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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Introducing… David Weir

Well, we are literally just around the corner from StageWrite which kicks off next week.  I am so excited by it and there’s still lots to do.  I have been working with some smashing students today up in Chichester on a film for their final project!  Student films, often get a bad rap, probably largely because they don’t have any money to pay you.  These guys were slick, professional and did a great job and yes, they only paid expenses but we all start somewhere so I, for one, enjoyed helping them out.  Anyhow, I’m going off topic… we’re here to talk about StageWrite and it’s my absolute pleasure to introduce to you today the rather marvellous, David Weir, whose excellent piece, Lions (which I’m in and rather excited about, to be honest), kicks off our Saturday evening on 12th March.

DSC_7915So, David, tell us a little bit about yourself?

I was born and brought up in Edinburgh, but live in London now having travelled the country until I got here, via Hampshire and East Anglia.

Nice…. It’s a long way from Edinburgh to London so it makes sense to break up the journey!!  And how long have you been writing plays for and what started you off writing?

I’ve been writing since I was a kid, but hit on plays seriously about six years ago now, after realizing there are a lot fewer words than there are in a novel. The first one was a drunken challenge: I told a director at an after-show party for a bad play that I could do better, and he said ‘Go on then’. The play that resulted was a murder mystery spoof that 1,200 people saw, and that’s as good a way as any I know to get the bug! Since then, I’ve sat in small theatres, pubs and a football club function room In London, Arundel, Windsor, and several locations on the Isle of Wight, among audiences ranging from 100 to 25 or so, loving what good actors and directors can do with what you’ve imagined.

Wow, that’s a great story.  And how cool, to have 1200 people see your first play.  Talk about a baptism of fire!  What prompted you to write the play that you submitted?

I heard a story about some guy who was vetoed from winning an award for bravery because of some long-ago criminal offence he’d committed.  His old offence had nothing to do with his new bravery, but because he’d once been a criminal, he couldn’t be a hero.  I’m fascinated by the theme of redemption – can we undo the evil we once did by being good now?  I’m also fascinated by the way people are pigeon-holed by one thing they did, or one feature they have, or one perception about them. It seems to me that people are more complex than that, and that no-one is wholly good or wholly bad, or deserves to be seen that way.  From that, came the idea of having a character who had done something morally appalling from every point of view, but who had also done something transcendently good.  And from that came the idea of having three others who appear ‘good’ and even successful to all the world, but who have their own demons to deal with. All of which is unnecessarily doom-laden and portentous-sounding for a piece that is also meant to be funny, even if it’s laughter in the dark.

Tell us a little bit about your process of writing?  

I wish I had one!  The one definite thing is that if you want to be a writer, you write: fixed hours (not quite enough of them) each week, even during the times when there’s a lot of staring out the window to be done. The second definite thing is that it’s never finished – first drafts are fast; subsequent rewrites are essential and there’s always more you can do once you’ve seen it on its feet or heard it read.  I’ve written about 20 plays now, seven full-length and the rest shorts of varying length, and each has come about differently.  For each, though, there has been some moment that sparked the whole thing, and mostly those moments happen after I doodle in a notebook (as this one did – I quite clearly recall sitting at a bar on the Isle of Wight). This doodling is either putting two people in a room and having them talk to each other, or writing down situations and seeing what sparks.  Once I have a definite idea I know I want to do, I write out the whole biography/setting thing as the story clarifies in my head, sometimes for weeks or months.  That way, when I sit to write, the first draft is really rapid (couple of weeks max), though the subsequent revision takes much longer. If there is a linking feature, a large number of my plays seem to have begun with characters talking about something which, if it makes into the final piece at all, falls usually nearer the middle of the finished script than either the beginning or the end.  Off that, how we get there, and what happens next seem to flow (as is the case with this one: the mid-section where Eve and Will talk about his walking on stage is nearly transcribed from my first notes).

Brilliant.  Thats for that, David; really interesting.  Is there anything else that you think readers of the blog will find interesting?

I’m crazily proud that one of my plays made it to Australia, and only sorry a) that I didn’t, and b) that I didn’t even know about it until three weeks after its four shows were over.

Ha… excellent stuff.  That is one heck of an achievement.  Well, if you want to catch David’s play, Lions, or indeed any or all of the performances you can find tickets at The Place Theatre website by clicking here.  We’d love to see you there.  Check in on Thursday when we will introduce our next writer!!

