Category Archives: Original Content

When (and when not) to hear your work read aloud

As part of the launch of our new membership scheme, we’re celebrating writers that LPW has worked with in the course of the past year.

In the final blog from our Dark Horse Festival writers, John Murray shares his thoughts on the importance – and difficulty – of hearing your work read aloud.

It’s important to hear your work read aloud; I say ‘important’, rather than ‘enjoyable.’ Listening to your work is crucial to the playwriting process but it can be a difficult procedure to manage.

I studied creative writing at university, so I feel fairly comfortable reading my work aloud; poetry, prose, non-fiction and some pretty awful and unnecessary hybrids of the above. My first full piece of writing for performance was a monologue which I went on to direct and perform myself, so I felt confident in reading that aloud, to anyone who would listen, during the development stages.

But when it came to work for more than one voice, I was stuck. I just about managed to get away with a radio drama I wrote a few years ago; there were twenty characters in the play and a friend and I read and recorded the whole thing, with long pauses between lines as we tried to slip back and forth between elaborate accents.

That recording was just about enough for me to imagine what the piece could sound like with different actors playing each role. I needed to know how that slew of voices would mesh together and if any of them stood out for the wrong reasons.

My first pieces for the stage with multiple characters were a different kettle of fish. As a writer, I tend to place too much emphasis on the aural quality of the work and ignore moments of more complex physicality. As each piece slowly formed, I found it impossible to feel satisfied with what I was writing because I was not able to hear distinct voices coming through.

After a few false starts with readings, I’ve realised that who is reading your piece is crucial in making the experience useful and can ultimately make the difference between hearing the voices of your characters emerge and hearing nothing at all.

I think that it’s important to hear different groups of people read your work. In the early stages of development, one of the most useful groups you could turn to is a group of writers. I’m sure most people know the general benefits of writers groups, but in this instance I suggest using the writers as actors.

A writer, especially one who is also working on a piece, is often sensitive to the way in which lines of dialogue are being constructed. They look out for pauses, they pay attention to punctuation and they never assume they’ve read a line correctly; they will invariably go back and look at the line again and try and work out if you intended something different with a comma, or a ‘long pause’ or a repetition.

What’s more, it’s likely that most of the writers in the group will not have much acting experience. If you can’t find a group of writers that you feel happy working with, gather a few friends who you trust and ask them to read. Try to avoid any professional performers at this stage and just listen to the lines that people trip over. Listen to them laugh or gasp and stay alert to the moments where they lose concentration. Hearing people make mistakes as they read can be so useful; it can signal awkward phrasing, overworked language or moments of lag in the dialogue.

I get so much out of these readings. After they’ve read, the writers can help you unpack certain choices you’ve made, big or small. They can question your technique and highlight the moments where you’ve really achieved your goals. Their feedback is so useful in developing style and structure.

A group of friends can offer a similar kind of critique: they can point you to moments where you might need to focus when redrafting, moments where the scenes drag or speed along too quickly. They’re a ready-made audience with no professional tint to their feedback; they’ll ignore formatting issues and won’t confuse you with comments about pieces at the Fringe they saw two years ago that “might really help you” but can’t remember what it was called or who wrote it. I’m particularly guilty of that.

After you’ve finished this and redrafted, I’d suggest you take your piece to a director. Ask if they have an hour or two to read your work and comment on it from a directorial perspective. You won’t hear them reading it but their feedback will give an insight into what you might expect from a reading with actors.

They’ll know which scenes might challenge a group of actors and which they’d have less trouble with; this might not actually lead you to make any changes to those scenes, but it’ll give you an insight into what you might face when working with actors and arm you with suggestions you might be able to make to them as they perform.

After these first two stages, you’re ready to hear a group of professionals read. It’s easier said than done assembling a group of actors; I’ll leave it to an advice columnist with more chutzpah than me to explain the process. However you manage to assemble your actors, be ready for that reading to be unlike any of the readings you’ve had up until that point.

On the one hand, the actors will be able to bring a wealth of training, experience and excitement to the roles. They should be used to quickly mining a scene for useful details which they can draw from and they’ll be happy to stop and start and try sections out differently in order to allow you to hear how a different tone could work. You should even be able to make quick edits which won’t faze them and allow you to hear scenes constructed differently.

On the other hand, once a piece is with an actor, writers can often feel like they lose control. They might feel certain words or phrases are being skipped over in favour of something more exciting to that particular actor. This can either be fruitful or excruciating. You might find yourself being asked to justify why a character behaves in a certain way; actors will look for objectives that you might not feel are appropriate which leaves you flailing about trying to correct them.

