An interview with "Miscreation" writer Dan Christmas

We asked the winner of 2013's Scratch Night (and writer of our 2014 production of Miscreation) about last year’s first ever Scriptwriting Workshop, co-run with Louth Playgoers’ Riverhead Theatre.

Here’s what he had to say…

What made you attend the course in the first place?
To be honest, my mum. My parents had just moved to Louth and heard about the workshop from visiting the Riverhead Theatre, and my mum called me to see if I’d be interested. I’ve always wanted to get in to scriptwriting – comedy in particular – and it sounded like a good course to take to explore that interest.

What features of the course did you enjoy the most?
I really enjoyed the creative writing exercises – being given a particular set of rules or parameters to work within to write a scene. For example, writing a short scene then reducing it until it’s just a few words, whilst still communicating the same story. It really makes you think about the way that scripts work, and how the actors work with a script.

What surprised you most about the course?
The quality of the final scripts for the Scratch Night – each course member had written something that you could certainly see being made in to a full play. I don’t know what everyone else’s writing skills were like before the course, but I certainly wasn’t able to write coherent and structured scenes beforehand.

Was it what you expected it to be?
I’ve never attended a workshop before so I didn’t know what to expect – I think I imagined it to be more like a university lecture, I’m glad I was wrong!

What was the advantages of working within a group?
It was great to try and come up with a scene working with different members of the group – each had their own particular ideas and style, and it was a lot of fun coming up with things together.

What was the advantages of working one-to-one?
The feedback is invaluable, having experience and knowledge available on a one-to-one basis. One of the most exciting aspects of the course was the feedback from John – being told ‘that’s funny’ by someone who knows what they’re talking about was certainly good for my ego!

Can you explain the ‘Scratch Night’ from the writers’ point of view?
All the course participants wrote a short scene – 10-15 minutes long – to be performed by actors in front of a live audience. The audience and a panel from the theatre then voted for their favourite, to be made in to a full length play. I think I can safely say this was thrilling for all of us – when would you ever get that opportunity?

What was it like to have your work read out by actors? Was it helpful? Daunting?
The scene I wrote was on last, but I didn’t feel nervous at all…..until about 5 seconds before the play started. But it’s brilliant to hear the lines you’ve written being performed. It was extremely helpful with regards to writing the full play, the actors really brought the characters to life. The actor who played the ‘main’ character in the scratch night performance was certainly in my mind throughout the rest of the writing process, and I’m delighted he wanted to play the character again for the full performance.

Can you describe the process of what happened when you won the Scratch Night event?
Well the first thing I did was to write a treatment for the entire play, so that John could get an idea of the story and give me some pointers and advice. After that I began to try and put a full play together, which involved a lot of conversations with John, as I’ve never written anything like a full length play before. Then more recently it was the auditions, for which I was a part of the audition panel and had input in the final selection. I attended the first full read through, where I actually got to hear everything I’d been working on over the months come alive. The play is now in the rehearsal stage. Although my input at this point isn’t really required I’ve still been involved, and will be attending a number of rehearsals leading up to the main performance (at which point I think I’ll be more nervous than the actors!).

What do you enjoy about writing?
That you can start off writing with a vague idea about an interaction, or a joke – that becomes a conversation, which creates characters, and scenes….and then you have a story.

Who would you recommend the course to?
Everyone. I was going to say 'to anyone who’s ever had a vague interesting in writing something' but then surely everyone has, at some point, thought 'I wonder if I could...'