I’m Emma Dawson, a playwright and prose writer, who enjoys writing about neurodivergent and queer characters, dysfunctional families, and everything that I think is deeply bizarre about the world, from marriage, to the housing crisis, to office hierarchies.
One of the key reasons why I wanted to participate in Wellspring was to join a community of disabled and neurodivergent writers to work on my writing with. And it has been absolutely beautiful to spend so much time with this group over the training period. It felt safe, it felt very honest, and I didn’t feel like I had to pretend to be okay if I wasn’t. We would run over in practically every session because we found everything that was being discussed too intriguing to just discuss it briefly and I felt so energised and hopeful after each workshop.
There have been lots of highlights across this incredible programme, but one moment that particularly stood out for me was during Alex Bulmer’s session. She talked about how we might insert our disabilities into the form of the play with the example that a theatre maker who has a chronic illness might take a nap in the middle of their show, intending to bring their disability into the theatre for the audience to experience (and also out of necessity). That blew my mind and I know I’m going to have to do something with this concept in the future.
The play that I’m developing as part of Wellspring is a queer, neurodivergent darkly comic all-female family drama, which is set between 2003-2023 on New Year’s Eve/Day and explores the long-term ramifications of stillbirth. I feel like I have been preparing to write this play since I fell in love with the genre of resentful families that are forced to reunite after reading Shelagh Stephenson’s The Memory of Water and Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County years ago. I primarily wanted to write this play because stillbirth is often swept under the rug and I haven’t seen this theme explored from the perspective of a bereaved sibling before.
So this is my take on the family drama, which will celebrate the beautiful creativity of the neurodivergent brain, as well as exploring rituals, ideas about the “right” way to grieve, and families that can only be honest once they’re absolutely wasted.
My hope for the future of theatre is that there will be a number of nuanced female queer and neurodivergent stories told in mainstream theatre. I want to see a variety of different intersectional stories. And I want to go to the theatre and cry afterwards as I step out onto the pavement because I recognise myself so accurately, like when I saw Rafaella Marcus’s Sap at Soho Theatre.
Thank you so much to Vital Xposure, the theatre partners, and all of our tutors for an amazing training period – I’m so excited now that we are moving towards our showcase in 2024!
Emma Dawson (she / her), Wellspring Writer 2023 – 2024
Emma is a playwright, who writes about neurodiversity, queer characters, and dysfunctional families. Her first play, EDIE, received a short run at Theatre503 in 2022 and was developed by London Playwrights Blog/Lion & Unicorn Theatre, longlisted for Theatre503’s International Playwriting Prize, and shortlisted for Through the Mill Playwriting Prize.
X (formerly known as Twitter): @emmaruthdawson