måndag 22 december 2014

100 Great Plays for Women

I höstas publicerade Ny Tid min text om Lucy Kerbels bok "100 Great Plays for Women". Ni hittar hela artikeln på Ny Tids hemsida och det som följer här under är min aningen bearbetad översättning av samma text till engelska. En översättning av intervjun jag gjorde med henne är också på kommande.


This autumn Ny Tid published my text about Lucy Kerbel's book "100 Great Plays for Women". You can find the original article (in Swedish) on Ny Tid's homepage and what follows here is my slightly adapted translation of that text to English. A translation of the interview I did with her is also coming.

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The title does, in this case, say it all. In this book director Lucy Kerbel presents 100 plays, and ten monologues, for women. It is of course a selection, not an exhaustive list of all plays ever written through time. In the introduction Kerbel gives an account of the basis for her selection, and explains that there have been two criteria that the plays have had to meet to make the cut as it were. First of all half or more of all the roles should be women, second of all the plays should have been printed so that they are possible to get hold of for the general public. Apart from this the selection is naturally also influenced by Kerbal’s own linguistic background, since she has read plays that are written in, or have been translated into, English. Towards the end of the introduction she adds that she has chosen to only include a playwright once, to avoid making the book a list  of play by writers like April de Angelis, Caryl Chuchill, Sarah Daniels and Bryony Lavery.

The book’s framework is simple, the plays are presented in alphabetical order according to the playwright’s last name. Each play gets a spread [?] which begins with a short summery of the play’s history: when it was first performed; which edition it is available in; how many roles there are and if doublings are possible; and when it comes to translations, which translation she recommends. Each play is introduced with a short synopsis and after that Kerble’s goes into a discussion about the playwright, the play’s background and history, themes or specific characters in the story, depending on the play in question.

Kerbel does not hide the fact that she wants this to be a book that the reader can make practical use of. In England were drama in schools and youth theatre groups are an established part of everyday life this book gives teachers and directors an opportunity to find texts that fit the group they are working with. In the professional theatres (in Finland as well as England) it is a reminder that it is not true that “there are no plays with good parts for women” or that plays that focus on the female experience only deal with women as mothers or partners. Among the independent theatre groups or individual theatre workers this book is a source of information about existing plays or an inspiration for the types of plays that one wants to perform.

It is always possible to discuss the selection, what has been included and what has been excluded, in this type of book. Kerbel writes clearly and consciously about the grounds for the selection and its limitations, and even if the reader might miss a certain play or wonder why another text has been included in the book there is no doubt that it is a question of conscious decisions through and through on the part of the writer.

Personally I came across both familiar and unfamiliar plays and playwrights in the book, plays that have been performed in the Swedish language theatre in Finland, and plays that keep being talked about but so far has not made it as far as onto a stage. Among the plays are also two Nordic works, Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler and a dramatization of Märta Tikkanen’s Århundradets kärlekssaga (Love Story of the Century).

I see no reason to pretend that I do not think this is a fantastic and inspiring book. Both because of the content and because of the idea behind to. To choose to take on statement like “there are no parts for women” and find out to what extent that is actually true or not, to highlight at least some of the available alternatives feels like a constructive and refreshing way to participate in the discussion about equality, in theatre as well as other parts of life. By sticking to the concrete Kerbal’s book also becomes a contribution to a discussion that needs to be continually had about how our canon is formed, maintained and changed. I my view her contribution in the shape of this book leads to the follow up question, why aren’t the plays that actually do exist performed?    

lördag 15 november 2014

Önskelista /// Wish list

Jag har sett en del teater, säkert mera än endel men definitivt mindre än andra. Åtminstone delvis kan jag skylla på min ålder, jag har helt enkelt inte levt tillräckligt länge för att ha haft möjlighet att se så mycket teater. Så därför finns det en hel del pjäser som jag har läst eller läst om och gärna skulle vilja se på scen, som jag inte har haft möjlighet att se. (Sen finns det förstås också vissa specifika uppsättningar av pjäser som jag gärna skulle ha sett, men det är svårare att göra något åt.)

Det här är några av pjäserna (ingen inbördes rangordning) som jag gärna skulle se på scen, så om nån av er har en produktion på gång av någon av dem, säg till, så kommer jag och tittar. Om det är geografiskt möjligt det vill säga.

A Number - Caryl Churchill
By the Bog of Cats... - Marina Carr
Daniel Hjort - J.J. Wecksell
Misantropen - Moliére


I’ve seen a bit of theatre, probably more than some people, but definitely less than some other people. At least partly I feel I can blame my age, I’ve just not lived long enough to have had the time to so that much theatre. Therefore there are plays that I’ve read, or read about, and would very much like to see staged, but haven’t so far had the opportunity. (Then there are of course certain specific productions of plays that I would have loved to have seen, but that’s clearly a lot more difficult to do anything about.)

