Finding my way back to writing: Interview with Katharina Hone

Tell me a little about the writing that you did before beginning Space Oddity.
Writing a play and then talking about writing a play are two very different things. So, this is slightly strange, even stranger than actually writing the play. But let me begin at the beginning: this is the first play I have written. It is also the longest piece of fiction I have written in a very long time. Somewhere around first grade I was sure that I would be a writer – that or an astronaut. And then time passed and I started to write academically, formally, scientifically. And somewhere around there, I got lost. Space Oddity might be the way back.

What is Space Oddity about and what do you think audiences will like about it?
It is 2024, Dr No is the first astronaut to return from a mission to Mars. Waiting for her first public appearance, she meets a theoretical physicist and an engineer. Both were involved in her mission but have now taken new identities, calling themselves Armstrong and Gagarin. The three debate the meaning of space exploration and scientific discoveries and discuss the future of humanity, while increasingly loosing the orbit around sanity. As time and space recede into the background and chaos and disorder increase, Dr No realises that you cannot “go where no one has gone before” and still keep circling the same old ideas of progress.

I am asking some very big questions in the play. What does it mean to go to Mars? Where do we go from here? Who benefits? Can we progress, keep exploring, and keep developing new technologies without confronting our own flawed nature?

Yet, my three protagonists also get incredibly drunk, spin in circles, choreograph their own planet dance, and have imaginary pets. They have fun together and they don’t take themselves too seriously. One of them asks, “Craziness aside? When crazy is all we have left?” They seek serious answers, but they understand that the answer might not come from being all too serious.

Despite the profound questions that are brought to the stage, I hope audiences also simply have fun with the characters and keep exploring with them and spinning with them.

How did the idea for Space Oddity begin and how was the idea developed?
When the first cosmonauts and astronauts reached orbit and saw Earth as the one small planet on which we all live, the idea emerged that now we would come together as a species. We would realise our own fragility and how ridiculous our conflicts are. Many believed that space exploration would contribute to greater self-understanding and to living together more harmoniously on one planet. It almost doesn’t need to be pointed out, but: this has not happened. Why?

In the play, I am putting three people together in a confined space and apply some pressure. The three are at the forefront of exploration and of stretching beyond the boundary of what seemed impossible before. They know that going to Mars is an incredible achievement, but they are also slightly desperate. They understand that if we continue like this as a species, it cannot end well. They seek meaning in all of it, they challenge the idea of progress, and they wonder where to go from here.

How has Playpen Get to the End helped you as a writer? Would you recommend Playpen to others and why?
For me, PlayPen was a bit like gravity: a constant providing certainty and holding me in place. I don’t think I could have done it without the programme. To have workshops with the other playwrights, to get guidance on the play, to have actors spend their time on reading the script, and then to see everything on stage has been indispensable. Upon returning from Mars, my main protagonist says, “I am still trying to find my bearings. At least gravity is holding me in place.” PlayPen had exactly this role for me. It held me in place.

PlayPen has taken you through from beginning to writing a draft – what things have changed from your original idea through to the draft being presented at the end of January?
I wanted to write about science and I wanted to write about space. I grew up on a weekly diet of Start Trek Next Generation. And, as I said, I wanted to be an astronaut in first grade – that or a writer. So, I already had a few ingredients in place. Conceptually, plays like Brecht’s Life of Galileo and Dürrenmatt’s The Physicists came to my mind first. They focus on the moral responsibility of scientists.  But this turned a lot more personal when I started exploring Dr No’s journey and the doubts she is facing despite having accomplished her childhood dream and being the personification of human ingenuity and technological progress. Her doubts and her journey towards finding an answer became the guiding post for the play.

What has been the most surprising thing about the journey as a writer, writing a play for theatre for the first time?
It’s magic. There are things that I am not in control of that somehow just emerge in the process or are brought in by the different people working to get this piece on stage. There are transformations and emergences that seemingly come out of nowhere. Suddenly things hang together and connections between different characters or different parts of the play appear. It is my play, but it is also something else and to see this emerge in the rehearsals and then on stage is simply magic.

