Opportunities – Pick of the Week: Women’s Comedy Festival accepting applications (£50 prizes)

Each week we look through our pile of writing opportunities to pick out one we think is particularly worth your time. It could be an innovative brief, great prize money, a high-profile company, or just plain fun.

This week’s pick: Women’s Comedy Festival accepting applications (£50 prizes)

Description: The Women in Comedy Writing Festival have announced a new competition for comedy writers to have their work performed live.

The competition is broken up into two categories, the first being comedy sketches and monologues. They are looking for sketches and/or monologues of 3 minutes in length that feature a female voice/story. The second category is humorous short-stories of no more than 1000 words. All work must be of the comedy genre, and can be written by men but all submissions MUST feature women as the main characters.

There are prizes of £50 for first place winners, plus publication and performance opportunities in each category. Comedy related prizes will also be available for the runners up and a Women in Comedy memory stick will be given to all winners.

The Women in Comedy Festival will run 19 – 29 October 2017 in Manchester and Salford. The deadline to apply is 12 October, and there is a £3 entry fee.

What’s so great about it? This is a great opportunity for emerging comedy writers, female, male or those who are non-gender conforming, to get work about women on stage.

With two submission windows, one for comedic sketches, and the other for humorous short-stories, there are multiple chances for you to get involved. There is no structure to what you can submit, it just has to be funny, and has to focus on/include women as the main characters.

Although there is a £3 entry fee, this opportunity seemed too good to miss out on. If you’re chosen, not only will your work be performed to a live audience, but there is even a cash prize given to winners. So, if you’re a fan of writing female characters, or want to make female voices more prominent in the world of comedy, then this is the perfect opportunity for you!

Read full details here.

Please note, we’ve posted this for your convenience and we’re not affiliated with the organisers of the opportunity.

Image Credit: Women’s Comedy Festival 

Salon Pictures open call for first-time filmmakers

Salon Pictures have launched their initiative Debut 2, an open call for first-time feature film makers. They are looking for high-concept ideas, novel ways of expression, and a fresh approach.

First-time feature filmmakers are invited to pitch ideas for a high-concept, fiction feature film. The winning project will be fully financed and produced at a budget level of £1,000,000, by Salon founders Nick Taussig & Paul Van Carter, who to date have produced six features by first-time directors.

To apply, you must be an individual, a writer-director, and will be a first-time feature-filmmaker. Your idea will be original, and not based on any source material or underlying rights.

How to apply:  Email a one page PDF of your concept to: debut@salonpictures.co.uk.

Include the following:

  • Title. Genre. Location.
  • Your name (you should be the writer and director).
  • A logline (a one sentence summary of the film).
  • An outline (500 word detailed description, include beginning/middle/end of the film, with spoilers).

Do not send videos, images, screenplays or anything else.

  • There are no geographical or age restrictions.
  • You are not necessarily guaranteed a response.

Deadline: 15 September 2017

Source: BBC Writersroom

Cardboard Citizens: Introduction to Forum Theatre Masterclass (£450 – £552 cost)

Cardboard Citizens is renowned as being one of the world’s leading Forum Theatre companies, and they are running a 5 day intensive Forum Theatre course led by their artistic director Adrian Jackson.

In their words: “Participants will learn how to devise a Forum Theatre piece and how to conduct a public Forum session. The week will culminate with a performance of the Forum Theatre pieces devised by the group to an invited audience of friends. The course will also explore Legislative Theatre practice – a method in which Forum Theatre is used as a basis for the formulation of policy, rules or legislation.”

Who’s it for? This course is suitable for beginners. It’s a great introduction for anyone interested in using theatre as a tool for debate and social change with communities, for example theatre practitioners, social activists, teachers, community workers and youth workers.

Course Dates: Monday 4 to Friday 8 September 2017 10am – 6pm

Cost: £450 – £552 for the entire course 

Location: Cardboard Citizens, London, E1 1EJ

How to book: Please click here to book a place.

