Category Archives: Playwright

Sounds Like Theatre to Me

by Kitty Felde

I spent my entire summer doing theatre. None of it was in a black box. It was a summer of theatre for the ears, running around with a microphone, taping the sound of footsteps and cell phones and veterinarian offices. We spent a 102 degree day at the zoo, snuck into the only public library open on a Sunday to record a scene, and lingered for many hours in a spooky clubhouse that echoed like the U.S. Capitol Crypt. It was a summer of making a theatrical podcast come to life.

But it all started with the script.

Back in May, I wrote a blog post about the art of adapting a book for children into an episodic podcast for girls … and political junkies. The book was “Welcome to Washington, Fina Mendoza.” After the first blush of publication, I kept asking myself what else I could do to spend more time with these characters. I have a few skills. After years in public radio, I can write for the ear. I also know my way around a flash recorder and editing software. So I decided to try transforming the book into a radio drama. It became The Fina Mendoza Mysteries.

The experience was an absolute joy – the most fun I’ve had doing theatre since the old 99 seat “let’s put on a show” days. I reached out to actors from college, looked up a guy I knew from improv class, and dragged radio colleagues out of retirement. I saw a terrific college production of “In the Heights” and found my lead actress. I even convinced a few kids from the neighborhood to play a few roles.

Perhaps you’ve considered adapting one of your plays to radio drama format. I thought it might be helpful to hear from other podcast story producers about their best tips on writing for the ear.

Paul Cheall produces the World War II British podcast Fighting Through. Even though it’s more memoir than fiction, Paul still has to adapt prose to audio. He says he starts with language: avoiding passive expressions in favor of active ones, “so the listener doesn’t get distracted by unnecessary verbiage.”

Graz Richards from the Audio Drama Hub on Facebook says sound effects are the key. He remembers an “old” Superman audio drama that had “far too much exposition.” Something like, “Hmm, I think I’ll just…have a shave and…hmm, it’s not easy, the bristles are…oh, I’ve broken the shaver!” Graz says we all knew Superman, so all you really needed was the sound of running water in a sink, the buzz of a shaver, the sound of snagging, and …”Oh, okay, not that then.” Graz says, “We get the same visual scene without everything being signposted.”

But Angela Ferrari, creator of the Story Spectacular podcast, says her younger audience needs more context. Contrary to what you’d think, Angela says she needs to include more exposition rather than less. Dialogue must also be extra descriptive. Angela says she also uses sound effects and songs to help “illustrate” her stories.

If you’re writing a script, but not producing it yourself, sound designer Gilly Moon says more the more detail the better. “I love when writers or visual artists provide a ton of details, and not necessarily sound ones,” she says. “If I know what kind of shoes someone is wearing and what floor they are walking on, I can make a sound for that particular character’s footsteps.”

On the other hand, not every detail is helpful. Russell Gold, who produces web comics, says writers will often include comments about what characters are doing or seeing. “It might help performances a bit,” he says, “but mostly it leads the writer to forget that the audience won’t see those notes.”

My own advice: listen to as many shows or recordings as possible. LA Theatre Works has over 500 recordings of more traditional plays. And there are hundreds of dramatic podcasts out there as well – everything from Young Ben Franklin to Welcome to Night Vale.

And if you’re a girl or a political junkie or both, please subscribe to The Fina Mendoza Mysteries on your favorite podcast player.

Erica’s List

E.h. Bennett
…was also an actress…

“…during the Q&A session after the reading…that my mother was moved enough to then share a personal story with a group of friends and strangers…was truly a profound afternoon of theater for me.”

about the play WATER CLOSET

Erica Bennett…

Erica Bennett
(July 29, 1961 – May 4, 2019 )

The playwright E.h. Bennett has died.  Erica Harriet Bennett passed away after a long illness on May 4, 2019.  She was a LA FPI blogger since 2010 – from the very start of our blog.  Her very first blog was full of spunk. She was brave so brave…in her work and in her life.  Her first blog post, 1.PHISHING (2008) introduced us to her frank, unapologetic, sharing. She gave us a week, non-stop of her thoughts on injustices in theater.  I liked her right off.  She scared me a bit but she also made me laugh – genuinely.  I admired her attitude.  She was sweet and brilliant and full of words and worlds she wanted to share.  Erica’s last blog entitled YOU is simply, elegantly profound ….as was she.  She stopped blogging because she had to be about her writing, her time was running out and she knew it.  Erica was prolific; she accomplished so much in the time she had left with us. She is missed dearly but she is also still here… in her work.  I hear her voice as I read her work and I feel her presence.  This is Erica’s week to blog. 

You can read all of E.h. Bennett’s blogs at http://lafpi.com/author/ehbennett/.

“Apple Season” Comes Home to LA

by E.M. Lewis

I started writing Apple Season [Moving Arts‘ production opens July 13] about ten years ago, when I was living in Los Angeles. I was invited to write a ten-minute play on, as I recall, the theme of “backyard fruit.” As sometimes happens with a writing prompt, something unlocked inside of me when I put pen to paper. A story about legacies of violence and how to escape them. A story about family and friends, and memory and monsters. All set in an apple orchard in my home state of Oregon, on a farm much like the one where I grew up.

