Sunday, 13 November 2011

Spread the Word begins

The first session of the Spread the Word programme took place on Monday. The programme is part of a Wales-wide programme for emerging writers effectively it is the Sherman Cymru new writing team on tour, working with new writers in various regional art centres and theatre. In Aberystwyth it is being run with the Arts Centre. Eight writers were selected for a five week course (one evening session a week) followed by a lock in day at which we will have the opportunity to pitch a play and begin its development. Then, by February, we have to submit a play and four writers will be selected for a rehearsed reading with a professional cast and director.

I was really pleased to get through. It feels part of a building momentum that seems to be happening with my writing career at the moment. Certainly it seems as though things are heading in the right direction as opposed to the static, downward or circling trajectories that my writing career has been on for some time.

Sarah Woods is leading the course with Branwen Davies as Associate tutor. The first session started off at quite a pace which is understandable as we have a lot to get through in five weeks. First of all we did the introductory thing – which I hate. I know I need to get more comfortable about talking about myself as a writer and my writing but no matter how many times I do it I detest the experience. My mind goes blank and I struggle to remember even the basic things about my writing and then I spend the rest of the evening remembering all the things I should have said.

Sarah had a slightly different approach to us introducing ourselves. We split into pairs asked one another a set of questions and then introduced the other writer.

The questions were:-
Why do you write plays?
What do you feel is the role of the audience?
Do you have recurring themes or a specific style?
Do you have areas that you’re strong in?
What do you think you can do better?
What do you hope to gain from the course?
We talked these all through sharing what our partner had said, adding things when we felt we needed to expand. It was interesting to listen to the things that we have in common as writers and the differences.

More on these questions to follow because I think they such useful questions for writers to ask themselves on a regular basis that I wanted to address them in more detail.

We then moved on to talk about the elements of a play. We threw out suggestions and the flipchart was filled with words. Some words in green to indicate that they were key. Others in another colour to show that they were part of the elements that run at a deeper level flowing beneath the key green words. Some elements were contentious – with disagreements sparking about whether they were to be considered or not. Then we explored the links between them drawing lines between linking elements to confirm that everything links to everything else.

We talked about the elements being the building blocks or strata. We talked about things going wrong with the inclusion of the elements so that energy leaks from the play and a loss of drive within the play.

Finally Sarah told us a few playwriting methodologies.
Roy Williams – writes the whole play a story first.
Phyllis Nagy – sits in front of sport on television and just writes the play
David Edgar – 9 months of planning and developing then writes the play in 3 weeks
Alan Ayckbourn – writes the plays in a few weeks. Plucks the ideas from nowhere. Never gives them names only numbers. Over time the process of writing has become less complicated.
I love hearing about other writers processes. And on the whole I find that each of these processes makes perfect sense however Phyllis Nagy came as a bit of a shock. I did try this on Sunday and sat in front of the Grand Prix notebook on knee. But unfortunately sport on the television had the same effect as it usually did - I curled up and slept for an hour. Mind you then I felt quite refreshed and did a few hours of character development so maybe it worked in a roundabout way.

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