Space Oddity is written by Katharina Hone, directed by James Baker and performed by Catrin Fflur Huws, Darren O’ Connell and Jason Philpot. It will be presented as a rehearsed reading at Aberystwyth Arts Centre on Tuesday 23rd January 7.45PM

Tickets for Space Oddity are available through the box office 01970 623232 or  https://www.aberystwythartscentre.co.uk/theatre/playpen-space-oddity

The final two PlayPen Get to the End projects will be presented as follows

13th February 7.45PM 2018 – Blinds written by Caroline Clark, Directed by Roger Boyle

13th March 7.45PM 2018 – Death Comes to St Michaels written by Tom O’Malley, Directed by Caroline Clark

5# Five things by Katharina Hone

Getting to the End; Five things that helped and five things that stopped Katharina Hone

Getting to the first draft … five things that held me back.

“Each decision spawns a different universe. Not chance, but meaning. We are making meaning, we are creating the universe.” One of my characters discussed the multiverse theory, which is the idea that there are parallel universes. Some similar to ours, other very, very different. The question is: what do we decide? I found this a bit scary. Every change in the script creates a slightly different play. But was this change the right decision? Should it be another change, another play, another universe?

“Monsters of meaning.” One of my characters prefers facts to interpretation and the meaning we give to these facts. Meaning also followed me throughout the writing process. Does this play mean something? But wait, what is it that I actually want to say? Will the audience get it?

“Eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one … and …” And then nothing, because blank pages are evil. They stare back at you without mercy.

“Madness, when we are merely faking it?” Am I a playwright or am I faking it? Self-doubt is not a friend.

“The fear?” “The fear!” “Yes, tell us about the fear.” “Excuse me?”  I guess this one is self-explanatory. Fear is also not a friend.

Getting to the first draft … five things that helped:

“To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.” It’s one of those famous sci-fi quotes that still resonate with me from my childhood. Two of my characters mention it at the beginning of the play. One of them even mocks the unmitigated spirit of exploration and progress that the quote exudes. Yet, the quote really touches on something. This is my first play and the excitement of exploring something new and to boldly go where I have never been before were incredible. Theatre is a strange new world for me and I didn’t have any pre-conception or expectations, nothing previous to compare myself to. And I found that’s the best possible situation to be in. So, I boldly explored.

“I am still trying to find my bearings. At least gravity is holding me in place,” says the main character who has just returned from Mars. For me, PlayPen was a bit like gravity: a constant providing certainty and holding me in place. I don’t think I could have done it without the programme. To have workshops with the other playwrights, to get guidance on the play, to have actors spend their time on reading the script, and then to see everything on stage has been indispensible and incredible.

“Failed again? Try again! Fall six times. Get up seven.” This is what one of my characters says when he tries to be encouraging. It’s almost too cheesy to have an effect. But there you go!

“It’s like circling a planet without ever landing.” To keep sane, you simply have to declare yourself finished at some point. At least temporarily. Everyone has to come down from orbit.

“Too late. There is only one way to go now.” Deadlines. They are your friends.

Space Oddity is written by Katharina Hone, directed by James Baker and performed by Catrin Fflur Huws, Darren O’ Connell and Jason Philpot. It will be presented as a rehearsed reading at Aberystwyth Arts Centre on Tuesday 23rd January 7.45PM

Tickets for Space Oddity are available through the box office 01970 623232 or  https://www.aberystwythartscentre.co.uk/theatre/playpen-space-oddity

The final two PlayPen Get to the End projects will be presented as follows

13th February 7.45PM 2018 – Blinds written by Caroline Clark, Directed by Roger Boyle

13th March 7.45PM 2018 – Death Comes to St Michaels written by Tom O’Malley, Directed by Caroline Clark

 

 

 

Space Oddity by Katharina Hone

PlayPen Get to the End will be presenting the fifth of seven full-length plays in development at Aberystwyth Arts Centre on 23rd January at 7:45PM. The play is Space Oddity by Katharina Hone, a thought-provoking play about space exploration and the state of humanity.

Space Oddity is written by Katharina Hone, directed by James Baker and performed by Catrin Fflur Huws, Darren O’ Connell and Jason Philpot.

