Category Archives: teaching

Playwriting course postponed.

The playwriting course that I was leading and that was due to start today in Brighton has been postponed.

I’ve spoken with New Writing South and we hope to reschedule the course in  Autumn this year. I will publish the details when I have the information.

The next writing course I am scheduled to lead is the Starting to Write: Drama module of Birkbeck College’s Creative Writing (Certificate of Higher Education) course starting on April 17th in Central London.

Playwriting course in Brighton

** UPDATE ** This course has been postponed until Autumn 2012 **

NWS logo“Playwrighting” from New Writing South

led by Lance Woodman

This new ten session course offers a supportive atmosphere in which to explore elements of craft, including characterisation, plot, dialogue, and voice. Aimed at both those new to playwrighting and those with some experience wanting a refresher course the emphasis is on discovery, technique, and experimentation. Building on regular class exercises and individual work, and guided by constructive feedback and discussion, you will work on producing a short drama script. Some work created by the group will be presented by professional actors in a rehearsed reading at the end of the course which all participants can attend.

Lance Woodman is a playwright. He has an MA in Playwriting Studies from the University of Birmingham. He has taught Drama and Writing for Performance at Birkbeck College, University of London, Brunel University and Birmingham City University. His plays have been produced by Worcester Swan Theatre, BBC Radio 4, artworcs and New Theatre Works amongst others. He has been invited to workshops at the National Theatre Studio, was commissioned by Birmingham Repertory Theatre, was a member of the BBC’s Sparks Radio Writers’ group and was Writer in Residence at Worcester Swan Theatre after winning a Pearson bursary.

Full course dates:
Tuesday 7 February 2012 7-9pm
Monday 13 February 2012 7-9pm
Tuesday 21 February 2012 7-9pm
Wednesday 29 February 2012 7-9pm
Tuesday 6 March 2012 7-9pm
Tuesday 20 March 2012 7-9pm
Tuesday 27 March 2012 7-9pm
Tuesday 3 April 2012 7-9pm
Tuesday 10 April 2012 7-9pm
Plus
Saturday 14 April 2012 (10.30am-4.30pm) workshop with actors

Venue: The Writers’ Place, Jew Street, Brighton

Playwrighting course

** UPDATE ** This course has been postponed until Autumn 2012 **
New Writing SouthI’m running a playwriting course for New Writing South  in Brighton from Tuesday 7th February next year. The copy says:

This new ten session course offers a supportive atmosphere in which to explore elements of craft, including characterisation, plot, dialogue, and voice. Aimed at both those new to playwrighting and those with some experience wanting a refresher course the emphasis is on discovery, technique, and experimentation.  Building on regular class exercises and individual work, and guided by constructive feedback and discussion, you will work on producing a short drama script.  Some work created by the group will be presented by professional actors in a rehearsed reading at the end of the course which all participants can attend.

If you’ve got any questions, please do get in touch.

I’m running a workshop

Rye

Beautiful Rye

Built your bonfire too early? Nothing to do early on November 5th? Why not sign up for a writing workshop!

I’m running a one day course at The School Creative Centre in beautiful Rye on Bonfire Day. The full details and booking thing are here.

The blurb says…

This workshop will use a series of practical and impractical exercises to enable you to create flawed but interesting scenes for performance. We’ll look at how actors find their way through scenes, marvel at their speed of thought and try to creates writing that matches it. We’ll be thinking (or not thinking) about pacing and… rhythm. We’ll delight in toying with the audience’s expectations. We’ll worry about whether our plays’ dimensions and depths are as they should be.

…and it’s all true. £20 would be cheap at half the price.

Write  a few short plays during the day and then go home to enjoy a bucketful of pyrotechnic-based, religious zealotry in the evening. What could be better!

Maeterlinck

I have been reading some of Maurice Maeterlinck‘s early short plays in translations by Francis Booth. Maeterlinck refers to these works as his Marionette Plays. He wanted an unemotional style of presentation that he thought would only be achievable by using puppets. Given these reservations, it’s interesting that Konstantin Stanislavski was an early director of his work.

Stanislavski thought that Symbolist work would shake up the Moscow Art Theatre‘s repertoire and so directed The Blind at the theatre. His actors, it seems,were unable to shake off their naturalistic acting styles developed through the company’s work with Chekhov’s plays. The production was regarded as something of a failure.

Stanislavski, anxious to avoid stagnancy in the theatre’s style and repertoire, created the MAT Studio and asked Meyerhold to work on Maeterlinck’s The Death of Tintagiles there. Meyerhold’s view of drama seems to chime much more closely with that of Maeterlinck. The work was certainly radical but Stanislavski pulled the production during final rehearsals. Meyerhold later mounted a production of an amended version of the play with his own company.1

I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never read any of Maeterlinck’s work before, despite having taught students about the work of Meyerhold.

The Blind is easy to stage in your mind as you read it. It’s dark and funny and the action keeps moving. I can see how the author desire for a cool, emotionless presentation could be undermined by actors falling back on a more emotive, naturalistic acting style.

The Death of Tintagiles is darker still and much more stylised. It’s a short, five act (!) play. I found it much more difficult to imagine it working ‘on its feet’. I’m going to have to read it again.

Interior is, like The Blind, in continuous action. This helps the flow of the piece as a corpse is carried on its relentless journey from the riverbank to the house.

Maeterlinck held that we are powerless against fate and the approach of death. In each of these plays death is in the room and getting closer. But why would we sit and watch that? What does he do that makes this not just depressing, but intriguing? I suppose it’s the struggle to fight, delay or ignore the inevitable that makes it bearable. He may think that the struggle is pointless, but it’s what gives us a connection to the action.