However, if you’ve gone through the first two stages and really taken as much as you can from those readings, you’ll feel much better equipped to deal with whatever is thrown at you. I don’t want to sound like I’m downplaying the talent and commitment actors can bring to a reading: they can help you transform a piece and give voice to characters that you have desperately wanted to hear from, and once you reach the rehearsal room they are your greatest ally. But, if you take a piece to actors too early in your process, you will be faced with a plethora of issues which might set back your drafting process and distract you from the early tasks of assembling your work and crafting the tone and themes of a piece.

Listen to your work as often as possible. It’s the only way you can be sure that you’re ready to let a piece get up on to its feet and walk about. Which is a third and even more complicated kettle of fish…

John Murray’s latest project is Celebrate The Mountains, an online writing project with Thom Kofoed. Subscribe at: http://celebratethemountains.co.uk/

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Am I Too Young To Be A Playwright?

It’s International Youth Day! But Editor Jennifer Richards is worried that youth isn’t always an advantage when it comes to playwriting…

Even in a creative profession, where it may be slightly less frowned upon to spend the day in your pyjamas (that’s what being freelance means right?), you still need to be taken seriously.

But I could don on the most impressive suit in the world, and there’d still be one thing that would get in the way: my age. Because I’m 20. And most playwrights I know usually aren’t just fresh out of their teenage years.

I would be lying if I said I hadn’t questioned if I was being stupid by pursuing a career in writing. Maybe I should be returning to my dream in a few years once I would be seen as more legitimate by theatres, or even a safer bet. After all, would a theatre be prepared to invest in someone my age?

Young people feeling patronised happens in many industries; from a young MP complaining of not being taken seriously, to a Forbes article about entrepreneurship titled ‘When Youth is Not Your Friend’. It doesn’t look like my fears are coming from nowhere.

There’s a belief you need to be of a certain age to have the needed wisdom and experience; though that raises the Catch-22 of someone not taking a chance on you because you lack experience, but then needing someone to take a chance on you to get that experience. Jeez. My head hurts.

Also this suggests that just because someone is older, their experience of life is somehow more worthwhile. But believing that what young people feel can’t be true or real diminishes the stories that we want to tell.

Many people my age are going through huge difficulty in finding an identity or just simply finding their feet in life, and it’s so important to have young playwrights be taken seriously enough to be allowed to tell their stories.

It shouldn’t be negated by the belief that we’re too young to really understand life’s complexities; our voices should carry just as much weight as someone more senior.

My fear I’m too young to be a playwright comes from the day-to-day experience of my age stopping people from seeing my opinions as valid and credible. I want to be a part of the conversation, but what I have to say is dismissed as I’m just ‘too young to understand’, whether I’m talking about politics or relationships.

But if creatives want to increase the number of young people going to the theatre, you have to be talking about their experiences on stage. You have to listen to us.

And the positive is we are seeing more of a drive towards this, with schemes like Hampstead Inspire and Soho Young Writers’ Lab being all about nurturing young talent.

My advice for other young playwrights questioning their place is to look for these types of opportunities where your age is not just a benefit, but a criterion.

I wouldn’t have had my first short play performed if it wasn’t for my age. It was put on by Writers Avenue, a theatre company for 18-30 year olds, so if I had been a more senior playwright, I wouldn’t have even been able to get involved.

Me outside The Courtyard Theatre on the opening night of my play!

There’s also often youth sections on theatre websites, like Roundhouse Young Creatives or Young Court at Royal Court. Writers Avenue even have an open submission to be involved in their next showcase.

So if, like me, you’re fed up of not being listened to, apply for all the schemes and opportunities you can – it’s time to take your story to stage.

Are you researching, or just procrastinating?

As part of the launch of our new membership scheme, we’re celebrating writers that LPW has worked with in the course of the past year.

In the last post from our talented gaggle of Dark Horse Festival writers, Sophia Chapadjiev takes a long hard look at herself in the mirror and asks: is all that time spent reading encyclopaedias really helping her research? Or is it just another way of putting off writing?

I once wrote a musical in which a man needed a root canal. I was so proud of my detailed knowledge of vascular tissue and pulpotomy that I sent it to the dentist I had when I was growing up. Unsurprisingly, he never wrote me back. And just as unsurprisingly, my chances of getting this or any piece produced are diminished when I choose to submit things to dentists before doing so to theater companies.

Advice: Submit plays to theater companies not dental practices.

I have always loved research. I can get so caught up in investigating a time period or topic that nothing else seems to matter. And it’s not enough for me to read about things online or even take a cursory trip to the library: I want to so immerse myself into a world – of which I don’t belong and never will – to make those who live in that world feel I am one of them. Ah, pride, why carest thou for the opinions of those whose circles you don’t even travel in?