Source: Direct Contact

How To Create New Work: A Chat with Sam Sedgman of the NT Podcast

Ever wondered how the NT decides what plays to put on? And how a new writer finds a home for their work? Read our Q&A with Sam Sedgman to find out… 

Theatre is not just something that occurs within the four walls of the auditorium, and often means more than just being a nice evening out (though it’s definitely that too!)

The new fortnightly National Theatre Podcast is presented by LPB’s very own Sam Sedgman, with Emma Reidy, the NT Digital Content Producer, working behind-the-scenes (pictured above).

The podcast looks at how theatre connects to the bigger issues in our lives, covering everything from Brexit to masculinity.

But the most recent episode titled New Work is all about, as the name suggests, how new plays get written and the practicalities of this. It’s an amazing resource for writers, with it including interviews with playwright and actress Cush Jumbo, and Emily McLaughlin, who is Head of the New Work Department at the National Theatre.

There are also insights from many other theatre makers, and with the interviewees help, Sam takes you through the process of taking a script from the first draft to stage, dispelling myths around new writing.

I got the chance to chat to Sam about the podcast episode and what advice he has for aspiring playwrights.

Q&A With Sam Sedgman

JR: Cush Jumbo mentioned that she didn’t see herself as a writer when creating her one-woman play, Josephine and I. As a playwright yourself, what was the moment that you finally felt like a writer?

SS: I think I actually suffered for thinking of myself too much as a writer. One of the things Cush talks about in her interview is how she’d never done a playwriting course, so she felt free to approach her play however she liked.

I did a creative writing degree, and a master’s after that, and went to a writing group for years afterwards. That was great for learning important things like structure and technique, but I think it left me with a very narrow view of what being a “proper writer” was.

I wrote lots I wasn’t happy with and never felt it was good enough. When we study writing academically, we tend to hold up certain kinds of writing as being worthier than others. And it’s taken me a long time to realise that’s not really true – that I can write whatever I want, and I don’t need to fill that idea of being a “proper writer”.

It’s dangerous to limit your idea of yourself in an industry that’s all about creativity and trying new things. Now, I actually think of myself as “a writer” much less than I used to – but I find myself actually writing a lot more.

 JR: I was really interested (and a bit surprised!) when Stewart Pringle, the associate dramaturg at Bush Theatre, said they are more likely to be interested in the writer than the script when receiving new work. From recording the podcast, what was the most surprising thing you learnt about new writing?

SS: I’m really pleased he made that point. Now that I’ve worked in a theatre for a few years, it seems obvious that a literary department wouldn’t just programme a play they get through their letterbox – but for years that’s how I thought it worked, like so many writers out there do.

One thing that didn’t surprise me as much as just delighted me, was what came up when we talked in the episode about how different scripts suit different spaces. A lot of writers don’t think about the venue their work is likely to be put on in – but obviously certain plays only work in certain kinds of theatres.

That goes for things like scale – a show in a 50-seater theatre will feel very different in a venue that seats 500 – but also really simple mechanical things like whether or not there’s a door. I know this sounds dumb, but bear with me. A lot of fringe theatres don’t have a door in their stage space you can use. And on a previous show I did, this caused no end of problems, because in the script, that door was quite important. We had to rework the whole thing and it was a total mess.

So now, when I’m writing a scene, and I have a character leave through a door, I always have to stop myself to ask why that’s necessary. Why does that scene need a door? Why is it in a room, anyway? Why can’t it be on a plane or a footbridge or a tech support messageboard?

It was really awesome to discover that writers at the National are thinking about the same stuff – only their issue isn’t that there’s no door, it’s that the door is 30 metres away from where the action’s happening because the Olivier stage is so enormous. So if you want someone to walk out that door, you need to write half a page of lines to give them time to get there.

