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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The town with too many rats

The group has now decided that though Town with No Traffic Wardens will not go on to be developed but instead the group will again look to write a project about Aberystwyth. This does not mean that the plays, sketches and scenes from TWNTW are dead. These could be developed into individual plays, characters could be resurrected, settings could be transplanted. Maybe Chardonnay has gone on to find her perfect job, maybe the traffic warden and the angry restaurant supply man have got married, maybe the OCD supermarket manager has finally succeeded in getting a supermarket in town.

Over the next few months in the background whilst we work on Playpen and the radio project we’ll continue to explore how to write a project for Aberystwyth.

We’ve discussed the potential to create a set of characters collectively alongside an overall story but then each member of the group is then asked to take responsibility for part of the story which would inevitably mean that everyone writes for characters created by another writer which could be problematic. However it could also be an interesting challenge.

We have also discussed finding an existing story such as Dylan Thomas’s Under Milkwood or the Pied Piper to create a base on which to build a story about Aberystwyth.

Over the next few months I’ll be asking each member of the group to lead the group in exercises about developing the Rats project. Basically to approach  the development process in the way you feel would be the most productive and focusing on whichever area you feel would be the most effective maybe character, structure, adaptation, research, stories. These exercises will be aimed at finding the subject matter and the approach.

In thinking about what we can use as stimuli and starting points the group were asked to make suggestions in the following categories,
Settings – favourite and least favourite places in Aberystwyth
Characters – who are the characters you see out and about in Aberystwyth
Ideas – political changes, things that could impact Aberystwyth
Phrases – sentences, a line of dialogue, an overheard sentence
Visual Images – an image that might combine a setting and a character, or a character doing something,

These are what the group came up with. Can you think of anymore?
SETTINGS
bridge in PwllCrwn woods, bridge next to Rummers, national library, footpath next to TA, corner in the Ship and Castle, look-out at the Castle, bench on top of the Castle, bench in the train station, folk music night at Coopers, under the Pier, the road leading to Welsh Books Council,
PHRASES
small world, secret places, you don’t do that in Aberystwyth, who wears heels in Aberystwyth, end of the road, does nobody tell them to use soap, who does she think she is?, where the mountains meet the sea, impossible to leave whichever way you try, nutters always drift West – it’s something to do with the leylines, the last resort, how young do they look?, six degrees? You must be joking it’s not even a U-grade or a GCSE in separation, I mean the sea just goes on and on and on, backwards, it’s like living in a bubble, hard to cry out for help, where did you go to school?
IDEAS
end of the world, the western end of the western world, settlers, an epidemic of rats,
CHARACTERS
Campus bingo players, spew boy, talkative porters, taxi driver, Rabbi, hells angels, hairdresser, 4 wet people from Birmingham, photographer who gets everywhere, old lady in a florescent bonnet, man who spouts nothing in particular, woman in mobility scooter with sheep, fat goth/thin goth lesbian couple, someone on crutches, scrawny looking people with dogs who look like pipe cleaners, well upholstered women of a certain age, Kimberley with big thighs & big knockers, pompous students, drowned boy,
IMAGES
driftwood, a man in a hedge,

As an exercise select two characters, a setting then either a phrase, an image or an idea. Give yourself five minutes. Create a scene from these elements. Give yourself 30 minutes. Create the scene before and the scene after. Re-write the whole thing.

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

Future Project #1 PlayPen

Following their sell out showcase Town with No Traffic Wardens the next writers group project at Aberystwyth Arts Centre will be two evenings of 20 minute plays as script-in-hand rehearsed readings. PlayPen will take place in February 2012 on two consecutive Thursday evenings.

The deadlines for rehearsals drafts is 7th January and workshop drafts have to completed by 4th December.

The deadline for 1st drafts is 13th November.

