Paper Cuts: A Playwright’s Guide to Surviving the Rehearsal Room

3 Aug 2015

by Suzie Miller


 

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“Who knows better than artists how much ugliness there is on the way to beauty, how many ghastly, mortifying missteps, how many days of granitic blockheadedness and dismaying ineptitude there is on the way to accomplishment, how partial all accomplishment is, how incomplete?" 

Tony Kushner

1. THE PLAYWRIGHT

The playwright is often seen as a mysterious part of the theatrical collaboration: someone indoors moving words around and then presenting a ‘thing’ that actors and director come to. They are the only person for whom the work starts with a blank sheet, a nothing, a thought, a dream, a few conversations and a passion to make this into a piece of theatre. Sometimes a director or a company have commissioned a piece, or worked through an idea with the playwright; however it is always the playwright who must then take away these threads, make them her/his own and then research, read, grapple, hibernate, dream and conjure characters, events, places, story and a politic for the piece that breathes magic into an idea, provides life and energy that allows it to have its own reason to exist. And, finally it is the playwright who brings to the rehearsal room a fleshed out play as a blueprint for the entire theatrical piece.

I am keenly aware, as are my colleagues, that the creative development room is a diminishing resource, and in Australian theatre, one that is being more often merged with the rehearsal room due to monetary concerns. I imagine with the recently announced cuts to the Australia Council, this merging will be even more prevalent. To lose the precious development phase is catastrophic for some works, and an enormous loss to Australian theatre writing in general.  While there is much to be discussed about various funding cuts and the impact they will have for writing and within the theatre landscape overall, this article is first and foremost an attempt to illuminate the unique position that the playwright occupies within the rehearsal room.

The Magic of Collaboration

For the lone playwright, the magical sharing and layering that occurs in the rehearsal room is at once an enticing and forbidding prospect.  Sometimes there is deep trust and sharing established between writer and interviewees when conducting research for characters and stories, but most of our work is undertaken in private. Most playwrights are plagued with self-doubt and passion in equal measures. It is often a heart-wrenching slog, with its own process unique to each playwright and this hard work occurs almost always in creative isolation.

So when the playwright joins the rehearsal room there is suddenly a sense of both community, and of the work lifting off the page. Playwrights love collaboration; the genius of a unique group of artists coming together and creating something beautiful. Many playwrights, like myself are in awe of what actors and directors can do. Many of us would go to the end of the earth for a great director and would trust absolutely a great actor. The instincts of other talented theatre practitioners are invaluable for the playwright. There are times however where there is confusion, fear and anxiety in the room and the source of this cannot easily be established. There are many reasons for this: often, vital questions have not been asked, and roles have not been properly established earlier on.  Sometimes an emerging playwright is not even sure what these protocols are and why they are in place.

2. THEATRE MAKING MODELS

The explicit articulation of which theatre-making model will be adopted for a particular piece clarifies roles, credit, creative energy and so much more for all involved. Having that discussion early on is of paramount importance.

The writer needs to be extremely sure which model they are working under because the role of the writer is fundamentally different depending on which model is operational.

In the new work model, the writer takes absolute responsibility for the script.  The play will be marketed as written by that playwright; it is a work that is attached to their creative style and bears their name. In this model the playwright holds copyright and any judgement on the script, for better or worse, is attributed to the playwright’s talent (or apparent lack thereof).

In a devised work, the playwright is one of a team where s/he is no longer necessarily the only one writing the work. The playwright may provide ideas, structure and dramaturgy, but the director and cast also contribute significantly to the script itself, and the playwright does not necessarily make the final call. The devised room is more flexible for this reason and the structure of that room would differ from project to project, depending on the needs of that particular devised piece of work.

The model chosen for a work will dictate how any rehearsal room is assembled, directed and conducted.

While I recognise that there are many theatre-making models and many more forms that a play and its development may take, for the purpose of this essay, let’s focus on new work.

New Work

Traditionally the New Work Model is one in which there are clear roles for all practitioners in the rehearsal room.

The writer will be provided with feedback on script from all in the room, usually moderated by the director and dramaturg. What is ultimately incorporated is at the writer’s discretion. 

