Playwright? -Are You Up for the Bruntwood Challenge?
As a regular visitor to Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre, I’ve seen quiet a lot of the output from the Bruntwood Prize over the years. Re-invented after the June 1996 Manchester bombing in a theatre in the round design, The Royal Exchange has hosted some of the best known actors and plays, and provided a platform for not only recognised playwrights, but for new and emerging talent to show their skills. My particular favourite was Bruntwood 2013 winner Chris Urchs’ play Rolling Stone.
One of the reasons for this is the biennial Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting. It’s Europe’s largest playwriting competition and highlights the importance of new writing for theatre and the value of nurturing playwrights and their craft. A partnership between the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester and property company Bruntwood, the Prize is an opportunity for writers of any background and experience to enter unperformed plays to be judged by a panel of industry experts for a chance to be one of four winners and win part of a prize fund totaling £40,000. Since its inception in 2005, over 7000 scripts have been entered, £160,000 has been awarded to 15 prize-winning writers and eight winning productions have been staged.
The competition is open to anyone over the age of sixteen, in the British Isles. All scripts are judged anonymously by a team of skilled readers and the final ten will be judged by this expert judging panel. The judging panel includes screenwriters, journalists, broadcasters, actors and previous Bruntwood Prize winners. (See photograph above for judges)
Each of the winners will enter into a development process with the Royal Exchange Theatre.To enter the 2017 Bruntwood Prize, all plays must be submitted via the website by the 5 June. The total prize fund is £40,000 and the winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in Manchester on the 13 November.
Live International Workshops to Include Pulitzer Prize Winning Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks
For budding playwrights this programme of free live online workshops is a must. Accessing the talents of renowned writers it will be a rich vein of information and guidance. For the first time Bruntwood offers three international workshops from Australia, India and New York. These free workshops, led by celebrated writers including Suzan-Lori Parks, are freely available online and offer budding playwrights, and potential prize winners, the chance to develop their craft with the advice of these leading professionals
Alongside the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, Suzan-Lori Parks, workshop leaders include Royal Exchange Associate Artist, writer and performer, Chris Thorpe, agent and dramaturg, Mel Kenyon, and previous Bruntwood Prize winner and 2017 judge, Phil Porter.
The five UK-based workshops will be hosted at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, who co-founded the Prize with the Bruntwood. The international partners include Playwriting Australia at The Arts Exchange in Sydney, James Madison University in Delhi and the Public Theater in New York City.
The workshops will be live streamed on the Prize’s official website, writeaplay.co.uk, where there will also be a chance to interact via social media. All workshops are then hosted on the website as a free resource tool for anyone to use.
APRIL de ANGELIS | Ambition, Scale, Honesty & Imagination Manchester Exchange 1 March, 6pm-8pm April is an acclaimed writer whose extensive theatre and radio work encompasses many scales of production. In her live-streamed workshop she will explore engaging with the audience’s imagination and writing female parts. Work includes: After Electra, Jumpy, Playhouse Creatures, Gastronauts and The Life and Times of Fanny Hill.
OMAR EL-KHAIRY | Research and Political Writing: from Responsibility to Representation Manchester Exchange 16 March, 6pm-8pm A writer for stage and screen, Omar holds a PhD in Sociology from LSE. In this workshop, he will address political writing – and how to allow for research to permeate your work but remain both dramatic and imaginative. He will also explore what political writing means in the current climate, and what responsibilities and perceived burdens of representation writers now carry. Work includes: Burst, Sour Lips, The Keepers of Infinite Space and The Chaplain: or, a short tale of how we learned to love good Muslims whilst torturing bad one.
RACHEL DE-LAHAY | Character, Journey & Dialogue Manchester Exchange 23 March, 6pm-8pm In her workshop, the award-winning writer will look at the function and purpose of character. How are theatrical and dramatically active characters created? How do you write characters who change and go on a journey? Rachel will also explore writing dialogue that is dramatic, flows, and contains information in a way that isn’t expositional. Work includes: Circles, Routes and The Westbridge.
