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Interview: Playwright Simone Spiteri from Malta/Intervista ma' Simone Spiteri, awtriċi għall-palk, minn Malta

Simone Spiteri is a playwright, director, and performer.  Despite being in an intensive writing phase completing a number of commissions, we were able to charm her into answering a few questions about her work.  Even better, she answered in both English and Maltese.  [A more complete biography of Simone is here]


WLPG: Was there something in particular that motivated you to start writing for young audiences?

SIMONE: Total sheer coincidence… which wasn’t so coincidental when I think about it in hindsight. The first play for young people I wrote was a commission and it came at a point where I felt as if I was reaching a plateau with my writing for adults. I barged into this new alien world with absolutely no idea of what it really was and it was like being swept along by a tornado. It was challenging, exhilarating, liberating, scary, unexpected, unpredictable and fresh all rolled into one! I haven’t looked back since and not only have I actively looked for more opportunities to write for the young but I feel that this world and particularly its young sharp audiences have informed and pushed me in my writing for adults as well.

Kumbinazzjoni totali... għalkemm forsi mhux daqshekk kumbinazzjoni issa li nista’ nħares lura. L-ewwel dramm li ktibt għal udjenza żgħażugħa kienet kummissjoni li ġiet meta kont qed inħossni wasal f’punt ftit wieqaf fil-kitba tiegħi għall-adulti. Dħalt għal din il-biċċa xogħol f’din id-dinja kompletament aljena għalija mingħajr ma verament kelli idea tagħha u s-sensazzjoni kienet waħda ta’ ċiklun li ġarni miegħu. Kienet esperjenza diffiċli, eċitanti, liberatorja, ftit tal-biża’, mhux mistennija, mhux prevedibbli u friska... kollha fl-istess ħin! Qatt ma ħarist lura minn dik l-esperjenza l’hawn u mhux talli issa sirt infittex opportunitajiet biex nikteb għal din it-tip t’udjenza imma talli nħoss li din id-dinja u l-udjenzi qawwija tagħha saru jinfluwenzni u jimbuttawni l’quddiem anki fil-kitba tiegħi għall-adulti.

WLPG: Is there a production, playwright, or theatre company that has been influential on your work?

SIMONE: Many! Coming from an isolated tiny island in the Mediterranean I am constantly looking out onto the rest of the world for inspiration. I am also a trained performer and director so my influences are constantly crossing over from one discipline to the other. I love the British theatre company Gecko, the production The Curious Case of the Dog in the Nighttime, DV8, Shakespeare, all the classics really. I also heard a reading of an amazing play two years ago at New Visions New Voices 2014 called This is Modern Art, by Steppenwolf Theatre. It was still going through the writing process at the time and I often wonder how it eventually turned out to be in performance. I had loved the fresh style of writing.

Ħafna! Minħabba li jien ġejja minn gżira tant żgħira fil-Mediterran dejjem nipprova nfittex li nkun naf x’inhu għaddej fil-bqija tad-dinja għall-ispirazzjoni. It-taħriġ tiegħu huwa wkoll t’attriċi u direttriċi allura l-influwenzi tiegħi il-ħin kollu jisfumaw minn dixxiplina għal oħra. Joġgħbuni ħafna l-kumpanija Ingliża Gecko, il-produzzjoni The Curious Case of the Dog in the Nighttime, DV8, Shakespeare, il-klassiċi kollha fil-verita`. Sentejn ilu, F’New Visions New Voices 2014 kont smajt ukoll qari ta’ dramm jismu This is Modern Art tal-kumpanija Steppenwolf, dak iż-żmien kienet għadha fil-proċess ta’ kitba imma spissa naħseb dwar kif eventwalment saret u kif dehret fil-produzzjoni. L-istil frisk ta’ kitba tagħhom kien għoġobni mmens.

WLPG: Why is it important to write for children and young people?

Simone: They are the sharpest, most honest mirror to us older humans and I think the world needs to hear more what young people have to say. Adulthood is often clouded with so many things that hinder us from seeing things in the crystal clear way children and young people do. In a world that is changing so quickly… and in so many worrying ways, I feel that young people and children are often the voice or reason. They are also the adults of our future and writing for them makes me feel participative in the shaping of several springboards they can use to hopefully make this world a better smarter place: one in which they will keep thinking, feeling, speaking, reacting, creating as wonderfully and magically as they do now… but as adults.

Għax huma l-iktar mera qawwija u onesta għalina umani ikbar minnhom u naħseb li  d-dinja għandha bżonn tisma’ x’għandhom jgħidu t-tfal u ż-żgħażagħ iktar. Id-dinja tal-adulti hija spiss imsaħħba minn ħafna kwistjonijiet li jipprevjenu lil dak li jkun milli jara l-affarijiet bil-mod ċar daqs il-kristall li tfal u żgħażagħ għandhom il-kapaċita’ li jagħmlu. F’dinja li qed tinbidel tant malajr... u b’tant modi inkwetatni, inħoss li t-tfal u żgħażagħ spissa ikunu l-vuci tar-raġuni. Huma ukoll l-adulti tal-futur tagħna u meta nikteb inħossni qed nipparteċipa fil-formazzjoni ta’ spunti li ‘il quddiem huma jistgħu jużaw biex din id-dinja tkun post aħjaru iktar intelliġenti: waħda fejn fiha jistgħu jaħsbu, jħossu, jitkellmu, jirreaġixxu, jikkrejaw bl-istess mod sabiħ u maġiku li jużaw issa... imma bħala adulti.

