East Londoner Paula B Stanic is the commissioned writer for ‘Steering Through Stars‘, our 2015/16 township theatre piece. Paula’s impeccable work to date includes ‘What’s Lost‘, winner of the 2008 Alfred Fagon Award, ‘Pancras Boys Club‘, a promenade piece for 12 ex-offenders; and ‘Monday‘, short-listed for the 2009 John Whiting award.
Paula lent us a time for a quick fire interview where we discovered her inspiration for Steering Through Stars, her working process and her proudest achievements to date…
In a few short words, tell us about Steering Through Stars…
It’s a fun spoken word piece about inheritance, passing on, sharing. An aunt leaves her nephew/nieces a surprise in her will that takes them on a big trip.
What was your inspiration for writing this poetic piece?
The starting point was Anna’s brief. She asked me to write a piece which took in some of the countries around the Atlantic. We discussed many ideas and to inspire us looked at the sun rising and setting in different parts of the world, lighthouses, football, food & cooking, housing, leaving and arriving at ports and navigating using stars. We discussed loads. The only stipulation was it should be up-lifting and more a poem or spoken word piece than a play. I started with a traveller moving across the ocean picking up and passing on something in each place – Africa, Britain, South America and the Caribbean. It fitted with Tangle’s philosophy and felt ambitious and exciting. All of the first section came quite quickly then it was researching, remembering and finding out a bit about each country. Picking out the parts that would resonate with these people and take the audience with them on the journey. It just expanded from there. Each place inspired the rhythm and content and also hearing the first song.
Is writing a piece to be performed in a township theatre style any different from how you would normally write?
I had to think more about capturing the feeling, sensations, senses rather than following a traditional narrative. I thought at first that was very different but I do consider those things when writing plays too. The length of the piece was a consideration because of the style. Each time Anna’s commissioned me to write for Tangle it’s been something challenging, a different style and I love that.
You’ve written a number of pieces for a number of established companies and theatres. What is your proudest achievement?
I’ve been proud of many experiences for different reasons. Monday with Red Ladder was the first time I saw a full length play I’d written staged and despite the play’s faults I loved what was done with it so was very proud. Under A Foreign Sky for Theatre Centre was exciting, I remember that experience of seeing my vision of the world before me. 6 Minutes for Soho was a story I really wanted to tell at that time so I was very proud of that and I co-wrote a show with two other writers and a group of ex-offenders and felt proud of those guys and what we put together every night I watched it. I’ve just picked out a few but there’s nothing yet I’ve not had a big moment of pride in because I know where it’s come from and why I’ve written it. If I haven’t quite got it right (or as close to right as anything can get) it doesn’t matter. I tried and I’m still working and I‘ll get closer each time.
You were the recipient of the 2008 Alfred Fagon award for your play What’s Lost. What did winning that award mean to you?
It meant a lot that they saw something in my play. It gave me confidence and kick started my career as people started meeting me after that. It really spurred me on.
This is your third time working with Tangle. What does Tangle mean to you?
I love working with the company. It’s challenging and stretching each time. One very short piece I wrote a couple of years ago that was part of an exhibition at Guest Projects I still think about now. I think, where did that voice come from? I want to explore that more. As well as writing I’ve also done some workshops for Tangle and that made me see close up the effect the company has and how it inspires people.
And finally, describe yourself in 3 words…
Writer, excited and troubled by the world, unable to stick to word counts!
Read Paula B Stanic’s short biography in the ‘media’ section here. | See Steering Through Stars at Tangle Café 2015 here.