Bergman Studio 2017–18. Not in picture: Maria Tryti Vennerød.
The Bergman Studio is the Royal Dramatic Theatre's multi-year initiative focusing on the development of texts, set to begin on 18 September 2017. The initiative is one of the activities associated with the Ingmar Bergman Festival, but work within the Bergman Studio will be continuous, including in the period between festivals. Spearheading the initiative is Jacob Hirdwall, appointed by Eirik Stubø, Head of the Royal Dramatic Theatre. Lena Endre is affiliated with the Bergman Studio as director. Advisor is Eva Bergman; Åsa Lassfolk is the producer. The Bergman Studio receives financial support from the Ingmar Bergman Foundation.
The purpose of the Bergman Studio is to create a forum for new drama at the Royal Dramatic Theatre. One model is the National Theatre Studio in London, a workspace for scenic artists to develop a variety of projects with a contemporary orientation. The working methods of the Bergman Studio are also inspired by those of film and television, where a number of writers gather in a room to develop ideas together: a think tank where the group is free to explore whatever appeals to or inspires them.
Everyone is familiar with Ingmar Bergman as a director, but in recent years his contributions as a dramatist and writer have increasingly come into focus. When writing for the stage, Bergman maintained contact with the theatre and its actors. The Bergman Studio will incorporate the belief that contact between dramatist and actors is vital. For that reason, dramatists participating in the Bergman Studio will have access to the theatre's rehearsal rooms and ensemble.
The underlying approach entails entering a room to develop ideas collectively, a method that in many ways differs from the usual image of how a dramatist works. Participants in the project are dramatists interested in sharing their working process with others. They must, in other words, be prepared to contribute to others' projects as well as be open to others' perspectives on their own ideas. There will be ten participants in the group. Each contributes an idea, a vision for a dramatic text, and then everyone cooperates to develop it. This creative part of the work process is entirely free of expectations or demands.
The person who originates the idea has the last word and as the primary author of the play does the actual writing. There are set deadlines, but discussion of characters, structure, theme, form and genre continues within the group during the writing process.
The theatre's resources—meeting and rehearsal rooms, actors—will be used, for instance, to read through or rehearse particular scenes to aid the dramatist's further work with the text. The other participants will not merely serve as sounding boards in a traditional sense, but will contribute more substantively, as co-creators of the plot and characters as well as themes and individual scenes. Although the group takes part in the conceptual process, it is the primary author whose name is assigned to the work. Writing dialogue for specific scenes is not intended as a group activity; rather, overall planning, creating a synopsis and determining the order of the scenes are aspects of the process in which the group is involved.
The hope is that these tools for developing texts, encouraging wide-ranging discussion and input from many sources, will help bring exciting new plays to fruition. This may be seen as research into the creative process and how the choice of working method plays a decisive role in shaping the final product. Collaboration between two, three or more dramatists working on a common project leads to unexpected outcomes, to plays that may differ significantly from those an individual playwright would otherwise have written. The results of these collaborative projects will be presented to audiences in connection with the 2018 Ingmar Bergman Festival, with the goal that a number of the plays will be performed at the Royal Dramatic Theatre.
Dramatists participating in the project will have access to the conversational space that is the core of the Bergman Studio, the possibility of developing their texts in dialogue with other dramatists, actors and directors at the Royal Dramatic Theatre. They will be able to have readings of their work-in-progress, and if they wish, to try directing themselves. Membership in the group will change, entirely or in part, between Bergman festivals.
The Bergman Studio has the explicit ambition to establish international collaborations with other organizations working to develop texts for the stage.