The Battersea Arts Centre launches its Stage One programme tonight, 11 September 2001, offering a platform for new writing and writers from London and New York. An intense schedule of workshops and reading contains The 24 Hour Plays, in which six one-act plays will be conceived and performed in a day.

Among those taking part in the various symposiums will be the writer Michael Frayn, the actor Simon Russell Beale and theatre critic Nicholas de Jongh. Frayn’s acclaimed Copenhagen drama is currently on tour, whilst his Noises Off comedy is booking to next April at the Piccadilly Theatre. Russell Beale is currently starring in the National’s Humble Boy and the Evening Standard’s de Jongh published Politics, Prudery and Perversions earlier this year.

Stage One was conceived by Emma Stenning of Straydogs Theatre and Theatre de Complicite fame. With the writers Bathsheba Doran and Emily Conbere she has grouped together a number of speakers and panellists from Broadway and Off Broadway. Although the playwright’s role is primarily being stressed, various artistic directors, actors and producers will also attend the events.

One of Stage One’s main aims is to strengthen the ‘special relationship’ which exists between the theatre hotbeds of London and New York. US contributors will include the playwrights Clare Bayley and Kelly Stuart, the producer Barbara Ligeti and American Theatre’s editor Jim O Quin.

New plays from the two countries will be read by the Stage One company, starting on 13 September 2001 with Finally by Stephen Belber (USA). Other American works include Simon Godwin’s Mayhem and, from the UK, Clare Bayley's The Container and Simon Burt's Untouchable. The scheduled events will also offer Night Cellar’s ‘organic evening of theatre pieces’ on 14 September, and The 24 Hour Plays on 15 September.

Clare Bayley's stage play Northern Lights was performed at the Grove Theatre, London in 1994 and adapted for BBC Radio 4 in 1996. Her screenplaywon Corridors In the Air won the 1996 Times Screenwriting Award, and is currently being presented by Zephyr Films. She was awarded an MA in Playwriting from David Edgar's course at Birmingham University in 1993.

London’s Battersea Arts Centre features three theatre spaces, rehearsal rooms, two bars, a gallery and café. Its seasons and festivals are normally themed, with recent projects including BAC Opera and the annual British Festival of British Theatre. The Grade II listed building, which houses the centre, first opened as Battersea Town Hall in 1893, and began hosting arts events in the early 1900s.

- by Gareth Thompson