The Play Reader 2013: yet more dramas by thirdagers The sixty plays submitted to Third Age Press’s third playwriting competition bears testimony to the continuing popularity of playreading as an activity in many U3As up and down the country.
Our first venture into this area (The Play Reader: 7 dramas by thirdagers) was published in 1995, re-printed several times and eventually turned into an A4 printout still available and popular. This format allows groups to pick, choose and copy which plays they want to read. The response to that first call for entries was almost overwhelming - bringing some 120 plays flooding in. Reading through my introduction to that collection, I was surprised to see that I’d commented on the wide range of themes covered by the submissions, but added that ‘The one area that was disappointingly lacking was humour’. That is certainly not true of the new (2013) collection. There is humour lurking in the majority of the new plays with several being blatantly and cleverly comic.
In 2008 we launched a second competition and published seven more plays chosen from some 60 entrants (again in the A4 format) The Play Reader 2008: 7 more dramas by thirdagers. Once again we were impressed by the wide variety of themes and styles - a reaction shared by those involved in choosing the plays to be published this year.
History, from all eras, is obviously an abiding interest. In scope ,submissions ran from Greek drama all the way through a very bleak, dystopian future. But the human condition is also of great interest, both in the modern world and the eras through which thirdagers have passed in their lifetimes. There were plays which movingly addressed issues seemingly born of very real experiences, and family tensions provided abundant material. One particular area that several writers attempted to inhabit, but one that is perhaps the most difficult to make come realistically alive, centred around relationships between generations and here it was almost always the attempt to portray the voices of young people in a youthful vernacular that let the writers down. The entries,on the whole, represented a very rich and fascinating pool of creativity and the final selection was by no means easy.
Third Age Press was founded to encourage people to make the best of the rest of their lives and, as founder Peter Laslett always maintained, the third age should be a ‘time of fulfilment and continuing personal development . . . a time of regeneration’. It seems to me that the writing of plays to be read or performed together by groups of like minded people conforms perfectly to that aim. So thanks to all those people who submitted plays and congratulations to those chosen to be published.
In alphabetic order, the playwrights chosen to appear in The Play Reader 2013: yet more dramas by thirdagers are:
Graham Cranmer (Winchester U3A) Parallel Lines An exercise in eavesdropping on a colourful mixture of people waiting for a train.
Susanna Gladwin (Plymouth U3A) Kent and Christendom A new slant on life in Tudor times as seen through the eyes of three women of the court.
David Hart(Chesterfield U3A) The New Member’s Tail or FaU3Ast Ingenious portrayal of the very strange events in a local U3A when a most unusual member joins.
Len Kingston (Watford U3A) Act Two Scene Two What goes on in a U3A Shakespeare group when a new member is foisted on them and they discover that her family history bears a disturbing similarity to the play there are reading.
Jean Lunnon (Sarum U3A) The Herbert Love Poem Society A split-time adventure that takes us back and forth between the life of 17th Century poet, George Herbert and a very mixed group of modern villagers trying to save a local rectory.
Cheryl Palmer (Horley & District U3A) The Last Days of Socrates . . . as seen (with unexpected humour) through the eyes of his wife and her slave girl.
Valerie Thame (Overton U3A) Honesty is the Best Policy Three elderly ladies struggling to come to terms with their loss of independence (and conceal it from their friends).
Betty Weiner(Newcastle on Tyne U3A) Flu-Jab Day A pacey and very funny snapshot of the goings-on in a GP’s surgery full of ‘oldies’ on a wet November day.
Particular congratulations to two of our winners, Susanna Gladwin and Valerie Thame, who have both been published in one of our previous collections.
I hope readers will find that these eight plays are a pleasure to read and hear as well as being informative, stimulating and, in many cases, fun.