Words from GLO 2015 Playwright: Robin Byrd

GLO (Green Light One-Acts), featuring 5 new plays by local women, runs at The Miles Memorial Playhouse November 5-15th. For more information and tickets please visit: www.greenlightproductions.org.


Why Fiddlin’ on the Mountaintop…  by Robin Byrd

Lulla Bell Jury has lost her momma; all she has left is the fiddle her mother gave her and the beauty and pain of life in the Appalachian mountains. Sometimes you lose so much it’s hard to see what you’ve gained. Fiddlin’ on the Mountaintop is an Appalachian tale of music, loss, family, and land.

Robin Byrd

Robin Byrd

About Fiddlin’ on the Mountaintop: The piece began as a short story created while I was a student at Indiana University; it consisted of only the first scene which you will see here in GLO 2015 (Green Light One-Acts), the remainder of the play is scheduled for development, so stay tuned.

The short story was written in a creative writing class. Writers tend to work out things in their writing as a way to find answers and closure; I was working out my own sense of loss and Lulla Bell became my voice. In a very broad sense, this piece is semi-autobiographical. Universally, it is a story many can connect with as we all struggle with loss and the journey that life puts us on after that loss.

Part of my family originates from Appalachia which I only learned of in the last few years when writing another story set in the area and looking at the map of the Appalachian region of the United States. One of my grandfathers and an uncle worked the coal mines before migrating to the Midwest. My other grandfather still has family as well as a family cemetery located in the region. I think my comfort of putting Lulla Bell on a mountain came from an ancestral/genetic memory of place; it’s like muscle memory for a violinist/fiddler, any musician – there are songs that come through my fingers that I have forgotten I knew how to play and sometimes that I have only sang and never played before but they start to play themselves because the memory of these songs is more alive than even I am fully conscious of.

From short story to stage play: Ben Harney (Tony Award Winner for the original Broadway production of “Dreamgirls”) developed the short story for performance (at the time, aptly entitled “Me, My Fiddle an’ Momma”). Upon reading the piece, Ben suggested that it was a theatre piece that should be staged and I should perform it. It was at this time, Lulla Bell Jury’s story became stage worthy. Ben encouraged me to rework it and flush out areas that I eluded too but did not go into fully. He taught me to attack it from several point of views – the audience’s, the actor’s as well as the writer’s – making sure that the scenes were rearranged in the right order. I learned as much about writing as I did about acting. The exhilaration of performing her on stage was as wonderful as creating her on the page. I am forever grateful to Ben for his mentoring.

Expansion: Over the years, Lulla Bell Jury has made it known to me that she was not finished talking. Taking my cue from Lulla, I began to expand the piece which became Fiddlin’ on the Mountaintop. In Fiddlin’…, I tune back into Lulla Bell Jury to see how her life is going and how she has weathered the storms. In Fiddlin’ on the Mountaintop, I would like to share just what weathering storms means…

About the Playwright: I am a product of the Midwest, mine is a Midwestern voice with flavors of the South. I am a playwright, poet, screenwriter and actor. I love to incorporate authentic regional flavor into my work. Growing up in Indianapolis (sometimes referred to as the northernmost southern city), attributes to my affinity toward southern themes and language in some of my pieces. My work also deals with things of the spirit; I am known for sifting through memories and ghosts and other intangible things for stories… I have studied acting to enhance my voice as a writer. I play the violin; I am more comfortable calling myself a fiddler.


(Article written by the playwright:  Diane Grant  Article also (posted/to be posted) at “Lightbulbs” on the Green Light Productions website www.greenlightproductions.org.)

Words from GLO 2015 Playwright: Diane Grant

GLO (Green Light One-Acts), featuring 5 new plays by local women, runs at The Miles Memorial Playhouse November 5-15th. For more information and tickets please visit: www.greenlightproductions.org.


All About Harold and Me by Diane Grant

Diane Grant

Diane Grant

All About Harold is one act play that eventually became a two act play called Has Anybody Here Seen Roy?

