I was looking through some old photos, came across my graduation pics from January 2015, and realised it’s been five years since I graduated From my MA in playwriting and screenwriting. The reason I first moved to London. It made me think, was it worth it?
Not the actual move (although that could also be a blog post in itself) but the MA. Do you need to have a degree in something creative like playwriting? My short answer is no. I don’t think you need formal training to become any kind of writer. It might be a cliché by now, but I do believe reading plays, seeing plays and reading books about playwriting can be just as beneficial. And at the same time, write, write, write. That’s the most important bit!
However, the two years of university benefitted me. I was new to the country, I was dipping my ink into a new language and I hadn’t written a play or screenplay since about the age of ten. The MA gave me a social space to learn (scary as it can be), to receive feedback (frustrating as it can be), and get an understanding of the theatre landscape in my new home country (overwhelming as it can be). Had I moved to London without the course, I wouldn’t have had a clue where to start. How do you find trustworthy critique? Where do you send your material? And how do you keep writing even when it’s not going very well? (Some of these are still a conundrum.)
I guess what I’m trying to say is we all have different resources to work with. Not all of us can take the the time or free up the resources it takes to study. And not everyone feel their most comfortable in higher education. Luckily there are other ways to learn (and it’s not like we ever really stop learning) so please don’t get discouraged if a formal degree isn’t a part of your path! Life experience is much more important! Curiosity is much more important! The willingness to grab whatever opportunities do exist around you is much more important! Yes, certain degrees will help certain people get the foot through the door easier and quicker, let’s not beat about the bush. There’s still plenty of inequality in theatre, but I don’t want to believe there’s no space for a variety of voices from a variety of backgrounds. Or if there isn’t yet then there certainly should be and we all have a responsibility to make it happen. We all have to be tenacious. Because that’s how theatre keeps evolving, and that’s how great stories are told. (And it’s also the right thing to do.)
I hope February is treating you well!
Photos by Charlotta Buxton, 2015