Tuesday, September 01, 2015

I Interview Playwrights Part 784: Ken Ludwig





Ken Ludwig


Hometown: York, PA

Current Town: Washington, DC

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  My latest play, A Comedy of Tenors, which is a sequel to Lend Me A Tenor, is now in rehearsals for its world premiere, co-produced by the Cleveland Play House and the McCarter Theatre. The first preview is coming up on September 5th, and as I sit in rehearsals I find things to rewrite every day. Meanwhile, most of my time is spent on a new play set in the world of Greek literature. I'm having the best time ever doing research for it. Two weeks ago I spent a full day at Harvard's Hellenic Center. As of today, the play is about half finished.


Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.


A:  When I was a young man, my parents took me to see the Rodgers-Charnin musical Two by Two on Broadway and my mother knew someone in the cast. We went backstage after the show and I met Danny Kaye and I thought, "Okay, this is it. I'm shaking hands with the greatest performer who ever lived. I want to be in the theater for the rest of my life."


Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  I would not change very much about the American theater. I marvel and rejoice in the way the country's regional theaters have formed a network that has become, in essence, our National Theater. I work in London a lot and my theater colleagues there frequently ask me if there is a National Theater in New York or Washington or Los Angeles that is equivalent to the National on the South Bank of London. I tell them no, we have something better. We have this huge network of theaters criss-crossing the country that speak to each other and share with each other.


My only suggestion for change would be to encourage more theaters to offer cheap seats to students every day of the year.


As a side note, concerning theater education: I'd like to see high schools, colleges and universities teach courses about the history of comedy from William Shakespeare to Noel Coward. Comedy is a neglected subject and students should understand the beauty of all those gorgeous comedies in our history like She Stoops to Conquer and The Rivals and Dandy Dick and The Devil's Disciple. These are masterpieces and they never get their proper due.


Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I think I just named them in answer to the last question. Shakespeare is God, of course. I have studied his plays for the vast majority of my sentient life. When I was a kid, my parents found an old copy of the LP recording of Richard Burton in John Gielgud's Broadway production of Hamlet and they gave it to me for my birthday. I listened to it till the grooves wore thin and I was off and running. I'm now on the Board of Governors at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, which houses the most extensive collection of Shakespeare scholarship in in the world. We not only collect all things Shakespeare, but we spend a tremendous amount of time on education in schools and universities. Soon, to honor the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, we'll be sponsoring a traveling exhibit that takes the First Folio to all 50 states.


After Shakespeare, my theatrical heroes are Oliver Goldsmith, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, John O'Keeffe, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward. On the performing side, I'm a huge fan of David Garrick (I'm writing a play about him), Sir Henry Irving and Ellen Terry.

On the more modern side, I'm an enormous fan of Woody Allen, who came to my opening of my play Twentieth Century on Broadway, and when I met him I almost fainted for joy. Also, I'm a huge admirer of Sir Peter Hall, who created the Royal Shakespeare Company.


Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  All kinds, but especially new ways of seeing the great old traditions. For example, I love Tom Stoppard's On The Razzle because it takes classical comedy and adds a modern linguistic perspective to it. I love to see people rediscovering the comedy of George Bernard Shaw. We tend to focus on his political philosophy, but I think his most startling innovations had to do with his modern perspective on comedy.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  Keep your nose to the grindstone and keep trying. Never stop. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it. Just keep writing what you believe in. And read, read, read. That's how you learn to write.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Because of my lifelong love of Shakespeare, I recently wrote a book entitled How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare, which is published by Random House. I'm proud to say that a few months ago it won the Falstaff Award as Best Shakespeare Book of the Year. It's available in most bookstores. You can also order it by going to either www.howtoteachyourchildrenshakespeare.com or to my website, www.kenludwig.com and follow the links. The book's website -www.howtoteachyourchildrenshakespeare.com - has one enormously cool feature. Derek Jacobi, Richard Clifford and Frances Barber read the 25 passages in the book that I recommend memorizing. They did it as a favor to me, and I'm enormously grateful. It is truly the most beautiful hour of Shakespeare I've ever heard on a recording.