Any comments on the acting or design from the playwright must always go through the director. Often a playwright is unaware of this traditional protocol and in that way oversteps their position.  When the roles are not observed, there is less clarity and unity in the lead up to the finished production.

There is a very different role for the playwright (and indeed for each of the other theatre practitioners) in each theatre-making model. Often they are not clearly differentiated but when it becomes obvious that everyone is not acting under the same model, it needs to be voiced, and discussed appropriately. Sometimes a less experienced director, without realising it, may assume that a work is a ‘devised’ piece because they have had discussions with the writer about ideas. If a work is programmed and marketed as Play By This Playwright – it is not a devised work.

In the New Work Model there are various steps that the work is taken through before its first production, and at each step, certain hurdles need to be reckoned with.

3. THE NEW WORK - steps to rehearsal

(a) Commission

When the commission is first proposed and the playwright is invited in for a discussion, it is an exciting time. This is an early conversation and everyone feels quite flexible about what the piece might be. However there is great wisdom in having a discussion at this early point about the FORM of the piece, and clarifying if the play is intended to be a new work by the playwright or more of a devised piece.

(b) Writing Alone – Draft 1

The next step is that the playwright may spend months alone researching, structuring, testing, starting again, drafting, listening to voices of characters in her/his head, crying, dreaming, laughing. After this invisible part of the process, the playwright submits DRAFT 1. It is a difficult prospect sending through this first draft, because the playwright knows so much more about where it is heading, and has to expose the work when it is not yet fully formed.  Nevertheless it needs to be done and will allow for the beginning of a dialogue with the director about the work.

(c) Creative Development

Usually after the completion of draft 1, a creative development takes place. However sometimes it is more appropriate for the creative development to occur prior to draft 1 so that the playwright and ensemble can use that time to experiment with a few sample scenes and ideas on how the play might progress.

It is vital that the playwright speaks up and states what s/he needs in the creative development room. The director is not a mind reader. Often a playwright goes along with what is offered rather than talking through how they feel their process will be most assisted by a creative development. The playwright must articulate what will assist the play – this might range from a single day of hearing the work read, to one-on-one sessions with the dramaturg, to a room of actors for days, to half days with actors and half days rewriting.

(d) Creative Development as distinct from the rehearsal room

The creative development room and the rehearsal room are two entirely different spaces. The first aims to develop play and playwright – there is time and space with which to debrief on what the play might be.

The rehearsal room is focused on production, this production, right here and now, and time is an extremely limited resource. There is a date to open this show with these actors, and so the pressure can be intense.

My experience in creative development has mostly been that the director and actors are incredibly patient and respectful of the playwright. They lend their talent and experience to making the play better, by making dynamic suggestions and by fully investing in the characters. There are occasions however when the creative development room can feel oppositional to these aims and – worse than that – if badly run, it can take the script backwards.

"During the first four days of the workshop I found myself in a kind of hell. Some very arrogant people who all knew each other very well, made fun of the characters and the story." - Damien Millar

A fundamental element in the room is respect for the artists and the embryonic work on the table. This applies not only to those new to the work but to the playwright her/himself. Belittling your own work or characters out of a fear of failing does not assist the process and only lessens the vision of what might be possible.

(e) Feedback

Ideally there is a dramaturg in the creative development room. A good dramaturg is the playwright’s best friend; an advisor, confidante and sounding board - but make sure you get the right one.  Dramaturgy is a professional skill, and limited to those who really understand how to work with a writer on new work. Having a dramaturg in the room who is starstruck by a rock star director, or who is not able to ask pertinent questions of the playwright and support the playwright when necessary is worse than having no dramaturg at all.

These days, the director often doubles as a dramaturg and, even if they are terrific, the playwright should always be aware that they are also wearing the director’s hat. The director is looking to the production, while an independent dramaturg is looking to the best possible script. Wearing both hats at certain junctures is impossible, and the playwright needs to know when feedback is coming from a director’s perspective while presented as dramaturgy. They are distinct from each other and a playwright needs to know the difference.

