Playing around at Playing Field

For the second half of 2017 I was lucky enough to be an artist in residence at Playing Field Studio here in Canberra.

Over ten weeks, I got to regularly go sit in a studio space, put on my ten-minute playwright hat, and write write write!

I work full time. I have a two-year-old. I have an annoying cat. Writing at home can be difficult. Having a dedicated space and time to write in was a real treat.

Me trying to look “writerly” …

My goal was to write at least five new ten-minute plays that I could submit to festivals in 2018. I didn’t quite walk away with as many as I wanted (I managed three, with two more half written), but I got enough material to make 2018 interesting.

As any writer will tell you, writing can be lonely. I was determined to make my time at Playing Field collaborative. I invited some writerly friends to join me for a few sessions. Apart from saving me from sitting in an empty room by myself, it was awesome to have people around to ask dumb questions of. Like “Is corduroy a fabric?” and “How do you spell corduroy?”

Writing alone can be hard …

But it wasn’t all write write write. I also invited some local actors, directors, and dramaturges to workshop some material. I wasn’t quite ready to put my new ten-minute plays to the test, so I took the opportunity to pull out a full-length play I have been working on and give it a run.

It was fascinating stuff. Hearing a play read aloud is so different from reading it on a page. I learned a lot and have plenty of insights to help me re-draft in the months ahead.

Read through of a work in progress.

Surprisingly, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the residency was running a free “How to Write a Ten-Minute Play” workshop. Playing Field is a community organisation. As part of the residency agreement they asked that I give something back to the community to encourage wider use of the space.

I was a little intimidated by the thought of running a workshop. I’m not a great public speaker. I don’t like being the centre of attention. Frankly, I wasn’t sure I had anything useful to say.

But it turned out great!

Fourteen people turned up to listen to me ramble about writing ten-minute plays. I am no expert when it comes to theatre writing (I’m still learning!), so I was surprised to see how much I had to talk about. The process of putting together a presentation that broke down how I plot plays, develop characters, build conflict, construct dialogue etc really helped me clarify a lot of concepts in my mind. I was amazed to discover how much I plan when trying to fill a blank page – or ten.

Hopefully the group found this interesting too!

My first “How to Write a Ten-Minute Play” class!

Overall, my time at Playing Field was fantastic. It was a privilege to be allowed to set aside time to be creative, improvise, share, and examine my writing process.

Big thanks to Playing Field for the opportunity and support. Also big thanks to everyone that came to write, read, play and learn along with me.

10 out of 10, would resident again!

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