Toolkit Series 2- Introduction by Dramaturg Suzanne Bell

The Bruntwood Prize exists to support anyone who wants to write for the stage. This website- is full of free workshops and advice from some incredible playwrights. In 2019 we produced a beginner’s toolkit – a step-by-step guide by professional writers covering everything from how to get started with a blank page through to writing character, story, dialogue, structure, theatricality and finally re-drafting. 

This year the Toolkit is back! Series 2 addresses how we can write now in an extraordinary time. We’ll offer expert advice from professional writers who will share their experiences and set weekly tasks to get you writing in a new way.

We’re so excited to share these brilliant new resources with you, including introductions by Suzanne Bell and Chinonyrem Odimba on how we can write now, though to explorations of writing with community with Nickie Miles-Wildin, Testament and Sonia Jalaly. We’re also delighted to host Bruntwood Prize winners Sharon Clark, James Fritz and Kimber Lee on embracing new inspirations in audio, the everyday and creative technology. Check back every Wednesday from 20th January 2021.


To begin, Royal Exchange Theatre (home of the Bruntwood Prize) Dramaturg Suzanne Bell introduces this toolkit 


Writing a play takes huge dedication. It takes time, head-space, leaps of imagination plus vision, bravery, commitment, compassionate enquiry beyond your immediate experience and perhaps most of all creativity.

It is important that we bring compassion and understanding to the situation we find ourselves in. This continues to be a tremendously difficult time for theatre and the artists who make it. Without the communal experience of sharing a journey with a group of strangers, we are isolated in our own existence.

If we are going to recover from the experiences of the past 12 months, we are going to need playwrights – the life blood of theatre, of our souls. We are going to need plays and stories and insight and truth. We are going to need the visceral connection that comes from shared humanity. The turbulence of the world and our emotional and psychological place within it can be reflected and refracted through art. Talking in 1963, President John F Kennedy extolled the importance of the playwright, saying “if sometimes our great artists have been the most critical of our society, it is because their sensitivity and their concern for justice… must motivate any true artist. I see little of more importance to the future of our civilisation than full recognition of the role of the artist.”

Theatre is beautifully collaborative, a shared endeavour in which everyone brings their own artistry and creativity. But when it comes to plays, that initial spark, that first creation of character and giving that character voice, the conjuring of worlds and texture, the twists and turns of story and dramatic action – and ultimately the drive to hone and complete the play – rests on the shoulders of the playwright. They must continue to seek the truth, to question the world around them, to move and transform those who encounter their work. Multi-award-winning playwright Lynn Nottage, the first woman to win the Pullitzer Prize for Drama twice, said; “The role of the artist is the keep your eyes open when everyone else’s is closed. To be in dialogue with the culture and celebrate the culture. Engagement in a rigorous way is our job. It is multi-faceted. Replace judgement with curiosity and ask questions with compassion.”

That is a remarkable endeavour and a huge responsibility – something for which we all have the utmost respect and admiration at the Bruntwood Prize. That is why we are always striving to find ways to support playwrights and encourage people to have the courage to write.

But we also have to be realistic about the practical situation we find ourselves in. Theatres remain closed at the start of 2021. So much work continues to be further postponed or cancelled altogether. So many artists are now questioning whether they can continue. But their skills are needed. Their ability to create worlds and characters and stories that is vital to so many avenues of creativity. Whether you have been able to be creative or not, we want to try and find ways to support you to continue to be engaged with the craft of writing for performance, engaging with an audience, telling stories and taking people on journeys. We truly hope that this series of on-line workshops – the Dramatists Toolkit #2 – will inspire and support you to be creative and to find new possibilities for your work to be realised.

I am so excited to be able to bring you this range of workshops. Hopefully they will inspire you and help you think about the ways in which your skills as a playwright might be used to create new and exciting means to reach people. Alongside workshops which share new forms of writing for performance, we are also presenting workshops which we hope will offer ways in which you might creatively support yourself through this time and bring kindness and compassion to the journey you might find yourself on as an artist.

I hope that this series will prove insightful, inspiring, challenging and eye-opening, leading you to new places and bringing comfort when your creativity eludes you.

And when the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting launches again, you will be even more prepared to send us your amazing work.


WEEK 2- Chinonyerem Odimba on ‘Not Writing’ 



Published on:
20 Jan 2021


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