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Writing Dramatic Monologues

Notes on a workshop with Rani Moorthy

I'd had a request from one of our group members for a workshop looking at the craft of writing dramatic monologues. Having worked on the Bloodstone project with one of its greatest exponents currently performing, I decided to call Rani Moorthy.
Although currently deep in preparations for the second leg of her tour she agreed to come and work with us and we met up with her for the day in December at the Voicebox Arts Centre in Derby. As with other workshop leaders we have worked with, Rani stressed the importance of making writing a daily habit, not waiting for inspiration but actively cultivating the imagination in a purposeful way. To illustrate this approach she took us through an exercise akin to 'emotional archeology', where we were to transport ourselves 10 years back in time (an almost impossible task for our youngest member!) and remember our emotional and physical states at key times over this period. This was just one of many strategies she employs in her own daily writing. As with other professional writers, Rani too emphasised the importance of writing from experience, out of close knowledge of your subject. Characters may not be recognisable as aspects of yourself, family or close friends, but the veracity, the life in your protagonists, comes from intimate knowledge and observation.

She talked about her current production, Curry Tales which features a series of female characters, cooking live on stage! She revealed to us some aspects of these women which she had based on family members, and showed at the same time how this character had its own life, simply sharing some characteristics with a person she had been close to. She then lead us through another writing exercise. We were asked to visualise an old family photograph and to fix our attention on one person in the picture. We then had to concentrate on that person and imagine what they were thinking and feeling at the moment the camera clicked. We then were asked to read out what we had written as if we were firstly a narrator and then that person themselves.
The day was very intense, Rani worked our memories amd our emotions very hard, but some really good work came out of the day and a general request to continue the process at a future workshop and to try and get the pieces to performance stage.
We hope to do this in the spring, when Rani is more available.