Alex Mullarky, veteran Mermaids playwright, shares her wisdom for budding student writers.
You may think this goes without saying, but within my first couple of weeks in St Andrews I’d managed to pitch a show I hadn’t written, and within a couple of months I had a slot for said unwritten show at the On the Rocks Festival. This is one way to begin your theatrical career but I’d suggest that it is perhaps not the most professional route. Write something. It doesn’t need to be a full-length play; it can be a five-minute monologue if the muse dictates. There’s a space for everything in St Andrews.
2. Get involved in theatre.
There are plenty of ways to immerse yourself in theatre in this town. Every production needs a director and producer, but it’s also handy to have a set and props officer, costumes officer, publicity officer, and so on. Offer your services to a production that catches your eye, even if your only skill is running back and forth to the printing office. It’s a great way to get to know other people who are passionate about theatre, and it means you have a base of people to get in contact with once your script is ready. Plus, you get to know how the whole process works.
3. Take responsibility.
Directors often know exactly what shows they intend to direct over their academic career, so sometimes you may not be able to find someone to take your script on. Don’t be afraid to take the reins yourself. Directing and producing aren’t as scary as they seem, and it means your play gets performed.
Don’t treat your script with reverence. Have a read-through with a group of the actors you met during step two and get their feedback. During the rehearsal process, ask the actors questions. If something doesn’t sound right, be open to the idea of change. If they aren’t convinced their character would say a certain phrase or behave in a certain way, give it some consideration. You need fresh eyes. By opening night your script will be a mass of scribbles that doesn’t hugely resemble your original Word document, but it’s a beautiful thing.
5. Take part in SAND.
St Andrews New Drama is the university’s relatively new festival of student writing. It’s the perfect opportunity to have your work performed alongside other homegrown talent – ideal if you’re cowed by the idea of running the night after A Streetcar Named Desire.
Above all, be brave. St Andrews is the perfect place to meet wonderful theatrical people, to test your skills and find out what your strengths are. Even if you feel that you’ve crashed and burned, no one will fail to respect you for trying.
Photo credit: Helen Miller