Malachy Orozco, 25 January 2015

Session Caller: Malachy Orozco ([email protected])

In Attendance: Marianne Powell +1 Duncan Gates Daniel Goldman Eve Leigh
Stella Duffy

There is a freedom to edit that comes with the death of a playwright. Suddenly, their works are reinterpreted, their entire canon is pored over - their manuscripts, their letters, their lesser-known works.

You Are Already Dead is an event that seeks to synthesise this post-mortem treatment of the work of living writers.

The unformed nature of this idea led, naturally, to more questions than answers.

These questions can be broken down into a few main areas, which are the same questions many New Writing events will have to deal with: Selection, Working, and


The Selection Process

What would the selection process of writers be like?
Would the texts be limited to only works written for the stage?
Would we ask for other writings the writer might be willing to “will” to us?
What would the selection process of directors be like?
Of designers?
Of performers and technicians?
How can we bring in artists from further afield to collaborate in unconventional ways on the selected pieces?

The Working Process
How would the texts be handled?
How would this process be different from any other scratch night or production of a work?
How would we, the runners of the night, monitor the quality of the work that would be produced?
Will there be any quality control?
If so, how will quality be assured?

The Performance
A number of possible forms which this event could take emerged in this session, including:
•Taking one short work and reinterpreting it, so as to abstract it further, and further. •Having one standby play that is reinterpreted every event by a different director or

company, in the midst of other one-off interpretations.
•A staged post-mortem, with a performance of their work, in which academics sit and discuss the life and work of this playwright, and what their work has come to mean in an imagined future.

“The real reason that we still put on the classics, is because the classics are actually quite good.” - Daniel Goldman, Artistic Director of CASA

Again and again, the issue of finding quality writing came up.

It's wonderful to aspire to give this treatment to the work of living writers, but if the writing isn't strong - if the work isn't at a point where it should be produced in the first place - then the structures of the performances will be built on shaky ground.

How can we, the showrunners, bolster the pieces we've selected?

"It is extremely difficult for us to not be led." - Stella Duffy, Co-Founder of Fun Palaces

The relationship between the writer and the director came up quite often, as well.

The few current models of the relationship between a living writer's text and an interpreter / director can be reduced to:
•The director can alter the words.
•The director can alter the words, with the writer's permission.

•The director cannot alter the words.

Of course, with a dead writer, there is no dialogue at all - the only defenders of the writer's work being licensing groups, the author's estate, and, perhaps, academics.

This even would explore further this point of tension, in line with New Criticism's (1) assertion that the author's interpretation of their own work is no more valid than anyone else's. Playwrights and authors such as Charles L. Mee and Stella Duffy, who have offered their texts as material to be freely edited, reformed, and reshaped into the works of the companies who use them, also encourage alternative approaches to the hierarchical structure that has become the default working model.

This flattening of the organisational process behind the creation of performance work, can sometimes result in left-field interpretations of the texts and scenarios, such the beating scene in Anne Bogart's direction of Mee's bobrauschenbergamerica(2), and the anarchical process behind a reworking of Duffy's Chaos Baby (3), in which she herself participated.

The work of the Teatro San Martin (4) is also of relevance, in that artistic director Gustavo Ott and the writers with which he collaborates have a technique of working in which the writer can re-direct, and the director can re-write.

These sparks of the surreal and the non-literal are what we are hoping will emerge from You Are Already Dead.

(3) (4)



playwright, newwriting, playwrighting, surreal