Why are playwrights discouraged from acting in or directing their own plays?

Convener(s): Suzy Almond

Participants: Anon + 1

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

If a playwright would like to participate in their play once it is completed, this is not always encouraged and sometimes actively discouraged.  Why is this?

Play-Right? Not always.  A new objectivity needed once rehearsal process begins.

If a playwright can cut the umbilical cord that connects her to a play, and is able to wear a different hat and be objective about her own work, it should be entirely possible for her to adopt other roles within a production.  This would involve understanding that her pre-conceived ideas about the production were not necessarily right.  Throughout the rehearsal period, blind spots would emerge and new insights would be embraced.

This understanding would involve her being a flexible actor who approaches the job as objectively as possible and is committed to taking direction enthusiastically and being flexible about any pre-conceived notions of how the play should be performed.

Likewise, as a director, she should be willing to embrace input from other members of the rehearsal process. 

All of the above are possible as long as the new roles are clearly defined with the rest of a team.

Steven Berkoff, Terry Johnson and Anthony Neilson were cited as examples of successful playwright/actor/director hybrids.

There was a perception from some theatre companies that a writer was not expected to be involved in rehearsal and production issues, and was over-stepping the mark if they wanted to.

There was anecdotal evidence of a playwright who was not allowed to audition to act in their own play, and of a writer who was cautioned for making a suggestion to a crew member.

It was agreed that if the playwright wasn’t able to ‘let go’ of a play then it was definitely better that others directed and acted in it.

It was agreed that writer/performer packages were considered the most acceptable way to combine skills. One man/woman shows were the most suitable format for a writer who wanted to get involved beyond the writing.  Daniel Kitson and Ursula Martinez were examples. 

But what about straight plays?  The above are comedy performers.

There was an anecdote about a writer who went in disguise to an audition for a piece she wrote and was given the part.

 Is this the way forward?


Probably not.

                        There was a suspicion about multi-disciplinary artists sometimes.  Producing one’s own work was a possible way forward, but not ideal.