New Playwrights Programme 2012

(From left to right: Maev MacCoille, Shaun Dunne, Paul Kennedy, John McManus, Darren Murphy, Nick Lee, Frank McGuinness and Fiach McConghail)

The New Playwrights Programme is now in its fourth year. This programme is designed to support a number of talented emerging playwrights who have come to the attention of the Abbey Theatre and to nurture and develop their talent through an intensive artists development programme over eighteen months.

The Abbey Theatre receives up to 350 unsolicited scripts a year and the most promising writers from among these script submissions are offered a place on the New Playwrights Programme. Members of the Literary Department also attend a large number of productions, play readings and workshops every year and these provide another of source of promising playwrights for the programme. (Find out more about submitting a script.)

The participants on this year’s New Playwrights Programme are Shaun Dunne, Paul Kennedy, Nick Lee, Maev MacCoille, John McManus and Darren Murphy.

‘The New Playwrights Programme at the Abbey Theatre is a unique opportunity for gifted playwrights to immerse themselves in the craft of playwriting. At the national theatre we are committed to developing and producing new plays and new playwrights. This annual programme is a serious and long term investment in Irish writers,’ said Aideen Howard, Literary Director at the Abbey Theatre.

The programme provides participants with intensive artistic development in all aspects of writing for the stage. The selected playwrights will partake in a series of twenty workshops, talks and masterclasses with leading international theatre practitioners and Abbey writers, directors, actors, and designers. Guest speakers/facilitators on previous years’ programmes include Marina Carr, John Comiskey, Annabelle Comyn, Tim Crouch, Howard Davies, Joe Dowling, Stacey Gregg, Patrick Mason, Paul Mercier, Conall Morrison, Tom Murphy, Mark O’Rowe, Lynne Parker, Billy Roche, Annie Ryan, Fiona Shaw, Sam Shepard, Brian Singleton, Graham Whybrow, Carmel Winters and Michael West among others.

The workshops cover all areas of playwriting including structure and form, language and dialogue, characterisation, writing the first draft, revision and rewriting, collaboration with other theatre artists and many other related areas. In taking this approach, the programme looks to cultivate and nurture a new wave of emerging playwrights for the Abbey and for Irish theatre with support from the country’s only full-time literary department.

The participants will have the opportunity to participate in workshops and see behind-the-scenes of new plays commissioned by the national theatre and attend opening nights. In this way, they will acquire an in-depth knowledge of theatre and be exposed to the breadth of collaborative work that goes into staging a play.

As a central part of the programme, each participant will also write a new full-length play. As they work on their plays, the writers will receive regular feedback and support from the Literary Department, including a full developmental workshop of their play at the Abbey. This unique mix of elements – the frequency and variety of the workshops, the access to a wide range of leading international theatre figures and the continuous dramaturgical support – makes the New Playwrights Programme the only one of its kind in Ireland.

Keep an eye out on this website for blogs and news from this year’s programme.

2012 New Playwrights Programme Participants

Shaun Dunne is a Dublin-based writer and performer. He is the associate writer for Talking Shop Ensemble and has recently completed the Rough Magic SEEDS programme. Recent work includes Do You Read Me (ABSOLUT Fringe 2011) and I am a Homebird (It’s very hard) at the Project Arts Centre. Other work includes Good Kids Drink Milk (Wexford Opera Festival), Paperboy and Friends (ABSOLUT Fringe 2010) and Please Leave a Message Under The Ocean (THE THEATRE MACHINE TURNS YOU ON VOLUME I). Shaun has worked with Project Brand New twice on two pieces of new writing: Market Research This (Grace Dyas) and I am a Homebird (It’s very hard) (Oonagh Murphy, T.S.E). Acting work includes the feature films Situations Vacant (Lisa Mulcahy, Grand Pictures), What Richard Did (Lenny Abrahamson), Go dTaga do Riocht (Brendan Murray, An tAidhbheairc) and Hoodies (Cannes, 2009).

