In year two of MA Dramatic Writing we’re working with Nina Steiger for the second time on the course. Last year we on original digital media pieces together, and this year she’s helping us to develop as writers for theatre, both artistically and practically.
Our first meeting was devoted to agreeing on the plans for the coming ten sessions, and to thinking about our own identity as artists. We discussed how we felt in our working practice at the time, and how we wanted to feel by the end of these sessions. We did looking inwards to crystallize our thinking about where we intended to go with our writing. We made personal iconography, drawing symbols and finding our own words for aspects of our creative work.
Over the course of the sessions we’re adding to our portfolios by trying out new ideas, writing short pieces in response to interesting creative restrictions, and moving towards making our final major projects. Through this training we’re engaged with fundamental questions about what it is to write for theatre.
In Nina’s teaching and exercises we’ve written scenes focussing on subtext, exposition and dramatic action, we’ve had a demystifying session on the distinctions between plot, story and structure, and we’ve worked on identifying and using different theatrical styles.
The practical teaching on professional skills includes how to maintain your own creative process, knowing when and where to send out your work and how to present projects. We’ve had practice in pitching ideas and had a really useful session on how to give and get feedback on works in progress.
A massive benefit to working with Nina is the work we’ve done on naming and understanding trends in our own work and expanding our approach to the plays we see. Both Symphony and Wet House were showing at Soho when we visited the building for our second session.
Symphony was a piece of gig-theatre, where actors doubled as a five-piece band to perform three short plays with music by writers Ella Hickson, Nick Payne and Tom Wells. Paddy Campbell’s Wet House, set in a homeless hostel where residents can drink alcohol, plays as an authentic piece of contemporary naturalism.
In our sessions we were able to talk about the importance of strong characters, unanswerable questions and the presence of live conflicts in the fabric of a good piece of drama.With the opportunity to explore and discuss the programme at Soho and through our own practical work it feels as though we’re getting to really understand these principles.