1 All this information from here: https://sites.google.com/site/arttheatrestudio/stanislavsky-meyerhold-productions-of-maeterlinck. There is an amazing video of Stanislavski and Olga Knipper acting in The Cherry Orchard on the home page.

>Calshot and a bookshop

>Saturday was another trip to Calshot velodrome. Despite a hard week – why do my legs hurt so much? – the session was fun. It was, unfortunately, slightly curtailed by a nasty crash. I hope the rider who came off recovers quickly.

A big thanks to Keith, Steve and the team for a well-organised session. My mate Andy managed the fastest flying lap of the day despite spending most of the 142 metres around the blue line. There’s one more Prime Coaching session to go in March, but it’s near to the proposed, mythical move date.

I’ve been playing with the Amazon affiliates scheme. You can see a book/DVD widget to the top right of this page and there’s a playwriting bookshop at the foot of the page. It’s obviously there to make me rich, but I hope that the choice of books is relevant and interesting. The full bookshop experience is available on my Web site. There’s a category for cycling and one for playwriting as well. Let me know if there are any titles you think should be included.

>Another DNS

>I was meant to ride the Hillingdon CC ’25’ on the ‘new’ Amersham Road course (H25/4) on Sunday, but didn’t even travel this time. The house move is becoming all consuming. I’m lucky to get out on the bike for a couple of hours a week now.

I’ve started teaching again. It’s great to have a job to go to, even if it is only an evening a week.

Next weekend is supposed to be a Calshot session followed by a 2-up ’10’ and hill climb on the Sunday. If things work out well I might manage Calshot. I’m not sure about Sunday though.

>Elsewhere

>My mind has gone elsewhere. I’m finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate on riding the bike hard (at all). This is not surprising – we’ve started the process of trying to sell the house and I might be starting a new job in the next few days. All of this, together with a bit of drizzle, some cold mornings and the cumulative effects of a long season, have pushed cycling down the agenda. Which is fine.

So anyway, I thought “why not use this physical down time – with its inevitable decline in performance – to address some technical issues that need looking at”. That’s what I thought.

Photo by Derek Reynolds

The above picture is from last week’s ’25’. It shows me straining away at the bike, head down and helmet tail up. What you can’t see is me climbing all over the machine trying to wrench the gear round. This is inefficient (if quite effective) and, more worryingly, tends to move the bike from side to side. I am becoming a danger to myself and other road users.

So for today’s event – a Westerley CC club ’25’ on the HCC114 ‘junkyard’ course from Great Missenden – I thought that I would experiment. I would try to ride smooth and straight, upper body locked in position, and, if possible, keep the revs higher.

It was a cold and breezy morning. The first time since the Spring that I’ve worn long-fingered gloves. My resolve was tested in the first three miles (slightly uphill and into the wind). But I kept solid in the saddle and kept a straight line (apart from dodging a few of the worst potholes). I went very slowly though – it felt as if my hips had nothing to push against. The style seemed to work better with a tailwind, but I reached 10 miles (where I packed) in 26:32 where I would normally do a short to medium 25:** on this course. My cadence was low as well – it wasn’t easy to pedal fast.

I need to work on core strength this Winter. I also think I need to tweak my position.

Race stats (for the first 10 miles): Time: 26:32 (22.61mph). First 5 miles: 14:15, second 5 miles: 12:17. Top speed: 30.0mph. Slowest mile (2): 3:04 (19.57mph), fastest mile (9): 2:09 (27.91mph). Average HR: 157bpm, maximum HR: 162bpm. DNF. Ave. cadence: 72rpm. 

>A Page Turner and the 20/20 conference

>

Last weekend I attended the 20/20 Playwriting/Pedagogy conference run by The Department of Drama and Theatre Arts at Birmingham University. It was great to meet up with old friends, meet some new friends and listen to some interesting and inspiring papers. The US playwriting/pedagogy scene (with its much longer history of teaching playwriting) was well represented and produced some interesting insights.

The conference celebrated the 20th anniversary of the MA/MPhil(B) in Playwriting Studies – Britain’s first postgraduate playwriting course. I attended the course in 1999/2000 and was one of 20 graduates commissioned to write a 10 minute play to be performed at the conference.

The play, A Page Turner, was directed by Gwenda Hughes and performed by third year undergraduates. There were two shows of ten plays each. The productions were very good – casts moving from one play to the next with ease.

For the first time ever I didn’t attended rehearsals of the first production of one of my plays (I don’t think any of the playwrights did). Seeing the play for the first time, I wished I’d cut more heavily. It makes me realise how much I rely on a dialogue with the director and actors to fine tune my work. I’m not a naturally authoritarian author. Something to work on.

The weekend was a boost for my writing. After a long time away from the stage and rehearsal room you forget what a buzz it is to be around theatre (and radio drama) makers.

>Early start

>I’m on the early train tomorrow, heading North to Birmingham for the day. I’ve managed to avoid a lot of this commuting for the past few weeks by working from home. However, the semester-time routine is about to re-establish itself and I have to acclimatise to hours on the train again.

I never find it easy to work on the train – it’s meant to be an adventure isn’t it? Being brought up in a Beeching-created railway wasteland meant that a rail trip was a rare treat: something to be savoured rather than suffered. Part of me is still stuck back there. I have the faintest recollection of steam trains in service, and for a brief period in my teens I was a trainspotter (see the above reference to Beeching-created wasteland to understand the briefness of the obsession). I want (half expect) to be amazed by the train, taken somewhere new, shown new worlds – not at all the proper commuter’s mindset.

At least I get a coffee and a croissant at New Street Station before catching my connection to Perry Barr (a small treat, but a milestone in the day). I’ll take some reading, but I doubt it will stick.