Write the Girl
What is it?
The Write the Girl Project is motivated by the frustration felt by teachers and students in their search for meaningful stories, suitable for large casts, that stretch, challenge and engage a generation of young women often marginalised by a male-dominated canon. Write The Girl is a partnership between schools, writers and theatre professionals, supporting playwrights as they develop the meaningful stories our young women deserve.
Why are we doing this?
As secondary schools seeking meaningful artistic experiences for our students, we are beholden on the industry to produce new work with large casts which we can then produce. Furthermore, we need plays which allow at least equal opportunities for young women, featuring narratives in which women do more than “watch and weep” while the men drive the action forward.
Given the shortage of such plays, we are using independent sector resources to kick-start the creation of a set of new works, under the project title “Write the Girl”. We hope that at least some of these projects will go on to be picked up for professional realisation. The project is designed to provide writers with a service: the workshopping of their developing ideas, and constructive feedback on their proposals. Whilst some might receive a full production in a school setting, the ultimate aim is to get these plays out into full public view, in professional theatre settings.
Since our launch in January 2019, we have been very busy!
Our call to arms has definitely been answered. Over the course of March and April, we were able to accommodate over 30 writers in the workshopping of their material with students from LEH, Hampton High and even some recent alumnae. The students worked brilliantly to pick apart the writers’ proposals, stage scenes, offer their thoughts and experiment with a variety of staging options. Writers came away full of ideas to develop their initial thoughts into full proposals, and were hugely complimentary of the students, noting how confident, knowledgeable and fabulous they were to work with! Their brilliance came as no surprise to us, but we were particularly thrilled with how they rose to the challenge and worked so conscientiously on the writers’ material.
Following this string of workshops, 26 writers submitted final proposals outlining their vision for a full scale production of their plays. These were collated into one Super-Pack which has been distributed to all GSA schools in the country with the aim of several being picked up for commission.
St Albans High School for Girls were the first school to grasp an idea with both hands, commissioning Beth Flintoff (writer of The Glove Thief) to write Milady. “I’m busy working on the first draft of my play about female spies in the Seventeenth Century for St Albans High School for Girls” says Beth. “After meeting with Holly, the Head of Drama, having lots of conversations on the phone about how we want to work together, and discussing the sort of story we want to tell, I started researching in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Then I met the students in October and we did a workshop on some of the ideas. It was really helpful to see them in action and I’ve been keeping them in my mind as I write. It was particularly useful to see how very able they are as actresses so I can be really ambitious with my characters and the story. I can’t wait for them to see the first draft next term – fingers crossed they like it!”
We are very excited to see the realisation of Milady and are thrilled that Beth and St Albans are working so positively together.
At LEH we knew we wanted to commission at least one idea from Write the Girl, but with the flood of fantastic material that came in, we decided to commission two!
Our school play, Wellington 24 written by Rachel Harper (whose one woman play Rattled was nominated for an Off West End Award) tells the story of the women who worked on the building of a Wellington Bomber in under 24 hours as part of a World War Two propaganda event. The play is a testament to female friendship, camaraderie and a stoic determination to get the job done in circumstances many feel ambiguous about. The play neither condones nor condemns the war, but instead explores the people affected by it, particularly those left behind trying to make sense of it all.
Rehearsals are well underway and students from LEH and Hampton High are working tirelessly to bring this story to life. We have been lucky enough to have Rachel join us for several rehearsals and the students have really appreciated working so closely with her. The ability to ask a playwright about their specific intentions and aims is a privilege, and it’s been fascinating (not to mention incredibly helpful!) having her input throughout this process. In Rachel many of the students have found a role model, and it’s so exciting to see their admiration and enthusiasm for her work come out in rehearsals.
The second play we have commissioned to be our L5 play joint with Hampton High is Lady Malcolm's Ball by Freddie Machin (writer of feature film Chicken and play The Real Estate), based on the true story of Lady Malcolm herself. The play is an exciting, bold and hilarious exploration of rebellion; rebelling against class, gender, family and societal expectations. “In a bid to become the most charitable woman in society,” Freddie explains, “Lady Malcolm throws a ball for all the servants in London. It becomes so popular that in the early 1930s it moves to the Royal Albert Hall, attracting celebrity guests and huge media attention. But it also attracts subversion and transgression. Lady Malcolm doesn’t invite cross dressers, and drag queans, but they come, and leave a social revolution in their wake.”
Auditions for Lady Malcolm’s Ball will be taking place at the end of January and we are already chomping at the bit, eager to get started. This play is going to be an explosion of colour and revelry- it’s going to be so much fun and we can’t wait to cast it and see what the students can bring to it.
As I said, we’ve been busy! And it’s not over yet…
On Monday 10th February we are opening our Wellington 24 dress rehearsal to writers from Write the Girl and representatives from GSA schools in London. Not only will this be the premier performance of a play bourne out of Write the Girl, but it will also be an opportunity for writers and schools to connect. The ultimate goal of Write the Girl is to have more plays written and published for large casts of young women, and having schools who are in a position to invest in such a venture, commissioning plays directly, is an important step in achieving that goal.
Wellington 24 will be on for three nights from the 11th-13th February at 7pm in the Jane Ross Theatre at LEH School. It’s going to be a sight to see as Mr Spry, our Theatre Manager, has been working hard on his plans to replicate a bomber on stage… Tickets will be on general release from Friday 31st January (£8/£5 concession).
Lady Malcolm’s Ball will take place on the 12th and 13th May, with further information about tickets being released nearer the time.
Write the Girl is expanding! This year we will be launching ...the girl writes, a programme aimed at supporting the next generation of female playwrights. We want to foster the fantastic relationships we have developed with playwrights and offer workshops and mentorships to our students interested in writing. We are excited to say that a lot of writers have already expressed an enthusiastic interest in being involved, either wanting to lead workshops or offer 1-1 mentorships. Initially this will be offered to girls in U4-U6 (Year 9-13) from LEH and Hampton High, but we hope there is the potential to expand, particularly through schools who choose to commission a Write the Girl play.
Phew! I think that’s it for now, but I’m sure we’ll have more to share soon.
If you are a school interested in commissioning a play from Write the Girl or if you are a writer wanting to get involved in ...the girl writes, please do not hesitate to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Project Director of Write the Girl