Addendum to Playwrights in Mind: A National Conversation

The Dramatists Guild Conference, “Playwrights in Mind: A National Conversation” was held in Fairfax, Virginia from 9 – 12 June, 2011.  This was the first conference held by the Dramatists Guild.  To hear some of the speakers: Molly Smith, Arena Stage, and Julia Jordan, 50/50 in 2020, Todd London, New Dramatists, go to http://livestream.com/newplay.  You will have to do a lot of scrolling but it worth hearing.

Kitty Felde did an excellent job of covering the events, please read and reread her coverage at http://lafpi.com/author/kfelde/  or at

Day One

Day One continued through Day Three

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 Addendum for the last day of the conference:

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THE DRAMATISTS GUILD FUND

The DG Fund seminar with Fred Nelson and Tari Stratton covered the many aspects of the Dramatist Guild Fund.  There are two types of grants, individual (Kesselring Grant) and theater.  The estate of Joseph Kesselring provides grants to professional dramatists who are experiencing extreme personal hardships, health or otherwise.  The recipients don’t even have to be members of the Dramatists Guild.  It’s a confidential process.  And grant means you don’t have to pay it back.  This is the only program that I know of that helps a playwright in need.

Regarding the theater grant side, a rep from a theater that has received a general operating grant from the DG Fund was present in the seminar (City Theatre of Miami); she said that their City Theatre Summer Shorts Festival was happening due to a grant from the DG Fund.

The other project that the DG Fund discussed was its Legacy Project.  This project films an interview between an emerging playwright and an established dramatist.  The interviewer is one that has somehow been greatly affected by the interviewee.  The Fund realizes the urgency of creating this interview series and started with the oldest playwrights, lyricists and composers.  Carol Hall “The Best Little Whore House in Texas” playwright and DG Fund vice president discussed the feeling of just being in the room with the interviewees and the moments that were caught on film.  She discussed how Horton Foote was scheduled to be the first interview but passed away before it could be done.  Joe Stein was interviewed by Lin-Manuel Miranda; Edward Albee was interviewed by Will Eno.  Lanford Wilson and Romulus Linney were missed…

I met Romulus Linney at a conference in Nebraska, I really wanted to sit down and talk with him about Appalachia and how it creeps into my work though I am two generations removed.  I wanted to just be close enough to see that glint in his eye and maybe just maybe decipher it.  I liked him.  It was 2007 and that was my first encounter with his work and it was excellent, lively and funny…

It would be great if the Legacy Project could find a way to do the interviews (for the artists that passed) anyway using those closest to the artist.  Not the same as an interview with them but something. 

During the seminar, some of the audience members offered ways to create donors for this project.

Volume One of the Dramatists Guild Fund Legacy Project documentary series is complete and work has begun on Volume Two.  For more information see http://dramatistsguildfund.org/programs/legacy.php

*I just went to the legacy site and found out that Lanford Wilson was not missed!!!  8/11/11*

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MYTH ADAPTATION FOR PLAYWRIGHTS: Archetypes and Inspiration

Myth Adaptation for Playwrights: Archetypes and Inspiration with Laura Shamas was a two-hour seminar squeezed into 45 minutes (due to a change at the conference) and she didn’t miss a beat.  Laura discussed why myth matters.  Myth, she said, represents what is eternally true; it’s a tool and it’s active.  For the playwright, myth can be useful in plot, character and theme.  “You don’t find the myth, the myth finds you.”  There are three archetypal planes, celestial, earthly, and underworld.  If you visualize the archetype it is easier to use it in your writing.  Each archetype has props that stand for something in their picture, i.e., Zeus sits on a throne, with a staff topped by an eagle in one hand, always bearded, etc. – each of those things mean something like the fact that Venus was born an adult.  Laura says, “in order to translate a myth, you have to know the props of the myth and update the props for your story. 

Notes on Myth Adaptation Process:

  1. When researching myths, one should look at 1 to 7 versions of the myths because the stories can vary slightly and you need to find the one that best fits the story you are trying to tell. Document and list chronologically.  Note any important rituals or rites.
  2. Identify: 
    •  central archetypes
    •  symbols (including props),
    •  setting and other metaphors,
    •  plot,
    • transformation,
    •  psychological function (thematic): why does it matter for you personally, and why does it matter for humanity at large.

The above archetypal elements are needed to incorporate into your work to update and keep the elements that will make the story mythic.

Laura gave a list of Myth references books.  Some of the books are “The Power of the Myth” Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, “The Heroine’s Journey” Maureen Murdock.  Even though, Laura got through everything, we still wanted more…

For more information about Laura Shamas visit http://laurashamas.com/.  Laura is also co-founder with Jennie Webb of the Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative (LAFPI).

3 Comments

  • By Laura S, July 14, 2011 @ 8:58 pm

    Robin, thank you so much for covering the myth adaptation seminar. It means a lot.

  • By Robin Byrd, July 15, 2011 @ 2:17 am

    You’re welcome, Laura. I really enjoyed it.

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