I just want to get it right.

So, when I was writing a piece about an airline mishap, and I discovered that years after the plane went down a new theory had emerged about why it crashed, I suddenly needed to learn all I could on said theory. Now, I could have written the piece without this information. It wasn’t pertinent to the character study; I was writing an operatic fantasy of what went through the flight attendant’s mind in the last moments of life as she fell from the sky. Did I really need to be googling “how are fuselages like boilers”? Or seeking out interviews with conspiracy theory boiler specialists?

Yes, yes, useful info in theory. But really, what am I doing? Procrastinating. Like a Pro.

Crastinator.

Oh, to have the discipline of those great wordsmiths I admire. To wake at 5, write till 9, break the fast, go for a walk, take the world in while making observational notes for future projects, eat lunch precisely from 1 to 2, review what I’d started in the morning, maybe a nap, le five o’clock, start another project, and, as it says on my shampoo bottle, rinse and repeat, and start all over again.

But no. Instead I am googling things that have nothing to do with what my piece appears to be about.

Advice: Research boiler specialist conspiracy theories only when you are writing a piece about boiler specialist conspiracy theories.

More recently, I was asked to submit a proposal for an opera with a specific location as a prompt and a limit of four characters.

Free of the constraints of research, I was able to dream big. And so I ambitiously indulged in flights of fancy to the land of What Ifs. And next thing I knew I had woven a tale involving:

  • The erecting of the George Washington Bridge
  • The creation of a present day philanthropic project in actual existence
  • The proper use of microwaves
  • A secondary character from “one of the world’s conflict zones”

My proposal has since been greenlit. And I am petrified. There’s a lot I suddenly need to learn about before I even put pen to paper. Thankfully, I am at least relatively proficient at using a microwave.

Advice: Learn your stuff. I think it was Oscar Wilde who said: It’s okay to be ignorant about one thing, but three is just careless. Or maybe he said something like this about something else altogether. [Note to self: research and edit later.]

First stop: the library. Books on waterways, the history of bridges, the Great Depression as an appetizer. My protagonist, loosely based on a real person, comes from a wealthy family and so I ask the librarian, “How do I find a book about how people made their money along the New England waterways before, say, roads or railways came about, and is there also, by chance, a chapter on how female daughters of affluent families felt about the inequality of wealth distribution”?

The librarian looks at me blankly.

Of course that’s not true. Librarians are wonderful and will always try to understand and aid me, even when Siri will not.

Advice: When in doubt, search out a librarian. This works for questions of fact and also for questions of opinion (ex: Do you think this book goes with this hat?).

I relish the research phase. But I know it can also be a method of avoidance. As each day closes, I am one day nearer to when my first draft is due on the above project and nary a word has yet been writ. And I’ve only just now finished letters “D” through “F” in the Encyclopaedia of Bridges and Tunnels. Who knows what wisdom “G”, “H” or even “I” hold.

I believe the more I learn about something that I did not know about, the readier I am to proceed to the next step. And so, once I am brimful with newly acquired knowledge and can spout both useful and useless facts, I have to throw it all out the window and finally start the writing.

But before the writing, yet after the research (though sometimes one can bleed into the other) there is a gorgeous sweet spot – often while I am deep in REM sleep – when the synapses of my subconscious are making connections with the speed and alacrity of Muhammad Ali.

And so while research can be a form of procrastination and often times, to those around me, it looks as if I am doing no practical work whatsoever, research is essential to prime my process.

But what is scary… is the trusting. Trusting and believing that I can and will make things work. And so far, this method has not let me down.

Advice: If something has worked for you, trust the process will work again.

I would love to not feel like I have to do so much research. And I would love to not procrastinate but that just isn’t my process. Sometimes, a girl’s just gotta lean in.

Sophia Chapadjiev’s one-act opera, A Bridge Between, debuted at the International House in New York City in May.  The George Washington Bridge in New York; the citizens of Mostar and the famed Mostar Bridge in Bosnia & Herzegovina; and the germination of a philanthropic project all made an appearance.  Sadly, “the proper use of microwaves” was cut from an early draft.  This after Sophia had practically become a microwavologist.  She is now excitedly on the brink of embarking on a stone-carving course.  Following that, her opera, The Bone Keepers – described as “a kind of creep show meets Laverne and Shirley” by Broadway World – will be performed again in New York in conjunction with American Opera Projects.

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Procreative: How to be a playwright AND a new parent

As part of the launch of our new membership scheme, we’re celebrating writers that LPW has worked with in the course of the past year.

