She Writes is coming back… You can see it in London in September and Kent in October… This is part one of the story of how it happened…
If you don’t know what the first incarnation of She Writes was – that might be because you didn’t make it down to the lovely Kent coastal town of Whitstable to see the show.
She Writes #1 was a script-in-hand showcase of short plays performed in the Horsebridge Arts Centre bar on a roughly two-monthly basis. From 2011 till late last year we showcased 48 short plays by 32 female writers, and were part of Lounge on the Farm and the Whitstable Biennale Satellite festivals, showing the work to new and different audiences.
This was a fantastic achievement in getting women’s writing out there, and everyone involved worked really hard and I thank them, and the Horsebridge Centre, for their support of the event. But the show was limited by the distance people had to travel, and by not being in a traditional theatre venue.
I could see that the format of this showcase worked; audiences were so impressed by the quality of the writing, for each script call-out I was being sent and able to choose fantastic work; but lovely as Whitstable is, it was too far out, and we weren’t able to get the audiences I was sure the plays, and all the hard work from the cast and crew, deserved.
It was apparent that we needed to do the show somewhere else, and with that, also take the opportunity to move away from the ‘better performed than not’ approach to the production, that our non-budget in Kent had led to. But still we had the no-budget issue. (And we still have, so will be relying upon the ‘make do and borrow’ ethos for the pilot.)
Late last year I interviewed the creative team at the Canal Cafe Theatre and the cogs began to whirr… This is a lovely venue… How fantastic would it be to do She Writes here? I tentatively mentioned it to Emma Taylor (Artistic Director) and she was enthusiastic to talk more.
But then there was Christmas, I had a play on in Italy and had to work with the translator to translate it, and also did various other literary projects, so it wasn’t until fairly recently, in July, that I was able to schedule a meeting to talk to Emma about piloting a potential night at the Canal Cafe.
On a hot summer day, we met in the basement of the RSA to chat through ideas and Emma wholeheartedly offered her support of the idea and 17Percent, so I started making plans.
For this show, as it is a pilot to really test if She Writes can work in London, in a more developed format, I commissioned writers whose work I knew, with the idea of producing a night of five short plays based on a story by HG Wells, which would be fully produced.
At around the same time, I was also contacted by a theatre director, Amy Clare Tasker, who was new to London from the States and looking to get involved. We had a chat, and then Amy was also onboard too.
So, after various meetings with Amy and the great team of Emma and Annie Biddlecombe (Theatre Manager) at the Canal Cafe, where we changed the format of the event slightly to feature three plays, we have got a structure that we think is going to work, and Amy now starts the exciting job of casting and rehearsing for the pilot night on 25 September.
I will update more when we’ve had the first read-through with the cast and writers which is scheduled for early September, and give a bit more info about the process of working with the writers of this first night.
Next week, Part two – about how the show will also be coming to the Rochester Literature Festival in October.