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Playwright and Television Scriptwriter Visits Drama St Marys

Kenneth Emson, playwright and former student at St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, delivered a guest lecture to undergraduate Drama students

Kenneth Emson, a playwright and former student at St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, recently returned to campus to deliver a guest lecture as part of the undergraduate Drama module ‘London Theatre’. Kenneth studied Drama at the University College 10 years ago and has now written scripts for numerous plays and some of the biggest productions on television including East Enders and Holby City. He discussed the ups and downs of trying to pursue a career in theatre followed by a question and answer session with Drama students. Although Kenneth’s initial ambition was to be an actor, he got into writing while performing in a play at Goldsmith’s University, London. After spending years honing his skills and struggling to balance his dream career with a teaching job at a school in Hounslow, Kenneth’s break came when the Peggy Ramsay Foundation gave him a grant of £4,500. The Peggy Ramsay Foundation was founded in 1992 to support play writers in honour of popular play agent Peggy Ramsay. When she died in 1991, her estate was left for charitable purposes to help writers and writing for the stage. With his grant and £3,000 of his own money, Kenneth left his teaching job with the aim of spending the next seven months securing work within theatre. Within a year of quitting his job, two of the five big theatres around London got in touch with him about playwriting. During the two hour lecture, Kenneth also offered plenty of advice to students; from performing at free gigs to hone your skills and experience different venues, to visiting different play nights around the outskirts of London. He stressed that working in theatre is not easy, having to sacrifice a lot of hours and financial stability to pursue his career and waiting up to 10 months to receive feedback. His mother regularly pleaded with him to go back to his teaching job but Kenneth concentrated on writing scripts. Some of his earlier plays were knocked back but he continued to work consistently, seeking work at small venues as well as the larger theatres. When asked if he preferred television or theatre, Kenneth said, “Theatre brings more satisfaction as you watch your work come to life. I can laugh with the audience and I can see when I’ve made them sad.” During his career, Kenneth has won the 2010 Adopt a Playwright award, where he was awarded £10,000 which he used to write his play White (which was shortlisted for the 2011 Bruntswood Prize for Playwriting), and the 2012 Adrienne Benham award, which supports promising playwrights who are interested in exploring the Theatre for Young Audiences. He went on to be selected for the BBC Writersroom 10, a year-long training programme for 10 writers nominated by theatres they have worked with, and the BBC Writers Academy, which offers professional training opportunities. Michelle Paull, Senior Lecturer in Drama and the Programme Director for Theatre Arts & Joint Honours, said, “This is Kenneth's third visit to the college to talk to our students and his discussions are always inspiring. Kenneth's success shows our students what can be achieved through sheer determination, talent and hard work.”

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