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.