Tag Archives: Playwrights

Wales Arts Review and a Twitter virgin

Original illustration  for Kaite O'Reilly's "The 9 Fridas ( 九面芙烈達 )" Salt Tse-Ying Chiang (江則穎) http://salt-c-art.com/The-9-Fridas

Original illustration
for Kaite O’Reilly’s “The 9 Fridas ( 九面芙烈達 )” Salt Tse-Ying Chiang (江則穎)

The lovely chaps at Wales Arts Review have published my rehearsal diary from the weeks I spent recently in Taiwan, working on the 9 Fridas with Mobius Strip theatre company in association with Hong Kong Rep’ for The 2014 Taipei Art Festival. You can read the mix of travelogue and documentation of process here

Meanwhile, the wonderful Sarah Dickenson, playwright and dramaturge extradinaire, has finally got me on twitter. I will be fumbling around trying to learn what the buttons mean and how to be pithy and concise when every fibre in my being revolts and wants to revel and roll around in words, desiring everything to be BIGGER, RICHER, LONGER…… I see it as a challenge, It will be good for me, like haiku (but not, I hope, like cod liver oil).

I will be making an unintentional eejit of myself @kaiteoreilly

Follow at your peril.


Being ‘green’ as a playwright and 4 stars for Woman of Flowers

I’m in Cork mentoring Orla Burke, funded by Arts Council of Ireland and Arts Disability Ireland. Over the coming six months Orla will be developing a play, and I will be supporting her and advising her about the script and the profession. Orla will also be writing about her adventures here and I wanted to share some of our conversations this morning about process and creativity.

I always advise writers not to throw anything away. It is hard to ignore the chastising inner critic, but often ideas jotted down and kept become seeds for the future. Going back over my old notebooks have opened up new possibilities. I feel writing can be the greenest profession there is, once we learn to recycle and develop ideas instead of sending them away to landfill. I remember sitting in on a lecture once when researching archeology for ‘The Almond and the Seahorse’ and discovering the priceless tomb of Tutankhamen was unearthed under the debris from other digs. Keep your notes and ideas and excavate – you never know what treasure you may find.

Delighted at lunchtime to see a 4 star review from Remote Goat for Woman of Flowers at Cheltenham Everyman this weekend, then touring to Exeter and beyond next week.

‘..an exciting play that featured clever design choices, powerful performances and a creeping, unsettling sense of claustrophobia and fear. 
…[Sophie] Stone uses sign language to stunning effect, trailing off in the middle of her sentences to draw the audience into her own private world… her emotions… expressed through a combination of mesmerising signing and dance.’

Full review here – http://www.remotegoat.com/uk/review_view.php?uid=11380



Dramaturgs wanted – National Theatre Wales

So what is dramaturgy? What does a dramaturg do? Might you be a dramaturg?National Theatre Wales are setting up a Dramaturgy Project to  explore the role of dramaturgy in theatre and in their own company in particular.

I’m delighted to be invited on the panel to choose this group. Artistic director John McGrath, Executive producer Lisa Maquire, co-playwright Roger Williams and myself will select six people who will lead this fascinating project –  four playwrights and two not.

John McGrath writes:

As a result of last years’ Dirty, Gifted and Welsh event, and a very interesting follow up discussion in the Writers Group on this network, I’m pleased to announce today that NTW is setting up a new Dramaturgy Project, to explore the role of the dramaturg in theatre in general and NTW in particular.

The group will involve six ‘dramaturgs’ – four of them playwrights and two not. The group will meet four times over a one year period, and also keep in touch via the online Writers Group. And if you are asking the question ‘but what’s a dramaturg’ then hopefully by the end of the year our team will have some good answers!

