Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How many stage directions should a writer include? How much should a director meddle with the script? Who owns a piece of theatre anyway? These, and other pithy issues from funding & contracts to why women aren't better represented in the upper echelons of professional theatre, were discussed at the 'Open Space consultation' at Bath's Rondo Theatre for practitioners across the southwest, led by Alison Farina of Butterfly Psyche Theatre. A stimulating and informative day and perhaps most importantly affirming: collaboration is the heart of theatre and as writer/director Ian McGlynn says, the best thing for a writer is when something comes out of the script that you didn't know was there. Most impassioned topic was Rosie's query about imbalanced female:male ratios in theatre ~ hard to dispute, since Equity wrote to 43 artistic directors of subsidised theatres drawing their attention to the fact that they consistently offer work to many more men than women actors and show many more male than female characters. The A.M. of the group tried denial, Shakespeare, and girly topics being less popular themes than war, but a substantial body of research suggests this is a social and cultural issue rather than whining women and weak writing.  As long as airbrushing is considered routine dressage by the media, it's hard to talk convincingly of gender parity in any walk of life.

All of which leads me to another perennial writerly issue ~ Why blog? ~ raised at an excellent digital marketing session at the Silk Mill last week led by Becca Braithwaite.  To practice shaping ideas, as a kind of halfway house between free-flow and submission, I suggested. I use mine to explore thoughts on productions before the formal review ~ and to big-up the vibrance of Frome. Looking back to when I'd just started blogging I found a quote from journalist Kate Kellaway: For me it is like placing a rock in a stream, a way of interrupting the flow of time, diverting it - having the comforting illusion that it has not escaped forever. My comment then was: A virtual pod-cast of thoughts and impressions, made by a magic damn. I like that. Back then my blog was more true to its frivolous mission statement 'all the goss from a writer's life', with quips and snippets and pictures of writer friends. Social media, of course, is where jokes and quotes go now, and most of the images too, but there's a subtler social change too: we've all become more cautious about our virtual existence, and I'm more wary around others' privacy. I gave up candid photography way back when I first noticed people getting anxious around a stranger with a telephoto lens, and when friends started asking is this for the blog?, I stopped posting casual encounters. I think overall this chronicle is the poorer for that, but people aren't for the entertainment of their friends ~ except of course on facebook where there's more immediate control and veto. Which is why I probably spend more time there now than blogging...
And to return to women writers... the Pride & Prejudice readathon is on line now! Muriel Rosie and I are all in part 3  ~ my read starts after 2.39 hours. Since you ask!

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