WHY WRITE? A Toolkit round up by Dramaturg Suzanne Bell

As we navigate these changing times, we need to recognise and bring compassion to the journey we are on and the challenges we face. At the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, our endeavour is that this website becomes so much more than the biennial award, that we are able to find ways to support anyone and everyone who is interested in writing for performance, particularly theatre, to explore their creativity and experiment with new avenues for their writing. As we come to the end of our second Dramatists Toolkit, theatres will soon be welcoming audiences back and sharing stories once again. Stories and the communal shared experience of theatre is vital – the imaginative and empathetic leap and cathartic journey offered by theatre will help us emerge from this time. But writing for the theatre is a marathon, not a sprint, and if playwrights to survive beyond the immediate future, we believe it is important to nurture, recognise and celebrate the many ways in which they can bring their artistry and skill to different forms of work while also finding ways to take care of your creative and artistic self.

The Dramatists Toolkit #2 has hopefully given you an opportunity to reflect on this time and bring compassion and understanding to the difficulties of being creative in the midst of such uncertainty and stress. We hope that this work sits alongside time that you might have or be able to carve out in some way to consider new ways of working and bringing your writing to life. We have challenged some of today’s most exciting artists and creatives to contribute to this series through opening their processes, sharing their insecurities and vulnerabilities with you and asking some fundamental questions about why and how we create. How might you open your mind and build space for your imagination to be open to inspiration and ideas when there are so many distractions, worries and obstacles? How might you be more conscious of the way creativity feels to you? How you can nurture that feeling? How might you explore other ways in which you create and share stories with communities, audiences and participants? We hope that this series has taken you on a journey of reflection, support and provocation, galvanising you to have a conversation with yourself, as an artist, about why you want to make work, who you want to make work for, what transformation you want to see in those people and the process of making that work.

The series has offered insights into thinking about different ways your stories might reach people, while still holding dear the unique power of theatre. What defines and the theatrical experience for an audience and how might you create immersive work akin to the immersion of the theatre experience while at home? How can we artistically befriend some of the technologies that have come to define this time? How might you build a world, characters and story that technology would enhance and amplify? It has asked us to embrace the power of the audience, recognise the audience as sensory physical beings and the impact work might have on them on a sensory level. It is exciting to recognise that the audience is an active participant in our work – in whatever way they encounter that work – and that, as artists, we have a responsibility to engage them, give them voice, provoke them, transport them and transform them.

Introduction by Dramaturg Suzanne Bell
Chinonyerem Odimba on Not Writing
James Fritz on how to write an audio drama (sort of)
Sonia Jalaly on Devising
Amanda Dalton on Adaptation
SWAMP MOTEL Co-Founders and Creative Directors Clem Garritty & Ollie Jones
Eve Leigh on writing interactive writing
Toolkit Extra- Hannah Nicklin- Narrative design choices and ‘multiple middles’ 
Sharon Clark on writing with creative technologies
Nickie Miles-Wilden and Testament in Conversation
Kieran Knowles- Now, where were we?
Where Does It Come From? by kimber lee
Anthony Simpson Pike- A Ritual 

As we move into the next phase of this time, we also want to question how, as artists we can (to quote Sonia Jalaly, in turn quoting Emily Lim) “create unity through radical joy.” How can we be honest not only in what we create but how we create it? How can we recognise our process to creation, theatre as a collaborative art form, who we are collaborating with, why we are collaborating and what we need from each collaboration? What does community mean to you as an artist – what combination of people are you making work for and with and how can that be a space for playfulness, support and creativity? Who is your work serving, beyond yourself as an artist?

There is no right way and certainly no one way to write – you need to find what works for you at this point in time, what works for this particular play, story, set of characters, image, community or enquiry. Writing isn’t about productivity – it is about something much deeper within you. Stories matter as the architecture of humanity and it is our responsibility, through the stories we tell, to ensure that our house doesn’t crumble. How we build the house – the process – is just as important, if not more so, than the final outcome – the product. Your process happens deep within you – listen to it, nurture it, be kind to it and learn to trust it. Write what you don’t know, ask questions that don’t have answers, bring compassion to curiosity. Write what you don’t see in the world, write the world you want to see and recognise that what you don’t know is more important than what you do know.

The aim of this series has been to open up some of the ways others have found to be creative and we want to thank all the artists who have shared their journeys, what works for them as well as the obstacles they encounter in the pursuit of their creativity. We hope you have felt inspired, supported and galvanised to keep writing, in whatever way, telling stories, in whatever form, and getting ready for the next round of the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting.

Suzanne Bell

Published on:
14 Apr 2021

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