Six performers, playwrights, and dramaturgs walk into an apartment.

And they represent the cutting-edge of new theatre being developed in London. Rehearsals for Saturday, March 31’s Tinkerspace Play Labs #2 on the third floor of the ARTS Project have just begun. Tinkerspace Theatre will present staged readings of Raymond Moreau’s SNAP and Tyler Graham’s Dead Meat. The new shows will be opened to audience critique in their first public staging, but the rewrites and changes have already begun.

But wait, shouldn’t the scripts be finished if they take the stage in less than a week? Not necessarily. “We’re probably going to be doing a whole lot of writing in this next week, which our actors are luckily willing to deal with,” said Tinkerspace artistic director Tyler Graham with a laugh.

Tinkerspace Play Labs features Raymond Moreau, Stefannie Flannigan, Erin J. Walker, Jade Walker, Tyler Graham, and Demis Odanga.
Tinkerspace Play Labs features Raymond Moreau, Stefannie Flannigan, Erin J. Walker, Jade Walker, Tyler Graham, and Demis Odanga.

Moreau has been working on SNAP’s script for the last year or so. He describes it as an intense show about a single mother that holds up a convenience store. As the police get involved, it becomes clear that the hold-up was about more than just the money. The idea and script are there, but there’s still a fair amount of tweaking that can only come from the opinions of a living, breathing audience.

From page to stage and in-between

Staged readings take place somewhere between writing a show and producing a show. They’re best used for trying plays aloud in the theatre and seeing what works and what won’t fly. It’s a more collaborative process than you might think.

“There’s a myth that playwrighting happens by yourself,” said Graham. “The vast majority of playwrighting comes from presenting to other people. It’s never just the playwright that is responsible for the final product.”

You don’t have to be an expert theatre-goer to give ace advice, you just have to be true to what you feel and know. The more feedback a show has from multiple sources, the more well-rounded it becomes. “It’s important to have different perspectives when you’re writing,” said reader and playwright Stefannie Flannigan. “I can’t write for a 50-year-old man and assume that I know exactly how that character thinks and feels. You have to open it up to different demographics and ask if you’re doing it right.”

But it all passes through the playwright’s filter: they’re the one with the vision, after all. “We want to foster an environment where writers feel confident backing up their ideas,” said artistic director Erin J. Walker. “It’s all very supportive, and they have agency as writers to decide what they’re going to take or what they’re going to leave.”

Creating new London theatre

Tinkerspace Theatre has been providing space for new playwrights since 2014. Co-founding artistic directors Graham and Walker were desperate to get into a room and get the creative playwright juices flowing. There’s something special that comes from having a community of writers supporting each other and talking about their work. “You never know what people are going to offer in the room,” said Flannigan. “And instead of sitting at home in your own head beating yourself for not being creative, it’s easier to have someone else beat you up for it instead.”

The actors and playwrights in the room joke about the supposed ideal playwright sipping their coffee somewhere in a hip café while they effortlessly write intricate characters and dialogues. “That’s maybe the first five minutes of writing, said Walker. “But then you end up staring at the page because it worked so much better in your head. It’s a much longer, more arduous and messy process than we like to think it is.” Exposing your work to the world seems to be the way to go.

Saturday represents the second helping of their 2018 Play Labs. They will workshop six new shows in 2018 and give these creative professionals the help they need to hone their craft. “I think we’re filling a bit of a gap for young and emerging writers. It’s a difficult profession to make a living at and improve in. It’s really important to foster a healthy arts scene in London, no matter how grassroots the effort is.”

Catch their staged readings of Raymond Moreau’s SNAP and Tyler Graham’s Dead Meat at the ARTS Project’s third floor at 7pm on Saturday March 31.

Tickets are $10 cash at the door.

Feature photo by Megan McIntyre of Blue November Photography, via Facebook / @TinkerspaceTheatre

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