Sevan Greene 0

Post-Grad Writing MA/MFA

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Dear Principal Henderson and others,

We wanted to make you aware of an event that happened on 6/7 May in the New Studio (you were sent an invitation to the event a month before). The students from the post-grad Writing for Stage and Broadcast Media programme organized and produced a New Writing Night featuring actors from the MA/BA acting programmes and assisted by students on the MA Creative Producing and BA Lighting Design courses. We sold out both nights (tickets were free); in fact we oversold a 74-seat house by 12 for each night (the final attendance over the two nights was 124 people). We had a mix of Central students, friends and family, a few staff members (Sarah Grochala, Martin Wylde, Deirdre McLaughlin), industry professionals (The Agency, The Gate, The Space, The Bush,Billboard Personal Management, BBC3,Tanika Gupta), and people who came across the event online and were interested in learning more about Central (including prospective students).

The reason we want to tell you about the event is because we think it is important you know how essential and viable the writing programme is at Central. It is the only one of its kind that deals strictly with writing across all mediums. It has produced several writers who are currently represented onstage throughout the UK. It is also a programme that does not have a formal showcase.

We work for 1-2 years on generating work that is never seen by the public. And for writers, putting work up in a rehearsal room and in front of an audience is incredibly important. It is one thing to see the words on the page and another to hear it from actors’ mouths, to be dramaturged, and to be consumed by an audience. A writer cannot judge or redraft a piece of work until it takes shape in a rehearsal room and in front of an audience. This is not about showing off to an audience or trying to get agents. This is about the very basic practice and skill of developing a work beyond the page with real bodies speaking our words and real bodies reacting to our work.

Moreover, we think Central is missing an incredibly opportunity to show off the programme to audiences, especially those who would be willing to be new or continuing donors. It is a missed opportunity to have industry professionals see Central as a hub for new writing and emerging voices.

To be quite honest, we feel ignored. We had to fight to have a space for the evening. We are not sure what the ‘bureacratic’ or ‘resource’ reasons are for why an official showcase does not exist, but I can tell you that we managed to produce the entire evening for absolutely no money and no cost to the school. It was a self-contained event in the New Studio that needed no set up. We required no staff help (though we are eternally grateful to Adam Parker who was generous to give us 2 nights.And without Sarah Grochala to help us, I don't think we would have been allowed the evenings at all.).

Maybe there are truly good reasons as to why a showcase does not exist, but we weren't given any so we start to wonder whether our contributions to the theatrical landscape matter at Central. Are we only economic contributors? Think of the tuition that we pay, especially international students, and put yourself in our shoes. We have no way of showing our work through Central whose name automatically vets our positions as new writers. Central has the potential to become a hub for new writing in addition to the current goal of being the academic centre of theatrical studies. With the industry clamoring for new good writing and claiming that British new writing pales in comparison to American writing isn’t it time for Central to lead the charge in proving how false that belief is? Why can’t we break ground and set trends and challenge audiences? Why shouldn’t we be known for our writers as much as our actors?

More than anything, it affords us the chance to work across programmes (networking and collaborating with other emerging artists at Central should be just as important. We are essentially a one-stop shop for creating theatre but there seems to be little to no opportunities to do so). We have met new artists that we are sure will be people we work with for years to come. And we hunger to meet and collaborate more. That is the lifeblood of theatre. Shouldn’t it be the same at Central?

If Central is a conservatoire then we challenge it to truly behave like one to rise above other programs like RADA who give their writers several opportunities throughout the year including weekly rehearsed readings of new writing, New Writers 5 (which spotlights short scenes), and scratch nights. And they don't even have a dedicated writers degree. The only thing we get in our programme is a two-night sharing in the SU bar of two pages of dialogue to which we can’t even invite the public or industry.

Don’t get us wrong. We love Central. We all picked this school for a reason. Many of us got into several other schools (RADA, Birmingham, Edinburgh), but Central was our top choice. We have loved working with amazing instructors like Tony Fisher and Tanika Gupta who have blown our minds open with knowledge and inspiration. We have enjoyed meeting the few student artists we have been able to so far. We bring up these issues because we want the experience for the current and future writers to be valuable and important to the school and the theatrical landscape.

Even if we were able to do two separate short play presentations and public rehearsed readings throughout the year it would be enough to validate the program and afford us the opportunity to put into practice what we learn in the classrooms (and we can easily draw up no-cost proposals to show you). And we can assure you that none of those events would place an economic strain on the school. We want to work with student actors and designers; to collaborate with creative producers, dramaturgs, and directors; to make this program something to envy.

We hope that you will attend future events. We were disappointed that more staff did not come.It was a little upsetting to see many staff members walking through the student design expo and not taking a moment to come to one of our evenings. It was important for us that you were there if for no other reason than to show your support.

We appreciate your taking the time to listen. If nothing else, we hope that should we choose to produce another evening of work that there won't be as much resistance and hesitation. We just want the same respect and recognition as our peers.

We are open to having an open conversation about our concerns and are willing to provide testimonials and letters of support from industry attendees.

Thank you so much.

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