I note that in various productions of the same script of mine, each director had an issue with a particular scene. I realised much later (and in discussions with both directors who had directed the same script) that the staging of that scene was always a challenge. They had each found creative solutions ultimately making them proud of their respective productions, but their initial inclination was to call for the deletion of the scene. Had I been less experienced at the time I would have just deleted the scene, but being able to delineate what was a director-led and what was a dramaturg-led made it clearer to me that the scene should stay.

(f) Draft 2 (and 3 and 4 …)

Aim for continued discussion and further creative development or dramaturgy as you proceed through the drafts leading up to the rehearsal draft.

4. REHEARSALS  - Structure

(a) Roles In the Room

Playwrights are generous by nature. We write for theatre because we love the idea of collaborating with other artists. We strongly recognise that the vision of an amazing director gives the text life, that characters coupled with the talent of extraordinary actors become real and pulsating, and that the worlds we create are ignited by designers. The whole is a great deal more than the sum of its parts. Ultimately the play comes to life with the layering of the talents of many, still being true to the unity and the impetus of the whole, and able to ignite the initial spark allowing the audience to truly experience and invest in the work.

The playwright will probably need to change gear quite suddenly on Day One. S/he will have to stop assuming the work is production-ready, and see where the work can be wrought further, all with the intention of putting the best possible version of the play before an audience.

It must be noted though that there is a fundamental tension created between playwright and director/actors in the room that is absolutely necessary. It is this tension and the commitment to each artist’s different ‘department’ that allows for the best version of the story to be told.

The balance of the trust relationships between playwright and director, director and actors and then between playwright and actors is always in various states of flux. There are so many raw nerves in that room that one can become over-vigilant searching for approval in places where one should be offering support.

(b) Writer and Director – a Core Relationship

The writer occupies a changing space in the room. At first they hold a central position, head of the table, united with the director. Indeed the playwright and director are a team with a vision that has been discussed for some time now, and an intellectual and creative unity has transpired, mostly in conversations and emails. If there is no dramaturg in the room, this relationship is even more important to the playwright, as no one else has pored over the script for as long.

One of the most interesting realisations I have had in my experiences with different directors is my growing awareness of the director’s own sense of vulnerability in the room. As an emerging playwright I never sensed this, basically because as both the ‘carer’ of the actors, and the driver of the vision pushing into production, directors can rarely afford to confess that they are fearful or unsure. The company looks to them for unity and safety in an unknown place, and they have very few confidantes about what they are really feeling. Support your directors, be available to them when they need to be in dialogue. A great writer-director relationship is built upon being there for a director when they are trying to work though areas of the production; it is also built on a mutual alliance in spite of the rollercoaster of the rehearsal room. Being loyal to each other, even when having different creative positions, makes for a positive, ongoing relationship that can be called upon over and over. Do not isolate or distance yourself from their vision; do not blame them when things look like they won’t work out. Do not let them blame you either. Stick by each other and to your cast. Loyalty to other artists in the tougher times is the mark of authentic collaboration.

5. REHEARSALS – Day One

(a) Breakfast with the director

A pre-rehearsal meeting on Day One with the director before actors arrive is so important. An open discussion on how you both like to work, what your aims are, the handling of actors, protecting the playwright and/or the material gets everything off on the right foot. 

"… a director said: this is the first production of your play and so it needs to be exactly what you want this play to be. It was great to feel my play was valued and respected, it was terrifying to feel that all responsibility for the script’s shortcomings or failings were mine alone.” - Vanessa Bates

(b) Dynamics in the room – Actors/Directors

“Personally I could live my life in creative developments with actors – they are without doubt one of the sincere wonders of the human species – generous, vulnerable, inventive, responsive, perceptive, playful, and dedicated. But it is my belief that writers are, of necessity, profoundly original thinkers and that if you want to create work which might be prescient and eerily visionary you do need collaborators who will defer to what might (at first) seem crazy, impossible or perversely different in your approach.” - Alana Valentine

Be aware that you are asking actors to trust your work completely, to inhabit the world and characters you invented. Their own process of accepting that world means they might interrogate the script in ways that can make a playwright defensive. Try instead to support them through that process. A playwright who can empathise with the expectations placed upon an actor allows for less paranoia in the room and increases the capacity for the work to open up rather than close down. Of course sometimes an actor can monopolise the room, and possibly their frustration with parts of the script feels undermining to the playwright.  A great director will intervene and manage this level of interaction.

