Category Archives: playwriting

The big move

Right, I think it’s mostly here.

My old Web site at http://www.lancewoodman.co.uk is likely to disappear early in the New Year. In anticipation of this I have been overhauling this place to include most of the old content.

The menu bar at the top now has fairly comprehensive links to different parts of my professional life. I’m afraid cycling has had to go (in more ways than one).  The links (right) have been updated slightly as well.

Down on the right-hand side is a link to the lulu bookshop. I have an idea to publish a few more ‘works’ next year. Keep an eye out for that.

I hope it all looks okay and is accurate. Do let me know if you find any issues.

Red Skies Over the Severn

Book cover

The published script’s cover

The play Red Skies Over the Severn was my third professional, main stage commission as a playwright back in 2001.

It had to be topical so it was written in a great hurry. I think it gained energy from that process. My thanks to the commissioning Worcester Theatre Company and director Jenny Stephens.

The play was received pretty well. The Guardian and The Telegraph sent their top reviewers, so the coverage was good.

So why talk about it now? Well I think 11 and bit year anniversaries are important. There are a couple of other reasons as well…

  • I am slowly closing down my old web site and moving the content to this one. Red Skies… is the first page to move across.
  • I felt the play disappeared after the run in Worcester. There has never been a second production. I don’t like that it has disappeared without trace so I’ve published the script. You can buy it here or, if it seems expensive, get in touch and I’ll see if I can arrange a deal.

I will probably publish more scripts in the next few months.

Hartfield Community Play – Parallel Lives

Parallel LivesImpromptu night out #2.

On the recommendation of playwright Steph Dale, we went to see the Hartfield Community Play Parallel Lives last night. The play is written and directed by Claque Theatre’s Jon Oram – a man with years of experience in making community theatre.

The venue (and set) was the village church. The plot wove together stories from the village’s past. Each of the characters was based on a real person (some of them famous: A. A. Milne, W. B. Yeats and Ezra Pound had walk-on roles, Christopher Fry had a major role and local luminaries the Sackvilles, De La Warrs, Brasseys and Lady Dorothy Wellesley featured as well). There were 90 performers listed.

I like community theatre. One of my first writing credits was a scriptwriter on the Alvechurch Community Play The Odd Boy. I’ve acted in a few as well. The form requires a long term commitment, flexibility, a genius for logistics, usually an ability to work on a limited budget and a great deal of heart. The results are often theatrically exciting, satisfying and transformative for those taking part. It’s a rare opportunity for a writer to work with a large cast in a non-theatrical setting – usually a promenade performance.

Parallel Lives was a great night out. It started a little nervously but gradually, over two and a half hours, built and built. It took its time to bring its characters to life and interweave their stories across social barriers and across time. As darkness closed in the church became a magical space: horses and carts rode through, we met Saint Cuthman, I saw a pig on a lead and they built a church. Death was in the room but we affirmed life. Pat and I even got involved in a barn dance.

At the end the stories melded beautifully. The drama was thoughtful, moving and satisfying. But that was not all. The event itself was deeply dramatic. The performance (and in a promenade the audience performs as well) changed the people, changed the space. The plays I like activate people, change people. Parallel Lives did that.

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.

Sound advice

Re-discovered on Helen Smith’s blog: David Mamet’s advice to the writers.

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.

Excuses, excuses

Still no miles on the bike this week. I’m not riding today’s race either, despite it being a day off work. We had a long meeting at the Rye Writer Hub and I didn’t get back in time.

Bodiam Castle

My walk to work

Bank Holiday Monday at Bodiam Castle was pretty busy. I enjoyed the French Castle builders from Guédelon. They’re building a medieval castle from scratch in Burgundy. Chapeau as we say in cycling.

Eric

Eric, the castle squirrel

I am currently reading as much as I can about Bodiam and its historical context. I’m also researching medieval cooking, baking and dining. It’s great talking to people who have a passion for the subject. I love this sort of work – immersing oneself in a strange world. There’s a strange energy in obsessive research. I just have to make sure that it doesn’t lock everything else out.