By Nay Murphy, 6.2
With the support of Bedales, through the New Views Playwriting and Student Directed enrichments, I’ve written my own script – The Definition of Charisma – and I am being given a space to put it on on Wednesday 16 June in the Drama Studio (performances at 3pm and 7.30pm – book tickets here). This is an incredible way to end my time at Bedales – being supported with producing my own work, and gaining the skills and confidence to continue writing and producing in future with my theatre company, which I founded in Summer 2019 in order to give myself more theatrical opportunities, both in acting and directing, and now writing.
The play explores what it means to have a big imagination; it is about self-love and confidence, discussing religion, sexuality, philosophy and gender. I would say that above all, The Definition of Charisma is about friendship and the intensity that that can bring.
After much procrastination, I wrote the first draft in just three days last August. The process of editing then began, aided by David Anson, Head of English, and Hayley Cole, Head of Drama, who also helped with casting and rehearsal space. David’s advice for Charisma has been invaluable to me; it’s always good to find someone whose opinion you trust to ask for feedback on personal work and David is a teacher who is there to encourage through honesty, speaking to you like a grown person. Hayley provided an invaluable theatrical lens on the script, making me think more about the audience and other stage aspects. Hayley also forwarded my script to other theatre experts working at Bedales. My teachers at Bedales have really made this happen for me and their encouragement and genuine interest in my passion has continued to drive me forward. As part of the Drama enrichment I entered my script into the New Views Competition at the National Theatre and recently heard that it was longlisted.
The Definition of Charisma is a two-hander performed by the hilarious Ella Peattie, a fellow 6.2 student, and myself. Due to COVID, the original performance time was delayed. This said, we continued our weekly rehearsals over Zoom, working on characterisation; my idea for the rehearsal process was to form deep connections and understandings of our characters in order to allow for a fluid and natural staging. This is a technique influenced by Meisner, who focuses on reacting in the present moment, believing that no two performances should be the same. I’ve recently learned about this method through the Wednesday Industry Workshops programme, a class led by Ben Press, who will continue advice for me practically in rehearsal before the performance, given we got along so well.
I run the ‘NYT Playwriting Group’ at the National Youth Theatre and brought Ella along with me to a Tuesday-night Zoom to do a short R&D of our play – we did a play reading and received feedback from the fellow Playwriting Group members. This was extremely helpful for both of us as actors, and for me as a writer. Specifically, it was extremely special to hear people debate over themes in the play and Charlie and Sophia’s characters – something I had created was raising discussion. I then proceeded to write the final draft.
I’ve learned in the rehearsal process that performing one’s own work can be quite challenging – I’m performing a kind of version of myself, who’s also not me. It becomes hard to think of the character objectively, given that they are my own creation. This is a challenge I’m completely willing and happy to face and intrigued to see the outcome. Only by accepting challenges and having a willingness to fail can we produce our best work; this is definitely something I learned at the National Youth Theatre and at Bedales.
I write and I act because I’m curious about how people’s minds work and what drives them to perform certain actions. I think this is what primarily drives me forward, as well as the idea of empathy – if I can make an audience have a little more empathy after watching a performance of mine, then I’ve achieved my goal with it. As seen very recently with increased xenophobia, people often forget the humanity of others.
Ella and I are rehearsing the performance intensely during the 6.2 bridging courses over the period of a week. Student Directed is a drama bridging course and I’ve been offered extra support with industry professionals coming in for support, such as Ben Press’ return to help after we got along in his Meisner workshop. We really hope you can come and enjoy the hard work we’ve put into this.
Here’s what Ella has to say: “Sophia is an enigma. Cultivating her thoughts and reactions has been confusing, yet thrilling. It’s been a delightful experience creating her life story, cultivating her manner of walking and so much more. Come and see this freaky, fun-packed show.”
Tickets are available here: https://www.bedales.org.uk/event/definition-charisma
There will also be a stream of the performance later on in the summer – you can visit my theatre company website and join the mailing list to keep up to date at nakedbear.org.