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

At the Fringe: The Count of Monte Cristo: the Musical

by Guest Blogger Sarah Dzida

I am a huge fan of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. I remember being introduced to it by my father through the copy he had on his bookshelf. I’ve reread the epic book many times because it has … well, everything, and when I say everything, I mean it literally. There’s greed, revenge, love, hate, family issues, mistaken identities, embezzlement, history, politics and pirates! It’s over 1000+ pages of pure drama. So when I met Kelly d’Angelo at an early Fringe Workshop who said she had been working on her adaptation for a Count of Monte Cristo musical for 10 years, I was pretty impressed. And curious—just how was she going to pull that off?

On the way to the world premiere this past Friday, my dad and I played a game: What scene would get turned into a song?

“Can you imagine Edmond singing?,” I asked. “Like, ‘REVENGE!’ ”

“Maybe there will be a duet? Something … ‘You killed my father!’ ,” my dad said.

There really was no way to guess the right answer, but my father and I were delighted with what we saw. The cast and crew performed over 10 scenes full of music. It’s two days later, and I still find myself humming certain lyrics in songs. We were also pleased at how much humor Kelly, her crew and cast pulled out of the plot. Funny jokes. Funny moments, and even funny songs, like the duet between pretty Valentine de Villefort and her fiancé who she does not want to marry.

You put diamonds and stars in our eyes, Kelly! Congrats to the cast and crew. I hope you have a successful run through the 2015 Fringe!

To learn more about The Count of Monte Cristo: The Musical, by Kelly d’Angelo, playwright and Matt Dahan, composer, go here: http://hff15.org/2075.

Sarah Dzida is a Los Angeles playwright who also has a play in the Fringe Festival, please also go see 5 Sirens: Beware of Rocks!

“Where and what is my audience?” – playwright Laurel M. Wetzork is at the Fringe!

by Guest Blogger Laurel M. Wetzork 

First time fringer

Where and what is my audience?

Myself and four other female playwrights have a 55-minute show, 5 SIRENS: Beware of Rocks!  One show of five 10-minute plays, about miscommunication and the longing for connection. We all felt, when we met months ago and decided to work together, that this theme could apply to our different pieces.  Yet when I’ve turned to my usual group of friends and loyal ticket buyers, some people’s response to buying tickets has been withdrawn, almost muted or terse.  Is it the month of June?  That they’ll have to drive to Hollywood and brave the crazy parking nightmare that is the Fringe?  Is it that they aren’t sure they want to see something I’ve warned them is for those over the age of 18 (language, adult themes)?

I do feel that some of our shows will challenge some people. But the people who expect a Disney ending shouldn’t be surprised, as they supposedly know my work and the work of the other writers.  Maybe they’re tired of the dark themes I tend to explore.  Yet, should I write for a particular audience?  Make a happy ending to please someone else?  Stupid questions, I know.  Of course we shouldn’t write to please others, unless we’re hired to do so (or are writing for a specific audience — more on this later). 

As playwrights and writers, I feel that it is often our job to explore hidden, subconscious, and sometimes emotionally laden subjects. Whether the writing comes out as comedy, drama, or a dreamscape, is up to the writer.  People have said about my piece for the Fringe, “Well, that changes tone.”  But life, to me, does change tone, and isn’t one note.  Laughter often goes with tears, and without laughter, life would be unbearable.  Theater, to me, can change lives in a way that movies, films, and books don’t.  It is experienced right now, the plays themselves can make people think or argue or question preconceived ideas, and the emotions that come up can heal.

About writing for a specific audience, my play LEVELS was written for an audience consisting of abused women.  It wasn’t my intent as a writer to entertain or make happy endings.  I wanted to share my own healing at the hands (fists?) of abuse, and show that it was possible to find hope, healing, and love. After the performances of the play, women came up to me afterwards and repeated the same phrases: “I thought I was alone, that I was the only one who experienced this abuse.” “I’m not alone, or a freak, am I?”  “Thank you, I thought I was the only one who reacted this way.”  They were moved to contemplate the possibly of healing, of a shared experience, of a future that might be filled with hope, by a very uncomfortable theater piece. 

