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Community Playmaker

Community Playmaker

Community Playmaker forms an integral part of Playhouse at Home, our creative programme of work taking place whilst Oxford Playhouse is temporarily closed due to Coronavirus.

Community Playmaker is designed to get people of all ages and with all different levels of experience writing and sharing their plays.  The Playhouse is inviting people of Oxfordshire to have a go at writing a play with help from the Oxford Playhouse team.

 Meet the team and hear more about the project by watching the following video!


To help get you started, our Playhouse Playmakers will be releasing weekly playwriting guidance through our Playmaker Blog. In Additional Resources you will also find helpful tools for children and young people to have a go.

We hope you feel inspired!  We are looking for plays from all ages, and in all forms - short plays, long plays, monologues, and duologues.  Even if all you’ve written before is a shopping list, we want to read your writing and hear your stories.

Send your plays to us at: playmaker@oxfordplayhouse.com

Please use the Subject heading ‘Community Playmaker’ when you send your email. Include your name, age and hometown in your email, so that we know who we’re giving our feedback to.

We will read all submissions, and provide feedback as quickly as we can. And, if you’re happy for us to do so, we’ll share your play here on our website, so that others can read it too. Check out some of the plays that have already been submitted, using the tabs above.

Community Playmaker has been designed to help people to be creative whilst staying at home.  It draws on the knowledge and experience that the theatre has established from running its usual playwriting schemes for children aged 9+ and adults. Your children or grandchildren may have taken part in our Primary Playmaker scheme, which is aimed at schools, or Young Playmaker, which is aimed at writers aged 15-20. You might have heard about Playhouse Playmaker, which is aimed at new and emerging playwrights and provides work on writing techniques, with individual mentoring and feedback on their scripts.

Here are a selection of our submissions through our Community Playmaker scheme so far.

Just click on the plays below to download a PDF extract.

 

Age Guideline 16+ 

 

 Age Guideline 10+

 

 Age Guideline 10+

 

 

Age Guideline 10+ 

 

 

Age Guideline 14+ 

 

 

 Age Guideline 10+

 

 

 Age Guideline 14+

 

 

 Age Guideline 16+

 

 

Age Guideline 14+

 

Age Guideline 14+

 

   

We have collaborated with professional playwright Clare Bayley to create resources for young people and adults to help get into playwriting. Clare is running the Playhouse Playmaker scheme this year. You can find more exercises, explanations and guidance in her book: Playwriting - A Writers’ and Artists’ Companion.

Plus, check out our Playmakers Blog for tips!

 

Part 1) Getting Started     PDF    

Part 2) Building Character     PDF     WORD

Part 3) Writing Dialogue    PDF     WORD

Part 4) Structure      PDF     WORD

 

Additional resources can be found here for Key Stage 2 children who want to have a go at writing a play.  You can also check  out our Playmakers Blog for tips!

Key Words: PDF

Long Template for Playwriting: PDF

Short Template for Playwriting: PDF

That Mysterious House on the Hill: PDF

How to Write your Own Play (Key Stage 2): PDF

 

If you require any of these files in a different format, please email playmaker@oxfordplayhouse.com for further assistance.

 

Our Playhouse Playmakers for 2020 have been busy supporting Community Playmaker by writing helpful blogs about their own experiences and knowledge of writing plays.  They have also been adding to the Additional Resources for Community Playmaker.  Read more about our Playhouse Playmakers below...

Click here to see their own work.

 

Paul Stoyle

Born in the dark heart of the Black Country. Paul studied Drama and Contemporary Theatre at Anglia Ruskin University. Since then, he has worked continuously within the performing art circles of Brighton and Cardiff. Paul is also the founder of ‘Zenpens’ a bi-monthly silent writers retreat for creative individuals.

 

Victoria Taylor Roberts

Winner of the EDALYA International Youth Theatre Playwright Award (2019) and the Kenneth Branagh Drama Writing Award (2015), Victoria Taylor Roberts is an experienced playwright with a catalogue of short plays produced for and performed on the UK independent theatre circuit. Under the banner, Wistful Thinking Productions, Victoria also writes, directs and produces short films, with several recently enjoying success on the international film festival circuit. In addition to her currently being part of the 2020 Oxford Playhouse’s writer-on-attachment program, Victoria regularly script-reads for other theatres and offers professional support to those undertaking academic writing.