JR: You chat about ‘Generation Slashie’ in theatre (or multi-hyphenators!) with your interviewees, some of you being members of it yourself. Why would you say a lot of new work is being created by people who call themselves theatre-makers instead of simply writers?

SS: There are still loads of people out there who write plays and think of themselves as playwrights, and that’s really vital. At the NT, there’s a really strong focus on the playwright as a craftsman, and I think that’s important.

But sure, in the world of theatre, people do take on multiple roles. Often that’s to create opportunities that might not otherwise be there – in a previous episode of the podcast, we spoke to Harriet Walter, who was really frank about how there are far fewer great parts out there for her than there are her male contemporaries – and if that’s being felt by one of the greatest actors around, what hope is there for the rest of us?

So it makes sense that people are taking matters into their own hands and making their own work. It goes for writers too: we have a great blog series on the LPW site that’s all about how to produce your own work – because that’s something a lot of writers are having to do to get their show off the ground. Now, that can be a great learning experience, but when you’re doubling up your role, it often means working twice as hard for half as much.

Having a variety of skills is great, but I wouldn’t want to move to a world where we expect everyone to do more than one job; it’s important to value our writers, directors, lighting designers, stage managers, producers… and not just assume someone else on the show can fill in. These are specific skills that deserve to be valued.

That said, everyone should be free to make work however they want, and if you feel you can be more creative by blurring the boundaries between traditional production roles, then more power to you.

JR: Stewart said that one of the biggest problems in UK writing is the lack of transparency. What advice would you give to writers baffled by where to even begin in contacting theatres? 

SS: What Stewart said is a great starting point – a literary department most likely isn’t going to read your script and say: “Yep, we’ll produce that for you”. It does happen, but oh-so-rarely. What’s more likely, if they like your script, is they’ll say: “That’s nice, what else have you got? ”

So my first piece of advice would be to have a lot of things in your desk drawer – including ideas that you know that theatre would be interested to work on with you. If a theatre likes your script, that’s awesome – but usually that’s the start of a writer’s journey, not the end of it.

A lot of writers work alone, but theatre gets made by teams. So the best advice I can give to someone who wants to get their play put on is to find people who can help you. Get people interested. Find a director. Find a producer. Raise money. Have a reading. Do a scratch. Invite people. Put it on at a fringe venue. This lets you build momentum for your project, and develop a reputation.

This is a hell of a lot more work than sending a raw script in to a literary department, but it’s much more likely to get people interested in you, and in the kind of work you write.

And also, remember not to lose heart. We all know plays have to go through several drafts before they’re good enough. The same is true of learning how to put on plays – you’ll probably have to try doing it a few times before you really know what you’re doing, and that’s okay.

Where Can I Hear More?

And if you are confused about the process of getting new work performed, listening to this podcast is the best place to start. The episode makes it clear there’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to theatre making.

Cash Jumbo said structure comes last for her in writing, when for many, this would be first. But as Stewart Pringle points out, the brilliance of theatre is that it can be tackled from a million different angles, with the unknown element of what makes a successful script opening up the possibilities for new writing rather than closing them.

To hear more advice, you can download the NT podcast from iTunes.

Aberdeen Performing Arts seeking scripts for scratch night

Aberdeen Performing Arts are seeking script for their next Scratch Night. The theme is Trick or Treat and they are looking for new scripts, new music and spoken word that delves into the realms of the unexplained, the unknown and the most haunted.

They welcome scripts from Scotland, the UK and internationally. Scripts are chosen primarily based on quality and relevance to the theme but priority is given to writers from the North-East of Scotland, in line with APA’s aim to support local artists. If you are a local artist please highlight this in your email application.

Scripts must only have 1-3 characters, and be no longer than 10 minutes. The scratch night will be held on 24 October 2017 at The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen.

How to apply:  To submit a script contact Kirsty.bailey@aberdeenperformingarts.com.