So if those particular friends respond again with terse replies, I know now what I’ll say.  Our job as playwrights is to write what we see and explore uncomfortable truths, and by bringing our writing to light in a performance, perhaps facilitate healing.  “Be brave,” I’ll say. “And be willing to explore what theater, and the hearts of so many playwrights, have to offer. You might be surprised, moved, and unexpectedly changed.”

So where is our audience? I do know, even if a theater is bare except for one person, that one person may experience a life-changing event when watching what we write.  They may see the possibility for hope.  And they may also just laugh.  So keep writing those plays, and sharing your vision.  You never know who it will touch. And heal.

For tickets to “5 Sirens: Beware of Rocks” go to http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/2125?tab=tickets 5 Siren playwrights: laurel m wetzork, sarah dzida, laura steinroeder, autumn mcalpin, kiera nowacki, caron tate. Laurel is the LA FPI Onstage Editor.

Women, Writing, and Mimosas – LA FPI #FringeFemmes Gathering

by Guest Blogger Samantha Emily Evans

In the backroom of the Samuel French Bookstore on Sunset Boulevard surrounded by brilliant manuscripts, a group of forty or so women came together to support each other in their Hollywood Fringe endeavors. It was inspiring. The place was buzzing with pre-Fringe excitement, as postcards and smiles were exchanged.

Jennie Webb introduced the meat of the meeting, the Micro-Reads, where the writers and actors are able to promote their work and receive encouragement and feedback. At the front of the room was a box where writers had dropped a page to be read. The writer, when picked, would introduce the piece and select actors to perform it. This was my first Micro-Reads, my first LA FPI meeting, and my first time in the Samuel French Bookstore. I was astounded and warmed by the respect and enthusiasm of the audience and the writers. People eagerly volunteered to act and the responses were energetic and encouraging.

2015-05-30 13.50.15

Micro-Reads in Samuel French Green Room

The pieces read were eclectic and promising, most were excerpts from the plays going up at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, a taster to get us to the theatre. From a mother addicted to smoothies and in love with her blender (Snack) to a woman in love with an elevator (a short story excerpt) to a woman falling from an elevator (Susan Tierney) – each preview was so very different, and yet I wanted to see them all. And, I could. I could see them all at the Hollywood Fringe!

Each performer was asked to introduce herself, what she was working on, what she needed, and what she could give. The concept of stating what one could give was beautiful and electrifying, concreting the firm support system of LA FPI – we need to work together in order to succeed. Most writers just wanted their play to be seen, their message to be heard; they wanted to support other women’s plays, and in return be supported. They offered comp swaps and PWYC. They offered to help run the box office and Front of House. Constance Strickland has even created a facebook group where women can ask for and offer support. I had a fantastic time at the LA FPI meeting, and was truly inspired.


TY  Tara Donavan for the pic! #50ShadesofShrew

I left in a fuzzy, happy cloud of dreams, amazed at the encouragement, support, and commitment of the LA FPI, and wanting to get involved. The excitement for the upcoming month of June was palpable. The Hollywood Fringe is just around the corner with previews starting Thursday June 4th, and performances all throughout the month (and even into July and August for whoever wins the Fringe Awards!). I am excited to see what presents the #fringefemmes have prepared for Fringe 2015!

It’s Christmas time in Hollywood, the Fringe is finally here!


Samantha Emily Evans is the editor-in-chief of thetribeonline.com. Check out her writing and reviews at literarypixie.com.

Happy 5th Anniversary LA FPI Blog!

by Robin Byrd

Today is the 5th Anniversary for the LA FPI Blog.

My excitement over the diverse voices that frequent this blog never wanes.  Pick a few bloggers and read their articles.  Tell me what you think.

  1. Jessica Abrams (past blogger)
  2. Tiffany Antone
  3. Erica Bennett
  4. Nancy Beverly (past blogger)
  5. Jenn Bobiwash
  6. Andie Bottrell
  7. Robin Byrd
  8. Korama Danquah
  9. Kitty Felde
  10. Diane Grant
  11. Jen Huszcza (past blogger)
  12. Sara Israel (past blogger)
  13. Cindy Marie Jenkins (past blogger)
  14. Sue May (video blogger)
  15. Anna Nicholas (guest series blogger)
  16. Analyn Revilla
  17. Laura Shamas
  18. Madhuri Shekar
  19. Kimberly Shelby-Szyszko
  20. Cynthia Wands

 LAFPI Blog 3



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