 

Natalia Knowlton

Natalia Knowlton is a Chilean-Canadian playwright and theatre maker based in London. In her writing, she explores female sexuality, gender and Latinx/immigrant identity. She is also the Co-Founder/Co-Artistic Director of Crossline Theatre, a female-led theatre company that tells women's stories. Natalia has an MFA in Playwriting from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

 

Jahmar Ngozi

London based creative, with a background in Sociology. Began writing and performing poetry in 2015, which developed into playwriting. 2016, Emerging Artist Award Winner for “When Harlem Met Kenya” (Arcola Theatre). 2018, “Van Gogh On The Beach” at Camden Fringe (Cockpit Theatre) and Voila Festival (Etcetera Theatre) before taking its sibling project “Amsterdam” to Edinburgh Fringe, both receiving 4 star reviews. 2019, “Broken English” had a successful run at Edinburgh Fringe, followed by a sold-out run at the Tristan Bates Theatre/ Actors Centre in January 2020.

 

Rowena Cooper

Rowena Cooper (she/her) is a writer based in Oxford. She wrote her first play as part of the coursework for an MSt in Creative Writing at Oxford University, which she graduated from in 2018. This play, titled After Aulis, was awarded ‘Fringe Event of the Year’ when it debuted in The Attic Theatre in 2018. In 2019, it was shortlisted for ‘Best New Play’ by New Writing South. Alongside playwriting, Rowena is a poet and board member of the Oxford Poetry Library, where she runs community-based workshops for budding writers of all ages and abilities. Her poetry has featured in Shooter Lit, Claudius Speaks, Panoplyzine, and the anthology Somewhere to keep the rain. In 2019, Rowena won the Shooter Lit Poetry Prize, was shortlisted for the Plough Short Poem Prize, and had two poems longlisted in the National Poetry Competition. Keep a lookout for a forthcoming poem of hers in Issue 3 of Bath Magg and read more at rowenacooper.co.uk.

 

Samson Hawkins

Samson is a theatre maker from south Northamptonshire and the artistic director of 'tomfool' theatre company. Samson's wrote and directed 'Swan Bake' which was performed at The Edinburgh Festival and Soho Theatre, 'The Underwhelming Adventures of Prozac Man and Low Self Esteem Boy' at The Bunker, and 'Death is Wasted on the Old' at The Avondale Theatre. Samson has previously been a member of The Royal Court Writer's Group, Soho Writers Lab and Greyscale Play Development Project. As a director, Samson has been the resident of the Oxford Playhouse and the trainee director of The Orange Tree Theatre. Samson is currently on commission with The Nottingham Playhouse and BBC Radio 4, he is also in training to become a drag wrestler.

 

Samson's Blog

Date: 29/05/2020

Samson is a theatre maker from south Northamptonshire and artistic director of 'tomfool' theatre company. Samson wrote and directed 'Swan Bake', which was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Soho Theatre, 'The Underwhelming Adventures of Prozac Man and Low Self Esteem Boy' at The Bunker Theatre, and 'Death is Wasted on the Old' at The Avondale Theatre. Samson has previously been a member of The Royal Court Writer's Group, Soho Writers Lab and Greyscale Play Development Project. As a director, Samson has been the resident of the Oxford Playhouse and the trainee director of The Orange Tree Theatre. Samson is currently on commission with The Nottingham Playhouse and BBC Radio 4. He is also in training to become a drag wrestler.

What are the three things you need before starting a play?

  1. How am I trying to change the world? How do I want my audience to change after seeing the play; how do I want to affect their behaviour? For example: start reusing plastic, start a socialist revolution and eat the rich, be nicer to dogs. 
  1. An inner feeling that I can't express. This is a knotty one - one which I obviously can't explain in a sentence, because the point is that it has to be long and complicated and woven into different feelings, and this way I know I can build a play around it.
    1. A new way of expressing these things. I'm not big into realism; I like to have a play with form, but could it be on ice? Should it be on ice? Ultimately, probably not, but there will be a really fun way of telling your story in a way that makes sense, rather than just characters standing about having a chat.

