EarThe latest project from the group, EarCandy is an audio drama project from a web-platform.
You can listen to all the plays and watch interviews with the writers at the Earcandy website

EarCandy is a audio drama project created by the Aberystwyth Arts Centre’s Writing for Performance Group featuring 12 short plays recorded in Aberystwyth Arts Centre and in locations around Aberystwyth.

The plays are available from a web-platform and the project also includes social media interfaces of additional material including interviews with the writers and interviews with characters from the plays.

The 12 plays written by 13 writers, include over 50 characters played by the 15 performers.

Cursed by Sandra Bendelow, Lost by Branwen Davies, The Planning Stage by Matt Christmas, Blood in Brecon by Christopher T. Harris, The Constant Hunger of the Troll Under the Bridge by Catrin Fflur Huws, The Extension by Carmel George, Surge by Tracey Goddard and Julie Grady Thomas, Burn The Rich by Tony Jones,  My Mother Told me by Rachel McAdam, Duck by Debbie Moon, Starlings by Sarah Taylor, Rules are Rules by Dean Scott.

Follow the project www.facebook.com/earcandyaudiodrama or @earcandy_plays


Writing for ….

Playpen Illustration by Boz Groden

Playpen. Illustration by Boz Groden

Playpen, the latest showcase of work from the Writing for Performance Group took place over two nights on the 1st and 7th February. The short one act plays that had been kicked out into the air over the tables of the recording studio where we meet where presented before an audience. An audience that consisted not just of family and friends but of genuine paying audience members.  An audience for script-in-hand readings is an interesting one, it is always evident that many of the audience are writers themselves and guaging the success on the evenings often lies in how many of the audience ask about joining the group. After both nights of Playpen I was inundated with interest.

Performance nights always fill me with fear and exhileration in equal measures, the nerves of seeing my own play presented tend to over whelm along with the pressure of my producer role, working to see that the other writers are happy with watching their plays and ensuring that all production aspects are handled. An evening when I have to help the writers as their plays are handed over to the director and the performers and become something beyond what we see on the page.

As writers we write often alone, filling pages with our words and the images in our heads but as writers for performance then the play must make the tricky transition beyond the life we see for it and it has to live beyond our heads. Sometime that life can falter and it is impossible to know how it will emerge until it does. Experience makes it easier to envisage that transition but still it is dependent on factors beyond our control, within the space, under the performance lights, moved by the director and the performers and most importantly that engagement with the audience. Does the play that we see live in the eyes and minds of the audience, does it engage their hearts, does it make them laugh, does it connect with them?

It was beyond doubt the most successful showcase, it is exhilarating to see the standard of writing rise from earlier showcases there is no doubt that since May 2011 when the group was formed, the writers have become writers for performance. As writers in Aberystwyth we are in the extremely lucky position of having the support of not only the arts centre and it’s staff but a community that is filled with talented, enthusiastic and extremely generous creatives. Many writers spend years writing for the page without seeing their work performed, sending plays to over subscribed competitions or trying to get through the doors of under funded writing programmes. In Aberystwyth we have a creative community that has allowed us to present three showcases of work and we are extremely grateful to all the performers and directors for their part in making us all into writers for performance.

Playpen Writer Profile: Christopher T.Harris

Christopher T. Harris‘s works include for the Drama Association of Wales, Great Mundane (Adjudicator’s Award, DAW Festival 2010); For the National Eisteddfod, The Fallen Night (Best Production and Best Actor under 25 Awards) and From Now On ; Pine Heads at the Youth Council of Chepstow (Available through Lulu Publishing) and Foul West (Broadway’s Society). His new play Walk on Mars will be performed at the Aberystwyth Art’s Centre under the Open Platform Project on March 7th. His play Sick follows three University friends who meet for a night of drink and laughter before their student lives draw to a close.