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And introducing Bedford’s very own… Chris Loft

Sitting here from my lovely little lodge at CenterParcs following a few days of absolutely lovely rest and relaxation, I am feeling very excited about the next few weeks.  Projects galore on the horizon but most importantly we have StageWrite coming up in just over 10 days time!!!!  Woohoo, I hear you cry and well you should because it’s just about the best week ever!!

Today, I am thrilled to introduce Bedford’s very own, Chris Loft.  If you were knocking around last year’s festival, you will have seen his brilliant piece, The Interview Stage, which I had the privilege of directing for its run that culminated in a performance at London’s Etcetera Theatre.

So Chris, lets kick of with the usual.  Tell us a little bit about yourself?

IMG_2951cI’m from London originally, but I have been based in Bedford for ten years now. I live with my wife and children and divide my time between family, writing and teaching. At the moment, I teach part-time in Cambridge, in a centre that works towards the recovery of bullied children, probably the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had. I’m also pretty active in local community theatre.

Wow, that sounds amazing! I didn’t even know those kinds of places existed! And of course, I gather you will be performing in Swan Theatre Company’s Epsom Downs shortly.  So how long have you been writing plays for and what started you off writing?

I started writing plays for children to perform when I was a primary-school teacher, about fifteen years ago. I’ve always enjoyed the writing process, but never had the time or energy to devote to it until I stopped teaching full-time. I submitted my first play to Stagewrite last year and had some fantastic feedback, which far exceeded my expectations and really boosted my confidence. I’ve been lucky enough to have that piece, The Interview Stage, performed a few more times by different groups, so now I’m trying to develop and improve as a writer and see what happens.

And what was it that prompted you to write the play that you submitted this year?

I discovered the plays of Eugene Ionesco last year and loved the way he finds humour in the futility of existence and the failure of human beings to communicate with each other. I wanted to write in a consciously more absurd style and, as this was during the general election campaign, there was plenty of inspiration for absurdity! The general theme of the play is employment and what we mean today by having a job. We seem increasingly prepared to put up with longer hours, poorer conditions and less job security than was once the case, and these are some of the ideas I started playing around with, and ‘playing’ is the key word here. I don’t know that Responsible Product has much to say that is very profound or revealing, but it plays around with ideas as if it has something to say, and that in itself seems rather ‘absurdist’ to me.

Excellent!  Well we loved reading it!  So tell us a little bit about your process of writing?  

I start off with a simple idea – in this case, two men talking in an unknown location – and let it develop from there. I like to let the characters talk to each other and that tells me what kind of people they are, then I throw in some challenges or problems for them to deal with, and how they react to these challenges sort of determines what is going to happen. Once I have a first draft, I start working on it until it feels more coherent. With this play, there are some points at which the characters kind of took the story away from me and I wasn’t really sure what was going on, and it was during those moments that I thought maybe this would be a suitable script for Stagewrite.

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

There’s a video of my play The Interview Stage on youtube now, if anyone wants to get a flavour of what my work is like. You can watch that here.

Fantastic, thanks Chris.  And I would definitely recommend giving The Interview Stage a watch as it’s a cracking play and we are definitely looking forward to seeing Responsible Product up on its feet shortly.  If you want to catch Chris’ play, then get yourself along to The Place Theatre on Friday 11th March 2016.  You will not be disappointed.  You can get your tickets online from The Place website by clicking here.

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And introducing… Lucy Flannery

Well, StageWrite 2016 is fast approaching and, as I write this blog, I am prepping to nip off to CenterParcs for a little bit of R&R before things get really busy!!  So this week, I am thrilled to introduce Lucy Flannery, who submitted a beautiful little piece called Care, that explores family dynamics, ageing and inheritance, all from under the stars as Maggie and Philippa indulge in a spot of stargazing.

So Lucy, as usual, let’s kick of with you telling us a little bit about yourself?

LF 001I have been a professional writer for over twenty years and I have credits in radio, TV and film in addition to theatre.

Wow, so you’ve been doing this for a long time then.  How long have you been writing plays for the stage and what started you off writing?

I came relatively late to writing for the stage. I was too intimidated when I was younger. But once you start . . .  It’s incredibly addictive! There is nothing more exhilarating – or more terrifying – than live theatre.

