Looking ahead

We’re pretty excited at StageWrite HQ, because we are now in a position to announce that the festival is going to continue in 2019!  We will be opening for submissions in September – which allows you plenty of time to get writing.  We are especially welcoming scripts by female writers, and casts that are female-heavy, but anyone can submit as long as their work fits the brief.

Another reason we’re feeling buoyant is that one of our 2018 pieces, Forty-Two Times Around The Sun by Chris Pike, has been selected for Dispatches at OSO Arts Centre in London.  Find out more here: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/whats-on/oso-arts-centre/oso-art-centre/dispatches-the-angel-rails

It’s a tremendous, intriguing, darkly funny play that was a huge hit with our SW audience, and we’re delighted that it’s gaining further profile.

 

Another year older, and we still love SW

Goodness me, it’s all over for 2018!  In a whirlwind week at The Place, with fantastic audiences on both nights and fabulous writers to work with, our four plays for this year were a definite hit and provoked some great discussion.  There are already potential developments underway with some of the work.

Huge thanks go to everyone involved – our brilliant company of actors, directors and technicians, the writers and all who came to support us.  StageWrite is an event after our own hearts, allowing new work to be seen and increasing the provision of theatre in the region.  We hope it will continue and have begun to discuss the potential of keeping it alive for next year!  We’ll bring you updates right here as things progress.

 

What’s It All About?

And that’s a fair question, when you’re thinking of seeing a play.  So here forthwith are the synopses of our four brand new plays for this year.  Congratulations to the writers on having their work selected (especially when you consider the fact that we had 63 plays submitted in all!)

Thursday 3rd May

Little Shining Eyes by Poppy Hollman: “We’re killers, Manny. And the thing I can’t get over is the arrogance. We think we can shape things as we want them. We wipe out whole families, colonies, species. The arrogance of humanity – it’s staggering.” Nathan has been a pest control officer for over 30 years. But now he’s had an epiphany, and he’s secretly harbouring a colony of rats in the loft.

Twistfinger by David Howgego: It’s psychic night at the Dog and Duck, “The Great Mary Smith”, a famous medium, is appearing. Things are not what they seem… a much darker side to these popular events is revealed as the audience is confronted by Twistfinger, an evil demon posing as her spirit guide.

 

Friday 4th May

Keeping by Simon Marshall: In sleepy Derbyshire divorced hairdresser, Suzanne, has decided to take it upon herself to cater for her ex-husband’s mum’s funeral. Her son, Jason, is back from university and isn’t sure what to make of it all…

Forty-Two Times Around the Sun by C. Pike: Samuel is in his late forties and has been imprisoned in the home of his Aunt Ena since birth. The outside world, according to Aunt Ena, is overpopulated to the point where there is no square inch of land that does not have a human standing on it.

 

 

StageWrite 2018 has landed

Oh yes indeed!!  This has to be our favourite week of the year…StageWrite week, where the theatre feels like home and we eat, sleep and breathe the new scripts that have been selected.  We have four cracking pieces that are being performed on Thursday and Friday evening, 3rd and 4th May.  Rehearsals kicked off this morning for ‘Forty Two Times Around The Sun’… I captured a few moments to give you a glimpse!

They think it’s all over…it is now!

Well…almost.

As I type, there are only 2 days in which to get StageWrite submissions to us for this year’s festival.  Just to let you in on how things are looking at StageWrite HQ – we’re very excited to have over 50 scripts at the moment, and wondering how on earth we will manage to select the four we need for the festival.

This year, we’ve taken things in a slightly different direction and are going to run two nights of double bills instead of four.  One of the pieces featured will be a fully realised production, with the other three still being script-in-hand.  Reducing the length of the festival allows us to spend a bit more time on development, looking to see how one or more of the pieces could be taken further afield for future performances.  We hope it will also give us the chance to build some ongoing relationships with writers who may be keen to work with us in the longer term.

It’s all happening at The Place Theatre on 3rd and 4th May.  We’ll keep you posted with details of the selected pieces.

Scripts, scripts, scripts

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters

 

Autumn is here and that can only mean one thing…

That’s right… it’s submission time.  StageWrite is open for submissions for 2018 and they’re already well under way.  For us here at StageWrite HQ the submission of people’s work is the one thing that gets us through those long winter months and those cold dark evenings.  Well, that and gin…

After another unsuccessful bid last year for funding from the Arts Council we had the annual conversation over whether this was really something we could keep doing with no money, everyone working their butts off for free and, unsurprisingly, like every year we came to the decision that of course we would run it.  We are mixing it up a little this year though so, instead of the usual four nights we are only running for two and putting on four plays instead of eight.