What is your play, Sick, about?
Mainly, I think it’s about the prejudices that we have for one another, and how defensive we can become in such a precarious subject. That, and of course, the influence of alcohol-culture.
How did you get the idea?
I was interested in creating a monumental event that changes the lives and perceptions of every character within it. At the same time, I wanted to write about a class of person that fascinated me; students.

What was your favourite thing about writing the play?
The dialogue rolled off of the tongue so easily. These are people I already know and talk to every single day.

What do you think were the challenges of writing this play?
Allowing the tension to rise and rise within each spoken word…for such a short play, this was a challenge. A tension had to be established from the very first line.

What were the challenges of writing a one-act play?
It takes a whole play to show a character arc…how do you do that in twenty minutes?

How did you create the characters?
By tapping into those types of people portrayed in the play in real life, then creating representations of them on the stage.

What writing tips would you offer to someone interested in writing for theatre?
Write what you know. Places

What difference has the writing group made to you as a writer?
Sometimes you can forget the basics. I found the basics. ‘Sick’ taught me how to find character’s voices much more easily. I’m now satisfied.

Christopher T. Harris’s play Sick will be performed on Thursday 7th February.

PlayPen Writer Profile: Julie Grady Thomas

Julie Grady Thomas performing her debut stand-up comedy as part of Crash Test Dymis the new Aberystwyth performance scratch night.

Julie Grady Thomas performing her debut stand-up comedy as part of Crash Test Dymis the new Aberystwyth performance scratch night.

Julie Grady Thomas’s previous writing experience is in journalism and screenwriting. She joined the Writing for Performance Group in the summer of 2012 and wrote for theatre for the first time for Town with No Traffic Wardens. Her short play Cookhouse is her second play. Julie also made her debut stand-up comedy performance as part of the new scratch night Crash Night Dymis in November 2012. She was studying for an MA in Screenwriting at Aberystwyth University but her studies are currently on hold after she found the fictional story she had created for PlayPen turning into fact. Whilst her play is performed on Thursday 7th February she will be in the US awaiting news of a student visa that will allow her to return to her home, her studies, her husband and her dog.

Tell me what your play, Cookhouse, is about?
My play is a snapshot of what deportation really looks like in modern Britain.

Tell me how you got the idea?
Being an immigrant myself, I was quite inspired by the shift in UK immigration regulation this past summer, which is in direct violation of the European convention on human rights.

How close to fact is the play?
Oddly enough, it wasn’t close when I started writing. Of course, I am American and my husband is British, but no, we didn’t have immigration issues at that time, nor are we that we that pithy.

Julie Grady Thomas and her husband Patrick at Newcastle Airport ahead of her flight back to the US

Julie Grady Thomas and her husband Patrick at Newcastle Airport ahead of her flight back to the US

How did you feel when you found out that the fiction in your play had turned into fact and you had to leave the country?
I thought I had a superpower. I thought if what I wrote could come true, then why am I writing about immigration? I should be writing about winning an Oscar or the lottery for that matter. But, in all seriousness, the fiction in my play is fact for a lot of other people, which is hugely unfair and that’s beyond an understatement. Presently, I’m writing to you from an airport because I’m on my way back to America. Luckily for me, I’m a current student, so I should be able to apply for a student visa when I get home. That way I can continue my studies at Aberystwyth University and be with my husband (and my dog) in the house that we own. That’s the funny thing; the UK doesn’t care that we own a home or that we aren’t on benefits or that we live in a place where most salaries aren’t above the requirement. They don’t even care how much money I make. It’s all up to my husband, my keeper. We’ve dodged the proverbial bullet for now, but in nine months I could very well be back on a plane without him again.

How do you feel about the changing immigration regulations?
Immigration regulations change constantly. I cannot overstate that enough. However, I am not a number or a statistic. I am a person and my life is very real. What people tend to forget is that immigrants aren’t a faceless mass. We are individuals. When these regulations change, when the higher-ups create policy without thought, it affects lives—actual human lives. Was I given bad advice? You betcha. I could have gone to the US during the break, had Christmas with my family and not missed a single class. I’ll be starting this semester at a major loss, but I do hope to keep writing and keep in touch with my professors and the department whilst I’m away. They have been nothing if not supportive. But I’m lucky. I’m young. I have no children. I’m from a Western nation. There are people who are going back to hostile environments, to poverty, to oppression. And I can assure you, these people, these immigrants, they don’t want to live off off anyone, they just want to live.

