Interview by Nicole Melanson ~
Bridgette Burton has been writing for theatre since the early 1990s. Bridgette has written two one-act plays, four full-length plays and over 30 short plays (which have been performed all over Australia and internationally). Bridgette has won the R E Ross Trust Playwrights Script Development Award twice, in 2005 and 2009. She has also been shortlisted for the Griffin prize (2006).
Bridgette also works as a director and producer in Melbourne, and co-founded Baggage Productions, an independent company that supports women in the arts, with Christina Costigan in 1999.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED AS A PLAYWRIGHT?
As a teenager I wrote a lot of poetry about changing the world, and myself and people in general. At the time I believed it was genius; on reflection it might have been quite bad. But it got me started.
I began writing for stage as part of an acting troupe at Melbourne University. We were all required to bring material and I found I had a natural inclination for dialogue, storytelling and comedy. Writing sketches and short scene work with an ensemble is a great way to hone your craft—you receive instant feedback (from performers and a director), and you can immediately see what works and what doesn’t.
WHAT IS YOUR LATEST BOOK OR CURRENT PROJECT?
I have just finished a second draft on Anno Zombie, a comedy about the zombie apocalypse for stage. I am hoping to produce it later on this year, dependent on a few external factors—money (there is none) and venues.
I have also been working for a few years on a play called Fury. This was a more serious piece of work about a group of teenage girls and the way that technology features in their lives, in a sinister capacity. I have been working with director and writer Alice Bishop on turning the play into an 8-part web series which we have almost finished. It’s been an interesting process taking it from stage to small, small screen.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?
Generally, it’s my home—so the kitchen, the study, the loungeroom. However, a couple of times a year I have a writing weekend and I travel to some attractive and distant-ish clime and then hole myself up writing.
WHEN DO YOU WORK? WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
I work at night usually, around my day job, child and general life commitments. If I’ve got a deadline then I work as much as possible, whenever.
WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
Clean. Eat. Look at computer. Try and avoid the web. Collate. Re-read what I have. Clean. And then write feverishly sometimes for hours and hours. Once I have something written I try not to look at it for a week or so, unless I have a deadline. After a week has elapsed and I am a more measured audience, I take a look. Then I repeat all of the above.
I usually also pass my work to other professionals, once it has reached the first draft stage. I have several dedicated theatre professionals that read my work—director, actor, writer and friend.
WHY DO YOU WRITE?
I write because it’s the most fulfilling creative thing that I’ve found to date. I can do it alone, I can do it with others. I can cross styles and genres and make characters and kill them and then revive them. It’s really an enormous amount of fun.
Also, I can’t seem to stop.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
The amazing beauty of the planet and also people. The sheer wonderfulness of living.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WHAT YOU DO?
All the damn cleaning. And the fact there is no money. But really I love what I do—I wish that it were easier to get productions on stage and I wish that more women were front and centre of the professional stage-writing world, but I don’t really think that I have it hard, to be honest.
WHAT IS YOUR VISION AS A WORD ARTIST?
I want to write plays that people want to watch. That make them laugh, think and feel. I want to evolve as a writer and a person so that I am more connected to those that I love, the planet I live in and therefore the words that I write.
I also want to see more women at work in professional theatre. I want more women writing work which more women act in. I want more women directing those women actors and more women producing those shows. I want more women lighting those actors and more women designing those sets. I want to see 50% of people in professional theatre on main stages be women.
WHICH FEMALE WRITERS WOULD YOU LIKE TO HEAR MORE FROM OR SEE INTERVIEWED ON WORDMOTHERS NEXT?
Thank you, Bridgette Burton / Baggage Productions!
— Nicole Melanson
* Playwright photo by Laura May Grogan
And thank you, Jane Miller, for recommending Bridgette! Read Jane Miller’s WordMothers interview here
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