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Writers’ Bloc is a unique theatre initiative to discover, train and introduce exciting new playwrights to Indian audiences. The sourcing and training of the playwrights and the festival that follows is a collaboration between the British Council, Royal Court Theatre, UK, Jindal South West Foundation and Rage.
Elyse Dodgson has been on the artistic team of the Royal Court since 1985, first as Director of the Young People’s Theatre and since 1995 as Associate Director, Head of the International Department. She was the first director of the International Summer School, now the Royal Court International Residency, which she started in 1989 and produced the Royal Court Young Writer’s Festival (1986-91) and the International Season since 1997. She has co-ordinated play development in many parts of the world including Brazil, Cuba, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Palestine, Russia, and across the Arab World. In 1999 she received the International Theatre Institute’s Excellence in International Theatre Award and in 2004 was the recipient of the Young Vic Award in recognition of her work for a young generation of theatre practitioners.
In 2003, Paul Smith, the inspirational head of the British Council, Mumbai, threw us a lifeline by suggesting that playwrights In India could benefit from some training. He then brought in the Royal Court Theatre, Britain’s home of new writing, to be our guide. This led to the first residential workshop at the JSW farmhouse near Nasik, where fledgling playwrights from across India worked intensely with the Court.
After a second round of workshops, nine amazingly fresh, new, original scripts emerged. We knew that the playwright’s work only ends when a director gives his story vision, actors speak his words and the audience responds to his text. With this belief and determination, WRITERS’ BLOC was born - India’s first festival of original Indian playwriting. Over the years we have supported 20 young playwrights and produced 20 new scripts. The audience and industry response has been terrific. People now buy season tickets and most shows go houseful in advance.
Our next round of workshops, with the help of the British Council’s Development Fund and the Royal Court, will commence in October 2010.