Paul Kennedy graduated from the University of Ulster in 2002 with an honours degree in theatre studies. He writes for the stage and the screen. His stage plays include The Black North, Lanciatore the Juggling Man and Guidelines for a Long and Happy Life, which saw him shortlisted for the Stewart Parker Trust Award. His first screenplay, a revenge Western entitled The Massacre in the Town of Barrow Point, was optioned to a film company in Los Angeles. His gothic horror screenplay Blood Moon was given a development grant by Northern Ireland Screen. His romantic comedy screenplay Made in Belfast is currently in pre-production. Paul is also an actor and has appeared in Saving the Titanic, Cherrybomb, Jump, Fifty Dead Men Walking, Five Minutes of Heaven and Omagh among many others. He has appeared on stage in Britain, Ireland and off-Broadway.

Nick Lee’s first play Luca and the Sunshine opened at the ABSOLUT Fringe in 2011 where it was nominated for the Best New Writing Award, Bewley’s Little Gem Award, and longlisted for the Stewart Parker Award. Nick’s subsequent play, Isaac and the Water Dream will be produced later this year. Nick is also an actor and has performed extensively on stage for Druid and the Abbey Theatre in Ireland, at the National Theatre, Barbican and Tricycle in London and at the Lincoln Center in New York as well as in Japan and Australia. He has worked on new plays by Enda Walsh, Stuart Carolan, Phillip McMahon and Paul Mercier among others. On television he has played prominent roles in RAW (RTE), Single Handed – The Stolen Child (RTE/ITV), Bachelors Walk (RTE), Jack Taylor (TV3) and has recently filmed The Fall (BBC) with Gillian Anderson. He is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin.

Maev MacCoille holds a Masters in Playwriting from Royal Holloway University of London. Her play The Cruelty of 17 won the St Andrew’s Young Playwright of the Year Competition. Maev received seed money from the Abbey Theatre in 2004. She made her London debut with Blank Pages theatre company with the piece The Woman Who, premiered in November 2010. More recently she has written for Ten Four and Tiny Dog theatre companies and worked in collaboration with Deepwater Horizon Theatre Company. She has written for radio as well as the stage, with So, There’s This Girl and Darkness into Light produced by HuRiCa Productions.
Her work has been performed at the LiT Space, The Dogstar, Theatre Royal Stratford East, The White Bear and Theatre 503 in London, and the Courtyard Theatre in Brisbane.

John McManus is from and lives in County Cavan where he works as a plasterer. His first play was No Hate Going To Loss, a radio drama which won the RTÉ P.J. O’Connor award in 2005. He came joint third in the same competition in 2008 with Will You Swap Knees With Me? His first stage play, A Lock Of Fierce Roars, was given a public reading by Druid Theatre Company in 2008. The Quare Land, a comedy starring Des Keogh and Frank O’Sullivan was produced in the 2010 Galway Arts Festival by Decadent Theatre Company and the Galway Arts Centre. A sell-out hit, the play subsequently toured Ireland in 2011. John Fairleigh of the Stewart Parker Trust then invited him to join four other writers taking part in a week long workshop at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, an event which was tutored by Graham Whybrow.

Darren Murphy is a London based playwright and has been produced in the West End, Off Broadway, Dublin and Edinburgh. He is a graduate of RADA’s graduate writing group with Stephen Jeffreys and has taught playwriting at MCC, New York and at The Playground, London. He was a writer-in-residence at LAByrinth’s summer intensive in New York as part of transatlantic group of Irish, English and American artists which creates work across disciplines and disparate theatre practices. He is also a recipient of a Peggy Ramsay award. Plays include: Irish Blood, English Heart (Trafalgar Studios), the London prize-winning Tabloid Caligula (Arcola/59E59, NY – Brits Off-Broadway season), the Westminster prize-winning A Road In Winter (Soho Theatre/Dublin Fringe/Union/Flatlake Festival), the Verity Bargate shortlisted The Flats (Chelsea Theatre), The Derelicts (BAC), Charlatan (5065 Lift/Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh), Bag Of Monkeys (International Bar, Dublin), Holloway Road (Urban Scrawl) and Night Bruises the City (Southwark Playhouse). Mister Loverboy Silk Locates the Inner You, a short story, was published in em three. Tabloid Caligula and Irish Blood, English Heart are published by Oberon.