Doesn't time in Lockdown go quickly? It seems like no time at all since the last term of the WriteForTheStage Intro and Advanced courses started. The beginning of the courses coincided with the first week of Lockdown - and here we are.
I'm very proud of the work both the Intro and Advanced groups have produced during this very strange time in our history. And what I find most exciting is that Lockdown has appeared in various guises through the work produced; creating a little time capsule of this very unique moment in time.
Almost every piece, either directly or indirectly, explored themes of seizmic shift - whether through the accidental murder of a friend, the breakup of a relationship, or a character's breaking through of their personal demons. Our groups have taken our big change in socialisation, and turned it into something dramatic, funny, and - at times - gloriously bizarre.
And that's what great drama or comedy is about, isn't it? Change and surprise.
The aim of the Intro course is to write a killer first 10-pages of a theatre script. The aim of Advanced is to develop that opening into the first draft of a 60-page script.
The Progressing course is about transitions and regular meetings. The Summer term of WFTS Progressing begins on Tuesday, 30th June.
I developed the Progressing course as a bridge between Intro and Advanced, and as a way to continue to support those who have completed the Advanced course.
Progressing works more on the basis of a WritersLab than a formal course. Each week we'll work on character exercises, aiming to understand our principal characters in greater depth; bringing flesh to their bones and emotional honesty to their actions.
But the core of the time is dedicated to reading the work of the participants, discussing the content, and guiding the next draft.
What I like most about the Progressing course is that our weekly meetings act as a regular deadline. We meet each Tuesday between 6pm and 8pm, and we read new scenes or rewritten scenes. We offer weekly peer feedback sessions and provide a safe space to try out ideas.
The only rule is that it's a supportive environment. We make sure that all feedback is constructive and driven by the writer - you tell us what level of feedback you want. You might just want to hear it out loud or you might have a specific question in your head. Or you might just want to know whether people understand what you're trying to get across.
It's a very communal experience - all delivered in the comfort of your own armchair through Zoom.
Click here for more info and bookings. We're offering a week's free trial if you want to give it a go.
WFTS Summer term of Intro
We're running an extra term of Intro this Summer and offering the first two weeks for free. The Summer term for WFTS Intro starts on Thursday, 2nd July and runs for 10 weeks.
During the first two weeks, we'll mine the imagination for theme and characters - you'll leave with a great starting point to develop on your own or to bring to the rest of the 10-week course where we cover the fundamentals of writing for the stage.
Click here for more info and bookings.
Development Week 15 (and a little fundraiser)
Development Week 15 will be in September 2020.
Come hell or high water. One way or another.
We've always been about adapting to change, here at WriteForTheStage. And we've never let a little thing like a massive, terrifying pandemic that threatens the entire social fabric of the planet put us off from bringing new writing to new audiences.
We usually cram ourselves into the cosy studio at our home, the (very lovely, supportive, and super-special) Kings Arms.
But, let's face it - we might not be able to do that for Development Week 15.
That's not going to stop us. And we're going to dedicate DevWk15 to the Kings Arms with a little coinciding fundraiser to help them ride the wave of the lockdown. The Kings have been instrumental in the development of hundreds of actors, writers, directors, musicians, poets, yoga teachers, artists - you name it: whatever the artform, The Kings have been there to provide an affordable space to present our work. And they've been there for Studio Salford and WriteForTheStage ALL the way.
So, Development Week 15 is going to happen. And it's going to be a celebration of tenacity. And we're going to try and raise money to help make sure that we have a space to perform in when things calm down.
As soon as Lockdown happened, we were suddenly treated to the massive generosity of the big theatres, offering free streaming of work from the likes of the National Theatre.
Almost every piece, either directly or indirectly, explored themes of seismic shift - whether through the accidental murder of a friend, the breakup of a relationship, or a character's breaking through of their personal demons. Our groups have taken our big change in socialisation and turned it into something dramatic, funny, and - let's face it - at times, gloriously bizarre.
But it hasn't stopped there. There has been a genuinely innovative approach to bringing new writing and theatrical works to us when we can't go out to theatres.
To name just a couple, Jermyn Street Theatre have been taking Zoom performances to the next level, as have Up 'Ere Productions, and Isolation Theatre. And my very own piece, The Big Things, was performed for Project 29 last Friday to a very warm response.
So, while we can't go out to the theatre, the theatre is bringing theatre to us.
And finally, it's with deep regret that I announce the death of trailblazing, internationally renowned playwright, Louise Page.
Louise wrote many critically acclaimed plays and enjoyed a wonderful relationship with the Royal Court and the RSC. Throughout the 80s, she was one of the striking new voices that transformed theatrical writing, and we were very lucky to have her as tutor and mentor at Salford University.
Louise mentored the writing of my play, The Big Things. As a mentor, she was astute, insightful, and endlessly supportive. She knew exactly which questions to ask to draw the answers you were struggling to find for yourself. Her feedback was always thoughtful, challenging, and born of a wisdom that drove you to do your very best. She was a great talker and loved nothing more than to wax lyrical about the power of theatre to transform and entertain. And she went out of her way to help; I'm very grateful for her generosity, advice and her experience. We didn't always get on, it's got to be said, but she rose above it and her generous spirit was an inspiring reflection of how to operate as a playwright, a mentor, and a friend.
I'm really going to miss her. She was always great fun and a source of wisdom that we really have lost.