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Express Theatre

May 24, 2010

The CUB Malthouse - home of the 48 Hour Play Generator in 2010. Image (C) Jodi Cleghorn

Last night I had the pleasure of being part of the audience for the 48 Hour Play Generator, part of Melbourne’s Emerging Writers’ Festival. Five emerging playwrights, working each with a director and four performers had 48 hours to conceive, write, rehearse and perform a play, based on a common stimulus.

The stimulus:

Two people are beside an open grave. One is standing and the other is kneeling, both are peering intently into the grave. It is raining…

The 48 Hour Play Generator was described as raw – theatre on the cutting edge.

Friday night the Curator and Dramaturg of the 48 Hour Play Generator Ricci-Jane Adams commented every year there are doom and gloom predictions about the demise of the theatre (sounds a little like the debate which goes on regarding short stories every year) but countered saying as long as there were stories, and story tellers, the theatre would be alive and well.

Dialogue is one of my favourite areas of writing and I love the theatre, so I was excited and intrigued to see what could be produced in 48 hours.

The result: five very different stories, each incorporating the prompt in a unique fashion – everything from a disturbing photograph to a scriptwriter’s brainstorming session. Those who participate weekly in [Fiction] Friday would have really enjoyed it. There were singing henchmen in sleeping bags, a corrupt mayor, a baseball wielding husband, Debbie the girl everyone had a photo of each with lashings of humour… lots of darkness, social and political commentary, even a musical number. Performers who were on stage with scripts in hand could be forgiven, many having been handed the script for rehearsal that morning.

Events such as last night’s show the theatre is most definitely not on the way out and full of young creatives who aren’t afraid to push their own writing boundaries or that of their art form. The 48 hour Play Generator gave me a whole new appreciation of writing for performance, and theatre as a medium of story telling…especially when done on a time budget.

Do you regularly go to the theatre? Or read plays? What was the last play you saw/read? For those playwrights lurking – could you imagine taking part in something like this?

Jodi Cleghorn has many more interesting events to attend over the next six days, including a lecture on disco. There are possibly a few more apple martinis, some dancing and reading on the train as well.You can find more of Jodi’s musings at Writing in Black and White.
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10 Comments
  1. May 24, 2010 1:44 am

    I was part of a theatre group last year and made it a real habit to go to the theatre with them then, which was a real treat. I wish I still made an effort to go so perhaps this might spur me on to do so.

  2. May 24, 2010 1:51 am

    I should have bugged you to come. It was a bit lonely in the foyer bar waiting to go in. I thought of you when there were some zingy political and social reflections woven into the lines.

  3. May 24, 2010 1:54 am

    I used to love going to the theatre and reading plays when I was younger but it’s something I’ve not indulged in for quite some time. But I’ve noticed the BBC are currently launching a season on J.B. Priestley so maybe it’s time to indulge a little again.

  4. adampb permalink
    May 24, 2010 4:07 am

    The most theatre I get to involves a group in colourful skivvies or fairy costumes or dog costumes. I haven’t been for a long time, but the one that stays in my mind the most was a production of Cyrano de Bergerac in Sydney with Jeremy Sims as the gallant Cyrano.
    I regularly sit in the pit of amateur musical societies as a muso. Doesn’t mean I get to actually SEE a lot of the performance with my head buried in a score.
    Must get out more, perhaps when the kids are a little older.

  5. May 24, 2010 4:20 am

    Oh MY!!! am as jealous as HELL.. I wanna be there.. I wanna go!!… and yes Jodi – you know I woudl be there boots and all – pushing my way into the front row.

  6. May 24, 2010 5:28 am

    truly speaking, and with a speck of shame, I have never ever been to a theater play. Though during my schooldays, we used to participate in the plays and i loved them.

  7. May 24, 2010 7:45 am

    In Canberra there is the Short & Sweet program – 10 plays of 10 minutes duration. Entries are open to all comers and your work gets performed – scary and motivating.

    Last play for me was King Lear (Bell Shakespeare) in April. John Bell is Ah-ma-zing!

    Glad you had such a great time – I am living vicariously through you right now :)

  8. May 24, 2010 1:56 pm

    I’m over in the jealous corner commiserating with Annie.

    I love the theater. Unfortunately I live about two hours away from the nearest playhouse.

    Prior to moving here, I would go at least monthly. It became a holiday tradition to see “A Christmas Carrol” each December.

    I’ve always wanted to write for the stage. I failed miserably at Script Frenzy this year, what with life getting in the way of writing.

    When you and Annie come to the states to visit me, we’ll go to New York. Hopefully “Wicked” will still be playing.

  9. May 24, 2010 6:50 pm

    I’m interested in how we consider the theatre a luxury. I guess price wise it can seem that way. I always feel creatively filled when I’ve been to the theatre and wish I went more. As a poor substitute I’ve been going with Annie to the movies once a week to get a story hit in a different medium. How important for us do you think it is – to experience stories told in mediums other than our own.

    Don’t worry about Script Frenzy Chris. I decided this year there was no time. It has been a big fat fail from me the past two years. It is such a different way of writing – even for someone who really enjoys writing dialogue in prose.

  10. May 24, 2010 8:45 pm

    When I was in college, there were regular express theater events (though they didn’t call it that). Unfortunately, I never got to participate in one of them.

    I think that this kind of spontaneious creativity would have been so exciting. I love the theater and would like to write a stage play one day. The last play that I saw was Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” and (before that) Tenessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Streetcare, in particular, was an awesome experience for me.

    Can you tell that I love that theater? When I was a kid, I wanted to be an actress until I discovered that I was much too shy and sensitive to be on stage. So I decided to be a writer instead. :)

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