Like Me

It’s always easier than you think it’ll be. Than I think it’ll be. Sorry, that’s a thing I do. Universalise. See, I want to say, ‘it’s a thing we do.’ Meaning humans. People. But it’s not universal. I mean, I know I’m not alone in doing it. There’s eight billion other minds on this planet. There’s probably about a million people exactly like me just in China. Mentally like me I mean – obviously they’d be Chinese and speaking Chinese. So I could say, ‘it’s a thing we do.’ Me and my million Chinese twins. But I think that’d be a lie, because it’s really not what I mean. I mean all of us. And that’s not true. Because I’m not like you. I could be – no, uh. I mean you could be. Like me. But it’s very unlikely. So when I say that it’s always easier than I think it’ll be, it’s probably better for us all to remember that it’s not universally true. It’s always easier for me than I expect it to be. But you might discover that it’s far, far harder than you would have guessed. If you’d even want to try of course. Murder isn’t for everyone.

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Good Wine

Every time I handed a wine bottle down to him there would be a soft clink of metal on glass. His wedding ring. I was elbow deep in the hall cupboard, helping my father to unpack a lifetime of dinner parties from the shelves. My lifetime specifically, as we had lived in this house since before I could walk.

I pulled bottle off the rack, wiped off the crusted years of dust with a damp cloth, and passed them down to my father to sort into boxes. ‘Spoiled’ – the corks flecked with mold. ‘Good’ – wine that would presumably find a new cupboard in my parents’ new house in Cape Town. ‘Jonathan’ – wine of dubious merit but probably fit for consumption. Wine meant for me to take. On many of the bottles there’s a label written in my father’s well practiced hand, a name and a date – the wine’s provenance as it pertained to my family: who gave it to them, and when. He has always been a note taker, a recorder of data. He has charted decades of rainfall and temperature on our little farm. He records daily life not in journals but in letters, most sent to my sister who lives abroad. An orderly mind that projects order on his world. “James, 1998” – my father reads aloud. Does this summon the memory of that night? He nods to himself and files the bottle. ‘Good’.

Easy to love

She said, “You’re easy to love.”

Her tone was a simple statement but boredom and condescension creased the corners of her mouth in ways he could only register unconsciously, so her words left him with a sense of unease at odds with their content. Rather than look at her he looked out over the trees of the complex’s garden, his fingers gathering round the warmth of his mug like vagrants around a fire. She wasn’t looking at him either, her eyes were directed at the city lights but her mind was farther away than that. The wind caught at the smoke of her cigarette and the cherry glowed bright for a moment. It was going to be one of those nights when the wind tore through the streets of Vredehoek. One of those nights when the wind screamed at every crack and shook every window and door. One of those nights when the city lay restless, harried by furies.

“Would you like another cup of tea?” he asked. She hardly touched hers while she smoked so it was still high in the mug. He was nursing his. It was a useless offer. It was a craving for comfort. She didn’t answer.

They watched the wind shake the branches, turning the leaves into susurrating ocean waves, neither wanting to be alone.

Playwright’s Opportunities

This is a first draft list of opportunities for South African Playwrights featuring Local and International opportunities. We’ll be adding more as we research them. (Most overseas opportunities don’t make it clear if they’re open to submissions from afar. So we’ve been emailing to confirm.)
What follows is a starting point for South African playwrights – if you have stuff to contribute please email freelancer@jonkeevy.com (Errors and suggestions, leave a comment)

Artscape – New Writing Programme
Deadline: Ongoing
Description: The Programme accepts manuscripts. These scripts are sent out to professional readers for assessment. Reports are fed back to the playwrights. Once a play has been identified as having promise, the playwright works with an editor to undertake re-writing. The play may be given a stage reading, and if successful, will be considered for a full production. A central part of the programme is playwriting workshops. It is targeted at adults and high school learners.
Guidelines: Any manuscript in isiXhosa, Afrikaans or English.
Who can submit: Anyone
Find more information: http://www.artscape.co.za/new-writing OR contact Beth Jeffery, nwpadmin@artscape.co.za