While humanity celebrates the first successful round-trip to Mars, it takes three slightly deranged employees of the Mars Odyssey company – an astronaut, a theoretical physicist, and a space engineer – to raise serious questions about the future of humanity. Facing such formidable concerns the three cannot help but turn a little bit loopy.

The writer Katharina Hone said, “-To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.- It’s one of those famous sci-fi quotes that still resonate with me from my childhood. Two of my characters mention it at the beginning of the play. One of them even mocks the unmitigated spirit of exploration and progress that the quote exudes. Yet, the quote really touches on something. This is my first play and the excitement of exploring something new and to boldly go where I have never been before were incredible. Theatre is a strange new world for me and I didn’t have any pre-conception or expectations, nothing previous to compare myself to. That’s a great situation to be in!. And so, I boldly explored.”

Sandra Bendelow said, “I am particularly proud of Space Oddity and the role the PlayPen project played in supporting Katharina to get to the end of writing the script. Katharina was taking a scriptwriting course I teach for Aberystwyth University Lifelong Learning, she was completely new to scriptwriting and the idea evolved from an exercise I did to push the writers to get an idea to use for the course. As soon as she explained her idea I was really excited about the potential. It started as a film script but quickly she realised that it had real power as a theatre script. I was really pleased when Katharina submitted the idea to Playpen as it’s perfect for a writer like Katharina – it provides a deadline, workshops and the invaluable and very rare opportunity to have a play taken from the page and staged. It allowed Katharina to explore her idea and challenged her to push the idea further. It has also been a great experience for the director and the cast because the play offers three great, distinctive characters for them to play and allows a director to explore the themes visually and physically. ”

James Baker said, “It instantly struck me as a unique voice. From basically the first page I was dead set on directing the play. It was such an interesting beast, just rammed full of ideas and strange concepts, disinclined to naturalism and a comfortable sense of reality. Bouncing between philosophical monologues and berserk physical theatre. It’s the sort of theatre I want to see more of in general.  Since the first 20 minutes were written the play has changed dramatically. Or not so much changed as grown. Or matured. It’s finished its story, obviously, its characters have rounded out and their personalities and inter-relationships are now positively vivid. Its action has become more diverse, its range of tones has spread and its rhythm has settled into a controlled chaos. All of this is down to Katharina’s astonishing speed at getting to grips with writing the form without compromising her own vision for the work. It’s been a joy having her along for the process. She takes on board all the feedback offered, considers it all and, crucially, just only does what feels right to her in the end. I cannot wait to see how good her second play is going to be!”

Catrin Fflur Huws said, “What delights me about this role of Dr No is the different facets of the character. What came across when I originally read it was that the two men are a little boys’ club who have their in-jokes and their loyalty to each other, that she is excluded from. She’s therefore got a tough job prove herself and to not accept the superiority they assume – she is equal to them, and intelligent. She has just as much of a right to be there as them. That strength is fun to play. However, that contrasts very effectively with her more personal moments when she is amazed and humbled and overwhelmed and entranced by how tiny she is, how small she is in a massive universe.”

PlayPen Get to the End began in March 2017 with PlayPen: Beginnings, with the first twenty minutes of 8 plays by local writers across 2 nights featuring 42 characters and performed by over 30 actors. This part of the project has been named ‘Get to the End’ in reference to the project supporting writers to achieve the very simple but often evasive task of simply getting to the end of writing a play.

PlayPen: Get to the End is a development project by Scriptography Productions produced by Richard Hogger, Tom O’Malley and Sandra Bendelow.

Space Oddity will be at Aberystwyth Arts Centre on Tuesday 23rd January 7.45PM

Tickets for Space Oddity are available through the box office 01970 623232 or  https://www.aberystwythartscentre.co.uk/theatre/playpen-space-oddity

The final two PlayPen Get to the End projects will be presented as follows

13th February 7.45PM 2018 – Blinds written by Caroline Clark, Directed by Roger Boyle

13th March 7.45PM 2018 – Death Comes to St Michaels written by Tom O’Malley, Directed by Caroline Clark