Tell us about the play you are working on for Playhouse Playmakers.

‘Oh For F*** Sake (I'm in Love with You)’ is a post-apocalyptic love story, with evil, talking robots and dance routines. It follows Robin and Alex, who live in a world post-gender, race and sexuality, as they start to discover feelings for each other. Unfortunately, they live in a robot-controlled totalitarian regime in which all forms of sexual relationships are banned. Our young lovers break the rules and are forced into becoming revolutionaries by their love. 

 

Victoria's Blog

Date: 22/05/2020

Winner of the EDALYA International Youth Theatre Playwright Award (2019) and the Kenneth Branagh Drama Writing Award (2015), Victoria is an experienced playwright with a catalogue of short plays produced for and performed on the UK independent theatre circuit. Under the banner, Wistful Thinking Productions, Victoria also writes, directs and produces short films, with several recently enjoying success on the international film festival circuit. In addition to currently being part of the 2020 Oxford Playhouse’s writer-on-attachment program, Victoria regularly script-reads for other theatres and offers professional support to those undertaking academic writing.

 Victoria, where do you get your inspiration from?

 When contemplating creating a new piece of theatre, the inspiration has often come from one particular epiphany: ‘What would happen if I put this person in this place?’ ‘Place’ could mean literally that – a place; it could also mean a situation such as an argument, an unusual event or even a natural disaster! 

How do you decide which idea to go with?

There are often several ideas floating around a writer’s head at any one time, but there will be one demanding more attention than its fellow ‘whimsies’; that’s the one, in my experience, that will withstand ‘panel beating’ from conception through to delivery. 

 How do you decide what structure your play will take? 

 In terms of structure, I’m a fan of the three-act model where something of note happens early in the first act, the stakes increase steadily, hitting crisis point near the end of the second and swooping down towards resolution – interrupted by the requisite nail-biting moment – by the close of act three. (On paper, the model looks like a ski slope climbing from left to right, with a sharp descent two-thirds of the way along.)

 Tell us about the play you’re working on for the Playmaker scheme this year?

 A newly single middle-class mother decides to generate some much-needed income through hosting pop up dinner parties for the local school parents, essentially turning her home into a restaurant. Needless to say, meanness and madness ensue.

In our last post, Playhouse Playmaker Samson Hawkins, Resident Director at Oxford Playhouse last year, introduces his play – a post-apocalyptic love story.

 

Paul's Blog

Date: 15/05/2020




Born in the dark heart of the Black Country, Paul Stoyle studied Drama and Contemporary Theatre at Anglia Ruskin University. Since then, he has worked continuously within the performing art circles of Brighton and Cardiff. Paul is also the founder of ‘Zenpens’ a bi-monthly silent writers retreat for creative individuals.

 Paul, tell us about the play you’re working on for Playmaker  this year.

Charging extortionate prices for crystals and floatation therapy doesn't guarantee happiness, but it does say a lot about today's consumer culture. My play Gooped examines the concept of spirituality as a capitalist venture and questions if luxury therapies can really buy inner healing? Set in a world where the lines between faith, fitness and health blur, social influencer Everly Bishop-Price seeks an escape from the woes of everyday life. Could the new trend of ‘Urban Bathing’ be the answer?

 What are your top tips for starting a new play?

Start paying attention. Inspiration is everywhere. Being a good writer means being a good listener. Switch off your earphones once in a while and start listening to what people are saying at the bus stop, the supermarket or the office. There's nothing more fascinating than overhearing a juicy story, a bawdy anecdote or a controversial viewpoint. Take all these stories, examine them, tweak them and exaggerate them. Most importantly, see if they have a potential sense of conflict within them. Conflict is the essence of any good drama and can really help as a starting point for your play.

Next up: Playhouse Playmaker Victoria Taylor-Roberts on her new play about a newly single middle-class mother and the three-act structure. 

