Earlier this year, I supported the Banshee Kickstarter because it sounded like an interesting project that was just the right amount of ambitious. (And because I like getting exciting things in the post. I am always more likely to support a crowd-funding campaign that promises to send me nice things in the post.)
I’m not a big magazine reader. I read a lot online and when I’m away from the computer, I prefer to read fat novels. But Banshee came through the door when I was between books and it was nice to read short pieces for a change. It has a nice mix of stories, poems and essays. The magazine is a great size for your handbag (unlike the books that give you backache) and a lot of the pieces are the right length to enough with a cup of tea or on a short bus journey. It’s gets a big thumbs up for me. You can still subscribe here and looking forward to getting something exciting in the post next year. It’s an investment in your future happiness.
They are also accepting submissions for the next issue at the moment and you have until Halloween night to send in your poems, short stories or essays. Submission details are here. And you can also read an interview with the three editors here.
If you can’t wait for the post or just aren’t interested in hard-copy magazines, I recommend you head over to The Coven for your literary needs, another spookily named literary magazine but one that’s all online.
Writing a play is hard. And in my experience, finishing a play is even harder! But it’s a great feeling to reach the end of the script, especially if I’ve managed to figure out a really great ending. (This doesn’t happen that often so even a half-way decent ending leaves me delighted. Endings are hard!) It’s an accomplished, euphoric sort of feeling. But then it fades and I wonder – what now? What do you do when you finish a play?
Here are some ideas about where to do next and some more general resources for playwrights.
Hear it out-loud.
Print out a few scripts, and ask your friends nicely if they’ll take part in a reading. Promises of tea/cake/wine/future favours might be helpful here. Hearing your script out-loud is incredibly helpful. It can also be incredibly painful because you hear all the bits that don’t work, such as the clunky dialogue where your characters stop sounding like human beings. You have to sit through the boring bits and know that you are responsible for the tedium. You suddenly notice the scenes that end too quickly and the ones that drag on too long. It’s really hard but really helpful. And it’s not all bad – you get to hear the great bits too, the bits that sound so real you can’t believe they came out of your head. You’ll see connections that you didn’t realise were there, you’ll see new aspects to the characters you thought you knew inside out. It’s definitely worth the pain. Take lots of notes, and note the good stuff as well as the bad. You learn from both. Top Tip: If the idea of showing your precious script to anyone or allowing it to be butchered in the mouths of your friends fills you with dread and horror maybe it’s not finished yet. Do another rewrite and then see how you feel.
Send it to production companies and theatres.
Depending on how the reading went, you will have a little or a lot more work to do on your script. If it was really bad you might want to tear it into little pieces. Resist that urge, hold on to the things that worked and fix the things that didn’t. Once that’s done, you can send it off to the professionals. Fishamble, the Abbey, Theatre Upstairs and The New Theatre all take unsolicited scripts. They’re much more likely to give feedback than offer to produce your play but it’s a good place to start. Make sure you read and adhere to the submission guidelines! Feedback can take months so make sure you start something new while you waiting.
Enter playwriting competitions not to win them, but to give: yourself deadlines and, literary managers a chance to learn your name. #2amt
This September, as part of the Tiger Dublin Fringe, the Abbey are running a series of curated workshops at the Irish Writer’s Centre. They are describing it as “a space for playwrights to question, craft and create.” Deadline for applications is this Friday – 21 August 2015.
DETAILS FOR THE PLAYWRIGHTS HUB 2015
Any interested writers will need to send an expression of interest and their writing experience to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the places for the Hub are strictly limited, the deadline for expression of interest will be August 21 and we will contact all applicants with the decisions by August 28.
There will be three groups of 10 playwrights and each group will have a 3 hour workshop with an established theatre maker.
Dates: 8 – 10 September, during Tiger Dublin Fringe
Time: 2 – 5pm
Location: Irish Writers’ Centre
The practical modules of my drama degree always included a performance as part of the assessment. This meant that at the end of term, each class had a day of performances/exams. They could be great fun, particularly if it wasn’t your class that was being assessed that day! There were five or six groups in each class so the audience (other students and the lecturers who were marking the work) would move between the different performance spaces and see five or six short pieces over a morning or afternoon. The work was brand new, often experimental and the quality could vary wildly. The pieces could be playful or dark, some might be very wordy and others would be very physical. The work generally had an unfinished feel to it because we were all making it up as we went along. This, along with the fact that you saw a lot of short pieces one after the other, meant the days performance felt a bit like a scratch night.
Scratch nights are made up of short work-in-progress pieces. Over the course of the evening you might see a 10-minute snippet of a devised piece, a rehearsed reading of a play, an improvised dance piece and a short monologue. They are an opportunity for theatre makers to try things out in front of an audience. For devised work, which might just be a collection of ideas and maybe a couple of scenes, knowing you have to show it to an audience helps you to focus those ideas. You are forced to figure out a beginning, a middle and an end, as well as the transitions between those moments.
In the same way for playwrights, having a deadline means the work gets written! Personally, I’ve found that having a deadline is often a necessary motivator in making theatre. When you know that there will be an audience sitting in a room, waiting to see your work on a specific date, it gives the work an urgency and a momentum that might not be there otherwise. Scratch nights are a relatively low risk way to get that urgency.
Putting a piece of work in front of an audience is also the only way to find out if it works or not. Does it make sense? Does it do the thing you want it to do? Theatre is all about communicating your ideas to an audience. Of course, this can be terrifying – showing your baby to the world for the first time – but in my experience scratch audiences are pretty generous. They understand that it’s a work in progress (possibly because a large portion of the audience is made up of other theatre makers!). A lot of scratch nights incorporate an element of feedback, formally or informally so at the end of the evening, you will go home having learnt a lot about your piece, for better or worse!
I really enjoyed those performance days in college because it was a free and easy way to see lots of work and you came away with your head full of images and ideas. There was a heavy lean towards live art on the course, so often you had no idea what the piece was about, you just decided if you liked it or not. It was a way to learn about your own taste in theatre, and you could also learn a lot from other people’s triumphs and failures.
Scratch nights are usually cheap; Fringe Fuse, for example, costs €3 to attend and includes refreshment. For this bargain price, you’ll see a mix of things. You won’t like everything, but there’s always the chance you might see something you love. You could discover that you love dance or spoken word or something you’d never considered before. Scratch nights let the audience try something new, as well as the artists.
I’ve already mentioned one Dublin scratch night – Fringe Fuse, which is held monthly in Fringe Lab in Temple Bar. They take a break during the festival and haven’t started up again yet, but join the Fringe mailing list or the Fringe Lab group on Facebook to keep up to date.
There are also two festivals at the start of next year which will show work-in-progress pieces. The set up is a bit different to a scratch night, but they are an opportunity to see new work on the cheap. Collaborations will take place in Smock Alley Theatre from February 20th to March 7th 2015 and will included finished pieces as well as works-in-progress. The THEATREclub curated festival The Theatre Machine Turns You On is only looking for work in progress pieces this time around. The festival will be in Project Arts Centre from the 22nd – 26th January 2015. It’s also still open for applications until November 14th if you have an idea that you are dying to try out.
Over the years, work from both these festivals has gone on to full productions in the Tiger Fringe Festival, in Bewleys Cafe Theatre and on tour around the country. That’s the other really important aspect of scratch nights; they can be a great spring board for new work so it’s important to remember it’s the first and not the final performance of your show.
I think scratch nights can play a vital role in helping artists create work. For lots of other thoughts and opinions on the usefulness of scratch nights, I recommend this report from Devoted and Disgrunted.