Historically the dramaturg has been a more consistent role in European theatre than British. Often this role involves a lot of research and support for the writer and director, but probably more than anything else a dramaturg is concerned with the shape, rhythms and sense of a play or piece of theatre – helping everyone involved to ensure that the production is the best possible version of itself. Dramaturgs may be theatre directors – and theatre directors often do a lot of dramaturgy on the plays they are directing, particularly with new writing – but perhaps most often they are writers who feel they have some skills and insight they can share.

The dramaturgy group at NTW will provide support to some of the writers NTW has commissioned, and will also explore the differing ways that a script and production can take shape, particularly when the usual conventions are being challenged.

The idea for our group grows out of a conversation about ways in which writers can provide support and advice for each other in the creative process – hence the majority of places on the group being for writers. However, there was also an acknowledgement in the discussion that dramaturgy can be equally important when shaping a theatre piece where words are not central. We felt therefore that it would be helpful to have non-writers in our group too.

There’s a small fee of £500 per dramaturg to cover the costs of attending at least three of the core meetings (virtual attendance is okay), plus an average of £1,000 each to provide support and input to writers on commission to NTW. I hope that the group will have a strong presence on this network, so that everyone can follow its development.

Applications to be part of the Dramaturgy Group are now open. Please send a message explaining why you’d like to be involved, plus a CV and a link to your profile on this network to mawgaine@nationaltheatrewales.org  Four writers and two other theatre makers will be chosen to form the group by a panel consisting of myself, NTW Executive Producer Lisa Maguire, and writers Kaite O’Reilly and Roger Williams.

The closing date for applications is May 31 2014.

Uncovering New Writing – Poetry, Prose and Plays – Bare Fiction Magazine – Guest Blog by Robert Harper.

Bare fiction magazine

Bare fiction magazine

When Kaite O’Reilly asks you to write a guest article for her blog about your own project, you get that little warming feeling that the road you’re embarking upon might just be the right one. So I was delighted when she suggested I write about a new literary periodical I’m publishing called Bare Fiction magazine.

I’ve long been interested in the process of creating words on a page. How did our great 20th century dramatists, poets and novelists manage to compel us to follow their every literary whim and where do our contemporary writers find the new bones of these fantastic bodies of work that the theatrical and publishing world has helped make flesh on which we joyfully feast.

Now for some peculiar reason, though I’ve happily spent the majority of the last 20 years as a performer, I have always had a deep desire to produce a literary magazine. Perhaps it was initially fueled by long nights in my early twenties spent drinking bourbon with my dearest friend, imagining we were beat poets. Perhaps it stems from performing in some fantastic plays and feeling sadness that the words we shared may never find another’s ear or leapfrog off the page and be made whole by someone else’s brain.

Like so many creative artists, I found myself wondering how my endeavour was going to be different. What could I possibly do to make another literary title stand out from the many others on offer? Then I realised something that up to that moment hadn’t been apparent to me. Nobody else was including playwrights within their magazines. And by that I mean that I could find no evidence that dramatic texts were being discussed on their literary merit or published in part or in their entirety within another literary title. This should have been my eureka moment, but this was always my intention. It was so obvious to me that play texts and playwrights would be a part of my magazine alongside poets and poetry, authors and short fiction, that it never occurred to me that someone else wasn’t doing it already.

But why me? Why did I think I was the one to do it? As I said, I’ve been fascinated by the written word for decades and so it seemed like the natural time to do a little bit more study to back up my editorial journey by enrolling for an MA in Creative Writing. This fuelled the fires and I began to see that, like anything, you simply need the passion to succeed and with the kindness and support of a few friends, you can make it happen.

Except of course in these difficult economic times with grants for the arts and council subsidies being cut in every corner of the country where would we find the money to produce the print copies of the magazine. My fellow editors (Lisa Parry, Branwen Davies, Emma Andrew, Tom Wentworth and Amelia Forsbrook) and contributors were all adamant that they wanted to help the magazine get off the ground by offering their time for nothing, but we would of course need to fund the printing costs.