It began with my daughter who used to work for a visually impaired woman, named Jean, who had been married to a man named Harold. Jean had many stories about him and the one I loved the most was the one about the big black Cadillac. That triggered the play.   Harold also conjured up in my memory a man named Roy who once picked me up in the university cafeteria, chatted me up, wooed me, and then set me up with his friend who was 5’4”. (I have never topped 5’. Indeed, it’s stretching it to say I’m 4’11”). And then Roy disappeared. Like Harold.

I don’t know if either Harold or Roy sang but I’ve always felt in my heart of hearts that most male singers, tenor or baritone, are just a bit treacherous.

I started to write when I was very young and began with stories. The first one was about my piano teacher who would excuse herself from the music room to take some of her medicine. When she returned, her breath always smelled somewhat different. Sweeter. Stronger. My second teacher enjoyed a sherry with my Mother after my lessons, which got shorter and shorter. Somewhere around Chopin’s Nocturne #2 in E Flat Major and the last glass of sherry, I stopped taking lessons but am still writing.

Although I was part of a radical troupe of actors in Canada, called Toronto Workshop Productions, and threw myself into political writing and performing, I’ve always loved and written comedy. The humor in my plays is always about something underneath, something that keeps us going or stops us from living fully. And I hope it makes people laugh.

About the same time I worked with Toronto Workshop, two amazing and energetic women, Francine Volker and Marcy Lustig, asked me if I wanted to join them in forming the first professional women’s theatre in Canada. I did and we called it Redlight Theatre and wrote about women! Most of my protagonists are still women because, well because I’m a woman, and because they are interesting and funny and complex and bound to run up against a man or two.

I’m so pleased to be part of GLO, and thank them for giving women a voice and the joy of working together.


(Article written by the playwright:  Diane Grant  Article also (posted/to be posted) at “Lightbulbs” on the Green Light Productions website www.greenlightproductions.org.)

Words from GLO 2015 Playwright: Karen Howes

GLO (Green Light One-Acts), featuring 5 new plays by local women, runs at The Miles Memorial Playhouse November 5-15th. For more information and tickets please visit: www.greenlightproductions.org.


On Writing “Gentleman’s Pact” by Karen Howes

Karen Howes

Karen Howes

The tap on the keyboard that began the writing of “Gentleman’s Pact” was a desire to take a new look at the age-old “affair.” For good reason, adultery is typically kept a secret, so I wondered what would happen if the secret was made known and the person who was the “outsider” took an action that changed everyone’s roles. Enter the meek “other man” to ask his friend if he can marry his wife. What would be the response? How would the play go? I wondered the effect that such a proposal would have on the relationships of the people involved and I wondered what it would do to each person as an individual.

As a playwright, I was most interested in the dialogue. I enjoy getting to know characters by listening to how they respond and speak, so writing this play was a lot of fun. I came to know the characters as I would real people. What they said, even though sometimes a lie, was a building block that enabled me to understand what they really wanted. It was an intriguing process to be involved in a chess game between three characters who had a lot at stake. I was curious as to how the friendship, marriage and affair would devolve, and I was eager to see a love triangle in which the power and sides would continually shift.

As an unexpected plus — the rehearsal process with the play’s director, Michelle Joyner and the actors at Green Light Productions enabled me to go deeper into this play and discover the threads that weave the larger tapestry. The experience has given me the insight to develop the play into a full length, which I have already begun.


(Article written by the playwright:  Karen Howes.  Article also (posted/to be posted) at “Lightbulbs” on the Green Light Productions website www.greenlightproductions.org.)

Words from GLO 2015 Playwright: Katherine James

GLO (Green Light One-Acts), featuring 5 new plays by local women, runs at The Miles Memorial Playhouse November 5-15th. For more information and tickets please visit: www.greenlightproductions.org.


The Plan by Katherine James

Katherine James

Katherine James

The characters in my play The Plan are young women I have met in every decade of the six decades of my life. Young women who put their hopes and dreams aside for the hopes and dreams that others have for them.

This would be sad enough.

What is truly amazing to me is that the hopes and dreams that supersede their own have been the same two over 60+ years: marriage and working for the family business.