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Monday, August 31, 2015

Web Series Writing Class

I'm teaching at ESPA in NYC again on Tuesday evenings this fall.  This is the 4th semester I've taught this class.  It's been a lot of fun so far and the web serieses are starting to trickle out.  Last I heard there were a couple spaces left if you want to join us.

http://primarystages.org/espa/writing/the-web-series

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

I Interview Playwrights Part 783: Jennifer Kirkeby



Jennifer Kirkeby

Hometown: State College, PA, then moved to Southern CA for 20 years

Current Town: Minneapolis, MN

Q: What are you working on now?

A: 2 musical adaptations, 2 young adult novels.

Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A: When I was in the first grade, I couldn’t wait to dance for Show and Tell. I had choreographed a solo to Swan Lake. I was bursting to perform this dance. Begging the teacher. I was convinced that my dance would somehow ignite creativity and light in this dark and not particularly fun classroom.

My teacher, Miss Farrell, put me off at least two times, but it didn’t stop my insistent pleading. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure she was afraid that if I danced in her classroom, (which was in the basement of a church, by the way) the students might join in, and next she’d be watching a scene similar to The Crucible, with kids chanting wide-eyed, jumping on their desks, gyrating with scarves, and spewing devil worship. In any case, Miss Farrell finally acquiesced with a pained look on her face.

The day of my premiere, I carefully brought my dad’s Swan Lake album to school. Miss Farrell took a really long time putting it in the record player. As I waited, holding a scarf in each hand, my little heart was fluttering like a family of hummingbirds against my ribs. The music began. I danced my heart out. Up and down the aisles. Twirling, leaping, flying, turning, and throwing my scarves into the air as the melody built in intensity. I didn’t want anyone to feel left out of the music and dance that touched me so deeply.

After my death scene in which a scarf somehow managed to end up falling squarely on my face, I held my final pose and waited for the earth shattering applause I had imagined for weeks. It sounded more like the reticent raindrops of a passing cloud. Then a boy raised his hand. “Yes, Bobby?” Miss Farrell asked, circumventing any conversation that might lead to witchcraft. “What was that?” he asked, his face puckered as if he’d just sucked a lemon wedge.

What that experience taught me at a very young age was that you have to be strong as hell to be an artist, yet retain extraordinary sensitivity. Not everyone is going to get you, or even appreciate you, so you need to be sure you love what you’re doing.

Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A: Accessibility. I wish there was a theater program in every school. I’ve taught theatre arts for years, and I’m convinced that students can learn about our world in ways that standard curriculum cannot always provide. I’ve seen amazing breakthroughs when suddenly a wave of compassion and understanding shines through because a child successfully created their own scene, and then watched wide-eyed as other students performed their work for the class.

Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A: Sam Shepard, Tanya Barfield, Bob Fosse, Annie Baker, Neil Simon, Tennessee Williams, Marsha Norman and so many more...

Q: What kind of theater excites you?

A: Bold plays or musicals that are unpredictable, vulnerable, truthful, beautiful, ugly, on the edge, and sometimes just crazy. The kind of theater that smacks you upside the head with a different way of seeing the world. I am fortunate to live in Minneapolis, MN. (Well, not so much when it’s below zero, but for the arts.) We have the Playwrights’ Center and the Loft Literary Center, and many great theater companies, so there is always an abundance of wonderful, creative minds and opportunities for writers.

Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A: Ask yourself why you want to write. Chances are you are already aware that very few people can make a living as a playwright. It can be disappointing, heart breaking, and there are no guarantees. However, there is nothing like being in a theatre on opening night with an audience who has come to see something that you helped to create. There’s also no greater way to learn what works and what doesn’t.

If you decide this is your path, work hard and be brave. Don’t be afraid to dance with scarves. Do anything and everything you can in the theater. I’m an actress, I’ve choreographed, directed, and stage managed, and I firmly believe that the more you know about theater, the better you will be as a playwright. It only makes sense. You need to understand the limitations and the possibilities of theater in order to create effectively. Write the play that you would want to see.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  My adaptation of The Bear Snores On, book by Karma Wilson, music and lyrics by Blake Thomas: Jan. 22 - Feb. 15, 2015, and The Snow Queen, music by James LeKatz: March 4 - March 20, 2016 for Stages Theatre Company in Hopkins, MN. www.stagestheater.org. My adaptation of Twelve Dancing Princesses, music by Shirley Mier, is currently being published by Dramatic Publishing Company. www.dramaticpublishing.com. My original play, Eyes Wide Open, about a teen-age girl with an eating disorder, is being re-released by Samuel French. http://www.samuelfrench.com/author/3949/jennifer-kirkeby

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

I Interview Playwrights Part 782: John Longenbaugh



John Longenbaugh

Hometown: Sitka, Alaska

Current Town: Seattle

Q:  Tell me about your show coming up at the Schmee.

