 40 and I got loads of useful feedback.”

“With Parliament Square, I had the idea knocking round in my head; I wasn’t planning on submitting anything, but it’s such a good opportunity and I got such useful feedback before.”

Q: How do I know when the piece is ready to enter?

James Fritz:

“You are never ever going to get it perfect. Let go of the idea of writing a perfect play before you submit it.”

“If you have something that communicates an idea and how you want to say it, the Royal Exchange and Bruntwood readers are smart enough to understand the development process and see where [your play] can go. The main thing is just to get it in.”

Q: Surely it’s so subjective, so how do you judge plays?

Phil Porter:

“I think it always comes down to the same two things: having an interesting thing to say and having an interesting way of saying it. After I met with this year’s Bruntwood judges we went to the Royal Court and watched Wish List by Katherine Soper, the most recent winner. It was a great reminder of everything we’re looking for: relevance, wit, emotional insight, guts, theatricality, originality.”

Q: What can happen after winning the award?

James Fritz:

“It’s been pretty epic actually, you get it and it’s great but you don’t really know what’s next. Then you go in for the first meeting and they say this is literally the beginning.”

“I’ve spent two years working with Royal Exchange Literary Department and the Director. It’s grown and then shrunk back again, and then exploded and put together again.”

“They gave me time and license to explore different ways [of telling this story]. Half-way through I was even packed off to the rocky mountains in Canada to work with Canadian dramaturgs.”

“It would’ve been tough without the support, I would never have got there.”

The 2015 Brentwood Prize Winners

Q: Does winning an award change you as a playwright?

Stephen Jackson:

“Having an award has given me some crazy confidence – with the VBA and the Best Composer nomination [for Roller Diner], I’m wondering if I now dare attempt the larger-scale musical that’s been buzzing round my head… My toes are tingling and I’m feeling a bit dizzy at the thought…”

Q: Are playwriting awards a viable route into the theatre industry?

Phil Porter:

“Not many of the playwrights [the 2015 Bruntwood Prize winners] were working full-time when they won, and so many of them are now working professionally and doing amazing work. In this regard the Bruntwood has become increasingly essential over the last ten years. In 2006, when I entered, there were many more theatres reading unsolicited work.”

“Now those opportunities are few and far between so awards like the Bruntwood provide a really important service to playwrights and to British theatre.”

“Of course, awards aren’t just about viable routes into the industry, they’re about something much more exciting and romantic than that. They’re about talented people with great ideas trying to write one truly remarkable play.”

“But absolutely, if you hope to be a professional playwright and you’ve got a play or an idea you’re mad not to enter.”

Q: So how should playwrights view playwriting awards?

Stephen Jackson:

“Competitions aren’t a substitute for a career strategy – because only a lucky few can win, but if you do win, it is career-changing.”

“I have mainly used competition deadlines as a stimulus to finish something – without really expecting to win anything. It’s hard to keep motivated when nobody is interested in your work, so a deadline date can be a goal to aim at. Then send your masterpiece off, forget about it, and carry on with your career plan as normal.”

“And clearly many playwrights aren’t discouraged by our sheer numbers or there would be fewer of us – if that makes sense! I suspect most writers write because they can’t help themselves. I’ve tried quitting many times – but I soon find myself sneaking off for a crafty scribble when nobody’s looking.”

“In conclusion I would say that competitions are often free and at least your work will get read. So enter – you’ve got nothing to lose.”

In Summary: The Role of Awards In Becoming A Playwright

Entering awards with your fingers-crossed is probably not the best strategy if you want to become a playwright – but if you’re fortunate enough to win it can be an enormous boost to your career, and as these writers show, it’s always worth taking the chance of submitting.

Even if you don’t win, competition deadlines can be a valuable motivator to finally finish the draft you always seemed to be halfway through. Or one of the readers could love your work and reach out, starting  a new professional relationship.

How can I make the most of this particular Pathway To Playwriting?

1) Get the guts.

There’s no easy way to manage the nerves every playwright feels in thinking their work isn’t ready or there’s no point in entering. It’s a bit like jumping into the deep end of the pool: it can be a bit frightening to take the plunge, but it’s much better than being left standing on the side. It’s normal to feel nervous, but don’t let it stop you. James, Stephen and Phil all show you’ve just got to go for it. You never know what could happen next.

2) Get organised.

Keep track of when competition dates are coming up and research how you need to prepare. Fortunately, our Weekly Opportunities Roundup puts all this information at your fingertips. We recommend copying key deadlines into your diary or making mini-deadlines for yourself if it’s a particularly big project.