What other things are you working on writing wise at the moment?
Right now, I’m working on an independent feature, Broken Boys. It’s coming-of-age film that follows the unlikely coupling of two gay teens, an estate kid and a brilliant student. It’s all about first love and what a gorgeous mess it can be; the raw power it has over us, the hurt it can create, the cuts, the scars, the beauty.

Julie Grady Thomas’s play Cookhouse will be performed on Thursday 7th February at Aberystwyth Arts Centre 7.45PM as part of the PlayPen showcase of 20 minute plays from the Aberystwyth Art Centre’s Writing for Performance Group. Further information on all plays being presented as part of the PlayPen project is here.

PlayPen Writers Profile: Branwen Davies

Branwen Davies

Branwen Davies

Branwen Davies is a second year PhD  student in the Theatre, Film and Television Department at Aberystwyth University.  Branwen writes in Welsh and English. She is a founder member of ‘Agent 160 Theatre Company’  and Welsh language theatre company ‘Torri Gair’ and has written for Sherman Cymru, Dirty Protest, Undeb Theatre Company  and Sgript Cymru. She co-wrote ‘The Exquisite Corpse’ for True Fiction Theatre Company which was performed at the Millenium Centre Cardiff, The Edinburgh Festival and Southwark Playhouse. She also co-wrote the Welsh language play ‘Dominos’ for Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru. She is currently under commission with Living Pictures and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru  to write a play that will be performed at Sherman Cymru in September 2013. Her play for Playpen Genki? is about being in limbo trying to make sense of it all.

What is your play Genki? about?
The play is about returning from an adventure abroad and adjusting, readjusting and trying to make sense of the experience that know feels a million miles away in more than one sense.

How did you get the idea for Genki?
I wrote the play as a response to returning to Wales after living and working in Japan. I was overwhelmed and unsure where I belonged and what I should do with myself.

What did you most enjoy about writing Genki?
Writing it was carthartic. It was fun to revisit people, places, memories and experiences that put a smile on my face whilst in Japan.

What were the challenges of writing Genki?
The challenges were that it was perhaps too personal to me. It might have been a beneficial excersise for me but was there a story for an audience? Would it entertain? Would it make sense? It is trilingular and I wanted to convey a realistic image and experience of Japan without falling to stereotypes. I wanted the piece also to convey my confusion hence it’s structure and game play and randomness! The challenges were thinking ahead. Where would this play go next if I was to develop it further.

For Beginnings and Town with No Traffic Wardens the writing group were set themes and restrictions. What was the difference writing without these?
No rules and no limitations enables you to explore and experiment and have fun. I beleive that anything should and could happen in the theatre and writers should convey that in their writing. Writing for theatre should be different from writing for TV. Theatre should be different from TV. I  don’t want to go to the theatre to see a soap opera on stage.

How did you create the characters?
Characters were a mixture of me – warts and all and an amalgamation of people I met in Japan and the various encounters, experiences and opinions I came across.

What writing tips would you offer someone interested in writing for theatre?
When writing for theatre think theatre! Watch plays. Read plays. There are no limits. Write!

What difference has being part of the writing group made to you?
The writers group has made me more open to share my work and respond to other people’s work. It is important to have a safe place to experiment and try things out and to have people whose opinions and feedback you trust and respect.

Branwen Davies play Genki? will be performed on Thursday 7th February as part of the PlayPen project. Further information is available here.