Now the exciting news here is it looks like we have got a little funding from our friends at Sputnik who recently started a patronage scheme of which we will be one of the first beneficiaries.  Assuming that people sign up and donate – I’m trusting they will because we’re awesome and so are the other three projects being supported – this will allow us to realise one of the scripts more fully with a longer rehearsal period and the actors to be ‘off scripts’ for it because we’ll actually be able to pay them!!

Through StageWrite’s home, The Place Theatre, we are also looking to make links with other regional theatres to see if we can start to move work along after StageWrite.  We have become conscious over recent months that we have a great time with the plays and the writers over StageWrite week but we often don’t get to experience the life that the play has after StageWrite and how the process has helped the writers to develop their work.  By getting other venues on board we hope to be able to be an integral part of the play’s life after StageWrite.

Well that’s our news for the time being – writers, we want your scripts.  Make sure you get them to us by 31st January for consideration in 2018’s festival and give us something constructive to do over these winter months.  For the submission brief just click here.

StageWrite 2017 here we come!

Every time I think about our week of new writing for theatre, happening from Weds 29th March – Saturday 1st April, I get a host of (very happy feel-good) butterflies in my stomach.  I absolutely LOVE StageWrite… and I also love the fact that the people who make up our SW company – the actors, writers, directors and technicians – love it too.  We really could not do it without them and their commitment and enthusiasm.  Thank you to everyone who submitted plays this year, and congratulations to those whose work is going to be featured: David Pearson, Serafina Cusack, Connor Patrick Carroll, Carl Russell, Amy Leach and Michael Staniforth.

We’re back at The Place, an absolute gem of a studio theatre in the centre of Bedford, that has become the home of StageWrite over the past 5 years.

Happy days.  I can’t wait!

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Winter Light 3

 

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… and last but by no means least… Adam Hughes

Well, everything kicks off tomorrow and we had great fun yesterday as we started to play around with the scripts.  It’s always lovely to see them start to get up on their feet and to begin to explore them.  If you want to pop along this week to The Place Theatre this week and see what all the fuss is about, you’d be more than welcome.  So with everything kicking off and me due back at the theatre any minute it is my pleasure to introduce our final writer of the week to you, Adam Hughes.  Adam’s play, Odds Against, is set in GoBetter,  a betting shop in which Steve works.  Steve’s shift is about to end but things take a darker turn in this great little play.

We loved reading your play, Adam, and I’m particularly excited, especially since I get to play Steve!  As ever, let’s kick off with you telling us a little bit about yourself?

11218756_10152743566886230_6872209898457477468_nI am a young writer from Leeds, West Yorkshire, currently based in London. I am Writer on Attachment at the Finborough Theatre as well as a FUSE Playwright at Sheffield Theatres. Earlier this year I won the Off West End Adopt a Playwright Award and am a past winner of the Kenneth Branagh Award for New Writing. I have written one full play, Marching On Together, which ran at the Old Red Lion Theatre last year and have had short plays performed at the Crucible Theatre, St James Theatre, Southwark Playhouse, Theatre503 and Wakefield Theatre Royal.

Wow. that’s quite a resume!!  Good for you.  How long have you been writing plays for and what started you off writing?

I started writing plays about four years ago now. It started whilst I was at university and I had seen a play that the Drama Society had staged. That was probably the first time I’d really seen a story staged in front of me and really come to life before my eyes and it was something that fascinated me and I wanted to try it out for myself. As with most writers, once I wrote that first play, I was bitten by the bug and haven’t stopped since!

It is rather addictive isn’t it?  So what prompted you to write the play that you submitted?

The play I have written is about chance. It’s about taking an opportunity when driven to desperate measures. I think as people, we are all quite judgmental. We allow ourselves to be distanced from a situation, assuring ourselves that we would never do anything of the sort. Yet, until we are in a particular scenario we have no idea how we would act. This was something I wanted to explore here – if you were in a despairing situation then how far would you go to get yourself out of it? The play is also set in a betting shop, which is something I have a slight obsession with at the moment. Betting shops fascinate me as they are worlds of their own. People can spend all day there, watching race after race, hoping that just one moment will completely transform their lives. I think the fact that we have seen so many rise on our high streets recently is indicative of us as a society and how these shops almost become a place of refuge for some people who have nowhere else to turn.

Interesting – I hadn’t really thought about how many are popping up.  I guess you’re right though.  I remember as a kid being obsessed with one-arm-bandits and the machines that drop the 2p, and it was all about the chance of getting more than we put in!  Tell us a little bit about your process of writing?  

It really depends on the play (and I know that sounds like a politician’s answer!). There are some plays where you just feel that raw energy and need to get it down on the page as soon as possible in one large splurge. Then there are plays where you have an idea or a concept but you need to really think about the characters, the beats and the overall story you’re trying to tell. I always try to plan with my writing and think about the characters’ choices and what’s actually happening within the script. It can be quite arduous at times but worth it in the long run (I hope anyway!).