During the last few months visitors to the website have kindly been pre-ordering our launch issue which features some amazingly talented writers across all fields. We’ve work from acclaimed playwright, Forward Prize and Aldeburgh shortlisted poet Dan O’Brien with whom I’m also writing an article for the magazine. We also have the full text of Neil Bebber’s superb short play Breathe which was part of Dirty Protest’s Plays in a Bag season at the Almeida this summer. Amongst our poets we have Fred D’Aguiar, Boyd Clack, Adam Horovitz, Roger Garfitt, Dylan Thomas Prize shortlisted Jemma L. King, plus BBC Writer’s Prize winner Sarah Hehir. Short fiction includes work from Jane Slavin, Elvis Avdibegovic Bego, and Katie Bickell. The list goes on and you can of course see full details on the website.

I want to continue this journey of exploration of the uncovering of new work by writers at all stages of their career. To discover work of exciting promise and exceptional skill that wakes you up the second you read the first lines. But we need a little help along the way. We’ll be printing three issues a year from next March, but we’re kicking off with a bumper launch issue this December.

With that in mind we’ve created a kickstarter campaign to help fund the costs of the initial print run, distribution and promotion of 500 copies of the magazine and we need just £1600 to do that. As I write this our  campaign has been live for just shy of 48 hours and I’m thrilled by the support so far. But we still have 85% of our target left to achieve.

Please take a quick look at our promotional video (below) and visit our campaign page to pledge support in return for a digital or printed copy of the magazine. We’ve lots of reward options for you to choose from. Thank you and I hope you enjoying reading all the great new writing that we’re going to bring you.

Robert Harper


Bare Fiction Magazine

The launch issue of Bare Fiction Magazine is available to pre-order via the website or by pledging on the kickstarter campaign page and will be on sale from December 2013 through independent bookshops. Advertisers can also pledge via the campaign to secure advertisement space or visit the website for more details.


Magazine: http://www.barefictionmagazine.co.uk/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BareFiction

Twitter: http://twitter.com/BareFiction

Kickstarter: http://kck.st/15LHPlm

Video embed code:

Kickstarter widget code (for keeping up to date with a funding goal):

kickstarter url:  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/743626153/bare-fiction-magazine-launch-issue-poetry-fiction width=480]

Kickstarter widget code (for keeping up to date with a funding goal): kickstarter url=http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/743626153/bare-fiction-magazine-launch-issue-poetry-fiction width=220

A meeting with Dea Loher and Femi Osofisan

Authors among themselves:  Femi Osofisan, Dea Loher and Kaite O'Reilly

Authors among themselves:
Femi Osofisan, Dea Loher and
Kaite O’Reilly

It’s not often playwrights from different traditions, cultures or countries manage to get together, and I’m grateful for the opportunity which arose this Summer at the International Research Centre ‘Interweaving Performance Cultures’ in Berlin. Playwright Dea Loher came to speak at the centre where Femi Osofisan and I are fellows. What became clear after even the shortest introduction was the serious intent with which we all write – the impulse often triggered by a desire to dialogue with or about injustice, war, or conflict. The photograph, above, is courtesy of the centre’s newsletter, as is the short commentary, below.

Award-winning author and playwright Dea Loher offered fascinating insights into her sources of inspiration and her work processes. She talked about her impetus for writing, concentrating especially on her play “The Last Fire”. It premiered at Thalia Theater Hamburg and was named 2008 “Play of the Year” by Theater heute. “The Last Fire” brings into focus the concept of the drama of reality, the recurring theme in Loher’s work. The basis of the play was a newspaper article about a family tragedy caused by the accidental death of an 8-year-old boy. Dea Loher reconstructs the breakup of the family and the changes in its members’ psyche in the face of this tragedy. Her characters long for an encounter beyond the pain. She also described to us the moment of speechlessness she experienced during a workshop in Kabul, Afghanistan, that stimulated a discussion on the value of life in war and crisis zones.

