Working with Words: Angela Betzien

Angela Betzien is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter. Her plays, including Hoods, Helicopter and Where in the World is Frank Sparrow? have toured nationally and internationally. We caught up with Angela to talk genre, fairy tales and chewing raw carrots with Sunny Baudelaire. 

What was the first piece of writing you had published? 

A play called Children of the Black Skirt published by Currency Press in 2005. It’s studied and performed in schools across the country.

What’s the best part of your job?

Avoiding the rat race, and not having to squeeze onto peak hour trains like sardines.

What’s the worst part of your job?

The lack of sick leave, maternity leave, water cooler conversation.

What’s been the most significant moment in your writing career so far?

I want to write visceral live theatrical experiences that are as exciting as anything on Netflix.

Watching various high school productions of my plays, and seeing young people inhabit my characters with dedication and passion.

What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve received about writing?

Vision is always ahead of execution.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever heard or read about yourself?

Reviewers often think my writing for theatre belongs on the screen. I’m always surprised by this, because I think my work is very theatrical. I think reviewers are confused because my writing for theatre often plays with genre, particularly crime.

The screen industry doesn’t have a monopoly on genre. I want to write visceral live theatrical experiences that are as exciting as anything on Netflix. 

If you weren’t writing, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

I think I’d be a mediocre English teacher with good intentions. Or a theatre designer. Or a puppeteer.

There’s much debate on whether creative writing can be taught – what’s your view?

Creativity is inherent in little people, but it’s snuffed out of them. I think teaching creative writing is actually a process of remembering what it was like to be a free, imaginative being; a time when cardboard boxes were castles and broomsticks were horses.

What’s your advice for someone wanting to be a writer?

Vision is always ahead of execution.

Write and read in equal measure.

Do you buy your books online, in a physical bookshop, or both?

I buy books online because I am impatient and want to save paper, but I love the pleasure of reading a real book.

If you could go out to dinner with any fictional character, who would it be and why? 

I’d have dinner with Sunny Baudelaire from A Series of Unfortunate Events. We’d probably chew on raw carrots. She’s such an intelligent, wise and wry little baby, there would be no limits to our conversation. We’d talk about politics, history, art, love, revolution.

What’s the book that’s had the most significant impact on your life or work – and why?

Fairy tales have had the most significant impact on my writing. They have formed the foundation for my understanding of how to use words and images to articulate beauty and suffering and injustice in the world.

Portrait of Angela Betzien

Angela Betzien is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter and the co-founder of Real TV. Her plays, including The Hanging, Egg, Helicopter, Mortido, The Dark Room and Hoods have premiered at major theatre companies across Australia and have toured nationally and internationally. Her work has been published by Currency Press and Playlab Press.

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