In the next of our blogs by our playwrights from the Dark Horse FestivalSonali Bhattacharyya gives advice for playwrights balancing writing with parenting.

So, you’re a woman, you’re a playwright, and you’re expecting or have recently had a baby. What the hell were you thinking? Why not throw some circus skills into the freelancing, nappy changing, sleep skipping mix? Only joking. This could be the most creatively fertile period of your writing life (see what I did there?). Or at least a chance for you to redefine yourself as a writer and develop your voice.

5 things I did…

Who needs the Pomodoro technique when you have a sleeping infant who might wake up at any moment?

1 – Guard your writing time

Other parents will use their baby’s nap time to sit in cafes and socialise, go for a jog with them round the park, catch a film at a parent and baby screening, or clean their flat (it has been known). You will power-walk home or to the nearest café with wi fi at the first sign of infant drowsiness, to grab 30, 50, maybe even 90 minutes of blissful uninterrupted writing time. No emails. No internet shopping. No freakin’ Facebook. Just write. There were times I’d sit at my computer with our baby sleeping on my chest in a sling, all the more soundly for the proximity to me, which bought me precious extra writing time. (Yeah, okay, and these were warm bonding moments between us too.) Continue a play you’ve been working on from where you left off, without reading back what you’ve completed so far if you can bear it. You will discover you are 100% more productive than you ever believed. Who needs the Pomodoro technique when you have a sleeping infant who might wake up at any moment?

2 – Write what you want

Maybe you already do this. I view my writing career in two parts: The part pre-parenthood where I had often censored myself and been willing to compromise in the pursuit of politeness and collaboration, and the part post-parenthood where I started writing only what I wanted to see.

Our daughter had to spend 14 weeks in hospital after she was born (do not fear, this is not an inevitable consequence of being a playwright who decides to procreate, it was just my experience), and I was enraged by the glib depiction of NICU life and the expedient use of premature birth in various plot lines on TV and in film. I started writing a play about parents on a neo-natal unit, because I realised it was only on stage that I could convey the intimacy and claustrophobia of this environment.

To my knowledge, there has never been a UK play about NICU life. My agent at the time thought there was good reason for this, and we parted ways, but I was so compelled to tell this story I had to keep going. If you’ve just squeezed a human being out of your uterus it gives you good reason to feel you don’t have to continue being polite all the time. I mean, don’t be a dick, or anything. But if you believe in your work, stand by it.

3 – Lean on friends

No one tells you how becoming a new parent saps your confidence, especially if you’ve always partly defined yourself through work. My confidence as a writer plummeted at about the same rate. Handing over the first few scenes of the first play I’d started to write since our daughter got home from hospital was absolutely nerve wracking. I was convinced I had lost any talent and ability I ever had, and was contemplating alternative career options. But I have an amazing friend, who is also conveniently an amazing playwright, and she offered to meet regularly to share thoughts on what we were writing at the time. We would spend time in cafés, swapping scenes and sharing thoughts while I fed our daughter or she napped in my arms. This was the period when I started to think maybe I was still a writer after all.

If you’re leaning on a friend, they have to be one you trust: someone who will be honest about your work rather than just telling you what they think you want to hear. But then, those are the best kind, aren’t they?

4 – Explore childcare options that work for you

As our daughter got older I realised I could leave her with other trusted adults to allow me to work, but that we could not afford to pay the fees that usually accompanied said trusted adults. I was lucky enough to have made friends with some incredibly cool mums who were also struggling to juggle writing (in their case, PhD theses) with the demands of caring for a young child. So we started swapping childcare for work time.

One afternoon a week I would take my daughter and their kids to the park, or home for a play date (luckily we have no pesky qualms about tidiness in our household, so having three two-year-olds running around was not an issue) to allow them to work, and in return they would look after our daughter another day to allow me to write. This became more crucial as our daughter started to drop her nap. (Luckily she kept napping, sporadically, until she was three, and those 15 hours of free nursery care kicked in. I in no way encouraged this with marathon walks around our neighbourhood, singing songs from Sesame Street to her while she drowsed in her buggy, and any reports of this are exaggerated.)

5 – Send out your work

At first it felt as futile as writing letters of complaint to the Daily Mail. I would send out my play to every open submission and new writing competition going, all the time wondering if I’d become one of those people who signs up for the ‘You Can be a Professional Writer’ courses advertised on the back of Readers’ Digest. But the best way to reconnect with the industry is to share your writing with people working in it.

The play I’d written in those snatched nap time moments was selected for a new writing festival, and I was given the chance to continue developing it with a professional dramaturg. Much later, I discovered this play was so widely read it had contributed to me being commissioned and invited onto several schemes and projects.

