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Will Kerley Interview

Posted on 05 February 2004. © Copyright 2004-2018 WriteWords
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WriteWords talks to Will Kerley, director and dramaturg for new writing in theatre and opera

Tell us something about your background.

Iím a freelance director of both theatre and opera. Along the way, in the field of new writing, Iíve worked as a script reader for the National, Bush Theatre and Soho Theatre, developed plays for various independent producers and at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. I have judged new playwriting competitions and have directed new plays - the first productions of Gill Adamsí Jump to Cow Heaven, which won awards at Edinburgh, Anna Reynoldsí Goodbye Stranger with a cast of 30 actors, and, most recently, Richard Beanís brilliant new play The God Botherers, at the Bush Theatre. Iíve also directed a new opera called The Embalmer for the Almeida Opera Festival, starring Ian McDiarmid, and set in Leninís Mausoleum in Moscow.

How did you first get involved with new writing?

When I left Dartington College of Arts, I co-founded a company called Actiontrack Performance Company, we toured the South West Arts region, devising shows from scratch in special needs and mainstream schools, with young offenders and community groups; making shows from nothing in as little as a week. It was Ďfast foodí, but a huge learning experience, dealing with as many as a hundred people on stage, sometimes half of whom were in wheelchairs; making theatre from scratch under pressure. The third night of the process weíd be up all night trying to bash a text into shape from the songs and scenes the cast had devised and scripted. So, from early on, I had a sense that all kinds of people can write; that itís a skill we get turned off by bad teachers, in the same way as we get told weíre unmusical or canít draw. Iím pleased to say that Actiontrack is still going strong, and Iím still involved in its work as a consultant.

What has been the highlight of your work with new writing so far?

Directing plays with living writers around to develop the text, watching writers in action, honing material, developing ideas.



A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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Comments by other Members



Joelrj at 15:05 on 06 February 2004  Report this post
Will, I appreciate your honesty. I've known a few directors who manage to always talk about themselves in every conversation, but rarely about how they "see"--That's far more useful for us writers. We should be imagining more.

I'm curious how your devised work (student/post-student) informs your view to direction these days. I left college in that vein, devised theater, directing, but got switched off when I realized I had to make a living and I was just too young to know how to make things happen. Now I've found that my playwriting can actually make space for exploration and lab theatre. So I've been challenging myself to give such opportunities to directors and actors within my texts.

Of course, its hard to be open and make less conclusions sometimes. But I believe text can be bodily as much as spoken or sung. One thing I wanted to share with you and whomever else might read this--I've recently moved to London from the states and I'm happily dwelling in the culture shock. Trying to learn the dialect/language, but also enjoying not knowing it too. I think the challenge of writing is to act innocent, but at the sametime, to know yourself too.


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