Deadline: 2 October 2017 at 5pm

Source: BBC Writersroom

Are women writers making themselves invisible?

For Women’s Equality Day, LPB is re-running this post from last year’s Dark Horse Festival, which was our most shared post of 2016.  

After the post went live, we saw a huge uptick in submissions from female writers. In fact, we ended the submission period with roughly equal submissions from male and female writers.

But this is still a problem. And it’s not just us who have encountered it. Even the Royal Court, which has achieved fantastic gender parity, is still receiving twice as many unsolicited scripts from men as it is from women

Today, no matter your background, we’d ask you to consider whether you’re being brave and bold about putting your work out there.

The world wants your stories. Make sure you’re giving us the chance to hear them.

Last week, London Playwrights Workshop put out a call for scripts for the Dark Horse Festival, a script showcase that will be taking place as part of London Writers Week 2016.

We were excited as the submissions started to roll in, but we quickly noticed something that seemed odd, and even downright disturbing.  While we were getting loads of emails from men, we were receiving hardly any from women.  In fact, a cursory count reveals that women currently make up approximately 25% of the submissions we’ve received.

We haven’t yet had an opportunity to do an analysis of our equal opportunities forms to see how we stack up on other counts (such as ethnic heritage and disability), and how these ratios compare to how these groups are represented in society.  But the gender issue is clear – if women are 50% of the population, we should be seeing scripts from them.  But it isn’t happening.

So, ladies, we have to ask – what is going on?

It’s well-documented that women playwrights are underrepresented in the industry.  As reported last year in The Guardian, in 2013 only 31% of new plays were by women.

As a female playwright myself, I’ve been frustrated and dissatisfied when I’ve seen organisations throw their hands up saying ‘women don’t submit as much’ as an excuse for not having an equal gender balance in their programming.  But now as a festival organiser, I’m experiencing firsthand how much more difficult it is to programme equally when women aren’t sending in their scripts.

There’s a brilliant community of women writers out there.

We know, because we’ve met them.

Since London Playwrights Workshop was set up, women have outnumbered men on nearly every course we have run.  (Including one unusual occasion where we had nine women in the room to only one man.)

And yet… 26% of Festival submissions?  No matter how you shake it, these numbers just don’t add up.

As a team, we’ve been asking ourselves, why this could be?  Is there something in the call that puts women off?  (Even though we made it a point to specifically encourage underrepresented voices.)  Perhaps female writers are planning to submit, but are just getting to it a bit later.

Is it possible that they are more discriminating than their male counterparts?  Or are they just more discouraged?

Although my personal and anecdotal experience contradicts the statistics (fortunately for me), it’s unquestionable that there’s gender bias in the arts.  And if I’m honest, there have been times when I’ve questioned if being a woman has held me back in my career.  There are stories I want to see onstage that aren’t there yet.  And I’ve despaired when reading stories like this Jezebel post, where a female writer received eight and a half times more responses (17 out of 50 queries) when she sent out her query under a male pseudonym.

Other people – male and female – clearly feel the same way.  There’s been an explosion of groups that have picked up the baton from individual trailblazers to promote more equality in the arts – organisations like Tonic Theatre, 17 Percent, Waking The Feminists, and The Kilroys.

There’s been a lot of attention on what theatres and producers need to do.  This is important and correct.  But it’s a strange thing to open a door, and not see people stepping forward to walk through it.  Maybe there’s also something that needs to be done from the other direction, giving women the inspiration – or the wakeup call – that part of the power is in our hands to submit early, often, and enthusiastically.

If your experience as a playwright is anything like mine, you’ve undoubtedly been disappointed in past submissions.  And you will no doubt continue to be disappointed.  This may partly be because of lingering sexism.  This may partly be down to luck.  This may partly be because this industry requires thick skin to rival a rhino to stick with the repeated rejections that will come your way.  It sucks, and there’s no point pretending otherwise.