A:  "Oh My Azaleas!" is the theatrical premiere of probably the craziest and certainly the largest artistic project I've ever tackled called BRASS. Set in an alternate 1885, it's a Steampunk adventure serial focusing on a family of Victorian geniuses--the father an inventor, the mother a Sherlock Holmes-level detective, the daughter a mistress of disguise and con artist, and the son a martial artist savant.

The live stage show picks up immediately where the radio series leaves off, with two of our heroes trapped in an out-of-control Steam Hearse, a consequence of their feud with a villain named the Graveyard King. After they've escaped from this deathtrap, they're immediately plunged into another mystery as a body falls into their garden. As they progress to unraveling a mystery involving a courtesan, a missing gem and some gurkhas, we follow the simultaneous journey of two rogues, Henry Hall and Joddy Burke, trying to scheme some extra gold out of a dangerous mission.

This of course is all ridiculous.

I'm co-writing the stage plays with a playwright named Louis Broome. Louis wrote a straight-out beautiful play a few years ago called "Texarkana Waltz" that has had productions all over the place, including quite a great one over at the late lamented Empty Space. I'm honored to be working with a writer who has such a combination of crazy imagination and poetic lyricism.

The first season of the radio show will be available for listening through quite a range of commercial and public radio stations through some partnerships with local and national producers, as well as over the internet.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I'm in another draft of a musical that I've written the book for with music and lyrics by Bruce Monroe. It's called "Anybody Can Do Anything," and adapted from a hilarious memoir by local Seattle writer Betty Macdonald, detailing her adventures living through the Great Depression with her loving and eccentric family in a big house up in Ravenna.

I've just finished rewrites on my thriller "The Sound in the Next Room," thanks to a great reading run by the good folks at Akropolis Theatre, and have started sending that out again. It's a four woman, one set play about three friends sharing a pair of hotel rooms in Seattle as part of a "Murder Mystery Weekend," who get involved with a real murder. That was the play's fourth reading and I think it's time to get it up on its feet.

I'm writing Season 2 of BRASS: The Audio Series, making notes with Louis about our next live stage show ("Fatal Footlights," opening in January) and inching forward with a new novel while I'm looking to sell the first, and I've just agreed to write on commission the book for another new musical.

So yes. Lots of plate spinning!

Q:  How would you describe the Seattle theater scene?

A:  We're in the middle of another big change, the sort that happen every 10 years in this town, but this is the first one that I'm actually a little anxious about. The reason that Seattle has a significant theater scene has traditionally been because it had a rich ecosystem, leading from quality fringe productions all the way up to the professional companies like the Rep, ACT the 5th Avenue and Seattle Children's. In the last 20 years a lot of that has been winnowed--the Fringe Festival's death in 2003, the death of most of our mid-sized scene (The Group, the Empty Space, The Bathhouse among others), and most recently, the near-death and transformation of Intiman into a seasonal play festival. Some of this is probably okay, and there are some fantastic companies doing great work in town--even new partnerships among these groups in spaces like 12th Avenue Arts.

But what has me the most concerned are the community issues that are tough on everyone but can mean death for live theater, like terrible traffic and parking, vast rental increases and a creeping "monoculture" from the new influx of Amazon and other tech people into the heart of the city.

And if that wasn't enough of a problem, live theater is seeing smaller audiences nationwide in every category except musicals.