It didn’t strike me hard until my older son (who is now 36) was 18 and I met yet another “Anna” who was his contemporary. Anna is the character whose parents have come from another country to the United States to make a better life for themselves and their children. Their success here depends on this child giving her life to the family business with the promise of her own child some day being allowed to have the right to her own hopes and dreams. The “Anna” who was the contemporary of my son’s had not been able to take the S.A.T.’s because her family made sure she was working in the family restaurant that day. As they did every day. I looked back and realized I had met that same girl again and again from the time I was little. I have continued to meet her since, the latest “Anna” a brilliant actress whose parents didn’t want her to get an MFA. They needed her to run the family business and to translate for them.

Will I ever stop meeting “Kiki”? The girl whose family wants her to marry the nice guy and put her hopes and dreams on hold while she helps him achieve his? I hope so. But so far so bad.

What I hope The Plan does is to wake us all up to the fact that our young women with hopes and dreams need to be mentored by those of us who have realized our hopes and dreams. The most soul searching part of the play for me is when the audience realizes that these girls had mentors. Mentors who didn’t follow up with them.

Some women who have read The Plan don’t believe that family pressure to abandon hopes and dreams still exists. They think that when The Feminist Movement of the 20th Century “was no longer needed” it was largely because girls like Anna and Kiki no longer existed. Of course I would say they were wrong on both counts – Feminism is still needed and in large part because Anna and Kiki still are struggling.

I say about today’s Annas and Kikis, “They are our girls.” Let’s give them the encouragement that their families might not be able to. Let’s help them reach their “American Dream”.


(Article written by the playwright:  Katherine James.  Article also (posted/to be posted) at “Lightbulbs” on the Green Light Productions website www.greenlightproductions.org.)

Dramatists Guild National Conference: #writechange – Celebrating Stephen Schwartz

by Robin Byrd

If you weren’t there, you missed a PARTY!  You missed a SHOW!  Other than all us playwrights, here is who was there celebrating Stephen Schwartz in song and song and words and music and song, did I say song?  And not just any song but songs by Stephen Schwartz, oh and Stephen, himself, sat down at the piano and took us for a spin!  Can you tell I am still excited about it?  Michael Kerker was there moderating and if you have ever gone to the ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshops held around the country, you know how much fun it is to have Michael and Stephen in the same room.  Brent Barrett and Susan Egan performed – you have not heard a musical till you’ve heard it done right, in character, full of life, exquisitely executed.  Songwriting/musical writing collaborators, Alan Zachary & Michael Weiner performed — stop playing!  Them some bad boys.  Their presentation should be a musical!   John Boswell served as musical director/accompanist; he did not miss a beat.  I just wanted to know how he knew all those songs – the repertoire was seamless.  Thank you ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and Dramatists Guild for letting us all enjoy this evening extraordinaire.

Stephen Schwartz, Michael Kerker, DG

Pictured L to R backstage after the concert: ASCAP’s Michael A. Kerker; Winnie Holzman (librettist, Wicked); Lisa Kron (TONY award winning lyricist and librettist of Fun Home); Stephen Schwartz; Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner (composer/lyricist of Broadway’s First Date)

Picture from ASCAP page “Honoring Stephen Schwartz at the DG Conference” http://www.ascap.com/playback/2015/07/faces-and-place/musical-theatre/stephen-schwartz-dg.aspx

Stephen Schwartz is one of the most generous, down-to-earth persons, I have met.  He shares his talent on so many levels, all the time; Stephen Schwartz is a national treasure.  I have learned so much about the spark of creativity and how to mine for gold from just sitting in on his talks.  As a person and as an artist, he deserves every accolade and I am so happy that we can celebrate his musical genius and let him know how much we love him…

Dramatists Guild National Conference: #writechange – Writing Wrongs

by Robin Byrd

Writing Wrongs – Part 1 (Teaching Playwriting to Underserved Communities, Overview)


Sia Amma Celebrating the clitoris / Sia Amma, Liberian native, uses humor and drama to educate about female genital mutilation

Ruby Berryman Englewood Boys: A Play on Portraiture

Cheryl Coons Storycatchers Theatre

“In this new national Dramatists Guild (DG) initiative, artists share ways they’ve given voice to others who would most benefit from self-expression. They’ve worked with victims of genital mutilation, adults in prison, incarcerated and court-involved youth, respectively. They’ll share how this work has been life-changing for everyone involved.” This is the description of the Writing Wrongs session one from the conference program book.

