It's the final week to submit your plays in the 2018 Theatre503 Playwriting Award. Theatre editor Daniel Perks catches up with the 2016 winner, Andrew Thompson, to chat about his experience of this new writing opportunity:

Currently playing at Theatre503 is Tearrance Chisholm‘s Br’er Cotton, which first came to the attention of the team when it was submitted for the theatre’s Playwriting Award in 2016. It didn’t win, but it was shortlisted and so picked up for programming in the current season. That’s the power of being noticed by a playwriting award such as Theatre503 – you get the full support of theatre’s extensively qualified artistic and producing team, as well as a guaranteed spot in their season and the opportunity to be published (Nick Hern Books co-sponsor the Theatre503 new writing competition).

Br'er Cotton Theatre503

Tearrance Chisholm’s Br’er Cotton (Image courtesy of Helen Murray)

The Playwriting Award is a lifeline to new writers, those who haven’t had a full-length play professionally produced in this country before. There are few far too few writing awards of this kind around – Theatre503 sits in a category with the Papatango New Writing Prize, the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting and the Verity Bargate Award. Thousands of scripts are often submitted in the hope that they are selected as one of the lucky finalists. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put something forward however – you have to be in it to win it!

The 2018 Theatre503 Playwriting Award is now open for submissions. But a note to all those budding playwrights out there – hurry and submit soon, because it closes on 31 March 2018. I caught up with the winner of 2016’s competition (the award is hosted biennially), writer Andrew Thompson, to reflect on the importance of the competition. Andrew’s play, In Event Of Moone Disaster, was the highlight of Theatre503’s 2017 autumn/ winter season and one of Miro Magazine‘s few 5-star plays of the year:

Andrew Thompson

How important is that there are awards such as the Theatre503 Playwriting Award to recognise debut playwrights and provide them with that springboard?

“It’s vital. I genuinely don’t think my play would have made it to the stage and led me to where I am now if it weren’t for this award. There were theatre’s out there who were reading my work and being very complimentary, but it’s incredibly difficult to get someone to take a risk on an unknown writer. New writers need to be staged, both for career purposes but also in order to learn, and to have such an award dedicated to creating that opportunity is essential and exciting.”

What have you learnt from working with Theatre503 since the award was announced?

“A lot about everything. They work hard to include you as much as possible in all elements, be it casting, design and marketing conversations, as well as rehearsals, tech week etc. so you get an insight into all the elements of making a show. They also take time to discuss your work with you; they believe that the script is the focus and spend time helping you develop it, but also yourself and skills as a writer. They’re also there with advice for the industry as a whole. There really is no element of support they aren’t willing to offer and for a new writer with their debut play that is invaluable.”

Andrew Thompson’s In Event Of Moone Disaster (image courtesy of Jack Sain)

Where did the idea for In Event Of Moone Disaster come from?

“I was aware of the speech ‘In Event Of Moon Disaster’, written in case the moon landing failed, and was intrigued by the concept of having to prepare for the worst at a time of great hope for the future. My wife and I were looking to start a family and I was surprised to discover the attitudes that still existed regarding her desire to continue working. Perhaps I was naive, but I thought we had moved forward and so I wanted to examine that – the clash between biology and ambition.”

Do you have any particular processes, rituals or techniques when it comes to playwriting?

“I carry note books everywhere. Every little idea, line of dialogue, joke or even full scene will be sketched into them over time. I will then collate and build from there. I always like to hand write the first draft. I find it easier to think that way – it removes the fear of the blank page. The script will be born from the notes and then when I type it up I’m already editing so what I finally have on the screen is stronger. It will still need work and development but I have a firm basis to work from.”

Theatre503 Playwriting Award

Shortlisted writers Ed Jones, Alison Carr, Annie Jenkins, winner Andrew Thompson, previous winner Bea Roberts & shortlisted writer Tearrance Chisholm (image courtesy of Martin Sharpe)

What advice would you give to budding playwrights who are thinking either about putting pen to paper for the first time, or submitting their work for an award such as the Theatre503 Playwriting Award?

“Just do it.”

“Really examine your idea, ask yourself if you are telling each moment in the best or most interesting way.”

“And edit. Edit, edit, edit; re-draft, re-draft, re-draft. That is the hard but vital work.”

“As for the Theatre503 Award, if you feel your play is ready, there really is no better place to submit it.”

Summarise Theatre503, the Playwriting Award and your play submission in five words.

Epic

 

 

The 2018 Theatre503 Playwriting Award is open until 31 March 2018. For more information, please visit the venue website.