Interview with Maria Klockare and Millie Thorne, Founders of the London Short Play Festival

The London Short Play Festival is an annual festival event which focuses on new playwrights and their short plays. The three nights will showcase a variety of short plays and act as a networking platform for both the audience and festival members. This year will be their 2nd year and the festival will be taking place from 16th-18th July 2015 at The Edric Theatre, situated in London South Bank University. This week I interviewed Millie Thorne and Maria Klockare, the founders and producers of the festival, to find out a little more about it.

1. First of all, tell us about yourselves - what is your background in the arts and what training did you do?

MT: We both studied the Theatre Practice: Creative degree at London South Bank University, this is where we met and created the idea of a short play festival.

MK: I come from Sweden where I grew up with a father who was a theatre director. I came to London to study at LSBU and that is where Millie and I met.

2. Where did the idea for the London Short Play Festival come from? What was your decision behind creating it?

MT: The idea initially sparked from interning in New York. We both became involved with short play festivals and thought that this was a niche that should be developed back in London. We wanted to create an opportunity for emerging playwrights to have their work produced and then performed in front of a live audience.

MK: Yes we felt that it’s so important to give playwrights and artists the opportunity to showcase work when they maybe never get that opportunity otherwise. There is such brilliant work being written and created that never gets any stage time and it makes me feel so passionate about what we are trying to achieve. After reading all the submissions we had this year I got really determined because there were so many plays that were incredible and I just wish we could produce them all. Hopefully in the future the festival will grow so we can give lots more talented people the opportunity they deserve.

3. It's a well known fact that Female Playwrights are hugely underrepresented in theatre - there was a lot of outrage recently that when Nick Hytner left his role as Artistic Director at the National Theatre recently, he had not once (in 12 years) directed a play by a woman. How do you feel we can best address this gender imbalance? What action can be taken to ensure that more female playwrights are breaking through to the top venues?

MT: I feel that representation, may that be gender or racial in fact, needs to be addressed and developed further within Theatre. I believe the issue behind the imbalance could be that the opportunities simply are not open to everyone as equals. We had an open casting for play submissions and we chose the four plays that we felt held the most potential to develop. This year we have three out of our four playwrights that are women and we are thrilled to have them all onboard.

MK: This gender imbalance is something I personally feel very passionate about. I agree with everything Millie pointed out and I agree that there is much stigma and preconceptions within the industry. This is something that has to change and my personal view of it is that it is important for women to work together and help each other in order for a break through. I sometimes feel there is more competition between us women than there is understanding and support. We need to have each other’s backs and really push for opportunities for other women including ourselves. Even though women are not as represented within the professional industry I believe there are today more women than men trying to break into the business. I don’t know of any true figures or real statistics so I wouldn’t be able to back it up. But just speaking from personal experience back in Sweden I studied acting and my class consisted of 11 girls and 0 boys. Which you can imagine made the choices for material we could work with extremely limited. Since there are so many brilliant females moving into the industry my hope for the future is that in a hundred years time or so we will be able to have equal amounts of classics written by female writers as we today have plays written by males.

4. As Producers, what do you hope to achieve with this festival? What do you want to communicate to audiences.

MT: We would like the playwrights, directors and cast to get the exposure they all deserve. We have some very talented people involved and I think this festival will be a great networking opportunity.

MK: We think this will truly be a unique event and evening out and the audience will get to experience a really diverse evening. My hope is that they will leave us having seen a range of theatre that each to their own has affected them and made them feel something new and hopefully also opened their eyes to new talented artists.

5. Tell us a little bit about this years festival...

MT: This is our second year running the festival and we are back with four short plays and a brand new venue, at The Edric Theatre. We will have three show nights on the 16th, 17th and 18th of July. More information can be found on our website www.londonshortplayfestival.com

MK: We have managed to secure our venue, cast, directors and graphic designer but we still need to fundraise for some essential things such as marketing materials.

Our indiegogo campaign link is: http://igg.me/at/lspf/x/3017715

It is really tough financially to create a new event like this but we are working hard on getting it all together and we are truly so close. It’s just that little extra missing now.

What I think is the most exciting part of this year’s festival is the great diversity within the 4 plays. They all deal with such different subjects but are all brilliant in my mind. It is going to be so exciting to see it all come together under one roof and for them to be shown each night. In some ways they all complement each other, but still remain very strong individually. Also I am so thrilled we can host the festival at The Edric since it is such a diverse and well equipped space and we can give each play the freedom to truly fulfil their vision this year.

6. Have you met any challenges in hosting the event? How have you overcome them?

MT: Well last year we decided to host the debut of the festival around the same time as our 3rd year dissertations, in hindsight this perhaps wasn’t the best idea! However we spent every spare hour budgeting, emailing, holding production meetings and watching over rehearsals. Safe to say we didn’t get much sleep!

MK: Yes last year was truly crazy. This year we are facing completely different challenges considering both of us also have part time to full time work to fit in. The main challenge though has been looking for funding. We live in tough times for the arts and unfortunately we had many disappointments along the road this year. None the less, we have moved forward every time and thankfully we are so close to crossing the finish line that all we need now is that little bit of an extra push which we are hoping fundraising and indiegogo will help us with.

7. Are you planning for this to be an ongoing project? How would you like to see it develop?

MT: We would like this to be an annual event, there are so many brilliant emerging playwrights, and I feel this is a real platform for both their work and careers as playwrights to develop.

MK: Ideally the festival grows into the largest short play festival in London and who knows maybe a few years down the line we will be able to host it for a week or weeks at the time with several venues and even more artists involved. I also look forward to seeing the talented people we work with on big stages around the world and know that we had a part in their success would be the best pay off. We really think they are the artists of tomorrow, and their work needs to be seen by as many people as possible.

Interview © Amie Taylor (@spoonsparkle) 2015

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