As part of London Writers' Week 2016, I recently chaired two panels on theatre publishing and diversity.
The speakers were Rob Drummer, Associate Dramaturg at the Bush Theatre, and George Spender, Senior Editor at Oberon Books.
The sessions took place as part of The Student Guide to Writing: Playwriting Day at London Writers' Week, a new initiative from the Bush Theatre, Oberon Books, Writers at Work Productions and the MA Dramatic Writing at Drama Centre London at Central Saint Martins, to provide access to the leading training coming out of the industry for the first time in published and digital form.
Here are a few key points which came up:
1) Theatre publishing can change arts education and, via this, the arts industry via providing access to the leading training coming out of the industry, most of which hasn't been published before.
2) This is important because, if you can't attend industry workshops or don't know who the companies in the industry are, how do you know what is being taught and thought about in the industry?
3) If you don't know what is being taught and thought about in the industry, you can therefore waste a long time not knowing why your work isn't working (for example, if you are a writer, maybe you are writing but you don't know about structure so your work always has structural problems which you don't know how to fix) or not knowing why your work isn't being picked up (because maybe you don't know who the companies or competitions are or the best way to approach them, for example).
4) If we want to increase access and diversity in the industry, publishing either via traditional publishing routes and/or online is a way to make sure that everyone can be a part of the industry - if you can make a quick search of Amazon and find the book which says its providing access to industry training, anyone, wherever they are and from whatever background, can find out how the industry works.
Other key points were:
1) An audience member said they'd never been to a workshop before on how theatre publishing works as George took the audience right through how theatre publishing works - from the work landing on an editor's desk and the importance of a good cover letter in attracting an editor's attention, to the work then being taken to an editorial meeting where the work is discussed by everyone to see if its viable and if the writer seems exciting (which can be addressed via the aforementioned good cover letter), to an offer being made, to the work then being typeset, minor changes made with the writer, to the work then being published.
2) Other points included that it is useful to provide access to both the craft and business side of how the industry works
3) Lesson plans, as in The Student Guide to Writing: Playwriting, can be used by teachers in schools and Universities as well as followed by students, artists or anyone interested in the area on their own
4) According to Rob Drummer from the Bush Theatre, there are benefits not only for artists but to the industry as well via providing access via publishing and digital initiatives: "At the Bush, what we've done over the last several years is to seek new partnerships and to try to spread that work much further than the bricks and mortar of our building in Shepherds Bush. A large part of the last year has been The Student Guide to Writing: Playwriting and, for us, we want to empower a new generation of artists. We want people who can't physically get to see work in our building to feel like our building is doing something for them. A lot of that is about diversifying not just our theatre industry but the stories that are put on stage".
A lesson plan on how theatre publishing works will be published in The Student Guide to Writing: Playwriting, due out from Oberon Books, one of the UK's leading theatre publishers, in 2017.
In the meantime "Dramatic Writing Masterclasses: Key Advice from the Industry Masters" is being published by Oberon Books in 2016 and can be pre-ordered here: http://oberonbooks.com/creative-writing/dramatic-writing
More information on The Student Guide to Writing: Playwriting, which is the first in a series dedicated to providing access to the leading industry training via publishing and online publishing, can be found here: www.thestudentguidetowriting.com