Script Sessions Spring Writing Competition – call for submissions

The Script Sessions is looking for four original 15-minute stage plays, each taking inspiration from the following quotation:
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana – Life of Reason)
Each play must be written with multiple timescales – stories from different time periods, cultures, worlds, places and spaces that are told in parallel. You may have as many characters as you like but only four actors are allocated per company. Successful writers will attend a Script Sessions development workshop and will then have a week to re‐write and develop the work before it is handed over to the director and actors. Each play will be rehearsed and performed by professional actors who will perform off book with two three-hour rehearsals to take the script from page to stage. The scripts will be performed at the Courtyard Theatre, Hoxton on 29 March at 8pm. The audience will vote for the winning script.
All writers must be available for the following dates:
Script development: 7-10pm, 27 and 28 February
Rehearsals: weeks beginning 11 and 18 March (tbc)

£50 prize
Please send entries (and a contact telephone number) to: thescriptsessions@gmail.com

Submissions deadline: 5pm, 20 February
Selected scripts will be announced by 23 February.

Thanks to the Writes Guild for highlighting this opportunity

PlayPen Writers Profile: Sandra Bendelow

Sandra Bendelow

Sandra Bendelow

Sandra Bendelow has written two adaptations, Odyssey and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, both for Fallen Angel Theatre Co. In 2012 she progressed to the 3nd Round of the Red Planet Prize -one of the biggest TV Writing competitions in the UK and she was selected for the Ty Newydd Mentoring project with Kaite O’Reilly. She was selected for the Aberystwyth Arts Centre and Sherman Cymru Spread the Word Emerging Writers scheme. Sandra set up and runs the Writing for Performance Group for Aberystwyth Arts Centre and is the Producer for Scriptography Productions. Her play, Split, is about a couple with a damaged relationship returning to a flood damaged house.

What is your play about?
It is about the moment when a woman who has tolerated a bad relationship can’t tolerate it any more.

How did you get the idea?
I know a few people from Talybont who were affected by the flood and everything about that day and everything since that day is such a huge story that I’ve felt I couldn’t not write about it really. So many things stuck in my head. The suddenness of the river bursting. The furniture and possessions all heaped in piles outside the houses. The changing nature of the river from something that ran by people’s houses and was admired and loved to something that was so destructive. People living in holiday cottages for months and what it must be like to live in that temporary situation for such a long time. The pictures of the houses with shelves of things that were still exactly where they were before but covered with a layer of mud. Then returning to a home when it’s been gutted and rebuilt and you have to make it into a home but most of those possessions and belongings that make it your home have gone. With this play though someone mentioned split floorboards to me and the idea just flowed out.

What was your favourite thing about writing the play?
I really like writing about dysfunctional relationships, it’s great to find different ways to reflect how people speak to one another when they’re hiding things, when they’re pretending.

What do you think were the challenges of writing this play?
I have two characters in one room for twenty minutes. The challenge was to have a constantly changing conversation with different dynamics moving their relationship all the time.

What were the challenges of writing a one-act play?
I have always struggled with short plays. I find it difficult to tell a story in 5 minutes, or ten minutes or 20 minutes. I want an hour or 6 hours. It’s been a real challenge and one that I’ve had to face whilst writing for the group. In fact after writing two short pieces for beginnings and the Town, 20 minutes seemed so much easier.

How did you create the characters?
I wanted to surprise the audience with revelations about the characters, to have the audience make decisions about them and then subvert that expectation so it was about creating a surface level character then stripping back to reveal something else whilst keepint the characters believable.

What writing tips would you offer to someone interested in writing for theatre?
Writing for theatre, film, tv, radio is not about writing for the page. It’s for performance. You have to think about the writing moving from your head to the page but then it has to moving around and working in a space. Think about how people really talk, think about what people really do in crisis moments. Mostly though you have to just keep writing. The only way you learn is to get the words down, make mistakes, learn by writing and rewriting, learn by having pieces that don’t work and making them work. Very importantly though find your voice, write about the things you want to write about, not the things you think you should write about, not the things that other people would be writing. Writing is hard and it’s a challenge. That’s what so good about it. It shouldn’t be easy.

