Spotlight on Taranaki playwright

Shona Wilson’s latest plays are about to hit the stage in New Plymouth. Taranaki Community News caught up with her to find out how she became a playwright and a director.

Two of your plays are coming up at New Plymouth Little Theatre. Can you tell us about each of these?
The Gift Shop is a fifteen-minute soliloquy. Caution: Wet Floor is a full-length light comedy about a lawyer, a cleaner and a paternity issue. Both came about by conversations and observations of people that I have spent time with in casual social situations and in the workplace.

You’ve won an award for one of these plays, didn’t you?
I won first place in the PANZ 2017 ten-minute play competition, much to my delight and surprise.

You are also directing these works. How are rehearsals going?
The rehearsals have come together in a steady fashion, with a strong cast of word-perfect, hard-working local actors. They’ve all been amenable to my directing style and have brought my characters to the stage so well, they have filled me with pride. My actress for The Gift Shop is Vivienne Baty. For Caution: Wet Floor the cast comprises Catrin Noack, April Krijger, Simon Buick and Michelle Rawlinson.

Catrin Noack, Simon Buick and April Krijger star in Caution: Wet Floor.

Did you always want to be a playwright? How did you get into it? 
I didn’t plan to become a playwright. I enjoyed drama at high school and once wrote a play in my English class. I started writing at the age of 12, mostly short stories and poems. I wrote a children’s picture book in 2006 and had that published and another in 2013, also published.

In between those two I tackled my first novel. Then wrote another. It was in 2014 that I had an idea for a story that needed to be seen, not just read. And so I wrote Paperless which Little Theatre allowed me to direct in 2016. 

What other types of writing have you done? 
Short stories, novels, children’s books and the occasional factual piece.

You also have a day job, so how do you fit in all of this writing? 
I write Sunday mornings and occasionally in the evenings. I make sure I attend a writer’s retreat annually, and often get a big piece of work under my belt.

What are your three best tips for any budding writers out there? 
My three best tips are:
1. Write. It is the only way to get better – like sport. Keep doing it.
2. Read your work out loud and listen to it.
3. Listen to everything around you. Join a writer’s group or a critiquing workshop. Take criticism. Don’t stop.

If you could have dinner with any three writers from history, who would they be and what would you talk about? 
Janet Frame, Richard Adams and Oscar Wilde. I would talk to Janet about her life, Richard about his book Watership Down and with Oscar, I would not talk, I would listen to his wit and his literary wisdom. (First name basis – see).

The Gift Shop and Caution: Wet Floor open on April 3 run until April 13 at New Plymouth Little Theatre. Tickets through iTicket.