Timothy Daly is one of Australia’s most internationally produced playwrights, with a string of national and international productions to his credit. His play The Man in the Attic was awarded Australia’s most prestigious award for a new play, the Patrick White Playwrights’ Award, and has been performed in Paris.
What first drew you to play writing?
I saw the Nimrod (now Belvoir) theatre during its golden age (late 1970s to late 1980s), when some of Australia’s best actors regularly appeared there in both modern and classical work. I so loved the excitement of the theatre that I saw that I wanted to share in the fun. So with the ignorance of youth, I threw myself in, armed with an invincible belief that I could do it. And if I couldn’t do it, then I’d learn to do it. Eventually I did.
What is one notable distinction about 21st century playwriting compared to earlier styles?
What very few people – even theatre professionals – realise is that contemporary theatre is much more dominated by genre than it previously has been. It also took me a few years to realise this. Once I did, I set about systematically studying the most nationally and internationally successful modern theatre genres, which I now teach. The new genres are totally different from the traditional genres. It’s what’s allowed me to have an international theatre career, and get work produced all over the world.
What’s your advice for those considering playwriting for the first time?
If going to theatre excites you, then consider trying it out for yourself. Of course you’re not qualified. You’re never ‘ready’ to be a playwright, or even any sort of writer. It’s only the doing that makes you ready. It’s the trying out. Throwing yourself into it, out of pure pleasure and a desire to have enormous fun. It’s only when you respond with energy and emotion to an art form that you learn anything from it. When I teach, I also devote significant time to workshopping and giving feedback to the participants’ own writing, because I’ve learned that personal feedback is the thing that new writers most need and benefit from.
Develop your playwriting skills with Timothy Daly in his six-week course Dramatic Studio: Contemporary Playwriting Techniques, Saturday afternoons starting 14 October, 1pm-4pm, at the NSW Writers’ Centre.