Literatures, Languages & Cultures

Playwriting students’ work ‘pre-views’ at Traverse Theatre

Extracts from new plays by five students on our MSc in Playwriting programme are being read for a public audience as part of the 70th Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

What’s it like for emerging playwrights to have their work read by professional actors in front of a live audience? For students on the MSc in Playwriting programme in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) at the University of Edinburgh, this is the culmination of a year’s work in which they develop new writing for live performance.

'Pre-View' at Traverse Theatre takes place over two nights as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the largest arts festival in the world which this year celebrates its 70th anniversary.

In partnership with Playwrights' Studio, Scotland, work by Sonya Hayden, Catriona Scott and Andy Moseley will be read on Monday 7th August 2017, followed, a week later, by work by Brandon Shalansky and Carolyn Yates on Monday 14th August 2017.  

‘Something I would never have imagined happening when I first started writing plays’

The MSc in Playwriting at the University of Edinburgh was established in 2012 and is led by award-winning professional playwright Nicola McCartney.

The professional rehearsed readings at Traverse Theatre are unique to the programme; no other course in the UK or Ireland offers this element.

Andy Moseley, who first “fell in love with Edinburgh” on a visit to the Fringe in 2004, says the Traverse showcase was one of the main draws of the programme, along with its structure and content, and the allure of Edinburgh as a city.

For Catriona Scott, who chose the programme because “it offered the highest level of professional interaction of all the courses I researched”, “it is incredibly exciting, and nerve-wracking, to have my work performed at Scotland’s foremost theatre for new writing, and something I would never have imagined happening when I first started writing plays!”

‘I've learned so much from the workshops about collaborating with other artists’

While the professional readings mark a highlight in the MSc in Playwriting’s calendar, they are not the first time that the students have worked with Traverse Theatre.

The programme has involved a number of workshops throughout the year to develop scripts with professional theatre directors and actors, from the Traverse and beyond.

Sonya Hayden, who studied music and theatre at Princeton University before moving to Edinburgh, chose the MSc precisely because it takes this very practical approach to the study of playwriting.

With particular praise for Nicola McCartney’s “insightful feedback and excellent guidance”, she says “plays are meant to be read aloud and interpreted by actors, directors, and designers. I've learned so much from the workshops about collaborating with other artists, and the seminars have given me useful tools for approaching structure and characters”.

What next for our emerging playwrights?

Thinking about how her work has developed since the start of the programme, Catriona Scott says “it’s much more complex and far better crafted. Working alongside a group of amazing writers, as well as with professional directors and actors has, I feel, really challenged me and taken my work to a higher level”.

For Brandon Shalansky, whose first degree was in creative writing, “the programme has been a vehicle for me to experiment with form and push my own creative voice in ways I couldn't have otherwise”.

Andy Moseley muses “To quote Elvis Presley, a key thing I've learned that will help shape my work could be summed up as 'A little less conversation, a little more action please’.”

As the fifth year of the programme draws to a close, Nicola McCartney reflects that “most of our graduates have gone on to work in the theatre and performance industries, and many have been nominated for, and won, prestigious playwriting awards”.

Are you interested in studying for an MSc in Playwriting at LLC?

Our unique and practical masters programme is taught over one year (full time) or two years (part time) through a dynamic combination of seminars, workshops, one-to-one supervision and professional masterclasses.

Find out more about our MSc in Playwriting