What difference has the writing group made to you as a writer?
It offers support, it offers a chance to hear your words read out away from the page. It offers deadlines of showcases. It offers a chance to speak to people who are like you, who understand you, who are struggling like you to be a writer. It’s also really good fun and has proved to be a great place to meet new friends.

Sandra Bendelow’s play Split will be presented as part of the PlayPen project on Friday 1st February. A full list of all plays being presented as part of Playpen on 1st and 7th February is available here

PlayPen Writers Profile: Julie Bainbridge

Julie Bainbridge

Julie Bainbridge

Julie Bainbridge is an MA Scriptwriting student at Bath Spa University. After living in Greece for many years she recently completed an undergraduate degree in English Literature and Creative Writing in South Wales. In 2009 she was selected for a National Theatre playwriting project and her play Sons of War was directed by NT director Lisa Spirling at Venue Cymru, Llandudno. In 2011, Black Boots and Petticoats was produced by Cilgwyn Theatre Company and more recently she has been mentored by the playwright and dramaturg Kaite O’Reilly. Julie also writes poetry and is currently working on an anthology to be published in 2014.

Tell me what your play, Zoo, is about?
This is a play about how three women, each with breast cancer, respond to their diagnosis.

How did you get the idea?
I was interested in exploring how the response, by many women to breast cancer, is defined and shaped by the male influences in their lives. I find it intriguing that in an era of equality and gender enlightenment, women, when confronted by breast cancer,  tend to think more about the impact it will have on the men in their lives, rather than considering the impact on themselves. This isn’t intended as a feminist work; rather as an exploration of the decisions women make about their own lives when faced with a potentially terminal diagnosis.

What was your favourite thing about writing the play?
I particularly enjoyed writing the distinct voices of the three women; getting inside their heads; understanding their priorities and the reasons for their choices.

What do you think were the challenges of writing this play?
When a play comprises of monologues there is a danger that the piece may become static. The challenge is to capture and maintain the audience’s interest in the characters; to ensure the monologues weave a spell of enchantment. As a writer, I want my audience to recognise and identify with the women in this play and leave the theatre thinking about what influences the important choices we make in life

What were the challenges of writing a one-act play?
Well, for a start, there are so many definitions of a one-act play. This can sometimes be intimidating for a writer.  I think you have to be true to your story – it’s as long as it takes you to get to the end of your story. Sometimes you won’t know the structure or form until you reach the end.

For the last two showcases, Beginnings and Town with No Traffic Wardens, a theme or subject was given, how different was it writing without rules and limitations?
There are pros and cons for un-themed writing briefs. It can be quite liberating to have the freedom to write about whatever you want. But usually, writers have so many ideas teeming through their heads, it would be unusual to be unable to adapt an idea to a theme or brief.

How did you create the characters?
My characters generally begin as people I observe or meet.  People watching and snooping offer a wealth of material. When a strong character begins to emerge, I live with them for a while; get to know them; listen to what they have to say; listen to their voice. Then capture it on the page.

What writing tips would you offer to someone interested in writing for theatre?
Get to know your craft. It’s hard. It’s competitive. Don’t waste time trying to get there by trial and error. And it’s true what they say, once you know the rules, then you can bend them. Oh… and you need to have something to say.

What difference has the writing group made to you as a writer?
Belonging to a writing group gives you the opportunity to receive valuable, honest feedback from people who understand the craft. It can force you to face up to what you tried to sweep under the carpet, out of sight. It’s hard to hide anything from another writer!

Julie Bainbridge’s play Zoo, will be performed on Friday 1st February. Information on booking tickets is available here

PlayPen Writers Profile: Tom Wentworth

Tom Wentworth

Tom Wentworth

Tom Wentworth has recently written for Sherman Cymru (Advanced Writers Programme) and Dirty Protest. He has a radio sitcom in development, has been mentored by Kaite O’Reilly and his poetry has been published widely on topics as diverse as carpets to Shropshire Butterflies. He also writes a column for Able Magazine and is a regular reviewer for Disability Arts Online. When not writing he lives in Cardiff and works for the BBC. His play for radio Sitting In follows Barry and Garry who are mounting a silent sit-in but what exactly are they protesting about and can they keep quiet about it?

