'NV/NV 2012: International Playwright Observers Q & A', by Jenny Anne Koppera

As during the 2010 festival, the Kennedy Center invited international playwrights to attend, to observe, to converse with other playwrights, to find insights into other ways of working. 

The Playwrights:
Methe Bendix is a playwright, director, and artistic director of Theater Hund in Copenhagen, Denmark. This TYA theatre performs for young audiences at local venues in Copenhagen and on national and international tours.
Joe Brennan is a storyteller and writer from Ireland. His most recent project, called Star Boy, a wordless play for the early years, is performed by Joe as a one man show.
Cristina Gottfridsson is from Sweden. A freelance playwright working in TYA, adult theatre, and film, she has written approximately 40 plays which have been performed in Sweden, Europe and now in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Amaranta Leyva is from Mexico and currently lives in Canada. A playwright and puppeteer, her company is entitled Marionettas de la Esquina. She is currently working on a version of Sleeping Beauty to be presented by the Kennedy Center February 2013.
Elif Temuçin lives in Istanbul, Turkey. She a playwright, actress and puppeteer for Theatre BeReZe, a company which has been recently recognized as the Best Innovative Theatre in Istanbul

We caught up with them during some free moments and asked a few questions about the similarities and differences of what they have discovered

What is the playwriting process for you in your home country?

• In Sweden, I am able to work through commissions and can request to work with specific directors. This allows me to develop my work in a collaborative way rather than writing in isolation.
• I am fortunate in having a company which allows me to explore and create devised work with my puppeteers/actors. In Mexico, though, we have no independent theatres so we must apply to theatres to be included in their season.
• In Ireland, we often work by commission. The process includes introducing theatres to a specific play on which one is working. You may be invited to continue developing the play or asked to develop another idea you have percolating. It is also possible to produce one’s work on one’s own your connections in the TYA community.
• Also, in Ireland, there is a growing push to devise work with children, although these processes often lack a playwright or writer.
• With my own company in Denmark, I am able to bring an abstract idea to the table such as fear or competition and improvise and explore it with actors. In general, though, playwrights are not always included in the process of production, as the role of director is dominant. In fact, big changes to the play can be made without the playwright’s knowledge.
• In Turkey, we have a clear division between state, municipal, and independent, alternative theaters. There is a strong sense of collaboration between the independent theatres. I have my own company with five actors with whom I can develop new work from the very initial stages of the playwriting process. This also means that the roles of the creative team blends during the play development process.

Since playwrights have the opportunity to observe other working processes, what are some things you taken away from the NV/NV experience that will impact your own playwriting?

• From my time here at New Visions/New Voices, I have learned how important forgetting one’s ego and reaching out to others can be. I also learned that while I enjoy working from character, I now appreciate how directors and actors need a solid story to ground the play. Also, there is a balance that must happen between putting everything into a script for clarity and still being clear without putting it all in.
From this experience at New Visions/New Voices, I have learned to ask myself and others for feedback…and to really listen to the answers. I am coming away with a wide variety of useful ideas to take back to Mexico with me.
• I was unaware of the size of the TYA market in the US before coming to New Visions/New Voices. I am also delightfully discovering my own opinions! I now have a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t in cross-cultural theatre environments which will be immensely helpful in continuing these cross-cultural experiences.
• It was seeing that all playwrights struggle in the process that makes me feel less alone in my work. I also learned that developing good plays is more about seeing the possibilities and less about deciding what is good or bad in the work.
• As I watched the different styles at work in the rehearsal rooms here at New Visions/New Voices, I cracked a new way of thinking about working with character versus story in my own work. Having access to both the process and the script allowed me to see the other playwrights’ plays from a new perspective.