Make sure you read the details early, so if you need a reference or synopsis you have time to organise this and don’t wind up unable to apply because you don’t have all your materials together. And it goes without saying, but you really don’t want to leave this to the last minute!

3) Go for numbers.

There is a tradition of novelists taking pride in collecting and displaying their rejection slips – the more you have the better. Obviously everyone wants to win, but the more you submit, the better your odds of winning, so don’t let fear of rejection put you off submitting early and often.

Every ‘no’ you collect represents a victory for putting your work out into the world, and means there is at least one more person in this world who has seen your writing. Plus, it may sound counterintuitive, but the more you submit and get comfortable with this process, the easier it is to let the ‘no’s’ just roll off your back – because there’s always another opportunity just around the corner.

James Fritz’s Parliament Square is on at the Royal Exchange from the 18-28 of October, and will then be running at Bush Theatre from the 30 November-6 January,

Stephen Jackson’s Roller Diner has been nominated for Best Comedy at the Wilma awards, which you can vote for here

5 Playwrights Share The Plays You Need To Read Right Now

Saying we live in turbulent political times is probably a bit of an understatement, with the fractures in our society being more prevalent than ever. But great work has come from exploring these issues and, with it being International Literacy Day, we thought who better to recommend the best plays to read at the moment than some of our favourite playwrights?

Nathan Bryon

Both a writer and an actor, Nathan was writer in residence at Paines Plough in 2015, having his first radio play Bilal’s Birthday produced in New York earlier this year by Naked Radio and Paines Plough.

THE GOOD DOG by Arinzé Kene

“He paints the picture of Tottenham as this interesting, busy, bustling, energised  community which goes through the riots. The play takes you through the life of a young black boy, at times it’s so fucking painful and at times euphoric, we see his journey and every story is                      painted so fucking beautifully. When I grow up I want to write like that!

Anton Cross was in the production I saw and he was just superb and it was directed by Natalie Ibu who directed it perfectly. I saw the production in the Watford Palace and I was truly blown away!”

Suzette Coon

Artistic Director of Little Pieces of Gold, Suzette has also had her play The Sting produced at Southwark Playhouse and the Arcola Theatre, and Superman & Me ran at The Kings Head Theatre last summer.

SKIN A CAT by Isley Lynn

“As our culture becomes ever more hyper-sexualised, particularly in regard to women’s sexuality, Isley Lynn’s play prioritises difference over the pressure to be what’s considered ‘normal’.”




Conor Hunt

Producer, director and playwright of The F Word; which returns to the Drayton Arms Theatre this November following performances at The Edinburgh Fringe, Red Lion Theatre and Theatre503.

IPHIGENIA IN SPLOTT by Gary Owen

“In such a bizarre political climate with the class divide widening, arguably wider than it has been in years, it shows the human loss and sacrifice made by the average person who relies on public services, be that a local library all the way to the NHS, and tells the most harrowing story I’ve read in years. In an age of cuts from the state, it was the first time I really felt a play could be used as an act of protest and has really changed the way I write characters. If it doesn’t tickle your fancy, read any Gary Owen because he’s just fab.”

Hannah Khalil

Hannah has just finished an attachment at Bush Theatre as part of Project 2036. Her most recent show, The Scar Test, was performed on tour and at Soho Theatre this July.

Hannah couldn’t pick just one (and who can blame her?) so we’ve got an extra one thrown in as a bonus…

Photographer: Richard Saker

THE INTERROGATION OF SANDRA BLAND by Mojisola Adebayo

 “Adebayo transcribes the recording of the arrest of Sandra Bland in Texas on 10 July 2015. Sandra Bland was pulled over by a Police Officer for a failure to signal. Things escalated, she was forcefully arrested and three days later found hanged in her cell.

Adebayo reimages the exchange as “a requiem in words, to be spoken by a large cast of black women actors and a huge cast of all women who want to join in”. It’s as powerful a piece of political theatre as I’ve seen and it speaks to events that are happening right now that we need to urgently address.”

CATHY by Ali Taylor

“This was produced by Cardboard Citizens. A reworking of Ken Loach’s Cathy Come Home for today. It’s a well observed, human and ultimately devastating play about how our society is set up to fail those in need. The power of this piece of  writing is that it made me realise how fragile my own situation is, and see that it’s a mere few steps from a privileged ‘housed’ position to homelessness.

A play that is capable of such a revelation in its reader is an important one. If people missed the production they should read the play.”

 

Milly Thomas

Milly is an actor and playwright whose plays Brutal Cessation and Dust ran at The Edinburg Fringe this year, with Milly receiving the Stage Edinburg Award for her performance in Dust.