 Tell me what your play is about?
‘Sitting In’ is a radio sitcom about two wannabee protestors Barry and Gary. They both work as Market Researchers but after Barry achieves fame during an impromptu protest to save the local swimming pool, by posing on an inflatable banana, they decide to become professional protestors. But are they really cut out for the job?

How did you get the idea?
I was writing this at the time when Occupy was all over the headlines, although I’d wanted to write about potestors for a long time and have had several failed attempts at writing very dramatic pieces about them. But then I wondered if they idea might work better as a comedy and so, prompted by the encouragement of radio producer Liz Anstee, I began to write Sitting In.

What was your favourite thing about writing the play?
Everything! This piece has been through a great many drafts and a great many ideas have been thrown at it but throughtout this the characters of Barry and Gary have always been there in mind. They really have been like friends to me over the last year!

What do you think were the challenges of writing this play?
Keeping the action in one physical space. This is a decision that I made early on when planning the series – that each episode would take place in one totally different environment, i.e. forming the ‘protest’ for that week. Also, writing jokes is hard and tiring so I really hope you find at least some of it funny!

What were the challenges of writing a one-act play?
I find the form extremely liberating. I like the time constraint of having to tell something succinctly. Of course there are times when I’d love not to have to cut my favourite joke because of time but afterwards you realise it really was for the best.

Playpen was about writing without rules and limitations?
For me this gives me a unique chance to hear my words out loud in front of an audience before it goes into a recording studio, with a subject matter I wouldn’t have been able to showcase this work.

How did you create the characters?
This was the strangest thing, Barry and Gary both appeared almost immediately in my mind. I later wrote quite detailed life portraits for them (most of which I will never use) but because they are series characters I needed them to have a life outside of the small section of life we see. Also, because they are slightly larger than life and ‘cartoonish’ they have been enormous fun to play with on the page – and I’m not done yet!

What writing tips would you offer to someone interested in writing for theatre?
Don’t follow my example of writing a radio piece! See as much theatre as you can and read as many plays as possible too. Then write, write, write!

Tom Wentworth’s play will be performed on Friday 1st February. Information on booking tickets is available here

PlayPen Writers Profile: Carmel George

Carmel George

Carmel George

Carmel George is a performer and director who has turned her hand to playwrighting. Her first full length play, I’m on the Train first showcased at the Open Platform at Aberystwyth Arts Centre in 2010 and toured to small venues in Mid/North Wales and Pegasus Theatre, Oxford in 2011. Carmel was selected for the Sherman Cymru Spread The Word scheme. Her play, Not Quite Yet, is about the unpredictability of grief.

What is your play is about?
The play is about the way that grief can turn a person’s world on it’s head and cause them to behave in extraordinary ways.

How did you get the idea?
Inspired in part, by a true story.  It’s been inside me for a while now and it feels good to have released it onto the page and stage.

What was your favourite thing about writing the play?
Realising and idea I’d had for a year or two.

What do you think were the challenges of writing this play?
Divorcing it as much as possible from the true story; whilst retaining its essence.

What were the challenges of writing a one-act play?
Telling a convincing story within a tight framework.

For the last two showcases Beginnings and Town with No Traffic Wardens a theme or subject was given to you, how different was it writing without rules and limitations?
I enjoyed the freedom of exploring my own ideas.

How did you create the characters?
The main character was based on fact; the other two characters just fell into place and were based on human observation

What writing tips would you offer to someone interested in writing for theatre?
Watch as much theatre as possible and read plays by playwrights whose themes interest you.
And, of course, persevere and don’t be too deterred by other peoples’ opinion of your work. Trust your own judgement.

What difference has the writing group made to you as a writer?
It has helped to keep me motivated and offers an encouraging environment to try out ideas.

Carmel George’s play will be performed on Friday 1st February. Information on booking tickets is available here