WLPG: What is your typical writing process?

SIMONE: My writing process for children and young people needs, first and foremost, the most pivotal of ingredients: children and young people. I never write in isolation and often like to share what I’m writing as I’m writing with a group of trusted readers who will give me honest feedback. When I write for this age group I feel that I cannot truly infiltrate their world without having them on board as my critics and I usually always have a focus group made up of individuals representing the targeted age group of my play. It’s the scariest thing, because their feedback tends to be brutally honest, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I will also not start writing a play until I can feel what its ‘spirit’ is. I don’t fuss too much on details at first, but every play, in my head and heart has an aura. Just like a person would. You can know very little about a person during a first encounter but you can immediately get a sense of what their essence is usually. And I apply the same rule to the play; I don’t write a word before I know, in my gut, what kind of essence my play has at its core. This applies to both young and adult plays.

Il-proċess tal-kitba tiegħi għat-tfal u żgħażagħ għandu bżonn, l-ewwel u qabel kollox, l-iktar ingredjent importanti: tfal u żgħażagħ. Qatt ma nikteb b’mod iżolat u ħafna drabi nieħu gost naqsam dak li qed nikteb waqt li qed nikteb ma’ grupp ta’ qarrejja li nafda li naf li ser jagħtuni feedback onest.  Meta nikteb għal din l-eta` inħoss li ma nistax ninfiltra b’mod sħiħ id-dinja tagħhom mingħajr ma jkolli lilhom involuti bħala l-kritiċi tiegħi u spiss ikolli focus group magħmul minn individwi li jirrappreżentaw l-eta’ li nkun qed nimmira għaliha fid-dramm tiegħi. Hija ħaġa ftit tal-biża’ għax il-feedback tagħhom jaf ikun onest b’mod kważi brutali, imma dik hija xi ħaġa li nkun nixtieq.

Barra min hekk dramm ma nibdix niktbu qabel ma nħoss x’tip ta’ ‘spirtu’ għandu. Ma ninkwetax wisq fuq id-dettal fil-bidu, imma kull dramm, f’moħħi u qalbi għandy aura. Daqs li kieku kien persuna. Af tkun taf vera ftit dwar persuna l-ewwel darba li titlaqa’ miegħu imma dejjem tieħu sens kważi immedjat ta’ x’tip t’essenza għandu normalment. U jien napplika l-istess regola lid-dramm; ma nitkibx kelma qabel ma nkun naf, fil-gut, x’tip t’essenza għandu d-dramm fil-qalba tiegħu. U din tapplika kemm għal xogħol tal-kbar u żgħar.

WLPG: Is there any real difference between writing for young audiences and writing for adult audiences?

SIMONE: Not really. My most important aim when I write is to be honest. With myself, the characters I’m writing, the situation, the themes. And that is non-negotiable, whatever and towards whomever the project is aimed.

Mhux tant. L-iktar tir importanti għalija meta nikteb huwa li nkun onesta. Miegħi nniffsi, bil-karattri li qed nikteb, is-sitwazzjoni, it-temi. U din m’hix xi ħaġa negozzjabbli, hu x’inhu u hu għal min hu mmirat dak li qed nikteb.

WLPG: Is there something about playwriting for children and young people in your country that is notable?

SIMONE: Presently, I would say the sense of collective adventure that seems to be very much felt in the theatre community. Until very very recently theatre/ art for young audiences was pretty much non-existent on the islands of Malta but things have exploded and the country is now enjoying a very enlightened period in this area. Artists of all backgrounds and disciplines are really taking the creation of new work for the young seriously. I’m very eager to see how this first generation of young Maltese who were exposed to so much art and theatre than any previous generation will turn out to be as adults. I have high hopes.

Bħalissa, naħseb is-sens kollettiv t’avventura li tinħass fil-komunita` teatrali. Sa riċenti ħafna teatru/ art għal udjenza żgħira kien kważi non-eżistenti fil-gżejjer ta’ Malta imma issa l-affarijiet donnhom splodew u l-pajjiż qed igawdu minn żmien ta’ qawmien f’din l-isfera. Artisti ta’ kull sfond u dixxiplina qed jieħdu il-ħolqien ta’ xogħol ġdid għaż-żgħar b’serjeta’ kbira. Fuq ix-xwiek li nara kif ser tkun din l-ewwel ġenerazzjoni ta’ żgħar Maltin – bħala adulti- li kienu esposti għall-arti u teatru iktar minn dawk kollha ta’ qabilhom. Għandi tama kbira.

WLPG: Is there a question you would like to ask your fellow playwrights?

SIMONE: Why do you write?

I ask myself this question so many times, my answer changes constantly. Sometimes I have no answer at all. But somehow I always go back to that pen and paper.

Għaliex tikteb?

Spiss insaqsi lili nnifsi din il-mistoqsija, it-tweġiba tinbidel il-ħin kollu. Kultant ma jkollix tweġiba ukoll. Imma b’xi mod dejjem nerġa’ mmur lura għal dik il-pinna u karta.


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