Countdown 23 Days To Go

Stimuli: The lowdown#1

I think probably the most stressful thing about the 24-hr playwriting competition is integrating the Stimuli: all five of them in the order they have been released within the 24 hours.  Some people have jokingly accused me of being a sadist and some have earnestly reprimanded me for obstructing the writers’ train of thought with these ridiculous elements.  It does seem like a counter-creative idea – constantly putting obstacles in the writer’s way.  But I am a real advocate of the golden principle of “LIMITATION IS STIMULATION”.  I was introduced to this fabulous principle back in the early 90s when the Writers’ Laboratory brought in Noel Greig, a very experienced british playwright to conduct workshops for the labber (a short-form for Writers’ Lab members).  He told us that imagination is wonderful; but imagination unmanaged is a complete waste.  It was with him that I learnt the paradox of boundaries – it is only when we set boundaries around our imagination that we can push it to do amazing things.  If not, our imagination can literally run away from us.  So my ‘defence’ is that limitations makes us more creative and the 24-hour playwriting competition is all about creativity in writing a play.

Anyway, the whole idea of the stimuli came from an exercise that Greig gave the labbers to do which we all enjoyed thoroughly.  It was called “a letter to an alien” where we composed a letter to an alien using words other labbers have listed and in the order they has been listed.  I liked the exercise so much because it made us focus and made us work around the words so the words can work for us.  I took the idea and decided to arrange a time-released format for the 24-hr playwriting competition.  The reason was simple – we have 24 hours to kill so why not scatter it around rather than having all the stimuli released at one go?  I felt that this made the competition more exciting as there is always the challenge of taking new things on board.  Some participants loved it and some participants hated it – but on the whole, I think people enjoyed it (even if they hated it).

My general advice about stimuli is take it as if you’re going on a blind date: “no pressure no expectations”.  I think it’s only with that attitude that you become a lot more open and a lot more creative with it. 

All this sounds really tough but take it from me – it sounds a lot more difficult than it actually is.  I think one just needs to go with the flow.

I’ll go more into the stimuli in the next couple of blogs.

And on a completely unrelated note, I’d like to share with you a shot of some of the recent participants tees that the 24-hour competition has given out.  I kept them religiously because they have become little wearable mnemonics of those different 24-hours.

24-ht Tees 06-08

Robin Loon


4 responses to “Countdown 23 Days To Go

  1. I remember Noel Greig & it was fantastic… agree with the ‘limitation is stimulation’ bit too–works for me anyway…

    … but Robin dear, you Are a sadist… that’s why we’re all scared of you!! 🙂

  2. I have all 3 tees! So sorry that I won’t be able to participate in this year’s~

  3. I do agree with Dr Robin Loon. His Blind Date analogy is brilliant and spot on. As judge, I can usually tell whether the participant has come with an open, receptive mind and the intent of being completely creative and spontaneous, or bears a predetermined template with some necessary lacunae to insert the stimuli by means of minor adjustments. The result of the first is a truly organic piece, unfettered and refreshing, what Eliot might have described as ‘the awful daring of a moment’s surrender’. The second scenario engenders something more deliberate and mechanical.

  4. I think my favourite 24-hour Tshirt was the Bintan one! 😀 Either that or the SPH one heh… Then again, the IKEA one is very dear to me =X

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