Why we need playwrights

Emerging Writers’ Festival has partnered with City of Greater Dandenong, SeaACT and Melbourne Playback Theatre Company to create a new theatre work with young performers living in Greater Dandenong.

Participants will collaborate with writers, directors and musicians to devise a performance that will premiere at EWF 2017.

Didem Caia will be EWF’s playwright in residence for the duration of the program (thanks to support from The Copyright Agency Cultural Fund) and will run writing workshops with the performers to create the text component of the work.

In the coming months we’ll follow the progress of the project. We sat down with Didem to find out why she writes theatre.

What excites you most about the SeaACT project?
The SeaACT project brings together my core values. Connectivity, community and compassion. When I am writing or theatre making I am always creating from a place that embodies these values; for me this is my driving force. This initiative is a way to activate the very ideas that are pertinent to society and cultural values right now. We are right in the thick of it. If we want a more inclusive, raw, relevant, vast and innovative theatre ecology in Australia, then it is programs like this that can be an integral step to creating that space. We are living in volatile times where our sensitivities are more pronounced than ever before. The difficulty of class, hierarchy, race and sex are elements of identity that are desperately trying to be shattered by the democracy so that we can live in a world that doesn’t breed suffering, segregation, suppression and deny people their basic human rights.

Theatre has the ability to penetrate deep into the psyche of audiences and teach. However, the work itself isn’t the most important outcome. What is important are the ways in which the work is created, the ways that the ecology is shifted and the ways in which story, body, language, time and space are cultivated and explored in order to rebuild firmer foundations.

For me, that’s what excites me most about SeaACT. How can we initiate new creative processes for the future? How can theatre, writing and literature, amongst other platforms, be a space that truly promotes the values that so many of us hold dear to our hearts? There is a lot of work yet to be done, this is a vital step for the EWF and for the playwrighting community.

What skills are you looking to develop during your residency?
I am looking to develop my skills of collaborative writing, energy transference from the development into the writing, leadership within the arts and of course, my own writing. A play is never finished, said Tennessee Williams, and I truly believe that, the same way I will keep improving with every play I do write. But again, my values dictate why I do this work, and so with each experience I am exercising my craft, I am getting closer and closer to defining and redefining just how important a playwright’s job is.

I am also interested in audience development, ethics, and art as advocacy, so through the project I aim to develop my skills of awareness, sensitivity and bringing the best out of our amazing participants.

What draws you to playwriting and creating theatre?
I always say that I was gifted with this passion and in turn, made it my obsession. I think plays and the theatre experience of sitting in an audience with strangers and witnessing an event is something of a modern day ritual. There is an exchange that happens, no matter how small, something is given and something is taken. The playwright plays a part in orchestrating energies. We build a script and in that script we can create worlds, deconstruct language, expose the darkness. I am in awe of playwrights, and I find writing a play so hard. I can’t even explain how difficult it is for me to write a play. But it’s one of the only forms of expression that allows me to use all of my skills in one conception. The poetry of plays, not just in the words, but in the rhythm, the musicality of scenes and structure, the development of character or non-character, the roaring of ideas, the sensory elements of staging and the intimacy of making a show ignites my whole being. There isn’t a part of me that I’m not using when I am writing a play and making theatre. I think that’s it.

Didem is a playwright, theatre maker and speaker, with plays developed through Playwriting Australia, The RE Ross Trust, and the City of Melbourne. She has written seven plays, two of which have been produced in Melbourne and Sydney. In 2014 and 2015 she travelled on an Australia Council grant to the UK and US and wrote Vile and Lovers and Other Strangers. Didem has received many development and career grants through the Ian Potter Cultural Trust and The Copyright Agency fund. Didem is also an essayist and is interested in cultural awareness and development. Didem is a graduate of NIDA and has a masters in Dramaturgy from VCA.