But that doesn’t mean you should stop or slow down.  Not for one minute.  I say this for all the writers, but it seems it’s the women who particularly need to hear it.  Don’t question yourself or your talent (or at least, only question yourself in a way that’s artistically fruitful).  Send your stuff in.  This is how you get seen, and this is how you get produced.

As we watched these submissions roll in, it felt irresponsible not to say something.  We understand that writing this post may affect the makeup of the scripts we receive.  (Thus, potentially robbing us of an opportunity to collect data on how people submit without intervention.)  But we’re not scientists.  We’re trying to run a festival giving unheard voices a chance, and we can’t do that without getting the scripts.

The title of this post is purposefully provocative, because we want people to read it and think about these issues.  But we think it’s wrongheaded and unfair to lay this problem solely at the feet of women.

There is something deeply wrong at an institutional or industry level if we’re seeing this discrepancy in behavior.

Here’s what we’re doing in response:

  • We’re actively approaching people who work with new writing. We’re asking them to send us nominations that will help us reach writers we might not otherwise have come into contact with.
  • We’re extending the submission deadline to give us a bit more time to reach more writers.
  • We’re publishing the blog post you’re reading now to call attention to the issue and encourage a more diverse range of submissions.
  • Following the delivery of the festival, we’re going to take steps to look at this issue in more detail. There have been studies done about why theatres aren’t programming women writers, but maybe we need to look at the problem from the other direction as well, to figure out why women aren’t submitting?  Do we need an initiative or programmes to encourage women to send scripts in?

To our readers (and all the playwrights out there), we’d like to say:

Men – Keep up the good work!  We’re thrilled to be hearing from you.  It’s exciting to see all the scripts coming in, and we can’t wait to read them.

Women – We’ve got years of history to catch up with.  Let’s make it happen.  You’ve still got time to send your play in.  Make sure you don’t count yourself out before you even start.

A.C. Smith is Director & Co-Founder of London Playwrights Workshop, and works as a scriptwriter and songwriter in London. 

Photo credit: Kathryn via CC License

Birmingham Rep 2018 applications now open

Birmingham Repertory Theatre‘s acclaimed artist development scheme, REP Foundry, is now accepting applications for the 2018 programme.

They are looking for emerging theatre practitioners from across the Midlands who wish to establish themselves as creatives, and will support artists through workshops, making and sharing work and professional mentoring.

This year REP Foundry will offer exciting new theatre practitioners the opportunity to become Associates of The REP. They will offer free professional development through a series of workshops, mentoring and masterclasses – alongside opportunities to make and share work in front of an audience. Now in its fourth year, previous Foundry artists have gone on to have work produced by The REP, in the wider region, nationally and internationally and have forged career-changing partnerships with The REP and fellow Foundry artists.

The course will run from January – November 2018.

Eligibility: All applicants must be from the Midlands, over the age of 18, and not in full-time education.

How to apply: To apply, you must download the online application form which can be found here.

Deadline: 2 October 2017 at 5pm

Source: Birmingham REP

Opportunities Weekly Round-up: 25 August 2017

Want to support LPB? Become a member!

Our weekly Friday round-up of opportunities listed on the blog that haven’t yet reached their closing date (listed in order of closing date).  Opportunities are grouped into four sections: 1) Pick of the Week & featured posts; 2) Opportunities with Deadlines; 3) Workshops and Events; 4) Ongoing opportunities (No deadline).

Want to be sure you never miss an opportunity?  Sign up for our email list to get the weekly roundup direct to your inbox!

Featured posts:

Member Meetup at the Young Vic! Join us on 1 September

Guest post from Dark Horse writer, John Murray: When (and when not) to hear your work read aloud

A chat with Hannah Khalil: What Bush Theatre’s ‘How It Ended’ Taught Me About Writing Experimental Theatre

Our latest opportunities Pick of the Week: The DH Ensemble seeking D/deaf artists for scratch night at Battersea Arts Center

From the Archive of our Advice Column, Pursued By A Bear:  “I’m struggling to finish my first play, should I just give up?”

