"Writing From The Memory Bank" with Nathan Joe

Sunday 16th October 2022

Yr11-13 Drama learn the mechanics of writing a play with prolific NZ playwright, Nathan Joe.

In the last week of term 3, Yr11-13 Drama were lucky enough to have a playwriting workshop with prolific NZ playwright, Nathan Joe as part of the NZ Young Writer's Festival 2022. Nathan's award-winning work, 'Scenes from a Yellow Peril', is described as "a meta-analysis of Asian identity, carved into razor-sharp scenes that cut to the cultural quick". Memory is a significant feature and influence for many writers and their works, but this is almost exclusively the case for Nathan. 

The workshop began with a series of "free-writing" exercises to try and get students into the mode of just expressing themselves and putting words down on page. Some students found this difficult initially, others not. Nathan talked everyone through the importance of non-judgement of the self when trying to crack the flow of writing. 

Image by: Reva Grills

Next, we went through a brainstorming process of what exactly makes up a play? What are the features and parts that come to mind? This process was very interesting, a myriad of things came to mind for students, which were expressed in a multitude of ways. Nathan did an amazing job of empowering students ideas/thoughts, no matter what they were. Nathan continued to be very big on breaking psychological constraints that prevent freedom of expression, whether verbally or on paper. 

Image by: Reva Grills

Lastly, Nathan spent a large portion of the workshop talking about the significance of using one's memory bank when telling stories, particularly for theatre. Writing a play requires creating content that other humans can embody and express on stage as actors. Memories come with feelings and an actors primary job is to attempt to feel as fully the meaning of the words/story of the playwright. This portion of the Nathan's korero was the most helpful to students in the room, especially those who just finished their playwriting internal recently. Nathan empowered students to recognise that the best stories to tell are the ones we have the firmest grip on, and those are often often come from own personal, unique memories and experiences.