INTERVIEW WITH SARAH GROCHALA
FROM ROYAL CENTRAL SCHOOL OF SPEECH AND DRAMA
Sarah Grochala specialises in playwriting, dramaturgy and contemporary British theatre. She is a multi-award winning playwright and an associate artist with the theatre company Headlong. Sarah has worked at Central since 2013. She previously taught at a number of universities and drama schools, including Birkbeck, Kingston University Mountview, Queen Mary and the University of Reading. Her research examines the use of dramatic structure in contemporary British plays and the relationship between these structures and social and political structures of contemporary British society.
古馳安拉的專業是劇本創作,戲作藝術和英國當代戲劇。她是一個屢 獲殊榮的編劇,也是驟劇團(Headlong)的簽約藝術家。古馳安拉2013 年開始來到英國皇家中央演講與戲劇學院任教,此前她曾在包括伯克 貝克大學( Birkbeck, University of London), 金斯頓大學( Kingston University Mountview),女王瑪麗大學(Queen Mary, University of London)和雷丁大學(University of Reading)任教。她主要的研究集中在英國當代戲劇結構和當下英國社會政治結構之間的關係。
PI: PERFORMANCE INFINITY / SG: SARAH GROCHALA
PI: Can you please briefly introduce the course to our readers about Royal Central School of Speech and Drama’s play writing training course?
SG: There are two courses that focus on playwriting at Central: the MA in Writing for Stage and Broadcast Media and the MFA in Writing for Stage and Broadcast Media. The MA course is a one-year course and the MFA is two years. The courses aren’t just training for writing for the stage, they also cover writing for radio, TV and films.
In the first term of the course, the students learn how to write conventionally. They learn the conventional and most commonly used structures for theatre, radio, television and film scripts. There’s nothing very avant-garde in terms of approaches to scriptwriting at this stage, just solid conventional training. If you are going to write scripts professionally for any medium, you will often be working with very conventional stories. Exciting, gripping stories with sympathetic characters are always very appealing to audiences. In the second term, we start to talk about avant-garde writing. If students are interested in writing in ways that challenge conventional structures, they are given some guidance and inspiration for how they might explore creating avant garde work for different mediums. Throughout the course, there are lots of opportunities for students to meet writers and other professionals who work in the theatre, radio, television and film industries. This is very helpful in terms of preparing students for entering the industry after the end of the course. The third term focuses on working on the students’ scripts in more practical ways. For instance, the students work with students on the acting courses at Central to help them understand how a play works in performance. By the end of the summer term, they will have completed a short play, a short radio play and a short film script. They will have also collaborated on writing a full-length television episode, which they work on in small groups. The final project for the one-year MA is to write either: a full-length stage play (70 minutes), a full-length radio drama (45 minutes), a TV episode (60 minutes) or a full-length film script (90 minutes). They are each assigned an expert who will mentor them through their final project.
Students who do the MFA course study for two years. Instead of doing one final project at the end of their first year, they work on two final projects in their second year. So they might decide to write fully developed plays and fully developed film script. Again, for each project, they work with at least one mentor who supports them through it. At the same time, they have to formulate a professional development plan. For this, they have to plan a series of steps that they are going to take in order to start to establish themselves as professional writers within their chosen industry. They also have to think critically about their writing and the process of writing. At the end of the year, they also have to submit a critical reflection, in which they consider the process of writing their scripts in the context of theories related to scriptwriting and performance.
PI: 能否為我們介紹下英國皇家中央演講與戲劇學院(Royal Central School of Speech and Drama)的這個劇作家課程?
SG: 我們的劇作家課程一共分成兩種。一種是一年制的文學碩士(MA), 另一種是兩年制的藝術碩士(MFA)。課程不僅局限於教會學生寫舞臺劇 的劇本,也涵蓋了為廣播,電視和電影等媒體寫劇本的科目。
一年制的碩士第一學期的課程主要集中在如何寫傳統劇本上。比如說我 們會教學生傳統概念下好劇本的結構和寫作方式。沒有任何前衛和試驗 性的東西。原因很簡單,在電視電影行業,通常劇本都需要很強的故事 性,而這些都是傳統劇本寫作教育中的重點。到了第二學期,學生就會有 更多的自由去進行前衛的創作。他們也能用自己的方式去挑戰傳統的劇 本結構。當然,電影廣播和電影劇本的創作同時進行。在學習的過程中, 學生也有很多的機會去接觸業內人士。比如說劇作家,劇場工作者等等。 第三個學期有很多工作坊,教學生如何靈活處理劇本。比如說有演員會參 與到過程中。到春夏學期結束時,學生基本上都已經有40-50分鐘的劇本 在手上了。課程的結業作品對於一年制的學生來說是一個標準長度的劇本 (舞臺劇70分鐘、廣播45分鐘、電視劇集60分鐘、電影90分鐘),不同的 領域有不同的導師指導。
對於兩年制的碩士課程,學生一共要做兩個作品,除了標準長度的電視電 影廣播舞臺劇劇本創作之外,他們也需要做一個專業發展計劃,為畢業後 的就業做打算;除此之外,他們也需要做學術類的自我反饋。這也是對學生 來說很重要的一部分,了解自己在做什麼,並且了解為什麼自己會這麼做。
PI: Do you think the students who take this course have a clear career plan before they come to study with Central School of Speech and Drama?