…and 2 things I Wish I’d Done:

We need to acknowledge the theatre industry doesn’t pay enough for playwrights to afford nannies and nurseries

1 – Started a group with other parent writers

I wish I’d made an effort to meet other parents who also wrote. The structure and support of a writers’ group where babies and kids would be welcomed would have been a godsend, if I’d had the foresight to try to establish one. This is probably something to think of now, before you’ve actually had the baby, or when they’re very young.

2 – Take your baby to work

I also wish I’d been bolder and more confident about just taking our daughter along to meetings, rather than avoiding them, or finding complex and convoluted childcare options for the odd random weekday afternoon. The only way to break out of the social and professional purdah that can accompany being a freelance creative with a small person to look after is to normalise your situation (because it is perfectly normal, right?).

We need to acknowledge the theatre industry doesn’t pay enough for playwrights to afford nannies and nurseries, and that means we might sometimes just have to bring our kids along with us. (Of course, this goes for other people working in theatre too.)

Nb. All this advice may well work for new fathers too, and I’m sorry if it feels like I’m being exclusive. My experience is that we’ve yet to become an equal enough society to allow fathers to share childcare equally when kids are very young, and this, along with the fact that new parents increasingly live far away from grandparents and other family, means that the brunt of childcare responsibilities often still fall on women for the first year or so.

Sonali Bhattacharyya is currently working on a new commission, ‘King Troll’, as writer in residence for The Coterie, a new theatre company established by director Caitlin McLeod and producer Martha Wilson with the support of Sky Arts. More info here: http://www.thecoterieplatform.com/.  Her new play for Palindrome Productions’ ‘Sahar Speaks’ project will be on at Theatre 503 on 15th and 16th October. You can book tickets here: https://theatre503.com/whats-on/shahar-speaks/

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Demoting Your Central Character

As part of the launch of our new membership scheme, we’re celebrating writers that LPW has worked with in the course of the past year.

In the first of our blogs by our playwrights from the Dark Horse FestivalEva Edo recounts how she realised one of her play’s protagonists wasn’t so important after all – and that exploring a more unexpected story opened up exciting possibilities in her play.

I started writing because I wanted to tell a specific story which was close to my heart: about how the state swoops in to remove children from their homes, which in the long term may not be for the greater good. It felt natural to write about what I knew; about my former working life as a lawyer immersed (if not drowning, at times) in the world of child protection.

I wanted to write about what I had seen, heard and experienced. I just needed to tap into myself. It was like looking into a mirror: my research started with me and my memory. No emails to strangers trying to enlist their help so I could gain their expertise. No feelings of being a fraud and touching on areas I was ill-qualified to comment on. It was going to be easy. Like rocking up to the family court and speaking up for my clients. A walk in the park!

The first draft was written in a few weeks and feedback sought. Story great. Tick. Themes explored well. Tick. Well structured. Tick. Dialogue sharp and witty. Tick. A central character lacked depth. Oh. How was that possible? The character was someone I knew inside and out. A strong person whose presence in my working life had left a mark and was central to this story.

I set about remedying the problem. I pored over the character’s backstory. Re-wrote her short biography. Extended her long biography. I gave her emotional milestones after emotional milestone across her 40-year life which would have driven a real person to insanity. I submitted the play for further scrutiny to be told that the character lacked purpose. So, I focused on her objectives, making them stronger – and now bordering on blatant. The next round of feedback again focused on that character. This time asking if she was necessary to the story at all.

I was completely taken aback. In the real world, outside of the play, this character had a central role. She had been like a mentor to me in my life as a lawyer. Teaching me how to tread water in what sometimes felt like working in a sea of other people’s woes. To me, her presence in the play had never been questioned. I couldn’t write the story without her being in it – right?

Once I allowed myself to ask that question, though, things changed.   I took another look at the story. Asked myself what it could be without this character. I saw where the story might go if she simply disappeared. I tried to let go of my preconceived notion of the play being true to my experiences; that the story needed to mirror them. I had to let fiction be fiction.

At first, this made me feel uncomfortable. It made me question the integrity of the story. I was contemplating departing from what I knew, had seen and experienced.

After a couple more drafts, the play was finished. In the end the character stayed, but instead played a much less significant role. I had demoted her; moved her to the back of the character line. Instead, she informed the play but did not carry it along, which in turn allowed the other characters to become stronger and shine. This revealed that the story I had written was really about the world of a child, rather than her lawyer.

I continue to write from experience and tend to create characters who have traits within my knowledge. I feel privileged to be in the position to draw on my personal experiences and tell these stories. The reality, however, is that although my experiences may enrich my writing and hopefully bring a unique quality to it, in the end a play will only be as good as the story you can tell – which may not be the same as the story you have lived or seen through the eyes of the people that you know.

