EarCandy

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

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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 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

Interested in writing for radio?

Aberystwyth Arts Centre has invited two leading playwrights Alan Harris and Dan Rebellato to Aberystwyth to lead radio writing masterclasses. The masterclasses will take place on Sunday 21st October and Sunday 11th November.

Alan Harris is a playwright and new writing tutor who teaches the advance writing programme at Sherman Cymru. His radio plays include “The Gold Farmer” which was nominated for the Imison Award. He has worked extensively with companies including Pentabus, Hijinx Theatre, Sherman Cymru and Paines Plough. His play “A Good Night out in the Valleys” launched the new National Theatre Wales in 2010.

Dan Reballato is a playwright and Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Royal Holloway.  He has written extensively for radio including “My Life is a Series of People saying Goodbye” and includes adaptations of “Gogol’s Dead Souls” and “Girlfriend in a Coma” .  He has been shortlisted twice for a Sony Award for radio writing. His plays for theatre include “Chekov in Hell”, “Mile End” and “Here’s what I did with my Body”.

Gill Ogden, Head of Performing Arts at Aberystwyth Arts Centre said, ‘Aberystwyth Arts Centre is extremely thrilled to have writers of the calibre of Alan Harris and Dan Reballato teaching as part of its creative writing programme. This is a great opportunity for local writers with some experience  or those interested in taking it up for the first time.’

Alan Harris Masterclass – Sunday October 21st 2- 5pm £15

Dan Rebellato Masterclass – Sunday November 11th 2-5pm £15

The classes are taking place in partnership with Aberystwyth University department of Theatre, Film and TV Studies with the support of Literature Wales.

Book through the Arts Centre box office 01970 623232 /www.aber.ac.uk/artscentre or in person prior to the workshop days.

Writers on tour

As part of the ongoing development of the Town with No… project, or Rats as it’s
new working title will be, and in an attempt to get everyone writing for the
Playpen and radio projects, the group will be going out into Aberystwyth for
some special one-off events looking for writing stimuli in some very exciting
locations in town.  Details will be revealed at the next meeting on Tuesday October 9th.

Events and Deadlines

This week,  Our Country’s Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker at Aberystwyth Arts Centre

Writing for Radio Masterclass with Alan Harris Sunday 21st October

Writing for Radio Masterclass with Dan Rebellato Sunday 11th November

Playpen project – Deadline for 1st drafts 13th November. Further info here

Writing for Radio project Deadline for 1st drafts February. Further info here

September Meeting

At the September meeting of the group Branwen Davies talked the group through a few development projects in which she has participated.. One asked the writers to give their favourite and least favourite names. The actors involved were then asked to use the names to create the character. The writers then developed pieces using these characters.

An interesting approach because it would invariably produce extremely nice or nasty characters. For me as a writer I know that naming a character is often difficult and often change once a character is further down the line of development. It’s also an interesting approach to creating a stimuli – to be handed a character effectively created by someone else.

Branwen also talked about the recent Sherman Swingers project in which each writer selected through a system of keys; a space, a set of performers (sometimes one performer sometimes more) an object and a director. The writer was then sent into the space to write so that the space and object became the stimuli for the writing with the very tight restriction of 3 minutes. After an evening locked into the space the piece was then rehearsed and presented to the audience who were asked to move from one to the other seeing the piece in the space in which it was written.

This gives us a few approaches; space, objects and characters as stimuli. Can you think of other ways of creating stimuli for writing? What do you use as stimuli in your writing?

Branwen also talked about her writing process usually she just starts to write, characters don’t have names, she doesn’t plan out structure she just writes. What is your writing process? What works, doesn’t work for you? If you were asked to give advice to a beginning writer what would be the five tips that you would give them?

As an exercise why not try using these stimuli to generate a new play. Think of your favourite and least favourite name for a person. Tell a friend, partner or random stranger the name and let them tell you what that character is like. Now give yourself 5 minutes, let these two characters meet for the first time or for a significant meeting and write 20 lines of dialogue. Now give yourself 30 minutes and write a scene of what happens before and what happens after. Then go back and re-write the whole thing. That took no more than an hour so no excuses for not doing it.

As another exercise why not try using a space as stimuli. Go to a place in Aberystwyth – a place you either hate or love or a place you have never been to before. Sit in the space. Give yourself five minutes and write as fast as you can words, phrases, sentences that come to find. Now create either 1, 2 or 3 characters using your favourite way to create a character. Think about what could happen in your space with those characters. Now give yourself 5 minutes and write 20 lines of dialogue. Now take 30 minutes and write a scene before the one you just wrote and one after. Now rewrite the whole thing.

So you’ve done both these exercises they should have taken you no more than two hours and you have two new short plays.

For the next writing group please can everyone bring at least one piece of work to share in the group either an idea to pitch or a draft of a short play currently being written for Playpen, radio project.

OR the exercise above responding to stimuli of space or character

OR take the Alan Turing – Catrin Fflur Huws challenge

OR do the Rats exercise

As always group members can and are positively encouraged to bring any work currently being written for a reading or for feedback. If it’s longer than 15 minutes then please send it out in advance to give people time to read them in time for the next meeting on 9th October.

August Writing Group write up

In the August meeting of the Writing for Performance Group we looked at two scripts from the group; a short play by Tony Jones and the beginning of a play from Sandra Bendelow.

If anyone who didn’t make it along to the group wants to read and pass on any comments to the writers then feel free to do so. It is always useful to have more comments but more importantly reading others scripts and thinking about what works and what doesn’t will ALWAYS make you a better writer.

