Sarah Yankelowitz is managing the production of Playmarket’s latest collection — Here/Now: 8 plays by award-winning NZ playwrights.
The Whitireia Publishing Programme continues its lively relationship with Playmarket this year, publishing the New Zealand Play Series. I was elated to be assigned as project manager of Here/Now: 8 plays by award-winning NZ playwrights. Also on the team are David, as editor, and Jax, as editor and typesetter.
Here/Now is a dark, edgy, laugh-out-loud set of plays that weave together a narrative of contemporary Aotearoa, reflecting both the light and dark in our diverse society. There is the quintessential road trip, a Samoan accused of a terrible crime, a paper town filled with paper people, and a little girl trying to navigate between her separated parents.
Many of the plays have been performed in recent years, and they were written by playwrights with an impressive collection of awards including the Bruce Mason Award, Chapman Tripp Award and Michael King Writers in Residence. Not only are they all gifted writers, they are all lovely, cool people. The one thing I really missed in this project was the chance to meet the writers.
With eight playwrights, this project has kept me on my toes. Adapting the play scripts for the published page has been fascinating, thinking about what works on stage and what works on paper. Local theatre is often magical and ephemeral, and it is a challenging and constantly surprising process to be turning the transient into a published volume.
I made the decision to split the editing between the three of us, allowing us the time to focus on the individual plays as well as giving us the opportunity to really get to know the plays we were each editing. Although the plays were in generally good shape, it required some serious logistics to bring them all into a harmonious whole in terms of spelling, structure and style while maintaining each play’s unique tone.
Editing a manuscript is a lot like studying a text, as you go through a shifting love/hate relationship — there is your first impression (which can be love or hate), then as you become more involved in the text you start to grow an attachment to it, then there is the ‘can’t look at it anymore, throw it on a bonfire’ phase, and finally, you grow to love, or at the very least respect, the work that you have slaved over for so long.
One of my highlights of this project so far was sitting in on the design presentation for the cover. We had a fairly strong idea to start with, and provided the designers with a couple of photographs that we were certain would work as the front cover. That cover came out exactly as we had all envisaged, but it was another cover that completely blew us away. I have a real respect for the designers on this project — they gave us all exactly what we wanted, and then showed us something that we had never thought of, but which was completely right for the book.
Here/Now has taught me that the lure of working in the publishing industry lies in the fact that all the practical elements — copyright, barcodes, commas and margins — are balanced and brightened by the fantastical content in these plays. Here/Now is a great book for the casual reader and amateur performer alike with gritty, raw scenes that are poignantly relevant to our everyday experiences.
With bromance, murder, incest and magic, it has been a marvellous year as project manager of this book.
Here/Now is part of Playmarket’s New Zealand Play Series which has published twenty volumes since 2007.