Guest blog by Brian Woolland, who wrote THIS FLESH IS MINE, WHEN NOBODY RETURNS and DOUBLE TONGUE for Border Crossings. With Rib Davis, Brian runs the playwriting course WRITE THEATRE, held at the Cockpit in association with Border Crossings.
Well these last 12 months have been a slog, haven’t they?
This time last year, Rib wrote in a blog piece for Lane’s List: ‘Write Theatre courses are one of the highlights of my year, every year. Stimulating, fun, challenging, exciting – and exhausting. That’s how I find them. The writer-participants seem to feel the same, and the actors too.’ And he merrily went on to give the dates of the next course, as May of last year.
Little did we know…
But at least in 2020 we managed to run one online course, and it was fun. Zoom may not be ideal for theatre, but it’s something. The writers seemed to benefit from the course and – as ever – so did we, but I can’t pretend it was the same.
It wasn’t. Not only were we not in the same physical room with the writers, but, more importantly, for the first time we had no actors involved. And having actors involved is really central to what we do at Write Theatre. So while we’re pleased with what we achieved, we can’t wait to get back to the in-person course.
And now it’s starting to seem possible – we are really hoping to get back to our original model which we love so much: one weekend working with the writers (2 tutors and no more than 8 writers) on various aspects of the creation of scripts for the stage, and developing their ideas with them; then a few weeks when the writers go home and write scenes, which they send to us for comment; and then a second weekend, and this is where it really takes off, as we employ excellent professional actors to workshop the scenes that the writers have written.
This is what suddenly – and often astonishingly – brings the scripts to life, and of course the actors interrogate those scripts, just as happens in a professional production. It is this part of the process, every time, that the writers tell us they gain from most of all.
So, with our fingers firmly crossed, we have a new course scheduled for May and June of this year, with real people in a real room. We’re hoping to get our usual diverse mix of writers: some with experience of writing plays, but wanting to become excellent; some with writing experience in a different field (journalists, poets, novelists, copy-writers); some not so experienced (and perhaps having been put off in the past); and some absolute beginners.
The mix is stimulating, and everyone benefits from the supportive atmosphere. But, as ever, we don’t accept everyone onto the course, and it’s not simply a matter of experience – we still demand that participants should love theatre, go to theatre regularly (when that’s possible – oh heady days!), and read playscripts.
We, Brian and Rib, have both had difficult years. We have used the enforced time at home to write, as you’d expect, but like everyone else we have sorely missed the face-to-face human contact, which is possibly more important in theatre than in any other kind of writing.
So we are hugely looking forward to getting back to the Cockpit in Marylebone, and diving into the workshops on dialogue, characterisation, structure, getting started and the rest, getting to know the writer-participants over lunch or in the café by the street market round the corner, and then exploring and developing their writing.
We’re hoping, too, that as in the past some of our students will go on to have their plays produced. That’s what we’re helping them to work towards.
Our next in-person course is scheduled to run over the 2 weekends of May 22-23 and June 12-13.
Cost of complete 2-weekend course £400.
And for once, ‘small print’ that’s not so small you can’t read it, and is in your favour:
Given the continuing uncertainty about the pandemic, we are making a small change to our terms and conditions. The £50 deposit that participants pay at the time of booking a place is normally not refundable unless we have to cancel or postpone the course. Knowing how difficult it is for people to plan ahead in these times, we have decided that anyone who books a place on the course and wishes to cancel (for whatever reason) up to two weeks before the first weekend will receive a FULL refund of ALL fees paid , including the deposit.
If you have any questions, please get in touch with us: firstname.lastname@example.org