Author: Marie Cooper Actor – Marie Cooper

Arts Council DYCP Rejection

A person falling
Reading Time: 3 minutes

When the email from Arts Council England announcing the results of my Developing Your Creative Practice funding application first appeared on my phone, I felt sick. On the edge of tears. A visceral, Instant emotional reaction as weeks of anxiety exploded.

The email said I needed to log on to the portal to find out their response to my application. I didn’t want to. I wanted to cry. I had already convinced myself it was going to be a “no” but I wanted to hold on to that tiny sliver of hope for just a fraction of a moment longer. To hold on tight to a dream, that was already beginning to melt away.

I had to log in to read my decision letter, prolonging the suspense. There wasn’t a link in the email. So, shaky-handed, I navigated to the portal link in my bookmarks. I used to think that written dialogue where someone says, “Oh God, oh God, oh God” sounded so inauthentic. I felt a bit daft doing just that in my head as I searched the portal to find the right place. The link that would take me to the letter. Tears. Shaking. Absolute devastation as I read as far as was needed into the jumble of words I did not want to see. Far enough to find myself rejected and excluded, again.

Even though I half expected it, I had clung to hope. I jump and the universe usually helps me build my wings on the way down before I shatter into pieces. Doesn’t fortune favour the brave? Stupid optimism. That I will ever get out of the gutter I was born into… if I try hard enough, right? Work hard enough? Don’t let go of my dreams? Not letting go means I’ll now have to work on my project alone. No mentoring. No support. No time of my own to do the work. No budget. Nothing.

Even trying not to feel, the tears still fall. I can’t stop them. I try to stubbornly defy my daft emotional response. It’s not going to help, is it! My humanity won’t let me just be numb. Grief to anger in 3, 2, 1…

And, I poured a glass of leftover, two-day-old wine. Stroked the cracks in my tabletop, through the wine and teary haze. I stopped following the Arts Council on social media. Erased them from my life like a cheating ex-partner.

I don’t want to see everyone’s self-celebrations, congrats and commiserations. Selfish? Maybe, but I feel gutted enough already. I don’t want to feel my want, my poverty, my isolation, devastation, my lack of, rubbed into my eyes every time I log in. Call it selfish. call it self-care. Either or. Whatever. I have to go it alone. Again. I am at a disadvantage. Again. I have to fight for what everyone else seems to take for granted. Again.

The one person I would have shared my frustration with, who I could trust to hear me without judgement, is the one person who isn’t here anymore. The one person I was intending, as a form of therapy for myself and others, to write my story for. To work through the grief, the loss, the guilt and the pain. The irony is not lost on me.

I need to tell this story, and I will tell it. It’s just another battle scar, another lesson in not trusting in anyone but myself. But, anyone who isn’t born with a silver spoon embedded already knows that all too well already. Yes, I was stupid to even hope for any support. Yes, it does not happen for people like me. I won’t make the same mistake again.

Onwards and upwards. I will be up tomorrow morning, at 7 am sharp and I will begin ahead of schedule. I will Little Red Hen the **** out of this project. I will not let being excluded by another institution for the privileged (I should have had the sense by now to have expected as much) prevent me from expressing myself artistically.

Well, writing, as always, has helped tame the fire. Although it has taken most of the afternoon. Now I have a clear (ish) head for the Herculean task ahead of me.

Marie Cooper’s Writing Space

A writer's desk covered in notebooks and pens
Reading Time: 3 minutes

The table on which I work, where I write, where I learn lines, where I memorise scenarios for roleplays, where I have breakfast, where I read, where I just sit and watch the birds, is ancient and falling apart. It hasn’t always been that way. It used to be warm, smooth, shiny and always smelled of spray polish. It sat in my Great Aunt Edna’s spare room, which was like an Aladdins Cave to me when I was small. Full of wonders.

Jewellery boxes that played magical music when opened. Drawers and cupboards filled with mysterious objects. Tins containing buttons, ribbons and shiny things, medals and coins. Photographs in black and white and tools that I did not know the purpose of. A suitcase, just like the ones you see in the old movies, which someone is always gripping tightly to when they are running for a train. The kind that is always battered and brown and opens with a click when you pressed both buttons. It was full of love letters and keepsakes.

