The National Studio: an Insomniac’s Impression

Jessica Bellamy is a Sydney-based playwright. She attended atyp’s 2010 Fresh Ink National Studio.

Playwrights don’t sleep.

Playwrights are self-nourishing regeneration beasts.

Playwrights subsist on sugary drinks, vats of coffee, cheap tequila, and free canapés.

Playwrights recharge through the presence of other playwrights.

We love other playwrights. Their messy hair, their frazzled brains and their mangled fingernails. We love them.

There is therefore something very special about the collection of many playwrights.

It’s a cluster of enthusiastic introverts let out of their hidey holes, heads poking around in the fresh breezy air, poking and sniffing each other curiously, eager to learn more about each others’ processes, writing style and romantic lives.

There’s not the sort of rivalry you might expect, or have been warned about. Playwrights are usually just relieved to have found each other – a new friend to talk to about our daily monorail eavesdroppings, the television advertisements that made us cry this week, and how on earth to sieve all this overwhelming curiosity and emotion into our next piece of theatre.

Playwrights also like to dance together, in an environment where no one else makes fun of the way we dance, because everyone knows that most playwrights dance as if they’re being electrocuted through their downstairs, but in a good way, of course.

Some insomniac playwrights stay awake til the wee hours, slugging back the caffeine and riffing on ‘life’.

The insomniac playwrights on atyp’s 2010 Fresh Ink National Studio filled that prolific pre-dawn haze with a variety of interesting activities, including tobogganing down green hills on yoga mats, stalking uninterested wombats, and, oh yes, creating a brand new collaborative writing project.

In our case, this was the Minties project, preserved online by David Finnigan. While certainly not a work of subtlety and finesse, one must agree that it bristles with a certain charismatic joie de vivre. The joy of our time together bubbles through.

This sort of fun and experimentation is important. Super important. But it’s not all ‘taking photos of snakes’ and ‘playing frisbee with Fraser’s toddler’ (Fraser Corfield – Artistic Director of atyp). For every honking dose of Minties Project mania, there’s a great counterpoint of serious work to be done, and serious creative growth for you as a writer.

This growth comes in a few forms:

  • daily masterclasses with impressive industry tutors
  • smaller daily tutorials for personalised dramaturgical support
  • evening play readings
  • and panel discussions based on industry issues.

It creates a bunch of new friends for you to put in your archaic paper address book. It keeps you clued into the sort of work being made around our country – work that is different to yours, and therefore very important to be aware of.

Most importantly, it links you into an artistic community – one where everyone is just a little bit socially awkward, too.

By the end of the 2010 Studio I had achieved the following:

  • Eaten my body weight in banana cake.
  • Made friends from Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin and more.
  • Seen a sink that was grey and thought “why is that sink grey?” and then realised that someone had left a light on near the toilets and the whole sink was just covered with a carpet of fat juicy wildlife moths who saw me and smelt my fear and tried to get into my face but luckily I ran in the opposite direction and fell down some decking into a patch of (mothless) grass. And this is the first time I’ve talked about it since.
  • Written a monologue called Little Love, which has since been produced as part of the atyp’s production Tell It Like It Isn’t, has been published in a book for HSC Drama students, and has been adapted into a short film (as Bat Eyes, premiering online in March 2012).
  • Been commissioned to write and perform a one-woman show, Celebrity Healing, for a new friend’s Centenary of Canberra festival.
  • Learnt significantly more about dramaturgy and authentic script development from such inspiring tutors as Peta Murray, Vanessa Bates, Francesca Smith, Lachlan Philpott and Chris Mead.
  • Realised just how many voices exist around our large country, and the importance of (and excitement in) hearing these voices and perspectives on stage.

Yep. All this in one week. Must be the Minties.


Jessica Bellamy is a Sydney-based playwright. She holds a Graduate Diploma of Dramatic Art in Playwriting (NIDA). In 2011 she presented Celebrity Healing at Canberra’s You Are Here Festival and Griffin Theatre’s Griffringe, had a monologue included in atyp’s Tell It Like It Isn’t, an excerpt of Endless Light and Endless Sound shown at the National Play Festival, and wrote A Fourth of Nature, a play for 18 young performers, for the ACT Department of Education’s School Spectacular.  She is currently working on a season of Sprout at the Old Fitzroy Theatre in October 2011.

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Categories: About Fresh Ink, Community, National Studio, New Writing


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One Comment on “The National Studio: an Insomniac’s Impression”

  1. September 3, 2011 at 7:54 am #

    Thanks for this well written and inspiring post. It’s good to know of the commitment and work of young Australian playwrights. We’ve recently been struggling to find new large-cast plays for our ensemble and are happy to receive suggestions and submissions.

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