For the first time I'm starting to worry that this new Seattle isn't someplace I'll be able to afford to live as an artist, and that the new Seattleites aren't necessarily all that interested in theater anyway.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  I remember my first encounter with a typewriter, an old portable Smith-Corona of my mother's. One morning when I was four years old, she helped me roll the paper under the bar, and then I typed out my name in all caps. When I did, I felt a new and somewhat overwhelming happiness. I don't often get that feeling, but it happens often enough for me to keep at it.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  I want to excite both artists and audiences about what theater actually is. It seems like the most successful productions right now are the ones that try to sidestep the word "theater," or at least instead dress it up with snazzy new phrases like "immersive" or "experiential." The fact is, it's all still theater, and sharing the air with the people on the stage is its own astonishing experience. I feel like people need to be reminded of that, particularly as we all spend less face time with other people.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Playwrights. I truly believe that since most of the time we work alone, our work is also less fun than almost anyone else involved. I hate the manner in which playwrights in professional theatre are often sort of sequestered away from the actors and the director.

I also truly have a soft spot for theater critics. I was a critic myself for about five years, writing for The Seattle Weekly, Backstage and Backstage West. It's a tremendously tough job and now that we're losing professional critics (with the papers that paid their salary), it's a lot harder to draw a discerning audience to interesting work.

Individually, my current heroes are George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde, both of whom I'm researching for the new play. Two astonishing Irishmen who invaded the English theater, beat it up, and dragged it into the 20th century.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I'm pretty inclusive in my tastes. I enjoy black box productions, large-scale musicals, and just about anything in between. I get really excited when I see a show attempt to interact with its audience in a new manner. The most recent Cirque du Soliel Show, "Kurios," had a few moments that did that--generally through the clowns. So did Julia Nardin's "Dumpsite" at Immersive Theatre, which did some amazing things in the way that it used the audience. Then I just saw the touring production of "Pippin," which was the first perfect marriage I've seen of circus acts and musical theater--and plus when it came for the finale, they lit a pyre so big that I swear you could feel the heat from the balcony. Though I'm a little jaded, all of this still gives me more thrills per square minute than any other art form.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  Take every opportunity you can to work in a theater. Don't just write plays, try everything--act, direct, paint scenery, design lighting plots, take tickets. (I've done everything at one time or another except stage manage, a profession I hold in an almost mystical regard.) Understand what it means to not only do the jobs, but how they interact. It's helpful to see a play from a lot of different angles. You'll probably make a few friends, and that's good too.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A  BRASS: Oh My Azaleas! Opening as a late-night at Theater Schmeater on September 25th and running till October 10th.

BRASS: Audio Season One. Playing somewhere near you (and probably on the internet). Check battlegroundproductions.org for current details.

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol: playing here, there and elsewhere this holiday. This year the closest production to Seattle is going to be at Renton Civic Theatre this December.

 

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I Interview Playwrights Part 781: Gregg Kreutz



Gregg Kreutz

Hometown:  Madison, Wisconsin


Current Town:  New York City

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I've just finished a three person comedy called Hollywood Dog. Set in a Red Hook Brooklyn walkup, it charts the desperate effort of an actor and a director to extract the reprehensible movie they made in college from the clutches of the actor's moralistic wife.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  Maybe the theater bug first bit me when, in the third grade, I starred as the district attorney in the oral-hygiene drama; The Tooth, the Whole Tooth, And Nothing but the Tooth.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  Less obsessed with societal mission, more respectful of comedy.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Allen Aykborn is to me the greatest living playwright. Also Ray Cooney--author of such British farces as Run for your Wife and Move over Mrs. Markham--gave me very good advice early in my career. He said "For farce to work, a plausible situation needs to slowly unravel. If it starts out too frenetically it will wear out the audience and they'll (horrifying thought) stop laughing."

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Theater where the characters are convincing, the situations are compelling, and the play moves in an exciting arc.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  Study successful plays for their structure and find a company of actors willing to take a chance on a newcomer.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  My most recent Samuel French play--Death by Golf-- can be seen this September at Conklin's Barn II Dinner Theater in Goodfield Illinois.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Next up


UPCOMING PRODUCTIONS
 


Hearts Like Fists

Production #17 of Hearts Like Fists
Actors Bridge Ensemble
Nashville, TN
Opens September 11, 2015

Production #18 of Hearts Like Fists
Tomah High School
Tomah, WI
Opens October 23, 2015

Production #19 of Hearts Like Fists
Ridgewater College
Willmar, MN
Opens November 5, 2015


Production #20 of Hearts Like Fists
Kent School
Kent, CT
Opens November 6, 2015

Production #21 of Hearts Like Fists
Damonte Ranch High School
Reno, NV
Opens November 11, 2015