Eva Edo’s play ‘Looked After Children’ which was part of the 2016 Dark Horse Festival will receive a rehearsed reading in PlayWROUGHT#5 at The Arcola this Saturday 29 July 2017 at 8.30pm. For further information and booking: http://www.arcolatheatre.com/event/playwrought-new-writing-festival-5/

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LPB Panel: How can a playwright make their own work in the digital age?

LPB is delighted to welcome our new Editor Jennifer Richards, who kicks things off with this summary of our panel at London Writers’ Week! Want to know our panellists top tips for making work in the digital age? Read on…

The chance to go along to LPB’s panel on ‘Making Your Own Work In The Digital Age’ was just one of many firsts for me that day. It was also my first time at London Writers’ Week, and I was there to write my first piece for LPB as Editor (hi there!). But, most importantly, it was the first time that the idea of mixing the digital world with theatre didn’t leave me feeling like a terrified playwright.

The panel was held at Bush Theatre, chaired by our own A.C. Smith, and comprised actor, writer, producer and deviser Erin Siobhan Hutching; director and playwright Lynette Linton; live artist, playwright and PhD Deborah Pearson; and writer, digital producer and project manager Sam Sedgman. (Click here read more about their backgrounds and accomplishments.)

Photo: David Monteith-Hodge (www.photographise.com). L to R: A.C. Smith, Lynette Linton, Erin Siobhan Hutching, Deborah Pearson.

Considering the discussion changed a tech cynic like myself into someone who was soon scribbling ideas about screens, projections and captions into my notebook on the train home, it feels only fair to share the tips our brilliant panel gave on bringing the digital world to playwriting.

It’s all about language

Telling a playwright how important dialogue is will probably give you a (well-deserved) eye-roll, but language takes on an even bigger role when bringing the digital world to your performance.

Sam explained how, “most plays present conversations, but we don’t spend most of our life communicating through speech. In this day and age, we mostly interact through Instant Message.”

Photo: David Monteith-Hodge (www.photographise.com)

Luckily, you don’t have to design a production heavy stage to show that people are chatting through text or email, instead you can signify a change in the way your characters are communicating just by a shift in language.

Lynette added, “language is such a big part of it: the language you use as a person, the language you use via message, and the language you use on a blog, [helps] to see how those personas are different.”

This means if you’re a playwright without the budget for big production (and that’s probably most of us), you can instead convey everything you need to with words – a tool playwrights are usually much more comfortable with!

And your audience are likely used to digital language so will easily pick up on these changes. As Deborah explained, using the internet is like “tapping into a side of a brain that speaks another language”, so take advantage of that when you write.

Use social media correctly

 Even if your play is not about the digital world in the slightest, chances are you’ll still be using digital tools when it comes to promoting your work.

Erin pointed out the benefits of social media, explaining how it means “reaching audiences that may not usually come to the theatre.” But it’s not about just shouting into the void of Twitter and Facebook by doing the odd post from your feed, you should instead be engaging with the people your show is targeted towards.

Photo: David Monteith-Hodge (www.photographise.com)

For Erin’s show People of the Eye, a semi-autobiographic performance about growing up with a deaf sister, this involved reaching out to people with hearing impairments who the show was designed for,  with its use of creative captioning.

“Don’t be scared to break out of your circle”

This quote came from Lynette, which summed up perfectly a common theme from the panel discussion.

Photo: David Monteith-Hodge (www.photographise.com)

The theatre was not originally created as a digital space, which can put off playwrights like myself from trying to blend media and bring in the more technical side of things. But as Lynette’s production #Hashtag Lightie was about a video going viral, she couldn’t shy away from the technical side of things. Since using screens wasn’t Lynette’s expert field, she called on friends who were film makers to help her out.

Deborah also pointed out that when it comes to innovating as theatremakers, we can’t ignore the role other media have to play. The use of digital aspects, such as a screen, projections or other visuals can mean it’s “basically like making a film and piece of theatre at the same time” – this should excite us rather than scare us!

Only use what’s essential

Though AV elements were important in a lot of our panellists’ work, Sam argued for simplicity: “You don’t want to spend your time learning to be a software planner, so if it’s not important, don’t waste your time.”

Production can be expensive and impractical, with Erin reminding us that “when you are working with a show with a lot of projection, the projector is like a third performer, but a super grumpy one you can’t rely on!”

This doesn’t mean you should be reluctant to use digital tools, but just make sure, as Lynette said, “it’s about what’s essential for the story.” She added, “if the production needs technology as that makes it the best production, then that will happen.”