SG: Some students do and some students don’t. When I studied playwriting, on a similar masters course at Birmingham University, I chose that particular masters course because it was primarily focused on playwriting. I did study radio, television and film as well, but I didn’t have a change of heart during the course. I always knew that I wanted to write for theatre. But there are many students who study on the course at Central, who are not as sure as I was about which medium they would like to write for. Some students want to explore which medium would suit them the best as writers, and others come on the course thinking they would like to become playwrights or screenwriters but ended up deciding to work in a completely different medium. The course really encourages them to think about all four mediums, which I think is really useful.
SG:一些學生有而另一些沒有。當我學習編寫劇本時,那是在伯明翰大學 的相似碩士課程,我選擇那個碩士課程的主要原因是它著重戲劇寫作。 同時我也學習了廣播、電視、電影,但是學習過程裡我都沒有改變初衷。 我一直都知道我想要為劇場寫作。但是在中央學院有很多學生並不像我 一樣有明確的方向,他們還不清楚想爲哪種媒介進行創作;有些學生想 要嘗試不同媒介來看看哪類型媒介適合自己創作,可能開始時非常堅定 要成為戲劇編劇或電影編劇,但最後決定做另外一種完全不一樣的。所 以中央學院的課程鼓勵學生去嘗試四種不同的媒介,我覺得這是非常有 幫助的。
PI: What are the entry requirements and the qualifications students need for this course?
SG: Usually, the students have undergraduate degrees. But we do also take students who didn’t do undergraduate degrees but already have some experience of writing scripts. We’ve got quite a lot of students who come directly after their undergraduate degrees, but there are also some older students. There is a range of experience on the course. Some students have only written short pieces, while others have written several full-length scripts and been working as writers for quite a long time. There is a good mix of British and international students. A lot of our students have studied English Literature or Drama for their undergraduate degrees, but others might have done science or other degrees instead. The most important thing is that the student has a passion and a talent for writing.
SG:一般來說,學生們需要有本科的學歷才能申請。當然也有一些年長的 學生,雖然沒有相關的學歷背景,但是已經積累一些寫劇本的經驗。所以 招生標準實際上來說是因人而異的。我們大部分的學生都是從本科一路 念上來的。從年齡的角度上來說,我們的學生各個年齡段都有。學生的行 業經驗也不盡相同。有些之前就寫過了短篇幅的作品,有些已經寫過不少 標準長度的作品,或者已經成為作家一段時間了;我們有本土的學生也有 不少國際學生。我們對申請者的本科學位沒有學科上的要求,許多學生 在本科時是學英國文學或戲劇的,但也有別的學生是讀科學或其他學科 的。最重要的還是對寫作要有熱情及一定天賦。
PI: What do you think is the difference between Central’s training and other drama trainings in London?
SG: The structure of the course is really good. It gives students a solid grounding in the basic structures of drama. There are other courses that focus mainly on the avant-garde. I like the fact that we teach a strong foundation in the conventional writing and then after that the students have a chance to question and challenge the conventional structures that we’ve just taught them. I think it’s a very substantial training. Students also have time to explore writing for the different mediums of theatre, radio, television and film. So if they want to work for radio or television instead of theatre or film, for example, they don’t need much extra training. We also have lots of people coming in from the industry to speak to students, which is really useful. We have some visiting playwrights, such as Simon Stephens, as well as writers who work for TV and radio and avant grade theatre makers who come and visit. The students have the opportunity to work with actors , which is another thing you might not be able to get if you take other courses.
PI: 這個課程與英國其他戲劇學校的相關學科 相比有什麼優勢和特別的地方嗎?
SG: 我會說課程結構設置非常不錯。學生在基 本戲劇結構上會有很堅實的基礎教學,其他課 程則註重大膽創新的部分。我很贊成學生先是 有很紮實的傳統寫作根底之後再去探索和挑戰 我們教的傳統戲劇結構。我認為這是非常必要 的。學生還會有機會探索各種媒介的寫作,像 劇場、廣播、電視和電影。所以如果他們想要 爲廣播和電視寫作,而不是戲劇和電影的話, 他們不需要額外的訓練。我們會請業內人士給 學生們講授實際知識,這對於學生來說是很實 用的。我們會請劇作家像西門·史提芬,或是爲 電視廣播寫作的,或前衛的戲劇製片人來與學 生進行面對面的交流。學生也會和演員一起合 作,其他課程則不一定有這麼好的機會了。
PI: Do you think that British theatre culture is heavily relying on the playwrights?
