2009. január 25., vasárnap

After the Fall rehearsed readings from the best of the playwriting workshop

After the Fall -
only in Hungary: playwriting workshop  for young talents in the framework of the Goethe Institute's project

30 January 2009 - National Theatre Budapest

Concept and workshop leader: Merényi (Lengyel) Anna

With: Bánfalvi Eszter, László Attila, Mertz Tibor, Miklós Marcell, Péterfy Bori, Szalay Mariann

Directing help: Rába Roland

Workshop leader: Márton László, playwright, novelist

In the first half of the evening we heard a selection from the works of Ferencz Csuszner, Márk Péter Vargha and Alice Müller - all debutants who wrote their first play for this workshop, just like Bettina Almássy, whose entire  I am Drowning about an Olympic champion swimmer from the DDR, who slowly and unbeknownst to her, is drugged into becoming a man, was read in the second half of the evening. In between Anna Lengyel interviewed the winners, as well as the playwright László Márton, whom she had asked to be her co-leader in this three-month workshop conceived to discover new talent among the youngest of a country, which has no plywriting program at any of its universities.

The first week of work started in November after 14 of the 32 applicants were selected to participate. The list included the German actress Alice Müller (one of the winners), who has only been living in Hungary for two years, as well as two girls just preparing for their high school graduation, two computer programmers, who were also among the winners, Péter Nádai, the only playwright who has been published before and Márk Péter Vargha, who had never read a play before he applied. Everyone had to apply with a text, which could be a scene, poetry, a novel or even a drama synopsis. During the first week László Márton gave short lectures about different aspects of the writer's job and the applicants kept writing and re-writing, based on what was discussed in the workshop. Two short stories' plots were further developed by the whole group, these became Heartlessness by Vargha and What's Left Behind by Ferencz Csuszner, a writer from Transylvania.  A strong team was formed during the brainstorming and the intense work together despite the different backgrounds and ages ranging from 17 to 35 among the students.  

Which is why despite the fact that only seven texts were selected by the two course-leaders for the second week in December based on the first full act of each play to be submitted, all 14 stayed together to continue the work. The novelty of the December week, as well as a novelty of any writers' workshop in Hungary were the actors, who according to Lengyel's concept joined the group for the afternoon sessions.  This was a new experience for both parties concerned: the writers could hear their lines from the mouths of professional actors and see if the dialogue works and the character is consistent or rich enough, which question was always asked of the performers. On the other hand they had also never worked with a play just being born. Debates about the texts gained a different quality with the theatre people: it was their validity on stage, their logic in that of the theatre which counted. The evening sessions were kept for the literary work with Márton and Lengyel.

The third and final week preceded the reading on the 30th of January. Roland Rába joined the group as an actor, but also as the directing mind and five winners were announced. Péter Nádai's Lonely cedar was not part of the programme, because the writer didn't want an excerpt to be read, but we heard excerpts from Alice Müller's yet incomplete brilliant absurd Elvira and Petunia, perhaps the favourite of the actors who are interested in further developing the work, as well as Márk Péter Vargha's Heartlessness, a story of a brave new world where coming of age is marked by an operation where one loses one's heart and redundant feelings and of a boy, whose heart always grows back, as well as Ferencz Csuszner's What's Left Behind about a Hungarian family in Communist Romania, who take their sick little daughter to the West, leaving their seven-year old son behind. 

It was extremely difficult to declare one winner, but or the purpose of the evening where we promised a full play to be read (with some cuts of course), we voted for Bettina Almássy's I am Drowning.  Almássy is an actress, director and now a playwright, so her most exciting feature perhaps was the way her play was constructed by a clearly very theatrical mind in a fairly unorthodox way.

Lengyel plans to continue working with these authors, but also more importantly devising playwriting workshops to discover young talent, so badly needed on Hungarian stages.

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