In the lead up to our upcoming Playwriting Festival on Saturday 29 March, we sat down with Festival Director Vanessa Bates. She has programmed a fantastic line up of playwrights, dramaturgs and theatre makers including Lally Katz, Lachlan Philpott, Hilary Bell and Jane Harrison. Ticket holders to the Festival will be able to book in for a 5 minute session with one of the playwrights programmed on the day to discuss a knotty problem with one of their plays.
What made you start writing for the theatre?
I always loved creative writing as a kid and at uni I got involved (as an actor) in a theatre company that wrote and performed a lot of sketch comedy shows. Four guys did nearly all of the writing. After a few shows I (and a friend) complained to the director because there were hardly any good parts for girls. The director finally said …well, perhaps you could stop whinging and WRITE THEM YOURSELF. So we did. I think my first sketch was about two girls talking on the phone about a blind date with the grim reaper. Hilarious. Looking at that it doesn’t sound very impressive but we wrote and performed loads of sketches for audiences of uni students and random drunks which is, you know, character building if not skin thickening, and I then went on to write and perform for an even scarier audience: schoolkids. After that was the STC but you know, first it was drunks and schoolkids.
Do you have a special routine or ritual to help you write?
Oh yes, the old ‘special routine’ question. Ok, look, there was a time when I would have bagged on about my special cup and the special coffee and the special pen and notebook and maybe the delightful outdoor table at the delightful café and something about the special way the sunlight plays on the leaves but now I have a child and so my special routine is called Take Him To School And Leave Him For A Few Hours And Write Quickly Because You Are About To Miss A Deadline.
Which play or playwright do you think has had the most influence on your writing?
Hmmm. That’s a funny word “influence”. That’s almost like saying WHO HAVE YOU PLAGIARISED? Ok, so these playwrights have “influenced” me: Caryl Churchill (of course) Christopher Durang, Theresa Rebeck, Edward Albee, Simon Stephens, Patricia Cornelius, Suzie Miller, Lachlan Philpott, Lally Katz… The 7-ON playwrights… Ok you’ve set me off here I’m going to stop. Let’s say… Writers who make me laugh and also punch me in the gut. Except wait, also.. Steve Yockey who is American. And brilliant. And does both those things…
The full program for the Playwriting Festival is available here and tickets are on sale now.