 
Jahmar' s Blog

Date: 01/05/2020

Jahmar Ngozi is a London based creative, with a background in Sociology. He began writing and performing poetry in 2015, which developed into playwriting. In 2016, he was the Emerging Artist Award Winner for “When Harlem Met Kenya” (Arcola Theatre). In 2018, he produced his play “Van Gogh On The Beach” at Camden Fringe (Cockpit Theatre) and Voila Festival (Etcetera Theatre), before taking its sibling project “Amsterdam” to Edinburgh Fringe. Both plays received 4 star reviews. His 2019 play, “Broken English” had a successful run at Edinburgh Fringe, followed by a sold-out run at the Tristan Bates Theatre/ Actors Centre in January 2020.

Jahmar, where do you get your inspiration from?
My inspiration comes from God and the life he has blessed me with. I try to make work that is original, entertains, educates, inspires and innovatives. I enjoy celebrating and depicting the diversity, identity and intrinsic genius of art and artists. I hope to get new audiences into enjoying theatre, whilst still holding credibility amongst traditional theatre goers.

How do you decide which idea to go with?
I had several ideas that I could have chosen for my Playhouse Playmaker project - it felt like a job interview with four great candidates all capable of doing amazingly well!  The idea I chose was most appropriate for the situation. It excited me a bit more and while the other scripts would have taken more research and time to develop, I had the resources and immediate interest to begin working on this script straight-away.

Can you tell us a bit more about that idea and the play you’re working on for the Playmaker scheme this year?
It’s a contemporary play about Jean-Michel Basquait, set amidst the height of his commercial popularity. The action is focused around the creation of his notable pieces. It is also a portrayal of the intricacies of his creative practice, drug use and cultural identity. Frida Kahlo, Charles Bukowski, Gill-Scott Heron and F.Scott Fitzgerald appear as his contemporaries, or elements of his consciousness, collectively referred to as “The Lost Generation”. It will be a multi-disciplinary  production, including live painting, dance and spoken-word.

How did you decide which structure your play would take?
I am not trained in theatrical or creative writing, so I undertook the Playhouse Playmaker scheme as an opportunity to develop my approach to writing. The insights from Clare and Eleanor have been vital for informing my decisions about style and plot. Overall, the group is really talented and it has been an amazing experience getting feedback from each of the fellow writers, which has also been very encouraging and useful.

The structure and content of my play is evolving as the characters and scenes develop. I’m working towards a 5-scene script, with a slanted “capital N” approach. This means that the story starts with a positive correlation, which continues at a gradient and to a height appropriate to the nature of the main character and storyline. Following this there will be a drop; this will be quite unassuming and again the height will be appropriate to the character and storyline. It may not seem like the character has taken an obvious dip, though I have made the conscious decision to include more instability, anxiety or overall dissatisfaction (either internal or external). The final leg is positive gradient, bringing the conclusion to a relative and appropriate end.

Keep an eye out for our next post, written by Playhouse Playmaker Paul Stoyle who advises us to take inspiration from those around us.

 

Rowena' s Blog

Date: 24/04/2020

 

Oxford-based Playhouse Playmaker Rowena Cooper: ‘start asking yourself…‘what if?’ 

Rowena (she/her) wrote her first play as part of the coursework for an MSt in Creative Writing at Oxford University, from which she graduated in 2018. The play, titled ‘After Aulis’, was awarded ‘Fringe Event of the Year’ when it debuted in The Attic Theatre in 2018. It was shortlisted for ‘Best New Play’ by New Writing South in 2019. 

 Rowena is also a poet and board member of the Oxford Poetry Library, where she runs community-based workshops for budding writers of all ages and abilities. Her poetry has featured in ‘Shooter Lit’, ‘Claudius Speaks’, ‘Panoplyzine’, and the anthology ‘Somewhere to keep the rain’. In 2019, Rowena won the Shooter Lit Poetry Prize, was shortlisted for the Plough Short Poem Prize, and had two poems longlisted in the National Poetry Competition. Keep a lookout for her forthcoming poem in Issue 3 of Bath Magg and read more at rowenacooper.co.uk.

Rowena, what would be your advice to someone starting out on a new play?

