What inspires a writer to conjure up new characters and new worlds? What does it take to give those new worlds validity in theatrical form? How does an idea become a masterpiece?
If you are a keen theatre-goer, and these questions have struck you before, attending a play reading in Sydney may be for you. An integral part of the playwriting process, readings invite audiences and the theatre industry to engage with a script in its embryonic form. The purpose is to uncover flaws in the plot or characters, find holes in style or form and give the writer critical feedback. There is usually little-to-no movement by the actors reading the script, no costumes, or flashy stage lights the writing stands alone as words on a page are brought to life by voices, and the imagination of the special few who care to listen.
Actors read a new work for audiences at a reading hosted by Parnassus' Den
Long-time playwriting advocates Parnassus' Den are all about giving birth to new Australian plays and inviting the audience to partake in a special first-hand encounter with playwrights. They have played a pivotal role in the development of a great many plays which have gone on to achieve national and international success. Some over the past 10 years include: Caleb Lewis's Nailed and Men, Love and the Monkeyboy, which both received critical acclaim for main stage Sydney seasons, Vanessa O'Neill's Happy With Half of Your Life, which played at Edinburgh Festival and in Prague, and Deborah Mulhall's Cry Wolf, which was listed with an honourable mention in the final 8 of the New York New Plays of Merit Competition.
"The reading enabled me to do the necessary editing of the play to get it to this point of such honour", Deborah wrote in thanks to the Parnassus' Den team on their website.
Literary Manager Drayton Morley greets the audience at a Parnassus' Den reading
Needless to say it can be a daunting day for the writer in the very raw environment of the Den. So rarely are we let inside the fragile scaffolding of a freshly authored play before the rehearsals, before program notes are written, before the queues at the box office - but that's just what makes it special. For lovers of theatre it's an insight into the creative process, and with Parnassus' Den you're even invited to share your opinion and become part of the creation of a new world.
Parnassus Den hosts readings one Sunday every month. They will host a reading of The Merchant House by Linden Wilkinson (cast includes Sandy Gore) on Sunday November 10th and Unholy Ghosts by Campion Decent on December 8th at SBW Stables Theatre (Griffin Theatre, parnassusden.org.au).
Other play-reading programs in Sydney include: free tickets to Rough Drafts at Sydney Theatre Company where theatrical work of all forms (text based and other) is exhibited at Wharf 2 after a week of internal development, and the National Playwriting Festival (events hosted around Australia).
Reading of 'Return to earth' by Lally Katz at PlayWriting Australia's 2009 National Play Festival