Script Writing Workshop with Ruth Margraff

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PeaceWorks in collaboration with the American Centre organized a workshop for developing play scripts, which could later be used to develop PeaceWorks performances. It was also thought that PeaceWorks could then take these performances to different schools of the city. With this aim in mind the New York-based playwright and performer, Ruth Margraff was invited to facil- itate the workshop. About 25 students from Calcutta International School, Loreto College and Jadavpur University took part in the workshop which was held from 15 to 24 September 2005.

On the first day Ruth started by introducing herself followed by distributing photocopied photographs of random things (Babylonian idols, Greek paintings, etc) and asked the participants to think about the image and come up with a name based on the image. After sharing their names with every one they were all given to write a piece on one of their dreams which was later shared among the participants. On the second day all the participants were given pictures of different Chinese animals. They were asked to develop a character out of each animal and each one was asked to introduce themselves as the character. This exercise was followed by Ruth asking the participants to engage themselves with each other and develop dialogues among themselves. The third day’s workshop began with introducing the students to PeaceWorks and the basic theme of the programme. The participants then discussed the different relevant issues that they could work on. For example some worked on the violence that occurred during the Gujarat riots, some worked on violence against women, one worked on masculinity etc. After this they were asked to work on a monologue based on the different topics that they chose.

The following day began with the sharing of the monologues. After everybody had heard each other out, it was felt that some of the monologues were too weak to be turned into full-fledged plays. Hence the participants were given a choice to work on their own or in groups to develop the final scripts. There were a few who worked in groups and some worked on their own. The next few days were devoted to developing the plot. By this time it was decided that the participant would also make a presentation where they perform play reading of their own pieces. Hence on the second last day they worked on how to present their plays under the guidance of Ruth. By the end of this session, each group or individual rehearsed their presentation.

On the last day, the participants presented their pieces in front of an audience which included Karuna Singh, Programme Officer American Centre, Anjum Katyal editor Seagull, Indrani Roy, PeaceWorks coordinator, Teachers from the various participating institutions, Anuradha Kapoor, director Swayam, Sahar Romani, coordinator Kalam, parents and friends of the participants and many others. All the plays were well accepted and much appreciated.

The workshop was hence a fruitful one, resulting in ten stageable plays. The participants seemed to have enjoyed the workshop, and it was quite clear that they had acquired and experienced the basic rules of writing a play script and also going through the process of how to mount it on stage. The fact that they had developed an interest for using theatre as an effective medium of expression was quite evident.