Mel Cooper talks to Louise Chantal, CEO of the Oxford Playhouse, about her new initiative to find and encourage the next generation of playwrights
The Oxford Playhouse is launching an innovative and exciting initiative hoping to find new playwrights of the future and they are hoping that you might be interested in applying. The Playhouse is creating a course of six Saturday workshops starting October 2015. To enter the process and be considered for a place on the programme, you need simply to send in a script or a scene, a sample in other words, by the 3rd of July 2015.
The project is the brainchild of Louise Chantal, the Chief Executive of the Oxford Playhouse. “Playhouse Playmaker, led by veteran writer and director, John Retallack, aims to help emerging talented writers hone their craft, giving them a chance to learn simple techniques to make their work better,” she told me. “As importantly, it’s hoped Playmaker will help writers through the inevitable dark hours in front of blank screens creating a network of artists who can support each other. Writing is, by definition, a solitary profession. It takes such guts to say ‘I am a writer’. I hope a place on Playmaker will encourage more people to say that, more loudly.”
Louise Chantal was very decided about the importance of encouraging new playwrights. “We live in such a fast-changing world – without new writing to reflect how life is lived now, theatre will whither into being part of the heritage industry, like old operas or the endless presentations — often wonderful though they are – of plays by Ibsen or Shaw. But theatre has to be more about our world today. It’s not about a diet of classics! We need to encourage new voices from every sector of the community, because a shrinking world means everyone is our neighbour. There’s no ‘them’ any more, only ‘us’. And as a regional theatre in a culturally thriving city, Oxford Playhouse needs to find the writers who’ll influence the next generation of theatre-makers and audiences. “
I wondered if making the scheme free is a primary way of encouraging new people to become involved in the world of playwrights. Chantal responded that Playhouse Playmaker is being launched alongside Primary Playmaker – for younger school children – and Young Playmaker, for writers aged 15-20. “Those other two strands to the programme are open-access courses,” she explained, “and we’ve kept fees as low as possible, and do offer bursaries if needed. But we felt acceptance on the adult programme should be competitive and as such it needed to be an ‘award’ rather than a ‘paid-for’ course. We know from the success of our Evolve artist development programme over the last 3 years that being able to say you’re attached to Oxford Playhouse helps raise artists’ self-confidence, their profiles and indeed can be a magnet for other funding. I hope Playmaker will have a similar positive effect.”
Playhouse Playmaker is for people aged 21+ and there is no age limit; even if you happen to be 71+ or 81+ you are welcome to submit your scene or script and apply for a place. Playhouse Playmaker is a “writers on attachment” programme. There are six free workshops to get you going and help with the development of the writers who are selected.
There are other programmes in the UK for training up-and-coming playwrights. A famous example is the writing programme at the Royal Court, which includes readings by professional actors and productions of some of the plays in the upstairs space of the theatre. One important difference of this programme from that of the Royal Court is that it covers all ages from primary school through teenagers and upwards. Hopefully the three strands of Playmakers will mean that some people become captivated by theatre when they are young. Also, of course, once people have the “hands on” experience of how to create a play, the committed audiences of the future might also be developed in this way.
So if you are interested, send in a sample of your work by the 3rd of July to the Oxford Playhouse. The organizers are easy-going about the length of the script or the genre; and it can be a portion of a work rather than the full work itself.
You can email your submission by just sending a scene or a full play submission to be considered for Playhouse Playmaker to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday the 3rd of July. Or put your sample in an envelope and mail it to:
Oxford Playhouse, Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2LW
And remember: Playhouse Playmaker is open to anyone aged 21 who lives anywhere in the UK. Starting in October selected writers will be offered six Saturday workshops at the Oxford Playhouse.
If you are interested or want further information, the web site for this project is at: https://www.oxfordplayhouse.com/show/?eventid=3428