Sunday, 18 January 2015


I teach playwriting. Mostly to kids. I get the kids to perform their plays after they are written. In the best possible scenario they give them to other kids to perform so they can experience the thrill of seeing their words come to life. Quite often it doesn't work like that and they perform in their own plays.
It never ceases to amaze me how much joy people get from writing and performing plays. The performing bit is crucial because they are written for that purpose.
My most recent experience of this was at an all boys school. The content of the boys' plays varied considerably but the excitement engendered when it came to performing them was palpable. Even the boys who didn't really take it seriously and thought it a bit beneath them were clearly excited when it came to the performance day.
There is something magic about this. Bringing words to life in a space.
It doesn't matter about the quality of the writing as much as it doesn't really matter about the (admittedly) often dubious content. What matters is that the plays are written and performed.
Not only does this process give kids a chance to express themselves it gives them an opportunity to find their own voice. *
Similarly, the quality of the acting is irrelevant. What's important is that the kids get on their feet and play characters that have been written for them or they have written. It's scary but it's fun.
I'd like to think that a lot of these young writers will continue writing plays. I suspect they won't. It won't be because they haven't enjoyed the experience, it'll be because it is hard getting plays performed unless there is a performance element linked to the writing.
Whenever I've been tutoring or helping a writer develop their plays the question has always arisen,
"How do I get my play on?"
I've always replied,
"Get some friends, find a space and go for it."
On more than one occasion the person I've been working with has been horrified that I haven't suggested they send their plays to a theatre company. One or two have terminated the tutoring on the spot. I suspect their plays have never seen the light of day.
This is a pity because it is about performing the plays, seeing them come alive.
With kids it's also about self esteem, literacy and language. Learning that there are many ways to express themselves with words and one of those is writing plays.

*Finding Your Voice is the name of my playwriting program.

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