ABHISHEK MAJUMDAR | Playwriting on the Indian Subcontinent India with James Madison University in Delhi 8 April, 12.30-2.20pm GMT The workshop will give an overview of different concepts and ideas that have engaged playwrights in the Indian Subcontinent over the years. The workshop will not delineate ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ or ‘eastern’ and ‘western’, or engage in any such narrow binaries and will look at playwriting more comprehensively and encourage a discourse that is contextually situated in Indian socio-cultural and political climate rather than essentializing ‘Indian’ playwriting as a form. Work includes: Majumdar is the artistic director of the Indian Ensemble and a member of the Young Vic Director’s network, London.
PHIL PORTER | Make them Laugh Manchester Exchange 11 April, 6pm-8pm In his capacity as 2017 Bruntwood Prize judge, writer Phil Porter talks about how to make an audience laugh and instil your play with a sense of humour. Phil has two stage comedies opening this year – The Miser in the West End and Vice Versa with the RSC. Work includes: The Cracks in my Skin, The Christmas Truce, The Man with the Hammer, Blink and Stealing Sweets & Punching People.
CHRIS THORPE | Writing Collaboratively, Writing for Performance, Performing your Work Manchester Exchange 26 April, 6pm-8pm Playwright and theatre maker Chris Thorpe will explore how to break the rules through non-naturalistic writing, collaborative writing and writing as part of a devising process – based on his work writing and performing with companies like Unlimited and Third Angel, and for building-based theatres like the Royal Exchange and Royal Court Theatre Work includes: There Has Possibly Been an Incident, The Oh Fuck Moment, I Wish I Was Lonely and The Milk of Human Kindness.
JOANNA MURRAY-SMITH | Life Experience & the Dramatic Journey Australia with Playwriting Australia 4 May, 6pm-8pm GMT Joanna’s plays have been produced all over the world. In this international live-streamed workshop Joanna will explore how life experience can influence writing, questioning metaphor and reality in your work and the process of writing dramatic action and journey. Work includes: American Song, Switzerland, Pennsylvania Avenue, Fury, True Minds, Songs for Nobodies, Day One – A Hotel – Evening, The Gift, Rockabye, The Female of the Species, Ninety, Bombshells, Rapture, Nightfall, Redemption, Flame, Love Child, Atlanta, Honour and Angry Young Penguins.
SUZAN-LORI PARKS | Watch Me Work USA, with the Public Theater 20 May, 7pm-9pm GMT WATCH ME WORK is a performance art piece, a meditation on the artistic process, an actual work session and a writing class, featuring Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks. Following an informal work session livestreamed to the Writeaplay website where both teacher and participating playwrights write together, Suzan-Lori will take questions from the writing group and twitter about their own plays and their own work. Suzan-Lori is teaming up with The Public Theater of New York’s Emerging Writers Group, where she will help them explore the universes of their plays, get into some vibrant conversations, and help each writer deepen the ways their work respond to the world around us. Work includes: 365 Days/365 Plays, Topdog/Underdog, The Book of Grace, Unchain My Heart: The Ray Charles Musical, In the Blood, Venus, The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom, The America Play and Fucking.
MEL KENYON | Re-Drafting & Taking Notes Manchester Exchange 24 May, 6pm-8pm An agent and dramaturg, Mel develops and works collaboratively with some of the world’s most respected playwrights. In her workshop she will address re-drafting, taking notes, how to respond to notes and implement them, the collaborative nature of playwriting and how to really push the theatricality of your work while remaining true and ambitious to your intentions. Her writing clients include: Alan Ayckbourn, David Hare, Caryl Churchill, Simon Stephens, Christopher Hampton, Dennis Kelly, David Greig, Sam Holcroft and Lucy Kirkwood, the late Tennessee Williams and Sarah Kane.