The second of our PlayBox writers, Stefanie Reynolds, takes a look back at the workshop day at the Yard Manchester in October as part of the development of her brand-new play, Sasha The ???
When I found out I had been selected to be a part of Box of Tricks’ PlayBox playwriting opportunity I was ecstatic. I had recently moved back to my hometown Manchester and was dying to connect with Northern creatives. It was great news but there was just one issue: COVID. It was late 2020, and things were pretty doom and gloom. Not only did it mean we had our first meet via Zoom as opposed to in person, it also meant that my creativity had been killed by existential crisis and isolation.
When it came to writing my treatment I asked myself “What do you want to write about?” “What story do you want to tell?” But between practically doing nothing for a year and the general dread of the future of the world, I couldn’t think of a single thing. So like always when I have writer’s block, I avoided it. I ignored it, put it at the back of my head and read.
I read articles, books, plays. I spoke to my friends and family. I tried to be present. And (eventually!) an idea came to me. I wanted to write about being mixed race, and living with your white parent only. About having no connection to the other side of you, despite you looking and feeling this connection, in your body, in your soul. I wanted to talk about being Black in a small town where there is no one like you. How do you find yourself? How do you find who you are? And how do you learn about a culture that is a part of you but yet you have no grasp of. I also wanted to talk about same sex relationships in the West Indian culture.
Ok great, I thought. I finally have an idea. Now write it, Stef.
Again, having no access to theatre or social interaction for the best part of a year played a toll on my creativity and I couldn’t figure it out. I didn’t know who the protagonist was, I couldn’t find her voice, her objective.
And then, finally. I took myself to London to stay with my best friend during a week off from work. And I stumbled across a reggae exhibition. It sounds cliche, but it’s true, that staring at those pictures and listening to the music, I saw my two characters. The dialogue poured out of me, I saw what they looked like, what they wanted from each other, their conflict. And so I legged it back to Woolwich Arsenal to write.
The workshop was terrifying. I’m not ashamed to say I had a silent panic attack. My play has quite a big cast, so there was a room full of people (more than one other person is a lot for me, ok). Hearing my play being read aloud for the first time was nerve wracking. What if they hate it? What if it doesn’t make any sense?
Finally we got to the end of the readthrough. The actors were incredible. They were ferociously protective over their characters, debating with each other, justifying their characters’ actions. It was so lovely and heartwarming to see. They also challenged me, and in turn made me a better writer. Asking me to be specific when I often hide behind vagueness, questioning some of my choices and demanding solid answers.
It was a brilliant day, and it helped me to see the world of the play, and the characters. It was also just lovely to be around other creatives, as well as Hannah from Box of Tricks. It’s back to the redrafts since the workshop, but I have a better understanding of the story that I want to tell and I feel more confident in telling it. I can’t wait to see the rehearsed reading and see what happens next!
I’m so grateful to Box of Tricks and Hannah especially, for supporting me and for just getting it. She understood my first draft completely, and that was really thrilling for me. Her passion was infectious, and I always enjoy being in Hannah’s presence as she is so vocal and strong minded, which is what I am forever celebrating in my stories.
~ Stefanie Reynolds
See a rehearsed reading of Stef’s new play, Sasha The ??? as part of our two-day PlayBox Takeover at HOME’s Push Lab 2022 in January. Click here for full information: https://boxoftrickstheatre.co.uk/production/playbox-takeover-2022/