Keep it simple. This is the first thing that our Professor Ben Musgrave told us about playwriting. Keep it simple. How do we make setting real? With simplicity.
The first playwriting class focused on who we are and where we come from. Where we come from is extremely important for our writing – in fact, Professor Musgrave made us draw a map of our lives. Where we were born and lived, and were our relatives and loved ones were born. What are our connections to the places where we live or have lived?
Professor Musgrave told us his story – he was born in the UK but moved to Bangladesh when he was very young. Then, when he was a teenager, he went back to London and moved to a suburban area which he didn’t find exciting at all. He wanted to be a colourful, enjoyful and international writer – but he discovered that when he wrote about the area where he had lived and he hadn’t liked, his writing was charged with something.
You can find interest in what seem to be the most uninspired places. We have some places in our bones. They will always be part of our lives. We shouldn’t forget it in our writing.
I was born in Livorno, Tuscany, Italy. My parents and my grandparents were born there, except from my paternal grandmother who was born in France. Livorno is the most important port in Tuscany, and a beautiful and interesting city from many points of view, but also a dull, dead place from others. I have done my BA in Florence, and during those three years, I had the possibility to spend two semesters abroad. I moved to Oslo when I was nineteen and came back four months later. Then, a year later, I packed again and spent a semester at Sarah Lawrence College, New York – a mere half an hour from the city.
I spent six months in Livorno to graduate and figure out what to do next, and then moved to London, where I started my MA in Creative Writing.
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To know a little bit about ourselves as writing students, he jumped immediately to writing and made us answer these questions.
What do you believe in as a person?
I believe in honesty and love. Not only romantic love.
What do you believe in as a writer?
I believe in passion and open mindedness.
What is the play that you saw and that you loved best?
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare.
Tell me more about the experience of watching a play. Focus on a single moment of the play: what can you see in your mind?
I remember Shylock’s clothes. He had a black and white suit. In the vision I have, the stage is a bit blurred. I could confuse it with another play that I saw. But I couldn’t ever be confused about Shylock. He was an amazing character interpreted by an amazing actor. The presence of the character was too strong and intense for me to remember other details. But to be honest I also have a bad memory.
Tell me about a place that means something to you.
I want to tell you about a place where I am setting my first attempt of a screenplay. This could be enough for me to explain why it means a lot to me, but there are other reasons. It is a simple American diner located in front of the seaside in my hometown in Italy. I go there every summer. It means a lot to me because I have spent there both bad and good moments, with my friends, my boyfriend and a lot of other people. I have left my hometown three times now, and it is great to come back in summer. I don’t care about the bad memories that I connect to it. That is why it means just one thing to me: rebirth, and return.
Tell me three concrete things about this place.
There is gravel on the ground. I remember it because I always fall since I usually wear high heels. It is exactly in front of the sea. Tables and chairs are made of wood.
A place can be charged with something. What is it charged with?
What do you think is the opposite of it?
At Surfer Joe, the place I have told you about, a very blonde me is greeting her friends the night before moving to Oslo. She’ll come back as a redhead. Now her hair is black. Yep, she has a lot to tell.