Interview with Lonely Company, Boyd School Studios

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    28 September 2016


    Ever wondered what happens when three playwrights occupy a studio together? We sat down with Lonely Company - Bridget Mackey, Morgan Rose and Fleur Kilpatrick to find out more about their attempts to take the loneliness out of the solo pursuit of writing and what they get up to in their Boyd School studio. 

    Tell us a bit about Lonely Company – how did it come about and what’s the idea behind it?

    To us, Lonely Company is about filling a gap. Bridget Mackey, Morgan Rose and I (Fleur Kilpatrick) are playwrights and we know how isolating writing can be and how important it is to have support around you. The first draft of a play is often the most lonely. After that - if you are lucky - a company or a creative team might begin to come on board. Perhaps you have actors around for dinner and bribe them - wine in exchange for a script reading. We wanted to be there for our fellow playwrights in that first draft and to help them find that creative team or willing group of actors for development. I think the idea of peer-to-peer support means a lot to us all. We try not to use words like 'mentor' because often we are working with playwrights as experienced as ourselves and we don't want to act like we have all the answers. Rather, it is about artists being able to help each other and offering support as we find the play.

    You are based at Boyd Studios in Southbank. What do you love about your creative space?

    Everything! The building is so beautiful. We love that it is simultaneously full of life and yet has the gentle quiet that we need to work. We love sharing the space with artists of different disciplines: sometimes we forget there is a world outside of theatres! Plus, high ceilings, beautiful neighbours and our own library downstairs.

    What’s a typical day in the studio like for you?

    It is a bit different for all of us. I often start with a writing warm up. I sit in our armchair and do 15 minutes of associative writing or find poetic metaphors for the world I am going to be writing that day or the characters I'll be creating. I usually then set myself a number of goals or tasks. 'Explore place. What is this town even like and how does it impact on the characters?' or 'Be explicit. This isn't time for metaphor. Writing a monologue that lays out exactly what is going on and you can pull it back later.' or 'Cut ten pages. Do it. You'll feel better.' Then I do those tasks. Somewhere in the day is often a meeting with a playwright or a wonderful, reviving conversation with Bridget or Morgan. That is the beautiful thing about sharing your studio with dear friends, whom you love and respect as artists: we support each other as much as our resident playwrights.

    What are you currently reading?

    The Luminaries, To Kill A Mockingbird, an analysis of Julius Caesar and Imperial Reckoning, on the Kikuyu uprising.

    What are you currently listening to?

    So many podcasts and the wonderful Austin 100 playlist, put out by NPR.

    What are you currently watching?

    Morgan and I are both very into Jane the Virgin.

    How has your creative space informed your practice?

    I think, for all of us, it has made us less lonely. Which is appropriate. In trying to make others less isolated, I think we've made a community for ourselves as well. Every day in this space feels like a beautiful relief.

    Is there a tension between writing and theatre? The solitary process vs the social/performative development?

    Of course this tension exists. Playwrights can often be found speaking out loud to ourselves while we work, we're holding the voices of many characters in our head. At some point in our work, we need other people to fulfil our vision. Lonely Company seeks to ease this tension between the solitary writing time and the more social performance development time by making the actual writing process less lonely.

    Some great comedy and performance has been generated by creative trios – what do you three each bring to the table and what makes it work?

    Ha! We were tempted to just send you the email thread of us working out how to answer this one and what we each bring but we'll say this: I think we all share a lot of core creative values and skills. We all are passionate playwrights and, despite writing in different genres, we all approach plays as evolving things, rather than a known quantity and are constantly playing with form and structure. All three of us have a clear vision of how we want the company to function and a pretty die hard attitude to getting what we want. But of course we also bring individual strengths to the company. We think about this a lot when it comes to pairing playwrights with us: whom will get the most from whom and which playwright will teach us the most.

    What are some projects you have in the pipeline?

    Bridget is writing a storyline for Pop Up Playground's 'Small Time Criminals' as well as collaborating with South Australian Dancer Carlie Angel on 'Phrenic' a new dance work. Morgan is currently working with Riot Stage Youth Theatre on a new devised work with young people about sex and the internet, as well as developing her script 'Heritage' (working title) with Red Stitch. Her play 'Virgins and Cowboys' will be presented at Griffin Theatre Company in Sydney in 2017. I am currently writing a new play for State Theatre Company of South Australia, am directing Julius Caesar for Essential Theatre as part of Melbourne Fringe and make a monthly podcast called 'Contact Mic' with Sarah Walker and Kieran Ruffles. We don't sleep much.


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