One member of the group, Catrin Fflur Huws, also shared two ideas, first a pitch for a new short play and secondly an idea that is part of the re-write of a play which involves a major piece of re-structuring. In addition Catrin has since shared the latest draft of her play To Kill A Machine. Please do take the time to read and we will talk a little more about the latest draft in the next meeting of the writing group. If you’re not sure you have time, or feel hesitant about sharing your views then please see above comment.

We discussed Town with No Traffic Wardens and whether we should or shouldn’t take the play forward for further development. After lots of discussion it was agreed that we should do a similar project which could include characters from Town with No Traffic Warden but we’ll find a new subject relevant to Aberystwyth. It was suggested that we could possibly use an existing story or play as base on which to adapt. It was also agreed that we would approach the writing of the play from a more collaborative perspective from the very start. We will begin to look at how we will approach this very soon but in the meantime everyone needs to get ideas and suggestions for the core idea for this play to the group as soon as possible. We need to think big initially, an idea that is relevant to Aberystwyth whilst having a universality to it too. Also everyone needs to think of plays or stories that could possibly be used as an underlying format for the play we write together. This play will be the project for the group in October/November next year.

We then did the following writing exercise, this should be done as automatic writing, don’t think about it just write. Give yourself the time pressure even if you do it alone. You can go back to it afterwards, tidy it up or develop it. But stick to the time constraint.

Take 5 minutes to write down as many words, phrases, sentences that you can think of when you hear the phrase – After the Party

Give yourself ten minutes and create two characters, one at a time, five minutes each, using the following questions, answer each question with a sentence or two only.

What is their name?

What is their physiology? (age, build, looks etc)

What is their sociology? (job, money, where do you live, marital status, family class, etc)

What is their psychology? (what are their concerns, fears, interests, passions, character flaws/strengths etc)

What is their flaw? What is stopping them getting what they want? (internal)

What is their goal? What does the character want? (internal)

Once you’ve created the two characters answer the following for both characters taking five minutes

Where are they?

What are they carrying?

What was the darkest dream they had last night?

What would they like to do to the other character?

Now take ten minutes and write twenty lines of dialogue, very fast, beginning a scene in which your characters meet. Write very fast – write the very first thing your brain throws up, even if it’s rude or boring or rubbish. A physical character-action counts as a line of dialogue.

For the next session – look at your scene again. Identify the moments where your character has acted, in some way. Where they’ve slagged off the other character, where they’ve retreated, where they’ve counter-attacked, where they’ve moved in for a reconciliation, where they’ve gone in for the kill.

Return to that first moment of decisive action. List four alternative things the character could have done. Instead of hitting him, could she smear his glasses up his face or kiss his eyelids.

The next meeting of the writing for performance group will take place on Tuesday 11th September in the RECORDING STUDIO. Please bring along anything that you want to be read, or send out in advance any work that you’d like the group to discuss.

Please try to bring along something whether it’s a re-worked version of the exercise we did last week, a piece of writing you are working on or an idea you would like to talk through.

Please remember to think about Town with No…..which we’ll call it until it gets a name and bring along any suggestions.

The deadlines for radio plays and the PlayPen project are getting closer, just a few months away, so if you haven’t come up with an idea yet GET THINKING. Then get writing and then write some more.

Remember a writer WRITES.

The writing exercises were from rewriter by Paul Chitlik and the Bruntwood playwriting site by Ben Musgrave.

After the Party is the theme of the next ScriptSlam at Sherman Cymru the deadline is 19th September further details are here.

 

Future Projects #2 Writing for Radio Drama

The writing for radio project will look at all forms of writing for radio drama, it will  lead to an event in May 2013 where we will launch the plays from a web platform hosted by Aberystwyth Arts Centre.

The plays will be recorded in the Aberystwyth Arts Centre recording studio, a director and engineer. There will be two female and two male actors.

The plays should be no less than 5 minutes and no more than 10 minutes.

The plays will be recorded end of April beginning of May.

The deadline for final drafts of radio plays will be March.

The deadline for drafts of radio plays will be in February when there will be a workshop session with a radio writer and actors.

Alongside looking at short plays we will also look at other slots for radio plays including 45 minute, 60 minute and 5 x 15 minute. It is also worth thinking about the readings slots which are short stories, monologues or dramas written to be read by one actor.

In the autumn there will be two masterclass sessions with radio writers. Dates will be announced shortly.

Tips
1. Listen to radio plays. There are a vast range of radio plays available on –line
Afternoon Drama for BBC radio 4
More Drama here including the womans hour drama slot
Drama of the week that can be downloaded is here
Lots more radio on Radio4 Extra 

2. Read radio play scripts  here

3. Use your character exercises to develop you radio play characters but add this to the list of questions – what sounds do you associate with your character; bird song, rock music, running water, humming, a hammer banging, a whisper

4. Lots of tips on writing radio here

5. Think about the beginning. If you get this wrong then you will lose your listeners before you even begin because they will literally switch off.

6. Think about the medium. It is radio; flashbacks, complex time shifts, large casts are going to make things very difficult.

7. This is the medium to let your imagination run free.

8. Radio is a great medium to write for so respect it. Don’t just think I can just change this idea a bit and it will work – it won’t. Here are my thoughts on writing for different mediums

9. Find out about the radio writing commissioning process in this great blog from Michelle Lipton on radio commissioning process