Tag Archives: Fin Kennedy

Playwright vs performance writer

There’s an interesting discussion going on National Theatre Wales’s on-line community in the writers’ group re- the difference between ‘plays’ and ‘live performance’, ‘playwrights’ and ‘artists/performance writers’, and the opportunities available to each. This has prompted me to engage on that site, and now here, with what is a very old chestnut indeed…

For years I’ve been contesting the separation of ‘playwrights’ and plays from ‘performance writers/makers/artists’ and texts. At various gatherings and symposia I’ve attended over the past decade and more (usually around that other unnecessarily loaded term ‘dramaturgy’), I’ve  almost come to blows when denying and descrying what I see as an odd and artificial schism. On one memorable occasion about eight years ago, I was denied kinship with the cool crowd of live performance makers because I’d written a three act play for the Birmingham Rep’ in 2000 and was therefore a ‘playwright’ and into realism and naturalism and the fourth wall and other forms of conservatism… When I challenged this with reference to my other work deemed by critics and academics as ‘experimental’ and ‘post-dramatic’, they didn’t know where I should belong, for it seemed never the two should meet….

It seems to me definitions have generally been:

Playwright = one often working alone, primary or solo voice/vision, usually (but not always) in more established classical Western theatrical forms (naturalism/ three act structure)

Performance writer = one working perhaps collaboratively, usually in more ‘experimental’ or less conventional forms (ie, not our three act structure with the 4th wall, etc).

It seems to have been useful for some in the past to create this division, and going by the NTW site, it still is causing disruption and discord, as well as engaging and interesting debate.

It reminds me again of the debates I was involved with last year at West Yorkshire Playhouse over ‘the end of new writing’ with Lyn Gardner, David Eldridge, Suzanne Bell, Dawn Watson and Fin Kennedy. Worth having a look again, if you’re interested, and Alex Chisholm’s original essay (links, below).

As to me… I just reiterate what I wrote on the NTW site: a writer is a writer is a writer and if we can be flexible in our approach and the forms we write in, so (in my experience, at least) can the funders and commissioners….

I’m sure I’ll come back again to this subject, but meanwhile leave you with those links past and present:

http://community.nationaltheatrewales.org/group/writers  (but you need to join the community before you can comment)

https://kaiteoreilly.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/the-end-of-new-writing/

http://exeuntmagazine.com/features/the-end-of-new-writing/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/theatreblog/2012/may/18/new-writing-all-black-play

Progressive dramaturgy….

I recently met David Lane at a workshop I was leading in ‘Alternative Dramaturgies’ at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol. We were looking at how a script ends up being the shape that it is, considering some of the other dramaturgical elements involved in making a blueprint for live performance outside dialogue, characterisation and action. My interest was in exploring the organisational principles which might inform process and the dramatic structure, including aspects such as logic, tempo rhythm, metaphor, poetic/dramatic schema, and so on…

This exploration of dramaturgy continued this morning, when David sent me an email about his involvement in Hannah Silva’s The Disappearance of Sadie Jones, currently in production at Exeter’s Bike Shed Theatre. David and Hannah were in discussion earlier this week about process and dramaturgy, and a transcription of that conversation is available on Hannah’s blog, at the link, below. David wrote:

‘Our hope is that it not only creates a useful window on the work of the dramaturg but also opens up some vital questions about how new plays are developed, why progressing our dramaturgical thinking around what a play is might be useful, and how embracing different development processes for writers might entertain a broader range of new plays being produced.’ 

I fully support this and feel wider discussion is necessary. Lyn Gardner, Suzanne Bell, Fin Kennedy, Dawn Walton, David Eldridge and myself came to similar conclusions about the necessity for more flexible developmental processes for writers in our panel discussion at West Yorkshire Playhouse’s festival last Spring. Perhaps if we keep having these discussions, and publicising the debates, change may happen…?

(I’m hopeful…We’re playwrights and dramaturgs… we’re optimistic…we know about change…)

http://hannahsilva.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/progressive-dramaturgy/

Is it time to get rid of new writing? Kaite O’Reilly on panel discussion, West Yorkshire Playhouse

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6 – 7.30pm.    30 May 2012.

Courtyard Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse,                           
Playhouse Square, 
Quarry Hill, 
Leeds
 LS2 7UP. 

Is it time to get rid of new writing?

Over the last 20 years British Theatre has witnessed a phenomenal growth in New Writing. But has New Writing become as much a curse as a blessing. In particular is there a harmful and false division between ‘New Work’ and ‘New Writing’? Is there too much development and not enough productions? Is there a ‘New Writing’ sort of play and is it killing off other kinds of writing? Come discuss these and other matters in a lively debate with:

Suzanne Bell
 New Writing Associate, Manchester Royal Exchange

David Eldridge
 Playwright

Fin Kennedy 
Playwright

Kaite O’Reilly
 Playwright

Dawn Walton
 Artistic Director, Eclipse Theatre

http://www.wyp.org.uk/what%27s-on/2012/is-it-time-to-get-rid-of-new-writing/