Tag Archives: plays

Knocking on the workshop door

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I read an interview with writer Jenn Ashworth the other day, in which she spoke (among other things) about how belonging to a writer’s group can be a useful way of pinpointing which parts of a draft do and don’t work.

I totally get where she’s coming from. I love writing workshops. I remember the first one I attended, and how the nervousness I felt in anticipation of the event was unexpectedly dwarfed by the thrill of hearing people – then strangers – voice their considered opinions about my words, plot, characters etc.

I have since been a part of several different workshop groups, and have been along to a number of one-off meetings, and I can say with the exception of one session I have found them all to be hugely, wonderfully helpful. Not only as a way of divining what works (both from other’s comments and writing), but as a means of growing confidence; of knowing when to listen to the instincts of a reader, and when to trust my own.

I mentioned in an earlier post about unruly children that I was attending a series of (play and screenplay) workshop run by CJ Hopkins. Those have now finished, and it won’t be long before the final draft of the play I presented at them will be too.

I may have reached the same point of near completion in the same time frame without a string of Tuesday night trips to a writer’s room in Berlin’s Kreuzberg, but even if I had, I think there would still be question marks hanging over the piece. And the only one I want to see hanging anywhere is at the end.

Click here to read the Jenn Ashworth interview, conducted by writer Rachel Connor

Category: Berlin, plays, Writing | Tags: , ,

Molly Eyre

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As I write, the rehearsals for the premiere of the first ever staging of my play Molly Eyre are drawing to a close. Thursday night is the night, and I am pretty excited about seeing the piece performed. I haven’t been able to attend any of the rehearsals to watch the characters come alive, but have been following director Jürgen Weber’s blog to try and gain some insight into what to expect on the night. It doesn’t give much away though, so I will have to do as the he told me, and just wait and see.

Uta Treff from Molly Eyre drinking tea

 

The play is scheduled to run (in German) until May at the Mainfranken Theater in the historic Bavarian city of Würzburg.

Molly Eyre throws together four mothers, who have been given the task of agreeing on a new use for a room at the kindergarten their children attend. Sounds simple? Not so when manipulation, opportunism, jealousy, insecurity are at the table with them.

In writing this play, I borrowed the main characters and plot elements from three Molière plays – The Imaginary Invalid, The Hypocrite, The Misanthrope – and wove them back together to show not only how fiction reflects reality, but how reality can be informed by fiction.

Category: plays, Writing | Tags: , ,

Unruly children

I was asked to write a post for the blog about Molly Eyre. When I asked if there was anything specific I ought to be writing, I was told “something about your new play…”  Here is what I decided on. A little piece about badly behaved characters.

I have come to realise there are some similarities between raising children and giving a voice to characters in a work of fiction. Prime among them is that they refuse to do as they are told. I’m working on a play at the moment, and following some insights I gleaned at a series of workshops given by CJ Hopkins, I decided to try and replace my rather ambling approach to plotting with something more systematic.

It was a departure, and within a relatively short space of time, I knew exactly what was going to happen in my second act, as opposed to just having a rough idea. When I sat down to put flesh on the bones of my plot, I could almost hear my one-time tutor Richard Beard, novelist and director of the National Academy of Writing (NAW), cheering me on. (“Write towards something, Tamsin…”) So I did.

I wrote. And I wrote. And I wrote some more. But my characters were not saying what I wanted them to, and they were certainly not sticking to my carefully mapped out plot. On the contrary, they were tearing it up as if they were two year-olds and it were a crisp newspaper.  And when they finally ran out of energy, and were sitting in a sea of paper sheds, tired out from the sheer exhilaration of being alive and thoroughly disobedient, they looked at me and started to cry for help.

My response was to take them out for a run. When I run, I sort out my writing questions. Unblock my blocks. Time and again. So we ran; my characters and I. And as we went, I laid down some ground rules. I told them that from now on in, we would be writing the play my way, not theirs. There would be no more plot shredding. They would go where I said, when I said, and what’s more, they would say what I said. They conceded, and by the end of the run, I had them back under control.

On that basis, we started over. We trotted along nicely for the first seven pages of Act II, and I allowed myself to think “this not so hard after all”. But then just as we were moving onto page eight, they suddenly reared, broke free of their reins and galloped off around a corner. I had two choices: I could let them go and follow them with interest, or try and catch them up and bring them back into line. I opted for the former.

They are still going, and I am still interested. So for now I have decided to stick to my more ambling plotting methods; the ones that allow my characters to become who they are going to become without too much meddling from me. I’m sure I will still offer them advice from time to time, and I hope that even if they don’t actively listen, they at least hear, and that the essence of what I try to teach them will reveal itself in surprising and beautiful ways.

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