DDF 2022: An Interview with Jodie Sale

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A drama festival is such a massive undertaking, what interested you in the role?

When I was applying to Durham, I was drawn to the fact that they had a festival, in the first place; as it is rare for any university to have a whole drama festival run by students. To make it even rarer is that the only plays that they put on are student-written. I think to have a week that celebrates the importance of writing and what students can create entirely on their own is something that I was very drawn to. My own passion for student writing also played a part in it. In my gap year, I had been part of a local festival in my county. I put my work out there and it was both rewarding and a big moment for me; I wanted to make sure that people could do that at university. 

Was the experience what you imagined it to be? Having been part of other festivals, how do you think DDF is similar, or different, in that regard? 

What I found different about it has been the emphasis on student writing compared to other festivals. The scale of the event is also something that was novel to me. The handling of eight shows in the span of a week along with events such as Opening Night with different styles of student writing, workshops and professional judges all combine to make it a big project that has a large number of people involved in it. 

Combining the different mixture of styles and genres and subject matters to make an entire programme was an exciting experience for me

What was the play selection process like for you? 

That was really fun; reading lots of different works and chatting about different writing in a constructive manner proved to be very useful, especially in offering feedback to writers about their plays. It also encouraged conversations about adaptations and redevelopment of plays to fit different formats. Combining the different mixture of styles and genres and subject matters to make an entire programme was an exciting experience for me. 

Do you think keeping the festival devoid of a theme, unlike previous years, worked against your favour? 

I wanted to make sure there were no limits. Even if the theme was vague, I did not want to put any limits on what could be put in the festival. What I liked was that it encouraged diverse subject matters; I am quite excited about the fact that the backdrops of a lot of plays are very different. From plays set in Shanghai to ones based on the Hungarian Revolution, it has encouraged both freshers and international students to submit writing. I really enjoyed setting up playwriting workshops at the beginning of the year; two of our writers made their work off of the support that DDF provided. 

What do you think is different about DDF this year? This being the immediate post-covid era, do you think there are factors in play that separate the festival from previous years? 

Other than the varied content matter, this year the festival has adopted a hybrid quality. All the plays are being filmed and submitted to the National Student Drama festival virtually. This has come off of having an entirely online festival last year. This way, plays are accessible to everyone. The festival has found a new venue in Mount Oswald Hub Most significantly, our Opening Night has been completely revamped this year, which is very exciting. This year, instead of having a scratch night, it is taken the form of a showcase. From poetry to dramatic monologues, the event is being opened by the nationally renowned Durham Revue. 

I think it is important to showcase voices that have not had a platform yet

What have been the highlights of your time in the role so far? Contrarily, what were your challenges? 

Putting out the announcements of the production team and casts was a highlight; it felt like an achievement. Reading the scripts was also very exciting. 

We did struggle to cast appropriately for certain plays; Something that is bound to become less of a challenge if more varied shows were part of the Durham Student Theatre culture. Publicising all shows equally has been a bit of a challenge as well. 

Why do you think championing student writing for a select week is essential? 

I think it’s important to showcase voices that have not had a platform yet. To write a play is one thing but to have it put on a stage and explored is so crucial to student writing. A festival is great for new writers because it offers these rigorous feedback sessions. It’s always so exciting to bring in new blood and new ideas. It’s important to keep theatre relevant today and DDF is a great avenue for this. 

Should we look out for a particular show this year? 

Every single show is top-notch! Buy tickets to all eight plays! 

Image credit: Durham Drama Festival 2022

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