Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

First Graduate of Playwriting Course Sings Its Praises; A Course Which Can Be Completed from an Armchair Gives Budding Playwrights the Chance to Put Their Ideas in Front of Those Who Know Their Stuff. SAM WONFOR Talks to Its First Graduate

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

First Graduate of Playwriting Course Sings Its Praises; A Course Which Can Be Completed from an Armchair Gives Budding Playwrights the Chance to Put Their Ideas in Front of Those Who Know Their Stuff. SAM WONFOR Talks to Its First Graduate

Article excerpt

PREPARE for the worst. Hope for the best. Take a deep breath and jump in.

That's the motivational advice for anyone thinking of signing up to Live Theatre's online playwriting course, celebrating its second birthday this month.

And it comes from the only one who knows thus far.

Northumbria Police officer Nicola Owens is the course's first graduate, and is therefore perfectly placed to offer a once around the process, which offers a cyberspace arena for students to learn the craft of playwriting.

Having signed up to do the interactive incarnation of the course (there's also a less expensive, solo version which foregoes the person-to-person feedback) in June 2011, Nicola had a finished play in her hand by October of the same year.

"There are five modules and I kind of worked on the basis of doing one module a month," says the West-Yorshire-born 38-year-old.

"I wanted to have the interactive element rather than the more individual course. It felt more motivating to do it that way, and I've really enjoyed the feedback aspect."

Created by two leading theatre practitioners, Live Theatre's literary manager Gez Casey and his former colleague Jeremy Herrin (now associate director at The Royal Court), Beaplaywright.com allows participants to watch great writers talk about their practice and learn what makes a great play from the close study of scripts, as well as being able to study from anywhere at their own pace.

The course was just the push Nicola needed to put a long-held passion for writing into practice.

"I was a good creative writer at school and then I kind of forgot about it," she says.

"But as I've come to reassess thing as I've got older, I've looked back and wished I'd continued.

"To start with, it was like pulling teeth but eventually it began to come back."

As well as leading the students through the practical modules, the interactive version of Beaplaywright.com provides webchat feedback sessions as well as a series of punctuating pep talks by writers such as Pitmen Painters and Billy Elliot creator, Lee Hall.

To celebrate the second anniversary, a new batch of clips have been added from Dennis Kelly (Matilda); Zoe Cooper (Nativities, Utopia); and Alistair McDowall (Captain Amazing, Uptopia) who were interviewed about their own writing practices.

The fact those listed above have been willing to associate themselves with the course is testament to Live's international reputation for supporting new writing. This in itself provided Nicola with excitement and terror in equal measure.

"Presenting your writing is terrifying," she admits. "Particularly when you know these are people with a standing in the national theatre community. Live works with and is in touch with some of the best writers in the country, so it is definitely daunting to be saying 'hey, look what I've written!' "But the comments were unanimously measured, balanced and fair and made in the genuine spirit of helping me to improve. …

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