As part of our tour, we decided to organise question and answer sessions after the second set of plays at each venue. We wanted to do this for a number of reasons: even though we decided not to be overtly political, there's no denying that our very existence is political. People would want to find out why we formed and maybe they'd want to explore that a bit. Also, we knew not everyone who would like to would be able to make it to the shows, but they still might want to ask questions. We wanted as many people as possible to feel involved and to live stream these debates on twitter (#agent160qa) seemed a good way to do this. In addition, we wanted to use these sessions to listen; to find out about thoughts and opinions in each of our three cities.
A different sort of Q&A: Abigail Graham, Jennifer Jackson and Vittoria Cafolla in rehearsal
Two of these sessions have already taken place. In Wales, I chaired the panel and its members were:
- Branwen Davies, Agent 160 writer
- Valmai Jones, writer, director and actress
- Louise Stephens Alexander, Agent 160 dramaturg
- Mared Swain, Agent 160 director and an associate director at Sherman Cymru
- Roger Williams, playwright and Writers' Guild representative
The session in Wales was bilingual. What was really interesting was how it ended up moving away from gender and onto the ongoing problems experienced by playwrights such as how to sustain a career, as well as the differences in English language and Welsh language work, and also the reasons behind writing. At one point, a (brief!) heated debate broke out between Valmai Jones and Mared Swain as to the motivations behind writing a play. Valmai argued writers needed ongoing support and adequate pay to write properly. Mared argued that the reason for writing a play shouldn't be to pay the bills. Both arguments were disputed and agreed with over on twitter.
Questions from the audience included whether the company felt the writers had been influenced by gender when writing their pieces; and we also got onto the issue of geography and how that determines audience reaction. Louise Stephens Alexander was curious as to how the Welsh audience had found the Scottish pieces and whether the comedy of some had been affected by accent or dialect.
It was a really interesting session and if you were there, we hope you enjoyed it!