These are some of the plays (in an arbitrary order) that I’d like to see on stage, so if any of you have a production of one of them in the works, let me know and I’ll come and see it. If it’s geographically possible that is.

A Number - Caryl Churchill
By the Bog of Cats... - Marina Carr
Daniel Hjort - J.J. Wecksell
The Misanthrope - Moliére

torsdag 30 oktober 2014

Undervisa dramatik /// Teaching playwriting

Den här hösten har jag i två olika sammanhang undervisat dramatik och om inget annat så har det förnyat min respekt för alla de personer som jag har haft förmånen att blir handledda av i mitt eget skrivande. För i dramatik finns det en massa regler, samtidigt som det inte finns några regler alls. Kärnan i skrivandet är att berätta sina egen berättelser och då är man tvungen att skapa sina egna regler och hitta sin egen väg. Jag drar mig för att undervisa (vem som helst om vad som helst) eftersom jag har svårt att övertyga mig själv om att jag vet något som någon annan skulle kunna applicera på sitt eget skrivande.  Av någon anledning känns alltid min egen erfarenhet och kunskap liten och betydelselös när jag talar med någon som har två, tre eller fyra gånger så mycket livs- och yrkeserfarenhet. Då försöker jag intala mig själv att det är en bra sak att vara oerfaren, fast jag vet att det är mera undantag än regel.

Just nu tänker jag att jag kanske har haft fel utgångspunkt hittills, kanske det inte är frågan om att kunna något som en kan lära andra. Kanske det är frågan om att gå på en vandring, så även om en inte har gått just den här vägen förut så har en vandrat tidigare, och kanske till och med i landskap och klimat som bjuder på liknande hinder. Så det är inte kunskap om den specifika vägen som är viktig utan om hur man vandrar i allmänhet och hur man kan klara sig i olika typer av miljöer.

När jag tänker på de personer på olika håll i världen som har tagit sig tid att läsa mina texter och prata med mig om dem så har det varit just det att de har tagit sig tid och har tagit texten på allvar som har gett mig mest. I de fallen har det förstås alltid varit frågan om personer med betydligt mera erfarenhet än mig, så det har varit lätt att ta till sig deras kommentarer och funderingar. En annan sak som definitivt spelar in i en sådan relation, som i alla andra, är personkemi, och den är svårare att påverka. Vissa personer verkar intuitivt kunna sätta fingret på det en själv kämpar med att formulera. Andra personer kommer med kommentarer som får en att undra om en skickade dem sitt manus eller sin inköpslista. Den läraren vill ingen vara.

Så i slutändan så kan man inte påverka alla aspekter av en situation där man fungerar som lärare. Någon kommer att tycka att det är givande, andra kommer att tycka det är meningslös, inte bara på grund av innehållet utan också på grund av hurdan man är som person. Det är en tanke som paradoxalt nog är skrämmande och tröstande på samma gång.


This autumn I’ve been teaching playwriting in two different situations and if nothing else it’s renewed my respect for all the people I’ve had the fortune of having worked with on my own writing. Because when it comes to playwriting there are loads of rules, and there are no rules. At the core of writing is the task of telling your own stories and faced with that task you have to make up your own rules and find your own way. I tend to avoid teaching (anyone about anything) since I find it difficult to convince myself that I know anything that anyone else could apply to their own writing. For some reason my own experience and knowledge feels small and meaningless when I’m faced with someone who has two, three or even four times as much experience, from life and this line of work, as me. When that happens I try to convince myself that it’s a good thing to be inexperienced, even though I know that is more of an exception than a rule.

At the moment I’m thinking that maybe I’ve come at this from the wrong end, maybe it isn’t about knowing something that you can teach others. Maybe it’s a question of going on a walk, so that even if you’ve not gone on this particular walk before you have gone on walks, and maybe even in a landscape and climate that provides similar obstacles. So then it isn’t knowledge of the particular walk that’s important, but rather knowledge about how one walks in general and how one survives in different types of surroundings.  

When I think about the people in different places around the world that have taken the time to read my scripts and talk to me about them, it’s always been that, that they’ve taken the time and taken my script seriously that’s helped me most as a writer. In all of those cases it has of course been a question of people who have been considerably more experienced than me, so it’s been very easy to take their comments and questions on board. Another thing that definitely plays a part in a relationship like this, like any relationship, is chemistry, and that is difficult to work on. Some people seem to intuitively be able to put their finger on what you’ve been struggling to try and formulate. Other people ask you questions that make you wonder if you really did send them your script and not you shopping list. Nobody wants to be that teacher.

So in the end you can’t affect all the different aspects that make up a teaching situation. Someone is going to find it great and someone else is going to find it pointless, not only because of the content but also because of who you are as a person. That’s a thought that paradoxically manages to both scare and comfort me at the same time.