Is there anything else that you think reader’s of the blog will find interesting?

I think with writing it’s about finding what you want to say. I’ve written plays before where they have simply been me writing a play. That’s never a good idea and I always think you should only write something if you have a desire and passion to do so. I’m now much more of the mindset that it’s better to write a play that you really believe in and has real heart once every six months than simply bash out six plays which a mediocre and are written for the sake of it; something I have to remind myself on a regular basis!

Great advice, Adam.  And thanks for taking the time to chat to us.  If you want to catch Odds Against – and you do want to catch it, mark my words – then you can grab tickets here and it will be performed on Friday 11th March – kicking off at 7.30pm.  Talking of which, I think I’m due in rehearsal for it any minute now…

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We’re nearly there… and introducing Clare Knights

Well, today has been a ridiculously busy day as we have been rigging in preparation for StageWrite this week and in the midst of all that I have been at The Quarry Theatre as part of the second workshop for the playwrighting course with Papatango Theatre Company. Before we get on to introducing our writer for today, I have to take a minute to say what an outstanding opportunity it has been to work with Chris and George from Papatango on this course.  We are halfway through and I have learned so much already – all that remains before the next workshop is to actually write a play!  Nothing major in that at all!  So, rigging is done and I’m now enjoying a well earned glass of rouge as I write this so apologies if it doesn’t entirely make sense!

So today I am excited to introduce our penultimate writer, Clare Knights whose play The Chat is our second play performed on Wednesday 9th March.

So, Clare, let’s kick off with you telling us a little bit about yourself?

856175_a4e202b7I’m originally from Gloucestershire, but like a lot of other people moved to London (where I now live) in my late teens for work and excitement!   I eventually got into the admin and management side of theatre, working with a number of touring companies and small venues like the Bush Theatre, and also briefly at the Arts Council.  However I now work for a trade union and although my current job is often interesting, fulfilling and challenging, what has really excited me most has always been the theatre.  I try and get to see as much as possible, particularly new writing.  Wanting to get back into being more actively creative, I finally took the plunge and returned to study part-time for an MA in Text and Performance Studies at RADA and Kings College back in 2010 when I was 47 – less of a mid-life crisis, more of a mid-life adventure!

Haha – well there’s hope for me yet then!!  How long have you been writing plays for and what started you off writing?

After completing the course I started to take my writing more seriously and have been writing plays for about 4 or so years.  I’m a very late emerging playwright!  I had always dabbled in writing short stories, but the course included a playwriting module, led by the inspiring and patient playwright, Paul Sirett.  This spurred me on to concentrate more seriously on playwriting, and I have continued to learn and develop my work since – as time allows! It’s hugely exciting now to get selected for StageWrite as it’s such an amazing opportunity.

Well thank you for that, Claire.  I hope we do it justice! So what prompted you to write the play that you submitted?

In essence my play is a bit of a ghost story.  And I also wanted to write about an ordinary middle-aged woman’s not so ordinary experience.  I started with this image of a woman sitting at a table in conversation with some people, but the people she is talking to all happen to be dead! I wanted to explore that strange state following a bereavement when you half expect to continue to encounter the person you’ve lost.  Often there can be unsettling moments that take your breath away when you’re absolutely certain that a glimpsed figure out of the corner of your eye is the dead person resurrected.  But of course it is only ever wishful thinking.  However in this story, for this woman at least, there is a possibility she can really encounter the dead amongst the living.

I also particularly enjoyed creating the character of the old Irish mother, May, always ready for a bit of a gossip with her daughter.  May is of a generation (like my own mother) who were children in the 1930s and came over to England during or not long after the Second World War looking for employment and excitement.  Meanwhile Susan, her daughter, like so many ‘invisible’ middle-aged women, wants to make herself seem more significant in the world.  Strangely in this story, Susan can only achieve this by opting out of the corporeal and encountering the supernatural.

Can you tell us a little bit about your process of writing?  

Long train journeys and weekends are my main writing times.  If I can, I will tend to be a complete and utter slob when I’m writing and just stay in bed and write on a laptop, often improvising the words of the characters out loud.  I’m rubbish at planning my writing – in fact if I plan too much it tends to inhibit me.  The characters are always the starting point, situated within a particular incident that could be inspired by a news item or from someone I meet or from a personal experience – but the characters have control and can take me almost anywhere in my writing.  This does mean that I tend to write lots, stopping and starting, back-tracking and introducing new characters, deleting others, and experiencing their higgledy-piggledy journey through the story of the play until finally after a lot of agony and rumination and improvisation and many, many wasted words, I have a rough first draft. It’s crucial for my writing and re-drafting to involve improvisation of sorts, (a process that can be difficult when working in a public space!)  I can’t just keep the voices in my head.  They have to be vocalised so the different characters can fully express themselves, accents and all!

