So Long and Thanks for All the Plays

by Jackie Crichton

I really like plays. And playwrights. And I especially love Playwrights' Studio, Scotland. Which is why I'm sad to write that this week I'm leaving Playwrights' Studio. The Edinburgh-Glasgow train is stealing my soul and an exciting job at David Greig's Lyceum could not be refused.

There's no doubt that I'll miss being a part of Playwrights' Studio. It's a unique organisation which is typified by its generosity. My colleagues are wonderful and I feel very lucky to have worked with them. So, in order to compound the intensity of my nostalgia, I'm going to look back at some of Playwrights' Studio's achievements during my 20-month stint as Administration and Communications Co-ordinator.

 

Playwrights

A big focus of my work was working with playwrights. Obviously. This included playwrights at all different stages of their careers working with us in a number of different roles.

Playwrights' Studio really value the input of their Associate Playwrights; in my time I was able to work with Rob Drummond, Jules Horne, Johnny McKnight and Lynda Radley.

Part of a session in the Mentoring Programme includes a tea break with Playwrights' Studio staff.  I therefore spent a lot of time chatting theatre and catching up with the 2015 and 2016 cohorts: Zoe Barrett, Ross Dunsmore, Andy Edwards, Sue Gyford, Belle Jones, Lisa Keddie, Jen McGregor, Eve Nicol, Conor O'Loughlin, Adura Onashile, Chrisella Ross (Gaelic), Sara Shaarawi, Gillian Shirreffs.

PWS2015 Group Photo _72dpi

New Playwrights Awards are exciting to manage. All the playwrights are so different and their ideas vary wildly. I always enjoyed seeing how a play developed from the initial planning stages through to a full play at the end of the award. I worked with the following playwrights during their awards:

2014: Molly Innes, Jennifer Knotts, Rebecca Nada-Rajah, Morna Young.

2015: Rosanna Hall, Deb Jones, Iain Macrae (Gaelic), Drew Taylor, Heloise Thaul.

2016: Marcus Mac an Tuairnier (Gaelic), Andy McGregor, Frances Poet, Corinne Salisbury, Anita Vettesse.

 

TalkFest at the Tron (2015 + 2016)

In my twenty months at Playwrights' Studio I worked on two of these week-long mini-festivals at the Tron Theatre.

In 2015, Playwrights' Studio ran script development workshops for the following playwrights: Cathy Forde, Kevin Gilday, John Paul Hurley, David Ireland, Liz Lochhead, Anita Vettesse, JL Williams. In addition to the script development workshops, we organised lectures, playwriting workshops and script surgeries which were delivered by Catriona Lexy Campbell and Morna Young, Rob Drummond, David Greig, Lewis Hetherington, Kathy McKean, Alan McKendrick, Rona Munro.

Rob Drummond - Grappling with Drama

At the 2016 TalkFest at the Tron we ran script development workshops for the following playwrights: Rosanna Hall, Iain Heggie, Grace Knight, James Ley, Linda McLean, Ellie Stewart, Andrew Thompson. Riccardo Galgani, Lesley Hart, Johnny McKnight, JC Marshall, Anthony Neilson, Lynda Radley were all involved in TalkFest at the Tron (leading workshops, giving lectures or hosting Script Surgeries).

 

Festival (2015 + 2016)

Playwrights' Studio have a very busy time during the Edinburgh Festival. The organisation pretty much moves through to Edinburgh and as well as managing a number of projects we run an adorable pop-up bookshop.

In August 2015, we delivered a wide-ranging and very successful Festival programme, comprising 19 separate events and a full-time Bookshop and Information Point in the Traverse Bar:

- Four workshops and four panel discussions as part of Made in Scotland at the Traverse and Fringe Central
- Pre:View - four rehearsed readings at the Traverse Theatre (project management on behalf of the University of Edinburgh)
- James Tait Black Award for Drama 2015 ceremony at the Traverse Theatre (project management in behalf of the University of Edinburgh, in association with the National Theatre of Scotland and the Traverse Theatre). The three shortlisted plays for 2015 were Tomorrow Come Today  by Gordon Dahlquist (from the USA), The James Plays by Rona Munro and Incognito by Nick Payne.  Gordon Dahlquist was the recipient of this award.
- Two masterclasses for theScottish Universities International Summer School
- Panel discussion and script surgeries for the Village Pub Theatre
- Book launch for How to Write About Theatre by Mark Fisher at the Traverse Theatre

