Writing a great short play: the workshop (Anna Jordan)

I have just returned from a workshop run by Anna Jordan.

Who is she?

This is Anna.

I think she looks a bit serious in this photo - believe me, she is much funnier in real life....

Anyway, the course.

This is what the blurb said:

"Do you want to write a short play? Do you need advice on where to start? Do you need help structuring your piece? Are you wondering where to send your work, or what short play festivals/competitions are out there? If so - this is the workshop for you!

In this three hour workshop, Anna Jordan -Winner of the Off Cut Short Play Festival at the Old Red Lion - will take you through ways to generate ideas, create dynamic and contrasting characters, tell a great story in a short space of time, and 'grab the audience by the balls'! "

Fair enough. The course did deliver.

But what makes a good course? It is a combination of factors:

a. the street cred of the presenter
b. the content of the course itself
c. the environment in which the course is delivered
d. the group attending if the course has an emphasis on participation
e. after-course follow-up

Certainly, Anna has the street cred.

Anna trained as an actor at LAMDA. Fed up with being out of work she started writing her own parts, and has since gone from strength to strength as a playwright and director. Anna started Without a Paddle Theatre in 2006 and has since been writing, directing and producing her own work. Her plays include Marianne's Heart, which was developed on the Royal Court Playwriting Course and received a rehearsed reading at the Trafalgar Studios. It was shortlisted for the Bruntwood Royal Exchange Playwriting Prize in 2008, and will have a full production at the New Wimbledon Studio Theatre in 2010.

Just For Fun – Totally Random, a play about youth and violence, showed at LAMDA and the New End Theatre, Hampstead as part of the Lost One Act Festival 2009 to critical acclaim, and it won the Best New Writing Award. Just For Fun - Totally Random was on recently along with We Will Be Gone, a piece about the Chelsea Royal Hospital as part of a double bill called Youth & Age at Camden Peoples Theatre. Anna's short play, Closer to God, recently won the Off Cut Festival - the prize for which is a week long run of a play written by Anna at the Old Red Lion in 2010. It also won the audience award, voted favourite in the festival by over 250 people. Anna has had rehearsed readings of her work at Theatre 503. Anna met the fabulous Charlie Swallow while she was resident director for several months at Stand Up Drama – London Bites. Anna and Charlie are London Event Organisers for Artists Anonymous.

Source: Without a Paddle Theatre Company

The course was spread over three hours - with only a short break in the middle. I was delayed in arriving because of this and thus arrived 30 minutes late. No matter. Anna made me feel welcome - and then continued delivering the course.

The content of the course matched the description. Anna has written several plays and knows exactly what is required - and the problems that scriptwriters face. She also knows how to run a workshop - not dissimilar from teaching. Not too much lecturing - more on group participation. Last year I ran revision courses that finished at 1 am - and so I know how hard it is to maintain the attention of the course attendees.

The third element: the environment. The course was run at Lost Theatre. The room was big enough but...sweltering hot. No fan - when according to this the charges can be quite high....

The fourth element is the participants. Well, apart from the fact that I was probably double/triple the age of most of the participants - and yet they have more experience in scriptwriting than I do - the group seemed to gell well. no-one was shy in coming forward - and all added to the evening. Clearly some/all are actors - their enunciation put my feeble mutterings to shame. Interestingly, when I spoke to some of the attendees and asked them how they were going to make sure their plays were performed they simply replied: "We will put on the show ourselves..."

Tomorrow's entrepreneurs - very impressive.

The final element of any successful course is the follow-up. Anna asked for ideas and information about competitions etc and these will be circulated to attendees. That's good - it shows that the course didn't finish at 10pm but there is an element of follow-up.

So, overall, how was the course?

Excellent - and I strongly suggest to anyomne interested in becoming a playwright that they attend any course where Anna is the lead instructor. In fact, if you write to her (email address on the site ) she just might send you a copy of her play.

I hope the network continues - all of us are novices and we can all help each other. Maybe Anna will run more courses - I hope so. Her style is engaging, funny, lively and passionate. She brings experience, knowledge and expertise to the course - and seems a good person as well!

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