Production #22 of Hearts Like Fists
Centenary College of Louisiana
Centenary, LA
Opens November 19, 2015

Production #23 of Hearts Like Fists
St. Francis High School
St. Francis, MN
Opens January 29, 2016

Production #24 of Hearts Like Fists
University of Findlay
Findlay, OH
Opens April 13, 2016

Production #25 of Hearts Like Fists
Shadow Horse Theater
Minneapolis, MN
Opens May 27, 2016

Clown Bar




Production #8 of Clown Bar
Theatre on Fire
Charlestown Working Theater
Charlestown, MA
Opens October 2, 2015

Production #9 of Clown Bar
Good Luck MacBeth
Reno, NV
Opens October 2, 2015

Production #10 of Clown Bar
Idiom Theater
Bellingham, WA
Opens October 15, 2015

Production #11 of Clown Bar
The NOLA Project
New Orleans, LA
Opens October 22, 2015



Production #10 of Pretty Theft
Dark Matter Productions
NYC, NY
Opens November 5, 2015

Production #11 of Pretty Theft
James Madison University
Harrisonburg, VA
Opens April 26, 2016


PUBLISHED PLAYS

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

I Interview Playwrights Part 780: Maggie Lee




Maggie Lee

Hometown:  Sunnyvale, CA

Current Town:  Seattle, WA

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  My new play The Tumbleweed Zephyr is running in Seattle until the end of August. It's an Old West steampunk train adventure, and part of a trilogy of plays set in the alternate steampunk world of New Providence. It's being produced by Pork Filled Productions, a Seattle theater company dedicated to pushing beyond the usual expectations of what Asian American theater can be. We are committed to diverse casting and non-traditional scripts, which means for this show we have an awesome multicultural cast having a grand old time running around in a steampunk universe.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  As an Asian American kid, I was lucky that my parents were fairly encouraging of my writing and didn't push me to become a doctor or a lawyer. However, they were pretty strict that if I was going to pursue writing, I should always do my best at it. So when I was a teenager, my dad kept finding all of these essay contests for me to enter. I was really kind of whiny about it, to be honest – I didn't want to write boring essays, I wanted to be Stephen King! This one contest in particular was called "Our Treasured Trees," and I decided on a lark to write a science fiction short story about a guy wandering around in a post-apocalyptic desert to find the secret thing that will save the world (spoiler: it's a tree). To my complete shock, I won first prize and a bike. All of the other entries were very scientific essays about how trees help the environment, so I felt kind of bad about winning by writing something for fun. But the committee member who handed me the award told me she had tears in her eyes while she was reading my entry. It made me realize that most of the time, people just want a good story. Yes, facts are important and teaching people is important, but what really sticks in our hearts and minds are the stories that make us feel something. And there is nothing more magical than live theater to capture that true intimacy of sharing a story with other people.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  I would make it more acceptable for the audience to have fun. There is a trend lately that modern plays are all about dreary, terrible people doing dreary, terrible things to each other, and the audience goes away feeling dreary and terrible, and there is no fun allowed because this is SERIOUS THEATER. But to me, having fun does not automatically equal being frivolous and silly. I believe the best plays are the ones that tackle important issues and deep emotions, but in a way that is still creative and entertaining. You can be thoughtful and still enjoy yourself. It's okay to have fun at the theater!

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  My theater heroes are stage managers. Seriously, all the stage managers out there. You guys are rock stars.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I love new works that push the boundaries of what is possible on stage, and use creativity to make the most of lean budgets. Seattle has a wonderfully thriving fringe theater community that actively champions new plays, so it's been a great place for me to grow as a playwright. In particular, I love genre plays like science fiction and horror. There's no better creepy scare than feeling the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end during a live performance. The world needs more horror plays.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  Give yourself a deadline. Even if it's just a bunch of friends in your living room reading your play over pizza and beers, at least it holds you accountable to finish something and have it down on paper by a certain date because other people are showing up. Also, go see plays! Nothing will help you better understand what works and what doesn't work on stage than by going to see as many plays as possible. Even the bad ones. Especially the bad ones.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  The Tumbleweed Zephyr is playing at 12th Avenue Arts in Seattle until August 29, 2015. To learn more, visit Pork Filled Productions at www.porkfilled.com.

