Inna Tsrylin’s play ‘Tatiana, Dragon and Friend’ was one of four new scripts developed this year in MWT’s Page to Stage dramaturgical program. In the lead-up to the online presentation of ‘Tatiana, Dragon and Friend’ in The Salon Readings on Tuesday 16th November, we asked Inna about her thoughts on the dramaturgical process, the value of collaboration, her writing practice and the extent to which she draws on her cultural and linguistic background when creating a new piece of theatre.
Question: Your new play ‘Tatiana, Dragon and Friend’ was further developed this year through the Page to Stage dramaturgical program. To what extent – minimal or extensive – has it changed as a result of this process? And to what extent have these changes occurred as a direct product of your collaboration with your dramaturg and creative team – or would they perhaps have occurred to you, as the creator, in their own time, without this input from others?
I love theatre because it’s collaborative and I think the Page to Stage program really embraced that aspect. I was very fortunate to have worked with Cathy Hunt who provided thoughtful and considered feedback, for which the play is now in a much better shape. I’m also very grateful for the chance to have heard the play read out loud in October by a group of actors. It was no longer voices in my head, I could actually start hearing what worked and what didn’t. I love actors so much for that gift. The first audience to a piece is usually the dramaturg, director, and actors, and if they respond to the work in a way that I’m after, it’s usually a good indication of how the general audience will respond. I try to write for the creative team. It’s them I have to impress or make them laugh or give them something to work with. They are the key to the play coming to life.
Question: Do you think that a playwright’s best work can ever be written in isolation – without being read by, workshopped with or reflected upon by one’s artistic peers – or will it just be a completely different play that is produced?
As a medium, theatre is meant to be performed and lives on stage. There are a few geniuses out there who can write in isolation and bring a polished draft for the actors to rehearse, but honestly, what’s the fun in that? When I’ve been in the rehearsal room and the director suggests “how about we try this” or when an actor says “let me take it again because I realised what this scene is about”, that’s the gold. Unlocking moments in the play, digging deeper into the characters, creating theatrical images, all of these may start with words on a page, but the real magic is when you have bodies in the room. It’s a brilliant medium because as a playwright you work not only with your own imagination and craft, but with other artists and all their tools, all in the service of the play.
Question: Thinking back across your playwriting journey to date – do any of your produced plays spring to mind as having had an easier/shorter journey from start to finish than another? To what do you attribute that ease or brevity of development?ANSWER:
Most plays follow a similar journey for me in the sense that the first draft is written fairly quickly, and then it’s the beautiful and gruelling task of re-writing. The adage that writing is rewriting could not be more accurate to describe my process. I agonise over a line, then I realise I have a bigger problem with character development, then I go through a phase of not knowing how to fix anything, then I wake up way too earlier realising that the answers to all the problems in the play were there all along and I need to run to the computer and get back to writing. I try to develop a relationship with the play so that the characters start to speak to me and it’s them, not me, who start to reveal things about themselves; I’m just there to transcribe.
Question: How do your cultural and linguistic origins influence your writing practice? And do you feel that this influence, in some or all cases, is an unconscious or automatic one?
My Soviet Jewish background is all over my work. First, it’s the reason I took up writing, there are too many Russian and Jewish playwrights to name, but their influence on me is very present in my artistic journey. Second, there is a lot of rich material to mine in my cultural and linguistic background which is what, I hope, gives me a unique voice. Plus, I grew up in Australia and have lived overseas for a while, all of these experiences have given me plenty to write about. All of the writers I admire lived very rich and even tumultuous lives, which is why they wrote. Authenticity and truth are vital to any art form, and you can only gleam those truths from engaging with life and digging into who you are as a person.
We’d love you to join us for a screening of ‘Tatiana, Dragon and Friend’
and the other scripts developed through the Page to Stage
in The Salon Readings, to be presented online from
15th – 18th November @ 7pm nightly.
For details of the participating writers, dramaturgs and artists,
PLUS the Zoom log-in details for each of the plays,
click here: The Salon Readings 15th – 18th November @ 7pm
And we’ll see you there!