 “I don’t see the writer’s role as one of policing responses to the play nor prescribing interpretations, why waste all those wonderful creative spirits to assert a single perspective. Conversely why waste the writer’s unique perspective from having lived with these invented characters (or community participants) for all those months (sometimes years) by arrogantly ignoring it altogether.” - Alana Valentine

(c) Around the table

“Be aware that a rehearsal room isn’t a development room for you as a writer. It might sometimes be one for your work but not always or even for much of the time.” - Damien Millar

On Day One of the rehearsal process there is so much possible. If it is a more experienced room, all the actors, director, writer, designers and stage manager have undoubtedly witnessed all sorts of rooms and people and journeys, knowing each rehearsal room has its own unique mix and energy. We are all aware that we need to start with a sense of trust: in the talents of each other, in the process, and in the director to be able to keep us united as a group.

We need this trust because so much is revealed about each of us in this communal room. There will be conflict, there will be moments where it all falls apart sometimes for days, and we will at various moments be unsure about each other. Like a relationship going through an accelerated long term, we will love, distrust, despair, love again, feel alone, want to leave, believe that this might be IT, love again, trust again, sometimes hate a bit, feel unjustly treated or unappreciated, then take the reins, commit, believe in each other, laugh again, feel each other's vulnerabilities, touch each other’s hearts, make tea, cry, laugh again, and then buckle down to the beauty of something new we have created and take it out with great love to show the world.

(d) After the read

“And yes it is a bloody exhilarating and equally terrifying time for the writer as you've worked in isolation for months and now you’re showing your baby to the room and after everyone grins and comments on how cute it is, inevitably someone will bring up its nose – ‘it's quite big isn't it?’ or its eyes – ‘They're a bit close together’.” - Caleb Lewis

So after the first few hours of the lovefest of Day One, the writer must buckle down and hear the response. This is often the first time this particular group of actors has been together reading this work. The desire at this point is that the actors read it with love and commitment – and that everyone just loves it.

More often than not, they will love it but also have questions and offer suggestions. Some of these will be entirely outside what the playwright anticipated. Some of them are unnecessary but others are blindingly obvious.

At this point the writer might need reassurance. This is completely human and totally understandable. However do not seek it. Try and give it to yourself. If someone looks doubtful do not fret; if the director suddenly looks like s/he has lost some love of the script that s/he had previously raved about, do not worry at all – this happens to all of us.

I think the one great tool I learned early on, was that everyone in the room wants approval on Day One, and they are all looking for it rather than necessarily giving it. Also too much approval is a safety blanket, and won't allow you to see what you need to see. While it is almost counterintuitive, it feels like at this point you need to be strong, listen to EVERYTHING. Resist the constant temptation to defend your work.

I have a book that I start on Day One and for the rest of the rehearsal process I write down every comment, referring to the page that is being discussed, and who the comment came from. The benefit of this is multifold:

  1. It allows you to always have notes on what everyone said. More importantly, it means that everyone who makes an offer feels heard, thereby building trust in the room. It also encourages those less confident but more considered to speak up.  
  2. It buys you time. I write the comment down, sometimes knowing it is one that I might never consider, but I write it down knowing that there is no answer right now, that I will revisit it later, talk it over with my dramaturg or director, or another trusted sounding board later.
  3. If you can’t remember a comment, but you remember that it was one you wanted to reflect upon, you can always find it later in the rehearsal process. And it’s great to have these books for all time because when you are as famous as Caryl Churchill, and the day comes that someone writes on your process, you have it all there in writing!

(e) Dramaturgy and feedback

Again, listen to everybody.

If there are any creative agendas in the room, speak up about them, clarify, don't be afraid – it might illuminate something interesting, or alert you to an area where you are letting down the process by being polite; it might even allow you to say something that you feel is not working but were afraid to voice earlier.

