For World Theatre Day, Editor Jennifer Richards reflects on what drew her to playwriting.
I’m currently on the Writers’ Lab course run by Soho Theatre, where over roughly 9 months you’re taught in groups about structure, character and various other techniques that go into writing a play. And throughout this process, you’re working to complete a full-length script, with the help of your dramaturg and fellow writers on the course.
Back in the very first workshop, with all the writers eagerly gathered in one room, we were asked why we make theatre.
Somehow, I drew a total blank.
I panicked, suddenly aware that I was on a course with 79 other playwrights who were all further along in their writing careers and probably had incredibly in-depth answers to this question.
And when people read their answers out loud (and I very much stayed silent), I kicked myself for not thinking of the amazing answers they had.
Answers about how theatre is one of the few media where you have to be completely invested, you can’t watch with one eye and absently scroll through your phone with the other; or how theatre has a unique relationship between those on stage and the audience; or how theatre is so flexible and encompassing, including anything from a six-hour monologue to a ten-minute performance piece that doesn’t involve any no words at all.
I nodded along, agreeing with all of these brilliant answers, and being incredibly jealous as all I had written down was: “I make theatre because I like it.”
I was trapped in my own head, overthinking my rubbish answer, when I heard someone say that they make theatre because they love how supportive the community is.
How people are so willing to help others theatre makers; the support of new writing that’s out there; how fellow writers go and see fringe shows and tweet about them and help drum up support for writers who may have been struggling to fill seats. How people further along in their careers are happy to offer advice to those like me, who are feeling a bit more nervous and overwhelmed.
And I realised that as intimating as it was being in a room with so many people wanting to do exactly the same thing as me, it was also an incredible opportunity. And a powerful community.
On a regular basis, I am lucky enough to share ideas with and get feedback on my scripts, from all these brilliant, talented writers. And I’ve got to see some great shows written by my playwriting colleagues. I’m aware it sounds incredibly cheesy, but it genuinely fills me with pride seeing people do what they love, and do it so well.
Being in the theatre industry can be competitive and frustrating, but it’s also welcoming and supportive and downright brilliant.
Back in that room at the Soho, as the facilitators were about to wrap up this part of the workshop, I saw the hand of the person next to me shoot up, and I turned towards them to hear their answer:
“Because I like it.”
And you know what, so do I.