That’s very true indeed.  So what prompted you to write the play that you submitted?

Inheritance disputes are one of those areas which spark incredibly strong emotions; everyone seems to have an anecdote about this. It was a very meaty subject matter, very satisfying to explore. Other themes which I enjoyed investigating were ageing, parent-child relationships and the grieving process.

Tell us a little bit about your process of writing?  

I do a lot of adaptations and obviously those have a very precise structure as you are effectively re-making something which already exists. With original ideas things are generally looser; I usually know broadly where I will end up, but often surprise myself en route. With all my projects however, I would echo Chaplin’s words: ‘the real work was thinking, just thinking.’

Fantastic.  Thanks so much, Lucy for chatting to us.  Is there anything else that you think readers of the blog will find interesting?

I was a core writer on the biggest crowd-sourced literary event in the UK [to date] and I am the creator of Havant Literary Festival. I don’t like Facebook much but I love Twitter and can be found there under the handle @flannersoldgirl

Thanks Lucy, that’s great.  Be sure to follow Lucy on twitter and be sure also to check out Lucy’s play Care, which will be performed on Thursday 10th March, kicking off at 7.30pm.  Tickets available online at The Place Website.

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And introducing… Edwin Preece!

Good morning, lovely readers.  I don’t know whether you are lucky enough to have had a little snow over the last 24 hours; we haven’t.  That said, I am sitting in one of my favourite places to work in Bedford, The Business Parlour at 44 Harpur Street, on a crisp, fresh and beautifully sunny morning.  If you haven’t come across it before, and you are local, check it out.  It’s a great place to come and work with friendly staff and they have amazing rooms to hire if you have a meeting.  Anyway, enough marketing… you can check out more about them here.

IMG_0107Continuing our series of blogs on the StageWrite writers, I am delighted this morning to introduce you to Edwin Preece, writer of the very excellent little piece called Comfortable – *Spoiler alert* I’m directing this one and I’m very excited about it.  So, Edwin, let’s kick off with you telling us a little bit about yourself. 

Well, I write part time as most people do – trying to fit it in between all the other demands of life in the 21st century.

Indeed – I think we can all relate to that, can’t we?  How long have you been writing plays for and what started you off writing?

I was lucky enough to be asked to join the Palace Theatre Watford’s Writers Group when it was being formed by Joyce Branagh who taught us all the basic craft of writing a play. That was about seven years ago and I have been writing ever since although I no longer live anywhere near Watford. I also quite liked the idea of sitting anonymously in an audience and watching how other people react to your work. I thought this would be much more relaxing than directing or acting in a piece. It isn’t!

Funnily enough, I thought the same thing, but you’re right.  It’s all equally stressful!!  What prompted you to write the play that you submitted?

I wanted to write a play with a dominant female character who wasn’t facing the usual conflicts that women face in plays usually which are often within the setting of marriage or relationships. I thought that placing somebody like Marjorie in a prison setting and seeing her take control of the situation was a strong central idea for a play.  Although the play deals with a serious theme – the loss of a son – there is humour within the characters and this is an important element as it leads the audience away from the dramatic impact that you want to create later on.

Great, I think you really succeeded with that in your piece.  Tell us a little bit about your process of writing?  

Writing is a solitary business – no one is really interested in what you are writing about or the problems that you’re facing with a project. They might appear to be interested for about ten seconds but then a glazed look sets in. People are much more interested in seeing your work – then they’ll give you lots of opinions about it! For me, I have to work at a desk away from a window with no distractions and just get on with it. What works for me is to write about three pages and then the next day revise them and write three more and the next day revise and write three more. This is a slow progress but I don’t like revising something once it’s finished so there is less work to do if you revise as you go along – also it helps me get back into the language of the characters and the themes of the play.

Interesting!  Thanks for that, Edwin.  You can catch Comfortable at The Place Theatre, Bradgate Road, Bedford on Wednesday 9th March and you can book tickets for the festival online here.

Introducing our first writer, Mark Hibbett

It’s only 4 weeks until StageWrite week!!!  So now that I’ve picked myself up off the floor following my panic attack, I figured I’d better kick off with introducing our amazingly talented writers!  We’re kicking off the first interview with the very talented Mark Hibbett whose play, Captain Wonderful will be performed on Saturday 12th March.

