2020 Olwen Wymark Awards for Theatre

The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) presents its annual awards for the encouragement of new writing at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on Friday 14 February 2020.

The Olwen Wymark Awards, the brainchild of playwrights Mark Ravenhill and David James (former Chair of the WGGB Theatre Committee), were set up to give WGGB members the opportunity to thank publicly those who had given them a positive experience in new writing over the previous year.

They are named in honour of playwright Olwen Wymark, passionate supporter of WGGB and former Chair of the WGGB Theatre Committee, who died in 2013.

David James, who has organised the award since 2005, said: “The award was set up to make a statement of how important encouragement is, and is based on the simple premise of saying ‘thank you’. Now in its 14th year, it is a bright spot on the Writers’ Guild’s annual calendar.”

The winners of the 14th annual awards are:

Alia Alzougbi – artist, educator and producer
Nominated by WGGB member Hannah Khalil for championing her work, producing the 2016 premiere of her play Scenes from 68* Years at the Arcola Theatre and for helping her towards her dream of having her work produced in the Arab world.

Hannah Khalil said: “In the last 12 months Alia has connected me with many opportunities that would have been impossible without her efforts, including facilitating my inclusion in a two-week diversity festival at the National Theatre.

“In January 2018 she travelled with me to the Arab Theatre Festival in Tunis to act as producer and translator, and help me forge relationships with theatre makers and companies there as she knows how important it is for me to have my first production in the Arab world. As a result of that we are now in conversation with the head of the British Council in Tunisia and artistic director of Tunis’ L’artisto Theatre. Alia has also secured British Council funding and so a Tunisian production and wider tour of the Arab world looks like a real possibility for 2019.

“Alia is a huge support to me – a touchstone. She is so familiar with work in the Middle East, having lived in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, and is able to advise me on all aspects, whether creative or practical. She is always there when I need her and never asks for anything in return. There is no one else who so wholeheartedly believes in my work and who champions me so tirelessly.”

Kate Budgen (director) and Sarah Dickinson (dramaturg)
Nominated by WGGB member Samantha Potter for their support with her play Metcalfe and Sons.

Samantha said: “Metcalfe and Sons was developed at London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) as part of their long project, which means that over a six-month period we developed the play with a group of students. Both Kate and Sarah went well beyond the call of duty to support me and I have felt thoroughly partnered in the development of my play. They were always available to discuss the subject, which for all of us has been quite emotionally challenging – it is about women working in misogynist workplaces that don’t declare themselves to be so, and sadly this is something all three of us have experienced.

“Kate is thorough and precise to a level I have not encountered before and I have felt truly grateful for her tremendous work ethic and ability to stay calm. Sarah is unlike any dramaturg I have worked with before and I have learnt so much about myself by working with her. Although they were both employed to fulfil a role, I have felt supported to a level that goes well beyond a professional commitment.”

Martin Cort – actor, director, writer, teacher
Nominated by WGGB member Mary Rensten for his work in inspiring and encouraging dramatists of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ).

Mary said: “Single-handedly, and for no payment, Martin runs twice-yearly, all-day workshops in London, at which the writers’ work-in-progress is read and acted out, under Martin’s direction, by professional actors, and then appraised by everyone present. In October 2017 he mounted a production of short plays and monologues, at the Concert Artistes’ Association, to give his workshop dramatists an opportunity to have their work performed in front of a discerning audience among whom were directors, publishers of plays and agents.

Martin has given, and continues to give, a very special service to SWWJ drama writers, myself included, and we appreciate everything he has done for us.”

Selma Dimitrijevic – Artistic Director of Greyscale Theatre company
Nominated by WGGB member Sean Burn for Selma’s mentorship on the Write to Play scheme, cultivating and championing deaf and disabled playwrights in the UK.

Sean said: “I was fortunate enough to be one of five writers nationally on the Write to Play scheme and Selma basically had our back. She is a tireless advocate for long-term inclusion of all into theatre and after the scheme ended she remained hugely supportive in providing access to so many opportunities.

“In this past year she also ran another scheme giving myself and many other deaf / disabled writers / directors exceptional encouragement – explaining and opening up all aspects of theatre in the Tyneside region. She also encouraged, nurtured and provided a hugely supportive environment to enable us to write our bravest, most intense play ever, joey, which tours next year. She supported all our access requirements, raised the funds, dramaturged the script, taught us about structure, opened doors and introduced us to cast and crew and has been a critical friend. She has worked wonders and encouraged us to develop as a writer in ways we couldn’t have imagined previously.”

David James, founder and director of Book, Musics & Lyrics (BML)
Nominated by WGGB member Evi Stamatiou for the support he has shown her in helping her develop her musical theatre writing.

Evi said: “I met David in January 2017 when I applied to join the librettists’ group at BML. David asked why I wanted to write musicals and I explained that my characters sing; even though they go through social suffering, they still sing. Because they are not willing to give up optimism. David said: ‘I think musical theatre needs you.’ This encouraging line meant a lot. I am a Greek woman who migrated to London eight years ago and had little experience in musicals apart from what I could see on the screen and at the occasional trip.

“The second issue I have is that English is my second language. Occasional grammar mistakes are inevitable and David is working with me with a lot of care and resilience. While he is challenging my characters, content and intentions, he is very careful about how he addresses my weaknesses.

“I am very grateful for his support and his encouragement has helped me get some established collaborators on my side and put scripts out there without fear.”

Peter Thompson, former Secretary and current member of the Player Playwrights group
Nominated by WGGB member Karen Bartholomew for his support and encouragement of her writing through the Player Playwrights.

Karen said: “Peter constantly encourages writers to submit work to Player Playwrights meetings. He is very generous with his time and feedback. I joined the group two years ago and Peter came along to a rehearsal reading of my play God’s Waiting Room. He was so encouraging and gave me the confidence to take it on to a full production. It was because of him and two actor friends that I applied to Arts Council England and was successful with my bid. The play toured, received commission and was published.

“Peter is a modest and very kind man and has been pivotal in my recent success with writing plays.”

Info. sent by Sarah Woodley, Communications Manager, Writers’ Guild of Great Britain; many thanks - ND.


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