The workshops were led by Ailie Cohen, Lewis Hetherington, Johnny McKnight, Gary McNair, Stef Smith and Robert Softley Gale.  The discussions were chaired by Rob Drummond, Zinnie Harris, Alan McKendrick and Lou Prendergast

The panelists were Pamela Carter (Paul Bright's Confessions of a Justified Sinner), Jo Clifford (The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven), Claire Cunningham (Give Me a Reason to Live), Tim Crouch (An Oak Tree), Oliver Emanuel (Dragon), Raeda Ghazaleh (Al Harah Theatre Company), David Greig (Lanark: A Life in Three Acts), John Harris (The Garden), Christopher Haydon (The Christians), Matthew Lenton (Tomorrow), Brian Lobel (you have to forgive me, you have to forgive me, you have to forgive me), Zoey Martinson (Ndebele Funeral), Ramesh Meyyappan (Butterfly), Caitriona Ni Mhurchu (Eating Seals and Seagulls' Eggs), Orla O'Loughlin (Swallow), Muriel Romanes (The Jennifer Tremblay Trilogy), Annie Ryan (A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing), Stef Smith (Swallow), Robbie Synge (Douglas) and Diane Torr (Donald Does Dusty). 

Annie Ryan at The Art of Theate Adaptation discussion

In August 2016, we delivered a wide-ranging and very successful Festival programme, comprising 29 separate events and a full-time Bookshop and Information Point in the Traverse Bar:

- Four workshops, five panel discussions and 12 script surgeries as part of Made in Scotland at the Traverse and Fringe Central
- Pre:View- four rehearsed readings at the Traverse Theatre (project management on behalf of the University of Edinburgh)
- James Tait Black Award for Drama 2016 ceremony at the Traverse Theatre (project management on behalf of the University of Edinburgh, in association with theTraverse Theatrewith support from theNational Theatre of Scotland). The three shortlisted plays for this year were hang by debbie tucker green, Iphigenia in Splott  by Gary Owen and People, Places and Things  by Duncan MacMillan. Gary Owen was the recipient of this award.
- Two masterclasses for the Scottish Universities International Summer School

The workshops were led by  Rob Drummond, Kai Fischer, Adura Onashile and Kieran Hurley.  The discussions were chaired by Kathy McKean, Deb Jones, David Greig, Zinnie Harris and Lewis Hetherington

The panelists were FK Alexander ((I Could Go On Singing) Over The Rainbow), Rachael Clerke (Cuncrete), Howard Coase(Callisto: A Queer Epic), James Ley (Love Song to Lavender Menace), Nic Green (Cock and Bull), Andy Cannon (Leaf by Niggle), Alexander Devriendt (​World Without Us), Chino Odimba (Amongst The Reeds), Sita Pieraccini (Bird), Julia Taudevin (Heads Up; Blow Off), Matt Applewhite (Nick Hern Books), Anita Gallo (Writers' Guild of Great Britain), Emily Hickman (The Agency), Rosie Kellagher (Traverse Theatre), Katie Langridge (Knight Hall Agency), Martin O'Connor (SSP), Natasha Gilmore (Whiteout), Martin Lyngbo (Mungo Park - Travels in the Interior of Africa), Arthur Meek (On the Conditions and Possibilities of Hillary Clinton Taking Me as her Young Lover), Sara Shaarawi (Lifted), Linda McLean (A View from Castle Rock), Janis Claxton (POP-UP DUETS (fragments of love)), Rebecca Durbin (PLAY), Matt Regan (Greater Belfast), Zac Scott (Dancer), ​Nir Paldi (Bucket List).

 

Different Stages

In November 2015, Playwrights' Studio hosted a two-day conference called Different Stages for playwrights, theatre-makers, directors and producers in partnership with the Federation of Scottish Theatre (FST), the Scottish Society of Playwrights(SSP) and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Different Stages also included a script development workshop of Wolf Road by Nicola McCartney directed by Philip Howard. The second day of script development took the form of an open rehearsal followed by a rehearsed reading of the play.

The conference report was published in early 2016, along with results from the survey commissioned during 2015, Scotland: A Place for Playwrights.