So, Mark, why don’t you kick off by telling us a little bit about yourself?

MJHheadshotWell, I’m originally from Peterborough but spent many years living in Leicester, where I went to Polytechnic (for those too young to remember, Polytechnics were like Universities except much cooler? And dead sexy?). I live in London now, in the former Olympic Village, which is very very exciting indeed.

Ha – I went to a polytechnic before it became a University, and I don’t remember it being very sexy… but then Luton isn’t particularly renowned for being very sexy either! So tell us how long have you been writing plays for and what started you off writing? 

I wrote several plays as a teenager but stopped when I left home and started playing in bands – there’s a lot more opportunities to drink beer and talk to girls in bands, so I spent the next twenty years doing that instead. In 2009 I wrote a one-man show to take to the Edinburgh Fringe and enjoyed it so much that I wrote several more shows and eventually enrolled in the MA Creative Writing at City University to find out how to do it properly.

What prompted you to write the play that you submitted?

 I did a gig with a very famous comics writer who faced a similar situation with a fan as Martin does in the play. The real-life writer was absolutely lovely about it, and the fan was much more well-adjusted, but it made me think about what would have happened if their characters were slightly different.

Brilliant.  We always like to ask our writers a little bit about their process, so tell us a little bit about your own process of writing?  

I like to do a lot of planning. With most things I write I spend as much time working out the characters and the plot as I do actually sitting down at the keyboard. It makes it all a lot more fun, as you can concentrate on the dialogue and, in my case, putting some jokes in, without worrying about what’s going to happen next.

Interesting, I’ve started to think more about spending more time doing that side of things recently.  Anything else that you think our delightful readers will find interesting?

My usual choice of “interesting fact” about myself is that I wrote the song “Hey Hey 16K”, which became one of the world’s first ever viral videos back in 2005. It was seen by millions of people all around the world – if you don’t know it yourself, someone in your IT department probably does!

Ha – love it… and it would seem remiss of me not to post the original video here for people to see… so here it is!!  Thanks Mark, and don’t forget, you can catch Mark’s play Captain Wonderful at StageWrite 2016 on Saturday 12th March 2016.  Tickets on sale now at http://www.theplacebedford.org.uk/cgi-bin/basket_displayshowpage.pl?show=680

 

Secure the ornaments, Baldrick. We’ve made our selection…

b600d5999f850daff6a6665b5ad3975c3d6debeaYes, in the words of the eponymous hero, Baldrick, secure the ornaments, we’ve made our selection.  And what a selection it is!  I haven’t been this excited since… well, since this time last year, I suppose!  After weeks, nay months of reading and pondering we made our very difficult decision.  I know, I say it every year, but this year we really did have our work cut out for us as the standard was exceptionally high.  Trying to wheedle 53 great plays down to 8 was one of the toughest things the team has done, and I’ve raised 3 kids so that’s saying something.  As a writer myself, it’s always hard to receive those rejection emails and I’ve had plenty.  But we pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off and start the process all over again.  So before I talk about the line up for this year, I just want to take a moment to thank everyone who submitted work to us this year.  I am always conscious of what a privilege it is for us to be trusted with people’s precious work.  So thank you for submitting and I am genuinely sorry we couldn’t select them all.

So here’s the line up for this year:

Wednesday 9th March 
Comfortable by Edwin Preece
The Chat by Clare Knights

Thursday 10th March 
Accident of Birth – Trevor Suthers
Care – Lucy Flannery

Friday 11th March 
Responsible Product – Christopher Loft
Odds Against – Adam Hughes

Saturday 12th March 
Lions – David Weir
Captain Wonderful – Mark Hibbett

We will be doing a series of interview posts with the all the writers involved over the coming weeks so keep your eyes peeled for those.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????For the first time this year we are also running a school’s competition alongside StageWrite, where we are offering the chance for one Bedfordshire student in years 11 – 13 to submit a 15 minute script.  It will go through the same rigorous selection process and will then be included in Saturday night’s line up.  We are really excited to be able to work, inspire and develop the next generation of playwrights so if you know of anyone who might be interested, please do direct them to the website for more details.  Just be aware the closing date is fast approach as submissions for students need to be in by 12th February.