“Don’t humiliate anyone. Don’t spend time talking about your process. Don’t spend your time listening to anyone talk about their process either; …. Focus on the story as it needs to be told to an audience of strangers. Don’t allow your characters to be humiliated. Always pass any stagecraft related issues through the director and do it quietly. Don’t just say yes to offers and suggestions. Don’t just say no. It is always fine to say I don’t know for a little while, but only for a little while.” - Damien Miller

If there is a professionally recognised dramaturg in the room, they know all the rules, they will look after you, and they will be the ones who look out to protect the script when you, the playwright, lose your nerve. They will also protect the play script from the playwright being overly accommodating.

“If the writer feels excluded then I think that has to be brought to the director’s attention.  Sometimes it’s just oversight with so many other things to be considered but a good director will know that at this stage of the rehearsal the play is still developing, it’s not actually finished yet and a writer needs to be part of the room to continue to do their job.” - Vanessa Bates

(f) Standing your ground and knowing when to yield.

Without the support of an experienced dramaturg, a playwright (particularly an emerging playwright) can give over subtle pieces of work and watch them be deleted as their own response to interrogation fails them.

Sometimes the writer cannot put into words how THAT particular line is fundamental to the whole play; it is a subtle message to an audience who might only absorb it by osmosis, it is a balancing act with a line that will come later, it is a magical piece of character that will allow an audience access to something invisible – basically it is a special piece that the writer cannot put into specific words why it is important, they just know that it is!

The more experienced a writer, the more able they are to know when this occurs and to resist deleting or changing the piece regardless of comments (or at least keep the passage or scene until the writer her/himself feels it is no longer either a magical moment, or doing the job it was set up to do). The less experienced writer might feel foolish at not being able to put up a rational argument for its acceptance, and therefore feel pushed into letting the passage/scene go. This is where the dramaturg, who understands what it is doing, protects the play from everyone.

Know how you can help, what you can yield to and what you must fight for. Do not be precious or difficult to work with; try and be considerate to the vulnerabilities of everyone, and loyal to those you are collaborating with.

(g) Altering the text

Herein lies the tension  – for the playwright wants a great production but they also want a great script. The words on the page are not just lines for actors; they are lines that do three or more things at any time. A good playwright will aim for each line to be dynamic, give information, provide insight into character, and advance the story. Not every line does this, and even those that do, do not do so obviously. This means that sometimes cutting a line or paragraph is the removal of a coded section for much more than only what is said. It may also upset an internal rhythm. An innocuous line is never just an innocuous line - unless it is one that is a hangover from a previous draft and the writer has not realised yet that it is no longer needed.

Playwrights might appear to be difficult when asked to remove parts of the script but they need to be sure before deleting work, and some writers take a little longer than others.

(h) Recognise what is driving the artists in the room

Sometimes actors have a terrible lot asked of them. There, in the script, is a moment where they are required to leap over a huge emotional canyon, and land on the other side. While the benefits of making it over to that other emotional landscape are huge for the work as a whole, the actor has to make the leap alone and without safety ropes, and they will have to do this every night of the production. The playwright needs to know where these leaps are, to communicate them to the director, and recognise how vulnerable it might make an actor.

Why would they want to make that leap and risk failure every night? Sometimes they will ask that you – the writer – to close the gap a little, and occasionally, if you really feel that the actor isn’t able to make it, this is worth taking on. Other times, if you know they can do it, and you know it is the best possible thing for the work, both you and the director need to support the actor in making that leap.

Know that actors are like highly trained thoroughbred racehorses. They are all jumping and ready to do their best, but they are vulnerable and afraid, and that needs to be harnessed and fed into the work. The actors know this in themselves, but they need the company to also know this, to expect them to do their absolute best, but also to recognise the fear of failure in the process, and the huge generosity in what the actor does – they go out there and race that race for you every night.

However directors are also set for a race, and time is limited. The director wants to make sure s/he can direct this work to its best possible version, needs to know that s/he can get the actors to the required place before opening night, also needs to balance design and production values with a unified vision. To do all of this, s/he needs a script that they can fully rely upon. Look after your directors, and let them do their job.

6. WEEKLY REHEARSAL BREAKDOWN

Each week your role will subtly change.  Stay for all of Week 1 then come in less and less.  A good writer should increasingly absent themselves from the room. 

