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Images & Voices of Hope | December 2, 2020

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The Guardian collaborates with playwrights to tell more dynamic stories

The Guardian collaborates with playwrights to tell more dynamic stories

The Guardian is experimenting with a new way of telling stories — by taking them from the page to the stage.

As part of a collaboration called “Off the Page,” the paper is teaming up with Royal Court Theater to create a series of “microplays” — filmed, five-minute performances that feature Guardian writers and playwrights. The microplays will focus on six main coverage areas: politics, music, sports, education, fashion, and food.

“On the Guardian Stage, we’ve experimented over the last few months with live-streaming plays, and we’ve hosted short films that have reacted to theatrical productions. This is really something else altogether,” said Chris Wiegand, The Guardian’s theater, comedy, and dance editor. “You’ve got a very short space of time to say something pertinent and current. We want them to feel like pieces of theater. I really hope that the microplays are an extension of our journalism and that they are an informed and creative response that sits alongside leader articles, and reporting, and features.”

Other news outlets have also collaborated with people in the arts, while being careful not to blur fact with fiction when telling journalistic stories.

RadioLab and This American Life have teamed up with dancers, comedians, and musicians to tell stories on stage. Similarly, the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) has collaborated with a spoken-word poetry group called Youth Speaks to pair investigative reporting with stories of young people who can relate to the issues being reported.

In a related Poynter.org story, Xandra Clark interviewed CIR Executive Director Robert Rosenthal about the Youth Speaks collaboration:

“‘One of the things we’re trying to do here is take really deeply reported, fact-based investigative reporting to audiences the way they want to receive it,’ Rosenthal said.

“For Rosenthal, such performances are ‘a great way to engage people’ and a way for CIR’s reporters to learn about issues teenagers face and consider ‘how we can humanize and tell their stories well,'” Clark reported. “He added that performances like these also get the young participants, who may not read the newspapers every day, thinking about ‘the value and the role of journalism in a democracy.'”

These collaborations are beneficial to the artists involved with them, too. Vicky Featherstone, artistic director of the Royal Court, told The Guardian why she values the collaboration between the paper and the theater:

“Playwrights and theatre-makers are continuously hungry for inspiration and challenge, and that is frequently found in the pages of our great newspapers,” Featherstone said. “The journalistic instinct to speak truth to power, and uncover the previously uncovered, feeds directly into the Royal Court’s drive to say what has been unsaid and bring us to a deeper understanding of the world we live in. The form of our microplays, where theatre meets film in an inescapably theatrical setting, feels like a new adventure.”

You can watch one of the microplays here.