Creating an original piece of theatre

This can be daunting but this section contains a step-by-step guide to help you.

Working with a stimulus

A stimulus is anything which excites your imagination and sows the seeds of a piece of drama. It could be an existing script, a piece of fiction or non-fiction, a poem, an object, a picture, a newspaper or web article, or a piece of music. Look at Responding to a stimulus for more information.

It’s important that you remain open to how it makes you feel and to any ideas that emerge, however strange they may seem initially. Record all of your initial responses. This is called brainstorming.

It’s useful to keep a personal record or diary to record significant moments in the development of the piece and your character. This is particularly important if you’re expected to present an outline of how your drama relates to the stimulus. Reflection on the triumphs and challenges, and how you developed your group and performance skills can really help you reach your potential. Konstantin Stanislavski kept prolific notes on his work as an actor and director.

Discussion and planning

Once you’ve recorded your initial responses, discuss the potential of each idea. At this stage it’s not vital that you have a set structure or storyline for your piece, but you should identify any theme, emerging storyline or message that you feel has dramatic potential.

As you discuss ideas for plot you may find that characters evolve. Record your ideas. Exploring these characters through improvisation or hot-seating exercises may help to develop relationships between them and inspire a narrative for your piece. Improvisation is as popular in television and film as it is in the theatre.

David Tennant and Vicky McClure in the BBC series True Love, 2012

The BBC drama series, True Love, built its scripts around improvised work Credit: Working Title films

It’s easy to get bogged down by the planning and discussion stage but working in an explorative practical way and trying out ideas as they emerge is a good way to generate new ideas and material. You don’t have to know how your story will end, although that’s great if you do. What matters is that you begin to create.

  1. abstract The opposite of a realistic representation is an abstract representation where a character or concept may be symbolised in a poetic rather than literal way.
  2. blackout No light on the stage. Used for specific dramatic effects or to change scenes.
  3. chronological The logical order of events from beginning to middle to end.
  4. costume The clothes worn by an actor should reflect the time, place, society, culture and style of the production and the status, age and personality of the character.
  5. cue sheets Used to note when specific sound/lighting/special effects should be exacted on stage.
  6. director The person who supervises the drama and instructs actors.
  7. ensemble Performers work together in rehearsal/performance to create a moment of action on stage, eg Greek Chorus; slapstick sequence or Physical theatre.
  8. feminism The endeavour towards social, political, sexual and economical equality for women in society.
  9. futuristic Reflects a time in the future. This may be shown through costume, set or the attitudes and values of the characters.
  10. genre A category or type of something. Fiction and non-fiction are two examples of different genres.
  11. mind-map A diagram used to represent ideas or information branching out from a central key word or idea.
  12. motif An obvious key theme or concept that recurs in a work to create emphasis. Used in literature, art, theatre and dance.
  13. naturalistic A form of theatre designed to create the illusion of reality for an audience. Originated in the late 19th century.
  14. practitioner Someone who practises or has written theatrical theory and whose theatre may have a definable theatrical form.
  15. stimulus An inspiration for creative work. You can find a stimulus in an experience, image, emotion, object, text or a combination of stimuli.
  16. stylised An attempt to enhance a scene using unnatural methods.