SG: I think there’s an interesting paradox about this. For instance, Shakespeare is a playwright but he never wrote any of his plays down or published them. He didn’t expect his plays to be read in the same way he would’ve intended for his sonnets and poetry to be read. During the 19th century, the theatre in Britain was an actors’ rather than a writers’ theatre. There were writers, but very few people can actually name them. The 19th century theatres were very much for the working class, and were seen as platforms for pure entertainment. Nowadays theatre is taken much more seriously and the audiences are predominately middle class. Theatre became a legitimate art form again in the UK at the end of the 19th century because it became connected to literature, publication and books. At the moment, we still have the strong tradition of writing in the theatre. Theatre writing is supported by large institutions, for instance, the National Theatre and Royal Court, which is a venue specifically for new writing. But we’ve also got individual companies that champion other sorts of performance, such as Punchdrunk. Some of these companies still have writing as part of what they do,so there’s not a clear divide between ‘text-based’ and ‘non-text-based’ theatre.
PI: 你認為劇作家在英國戲劇文化裡起特別大 的作用嗎?
SG: 我想劇作家在英國戲劇圈的作用和歷史有 很大的聯系。比如說莎士比亞,他是寫戲的,但 是他從來沒有把自己的劇本寫成書或出版,他 可能從來沒有試圖將自己的戲劇作品跟自己的 詩歌及其他文學作品一樣呈現給讀者。在19世 紀的英國有很多劇作家,但是很少人記得住他 們的名字。因為當時的劇場文化主要以演員為 中心,而劇作家是次要的。在過去的一百年間, 英國的戲劇行業有了一定的發展,除了保留了 之前娛樂大眾的功能之外,它更加著眼於社會 生活,更加注重作品的文學性。而且劇本也用 出版物的形式與觀眾見面,這些都擴大了劇作家在戲劇圈的影響力。在英國,戲劇寫作得到 了很多大型機構的支持,比如說英國國家劇院 (National Theatre)和以支持新寫作聞名的 皇家宮廷劇院(Royal Court Theatre)。當然, 目前也有非常多的私人劇團願意身兼多職,比 方說戲劇制作公司眩暈劇團(Punchdrunk)就 有自己的團隊,從導演到劇作家。從內部結構上 來看,其實英國戲劇行業的分工沒有外表看起 來那麼清晰。
PI: What kind of suggestions would you give to the people who really want to learn playwriting but are not qualified for this course?
SG: I think, to start with, they need to watch a lot of plays. There are books that offer good advice about how to write a play, but I think fundamentally that you learn to write by watching plays. It’s also useful to take courses. For instance, masters course or other good courses such as the Royal Court Young Writers’ programme. Often what you decide to do in terms of training will depend on what ultimately want to do as a writer and the resources you have access to.
PI: 對於那些對戲劇寫作有熱情但暫時沒達到 課程申請要求的學生來說,你有什麼建議嗎?
SG: 我覺得首先就是去看戲,看很多戲。雖然有 書本教如何寫戲,但是我認為最基本的學習方 法是看戲。學習專業課程也很有用。例如碩士 課程或其他好的寫作項目,像皇家劇院的青年 作家項目。通常選擇哪類型的課程要取決於想 成為怎樣的作家或取得的資源有哪些。
PI: Can you name some contemporary playwrights that are your favourites?
SG: I have lots of favourites. I think my favourite British playwright is Caryl Churchill because every play she writes is very different. Each new one is very different from her last one. She is always trying to do something exciting and new. Her plays never feel the same. And then there are lots of really good young British playwrights.
I really like Lucy Kirkwood, Mike Bartlett, Lucy Prebble and John Donnelly. John Donnelly actually used to teach on the MA/MFA in Writing for Stage and Media Broadcast at Central before me.
PI: 能跟我們分享一些你喜歡的英國當代劇作 家嗎?
SG: 我想我最喜歡的英國劇作家應該是卡裏 爾·丘吉爾(Caryl Churchill), 她的作品每一 部都非常獨特,每一部作品都在嘗試著突破。 年輕的一代裡面,我喜歡露西·柯克伍德(Lucy Kirkwood),邁克·巴特利特(Mike Bartlett), 露西·柏寶(Lucy Prebble)還有之前在這裡教 書的約翰·唐納利(John Donnelly)。