WEEK 1

When you're in rehearsal, when the marketing juggernaut has taken off, when everyone is suddenly a stakeholder waiting for you to produce the goods that will ease their anxieties, it really does feel like you are in the eye of the storm. Everyone in the rehearsal is trying to help you, but if you're still re-writing, no one really can. You just have to go in, and dig deep, and come back with gold.” - Donna Abela

The relationship with the director changes within that first week, and quite obviously so by the end of the second week. The director’s fundamental responsibility is to balance the script with the production, more so now than ever before. The designers will also be in the room from time to time, but most importantly the actors who will become those characters on the page are present. They are real and exciting, and embarking on a communal process of creating a world together with the director, one that will live on well after the writer has left the room.

For that first week, the script is so central to the space, and the writer is called upon to explain, examine and to rewrite for long hours after everyone else has gone home. Sometimes things obviously agreed upon with the director will be further prised open by comments of an actor and the director might change position – or indeed it might be the writer who changes position themselves. Either way, a tension is created in the room because each artist must focus on their ‘part’ of the whole. The director, designer, playwright and actor are all making the best possible work from their perspective. The natural tension this induces is a fundamental energy to push the whole to its absolute best. Actors are brilliant at understanding how quickly a moment can change the ‘feeling’ in the room, and thus spend a great deal of time and energy making a clear and loving space for the vulnerability of all to exist in that same space.   

“Early on in the process I am ‘amenable Alana’, hoovering up every response and suggestion and perceptive insight into my work, straining it through my brain and heart and coming back with a new improved version - again and again and again.” - Alana Valentine

WEEK 2

Some playwrights love to be in the rehearsal room for as long as they can, and others want to get out of there as soon as possible. For myself. there is a strong argument to hand over the baby and trust those in the room. They need to own it, to feel that they can bitch about various tricky lines, and to have opinions that are not able to be voiced before the playwright. It allows the actors a chance to be candid before they totally commit to the lines and go forth in the room to the next phase.

“For me personally, it's important to absent myself from rehearsals apart from the occasional visit after week 1 as I feel it is of great importance that the actors and director take ownership of the characters and the world of the play.” - Caleb Lewis

WEEK 3 - 4

“…But then there is a time, late in the process, when it may be necessary to become ‘elusive, inaccessible Alana’ when, frankly, it's time for a bit of tough love to let the director and the actors come up with some solutions of their own instead of looking to the writer to solve it.

This is a delicate judgment call – knowing when it really is still you who needs to solve it and knowing when – out of fear or caution or some other reason – the actor can’t find the creative key to a particular moment or scene and you just have to let them struggle with that.” - Alana Valentine

WEEK 4

Personally, I hope to be well out of the room by now, invited in for a company run or a specific run. The room is a completely different place at this stage and there is no real role for the playwright. Some directors are relaxed with a playwright still being present, but check with each director on each project as to what their preference is. Communication is always key.

“There's also that curious feeling when the script has passed muster and no one needs you anymore. You turn up to rehearsals and watch all this fun being had without you. After having lived with the script for possibly years, it can feel quite strange, because suddenly you're redundant. Which you want to be. But it still feels strange.” - Donna Abela

TECH WEEK

You can’t make huge changes now because the actors are anxious about getting their lines down. Also your exams are over! Briefly. The pressure is slightly released and you are less visible in the room. If you are in the room, be supportive, go get coffees, and just be gleefully aware that nobody is going to ask you for massive changes while tech is going on! 

PREVIEWS

It is a delicate balance here as to what changes you can make. Strictly speaking, changes can be made right up to and sometimes after opening night. Having an audience for the first time is always another shift. Be considerate of actors and learnt lines; be true to the production and aware of the need for some settling, but also be true to your play and fix what is jarring or not working. Be very aware though that the focus for the rest of the team has shifted to production, and any insertions or deletions might add tension. It goes without saying that all changes should be discussed with the director. I remember a scene in one of my plays used a very expensive prop, and I realised in previews that the scene no longer worked. The scene needed to go, and the production was better off for the deletion however I remember the fear I felt in raising this with an already stressed director. As it turned out there was relief in this suggestion, and all was fine. Some practical changes that you accommodate can sometimes be for the purpose of making a smooth production, and you must definitely weigh up how important some of those practical changes are and take heed.