Photographer: Mafalda Silva
OIL by Ella Hickson

“It’s vast. It sprawls. It doesn’t tie everything up in a nice neat bow for you. It’s capitalism and mothers and daughters and it’s us not learning from our mistakes.”

 

 

And if that wasn’t enough reading for you,  LPB have just launched our new book club for members. First up: Hamlet! Click here to find out more.

We’ve also provided links to everything the playwrights have recommended here using the Amazon Affiliates scheme. This means that if you buy anything from this list after clicking through our links, 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 do end up buying any of these brilliant plays, we’d really appreciate it if you clicked through from here first. Thanks!

Happy Reading! 

LPW Online Book club – join us!

The LPW Online Book Club is our latest initiative, exclusive for our members.

Not a member yet? Well, if you want a jump start for your writing for the price of a cup of coffee, what are you waiting for? Sign up here today! (Want more reasons to join and a bit more info? Read this).

More about the Book Club…

For our first outing, we’ll be reading Hamlet. There’s a good chance you’ve encountered this play before – but analyzing it as a playwright is an entirely different experience. We’ll be approaching the text from a writer’s perspective to look at why it works and has continued to fascinate generations of theatremakers and audiences.

How does it work? 

All you need to do is read the play and come on over to our Members Facebook Group to join the discussion! Book club threads will be marked with the hashtag #bookclub, so it will be easy to find the discussion.

When does it start? 

We’re giving you two weeks to read the play, and then discussion will start at lunchtime on Friday 15 September 2017. Don’t worry if you haven’t finished the play by then, we’ll be starting at the beginning with our discussion, so there will still be a lot that you can get out of it.

However, we can’t be held liable for any spoilers, so if this is something that will bother you, probably best to finish the play before the book club starts.

We’ll be discussing the play in the Facebook Group throughout the rest of the month of September, so if there’s a question or a topic you want to explore with a group of writers, this is the perfect opportunity.

Find out more and sign up to become a member here!

 

The show must go on: How to deal with setbacks

Taking her show ‘The White Bike’ to stage proved a difficult task for playwright Tamara von Werthern after it was rejected for ACE funding. In this guest post she discusses the challenges she faced and how still dealt with them, ensuring the show would go on!

I got the email from the Arts Council (ACE) and my heart was pounding. We had been working so hard to make this production of my play The White Bike happen. Now everything depended on one email.

Inspired by the true story of Eilidh Cairns who was crushed by a tipper lorry in 2009, the play follows a young mother on her journey by bike through Hackney.

My own journey towards this production had started when I cycled past the crash site after returning to work from my maternity leave. As a cyclist and young mother I felt vulnerable in traffic, and my natural reaction was to write about my fears and concerns.

I was lucky to be invited by the Arcola Writers Group to develop my thoughts into a short play under Duncan Macmillan. The piece was then showcased at the Arcola Theatre in 2010, directed by Caroline Leslie.

But that was just the beginning. We were now on the brink of a full professional production with an amazing creative team, an exciting cast and a new full-length script, developed over years of workshops, and Research and Development. We also had help through my own involvement in campaigning for safer roads and from interviewees who had been affected by road violence.

It is hard to make a production happen – finding the right people, convincing a venue, getting funding. I was lucky that I had met director Lily McLeish two years previously, who was equally passionate about the importance of the play and deeply committed to seeing it on stage. (If you want to read more about the early development of The White Bike, click here.)

After securing The Space as our venue and working on all aspects of our production for many months, we had now raised a phenomenal £4,313 via Kickstarter.

One last push at the Kickstarter campaign

But support also came in other forms, including donated rehearsal space and even getting safer cycling charities and independent bike shops on board. There was now a real buzz around the project, and we felt that if everyone else was behind it, the ACE just had to support it too. I clicked on the email. My eyes flew over the page.

And there it was.

Our application had not been successful.

I felt numb.

We had had ACE funding for our Research & Development week and had a committed and brilliant team on board. We had 130 supporters who had given money towards this, our venue was booked, and we even had a publishing deal.

It felt as if the rug was pulled out from under us at this crucial moment, when everything was going so well. Ironically, the main reason why the application was rejected was that at the time of applying we didn’t have enough money already confirmed, though now we did.

The worst thing was that we had no time to reapply. It takes three months for a grant application of over £15,000 to be considered, and it was now the end of July. The show would open on 19 September.

Sadly setbacks are an inevitable apart of the theatre industry – it’s about what you do next that matters.

Back to the drawing board

A few phone calls later I felt a bit better. The director, producer and I were equally gutted but we set up a few emergency meetings straight away to consider our options. We drew up a new budget, cutting away as much as we could and trying to safeguard the money needed to pay our team and cast. We cut rehearsal time down and decided on parts of the process we could each take on ourselves.

