Back in summer 2009, Fran DaSilveira ’14 (BFA, Rita and Burton Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing) spent four weeks in the Tisch Summer High School Program. She was in the dramatic writing track and it was during this time before her senior year of high school that she was first exposed to Anton Chekhov. Fran said, “We read his short play The Proposal, and now consider him the playwright that has influenced my writing most.”
Fran’s writing was also influenced by spending some time away from New York City. In fall 2012, she was part of the Tisch Playwriting in London program. The city left such an impression on Fran that she moved to London after completing her degree! Here’s more from Fran:
Why did you want to study in London?
I read Pride and Prejudice in the 7th grade and have always had a very romantic view of England. When I found out that Tisch had a study abroad program in London, I had idyllic views of sitting in the moors writing my hit play in a leather bound notebook. This image was partly why I wanted to study in London. The other reasons were a bit more practical. Aside from Cape Verde where I was born, I’d never traveled outside of the U.S. and going to London would mean that it would be easy to travel all over Europe as well. It’s also a city that is perhaps just as rich in the theatre arts as New York is.
How did studying abroad change your writing?
My semester abroad was incredibly influential not only to my work but also to the way I viewed myself as a writer. I arrived in London as a dramatic writing student and left as a professional pursuing a career. It’s a very important transition for any writer to make; otherwise, you find yourself only writing for the sake of a class or deadline or grade.
What made you want to go back to London?
I get this question a lot, especially from British people who are confused as to why I would leave New York for London. The two cities are similar in terms of industry and the vibrancy of the theatre world. What drew me back, however, was the physical history and culture that permeates throughout the city. London is absolutely beautiful and the UK is a nation that takes pride in preserving its age. There are dozens of free opportunities to take in the city’s culture, from museums to parks to architecture. During my study abroad here, I connected to the city and I found myself subconsciously leaving things undone, like seeing a play at Shakespeare’s Globe, with the intention of coming back.
What’s your theatre experience been so far?
One of the things I did to prepare for my trip was to compile a list of theatres in London in order to find the ones that were particularly receptive of new writing. When I got to the city, I booked tickets to see various shows, including Freak, a play by Anna Jordan produced by Theatre503, a small but very popular and well respected venue. One of the great things about Theatre503 is that they hold monthly writer’s nights for half price and put on something called Rapid Write Response where writer’s send in 10-minute plays in response to their main stage productions. I sent something in after seeing Freak and my piece was one of seven chosen to be performed for a two day run. It was an incredible experience, and encouraging since I’d only been in London for a couple of weeks at the time. London is a city that tries to do as much as possible for young people, especially in terms of theatre. Concessions are usually always available for shows, workshops are offered, and short play nights a fantastic way for people to get their work out there.
What’s your advice for students thinking of studying playwriting in London?
Do it! Even if you’re on the fence, apply and speak to others who have done the program to find out their experience. I’m a big advocator of studying abroad in general. New York can become a bit consuming at times and it’s extremely useful to experience other ways of life. The great thing about London is that there’s enough familiarity so you don’t feel completely out of place but there’s more than enough within and outside the city to explore.