Workshop Catch-all

Workshop Catch-all

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I've completed several workshops over the last couple of months and now's the time to write them up.  My own post event thoughts are bookended by [].


Amanda Graham: Networking

Amanda gave tips on how to network better: 

  1. Believe you belong
  2. Building your network
  3. Be resourceful
  4. What can you give
  5. Believe you have something to offer
  6. Listen and find connections


Nancy Medina: Tobacco Factory Masterclass

Nancy told us about her fascinating career making theatre in New York and about her move to Bristol. She talked about the differences in the two scences and how her she used her entrepreneurial nature to make theatre here. She spoke about being passionate and sticking to your guns, particularly when pitching. 

A tip she regularly used when directing a new piece was to ask the writer to read their script to her. Most agreed. Nancy found this was a great way to determine the personalities of certain characters which might not be apparent on the page. When breaking down a script she considers it on 3 levels:

  1. Personal
  2. Society
  3. Global


For example, Half-God of Rainful, a Nigerian play would be split as follows:

  1. Mother and son
  2. Gender, sexual assault, sport
  3. Europe's rape of Africa


Feel then think. She'll create a table and for each scene write notes under each heading. These include:

  • Synopsis
  • Characters
  • Location
  • Timeline
  • Design
  • Sound
  • Challenges
  • Notes


Consider the world of the play. What does it say about power hierarchy, gender, money, social codes, work, religion.

Has the work been translated. If so, has anything been corrupted. Use Pinterest to gather images.

Choosing a Team: See their work beforehand.

Consider natural elements, thresholds. Use these delineations or descriptions and check them throughout the play. 

Horizontal: good for roads, fields

Vertical: trees, buildings

When you pull these out they become 'design poems.'

When reading a script, focus on emotional response first. Use images to storyboard. 

Auditions: 20 minutes normal, 40 min possible. Do excercises. Don't require them to learn lines beforehand.

Can feed them to them so they don't have to hold scripts. Move away from the table. 

Need to provide mental health support throughout the process. 


Oladipo Agboluaje

Oladipo Agboluaje is a British-Nigerian playwright. He was born in Hackney and educated in Britain and Nigeria, studying theatre arts at the University of Benin. The topic of his workshop was Deep Structure

We discussed what we thought about structure in relation to stories. He referenced Downstate by Rufus Norris as an example of a complex play where you examine a problem through different points of view. He defined deep structure as being composed of three elements:

  1. Religion
  2. State
  3. Family


If you can set up the religion, state structures and familial norms in your world, the story can often drive itself. 

We used the Doll's House as an example work. Act 1 is long and expositional. It's about 42% of the play. We see where the main characters are coming from. We learn about characters through:

  1. What they say
  2. What they do
  3. What others say about them


We did some writing excercises. We had two people speaking to each with each sentence dropping by one word. We realised it does set up a natural rhythm of conflict as well as an inherent beginning, middle and end. We wrote stories to our past and future selves. If you struggle with structure, focus on emotions and follow that line through the play. 

The Doll's House covers themes of patriarchy and societal norms. Their marriage is at stake. Who can you tell the truth too? Society can force a protagonist not to reveal their true intentions. The audience becomes the third party. Gaps in knowledge can lead to:

  • Revelations: audience knows less
  • Privelege: audience knows more


If your character is unique their journey will be too. [This plays back to recent discussion on protagonist's oftern being outsiders].


David Eldridge

The topic of David's workshop was Making the Back Story Active. 

We began with John Yorke's description of exposition:

  1. Information that no one knows
  2. Informations that the characters knows


Treat the audience with respect and remember that they are cleverer than you and will go at the speed of the smartest member.

We did some fun writing excercises, writing a scene with bad exposition. He referenced Robert McKee's advice to use exposition as ammunition. So we use drama to make it more pallatable. 

David realised from watching many plays that the audience experience goes through this loop

  1. Anticipation
  2. Event
  3. Aftermath


So when is the best point to do exposition? Certainly not in 1 although we have seen that happen in the Doll's House. He said the best time is after 2, the Event. [This is something you see in the Marvel films really clearly. After a big fight, they shove in the exposition.] Exposition can be past events or off-stage action. Exposition can also be as late as the end of a scene or even the story [e.g. Sixth Sense}.

We then had an enjoyable Q&A/Discussion. I proposed this tactic for exposition:

  1. Anticipation - discuss future events
  2. Event - discuss present events
  3. Aftermath - discuss past events


We talked about monologues and how these tend to be more focussed on the internal journey. They work best if telling a story.