Opportunities with deadlines:

Little Pieces of Gold seeking 10 minute plays for show at Southwark Playhouse  –  Deadline: 25 August 2017

Galley Beggar Press short story prize 2017/18 (£10 entry fee) – Deadline: 27 August 2017

London Horror Festival seeking scripts for production at the Old Red Lion Theatre – Deadline: 28 August 2017

Miscellany Theatre Productions seeking love stories for My Irish Love Song project – Deadline: August (exact date TBC)

The Old Vic accepting applications for the 3rd year of Old Vic 12 – Deadline: 30 August 2017

VAULT Festival 2018 open for applications – Deadline: 31 August 2017

Eloise Lally Productions seeking scripts for London Fringe Festival – Deadline: 31 August 2017

Hat Trick Productions seeks comedy scripts for ‘Your Voice, Your Story’ initiative – Deadline: 31 August 2017

89th Productions seeking full-length plays for production – Deadline: 31 August 2017

Soundwork call out for 15 minute monologues (Production and placement on website) – Deadline: 31 August 2017

The Owl and Cat Theatre seeking provocative new plays – Deadline: 1 September 2017

Barnes Film Festival short film competition (under 25’s, entry £10) – Deadline: 1 September 2017

The DH Ensemble seeking D/deaf artists for scratch night at Battersea Arts Center – Deadline: 4 September 2017

Chelsea Theatre seeking submissions for scratch night (£50 prize) – Deadline: 16 September 2017

It’s Not A Box Theatre seeking stories for production in Paris (paid) – Deadline: 16 September 2017

Graphic Short Story prize 2017 (£1000 prize) – Deadline: 29 September 2017

Hammond House accepting scripts for screenwriting competition (£10 entry fee) – Deadline: 30 September 2017

Heretic Productions seeking monologues for production at the Arcola Theatre – Deadline: 30 September 2017

Red Dragonfly new playwriting competition 2017 open for submissions – Deadline: 1 October 2017

Caroline Aherne Bursary for Funny Northern Women now open for submissions – Deadline: 9 October 2017

Women’s Comedy Festival accepting applications (£50 prizes) – Deadline: 12 October 2017

Bush Theatre accepting scripts through open submission window – Deadline: 31 October 2017

Congleton Players One-Act Plays Festival open for submissions (£150 prize) – Deadline: 30 November 2017

Theatrefullstop seeking shorts for pub theatre festival – Deadline: 1 December 2017

Ashland New Plays Festival (Oregon, $15  entry, $1500 prize) – Deadline: 31 December (or when they receive 400 submissions)

Events and workshops:

Playwriting Courses at The National Theatre (£500/£350 concessions cost) 

Three day playwriting workshop with Simon Stephens in Andalucia  15 – 19 October 2017

6 week playwriting workshop with Lee Anderson at the Arcola (£85 cost) – 31 October – 5 December 2017

Writers’ Mutual writing group -currently taking place Wednesdays 11am- 1pm

Ongoing submissions:

Ugly Duck offering cheap rehearsal space in Docklands – next few months for Edinburgh Fringe

Three opportunities with Alphabetti Theatre and rolling deadlines

Theatrefullstop in call out for bi-weekly podcast script submissions – Deadline: None posted.