Imbewu Arts – Scribe Writing Competition
Deadline: The closing date for entries is in late July and the winner will be announced at the beginning of August. Annual contest.
Description: The Imbewu Trust is running a playwriting competition. The prize for the winning script is the production of the relevant play by the Imbewu Trust, which will be staged at a venue selected by the Imbewu Trust. In addition, should the entrant so require, the Imbewu Trust will make a professional director available to direct the production.
Guidelines: Scripts must be written in English but may include portions written in one or more of any of the other official South African languages. There may be no more than 5 characters in the play. The length of the play may not exceed 80 minutes.
Who can submit: All entrants must be 21 years or older and be South African residents currently residing in South Africa.
Find more information at: http://www.imbewuarts.com/scribe-writing-competition/

Play For Voices – Radio Play Contest
Deadline: Submissions will be accepted until July 31, 2016.
Description: Calling all literary translators, radio dramatists, and international radio drama enthusiasts! Play for Voices, in partnership with the lovely online journal of international literature Words without Borders, seeks radio play scripts in English translation for our first contest.
We invite submissions of translated radio plays of all lengths and from all languages. The Play for Voices producers and Words without Borders editors will select the winners. The winning play(s) will be produced by Play for Voices and published in Words without Borders.
Guidelines: Plays must be written or adapted for radio. We are not currently seeking unadapted stage plays or other literature. Plays can be of any length, and translated from any language. Multiple submissions are permitted. Please email submissions to contest@playforvoices.com.
Who can apply: Anyone
Find more at: http://www.playforvoices.com/submit/

Instinct Theatre – call for Full Length Scripts
Deadline: Early May, Yearly
Description: Instinct Theatre is a London theatre company who are looking for new, full length play scripts to produce. They champion new writing, produce topical work and aim to reach out to people who might not consider themselves conventional theatre goers.
This opportunity gives writers a chance to workshop and develop their play with professional actors and to see the play staged in a full production with the cast.
Guidelines: Instict theatre calls once a year for submissions, usually with a deadline in early May.
Find out more at: http://instinct-theatre.co.uk/

Luna Stage Submissions
Deadline: Ongoing
Description: At Luna Stage, we are committed to nurturing excellence in playwriting, in all phases of development. We are interested in works by diverse voices that have clearly been written for the stage, as opposed to other mediums. We look for well-told stories, in all shapes and configurations. We are attracted to writing that has a depth and a texture in its language and characters, and/or a novel use of structure. We produce material of all genres, but look for work that transcends its immediate story to resonate with audiences on many levels. On the second Monday of every month (from October to May), we hold a New Moon Play Reading. We often select work for further development from these readings.
Guidelines/Who Can Submit: Luna Stage accepts script submissions from playwrights who are currently represented by a theatrical agent, hold an MFA in playwriting, or are currently enrolled in an MFA playwriting program. If a playwright does not meet the criteria listed above but still wishes to submit a play to Luna Stage, we will accept a script if it is accompanied by a letter of recommendation from the Artistic Director or Literary Manager of an Equity theatre or a professional organization that focuses solely on the development of new works for the stage. Additionally, Luna Stage will accept open submissions from playwrights who make their permanent residence in the state of New Jersey.
For More Information: http://lunastage.org/submit-your-script.php

MPAACT Call for Submissions
Deadline: Ongoing
Description: MPAACT (The Ma’at Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theare) consistently produces a season of outstanding world premiere productions. With a vision focused on creating new work and collaborative art, MPAACT produces and educates with the goal of increasing understanding and appreciation of the realities of Black life. MPAACT exposes audiences to stories seldom seen on America’s stages. and strives to develop opportunities to nurture and sustain artists of all disciplines.
Guidelines: Plays should be submitted electronically.
Who Can submit: : MPAACT is seeking submissions of full-length original plays by African American and African Diaspora playwrights for its 2017-2018 season. Female identified playwrights strongly encouraged to submit.
For More information: Questions about our programs can be directed to Demetria Thomas, Literary Development Manager, at thomas@mpaact.org.OR visit: http://www.mpaact.org

