Last week we attended Different Stages, a 2-day conference for playwrights, theatre-makers, directors and producers. Taking place at the CCA, Glasgow it was delivered by the Playwrights' Studio Scotland, Federation of Scottish Theatre and the Scottish Society of Playwrights. One particular highlight of the conference was a discussion on co-authorship led by Kieran Hurley and Mary McCluskey.
This discussion was particularly interesting given the nature of how we strive to create theatre and performance. From the conception of an idea through to the final draft we refer to ourselves as co-authors. This involves undertaking collaborative research processes and writing together in the same room. Co-authorship is important to us as it allows us to create a unique unified voice within our writing and the overall conception of our work.
When writing there is a constant back and forth between us: we agree, we argue, we debate, we critique, we edit, we write, we edit and we write again – which all combine to create our final text. This is then layered further with constant debate between us, looking at how we’d realise a particular moment, or what constraints are presented by certain elements of a text when placed in the context of the performance.
This process takes place around one desk using (some) notes pads, (some) pens and a laptop. In fact, we spent some time scrutinising over whether to use the word “some” in the previous sentence. (some) was our compromise, but only because of this blog’s subject matter. If it wasn’t about co-authorship, then we would have had to debate what the most effective word choice was – and we’d probably still be writing this blog! It is a constant dialogue, which ultimately creates work that we are equally invested in, where every word is considered.
People often talk about ‘voice’ – a writer’s voice, a director’s voice, a performer’s voice, a producer’s voice. Naturally, we can’t escape from our own individual voices when we approach making theatre as Wonder Fools – and it is this fact that we look to capitalise on when creating work. Our opinions, worldviews and experiences can be similar but they can also be completely different. It is where these voices meet that really excites us.
Co-authorship isn’t just limited to writing; we want all of the work we produce as a company to be made collectively. It is important that what we create together reflects the voices of Jack, Robbie, Hector and extends to reflect the shifts made by the work of anyone else we are collaborating with at the time.
During the discussion with Kieran Hurley he posed a question: “Can you tell who’s written what?” when looking back at a piece of writing. The answer is no. It’s something we had been subconsciously working towards but it hadn’t occurred to us until that moment.
After Different Stages, co-authorship has been at the forefront of our minds and is something we will continue to develop around one desk using (some) note pads, (some) pens and a laptop.