I mentioned earlier that I was writing a series of short stories set in the world of amateur drama, a world I inhabited, very happily, for some 20 years. I’ve just now started on the eighth in the series, and I’m enjoying it very much. I learned a lot from writing the first one, and from helpful criticism by friends. It’s down for major revision as a consequence, but I feel it still has potential, and I’ll fillet it considerably.
Each story usually features a single play, and contains some of the action from that play, but the stories are fictions, and the characters are inventions. I have to say that, but in this case it’s true. There are bits of me in them; that’s inevitable, but I won’t say which bits actually happened, and which I’ve made up. Stylistically, I’ve tried to ring the changes in them too: first person, third person, one written solely in dialogue, for example.
I haven’t named or identified any particular drama club, preferring to focus on their common features: how plays are selected, cast, produced, directed and staged. I’ve invented a club called simply The Players, and that’s what I use. I went on a lighting design course once, and as well as the theoretical bits – which were fascinating – I got to know the practicalities of running the lighting for shows in the Church Hill Theatre in Edinburgh. That was fun, and I did several several shows for that club, so one of the stories is Sparks, about doing lights for productions. I was totally smitten by acting, of course, so most of the stories are set around that, but I was also interested in directing, and eventually I realised I was getting at least as much satisfaction from that as acting, so in the later years I did more of that. In amateur drama, the role of director is usually combined with that of producer, so you actually put the show on, as well as working with actors. So some of the stories explore that role.
For most of the time I was working in professional theatres, i.e. theatres set up specifically for staging plays. Those were in Livingston, Edinburgh and Bathgate. I’ve only once acted in a school hall, which is where a lot of clubs have to work. I didn’t like it, so I stopped.
I’ve never written about the theatre before, but this year, for some reason, I had the urge to try writing a short story, and the sequence is the result.
I haven’t yet decided where I’m going with this, maybe a book or a pamphlet, but I’ve started submitting them to magazines and competitions, and I’ll take it from there. At the moment it’s taken over from poetry, but I’ve not been entirely happy with my poetry writing lately, so maybe this break will do me good.