 

Education

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland: Through the MA Classical & Contemporary Text course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland I've been able to work with the following playwrights during the writing of their plays: The Consecration of Connor King by Mike Cullen, SCAPE  by Jules Horne, Oh Graveyard, You Can't Hold Me Always  by Alan McKendrick in 2015. Let The Bitch Burn by Gary McNair, The Caddie by Douglas Maxwell, Papercuts  by Stef Smith in 2016. Next year's writers will be Davey Anderson, Kieran Hurley and Lynda Radley. All the writers involved in this project bring a wealth of experience to the process for the student directors and actors. During this time, I've worked with 73 (!) students from the course.

Stef Smith leading the Smash It Up! workshop at Edinburgh Festival

University of Edinburgh: In 2014, I was one of the students on the MSc in Playwriting. In 2015 and 2016, I got to work with the course from in a completely different capacity. The playwrights I worked with during their studies were Thomas Ambrosini, Melloney Flinn, Jill Franklin, Helen Gilmore, Devon Jackson, Steven Morie, Laurie Motherwell, Jonathan O'Neill, Kay Singh, Thomas Stuchfield and Jane Sunderland.

 

International Work

Brazil: Curioso was a partnership with A Play, a Pie and a Pint, the Traverse Theatre and the National Theatre of Scotland, with Playwrights' Studio as the lead, co-ordinating partner. It is part of a wider strategy between Brazil and Scotland, to build the foundations for collaboration between playwrights and producers, the commissioning and production of new plays, touring productions, transfers and co-productions. The playwrights involved were Marco Catalao, Michelle Ferreira and Silvia Gomez (from Brazil) and Kieran Hurley and Stef Smith (from Scotland).

New Zealand: New Zealand playwright Arthur Meek enjoyed a three-month residency in Scotland with the company Magnetic North, in partnership with Creative New Zealand and and Playmarket New Zealand.  The project was recognised by New Zealand's Culture Minister as an example of best practice at a Creative New Zealand Festivals reception in August.

 

Yes, there's more

- In September 2015, Playwrights' Studio supported the Thurso-based playwright George Gunn with a day of development including a rehearsed reading of his play Badbea Waterloo.

- Playwrights' Studio have been working in partnership with Curious Seed to deliver a pilot workshop for professional playwrights. The focus of the workshop is for Christine Devaney (as a choreographer) to share her creative practice and processes as a way of discovering what this may bring to the very first stages of new work. This also gives writers and all involved an opportunity to explore new collaborative and experimental ways of working between text, music and movement.

- We collaborated with the University of Edinburgh on their project Ensemble with playwright Peter Arnott. The documentary about the writing of Peter's play premieres at the GFT in November.

- Playwrights' Studio supported the playwright Lou Prendergast during a PhD with the University of the West of Scotland.

Making Your Way in the World Today discussion at Edinburgh Festival

- In February 2106, Playwrights' Studio co-ordinated a reading of Ann Marie Di Mambro's Tally's Blood, which celebrated its 25th anniversary.  The partners were Glasgow Caledonian University, Sell A Door Theatre Company and Macrobert.

- In February 2016, Lewis Hetherington delivered a workshop to writers working with Play Pieces.  Our Creative Director also attended this workshop to update the writers on Playwrights' Studio's future plans.

- In September 2016, we supported David Cosgrove to develop his new play, A Different Drum.

- We piloted a design and playwriting workshop with The Envelope Room, led by Linda McLean and involving playwrights Alan McKendrick, Deb Jones, Elspeth Turner and Linda Duncan McLaughlin.

- Playwrights' Studio hosted a Born to Write workshop in October 2016 led by Magi Gibson at the Whiteinch Centre. In November, the next workshop will be led by Nicola McCartney at Govanhill Baths.

 

It's not over until it's over

As well as working on this plethora of projects I've also been supported to improve my own skills. I've received professional training in marketing, social media, time management and budgeting. I was awarded a fully-funded bursary from Creative Scotland to attend the Arts Marketing Association Conference in 2016.  I was also selected to be mentored through the Federation of Scottish Theatre's Step Up programme which allowed me to focus on my career development.

Jackie at TalkFest

And I saw hundreds of plays. Literally hundreds. At all different stages - from extracts to rehearsed readings to full productions. So, if I haven't had the chance to tell you in person... so long (and thanks for all the plays).

Written by Jackie Crichton at 00:00

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