The men, the women, the children…

There were black and white pictures placed in the seats; not all of the seats but a few here and there. During her talk on her performance piece created in a prison, Ruby Berryman’s strategically placed portraits of inmates helped to create moments of intrigue for the audience. Impact: the visual portraits along with the description of how the project came to be and how it worked put us in the shoes of the inmates, if ever so briefly. As writers, we know what triggers story and to hear Ruby discuss how she was able to pull stories out of – non-writers /new to writing – men who before she gave them a place to create had never told their stories, was inspiring. At the end of her talk she had the audience bring the portraits to the front of the room and display them. Impact: we became the exhibit. Imagine an inmate with newly formed skills to tell his story, realizing his words could have…impact.

Sia Amma is a comedienne; her talk was peppered with jokes and laughter. Her subject matter was in no way funny beyond her comedic timing and hilarious take on how to make the most horrible thing speak-able. To utter it, to say it out loud, to hear it hit the air, female genital mutilation must be stopped! Impact: every person in the room was acutely aware of the atrocity of cutting off any part of the clitoris and/or vulva. It is unimaginable… We are changed forever…

Poet Nikky Finney has a poem titled “The Clitoris” from her book HEAD OFF & SPLIT “…New studies show the shy curl to be longer than the penis, but like Africa, the continent, it is never drawn to size…” the poem starts at 5:48.

Cheryl Coons works with the children; her Storycatchers Theatre teaches them a new way to navigate the world. She discussed her program with court-involved and at-risk youth and her process of getting the youth to open up and to participate in the program. Her program has received national recognition for its track record with this program. Impact: we remember the children. We imagine the change.

The theme for the 2015 National Conference was Writing the Changing World or the abbreviated form #writechange. The top of the handout for this session and the workshop session asks for playwrights to share their projects with the Dramatists Guild in an effort to connect and share information with other playwrights doing the same sort of thing. This session was also a call to action.

Impact: we see theater as a great resource to effect change in the environment, lives, and life choices of our communities; we simply must re-imagine the uses of the stage.

Starting or participate in a Writing Wrongs program, please contact Faye Sholiton fsholiton@dramatistsguild.com with a description of your project and some of the challenges you’re facing.  Please tell about your project(s) and link us to your website.  In that way, we can share your information with teaching artists embarking on similar projects.  The Dramatists Guild hopes to offer a Writing Wrongs idea exchange on the Dramatists Guild website in the near future.

Writing Wrongs – Part 2 (Teaching Playwriting to Underserved Communities, Workshop)


Suze Allen 3 Girls Theatre

Melissa Denton The Unusual Suspects Theatre Company

Francesca Piantadosi From Prisoners to Playwrights: Why youth at MacLaren are learning to write plays

“This session features practical techniques to work with reluctant and often traumatized writers. Coaches will take you through initial trust-building steps, using group and individual exercises. An introduction to what it takes to open hearts and minds – and the potential for small triumphs along the way.” This is the description of the Writing Wrongs session two from the conference program book.

The playwrights (Suze Allen, Melissa Denton, and Francesca Piantadosi) in this session were a great follow-up for the previous session. Once you have a call to action, what do you do next? These playwrights answered those questions.  Each gave pointers on how to interact with the group participants.


The sessions were hosted by Larry Dean Harris, our Southern California Regional Representative.


Dramatists Guild National Conference: #writechange – Presenting at the Conference

by Robin Byrd

July 16, 2015 at the National Dramatists Guild Conference.  We were exhausted and exhilarated and ready for the rest of the week.   Our workshop presentation Using the Senses: Character and Story Creation cover sheet and bios  went really well.  I don’t know about the other ladies but the content of some of the sessions, I attended, had me spinning.  Such profound insight and resolve to do the best work and create the best art – just to be in the room with these artists was inspiring.

