I was doing a range of workshops in the early to mid nineties [at St Martins]. I remember doing a great singing workshop with Anthony Crowley. I did a lot of impro and Theatre Sports performances at St Martins. My first independently produced play went on there, a group of friends and I called ourselves The Busted Puppets and did Tom Stoppard’s Doggs Hamlet.
Most importantly, I guess, I won the 1997 St Martins Young Playwrights Competition for my play Argonauta which meant that the play was produced and I went on the next year to be a writer on the collaborative, site-specific work Radio City in 1998.
I’ve since made a life out of theatre and writing. I engage with both in a variety of ways, writing plays, poetry and essays; working as a dramaturg, mentor, teacher and arts administrator; seeing and reading and watching and listening to the work of my peers. I’m about to start a PhD in creative writing practice, so I guess I’m at a point where I’m questioning and examining where I’m at and where I want to go from here.
WHAT SHAPES YOU?
A few years ago Ross and I went to Sri Lanka. One day we decided to climb a rock called Pidurangala. A two hour hike to get the best view of the Sigiriya rock fortress we’d climbed the day before. On the way up we kept passing sad, svelte European backpackers warning us there was no way to get to the top. We persisted. Soon we got to the point they’d been talking about. A sheer rock face of about 10 metres led to the very top. We were stuck. We sat on a wide, flat rock, deflated. The air was sticky humid as the heat of the day kicked in. A couple nearby seemed to be having a fight. She was crying. Was it because they too couldn’t get to the top? We didn’t know what to do but we didn’t want to go back down. So we waited. A big group of young Sri Lankans appeared. They looked like they were on a university orientation trip. They were chatty and energetic. They suddenly started appearing up above that sheer face, on top of Pidurangala. Then I noticed a lot of them were passing underneath the rock we sat on. What I thought was a dead end, upon closer inspection, actually hid a narrow pass. I slipped down and walked through. Emerging on the other side I saw a gently sloping path. I ran back to tell Ross and we walked all the way to the top. It was the best feeling in the world. Sometimes, when you think you’re stuck, if you wait a bit and be patient and learn from other people, you just might find another way to get where you want to go.
Emilie Collyer is a writer, dramaturg, mentor, teacher, arts administrator and was a participant of St Martins during the mid-1990s.