Original Works Online – Call for Submissions
Deadline: Ongoing
Description: OWP receives a large number of exciting new plays, all of which are closely evaluated. Please give us a minimum of three – six months to respond. Currently accepting full lengths, one acts, ten minute play collections, monologue shows, fringe festival hits, individual ten minute shows. OWP receives a large number of exciting new plays, all of which are closely evaluated. Please give us a minimum of three – six months to respond.
Guidelines: For Full Length Plays: OWP now only accepts plays that have received eight (8) or more performances in a production run and have been reviewed. All Other Lengths: Do not need 8 performances or review, but still must have been fully produced. OWP does not accept unproduced submissions under any circumstances. OWP does not publish adaptations, translations, musicals, or works for younger audiences.
Who can submit: Anyone
For more information: https://www.originalworksonline.com/Submit

The Overtime Theatre – Call for submissions
Deadline: Ongoing
Description: Devoted solely to producing new and original work, we are particularly interested in bold and innovative plays that are challenging and entertaining.
We are seeking unproduced original work, adaptations of films and novels, translations and adaptations of classic works, musicals, comedies, tragedies, melodramas, kitchen sink musical comedies, operas, light operas, operettas, soft rock operas, heavy metal boulevard farces and many other forms hitherto unknown. Currently we do not have a stipend for playwrights. Writers, directors, cast and crew are all compensated through an equal share of audience contributions and other donations to the “love bucket” which is divided at the end of a production’s run. Artistic staff and the board of the Overtime are all volunteers.
Guidelines: We are open to any genre, with a special emphasis on genres that are often neglected in theater such as science fiction, adventure, superhero epics and cross-genre works, immersive environmental plays, or pieces that are truly “uncategorizable”!
Who Can apply: While we are looking to nurture and develop local artists we are also open to giving voice to artists across Texas and to other artists national and international.
Find out more at: http://theovertimetheater.org/get-involved/submit-plays/

Royal Court Theatre
Deadline: Ongoing
Description: The Royal Court programmes original plays that investigate the problems and possibilities of our time. Occasionally, we also present revivals. We are looking for outstanding plays which are formally or thematically original and are unlikely to be produced elsewhere.
Guidelines: Before you submit a script to us, we suggest you familiarise yourself with the Royal Court; come and see the plays being produced in our Upstairs and Downstairs spaces, and look at the archive and reviews of recent productions. This should give you a better feel for what we are looking for.We do not accept one act plays or multiple submissions. Please do not send us screenplays, novels, collections of poems or radio plays as the Royal Court does not programme adaptations from other forms. We will not read historical and biographical plays unless these resonate strongly with contemporary life and are unlikely to programme new musicals unless these have been commissioned by us. Unfortunately, we cannot consider resubmissions or new drafts of plays we have read and responded to, unless we have specifically requested a new draft.
Who can submit: Anyone
Find out more at: Contact literary@royalcourttheatre.com and http://www.royalcourttheatre.com/playwriting/literary-office/

The Spill – Call for Plays
Deadline: Ongoing, depending on their staged reading schedule.
Description: The Spill organises quarterly rehearsed readings at the Old Red Lion Theatre of the freshest new work from the most exciting of contemporary writers. They are now looking for new plays to programme.
Guidelines: Please send your submissions to spinningoutproductions@gmail.com with the subject heading ‘ARTS COUNCIL – PLAY SUBMISSION’. Play length at least 1hr.
Who can submit: Anyone
For more information: The Spill seeking scripts for rehearsed readings  https://www.facebook.com/TheSpillORL/

11×11: Three Complaining

March was a bit of a win and bit of a loss, but overall I’m leaning to calling it a success.

The month started off a bit crazy at Alexander Upstairs and got progressively more crazy as it went on. In addition to the regular work I got a number of design jobs for people’s National Arts Festival productions. Then there was the BASA/British Council fellowship, which included workshops and a conference in Joburg where I spoke on a panel and pitched for funding.

