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Aspiring playwrights learn what it takes

Red Deer’s aspiring playwrights learned what it takes to be in the biz from a Calgary professional on Sunday.

David van Belle, co-artistic director of Ghost River Theatre, instructed 20 individuals during a workshop entitled, Putting it to Paper: Splash Writing for New Playwrights.

Van Belle said he initially trained as a director so it’s only been within the last 10 years that he’s been playwrighting.

He now creates shows with fellow artistic director Eric Rose.

“You have to be a multi-tasker. I don’t think I know anyone who spends all their time writing plays,” said van Belle after the four hour session wrapped up at Red Deer College Arts Centre. “I would love to spend all my time writing plays.”

Van Belle said there’s at least one characteristic quality required to be a playwright — a playful spirit. Plus, one needs to have a lack of self judgment.

“It doesn’t mean a lack of self discipline but a willingness to be surprised,” said van Belle.

Van Belle said crafting a play is a lot of fun, but it’s a lot of work as well.

He just read his new play, which he started in 2009, in front of an Edmonton audience on Saturday. It hasn’t gotten to the performance stage yet.

Van Belle’s play, Everything is Terribly Nice Here, is premiering in Calgary next month.

“I started writing that in 2007, so it’s been in the works off and on for five years,” said van Belle, who hails Marie Brassard of Quebec as a playwright favourite.

Sabrina Samuel, who sits on the advisory board of Scripts at Work, and Mitchel Roelfsema and Callahan New, RDC students in the Theatre Performance and Creation program, said they learned a great deal from van Belle’s workshop.

New said he learned to let go of all the fear about writing and that even what may be considered bad writing is still a part of the writing process.

For Roelfsema, he learned that writing doesn’t have to be done sequentially. It’s not necessary to have all the characters, themes, etc. in place before sitting down to write.

“Even one little image can inspire an entire play,” said Roelfsema.

There’s different literary structure that one can chase during that free flow creative process, added Samuel.

Samuel said her goal from attending such workshops is to improve her writing.

“If it ends up in a creative work, that would be great,” she added.

This was the largest group that van Belle had worked with, which impressed Samuel because she said it shows the kind of creative process that’s going on in Red Deer.

Roelfsema and New expect that writing plays will help them with their acting as well. They are doing a field placement where they will write a play under the mentorship of Matt Gould, artistic director for Red Deer’s Tree House Youth Theatre.

They plan to submit their play into the Scripts of Work competition by the Dec. 15 deadline. For information, go online at http://scriptsatwork.com/submit-a-script

ltester@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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