Off the Page at Lancaster University

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How could we bring Off the Page to life?

Naomi and I are both Associate Lecturers at Lancaster University pursuing Creative Writing PhD’s (Naomi has completed the program and is now Dr. Naomi). The University seemed like the perfect place to launch our initiative. Enter┬áKaren Juers Munby, Director of the Theater Department.┬áKaren’s enthusiasm, personality and experience made her a perfect fit to lead student actors through rehearsals and to an engaging workshop experience.

The first Off the Page workshop included two prose pieces and several poems and offered the writers the opportunity to see performers bring their characters to life. The performances were moving and lively from versions of Mary to multi-faceted characters, from youth to the future; the first performance had a range of topics and genres.

After the workshop, facilitated by Naomi and I, the discussion allowed writers to ask actors about some of the creative decisions and allowed actors to ask writers about their visions of the pieces. The discussion offered all of us insight and perspective into how performers translate text and how text lends itself to interpretation and translation.

We are preparing to host the next Off the Page event as part of Authors in the World on March 12.

I’m looking forward to another night of chills as actors bring characters off the page and in to life.UK Experience as of Feb 2014 052

Welcome to Off the Page

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Writing does not have to be a solitary pursuit.

Writing does not have to be a solitary pursuit.

Off the Page workshops bring your characters to life. These character-driven workshops allow writers to see their characters interact, breathe, move and react according to the text. They allow writers to see narrators engaging the audience; to watch characters navigate scenes, to hear characters dialogue and to feel what works and what doesn’t.Through professional actors, these workshops offer writers real-time interaction with their characters the way readers interpret them.

At the end of each workshop, writers have the opportunity to ask the actors questions, to provide feedback and are given written feedback by writing workshop leaders. The actors are also given feedback by the group and have the opportunity to speak with the writers to gain valuable insight on how their work is received by its creators.

The workshops are open to the public.

Who is Off the Page for?

Writers at any stage of development benefit from feedback. Off the Page workshops help writers engage with their characters as actors (readers) interpret them.

 

How Off the Page Came About

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Phone booths are like feedback; timeless and still valuable.

Phone booths are like good feedback: timeless and still valuable.

Ever since I started teaching creative writing seven years ago I’ve enjoyed watching students develop their writing through feedback and workshops. Workshops offer students the opportunity to receive feedback directly from their audience, the opportunity to watch readers react and the chance to hear how readers interpret the text without writer interference. These interactions along with constructive feedback help many writers bring work from draft to publication.

Along with reading work prior to workshops, I had students read one another’s works in class; there’s something powerful and humbling about hearing your words in someone else’s mouth. Today, in my workshops and seminars I have students read their peer’s plays, monologues and poems out loud. These experiences are educational and entertaining. Through performances student writers can see what’s working and hear what isn’t.

But most of my students aren’t actors. Sometimes my students humor me by acting out scenes and reading dramatically and the classes and I appreciate the effort. Still, I wanted more. Off the Page (a name coined by Jenn Ashworth) was born. I pictured actors bringing writers’ characters to life; adding dimensions to page and depth to story. I wanted performances that allowed writers to see characters with words stuck in their throats; dancers stuck in first position; characters engaging in a crowded bar devoid of background (because someone had forgotten to recreate the scene). Off the Page offers writers the chance to see the holes in narrative before submitting pieces for publication. Equally as important, Off the Page allows writers to take work from work-in-progress to a piece that works.

After the performances, writers and actors explore choices and presentation both on and off the page.

Actors. Writers. Feedback.

How can I do it by myself?

I don’t.

I’ve been very fortunate to have surrounded myself with talented people who believe in my dreams and help me bring them to life. Naomi Kruger came on board when Off the Page was an idea I toted around in a notebook. Together we are envisioning and creating partnerships to make Off the Page adaptable to various situations.