Then comes the really interesting bit for me of re-drafting and honing and cutting – that’s what I particularly enjoy. And a really valuable part of developing my work is to get a group of friends together to read it out loud, to lift it from the page and out of my mind (and mouth!) to be interpreted afresh by others, to discover if it really manages to communicate the story, and if it is truly dramatic.

Interesting – I can really relate to that but I’m learning a lot about the structure and the background work through the Papatango course so I’m trying that out at the moment!  Is there anything else that you think reader’s of the blog will find interesting?

Well, if you’re interested in ghosts, check out Bedfordshire libraries’ virtual booklet on your local ghosts http://virtual-library.culturalservices.net/webingres/bedfordshire/vlib/0.digitised_resources/bedfordshire_ghosts.doc  I especially like the tale about Fairfield Hospital (now long-gone) where a particularly cheeky ghost asked a nurse for a cup of tea with 2 sugars!

Brilliant – of course I used to be a nurse before LifeBox came about but I’m too young to remember Fairfield Hospital, although I was around in the days of Brougham Hospital.  Thanks so much for sharing with us, Claire and if you enjoyed reading this make sure you get along to The Place Theatre on Wednesday to see The Chat, by Claire on Wednesday 9th March.  Tickets available from The Place Theatre online here.

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And introducing today’s writer… Trevor Suthers

Well this week is rolling along nicely and all the preparations for next week are generally well under way. The company is pretty much formed for the week and we are all chomping at the bit to get on with it.  I imagine this must be what it’s like for an athlete as they stand at the starting line of the race, waiting with a mixture of anxiety, excitement and impatience for the ‘official’ to shout, “ready, steady… go”!!  Well, we’re on the ‘ready’ stage at the moment, reading through the scripts and planning, accruing props and anything else we might need over the next week!  But while we wait with baited breath, it’s time for me to introduce our next writer. the lovely Trevor Suthers whose play, Accident of Birth kicks of Thursday’s proceedings.  Accident of Birth is a thoroughly interesting little piece, set in a prison visitation room, and explores the issue of nature vs nurture through the dialogue between a man, incarcerated in Broadmoor, and his biological mother.

So, Trevor, as always, kick off by telling us a little bit about yourself?

UnknownAside from playwriting, I spent twenty years, on and off as a teacher with children with severe learning difficulties.  I’m married with one daughter.  Along with five other playwrights I co-produce the bi-annual short play festival in Manchester, JB Shorts. We are coming up to our fifteenth show in a couple of months.  I’ve written for both Coronation Street and Eastenders but that was a long time ago.  I have a number of plays published online, particularly the US based Youthplays organisation.  I’m currently writing a couple of pieces of children’s theatre, one in the form of a short film, for two regional children’s theatre groups. Young people’s theatre is something of a passion of mine.

Wow, that’s amazing – That’s quite an accolade to have written for Eastenders and Coronation Street! How long have you been writing plays for and what started you off writing?

I have had stage work produced quite regularly for the past thirty years or so in every kind of conceivable venue.  I’ve always written dialogue since contracting the theatre bug many years ago in Youth Theatre.

Ah – the joys of Youth Theatre – so many people seem to have found their feet there and caught ‘the bug’.  What prompted you to write the play that you submitted?

I rarely, if ever write about myself but was prompted to write Accident Of Birth as I myself am adopted and many friends seemed to think the circumstances of my own experience of adoption was quite interesting. I set about incorporating some of my own personal biographical details within this play even though the setting, characters and circumstances are entirely fictional. It proved quite therapeutic in the end.

Interesting.  So there was some degree of catharsis in the process of telling the story!  Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your process of writing?  

I consider writing credible, realistic dialogue as something of a craft and being lucky enough to have had a significant number of plays staged through hearing my dialogue spoken I’ve hopefully got steadily better at it.  I hate it when I hear dialogue spoken on stage that is clearly from the mouth of the author rather than the character that is supposedly being portrayed. I try hard to avoid this.  And to quote my erstwhile friend Paul Abbott – ‘writing is re-writing’

Indeed!!  Anything else that you think reader’s of the blog will find interesting?

My hero in terms of relevance and commitment in writing is the late great Jim Allen.

Excellent.  Thanks so much for that, Trevor.  Great to talk to you.  If you want to catch Accident of Birth, make sure you come along the The Place Theatre on Thursday 10th May kicking off at 7.30.  Better yet, grab yourself a festival pass and come along to all 8 performances for a mere £20.  You can grab your tickets online at The Place Theatre website by clicking here.  We look forward to seeing you there!

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