Podcasts for Playwrights

15-Nov-2022 | Kerrie L Marsh -

We all listen to podcasts now don’t we, like that’s a thing. Especially if you have a real interest in a certain subject, a keen hobby or a fandom you are obsessed with then you’ll be sure to find more podcasts than you can shake a stick at on the matter. I listen to a wide range of podcasts; I won’t reveal them all and overshare about myself in this space, but I shall share with you one of my fav podcasts I’m currently enjoying at the moment and that is, of course, the wonderful 37 Plays Podcast with writer Mark Ravenhill.

Each episode consists of Ravenhill introducing a playwright and then interviewing them about their experience, their work and what they have learnt, figured out about the craft so far or what they are still learning as a writer.

These podcasts are awesome and such a great free resource available on the 37 Plays website. I have found them so useful and inspiring to listen to as they are accessible enough to welcome those who may be new to writing but informative and deep enough for those that have been writing for some time. 

Ravenhill and the playwrights have real, honest and open discussions about each playwright’s journey highlighting the important to remember that everyone’s journey into writing is different and these little audio treats share just that. Ravenhill shared 101 tips for playwrights on his twitter during the many lockdowns we endured during the Covid 19 pandemic. He did this not only as an aid for newbie writers to pull resource from but as a way to remind himself of the things he has learnt and so he could keep on testing them as he writes. He called it “a way to refocus his own writing.”

Ravenhill asks the guest playwright in each episode to pick one of his tips and discuss why is resonated with them and in turn he then asks them to share one of their own with the listeners.

These are valuable little gems that are really worth a listen to and a jot down in your notepad.

I have enjoyed reading Ravenhill’s 101 tips for playwrights but for the sake of this blog chosen just five of them to share with you. Ones that spoke to me when I read them and that I agreed with or that left an impression on me. Some I didn’t relate to at all but they did get me thinking and pondering. This is also ok as it is a reminder that every writer is different, and their thoughts and process of writing is different. There were many which I really liked and that very much resonated with me also but that would make this blog way too long, so here are my top five.

#1 Tip 4: Try writing a draft zero/dirty draft. Let the characters say all the exposition, themes, everything they think and feel. Don’t show this to anyone – even yourself! – and then write the first draft. Sarah Kane told me she did this for Blasted.

#2 Tip 38: I find that the last page and the first page of a play are the ones I rewrite the most. There might be a few pages a third of the way in that remain the same as draft one. But identifying where the dramatic action begins and where it ends takes many, many goes.

#3 Tip 46: Stage directions? Almost never. E.g.

– Take the knife.
– Alright.

An actor will choose to take the knife on the line, before the line, after the line. To take it greedily, warily, clinically within the logic of the given circumstances you’ve written.

#4 Tip 60: Forget standard punctuation. use whatever punctuation helps you to create rhythms of thought and feeling. The punctuation in that Shakespeare play you read in school? Added much later by editors. Contemporary playwrights each discover their own use of punct-

#5 Tip 100: I often experience theatres initial disappointment that the play I’ve sent them isn’t like my last one but I believe that’s ultimately given me longevity. Don’t type cast yourself or let others do it. Keep pushing yourself to find the limits of your voice.

You can find all of Marks 101 tips for playwrighting on the internet, on his twitter or by listening to the 37 Plays Podcast episodes and listening to the writers on there discussing them and how they related to them.

In the latest episode that I tuned into this week on my commute to the theatre was an episode with Sally Abbott. I loved listening to Abbott's open chat about her starting process. Abbott explains that she just runs screaming through the pages of a first draft, which she makes extremely clear is for nobody else’s eyes other than your own. She calls this, the riot draft. I instantly related to this because It’s what I tend to do with a lot of my writing when starting a new project. I just blurt it all out without too much thinking and tell myself nobody is going to see it. I do my research and basic planning first then I just bash it out onto the page, I now know this is called a riot draft according to the wonderful sally and it will be a term I use from this day forward like it’s my own.

This is an example of why it’s well worth listening to these podcasts as there is always something to take away from each episode.

You can have a listen to them here; they are embedded at the bottom of the resource page, hosted by PodBean where you can also go to direct and find them all there too.

Seen as though we are going playwriters tips mad today, we’ll continue with our own tip for you by local playwright Ellen Brammar, which backs up the notion of a riot draft perfectly. 

Ellen was one of the most recent BBC Writersroom Northern Voices delivering a TV pilot of I Hate Alone and was recently selected for the BBC Children’s New Voices Festival. She also has a script commission in development ‘Just Mimi’ with Hull gig theatre company Middle Child Theatre.

Ellen shares “It’s good to write rubbish in the first draft. Then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Editing is my favourite bit. Cutting and rewrite makes the rubbish good, but you have to get the rubbish writing out first so that you can get to the good”

So, get rioting through those pages’ peeps, scream out loud onto them and splash loads of words all over them and get a first draft complete. Once you’ve listened to some podcasts for playwrights, I’m betting you’ll be more than rearing to let loose onto those blank pages!

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