Newsthump looking for spoof news writers – Deadline: ongoing

Arvon Grants available for writing courses – Deadline: none posted/ various

London Poet seeking film makers to collaborate with – Deadline: none

Edgemar Center for the Arts (Santa Monica) seeking new work for 2017 season – Deadline: none

Batty Mama seeking writers/ artists – Deadline: none posted

Rich Gifts Theatre seeking writers – Deadline: rolling

Paines Plough accepting ongoing submissions – Deadline: rolling

BBC Comedy Classroom – Comedy writing resources for young people –  Deadline: various

Online Masterclass with Aaron Sorkin on Screenwriting ($90) – Deadline: none posted

JW3 seeking submissions of pieces about Jewish culture – Deadline: rolling

BFI Postroom open to submissions of films and scripts from emerging filmmakers – Deadline: rolling

Opportunities to hear your play with Player Playwrights – Deadline: rolling

Online Playwriting Course with Live Theatre (£95-£495) – Deadline: rolling

Playwrights Circle at the Bread & Roses – Deadline: ongoing (monthly event)

The Institute of Other seeking creative practitioners – Deadline: none posted

White Hart Trust Studios seeking international and foreign language theatre – Deadline: none posted

Pokfulam Rd Productions looking for playwrights and creatives – Deadline: none posted

55 Kings Contemporary Theatre Productions looking for writers – Deadline: none posted

Plane Paper Theatre call out for plays – Deadline: none posted

Theatrelab seeking scripts to perform at ‘WordPlay’ at Bath Spa University – Deadline: none posted

Londonville Lit offering reading slots – Deadline: none posted

Madam Renards Mini Fringe Festival Swindon open for applications from writers and performers – Deadline: none posted (festival takes place in 2016)

Orange Tea Theatre accepting submissions – Deadline: rolling

Funding available for students at Glasgow University MLitt Playwriting & Dramaturgy – Deadline: none posted

Everything Theatre accepting plays for podcast readings – Deadline: none posted

The Cockpit Theatre seeking work for scratch nights – Deadline: none  posted but performances take place on the first Monday of the month.

Shred Productions open to submissions – Deadline: none (open submissions)

Poppy Seed – accepting submissions of 5 minute scripts for blog – Deadline: none posted

What Bush Theatre’s ‘How It Ended’ Taught Me About Writing Experimental Theatre

Ever been afraid to write a play actively involving an audience? Or to have actors break character? Editor Jennifer Richards caught up with Hannah Khalil after the performance of her play ‘How It Ended’, who shares her best advice for creating experimental theatre.

The Experiment: An Audience Member’s View

I feel like I should start this by holding my hands up and admitting that a few Saturdays ago at the Bush Theatre, I got played. But on the flipside, as a writer, I got a masterclass in how to create experimental theatre. Let me explain.

On this particular Saturday, I saw the second of two performances of ‘How It Ended’, created as part of Bush Theatre’s inaugural Project 2036, by writer Hannah Khalil, director Rikki Henry and producer Alison Holder.

The idea behind the show was to design a theatrical experimental to see if the audience’s response to a play could be affected by events that happened even before they took their seats. This included undercover actors on the day all milling around as we waited to get into the studio.

Now you’re embedded in the experiment, picture an unsuspecting me sitting on a table outside. One of the girls sitting next to me spilled a drink on another’s work, making me turn a subtle tomato-shade of red watching them shout at each other.

I even texted my friend to say how uncomfortable I felt. It wasn’t until the end of the play, when these girls stood up from the audience to take a bow, that I realised what had happened.

Behind The Scenes: A Playwright’s View

I’ve always been scared about writing experimental theatre, and How It Ended is as untraditional as you can get. It’s not something we would necessarily recognise as a play, breaking the norms by looking at different ways we can use the theatrical form.

Actors frequently broke character, discussing the director and even taking a poll of the audience – that’s when they’re not busy tricking them with stooges of course. It’s easy to see why playwright Hannah Khalil described this as the hardest thing she ever had to write, but what playwright doesn’t love a challenge?

After the show, I got the chance to chat to her about how to write experimental theatre, for all those like me, scared of the unknown!

Here are her top tips:

Start with a central question

Part of the reason I’ve only ever written more traditional scripts is because I’d never know where to begin with writing a more immersive piece.

Hannah explained, ‘It’s about coming up with a concept and a central question of the play and figuring out how to explode that so the theme is explored not just in the story but in other meta-theatre ways.’

