In Spring 2020, seventeen writers joined Phase 1 of the Professional Writers Programme. Over five weeks, they met with director and dramaturg Ng Choon Ping, developing a new idea for a full length play. Four writers and their plays were then chosen to continue on for further development in Phase 2. The two year Professional Writers Programme is for early career writers of East/Southeast Asian descent based in the UK.
The 2020-2022 Professional Writers Programme writers are:
Rogelio Braga with Miss Philippines
Miss Philippines revolves around a story of Calle Real, a fictitious slum community in Duterte Philippines where only women are left to survive since their husbands, sons, lovers, and gay male friends are either killed through extra-judicial killings, fled, jailed, or missing (forced disappearance) in the bloody government campaign against illegal drugs and activists since all the characters are women from different ages and backgrounds struggling to continue the long tradition of an annual gay beauty pageant in their community: a grandmother who survived the war in Mindanao during the Marcos Martial Law regime, a Filipina domestic worker who just returned from abroad, a nurse waiting for her flight to London, transgender women who work as pageant contestants, a mother, a former Communist cadre turned street vendor, a lesbian journalism student, and a Muslim woman. All these women have three things in common: poverty, the absence of men in their lives because of state violence and persecution, and the various ways of coping with loss.
Lao Lee with Before You Go
Most people only come out once, right? Not for Kit, whose conservative mother, Alice, has early-onset dementia. Battling surfacing repression and searching for her estranged brother, Kit begins to revisit a past she has tried to forget. Dark but uplifting, Before You Go interrogates memory, trauma and what it means to accept and forgive.
Nemo Martin with zaazaa
When suicidal teenager Taro travels to America to meet their Hannibal-loving internet friend, what they don’t expect is to return home with their all-consuming anger legitimised and vented. Amidst working out their stranger-danger internet friend anxieties, Taro and Lector confront abandoned campsites, run-down murder motels, Japanese internment camps and Death Valley under the stars.
Marie Yan with Tidal Home
Home is like tide, it comes and goes. A Tidal Home is a play inspired by my mixed heritages in France, Hong Kong and Germany and my forever foreignness to each and all. It tells the story of two friends, stuck in a room with the ghost of Hannah Arendt, far away from the city they both see as theirs, at a moment it is on the brink of collapse. They wonder whether to stay or go back and are visited by relatives and memories. What they decide to do next, decides who they are and where they belong to. Playing on the line of fiction and documentary, A Tidal Home will be the result of months-long research in Hong Kong.
During Phase 2, the writers will receive a seed commission to develop and write a full-length play. Additional support will include: one-to-one dramaturgy meetings, development workshops with actors and directors and public readings.
All of the writers from both Phase 1 and Phase 2 will attend a series of masterclasses with top industry professionals over the course of the programme. To read about the writers who participated in Phase 1, please click here.
Rogelio Braga is an exiled playwright, novelist, essayist, and a political activist from the Philippines. He published two novels, a collection of short stories, and a book of plays before he left the archipelago in 2018. Unable to return home due to the deteriorating state of human rights and freedom of expression in the Philippines, Braga is the first Filipino writer who fled to the United Kingdom seeking protection from persecution, state harassment, and censorship since Duterte came to power in 2016. He was a fellow of the Asian Cultural Council for theatre in Southeast Asia in 2016 and a recipient of the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature for his fiction. Braga is being supported by Kanlungan Filipino Consortium as one of the hundreds of vulnerable Filipino migrants living in London today and currently volunteers for Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines (CHRP). Miss Philippines is his debut play written entirely in his second language, English.
Lao Lee is a British-Chinese writer and composer. Her first musical SPACES was performed at the Camden People’s Theatre in 2017. She wrote her first play as part of Soho Theatre Writer’s Lab 2018/19.
Nemo Martin is a non-binary writer, freelance stage manager and podcast producer. Their debut play [The Cobbled Streets of Geneva] won the Origins Award for outstanding new writing and their first collaborative musical ASIAN PIRATE MUSICAL sold out at VAULT Festival 2020. They are doing a PhD on positive representations of race and gender in adaptations of Les Misérables.
Marie Yan is a playwright, writer and dramaturge for dance and theatre. She writes in French (language of childhood), English (language of learning) and German (language of a distant heritage). Her interest is in the future. In worlds that range from near documentary to speculative fiction, her stories have been about places and the transformations that happen within those places and within the people who inhabit them: a city covered in fog, (The Fog), a immigration detention centre (A quick decision can be made), a room where friends talk about death (Artes Moriendi), a border (I Need to Cross – running since 2019 at the City Theatre of Eskişehir, Turkey). As a dramaturge and curator she has worked in Berlin with Ballhaus Naunynstrasse on the dance piece Unrestricted Contact (2017) by Grupo Oito and with Theater o.N. on two symposiums: Another world (2019) and class.gender.race. (2020). She received the Mary Leishman Award for Theatre for her first play The Fog (2015), and the Crossing Borders Scholarship for her long-running diary research in Hong Kong: About a struggling home (2020). www.marieyan.com
The course leader this year is Ng Choon Ping. Ping has worked extensively with new writing as a director and associate director. Directing credits include: Tamburlaine (Arcola); Crocodiles (Royal Exchange); Collision/Carla’s Puppet (National Theatre); Snap (Young Vic); A Magical Place (Old Red Lion); Pufferfish (Vaults Theatre); Sellotape Sisters, Golden Child (New Diorama); 10 Steps 2 Heaven (Tristan Bates); The Truth (Singapore Repertory Theatre); Macbeth (Royal Central); Antony & Cleopatra, Othello (Arts Ed). Readings – Thatcher In China (NT Studio); Acceptance (Criterion); Dodo (LAMDA). Assisting/Associate directing credits include: Troilus and Cressida (RSC – Gregory Doran); Cyprus Avenue (Public Theatre, NYC & Royal Court – Vicky Featherstone); Bakersfield Mists (Duchess Theatre – Polly Teale); Nut (National Theatre – Debbie Tucker Green); Chimerica (Harold Pinter/Almeida – Lyndsey Turner).
The Professional Writers Programme was launched in January 2017 to support the develoment of writers and their ideas who are often under represented in theatre. To read about the writers from our first cohort and the plays they wrote, go here.
This programme is supported by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Arts Council England and Soho Theatre