Elyse Dodgson reports on her recent work in Cuba
16 June 2016
Elyse Dodgson, Head of the International Department at the Royal Court Theatre, offers an insight into the creative process behind the theatre’s ever ambitious and crucially important International Playwrights Programme. With support and funding from the Genesis Foundation, Elyse and her team are able to nurture emerging talent and develop ground-breaking work with playwrights from all over the world. In this post, Elyse writes about the work currently being undertaken with young and upcoming Cuban writers:
The Royal Court Theatre has been working with emerging playwrights in Cuba since 2002. We have now worked with over 50 Cuban writers over the last 14 years and four different groups on long term projects. During that time we have invited over a dozen Cuban playwrights to London and many Royal Court writers and directors have led the workshops in Cuba. Many of the early writers are now some of the most produced playwrights in the country. None of this could have happened without the support of the Consejo Nacional de Artes Escenicas (CNAE), the British Council and the Genesis Foundation which supports all the Royal Court’s international work.
The impetus for the latest work came in 2014. We had not worked in Cuba for four years and there was a new group of young writers who were eager to take part. When I visited Havana in advance of the workshop, I found many more theatres involved in new writing, artistic directors interested in developing contemporary plays and young writers who said they had new and urgent stories to tell. The first workshop began with 14 writers and playwrights Stephen Jeffreys, Vivienne Franzmann and myself. Cuba was beginning to undergo big changes and the writers were keen to explore the effects of these changes on those whose lives would be deeply affected from different generations. By October 2015 we had new drafts from all of the writers and worked on their problems and possibilities with Stephen Jeffreys who was now joined by playwright April De Angelis. It was on this second workshop that we went to see a new play by one of our previous writers, “Mecanica” by Abel Gonzalesz Melo directed by Carlos Celdran. I was thrilled to see Carlos again, who I first met in 2002, and to talk about his interest in the new Cuban writers. It had been a dream of many years to invite one of Cuba’s most influential and brilliant directors to work on these plays with us.
In May 2016, Stephen, April and I returned to Cuba to live and work with ten of the writers for four days. It was an intense and inspiring time and all the writers felt ready to complete the final work on their play. In the second part of the workshop, we were joined by Carlos Celdran and a group of devoted and gifted Cuban actors. For the next four days we worked on scenes from six of the plays. It was thrilling to observe the rigour and detail of the work between Carlos, the writers and the actors. I truly believe the work reached a new depth and understanding in such a short time. On the evening of the 25th of May the work was presented at the Sala Llaurado in Havana. It was an experience I will never forget, so moving to share this work in progress with a Cuban audience. There is more work to be done as we expect the new drafts in less than one months’ time. I look forward to the next steps with great excitement.
It has been an enormous privilege to work with Cuban theatre practitioners over the last 14 years. These projects thrive on continuity and longevity. I hope that audiences in Cuba and the UK will see the results of this current project very soon. It has been a remarkable time for the Royal Court team.
To find out more about the Genesis Foundation’s partnership with the Royal Court Theatre, click here.