Robin Byrd, Laurel Wetzork, and Debbie Bolsky sitting in on the opening presentation after our workshop "Using the Senses: Character and Story Creation" at the Dramatists Guild Conference: Writing the Changing World, #writechange.

Robin Byrd, Laurel Wetzork, and Debbie Bolsky sitting in on the opening presentation after our workshop “Using the Senses: Character and Story Creation” at the Dramatists Guild Conference: Writing the Changing World, #writechange.

Some of my favorite sessions were The Global Impact of Diversity on our Stages with panelists: Lydia R. Diamond, Rehana Lew Mirza, Mike Lew and moderated by Christine Toy Johnson and The DG Fund Presents: Beyond Emerging: The Stages of a Writer’s Life with panelists: Lydia Diamond, Christine Toy Johnson, Mike Lew and moderated by Seth Cotterman.   Will talk about those later.

Speaking of the Dramatists Guild Fund, they gave away free T-shirts in exchange for a bit of encouragement sharing.  I got a T-shirt with “Always try to do more than you know you can.” – a saying by Edward Albee that can be found in his interview in The Legacy Project: Volume 1.  After writing our saying down on a sticky, it was placed on the DG Fund Encouragement Wall. (#KeepWriting)  Totally awesome!  My saying is “Always be writing…”



Dramatists Guild National Conference: #writechange – The Count

Writing the Changing World — The Count

by Robin Byrd

Last night at the Lilly Awards, the Dramatists Guild gave a presentation on The Count (a national survey showing which theaters are producing the work of women and which are not).  Marsha Norman, Julia Jordan, Lisa Kron, and Rebecca Stump went over the data and spoke on why parity matters.

Seasons used for the study were 2011/12, 2012/13 and 2013/14; the Count is an ongoing annual project which means the data will be tracked and reported for each season going forward.  The national percentage of productions for the past three seasons for women playwrights is 22.18%.  The project is managed by Julia Jordan of the Lilly Awards and Rebecca Stump of the Dramatists Guild.

The Count has been six years in the making, Julia Jordan and Marsha Norman began the process in February 2014 with funding from the Lilly Awards and the Dramatists Guild to do a collaborative study to determine how many women playwrights are produced in the US.  The data was reviewed by Lilei Xu, a statistician and economist.

According to this study, between 2011 and 2014 74% of the productions were plays, the rest were musicals; 62% were new work,  the rest were revivals.  12% were written by writers of color, 88% were white.

City Count:

City Productions Female Writers
Portland 66 18%
Los Angeles 74 23%
Minneapolis 82 23%
Seattle 104 23%
New York 234 25%
Berkeley 63 29%
Philadelphia 84 29%
Kansas City 61 30%
Washington 104 30%
Chicago 120 36%

In August 2015, research and data collection begins for the 2014-2015 season.

It was absolutely wonderful to see the presentation at the national conference.  LA FPI was mentioned as one of the groups across the nation discussing parity.  Lisa Kron suggested in her speech that theaters should check the Kilroys List, if having problems locating plays by female playwrights.

We all laughed…

but what is not funny is the fact that we still need to have this conversation.


For the complete report containing more thorough data, please check the Lilly Awards (thelillyawards.org and the Dramatists Guild www.dramatistsguild.com) websites.


Dramatists Guild National Conference: #writechange

This is the first day of the Dramatists Guild Conference in La Jolla, CA.  Such an empowering day!  LA FPIer’s Laurel Wetzork, Debbie Bolsky and I presented a very successful workshop: Using the Senses: Character and Story Creation.  John Logan’s One-on-One with Joey Stocks was wonderful.  He gave some wonderful insights to his journey as a writer. The regional reps met with their group members and the conversation was about getting to that next place as artists and how to use community to do so — the community of writers  who make up the regions.

The drive in was 3 hours, one wonders how there is traffic at 1:30 am but there was.

The Dramatists Guild Conference Starts This Week!

Hope to see you down in La Jolla for the Dramatists Guild Conference that kicks off on Thursday of this week!

For more information about the conference, please go to the Dramatists Guild website: http://www.dramatistsguild.com/nationalconference.aspx

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