      1. You don’t have to create something out of thin air. The world is already full of stories so find one which inspires you. Myths are a great starting place because they are universal stories which have already stood the test of time. There’s plenty out there: go on a Wikipedia journey, read local newspapers, or think about people you know. 
      1. Then start asking yourself…‘what if?’ And ‘what if?’ And ‘what if?’ 
      1. When you have an idea, it’s always easier to plan the structure of the play first. Read some of the suggested playwriting books below or just Google ‘three act structure’, and you’ll be on your way. 
      1. Once you’ve done that, GET GOING. Please don’t worry if it’s difficult or ‘rubbish’ at first. The best ideas always come when you’ve been writing for a few minutes. I promise!!! 
      1. Drama is about conflict. Some advice which stuck with me: ‘get your characters lying to each other from the start’. 
      1. Drama is catharsis. Let your characters do the horrible things you can’t do in real life. 
      1. Read plays! Learn which plays you like best and try to work out why. Don’t forget to read ‘weird’ ones: Samuel Beckett, Caryl Churchill, Edward Albee, Anne Washburn, Harold Pinter. They’ll show you where theatre can go. 
      1. The most important tip - enjoy it! That’s the point of it all, right? Recommended Books on Playwriting: David Edgar: ‘How Plays Work’, Steve Waters: ‘The Secret Life of Plays’, Stephen Jeffreys: ‘Playwriting’".

Tell us about the play you are working on at the moment.

The play I’m currently writing explores the human need for meaning and cohesive narratives, and how that ‘truth’ might differ from the ‘facts’ of a situation. As Yuval Noah Harari puts it: ‘the truth is, Truth has never been high on the agenda of Homo sapiens.’ I’ve never written anything like this before, but I’m taking inspiration from Caryl Churchill’s ‘Love and Information’, which is a play made up of a kaleidoscope of different scenes that don’t have any connection to each other by plot, but work together to explore the title’s theme. So far, I’ve written scenes about a woman going on a date with a lion, two young girls conducting a deadly experiment with newts, and three strangers thrown together during an emergency in a New York subway station. 

 Our next post comes from Playhouse Playmaker Jahmar Ngozi, who writes about celebrating diversity and experimenting with structure.

 

Natalia' s Blog

Date: 03/04/2020

 

Playhouse Playmaker Natalia Knowlton shares her top tips on starting writing your new play.

Natalia, where do you get your inspiration from?

When I start writing a play, I usually think of themes or topics that interest me, especially if they pose more questions than answers - then I know a good play is there. Then I do a lot of research on the theme (news articles, documentaries, books) to give me greater insight. Finally, I read plays (or watch films) that either look at similar themes or do something structurally/thematically that I'm interested in emulating. 

How do you decide which idea to go with?

I usually go for the idea that won't leave me alone. Sometimes I'll get an idea that seems good but by the next month, it doesn't excite me anymore. It takes me a long time to write a play (I'm talking 2 years minimum) so I better be in love with the idea because there will be a point at which I'll want to destroy everything I've written. Only real love for a story will keep me going; it's like a long-term relationship. 

How do you decide what structure your play will take? 

I'm fascinated by structure, especially experimental ones. Stephen Jeffreys' Playwriting book has been really helpful in teaching me the basics of structure, both traditional and experimental. I've learned that structure has to serve the story you're telling before anything else. Even if you're trying a new structure, a play should always meet the following criteria: 

 - Is there a beginning, middle and end to your story? 

- How has the character changed in the play? 

- Is there conflict and is the story moving forward?

Tell us a bit about the play you’re working on for the Playhouse Playmaker scheme this year.

My new play, Chiladian Rhapsody, is a semi-autobiographical karaoke musical based on my experience growing up in Chile and Canada, and feeling torn between both cultures. I'm interested in exploring displacement, fragmented cultural identity and the nostalgia that immigrants feel for their country.

Natalia Knowlton is a Chilean-Canadian playwright and theatre maker based in London. In her writing, she explores female sexuality, gender and Latinx/immigrant identity. She is also the Co-Founder/Co-Artistic Director of Crossline Theatre, a female-led theatre company that tells women's stories. Natalia has an MFA in Playwriting from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

Look out for our next post, from Oxford-based Playhouse Playmaker Rowena Cooper, who suggests looking at myths for inspiration and letting your characters do the things you wouldn’t...  

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