WPD – The Writer/Performer & Director Relationship

This is a program of  masterclasses that focus on the Writer/Performer and Director relationship. It was devised and developed by writer and performer Zena Edwards and theatre director Anthony Shrubsall through sharing their writing and performance experiences and  their work with poets, actors and writers spanning 20 plus years. The sessions were further developed and honed at The Shizuoka Performing Arts Centre (Japan), Podium Mozaik Cultural Centre (Netherlands), The Albany in Deptford and Apples and Snakes Performance Poetry Organization.

When you are the writer or poet AND the performer (or aspire to be), there are a few performance obstacles that you can come across when standing your work up on stage. Having the outside eye of the director is always useful.
When you are the writer and the performer you might feel unsure about whether you are delivering lines, moving in the space and giving your work the best telling it can get.
Also, a director needs to be able to assist the performer in delivering the writers work in as truthful a way as possible, being authentic to the writers intention for his/her characters and the story as a whole.

But sometimes this relationship is fraught with conflicting ideas of vision for the text that is being worked. Writers feel undermined. Directors feel unappreciated and in the middle is the performer waiting for a cue. On occasion the communication between the writer and the director can completely breakdown.

How can the writer assist the director by communicating story and message ideas as moments of performance delivery? How can the director help the writer turn story ideas, themes and concepts for performance into actual performance? How can the director enhance the strengths of the performer in you to deliver your written work? How can the performer be helped by both to bring the text to to full bodied life?

What happens in a the masterclass?

  • ‘Actor or performer?’ – an exploration of theatre direction in spoken word/performance poetry and monologue/duologue. Discover the true potential of the writer/poet/artist as a performer whilst developing the theatrical life of the work.
  • ‘the listening and exchange’ – analyzing how to develop the relationship between director and the writer/performer. Learn about establishing a free-flowing line of creative communication between all three parts and creatively examine the challenges and rewards of the unique relationship between writer/performer and director.
  • ‘dramatic poetic’ – how the director identifies imagery and character in the your writing and manifests the maximum potential for delivery within the style of the  performer.
  • ‘Flow – The story, the character, the space and you’ – using excerpts selected by you from your own work, we will explore the importance of narrative, through-lines and back-stories, consider your presence in stage space and your relation ship to the audience.
  • ‘bespoke tricks of the trade’ – Walk away with tools and techniques to build upon for your own devising and rehearsal practices. eg  your vocal and physical range as a performer exploring possibilities, such as gendered roles, perceptions of age and cultural and class contrasts.

This exciting program can be bespoke to your organization with half day to 2 day group surgeries  for writers, performers and directors and includes

  • Writing processes – developing character and plot, editing, redrafting with performance in mind, dialogue,
  • Standing the work up – becoming the storyteller/performer by focusing on action, implementing poetic/dramatic tools in performance
  • Empowering the writer as the performer – theatre exercises to build confidence
  • Dramatic structure – establish the arc of your story and exploring the internal dynamics of a scene.
  • Performance styles – exploring well known styles in contemporary theatre and poetry in performance that work for you
  • The Principle of Flow – Establish through-lines in the story, the character, the space and you
  • Sharing the work – opportunities to share your work with fellow artists and gain valuable critique in a safe environment
  • working your audience – maximise your relationship with your audience

The 3 Way was piloted at the Albany in Deptford  in collaboration with Apples and Snakes Poetry Organisation. (Click for archived promotion.)


“The class emphasized a thorough look at the relationship between text and performance. I was able to uncover an emotional arc in my work that I had not been aware of. This was, I think, the most valuable part of all the teaching as so often in Spoken Word we look at the whole piece in terms of its emotional resonance rather than this wonderfully in-depth understanding of the work.” – Naomi Woddis

I took part in this two-day workshop with poet Zena Edwards and director Anthony Shrubsall at Apples and Snakes HQ in the Albany. Not only did it help me as a performer, but it changed the way I think about performing. Zena is a phenomenal spoken word artist and it was incredibly informative to see the way a poet can work with a director. – Dan Simpson

“This workshop helped me to renew and refresh my pieces and allowed me to be more theatrical, to take the audience on a journey not just by words alone but through how I used my voice and body to tell the story.” – Dean Attah

“I found Zena and Anthony’s masterclass on the performer/director relationship very useful – not only in learning how they worked together but on the practical aspects of developing, funding, putting on and touring a show. All this, and Anthony’s follow-up advice, has stood me in good stead for developing my own one-person spoken word show.”  – Richard Tyrone Jones

For more information or to book a 3 Way Masterclass email Zena Edwards at zena.edwards@gmail.com

Click for the story of this project came about.


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