“I think one challenge, that's really common, is when you're getting towards opening night and the director's asking you to make changes for practical purposes. I would add quickly that, in most cases, these should be made. The nature of working as a playwright means you need to be a good collaborator, you need to be flexible. If an actor isn't able to make something work, or if a prop or effect proves too expensive, then you need to find another way. I always tell myself that in the published script (and how often is there a published script these days?) it will be as I intended. But very often, the workaround turns out to be a solution that I prefer. Where the challenge comes in is in shifting your focus from play to production, to making everyone look good up there, rather than making your script shine.” - Hilary Bell

OPENING NIGHT

The strange thrill of seeing it all come to life. This is usually a stressful night for the playwright; there is a focus on us that we rarely experience.  Dress up, look fabulous and be generous!  Do not forget your opening night cards; they are a small but connected part of the process of opening the show. If the cast call you up GO. I sometimes feel really anxious at that moment, and don't want to take away any limelight, but the actors truly want you to be part of the moment and if they call for it, be there with them. All playwrights feel awkward on stage with lights blaring in their face!

It is a night for celebration, and a real coming together of the team.

LATER

Try and be available for question and answer evenings. Not only do you have an opportunity to engage directly with your audience, but you are also able to support the theatre in its own audience creation program.

Later in the run, the playwright can sit anonymously in the stalls and really experience the work as a whole. There is a lovely magic to this post-review, stress-free experience of the play. A moment to be thankful for what has been made, to honour the work and the people who allowed it to come to be, and a night to be amongst your audience, shoulder to shoulder. The wonder of this moment is what makes us go back and start the process all over again.

* * *

All thanks to the wonderful Australian playwrights who were interviewed in various formats for this paper, and in particular to those who were prepared to be quoted: Donna Abela, Vanessa Bates, Hilary Bell, Caleb Lewis, Damien Miller and Alana Valentine.

 

 

Suzie Miller

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Suzie Miller is a multi award-winning playwright whose recent work include Caress/Ache which was developed at the National Theatre in London, premiered at the Griffin Theatre 2015; JUNE, written for ATYP with Legs on the Wall; Medea La Boite Theatre 2015; DUST Black Swan Theatre Company, Perth 2014, a new play with LIVE theatre in the UK, Two Geordie Boys 2016; Roaring Silence with Leah Purcell; Velvet Evening Séance developed with National Theatre of Scotland and in production 2016. Onefivezeroseven premiered at 2014 Perth International Festival and Driving Into Walls was staged at PIAF and then at the Sydney Opera House in 2013. The Sacrifice Zone Toronto’s Theatre Gargantua in 2012 and 2013 with tour to follow. The ‘Google Project’ with Google and Griffin theatre 2014. In the Heart of Darby Park 2013 Oran Mor New Writing Theatre in Glasgow Scotland and the Perth Theatre in Scotland. Overexposed WA Performing Lines in 2014.

 Miller has been in residence at the following theatres: twice at the National Theatre of England, National Theatre of Scotland, Griffin Theatre Sydney, Ransom Theatre Ireland, Theatre Gargantua Toronto, and with Robert Lepage and Ex Machina in Quebec City. Some of the awards Miller has won are: 2013 AWGIE, 2008 National Kit Denton Fellowship for writing with courage; 2008 New York Fringe Festival ‘Overall Excellence Award for Outstanding. Miller holds degrees in science, law and theatre, and is a graduate of the NIDA Playwrights’ Studio.


 

 

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Mazz Ryan
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Re: Paper Cuts: A Playwright’s Guide to Surviving the Rehearsal Room
Reply #1 on : Mon August 10, 2015, 18:04:36
Thankyou, I am an emerging playwright and this paper has been an excellent source of info and insight to help with the process that I'm about to embark on with a first showing of a monologue I've written for Melbourne Writers Theatre. Much appriciated and valuable advice, Cheers Mazz


 

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