Theatre in Wales

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“The Ringing Bell”: Looking Back at Dramatists' Writing

Theatre Writer Book

Playwrights , Theatre of Europe & USA , November 11, 2021
Theatre Writer Book by Playwrights The times are still uncertain and live performance is sporadic; a week then for looking back

Many dramatists who have mattered have written beyond the plays. Some have given advice and addressed aesthetics. Some have recounted tales and recalled their memories.

From the 27 books in this sequence a few selected nuggets:

Peter Nichols by Peggy Ramsay: “Peter Nichols has just written a 6-part TV series on his career which is full of hate and malice, and I've tried to tell him that without love and compassion an author is nothing.”

Chekhov: “It is not the business of writers to accuse or to prosecute. We have enough accusers, prosecutors and gendarmes without them.”

David Hare: “Playwrights don't get out much”

Joe Penhall: “One of the key components to characterisation is paradox.”

Mark Ravenhill: “I’ve always written against moral relativism…to stage something that makes an audience say “That is wrong”- that is definitely something I’ve delighted in doing.”

Arthur Miller: “The playwright who conceives of performance as a fierce moral cockpit; we could do with more of his kind.”

Steve Gooch “Your script will be moving bodies around, bodies with their own stage reality.”

More Gooch: “A first play in production and “the impression of having arrived can be illusory for a playwright.” Of the playwright flushed with hope who gives up the day job, only to find his next play rejected,..nothing is sadder.”

“Even commissions can end up as tormenting deadlines and a reminder that “the happy combination of money and the freedom to write are short-lived.”

Tim Price: “A piece of paper on his wall reads “Make story your God.” “Deifying story is something I try when I find I am enjoying writing too much...I am the vehicle for story, not the other way round. I take pride in my discipline and little else.”

Anthony Minghella on actors:

“The only theory that I have about acting is that there's a space to work in, and the more of the space I occupy, the less space there is for the actor. So one of the things I try to do is reduce the amount of space that I take up, when I'm working with them, so that they feel that they can move into it. At the same time, there has to be a perimeter around that space so that they feel they can jump into the space without falling over.”

“I'm looking for an unabashed scrutiny of the heart, not apologising for it but yielding to it.

W B Yeats: “The Abbey Theatre was founded “to speak the deeper thoughts and emotions of Ireland. We do not desire propagandist plays, nor plays written mainly to serve some obvious moral purpose.”

Brian Friel on actors: “They bestow eloquence on us.”

Brian Friel on writing as an externality:

“Aristocrats” 25th May 1977 “a persistent feeling that I should leave the play aside until it finds its own body and substance. Stop hounding it. Crouch down. Wait. Listen. In its own time it may call out.”

10 September 1977: “I have a sense that everyone (i.e. all the characters) is ready in the wings, waiting to move on stage; but somehow something isn't quite right on the set.” But the optimism is premature. 26 September: “The play has stopped; has thwarted me. I still work at it. But it sulks. And yet- and yet I sense its power.”

Brian Friel on what it is for:

“The true gift of theatre, the benediction of all art, is the ringing bell which reverberates quietly and persistently in the head long after the curtain has gone down and the audience has gone home. Because until the marauders withdraw and the fog lifts, that sacred song is the only momentary stay we have against confusion.”

The books:

30 July 2019 Stephen Jeffreys “Playwriting: Structure, Character, How and What to Write”

09 December 2018 Hazel Walford Davies “Now You're Talking”

27 June 2018 Peggy Ramsay “Peggy to Her Playwrights”

31 May 2018 David Edgar “How Plays Work”

27 March 2018 John Harding “Shelagh Delaney”

01 December 2017 Shakespeare around the world: Andrew Dickson “Worlds Elsewhere”

15 August 2016 Anthony Minghella: “Minghella on Minghella”

21 June 2016 August Wilson, Clifford Odets: John Lahr Joy Ride”

22 January 2016 Mel Gussow “Conversations with Miller”

15 December 2015 Tony Coult “About Friel: the Playwright and the Work”

08 December 2015 David Hare “The Blue Touch Paper”

27 November 2015 John Lahr "Tennessee Williams Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh"

26 November 2015 John Lahr "Tennessee Williams Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh"

18 June 2015 Stephen Unwin “the Complete Brecht Toolkit”

17 June 2015 Stephen Parker “Bertolt Brecht”

15 June 2015 Clare Wallace “The Theatre of David Greig”

21 May 2015 David Hare "Writing Left-Handed"

09 February 2015 Editors Tim Price & Kate Wasserberg: “Contemporary Welsh Plays”

17 November 2014 Tim Price “Plays 1”

26 November 2013 David Mamet: Ira Nadel “A Life in the Theatre”

02 September 2013 Steve Gooch “Writing a Play”

22 December 2012 Stephen Sondheim “Look, I Made a Hat”

21 December 2012 Stephen Sondheim “Look, I Made a Hat”

11 November 2012 Julian Woolford “How Musicals Work”

11 April 2012 “Methuen Drama Guide to Contemporary British Playwrights”

10 April 2012 “Methuen Drama Guide to Contemporary British Playwrights”

09 December 2011 Stephen Sondheim “Finishing the Hat”

07 December 2011 Stephen Sondheim “Finishing the Hat”

18 May 2011 Christopher Bigsby “Arthur Miller”

10 December 2009 Richard Eyre “Talking Theatre” USA

07 December 2009 Richard Eyre “Talking Theatre” playwrights

08 October 2009 Richard Eyre “Talking Theatre” directors and Brecht

20 October 2008 Michael Frayn “Stage Directions”

18 October 2008 Michael Frayn “Stage Directions”

28 March 2008 David Hare “Obedience, Struggle and Revolt”

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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