Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Stage Write 2014 - Summer Edition

Several weeks ago I said “Yes, yes, yes, I would love to judge Stage Write 2014” Jumping in with a yes despite the fact that I was a bit busy at the time. I could not resist. It would be such a treat to read a few plays, get an idea of what new talent was out there and revisit the work of play writes who had entered last year and see if I could recognise the writers work a year down the line. I looked at my schedule and thought "Yup I can do this". Ho Hum. I somehow did not factor into my calculations the small fact that a day is only 24 hours long and he do need to sleep for some of that.  Actually, I did not expect that I would be reading 32 plays. Seriously! Dubai playwrights are gluttons for punishment. Clearly this bunch did not realise how tough the brief was or (more likely and rather wonderfully) they are all up for a challenge.
For those of you who don't know, here is the low down. Interested writers attended a briefing at which they were given two randomly drawn character cards which would decide the two characteristics of their main character. Next they were given two equally randomly drawn situation cards which gave them the information they needed to lead the story. This year there was an added criteria – genre. The writers had to write in one of the following genres: Horror, Sci-Fi, Western, Historical, Fantasy or Crime Noir. They could choose. And then came the killer kicker: the play had to be written and submitted within 24 hours. No kidding! Snakes alive. What a challenge. I metaphorically tip my hat off to all of the participants.
Here are some numbers for you :51 teams signed up , 14 teams did what I would have done and thought "eek there is no way I am brave enough to do this," and  37 showed up for the draw. I picture a western ghost town with tumble weed and fear whirling about the street. Of the 37 teams, 32 submitted entries which met the competition rules. No mean feat let, me tell you. There were 3 judges, Liz Hadaway Kapur-Festival director of Short+Sweet Dubai, director, actor & teacher. Hananah Zaheer - Local actor & writer and I.
This year’s competition really separated the wheat from the chaff. My scores for the top plays were way ahead of the bulk of the middle, and the few weaker entries scored very low. I thought long and hard about how I would score. The judges had been given a criteria for scoring where we could score ten points for each of four areas. In an effort to make my scoring as objective as possible I then broke down my four categories into five sub categories and scored up to two points for each sub-category. Out of the whole forty points I allocated two points in two categories to my feelings about each script. The main reason for me being so persnickety is that I knew that there was no way I would be able to read all the plays in one sitting. I really did not want my judgement to change depending on my mood, level of alertness or desperate need to have a snack.....for example. I was a wonderfully fair judge, if I say so myself. By the way none of the judges had a clue as to the identity of the script writers they were reading.
This form of competition creates instant originality. The contestants are forced to dig deep and find inside themselves some creative wizardry to weave their stories around the sometimes wacky combination of character and situation cards that they are presented. From Mike Greens quirky, ironic and very funny crime nior to   Osman Aboubakr and Maha  Zeibak’s thoughtful  and ultimately tragic sci-fi I was impressed with how the writers stepped up and delivered great stories. Arjuns Burmans  time warping sci fi and Jordane Chedotal  eerie story had me caught up in a mental quickstep as I manoeuvred my way around their cunning plots both with slam dunk finishes. And lastly I found Charlie  Cunningham’s fantasy a delightful bit of frivolous fun.
Below is the overall judging.
1st          Place     -The Bronx Budgie Murder by Mike Green (Crime Noir)
2nd        Place     -The Ithaca Project by Arjun Burman (Sci-Fi)
3rd         Place     -The Consultant by Jordane Chedotal (Horror)
4th         Place     -Third Strike by Charlie Cunningham (Fantasy)
5th         Place     - Hypnosia by Osman Aboubakr & Maha Zeibak (Sci-Fi)
And here is mine.
1st          Place     -The Bronx Budgie Murder by Mike Green (Crime Noir)
tie 2nd   Place     -The Ithaca Project by Arjun Burman (Sci-Fi)
tie 2rd   Place     -The Consultant by Jordane Chedotal (Horror)
tie 4th   Place     -Maqbool by Ryan D’Sa (Fantasy)
tie 4th   Place     -Third Strike by Charlie Cunningham (Fantasy)
tie 4th   Place     - Hypnosia by Osman Aboubakr & Maha Zeibak (Sci-Fi)

Writer at work.

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