If no one was looking, and I stood on the unused coffee table stored in the backroom, the one that I was always warned not to stand on ( because it had a glass inlaid top), I could prise open the lid of the huge yellow airer in the corner. I could peek inside. It looked as if it was just full of blankets, but underneath was hidden treasure. If I stood on tippytoes and reached down and dug beneath the blankets I could reach the books. Books that looked as if they had been stolen from a secret library, the spines wrapped in warm materials rather than cold hard plastic as they are now.

The table sat under the window on the far wall where the sunlight shone through. A vase containing plastic flowers always sitting at the centre, on hand-embroidered placemats that my Great Aunt had sewn. Also, an intricately cut glass tray with a glass ring holder on top and an equally cut glass dish with a lid.

The wood of the table was dark, red-brown and warm in colour and hue. It stood astride two large solid round legs that branched out at the bottom and held it firmly to the ground of my Great Aunt’s upstairs council flat. The most enchanting thing was, that if my Great Aunt grabbed the table, just so, and pulled, it would grow. By as much as a foot on either end. It became enormous. I would often ask her if she could ‘make it big’. I can’t remember when I stopped asking. But even as a grown-up, pulling out those wings of the table still feels me with joy.

Although a bittersweet joy now, because the ends are still shiny and brown and remind me of how beautiful it once was. Now the table is tatty and worn. It has been used to fill the corner when I had barely any furniture at all. It has been somewhere to hide under, a dinner table, a Christmas tree holder, a surface to draw and paint on for two generations of children,

It can make working on it a little risky as the veneer is gradually splintering away and if you don’t have your wits about you, it can occasionally dig into your skin or, if you are unlucky and catch it just right, get painfully under a fingernail. I know these are both possible from experience, usually whilst I am trying to clean the treacherous surface. The table was gifted to me by my Great Aunt. She was like a mother to me. Always there for me. No matter what. Even though the table is flaky and roughly surfaced now, I know I will never be able to let the table go whilst I still draw breath.

I wish my Great Aunt was still here. I am sure she would approve that it has been used well. Especially with childrens’ art and that it is now used daily and constantly for my work, whether scribbling away working on scripts for the stage and screen or with my feet unceremoniously perched on its edge as I sit memorising scenarios for roleplays and learning lines for theatre. Although she might admonish me for not varnishing it as she undoubtedly would have done by now.

I wish she were with me to tell me off for not using newspaper to protect it. I lost her before weekly free newspapers stopped being a thing. I lost her before I fell into my craft and I want to tell her all about it and how happy it has made me. How much better my life is for it and for having her in it. I want to tell her that I wish I had spent more time with her. I wish I had not wasted time on my stupid university degree and my stupid job and stupid relationships.

I should have given her my time. I should have written things down. I should have listened more. I wish I could hear her stories all over again and again. She was like a mum to me. She cared for me. She gave me my love of reading and for green things and I miss her every time I sit at my work table and see my garden growing and the birds feeding there.

Norfolk Actor Marie Cooper-Offstage and Off-camera

Norfolk Actor Marie Cooper offstage and offcamera
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Thankfully, after being offstage and offcamera, for anything but masked roleplay work, for the last few months, I am on the mend. It has been financially agonising to miss out on so much work from September to November. If it wasn’t for our amazing NHS, stepping in to fix my dental implant, putting the bridge back in place, my work life would have been all but over. Well, life in general. I am emotionally exhausted and in pain. I have a toothache that needs to be dealt with once my current batch of roleplay sessions are over, but so happy that the worst is over.


UPDATE: 2nd November 2021. The consultant at the hospital put my implant bridge back in this afternoon. When I got home I could see there is now, what looks like, a hole in my gum above it, exposing the implant. Or could it be bruising/swelling? It looks shiny. Do gums bruise? I don’t want to poke it. My eyesight is far from great when close up. I am scared of my implant and bone being exposed to infection. I was quite ill when it got infected previously by the healing abutment. I am taking anti-inflammatories/painkillers and keeping everything crossed.

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Editing the Script

Lamp shining light onto the word editing
Reading Time: 5 minutes

How does a Playwright Edit the Script?

A playwright does the editing, writing, rewriting, a little more research, editing and rewriting again. You check your typos. Make sure your program hasn’t changed your dialogue into stage directions – I don’t even know how or why that happens. Then suddenly there seems to be a million and one other things to add, remove, look up. In fact, the edit is likely to never end unless you decide that what’s done is done, put it down and run far, far away. Or maybe that’s just me?

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