So what does an expanding digital world mean for playwrights? 

It’s clear to see that the digital age is widening the scope of possibilities of what it means to create a performance.

Deborah even suggested that “since the internet, what audiences want out of theatre is changing”, with people craving the more immersive experience that AV tools can provide.

Photo: David Monteith-Hodge (www.photographise.com)

Making your own work in the digital age isn’t about trying to make the biggest production but the best one. You could even have a play about the digital world that involves no digital elements at all; simply use shifts in the characters’ language. It’s about what works for your story.

As I’m sifting through my (dog-eared) notebook, it’s clear that the panel’s discussion has given me the confidence to become a much more creatively brave playwright willing to embrace, rather than fear, the possibilities that the digital world can offer theatre.

Want to learn more about our panellists or see their work in performance? Click this link to read their bios, or check out the links below to follow them on social media or catch their upcoming work!

Erin Siobhan Hutching
Personal website: www.erinsiobhanh.com
Company website: www.thedeafandhearingensemble.com
Twitter: @ErinSiobhanH
Erin’s play People of the Eye will be at the BAC and touring the UK from October 3017

Lynette Linton
Twitter: @LynetteLinton
Lynette’s play #Hashtag Lightie is now booking for its run at the Arcola in November

Deborah Pearson
Website: www.deborahpearson.com
Twitter: @shysecretagent
Deborah’s performance History History History will be at the Cameo Live in Edinburgh from 6-10 August

Sam Sedgman
Twitter: @samuelsedgman
Instagram: samsedgman
National Theatre podcast: nationaltheatre.org.uk/podcast
Sam hosts the National Theatre podcast, which can be found at the link above, on iTunes, or on your favourite podcast provider

Photos: David Monteith-Hodge

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Love what we do? Want to get even more support for our writing? Join the LPB community and become a member today!

A jumpstart for your writing for the price of a cup of coffee…

London Playwrights’ Blog is founded on the premise that writers coming together can create great things. Created from a grassroots movement of connecting writers to information and opportunities, LPB has grown to reach an audience of 5,000+ playwrights every month.

But as our work has grown, we’ve also needed a bigger infrastructure to support this. Our membership scheme provides the core support necessary to sustain our work for new writers.

Even better – members get a host of exciting, exclusive benefits!

Membership starts from as little as £3.63/month.

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Image: London Writers’ Week 2017

Meet our new team members!

Building on the momentum of our new website launch and London Writer’s Week events, LPB is very excited to welcome on board our two brand new team members – Jennifer and Samia!

Read on to learn a little bit more about them below…

Jennifer Richards – Editor

Jennifer Richards is a freelance journalist, having written articles for Refinery29, The Brighton and Hove Independent, GoThinkBig, Spiked, The Debrief, and Wonderland magazine. She has also interned for publications including The Times, The Week and Girl Talk. As a creative writer, she was selected to contribute a short play to the Writers Avenue 6 Degrees show at The Courtyard Theatre. She has also previously been a finalist in the Merlin Theatre Short Play Competition.

Samia Djilli – Intern

Samia is an emerging writer who has just graduated from University with a First-Class Honours in Creative Writing. She has had short stories and poetry published in various student anthologies, and last year had her first play produced at the Lion and Unicorn theatre. Samia has an interest in creating new content, and works on finding new and exciting opportunities for the website.

We’re thrilled to have them on board making new content for the site, and can’t wait to share their ideas and writing with you!

Want to help us make even more cool stuff?  

Become a Member!

Image: Shawn Arron via CC Licence

Meet our London Writers’ Week panelists!

If you come along tomorrow (Saturday 8 July) to our event at the Bush Theatre, you’ll be able to hear some of these brilliant folks talking about making work in the digital age!

Event details (with links to booking) can be found here – and remember if you sign up to become a member, you can get a booking code to attend for FREE.  (Click here to read more about becoming a member and why you should join!)

Making Work in the Digital Age – Panelists

Erin Siobhan Hutching

Erin Siobhan Hutching is a half Kiwi, half Irish actor, writer, producer and deviser based in London. She plays with genre, physicality, audio-visual elements, humour and multiple forms of communication to create performances which are honest, poignant and often provocative.

