Playwriting with Amy Bethan Evans.
Playwright and dramaturg Amy Bethan Evans is a visionary writer and Bristol-based creative. She has just completed a ‘Write to Play’ a training programme with the inspiring and ground-breaking Graeae Theatre Company. Amy is also company director of Makeshift Wings and curator for ‘New Writing‘ festival at the Bierkeller. I had the pleasure of meeting Amy for the first time, we chatted about script development for theatre in Bristol and her journey to become a playwright.
After completed an MA in Playwriting at the Royal Holloway University what were the first steps you took to connect with the industry?
To be honest creative writing MA’s are there to give you a kick, to give you deadlines and motivation. When you finish them you have to get on with it as no-one is going to knock on your door. You just have to keep doing what you do and communicate to people you want to work with. After doing an MA you have the confidence to just get out there.
In your interview with Theatre Bristol you mentioned that your writing had political undertones. That you were speaking for your generation of angry young people. Is that still true for you; is this the focus of your writing?
Plays that are professionally commissioned tend to be relevant and any kind of stance is in some way political. You have to be a good-storyteller, rather than write a manifesto but plays with something current to say tend to be political. I did go on to write that play about the angry young people, but it was important to me that my people were likeable. To be political is not the focus of my writing, but I think it is an inevitable by-product of saying something.
How did you become the curator for the ‘New Writing’ festival at the Beirkeller?
I came up with the idea, I approached them and they said yes! New writing showcases are popular in London, I have been to ‘Bread and Roses’ and just thought, I’ll do this in Bristol. It goes down well here and the quality of writing is extremely high.
How do you select scripts for performance? What’s your selection process?
I read them all myself and some scripts simply speak to me. I just know which ones to shortlist, then I go on to choose a selection which will balance and complement each other for an evening’s entertainment. I don’t use the same writer in two consecutive years; the high standard of the entries demand that new writers are given a chance to be heard.
I try to give feedback to every script that is submitted, to let them know why they have not been chosen and any tips for a future draft.
Is it a space for your own writing?
No! That wouldn’t be fair. I enter different competitions and am aware of opportunities as they come up. I look on Lane’s List, I have developed my writing massively with Graeae, and I am ten times the writer I was since I have worked with them. I work with Goblin Baby I read and write with them and was part of the ‘Unheard’ festival, a festival of new writing that explores themes of sexual abuse and violence. I also go to SouthWest scriptwriters groups, to have my work read and receive feedback.
How do you start writing?
I am a character-driven writer; I can trust myself to build strong characters. I enjoy writing to a brief, if I don’t have one I will set my own. Deadlines are really helpful. Sometimes a the restriction is writing to a time limit and that’s more of a challenge, although I used to run a writers group, the stories and ideas I came up with there are useful to draw from. I like to write at the last minute close to a deadline, then all my thoughts are current and relevant, rather than having to join the dots up from something that’s passed.
How do you know what feedback to listen to?
You just know. You know when someone is engaging in your script and is feeling for your characters. Whatever feedback you receive though, it’s important to remember you are getting feedback from a potential audience member. Receive feedback without taking it personally or becoming defensive.
Thank you for being so generous with your time Amy, I look forward to going to the ‘New Writing’ Festival at the Bierkeller next week.