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Notes from Dave Carley, our Writer in Residence

One of the most useful things for a playwright during the long process of creating a play is to hear the script spoken aloud by actors. The play, as we hear it in our heads, may be perfect but it’s astonishing how a good reading will reveal the work-in-progress’s imperfections.

One of the London playwrights I’ve met so far in my residency is Lynda Martens. She brought me her play Naked in the Kitchen (now, that’s a title!). I was immediately taken with her domestic drama of a middle-aged couple and teenage son; it was a warm piece with honest emotion and lots of humour. I gave Lynda some dramaturgical notes and suggested that we go a notch further, and have a reading. In particular I was curious about a few pacing issues, and also how one of the central characters would come across, when voiced.

Enter the gang at Fanshawe College’s theatre program… John Dolan arranged for his second year theatre students to devote a morning to the play this past week. Four of his students read parts in the play, along with John, and then afterwards we had a discussion, with the students responding to moderated questions from yours truly. I asked the students four questions:

- give one word describing how they felt at the end of the play
- what is one question they would like to ask one of the characters
- what is one question they would like to ask playwright Lynda Martens
- was there any character that ticked them off (and why)

I think Lynda found the process of both getting those questions from the full class, and hearing her words read (so well) hugely useful. I hope to be able to take other plays over to the young actors at Fanshawe, for their help and am very grateful to John Dolan and Freancesca Ranalli-Atherton for setting it up.

We also had our second meeting this past week of our Library Playwriting Group – our numbers are five, and there’s room for more. Everyone is working on scripts for the Grand’s cabaret early in 2009 – these are ten minute plays that are read over the course of two nights. We discussed those plays-in-progress and began making plans for our own site-specific extravaganza, to take place at the library, early in spring 2009. The playwrights group meets every other Monday night at 7 pm at the library.