With How It Ended, the idea of irritation building was central to the performance. And this question was already posed even before the play started, with actors dotted around outside being loud and getting on the nerves of fellow audience members.

When it comes to experimental theatre, a playwright’s work isn’t just about the words on page, you have to look at the issue of what you want to say even outside of the script.

It’s all about your audience

Hannah described how with experimental theatre, you can’t view the audience just as passive members, where their job is to sit there and respond to the show later.

She said, ‘From the start, you’re thinking about how the audience might respond’, with it being about direct involvement. But this doesn’t mean the audience should dictate your piece, especially as How it Ended was all about seeing if you could manipulate the audience’s response.

Hannah added, ‘There’s something really appealing about having more control of what the audience think’.

Make something that could only be a play

It’s this comment from Hannah that’s sticks in my mind every time I go to write something now. She told me how, ‘For any playwright, you’ve got to think why something is a play.’

If your piece could work in any other form, then it won’t work as effectively as it should on stage. How It Ended could never have been anything apart from a piece of theatre, and it played to that strength, using actors in the audience and talking directly to us.

It thrived off the energy that only a play can have, and any playwright should be using this in their writing, especially when it comes to experimental work.

So…. Did the experiment work?!

With an experiment, you never know how it’s going to turn out, and in this particular piece, there were no clear results about whether the audience’s reactions were manipulated.

But the learning process of making unconventional theatre and pushing audience boundaries made an insightful piece of theatre that challenged the very idea of what theatre is.

Hannah said that, ‘Ultimately we realised it’s hard to measure if one person’s attitude would have been different if they hadn’t had the pre-show elements. But those who did engage with these seemed to find the piece even more stimulating and exciting.’

And that’s what theatre should be, something that actively engages your audience rather than just viewing them passively. The experimental part of How It Ended enabled the audience to feel involved with the performance.

So I was very glad that I got played, and had to send another message to my friend explaining that the fight was fake when she replied with ‘Omg, what the hell?! Leave the table!’

Writing experimental theatre isn’t easy, because it’s not just about how your characters are reacting, it’s your audience too. But this type of immersive theatre also reaps more rewards, with Hannah saying how, ‘As a writer, it’s really exciting finding out what people think of a piece.’

And Hannah’s advice if you want your piece to get noticed?

‘Make it a challenge to the director and creative team, and it will stand out!’

 

Hannah Khalil is a Palestinian/Irish Playwright who was the recent recipient of The Arab British Centre’s Prize for Culture 2017. She was the Writer on attachment at the Bush Theatre from 2016-17 as part of Project 2036, and her play The Scar Test just finished a successful run at Soho Theatre. You can find out more about her work here: hannahkhalil.com

Bush Theatre accepting scripts through open submission window

The Bush Theatre have opened their 2017 script submission window, and are looking for your full-length unsolicited scripts.

The Bush Theatre is committed to discovering the best new plays from playwrights who may be unknown to then and therefore seek unsolicited submissions from playwrights in dedicated script windows.

In their words: “The Bush Theatre exists to produce original plays that provoke conversation and are theatrically bold. We are looking for plays with contemporary bite, which seek to reflect our contemporary culture and ask sharp questions of what it means to be living now. We want to house a plurality of voices, seek worlds that are under represented and characters who are drawn from the world outside our theatre.”

The advise that you do not send a first draft, and they are not accepting screenplay, proposals for adaptation, new musicals (which we would not develop outside of a commission), one act plays, more than one submission, work in translation or not written in English, and plays which have already received a production.

If you have previously submitted your script, please include details of how the script has undergone a redrafting process. Without significant redrafting, they will be unable to consider your script.

Read the full guidelines here.

How to apply: To apply, fill out the online form which can be found here, and attach your script.

Deadline: 31 October 2017 

Source: Bush Theatre