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> > > Review: Playwriting Mentoring Project for new and emerging playwrights with Kaite O’Reilly
photo of a house in the countryside

Ty Newydd. Photo by Touchstone

The Ty Newydd Mentoring Scheme is led by playwright/ dramaturg Kaite O’Reilly. Over a six month period the eight selected writers on the course were supported throughout the process, from initial pitch to polished second draft. Tom Wentworth reflects on his experience.

For the last six months I’ve been involved in something unique. I’ve been part of a group of eight talented writers, who have been lucky enough to be mentored by Crip playwright and dramaturg Kaite O’ Reilly. (Kaite has many other talents too but listing them would consume my entire word count.)

The course, held in the beautiful and calming surroundings of Ty Newydd – the Writer’s Centre for Wales – in Criccieth, was designed to give us the motivation, time and creative energy, over a six month period, to write a stage play from a simple idea to at least second draft. Throughout which we would receive both Kaite’s guidance and support, plus that of the other writers too.

Friday 12th October was the beginning of our final weekend of the project – all arriving with our second drafts tucked into bags; many of us holding onto them tightly for support. We knew that like our first weekend, this very limited time together would prove to be a highly intensive experience of writing, sharing and ultimately learning more about both the craft of playwrighting but also about ourselves and our unique voices. Personally, I was excited: the notes that I’d received on my draft were spurring me on think about ways in which I could improve the piece that six months before had been little more than the kernel of an idea that I’d rather tentatively began to put down on paper.

This weekend also had an important focal point as its centrepiece. On the Saturday night we gave an intimate reading of extracts of our work in progress at the town’s Lloyd George Museum. This beautiful building with its fascinating array of artefacts and memorabilia will have special resonance for anyone who has a connection with Ty Newydd as the Centre is based at Lloyd George’s former home.

The readings were to be a vital part of the weekend. The performance was given especially for and by the group rather than an audience, this meant that we had an invaluable opportunity to present the work, as well as assess how it sounded in a performance space. (Plus, the opportunity to flex our acting muscles as we all performed parts in each other’s plays.)

The evening was a fascinating exploration – taking the work from the two-dimensional page to up on its feet – which led to many discussions over the rest of the weekend and much critical thinking about the path that each play should take next. Everyone left with ambitions to continue to work further on their pieces and submit them for competitions, play festivals or to producing houses.

Robert Frost once said, ‘I am not a teacher, I am an awakener.” Ultimately this is what the mentoring and evening of readings have shown me. You can learn ‘craft’ on paper but what’s needed more than anything is a supportive group, an inspiring mentor and the chance to bring work to life through performance for an audience.

A new scheme, for writers young in career will commence in December 2012, also led by Kaite. For further details on this course, please go to the Ty Newydd website or Kaite O'Reilly's blog