Stephen Joseph Theatre takes OutReach classes online for summer sessions

Playwright Nick Lane: Leading the Beginner’s Playwriting online course. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

SCARBOROUGH’S Stephen Joseph Theatre is moving its OutReach classes online from next week.

The first to do so will be the Beginner’s Playwriting course, running for five weeks from Tuesday, June 9, led at 11.30am each week by South Yorkshire playwright Nick Lane, who has written the SJT’s Christmas show for the past four years.

“Has lockdown got you feeling locked up? Have you had enough of seeing/posting pictures of homemade frittatas on Instagram? Are you looking for something creative to do before you watch the whole of Netflix again?” asks Nick, whose adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes story The Sign Of Four played the SJT last spring.

“If you fancy trying your hand at playwriting, the SJT has got you covered with a course for first-time writers covering everything from character to dialogue to plot, through structure, editing and rewriting…which you can now do from your own home. 

“You could even do it while watching Netflix and making a frittata.* The course is simple, it’s fun and it might just help you uncover a talent you didn’t know you had.”

Why did you put the asterisk after that “making a frittata” line, Nick? What’s the caveat? “It’s not recommended. Seriously, you might burn yourself.” Good point!

Rounders, the SJT youth theatre, will go online from Tuesday for five weeks, led by the SJT’s associate director for children and young people, Cheryl Govan, and associate director Chelsey Gillard.

They will deliver three free virtual sessions per week: on Tuesdays, for ages eight to 11; Wednesdays, for 15-plus; Thursdays, for 12 to 14 years, each from 4pm to 5pm.

Cheryl says: “For all our current members, we’ve not forgotten about you! Rounders will be moving online. It won’t be the same, but we can assure you it will be fun and a great chance to catch up with all your friends for some virtual Rounders nonsense. Make sure your parents check their emails: we’ll be in touch!”

For five weeks from June 10, from 11.30am to 1.30pm each Wednesday, fun and friendly Script Reading classes will explore the work of Restoration playwrights. 

Participants will read aloud texts from the 17th century and work with SJT associate director Chelsey Gillard to look at the themes, stories, writing styles and historical context.

Digital copies of plays, including George Etheredge’s The Man Of Mode and Aphra Behn’s The Rover, will be provided and participants will be given a link to join each weekly session.

“I’m very excited that we will be exploring this unique era of playwriting that delighted audiences when theatres reopened after an 18-year ban [in 1660 at the start of Charles II’s reign],” says Chelsey.

“Theatre became a way to celebrate and reflect on society, so it’s the perfect inspiration as we wait to also re-open our doors.”

Script Surgeries in one-to-one sessions on Zoom will be available with professional literary consultant Suzy Graham-Adriani, who is best known for creating the National Theatre’s Connections programme.

She will read scripts in development to give individual, detailed feedback, exploring ways to take the script to the next draft and, if appropriate, ways to move it forward.

Suzy was responsible for commissioning and developing the first 100 plays and musicals from writers such as Alan Ayckbourn, Bryony Lavery, Mark Ravenhill, Dennis Kelly and Poet Laureate Simon Armitage. 

Cheryl concludes: “We are, of course, really looking forward to re-opening the theatre and welcoming our community back to our popular classes. But until that’s possible, we hope that as many people as possible will join us online. We’ll be adding more soon.”

For more information on the online classes, go to: The Beginner’s Playwriting course costs £35 for all five sessions; Script Reading classes, £5 per week or £20 if you book all five; Script Surgeries, £100.