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

I Interview Playwrights Part 779: Candice Cain



photo by Katie Bogdanski

 

Candice Cain

Hometown: Brookhaven, NY

Current Town: Brookhaven, NY

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I have another children's play that I'm putting the finishing touches on, entitled "Books: A Treasure." I wrote it for National Library week, and it was performed at different libraries across Long Island. I also adapted one of my older plays, "What Happened Last Night," for the screen. My production team and I are currently working on getting the funding for it. We hope to film it at the end of November this year. It's a romantic comedy that everyone that went to college can relate to!

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:   When I was in third grade, I had Enrichment with Mrs. Steiner once per week. She would pull me and a few other kids out of our regular classes to work on more creative projects with her. It was a gifted and talented program. I remember one of the topics for projects we had was chocolate. Now, you're giving chocolate as an option to a bunch of third graders-- We all ran with it. That's where I wrote my first play, called "A Journey to Chocolateland." There were like ten kids or so in the class, and we put on this play that I wrote, which Mrs. Steiner filmed. We didn't have sets or costumes, although I remember one of the girls "wearing" a big piece of oaktag with a chocolate bar on it as Mrs. Chocolate. I loved that my idea came to life. It was like everyone was playing in my world of make-believe. Now, as a published writer, it is so much fun for me to see actors playing in my world.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  Theatre used to be so grand. It was such an event to go and see a show. Recently, my husband and I took our twins to see "Aladdin" on Broadway. We were dressed nicely-- my daughter in a dress, me in a nice outfit, both my husband and son wearing polo shirts, you get the idea. The majority of people there were dressed as though they were seeing a film at the $1 theatre. It was so upsetting to me. Actors, playwrights, directors, producers-- We pour our heart and soul to make a show amazing. It would be so nice if people could take theatre seriously for all of the work that was put into it and dress appropriately when seeing a show. And NEVER EVER EVER leave during curtain calls!!!!!

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  My favorite playwrights were and still are Neil Simon and Christopher Durang. I also admire David Mamet quite a bit, but I wouldn't necessarily call him a "theatrical hero." As for an actor that is my theatrical hero, I will say Ron Bohmer. When I was a senior in high school, I saw him as Enjolras in "Les Miserables." I was so moved by his performance that I actually wrote him a fan letter and sent it to the theatre. I was absolutely STUNNED when he wrote back to me and included a signed photo. It made me feel as though Broadway was attainable; that "regular" people were involved with productions and that I would be able to do it, too. I still have that photo of Ron. It is framed and on my office wall.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I love politically incorrect productions, such as "The Producers." I haven't seen "Book of Mormon" yet, but I heard that it really pushes the envelope. It is thrilling for me to get into the mind of the writer and see their work performed on the stage. Politically incorrect shows pretty much say what the majority of people are thinking, which is why they usually get such a big response to them.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  Don't let rejection get you down!!!!! The wall leading down to my basement is wallpapered with rejection letters-- Seriously. Just keep at it. The Writers' Market is also a fantastic tool to find publishers for your plays.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  We have an IndieGogo for What Happened Last Night here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/what-happened-last-night I was also approved for a grant for AIM Hatch Fund, and would REALLY appreciate anyone that wants to contribute to their fabulous 501c3 charity here: http://www.hatchfund.org/project/what_happened_last_night


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Friday, August 21, 2015

I Interview Playwrights Part 778: Lisa Rafferty


Lisa Rafferty

Hometown: Montclair, NJ

Current Town: Scituate, MA

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I’m co-creating a documentary theater piece on the Boston Marathon bombings with Joey Frangieh and the Boston Theater Company. It is meant to honor and remember those who were impacted, directly or indirectly, and the community that arose on April 15, 2013.

The production will focus on the powerful, profound, inspiring and even lighthearted stories, captured in the words of over 85 interviews. I did 28 of the interviews between April and June of this year with survivors, journalists, runners, medical professionals and others.

The script is being created verbatim from the transcriptions and is inspired by the work of Anna Deavere Smith and the Tectonic Theater Project.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  I made my professional acting debut at age 8, onstage with my mom – a true triple threat and wonderful comedic actress. It was in a musical called ‘Circus, Circus, Circus’ written by the late, great David Vos (‘Somethings Afoot’). That magical experience – all those creative, dynamic, talented people surrounding me – pulled me into the world of theater and I’ve never left.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  Unsurprisingly, it would be wonderful if ‘making a living in theater’ did not actually mean ‘my day job and my husband keep me afloat.’

