20/20: Playwriting / Pedagogy (2010)


  • 20 years of the Birmingham Playwriting MA/MPhil(B)
  • 20 new plays by graduate playwrights
  • 20 papers on the pedagogy of playwriting

University of Birmingham, Selly Oak Campus
Saturday March 13th– Sunday March 14th, 2010

2009/10 marked the twentieth anniversary of the foundation of what was then the MA in Playwriting in Birmingham, the first course of its kind in Britain.  To mark this anniversary, 20/20 reflected on the impact of the study of playwriting on dramatic writing within the theatre and beyond.  The weekend included the début of 20 specially commissioned short plays by graduates of the Birmingham course.  Panels of speakers included some of the most active and influential playwrights, academics, and critics working in Britain, Europe, and the USA.

The conference attempted to define a lexicon of dramaturgical terms, survey the extent and validity of the playwriting literature, examined how playwriting is taught and nurtured at different levels of educational and artistic endeavour and through a comparative account of its place in the US, Britain and Germany, questioned what form plays for our times should actually take, pondered the old chestnut that theory and practice don’t mix, looked at how playwriting is developed in theatres, on radio and in schools.   

20/20 plays by:  Clare Bayley, Craig Baxter, Helen Blakeman, Ben Brown, Stephanie Dale, Rod Dungate, George Gotts, Lucy Gough, Tony Green, Fraser Grace, Sarah Grochala, Nancy Harris, Duncan Macmillan, Charles Mulekwa, Amy Rosenthal, Carolyn Scott Jeffs, Tim Stimpson, Anthony Weigh, Lance Woodman, Sarah Woods

Panellists included:

Mark Bly,Senior Dramaturg and Director of New Play Development at the Alley Theatre, Houston, TX.

David Edgar, plays include Destiny, The Life and Times of Nicholas Nickleby, Testing the Echo founder of the MA in Playwriting whose book How Plays Work is published by Nick Hern

Dr Ken Cerniglia, theatre scholar and dramaturg, who works for Disney Theatricals, and will offer the view from Broadway.

Maja Zade, Dramaturg at the Lehninerplatz Schaubühne, which has led Europe in establishing the collaboration of the playwright, the director, and the dramaturg in producing new work. Zade has also worked as a senior reader at the Royal Court Theatre.

Jack Bradley, dramaturg and writer, former literary manager National Theatre

Dan Rebellato Cathy Turner, Mary Luckhurst, Kara Reilly, Ian Brown, Karen Juers Munby, Liz Tomlin, Steve Waters, Anthony Weigh, Julie Wikinson, Peter Wild, Caroline Jester and others.


Saturday 13th:

10 to 10.30: registration and coffee

11: Opening , Mark Bly key-note

12 – 1.15: Making Playwrights: Four Case Studies on Campus and Beyond
Kara Reilly on US, Ian Brown on US and Scotland, Julie Wilkinson on North-West, Jim Fitzmorris, Tulane – chair Anmarie Macdonald

1.15 Lunch

2 – 3.30 first performance of 20/20 plays
Ben Brown, Sarah Woods, Sarah Grochala, Nancy Harris, Craig Baxter, Stephanie Dale, Tony Green, Anthony Weigh, George Gotts, Tim Stimpson

4 – 5.30 – Alternative pedagogies, alternative plays:
Liz Tomlin, Cathy Turner, Karen Juers Munby, chair Jackie Bolton

6 – 7.30 – Supper and an installation of a verbatim play based on a lexicon of dramaturgical terms

7.30 – 9  Second performance of 20/20 plays
Charles Mulekwa, Lance Woodman, Fraser Grace, Duncan Macmillan, Lucy Gough, Carolyn Scott-Jeffs, Rod Dungate, Helen Blakeman, Amy Rosenthal, Clare Bayley

Sunday 14th:

10.00 start –  The 20/20 generation: David Edgar and after
David Edgar on the founding of the Birmingham MA/MPhil; Sarah Woods, Ben Brown, chair Grace Tanswell

11.30 – 1  Writing in Theory: between reflection and production
Anthony Weigh, Dan Rebellato, Mary Luckhurst, Steve Waters on tensions writing/teaching, chair Jacqueline Bolton

1.15-2.15 Lunch

2.30- 3.45 – Playwriting outside the academy:
Peter Wild, Caroline Jester, Ken Cerniglia, chair Helen Nicholson

4.15-6 – Pedagogy of Playwriting forum: practitioners in dialogue:
Mark Bly, Jack Bradley, David Edgar, Maja Zade, John Ginman chaired by Steve Waters