All of which is to say I have many excuses and they’re not completely unreasonable. Sort of the point of an excuse isn’t it? But I don’t buy them either. I don’t buy that me taking on more than I can handle is a reason not do the thing that I promised myself. Being there for other people is important. So is being there for yourself. Finding the balance is the most important.

This month my writing was a short play for Anthology, opening on Tuesday the 7th (this evening). It’s called Bullet Points and is a classic con story: two characters manipulating each other with layers of tricky deception. The dialogue is full of detours as they chase down the quirky reasoning and get distracted by little things. They’re not very good cons. Or are they?

I also added a lot of new material and substantially rewrote parts of Every Beautiful Thing, my January play. A lot of writing got done in March; enough that I could call it 3 down, not enough that I feel like I deserve a high five.

Lessons:

  • Regularity breeds creativity. Don’t try to squeeze all the juice in snatched moments and odd places; that’s notebook time.
  • Rewriting is an art unto itself, fear and respect it.

11×11 – Boom! That’s Two Down

The second play of my 2015 writing challenge 11×11 is done. The Underground Library was an idea I’ve been kicking around since the National Arts Festival in 2013. It was going to be building the style of Get Kraken. Set in Jozi of the near-future, the Underground Library is about education and inspired by Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and the thread of pro-autodidacticism that runs through the work of black intellectuals from Carter Woodson to Steve Biko. It’s an adventure story with spies, hackers, shady interests, and samurai (you know you like samurai).

The biggest challenge for this was that it was a radio play. My first ever. My preference is to write whatever pops into my head and let the director and designer work out how to make it happen on stage (in Get Kraken a stage direction reads, “The submarine rises up from beneath the little boat, stranding the panicked pair”). But in radio it’s all on the writer to figure out how to convey the info. None of it is visual, and since it was for a competition (SAfm radio playwrights) I also couldn’t leave it up to a sound designer – I needed to show that I understood the medium. It being a competition added more pressure. This one had to be good. Every Beautiful was written to be performed, but I will be doing further drafts, I’ll be revising. The Underground Library I had one shot at, and it kept me up late this last week.

Lessons this month:

• If writing is the most important thing to you, then you have to make finishing the most important thing. Prioritise finishing. Life will make you choose. Choose finishing.

• I’m useless at night. Rather take it off and recharge.

11×11 – One Down

The first month of my 11×11 project has come to an end and I have done one play. Sort of. The rules I laid out put the page target at 30, but I finished at 26. Apart from a two page prelude, the play is a single continuous scene without entrances or exits. Two characters having a conversation.

So what did I learn? Firstly, finishing is the most important thing and how that may be defined is a not hard and fast. 30 pages is a good goal, but a piece that’s shorter but with a continuous spine and a real ending is also good. Secondly, to be careful of excuses. The one above makes sense but other excuses I made to not write were lame self-sabotage. Among them:

  • I can make up the page count tomorrow (no, you won’t)
  • I don’t have an idea what to do next (not writing is the opposite of solving this)
  • I’d rather answer this email (that’s a damn lie)
  • OK, but I have to answer this email (you know you don’t really)
  • I’ll write better after a power nap (you won’t get back up)
  • What’s happening on Facebook/Twitter/News24 comments section? (What is wrong with you?!)

And Finally, I confirmed it’s possible. For me. (So probably for you too)

The result of January’s labour is Every Beautiful Thing, promised to Briony Horwitz last year and finally delivered. It’s an emotional drama and comes from the same place as A Girl Called Owl – a spiritual sequel. To keep the 11×11 challenge interesting I’m going to pick very different projects each month, so February’s play is going to be The Underground Library. This is more in the Get Kraken! mould, multiple scenes and locations, an action adventure aimed at teenagers. Conveniently there’s an SAfm radio play competition and the submission deadline is the end of the month. Whenever possible I’m going to try incorporate opportunities like this into the challenge (because I like money).