IRC Interweaving Performance Cultures newsletter

Dea Loher is one of Germany’s most esteemed German playwrights. Her plays have been translated into many languages and staged all over the world. She studied “Creative Writing for the Stage” at Hochschule der Künste Berlin under Heiner Müller and Yaak Karsunke. Since their first collaboration on “Stranger’s House” in 1995, almost all of Dea Loher’s plays have been directed by acclaimed German stage director Andreas Kriegenburg. This collaboration became one of the most fruitful artistic relationships in contemporary German theatre. Dea Loher received such highly regarded German drama awards as the Else-Lasker-Schüler-Dramatikerpreis (2005), the Bertolt-Brecht-Preis der Stadt Augsburg (2006), the Mülheimer Dramatikerpreis (1998 and 2008), the Marieluise-Fleißer-Preis (2009) and the Berliner Literaturpreis (2009). She has lived in Berlin since 1989. (Source: http://www.aoiagency.com/2010/07/dealoher/‎)

‘Femi Osofisan is a playwright, poet, theatre director, university professor, literary theorist, and newspaper critic, and he is part of a generation of Nigerians who feel they have experienced Nigerian independence as an empty slogan. Thus he fashions a committed literature designed to shatter the enduring shackles of religion, custom, and colonialism and to stimulate a confident, imaginatively self-critical sensibility capable of charting a course toward a more humane, egalitarian society. Writing in English, he aims his dramas at those whose education enables them to manage the nation’s destiny, but his manipulation of the theatre’s rich nonverbal resources, coupled with an exploitation of indigenous, African performance aesthetics, means that his work has the potential to reach a wider audience. Within Nigeria he is often viewed as a radical intent upon completely destroying the past, but his radicalism actually builds on the best of tradition while seeking to encourage pervasive change.’  (Source: http://www.bookrags.com/biography/femi-osofisan/)


‘Playwriting?…It’s a harrowingly lonely life.’

The wonderfully honest and stark interview with playwright David Hare in today’s Observer has prompted me to think about the life of a playwright, and the conjoined pleasure and pain that working in the theatre brings.

It seems to be a strange choice of career – long periods alone, endlessly shifting words around a computer screen; having long conversations with imaginary friends in your head (which is how I once explained what I did all day to a taxi driver in Austria). I even wonder if ‘choice’ has anything to do with it. It is a compulsion; some might say necessity. Financial reward, security, and recognition may come far easier in other fields. It certainly wouldn’t be something you would recommend or voluntarily opt for, Hare claims.

He is unflinching in his depiction of a career filled with despair, at the mercy of fashion which, in theatre, he feels is ‘absolutely savage.’ He cites the late greats who died convinced their life’s work amounted to nothing – Moliere, Bulgakov, Tennessee Williams, Osborne – the list, he claims, is ‘horrendous’ – and yet, rather as the Tony Hancock skit, posterity did indeed judge – and decided them all to be important, the impact of their work transformative. But this is small comfort, I imagine, to the long dead: those who felt their work to be over-looked, out of date, and of no consequence when they were alive.

But Hare is equally effusive about the ‘fantastic’ rewards working in the theatre brings, the sense of community, and purpose.

I personally love the contrasting binaries of my working life: the long periods of quiet, solitary work – research, conceptualising, writing, revising – and then the social, collaborative element when a script is put into production. It is a life that serves the contradictory sides to my personality and changing preferred modes of working, satisfying both the reclusive dictator and the party animal team member. It is frustrating, illuminating, nit-picking, uplifting – it is the best job in the world – and even at my lowest ebb, I feel immensely fortunate.

But would I recommend it as a way of life….?

If you have thick skin, fortitude, determination, optimism, a low, easy to maintain lifestyle, a propensity towards joy, rich, generous or at least understanding friends and family, and a supportive, patient partner or cat, plus none, extra, or all of the above. Yes. Absolutely.