Reading, Reading, Reading…

Old yellow typewriter in shadowAs StageWrite enters its fourth year we have seen the biggest increase in submissions ever!!  I remember vividly, talking to Harri and Cally (the other forces behind our festival) at the end of last year and saying, “if we don’t get funding this year, I don’t know if we can keep going with this”.  We were all in agreement and, sure enough, we were unsuccessful again in securing Arts Council Funding.  I know, I know… we all complain about it but we really felt like we deserved this.  We work hard to keep the festival going and we all do it for no pay because, certainly in Bedford, we just don’t attract the audience numbers to make it profitable.  But you know what, we believe in what we do.  Every year we get to work with and develop at least 8 playwrights and we have had the immense privilege of watching some of those writers go on to great things.  Just as we were thinking we might have to call it a day, one of our writers last year, Jonathan Skinner, overheard and told us categorically, “No… you have to keep it going.  People have heard of you now and you’re on the map when it comes to writing”.  Well that stopped us in our tracks and, if this year’s number of submissions is anything to go by, he wasn’t wrong.

If you have been to any of our festivals you will undoubtedly have come across an extremely talented young man, Andrew Maddock who has submitted every year and become one of our biggest champions.  We have seen him go on to perform his own work in a variety of theatres and has since become an Off West End Nominee.  You can read an interview with him here.

Courtesy of Caroline Connaughton Photography

Courtesy of Caroline Connaughton Photography

Now, StageWrite obviously doesn’t take credit for this, but I believe what we do plays an important part in the development of these writers.  We give them the opportunity to see their work up on the stage, performed by professional actors, in front of an audience and gain valuable feedback from all of those people.  We have worked with some of the writers and this year we saw our first mini-tour of Jonathan Boustead’s Philadelphia which was performed at Reading Fringe Festival, Bedfringe Festival and then at The Place Theatre in Bedford.

So here’s the thing… I often see people complaining about working for nothing – and on the whole, I totally agree with them.  All too often, artists devalue their contribution by being grateful for simply being given ‘an opportunity’.  So I’m the first to tell you, I won’t work for nothing…. Except when it comes to StageWrite.  Because it’s too important and there aren’t enough opportunities like it.

We have gone for Arts Council Funding again, and we’ll see what happens.  It costs us about £10K to put the festival on and that means that the three festival directors, a reasonably large group of actors, directors, technicians and photographers etc work for a whole week for absolutely nothing.  I cannot tell you how grateful I am to those people for their commitment to what we do.  It’s such a privilege and an honour to work with you all.  Look at me… getting all emotional… enough now!

Seriously though – this year we have had over 50 submissions which, for us, is a huge accomplishment and we are very proud that so many people have trusted us with their work.  As ever, the standard has been amazing and, having just finished reading them all, we are in the process of making our final selection and we will be getting back to you with a response this week at some point.  Thanks for your patience.

We wish you all a fabulous Christmas and New Year and we look forward to welcoming you to StageWrite 2016 in the New Year.

StageWrite 2016 – dates announced

We now have dates for StageWrite 2016, so make sure they’re in your diary… 9th – 12th March 2016.  Further details of line-up in due course…

Well, we have noWine and firew closed for submissions and this year we have been absolutely inundated with scripts. This coming festival will be such an exciting one.  We have been blown away by the way we have grown and grown since the festival started in 2012.  This time of year is always particularly exciting too… the days are drawing in and the nights are getting colder so it’s the perfect time to huddle up with a blanket in front of a roaring fire, with a nice glass of merlot and read some scripts.  I know, right…

If you have submitted a script, we will be in touch in due course with a line up for the festival, but be patient with us.  It’s going to take a few fires and few bottles of wine to get through them all but we should be back to you with a decision by End of November/Early December.

In the meantime, cross everything you have as we have gone for Arts Council Funding, yet again.  If you’ve been following our journey, you will know that we haven’t managed to secure funding for the last three festivals.  This meaCheerful man holding dollar billsns that everyone involved is working for free and, these log fires and bottles of wine don’t pay for themselves you know!  So, this year we are applying as part of an application with our venue, The Place Theatre, Bedford.  If you have any other ideas regarding funding or alternative places we could look for funding, or indeed you’re a multimillionaire with a passion for new writing, then please do get in touch and let us know.  You can contact me at phil@stagewrite.org.uk.