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.

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.

 

Happy Birthday

The Writers Group

The Writers Group

Today is the one year anniversary of the Writing for Performance Group which began in May 2011.

Last month the group presented its second script-in-hand rehearsed reading, Town with No Traffic Wardens. TWNTW as it became known, largely due to the length of the title, was different from the first set of plays Beginnings in that it was an attempt by the group to explore structuring and writing a full length play by setting a subject and working together to produce a collaboratively written project.

It began as a playful writing experiment and exercise but in April we were faced with the reality of a public audience for our group’s project. The evening surpassed expectations and as with Beginnings we have to be very thankful and appreciative of being blessed with some incredibly talented performers who were willing to give up their time for what is largely a thankless task for a performer.

The evening is about the writers and the performers largely have to bow to the wills, demands and caprices of the writers. It’s an unusual set-up really. The performers are incredibly patient and very understanding of this, far more than we writers deserve.

The group contains a varied mix of experience, some writers presenting work for the very first time, some writers presenting work in the medium of theatre for the very first time, some writers who have now written a few short plays and also some more experienced writers.

The material for Town with Traffic Wardens was a mixture of stand-alone short plays, scenario’s, scenes and sketches and all of them were pulled together into a presentation of work-in-progress. It also represented the diverse range of voices within the group and so scanned across many styles and tones.

The evening sold out. Yes, SOLD OUT to a very receptive and appreciative audience who seemed to really enjoy the cross section of offerings and the variety of light and dark in the evening.

But now on the anniversary of the group starting just one year ago with two script-in-hand rehearsed readings it’s time to move onto the next projects; a radio writing project, PlayPen -20 minute plays on any subject and the Town with No….. project as we wait to find what Aberystwyth will offer that could possibility compete with the fascinating world of news in a small town by the sea.

Blog hopping

View a post from me on Kaite O’Reilly’s blog about setting up and running the Writing for Performance Group and Town with No Traffic Wardens.

Getting Started – 4

This next exercise is about developing the idea and thinking about your characters place in the idea and story of your play. Give yourself 30 minutes but try to answer each question quickly if you are struggling with the answer then move on to the next question and come back to that question later.

  • What is at the core of the idea?
  • What are the things that drew you to the idea?
  • What are your intentions? Why do you want to write it?
  • Write as many words as you can to describe your play in one minute.
  • Add some more words to that list – think of colours, think of textures, think of sounds.
  • What is the central question that you want to explore?
  • How do you want the audience to respond to the piece?
  • Why is the story important to you?
  • Why do you want to tell this particular story?
  • What do you think you will learn by exploring this theme?
  • Who is the protagonist?
  • Who is the antagonist?
  • What does your protagonist want?
  • What is stopping them getting what they want?
  • What are the potential obstacles to them getting what they want?
  • How is the world of the play changed or not changed by them getting or not getting what they want?
  • Do you like them?
  • Do you think the audience will like them?
  • What is the character forced to react to?
  • List all the choices your characters are forced to make in your play?
  • What is the time pressure for each decision?
  • What is at stake?
  • What makes the decision difficult?
  • What is the risk they take?
  • What are the consequences?
  • What is surprising about the decision they make?

Take a look back and expand any of the answers. If you’ve answered all these questions fully then you should be ready to begin to write your play, well hopefully, at the very least you’ll be a lot closer to getting started.

Hacking Coughs and Structures

Hamlet Mind Map

Mind Map of Hamlet

The January meeting of the Writing for Performance was a smaller group than usual thanks to the hacking cough and head cold germ that seems to be virulent through Aberystwyth and indeed Wales.

It was our first meeting in our new location as we’ve now been re-assigned to meet in the Round Studio. Meeting in the space that is our performance space is brilliant. It means that the sense of space, so vital to writing for performance, looms about us as we speak. Ideas that we discuss immediately have a physicality. I can see that as people talk about their ideas they look about the space, they’re visualising the piece moving as theatre.

A few months ago we began to look at structures. Beginnings was all short plays, which can exist with a  flimsier structure. A brilliant short play will have as strict an adherence to structure as a full length play but it’s possible that the shorter piece can be held together by an idea, or a story, or simply a striking change within a character.

But the next step for the writing group is to think bigger which means thinking about 1 act plays or even full length plays if they’re feeling daring enough. A few of the group have already taken the leap into the longer plays but most have only worked on the short plays of Beginnings.

Town with No Traffic Wardens became not just the next project but the next writing exercise. Somewhere in the next few  months we have to take approximately 10 short plays and stitch them together to create a full length play.

As a teaser and a way to get the group to think about structure in plays I set the group the following exercise

Pick a play (list of plays below but any will do -though ideally one you haven’t read before),

Attempts on her Life by Martin Crimp
4.48 Psychosis or Crave by Sarah Kane
Peeling or Henhouse by Kaite O’Reilly
Spring Awakening by Wedekind
Top Girls, Far Away, A Number by Caryl Churchill
Betrayal by Harol Pinter
The Norman Conquest or House and Garden by Alan Ayckbourn
An Experiment with an Air Pump by Shelagh Stephenson
Happy Days, Ohio impromptu, Rockaby, Not I, Foot Falls or Act Without Words 1 by Samuel Beckett
Oleanna, Edmond or Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet
Hamletmachine by Heiner Muller
Hamlet by Shakespeare
Oedipus by Sophocles

Do a 5 minute presentation/talk that includes

  • a brief precis of the play
  • a summary of how the writer has structured the play
  • Select a few pages for the group to look at that shows examples of structure, devices or style that you think are worth highlighting.
  • What else do you notice about structure? How are the scenes structured? Is there anything about the characters, themes, motifs of the plays that is reflected in  the structure?

The above image is a mind map that one of the group did of Hamlet. Also discussed; Kaite O’Reilly’s Peeling, Sarah Kane’s Blasted, Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls and Timberlake Wertenbaker Our Country’s Good. More about the chosen plays soon.