As we have had two projects about subjects chosen for the group PlayPen is about letting your imagination run free and writing about any subject so other than no-longer than 20 minutes there are no rules. It can be on any subject, any style and have any number of characters. However having said there are  no rules then the first guidance I would offer is don’t make it difficult for yourself. 12 characters might be a little difficult if not impossible! However if you want to have 12 characters no-one is going to stop you.

Tips
1. Develop your characters – we’ve done lots of character development exercises so there is no excuses for underdeveloped characters.

2. Develop your structure – we’ve also done lots of exercises on structuring plays so think carefully about the structure of your play

3. Challenge yourself – if you’ve only written monologues before then write a dialogue, if you’ve only written static plays before try to write one with real physicality and movement, if you usually write short scenes then write longer ones, if you usually write comedy then try out that darker tone, if your last play had a male protagonist then write for a female protagonist

4. Show your voice – this is a rule free showcase so write what you’re passionate about, don’t write for others, don’t write for an imagined audience this is your chance to show-off your unique voice

5. Don’t write for a script-in-hand – this is a chance to write a one act play that can add to your portfolio and be sent to competitions so don’t just think about what will work as a script-in-hand

6. Think about your medium – this isn’t radio, film or TV this is theatre so write for theatre

7. See or read plays

8. See or read some more plays

9. See or read even more plays

10. Stop making excuses and get writing. The only way you will find out if that idea works is to get it written. If it doesn’t work then it will need rewriting. If it does work it will need re-writing. Then it will need some more re-writing. So basically the main thing you should be doing is writing.

Spread the Word from Tony Jones

Tony Jones from the Writing for Performance shares with us some thoughts on the Spread the Word programme.
Spread The Word is Sherman Theatre’s outreach programme to encourage new writers.

Catrin Fflur Huws, Debbie Moon and Tony Jones at the Spread the Word readings


I had expected a quite prescriptive course, but it was a healthy mix of info of theory (plotting, character, conflict) and utilising our own experiences & perspectives.

Ideas that I found useful were, in no particular order:
– Subtext. The idea of actually writing things about the character, that are perhaps not revealed, was new to me. This process of “subtext becoming text to drive your action” was very helpful (anyone who saw the last episode of “Inside Men” will know what happens when you don’t bother with this.)
– Metaphor. I’ve never knowingly spotted an actual metaphor (I though Animal Farm really was about pigs being bastards and thus OK to eat) and I am frustrated that “they” say we’re not aloud to make them explicit (metaphors, not pigs) eg “Isn’t it interesting, Emyr, that we are facing professional redundancy at just the time we are facing it in our personal lives too?” “Yes, Nathan, I thought that too”. But I am willing to accept that metaphor allows you to gently nudge an issue without necessarily coming over all Al Gore (who wouldn’t deserve such treatment).
– Complete Metaphor. Like above, but a closed system, a world.
– Stuck? Why not try a short brainstorming session about your characters. What’s in their pocket? What’s their greatest fear? etc
– Character is plot, plot is character. I don’t fully agree with either (no theory ever fully true) but have learned to look more at how your characters drive the narrative forward, not people with guns or boyhood sledges.
– Recording actual dialogue shows you how nonsensical much real dialogue is. Completely verbatim theatre would be awful but listening to what is actually said (and then writing it down) will give you an edge. Make sure anything they say is driven by their life so far (see subtext) 
– Don’t mistake people talking for dramatic action 
– Reptition – saying something three times gives power, but five is mad. Setup, pay-off, echo.
– Axis. Find two opposing principles and move between them to create tension (Loss-Redemption, Pleasure-Pain etc)
– Beginnings – create status quo, then disrupt it with your Inciting Incident. Make your ending another beginning.
– Show, don’t tell. I edited out by sub-plot of Steve/Karen affair, but the actors ressurrected it with knowing nods & pauses; audience got it.
– Story = What happened. Plot = Why. 

Although our tutor taught us all of this simply & clearly, it was only actually writing the play that explained it to me. There is no substitute for DOING. I can see how courses & theory can be seductive but we need to write, fail, write, fail and then maybe start again a little wiser.