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Tuesdays @ the Theatre | Three approaches to writing for theatre - Business of Writing discussed on World Book and Copyright Day

Published:Monday | April 23, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke/Gleaner Writer
Pierre Lemaire engages audience member Julie Malcolm during 'The Business of Writing' at JAMPRO's Trafalgar Road, New Kingston, offices yesterday morning.
Pierre Lemaire, Dean of the School of Drama, Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, speaking during 'The Business of Writing' at JAMPRO's Trafalgar ERoad, New Kingston, offices yesterday morning.

With humour, audience member engagement, audiovisuals and his obvious passion, Pierre Lemaire, dean of the School of Drama at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, engaged participants yesterday morning, as he explained three approaches to writing for theatre.

Lemaire was the first presenter at The Business of Writing, held at the JAMPRO building on Trafalgar Road, New Kingston, on the second day of the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office's (JIPO) 2018 celebration of International Property Week.

And, as it was World Book and Copyright Day, it was appropriate that writing was explored from various angles and the Jamaican Copyright Licensing Agency (JAMCOPY) involved.

Before his three-pronged approach to answering, 'How Do I Write for the Theatre?', Lemaire defined who the playwright is not writing for - a reader or the audience. With that made clear, for the person writing alone at their desk, Lemaire said, "You are really writing for the director." And not only does the director have his or her own interpretation, but so do the actors and actresses they direct - then the audience has latitude for its own understanding of the production.

An impromptu exchange with Julie Malcolm in the audience indicated the effect a change in tone has on nuance and meaning. Within this context, Lemaire said the writer's work "has to be exactly defined".

To demonstrate this, he asked audience to close their eyes as he said an expensive car stops and a pretty woman steps out. A quick canvas of the room turned up a Jaguar and a Lamborghini as the expensive cars, Lemaire offering possibilities of white, black and brown, jeans or shorts for the woman. Therefore, the writer has to be precise.

The second approach - on stage improvising with actors - is Devising Theatre, and as Lemaire explained, a collaborative process in which the actors develop on the writer's ideas. The Sistren Theatre was given as an example of effectively and harmoniously using that approach. Keeping an awareness of intellectual property, Lemaire said, "You have to be extremely careful ... . You have to make sure the rules are set. You can come to JIPO, and see how do you go from there," he said.

There was laughter throughout the room as Lemaire explained the third approach to writing for theatre - reading books to get inspired. He said that if someone comes up with a script about young lovers from Trench Town and Tivoli determined to pursue a relationship despite their parents' objections, it being seen as a rip-off of Romeo and Juliet, it is not necessarily plagiarism. However, an example of one work being inspired by another, Lemaire said in that case, "Nobody tief anything from anybody." However, he said, if there is no added value: "You tief the script."