Erin‘s debut play as a writer, People of the Eyewas produced in collaboration with The DH Ensemble. It is a semi-autobiographical piece based on her relationship with her sister who is Deaf, and their family’s experiences discovering sign language. People of the Eye has been performed at venues across the UK including Northern Stage’s curated program at Summerhall at the Edinburgh Fringe 2016 and The Yard Theatre’s NOW’16 Festival. The show has been booked for a UK tour in the Autumn of 2017, commencing at Battersea Arts Center in London. She is now working on her second play. “An arresting, immersive and startlingly original piece of theatre.” A Younger Theatre (on People of the Eye)

Personal website: www.erinsiobhanh.com
Company website: www.thedeafandhearingensemble.com
Twitter: @ErinSiobhanH

Lynette Linton

Lynette Linton is a director, and playwright. She trained on the StoneCrabs Young Directors Course where she was also awarded the Jack Petchy award. She is also co-founder of production company Black Apron Entertainment and Associate Director of the Gate Theatre from 2016 to 2017. She will be Resident Assistant Director at the Donmar Warehouse from July 2017. Her play #Hashtag Lightie will be returning to the Arcola Theatre in November, following a sold out run.

Writing credits include: Step (rehearsed reading, and school tour, Theatre Royal Stratford East), Service (Boom Festival, Bush Theatre), Chicken Palace (Theatre Royal Stratford East), which she also co-directed and Ergo Sum (Theatre Deli).

Directing credits include: Assata Taught Me (Gate Theatre) Indenture (Dark Horse Festival), The Rally (Rehearsed Reading, Theatre Royal Stratford East), Naked  (Vault Festival 2015), This Wide Night (Albany Theatre).

Twitter: @LynetteLinton

Deborah Pearson

Deborah Pearson is a live artist and playwright.  Her work has toured to four continents and fifteen countries, and has been translated into five languages.  She recently published The Future Show with Oberon books and most recently her work was shown at the Royal Court.  She is the founding co-director of UK artist collective Forest Fringe.  Deborah has won awards for both her solo practice and her work with Forest Fringe, including three herald angels, a Scotsman Fringe First, a Peter Brooke Empty Space Award and the Total Theatre Award for Significant Contribution.

She has a PhD in narrative in contemporary performance from Royal Holloway, where she was a Reid Scholar.  Her research was supervised by Dan Rebellato.

She is an associate artist with Volcano in Canada and is a resident artist at Somerset House Studios.

Website: www.deborahpearson123.wordpress.com
Twitter: @shysecretagent

Sam Sedgman

Sam Sedgman is a writer, digital producer and project manager based in London.

He runs the National Theatre’s On Demand In Schools platform, which streams recordings of National Theatre productions into over 3000 UK school classrooms for free. He’s also the host and co-producer of the National Theatre Podcast, which explores theatre at play in the social and cultural issues of our time. He previously worked as Digital Producer and Editor for the Free Word Centre, and in the literary teams of Theatre503, the Old Red Lion and Finborough Theatres, joining the London Playwrights team 4 years ago as their Editorial Manager, where he is currently their Digital Development Consultant. His play Charlie Hebdo: An Epistolary Play was shortlisted for the Courtyard Theatre Award, and explored ways to represent digital communication in theatrical form. He has written articles on the intersection of culture and technology for The Guardian, The Space and elsewhere.

Twitter: @samuelsedgman
Instagram: samsedgman
National Theatre podcast: nationaltheatre.org.uk/podcast

 

 

A New Chapter for LPB…

Support LPB – Become a Member!

The past four years of running London Playwrights’ Blog have been wonderful – we’ve loved getting to work with and support so many incredible writers.

But they have also been challenging. As we’ve grown our work, we’ve needed to build the infrastructure to support that. Even with a team working on a volunteer basis, finding the funds to cover our basic costs (web hosting, insurance, accountant fees) has been a bit of a struggle.

So… we’re taking a leap of faith.

We are launching a membership site: www.londonplaywrights.org

If you have read our blog and benefitted from the opportunities we’ve posted, we hope you’ll think about joining. For only the cost of a cup of coffee, you can provide the vital to keep our work running – and do even more.

If you sign up as a member, in addition to securing the future of London Playwrights’ Blog, you’re going to get special benefits – exclusive digital content, quarterly member meetups, a members-only Facebook group, and lots more to come.

Visit our site to learn more about what we’re offering to members and why you should join.

Plus if you join now, you can get a free booking code to our London Writers’ Week events this Saturday 8 July at the Bush Theatre!  We’d love to see you at our events, or for drinks in the bar afterwards if you want to meet us, learn more about what we’re doing, and celebrate our launch!

Our regular LPB opportunities listings and blog content will continue to be offered for free to all, so don’t worry – the resource that you already know and love isn’t going anywhere!

It’s been a real pleasure giving to you, the wonderful writers in this community. We’ll hope you’ll be inspired to give back to us. Join the movement of new writers coming together to make a bright future for new writing!

Check out our brand new Members’ site now!