In the end we had something to work with. We still had to raise money to make it happen, but, with a bit of luck, it was achievable.

Raising money

It took a whole day to phone up financial headquarters to find out if they had a social responsibility scheme, which is when financial institutions have a goal to support the community they are rooted in.

As The Space is just across the river from Canary Wharf, we thought it might be feasible that the companies situated in our neighbourhood might help us out financially. In return we could offer advertising in our published script or even workshops on physical theatre in a corporate environment.

Unfortunately, it turned out that most banks only support community projects which include financial education, and unfortunately not the arts.

We also applied to trusts and foundations, including The Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the Esmee Fairbank Foundation and the Royal Victoria Hall Foundation, amongst many others. For some of these you need charitable status, which we have through co-producing the play together with The Space.

We wrote to Hackney Council, where the play is set, and to Tower Hamlets, where both the production and rehearsals (at Queen Mary University) would take place, to ask for help.

While some of these leads gave us hope that they might be interested to partner with us and support us, most of our emails and letters remained simply unanswered. It was all pretty frustrating.

Most of all, I felt disheartened by the fact that we were rejected by ACE, ashamed even: my first thought was that it had happened because the play was just not good enough.

Reaching out

But then I realised that I needed to just tell people. I put a ‘black box’ on my Facebook page, fessing up. And what happened next was amazing. I got loads of messages of support, including ones from friends who were just as gutted about it as I had been, as well as offers of help.

It was heartening to realise that people were really rooting for us, maybe even more so, because we had had this setback.

It turned out that the biggest resource we had were our friends. Many thinking caps were put on across the country and we suddenly had a rich pool of suggestions of where to go and who to ask, and a huge amount of encouragement and support.

I also heard from friends who were in the same situation with their funding having also been rejected, which made me feel much less alone with the problem.

Being open and honest about having experienced a setback was the best thing I could have done, and the reaction from those around us was what made the next steps towards making it happen possible.

Securing support

I thought up four different ways of raising money and tested them on Facebook, just asking people to put them in order of what they liked best.

My ideas were a clothes swap party with an entry fee where I would serve tea, coffee and cake; a ‘gala dinner’ which I would cook at my house with three courses and drinks at a set price; a pub quiz at our local pub; and another bigger cake sale.

A successful pub quiz!

I got so many responses, it was unbelievable. The pub quiz won in the end but I also got offers of people who said they’d bake cakes for me, as well as lots of other tips on where to go for funding. It was amazing to feel there was so much interest and good will behind it all.

Turns out the clichés true: while one door had closed, many more doors suddenly opened.

Think outside the box

There might be ‘pockets’ of potential funding which you can access by thinking about people you know who, though might not necessarily be your target audience for a given project, may be interested in something else you have to offer.

For our Kickstarter campaign, for example, I had crocheted cycling gloves and flower badges as prizes, which were really popular. It is good to have something that is handmade and unique to show your appreciation of the support you are getting.

The beautiful crochet flowers

Another slightly strange coincidence was that I had written a book in German for my dad’s 60th birthday. It was a spoof crime thriller with him as the sleuth. It was a bit of a family in-joke, but it turned out to be hugely successful among his friends and also people I knew back home and even German-speaking friends in London.

I again used Facebook to gauge interest in this, take pre-orders towards a reprint, and ended up making quite a bit of money towards the production.

As The White Bike is about safer cycling, we went to bike shops, wrote to big cycling companies and companies renowned for their involvement in cycling. We also asked charities such as SeeMeSaveMe and Sustrans to support us, and were largely successful with this.

As well as the larger companies, we also got support from individual donors, who gave small or large amounts, often after a personal chat about what we needed and why, and also where the money would go.

We spread the word through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, on organisational newsletters and in the media. In short – we tried every avenue we could think of and then some.

And the show really does go on…

It looks like our strategy worked out: The White Bike will run at The Space in East London from 19-30 September 2017.

Video made by Tom Goudsmit

After approaching so many people for help, we eventually secured financial support from Phil Jones Associates and Hackney Council.

We might not have got the money from ACE to make things easier, but we got so much support from the people around us, which was in a way worth even more. Experiencing this one setback has only made us more determined and motivated to get the show on the road and make it the best it can be.

If you’ve experience what might seem like a failure while trying to put on a production, it could actually end up being what makes your performance. You’ve just got to be determined and learn to think outside the box; and whatever the problem was, it won’t be a setback for long.

To get tickets to see The White Bike, click here. We would love to see you there.