New Playwrights Programme: Workshops 1 and 2

We recently launched the second New Playwrights Programme. Six young playwrights, Elena Bolster, Roisin Coyle, Darren Donohue, Grace Dyas, Louise Melinn and Shawn Sturnick, have been selected to take part in a 10 month intensive course in all aspects of writing for the stage. The workshops in this course are designed to nurture and cultivate a new wave of playwriting talent for the Abbey Theatre and for Irish Theatre in general.
Over the course of the next 10 months we’ll keep you up-to-date with what our young playwrights have been working on.

New Playwrights Programme : Workshop 1

The New Playwrights Programme workshops got off to a flying start on Monday 10th May. The NPP Manager, Bryan Delaney, gave a three-hour workshop on the theme of ‘the first draft’. The workshop explored the different approaches taken by playwrights to writing the first draft of a new play. Harold Pinter’s approach was explored and contrasted with that of Ibsen (the methods of those two writers being almost polar opposites). Bryan then read and discussed excerpts from the diaries of Brian Friel, in which he gives an extraordinary and detailed account of the process of writing Translations. The writers then discussed the various approaches they take to their own first drafts and a number of new techniques and tools were explored to help them with the first draft of their new play.

New Playwrights Programme : Workshop 2

The second workshop took place on Sat 5th June and focused on dramatic structure and form. Bryan Delaney explored this topic for the first hour of the workshop by addressing the idea of dramatic conflict and its effect on character and plot. Bryan read from interviews with Thornton Wilder and David Mamet on this subject and then discussed the idea of form as metaphor – how, by virtue of their plot structure alone, certain plays (eg. Life is a Dream, Faith Healer, Translations, Waiting for Godot, etc.) rise to the level of rich and complex metaphor and comment upon much more than the immediate concerns of the play.

Bryan then handed over to the director, Patrick Mason, who used ‘Rockaby’, a short text by Samuel Beckett, as a springboard for a wider discussion on structure. Patrick gave the writers a brilliant analysis of Beckett’s text and demonstrated how it evolves and shifts over its four movements. He explored the extent to which it both adheres to and subverts classic notions of dramatic conflict and structure. Patrick then went on to discuss structure in a much wider context, referring to Arcadia by Tom Stoppard, Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel and a number of other plays.

Since the New Playwrights Programme started, the six writers have also been to the dress rehearsal and opening night of each new Abbey and Peacock show. This has proven to be a useful exercise; by comparing the dress rehearsal with the opening night performance, the playwrights have had the opportunity of experiencing how the preview process can be used to fine tune and hone each production.

The third workshop will take place on Monday 21st June when Brian Singleton (Head of the School of Drama, Trinity College Dublin) will explore non-traditional forms of theatre.

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