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Archive for the ‘Kerensky’ Category

Motherland has finished its premiere production. It played in Brisbane at Metro Arts from 30 October to 16 November 2013.

Flyer for Motherland

Sweeping through the Russian Revolution, World War II, and Brisbane history, Motherland is an epic new work of historical fiction, informed by actual events.

Nell and Kerensky in the production of Motherland

Kerith Atkinson as Nell and Peter Cossar as Kerensky in Motherland. Photo bby Al V Caeiro.

Three women, exiled from their homelands, find their lives are woven together across continents and decades. Nell Tritton, the Brisbane wife of a deposed Russian prime minister forms a close friendship with Nina Berberova, who is exiled in Paris. The woman who would tell their story is Alyona, a Russian curator whose dreams of a new Australian paradise are crushed by bankruptcy and the Fitzgerald Inquiry.

Rebecca Riggs in Motherland

Rebecca Riggs as Alyona, with Peter Cossar as Chris.

Shortlisted for the Patrick White Playwrights’ AwardMotherland is a tapestry of friendship, displacement, home, and identity – a finely-crafted story of the casualties of love, ambition, and politics.

PLAYWRIGHT Katherine Lyall-Watson
DIRECTOR Caroline Dunphy
CAST Kerith Atkinson, Peter Cossar, Barbara Lowing, Daniel Murphy And Rebecca Riggs.
SET DESIGNER Annie Robertson
LIGHTING DESIGNER David Walters
COMPOSER & SOUND DESIGNER Dane Alexander
DRAMATURG Kathryn Kelly
PRODUCER Danielle Shankey
ASSISTANT PRODUCER Madeline Römcke

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After four years of researching, writing, developing, rewriting, researching again and more developments, my play about Nelle Tritton, Alexander Kerensky, Nina Berberova and Vladislav Khodasevich is getting a showing at Metro Arts. Whoo hoo!

Motherland poster

Image designed by Warrick Fraser

I’m excited and terrified at the prospect.

The showing is a rehearsed reading at Metro Arts’ Free Range and I’ve been having nightmares where it all goes horribly wrong and the audience turns on me. (Kind of like those getting up to give a talk and realising you’re naked nightmares.) In the last one, a man in a wheelchair yelled at me for giving him the worst night of his life. I woke up in a cold sweat and realised that I might just be a control freak.

You see, creating theatre is an act of trust and collaboration. As the writer I can work alone for as many years as I choose, but to get the play staged I have to trust other people with my precious baby. I have to take a step back and let them choose how to dress her, what to feed her and which school she goes to. All I can do is hope and pray that she’ll come out okay.

While I keep her in my head and on a page, she is stillborn but perfect (in my imagination at any rate). When others take her and play with her, she has the chance to live and breathe and be complex, flawed and glorious. She also has the chance to stuff up and show all the genetic flaws I gave her.

The good news is that my baby is in wonderful hands. I respect and love all the people who are taking this next step with her. Now I just have to take a deep breath and trust that I’ve given her the bones, muscle and heart she needs to grow and be everything she can be.

If you’re in Brisbane on 22 and 23 June and would like to join me to see the birth of this long gestating baby, I’d love to see you there. (You can book tickets at this link.) I’ll be the anxiously pacing parent at the back of the theatre.

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This week I spent two days in a creative development for The Kerensky Project. Creative developments can differ wildly in their efficacy and usefulness for a writer. Some are more for the director than the writer. There have been times as a writer when I’ve wondered what I’m doing in the room, and whether the others need me at all in the process. But this one was different.

This creative development has been structured so well and has already been so useful to me that I’d like to share my discoveries with you. Some may seem obvious, but I hope this might be useful to other writers/creative teams considering creative developments.

  1. Decide what you want to achieve from this development and communicate it to everyone involved. Sounds obvious but this is often overlooked. For instance, is this development to help the writer work on a draft of the script? Perhaps it’s for the director to trial some new ways of working with the script? Or perhaps it’s for a group to collaborate together to come up with a new script? All perfectly valid – as long as everyone involved has signed up for the same process.
  2. Don’t confuse a creative development with a showing or rehearsed reading. Too often, we tack these on the end of creative developments and end up spending more time preparing for the reading than doing the developmental work we all signed up for.
  3. If the development has the aim of helping a writer complete a draft of a play, then talk to the writer about the best ways of going about this.
  4. You might like to split the development over several weeks (as we’re doing this time) to enable the writer to write new scenes.
  5. Use some of the resources for the writer to work with the director/dramaturg before the workshops with actors begin.
  6. Don’t feel constrained to stay sitting down reading words from a page all day: Let the actors act.

On day two of our creative development, director Michael Futcher split the actors into pairs and gave them scenes from the first draft to explore. They decided what they thought the drama of each scene was and then improvised the heart of the scenes back to me, the writer. This was incredibly useful for me. It showed me that the essence of the scene could often be shown in three lines – it didn’t need the five pages I’d written. An actor lives and breathes life into your characters. You don’t have to labour points because a good actor will convey your message with the minimum words.

I’m taking the red pen to everything I’ve done so far. The three-hour opus I’ve written can easily be half the length.

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