In an introduction to a brand new six part series in partnership with tiata fahodzi @TiataFahodzi Artistic Director and Chief Executive Chinonyerem Odimba to invites us to ‘Letters to Fellow Writers’
Writing letters feels like such a forgotten art, that I know sometimes when I come across a handwritten letter from my past or even occasionally one tucked away in the pages of a charity-shop book, I am amazed by the power of the intimacy and the sense of speaking something to someone else that feels so delicate to hold.
Letters can be so many things, an expression of the promise of love, of contempt, of longing, of jealousy, of mere fact, full or emotion or otherwise, they are almost always an expression of something that spoken words cannot allow.
And it felt in the moment of thinking about how to respond to so many conversations that have been happening about theatre, in theatre, between theatre workers, amongst buildings that hold theatre and its artists, and all the talk in-between that, there was a need to find another way to say something. And for this series, the conversations that have been most present have been those around dramaturgy, and who gets to say what a ‘good’ story is.
And ironically much of these discussions stemmed from a letter written, and then disseminated and signed by over 130 writers from the Global Majority about how they felt their work was held in this moment, this industry, and the bigger questions about how we read, discuss, and care for work that does not immediately feel comfortable within our ideas of ‘universality’. Phew! Long sentence. But also, what a nonsensical word ‘universal’ can seem when written down – however many times it’s been said out loud.
And it reminds me of this quote by Chinua Achebe, Nigerian novelist, playwright, poet, essayist, literature legend;
‘…when we are comfortable and inattentive, we run the risk of committing grave injustices absentmindedly.’
And I guess that is where these ‘Letters to Fellow Writers’ came from. A series to invite other writers who may have had some of those moments of feeling an injustice occur in the handling of their work to reflect. Writers who may not feel as comfortable as others. Who may be wondering ‘how do I share this?’. Who may be wanting to say, ‘this is how we can ensure our work is read and held with care and curiosity?’.
Dear Writer. Take a moment. Write a letter.
We have put together a wonderful list of playwrights who wanted to explore and share not just thoughts around dramaturgical processes, but also to speak against that universality and monolithic ways of seeing writing outside of a particular gaze, but instead lean into plurality, nuance, and the joys of what makes us so wonderfully unique and extraordinary – each and every one of us.
You’ve got mail!
Chinonyerem Odimba is a Nigerian British playwright, screenwriter, and poet. Her recent work ranges from Medea at Bristol Old Vic, We Too, Are Giants for Kiln Theatre, Unknown Rivers at Hampstead Theatre, Prince and the Pauper at Watermill Theatre, The Seven Ages of Patience at Kiln Theatre, and Princess & The Hustler which toured across the UK for Eclipse Theatre/Bristol Old Vic/Hull Truck. She is also Writer-in-Residence at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
Her work for theatre includes The Bird Woman of Lewisham at the Arcola; Rainy Season, and His Name is Ishmael for Bristol Old Vic; Joanne for Clean Break, and Amongst the Reeds for Clean Break/The Yard Theatre.
Her work for young people includes a modern retelling of Twist for Theatre Centre and Sweetness of a Sting for NT Connections.
She has been shortlisted for several awards including the Adrienne Benham and Alfred Fagon awards. In 2015 her unproduced play Wild is De Wind was shortlisted to the final ten for the Bruntwood Playwriting Award. She is the winner for the 2018 Sonia Friedman Award (Channel 4 Playwright Bursary) for a new play How to Walk on the Moon, and a finalist for the inaugural Women Playwriting Prize 2020 for her play Paradise Street.
Chinonyerem’s TV credits includes Scotch Bonnet for BBC Three and A Blues for Nia for BBC/Eclipse Theatre, Adulting for Channel 4, and more recently My Best Friend Married a Warrior for CBBC.
For radio, credits include The Last Flag, and Eve as part of This Is Your Country, Now series on BBC Radio 4.
As a director, Chinonyerem has worked for Bristol Old Vic, Theatre503 and Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. She will be co-directing her new play Black Love for Paines Plough, as well an audio drama for Live Theatre/BBC Radio 4 in 2021.
In April 2021, Chinonyerem became the new Artistic Director and Chief Executive of tiata fahodzi.