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:   David Vos, my mom, Michael Bennett, Moises Kaufman, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Anna Deavere Smith

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Theater that pulls in audiences that are not predominantly white, female, suburban (I’m describing myself, btw).

Punchdrunk’s immersive theater, ‘In the Heights’ and ‘Hamilton,’ Theatre Mitu’s documentary mythology, to name a few. And ‘Rocky the Musical’ – the only Broadway show were the men’s room line was longer than the women’s room.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  Two words: collaborators and deadlines. The only way I get anything done.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Excited by many ‘MOMologues ‘ productions appearing around the country and around the world, courtesy of the fabulous Samuel French. Stay tuned to Boston Theater Company for information on the premiere of ‘Finish Line’ in April 2016.

@lisajrafferty, @TheMOMologues, @BostonTheaterCo

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

I Interview Playwrights Part 777: Trisha Sugarek



Trisha Sugarek

Hometown: Seattle, Washington

Current Town: Savannah, Georgia

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  A ten minute play, for the classroom, about transgendered teens. I have written 26 of these scripts addressing real life issues in a teen’s life such as, Bullying, running away, drugs, teen dating violence, cutting and suicide.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  As a writer: I grew up, before television, at my mother’s knee. She told wonderful stories of her growing up, in the wild forests of Washington state, with her 13 siblings. I have written 3 stage plays and 2 novels based on these true stories. My mother (raised in the early 1900’s) went on to own a bar and grill (speakeasy) in San Francisco and was a reigning ‘flapper’ during the roaring 20’s. Her sister, at the age of seventeen, ran away to Alaska to write her music, and homesteaded for the next twenty years. She was inspired by Robert Service’s time in Alaska.

As a person: I was always fascinated with Old Hollywood; ‘going to the movies’ with my Mom was a big part of my childhood. Which I believe led me to drama school (1978). I spent the next 30 years on the stage, and doing radio voice overs and commercials on TV. Which led me to directing. My most proud moment, as a director, was directing The Vagina Monologues. I chose to use 13 actors (instead of the traditional 3) and 3 of those were drag queens/transgendered who performed the monologue: ‘They Beat the Girl Out Of My Boy’ I began writing scripts in 1994 and have enjoyed seeing them produced on stages here and abroad.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:   I wish more unknown playwrights, who are truly wonderful, had more opportunities getting their work produced. My fear is that the audiences will continue to dwindle as the TV and computer screen demands more and more of their attention.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Lawrence Olivier (Richard III), Nathan Lane (Love! Valor! Compassion!) Dame Judi Dench (whatever she does), Jim Parsons (An Act of God) and Robert Duval (American Buffalo). Oh! You meant playwrights! (grin) Where do I start? Tennessee Williams, Shakespeare, David Mamet, Edward Albee, Peter Shaffer and Trisha Sugarek*. my ALL-TIME favorite writer/hero is Charles Bukowski!

*Hey! Did she just name herself as a hero? Yes, because I tried, I kept writing and….against all odds I got published by Samuel French and have had a few plays produced. We writers are all heroes in my book. It’s a damn lonely, hard job. It takes gargantuan dedication and a very thick skin (think crocodile). Oh yes, I have my own file full of rejection letters.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:   DRAMA and RISK TAKING!

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  Keep writing! Be true to yourself. Write about what you know; your honesty will shine through. And study other playwrights and their scripts. Be open to other possibilities, many of my plays developed into novels because I was open to the idea of expanding my work.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  The most popular post on my blog is my teachings on “How To Write A Play”. I’ve published four Journals/Handbooks on the ‘how to’ of writing fiction and script writing, developing rich characters, and story arc. Leaving 275 lined, blank pages for your work. I have also published “Monologues 4 Women”

My ten minute play, The Art of Murder developed into a series of murder mysteries (novellas) and I am currently working on the 6th book.

My Tribute to Billy Holiday, a one woman show entitled “Scent of Magnolia” has been produced here and in Europe.

Please visit my web site. It is dedicated to the craft of writing. www.writeratplay.com and find all my books and scripts on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=sugarek

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