Notes from the Ross Mueller workshop

8 Sep
in a nutshell

in a nutshell

In a nutshell:

If you use tension then you must eventually defuse it.

Titles are important – always give your work a title, even if its just a working title.

Ross stressed the importance of ‘the unexpected’, of dropping in little bombshells that subvert audience expectation, whether in narrative, character, dialogue, wherever. He used a specific writing example of an alphabetised conversation between two characters (of choice) located against a historical backdrop (therefore anchoring in time), a ritual (theatre is about ritualised behaviour), and using a turning point or decision that will change one of the characters (hence narrative drive). The unexpectedness is in the dialogue, dictated by the structure of the alphabet.

Always think about taking new things unto something that is expected.

Reduce! Reduce! Reduce! Get the message out there faster!

Ross did another practical writing exercise which was interesting to watch. The exercise involved splitting an interview into words and body language/gesture then having these two components read/acted out in front of the group. The body language/gestural stuff was not as successful as the ‘storytelling’ (and no offence to those that read). Conclusion? It is hard to write action. Curb your desire to impose physicality on an actor.

Ross always begins a project with theatricality in mind, ‘knowing that I’m going to write this for the stage’. Which of course means understanding the nature of the medium (“turning something into a film doesn’t make it a film”).

Theatre is about shared intimacy.

Knowing the space you are writing for makes a huge difference to the writing.

Re writing for a specific audience: be aware that you are engaging with people but….theatre-goers don’t exist. You can never second-guess an audience. And don’t cheat yourself by narrowing your audience ambit.

“Receiving theatre” (from an audience perspective) is an individual process. And just because an audience is quiet doesn’t mean it’s not engaging with what is on show.

Goinf to the theatre is always a political act.

Theatre is about engaging with ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

Every actor will ask: “what happened before the play begins”. But there should be enough in the text for an actor to suss this out.

Ross works with four levels of characterisation: the physical, social, moral and psychological. He makes sure that every character intersects with each level.

Ross ALWAYS begins with an outline. For two hours of play he might have 25 pages of outline. He can cut and paste at will but this ensures he knows where the scenes are going.

“the more I write, the less I know about writing”

8 Sep

Mark Ravenhill’s take on playwriting workshops is here .

God, I so agree.

Construction of the Human Heart

8 Sep

Full Dress Publishing is a new Melbourne publishing house dedicated to performance work. They have just published Ross Mueller’s Construction of the Human Heart .
Full House also have also published

Ibsen’s scorpion

26 Aug
Ibsen wears a nice hat made of plum

Ibsen wears a nice hat made of plum

“There’s a great story about Ibsen. Apparently, he used to keep a scorpion on his desk and every now and then it would get sick, so Ibsen would drop a plum into the jar and the scorpion would sting and sting and then it felt much better because it got rid of all the poison – well, sometimes writing is a bit like that – it builds up and you have to expel it.” writer and theatre critic Alison Croggon interviewed in The Saturday Age 16/8/08.

Tastings – important University theatre initiative

26 Aug

Tastings is designed to foster new and original student performance work.
It is a chance for writers and choreographers to see some of their work
performed and get a taste of performance in a real-life theatre. Run by
Union House Theatre and the Arts Department of your Student Union,
Tastings aims to be as broad as possible, encouraging all forms of

What can you submit?

Submissions are open to any pieces that are performative; including dance,
scripts and monologues. The submission can be finished pieces or
developmental concepts, part of a larger work or self contained scenes
that you wish to develop.

What support will we provide?

We will provide dramaturgical assistance to the selected works, as well as
directorial assistance from Union House Theatre’s Artistic Director, Susie
Dee. While Union House Theatre and the Arts Department will curate and
develop the work they will not be responsible for directing and making it.
Applicants must take responsibility for driving their own project.

Tastings is an excellent platform to develop new writing and extend
creative development for Mudfest 11 in 2009!

Entries close September 1st, entry forms are here

3D Fest

26 Aug

M.U. Honours scriptwriting student Megan Twycross has work on at 3D Fest (with Writing for Theatre’s Chloe Boreham), the annual theatre festival for university students. The showcase is on at 7.30pm Wednesday 27th August at the Malthouse. Don’t miss it.

Ross Mueller

26 Aug

Ross is a multi-award winning Australian playwright and he has graciously accepted my offer to come in and give a workshop.

This is how David Williamson described Ross’ play “Ghostwriter” (produced by the MTC last year: “The dialogue is sharp and theatrical, the themes large and resonant, the characters compelling. My test of a good new play is that I come out wishing I had written it myself. This one certainly passed that test.”

There is a good interview with Ross