I think it was a darker ten-minute play than the folks at Botanicum Seedlings had in mind, but that was the play their prompt inspired. And those characters continued to clamor for more story, well after our readings there in Topanga Canyon.

Liza Fernandez in rehearsal for “Apple Season” – photo by Cece Tio

Funny how things work.

It seems very right to be here now, telling this particular story. For lots of reasons.

This is a play about coming home. And in every possible way, that’s what I’ve done. I live back on my family farm in Oregon, now, just like one of the characters in the play. I’m back in Los Angeles for this production, working with the theater company I first called home.

One of the reasons is that this is a story with a woman at the center of it. From politics to soccer, there is a rising understanding that women belong at the center of stories.

This is a story that grapples with domestic violence and violence against women. And there is also a rising understanding that the truth of those types of violence, so long suppressed, must come out. We are going to bring them out. Because as much as speaking hurts, silence hurts us more.

This is a story about agency. There are so many things happening right now that make us feel powerless. And overwhelmed. And afraid. But even when our actions are small, they can change the world. One small step at a time.

I’m grateful to my friend, director, and long time collaborator Darin Anthony and my friend, producer, and long time collaborator Cece Tio for bringing Apple Season to Moving Arts. I absolutely adore my cast — Liza Fernandez as Lissie Fogerty, Justin Huen as her brother, Roger Fogerty, and Rob Nagle as Billy Rizzell. Our designers are working magic, over at the Atwater Village Theater, building us an apple orchard full of memories and ghosts.

I hope that you’ll join us for the show!

Moving Arts’ “Apple Season” runs July 13 – August 5 at Atwater Village Theatre, part of a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere. For Tix & Info visit www.MovingArts.org or call (323) 472-5646.

Justin Huen and Rob Nagle in rehearsal for “Apple Season” – photo by Cece Tio

E. M. LEWIS is an award-winning playwright, teacher, and opera librettist. Her work has been produced around the world, and is published by Samuel French. Plays include: Magellanica, Apple Season (currently having a National New Play Network rolling world premiere at New Jersey Rep, Riverside Theater, and Moving Arts), How the Light Gets In (which will have its world premiere at Boston Court Pasadena this fall), The Gun Show, Song of Extinction, Heads, Infinite Black Suitcase, Goodbye Ruby Tuesday, Reading to Vegetables, True Story, and You Can See All the Stars (a Kennedy Center commission). Awards include: the Steinberg Award and Primus Prize from the American Theater Critics Association, the Ted Schmitt Award from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, a playwriting fellowship from NJ State Arts Commission, the 2016 Oregon Literary Fellowship in Drama, and the Edgerton Award. Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Fallen Giant, a new opera that Lewis is creating with composer Evan Meier, commissioned by American Lyric Theater, had a piano vocal workshop in New York City in March. Town Hall, an opera Lewis created with composer Theo Popov, was produced at Willamette University in March as well. Lewis is currently working on a big new political play called The Great Divide. She is a proud member of LineStorm Playwrights and the Dramatists Guild, and lives on her family’s farm in Oregon.

People need people…?

Do we? Do we really need others?

I think I have always been a writer. From the angsty teen poems that I would submit to the slew of teen magazine without a second thought to the angsty adult ruminations that will never see the light of day. I started writing years ago when a friend wanted to write a play. We called ourselves “writing partners” and met once a week for hours at a time. We sat around the dining room table discussing our latest thoughts for the week, then would set the timer and just write. I miss that. I miss the accountability of sitting with a someone, anyone and writing. I don’t really have to share my work, I just want a place to write with others, and no going to a local coffee shop where other aspiring writers are working doesn’t count. I want the possibility of being able to discuss a thought and I don’t think that would go over well in Starbucks.

My writing partner moved away, yet we still meet once a week via Skype. We catch up on our week, then set a timer and write. Having someone to write with is a gift. Sometimes I just need to say things out loud, to a person, so I am not losing my mind. The person doesn’t necessarily have to respond, because sometimes at these moments, my thoughts are like fragile pieces of glass that will break with the slightest breeze, yet I say them all the same. I guess I’m not that afraid to share. Sorry for that, I just had a moment of clarity while I was typing. If you’ve read my other posts, you get it. But if I can say things out loud to someone who actually supports me without worrying what they have to say, why should it stop my writing. Yeah! Heck yeah. Sorry again, more epiphanies of courage.

You see my writing partner is a long time friend, but we share differing opinions, and sometimes I feel my opinions may hurt her feelings, so I don’t say them. But when I do share them, yes I sometimes regret them because my thoughts…whoa, that’s another post, we have a deep thoughtful conversation about it and it helps round out my opinion, even if at the end of it we don’t agree.

So verdict in. I need a writing partner. Or even a writing group. I need a place of accountability every week, aside from checking in with my local barista. So if you know of one, please share!

Happy Writing! Jennifer

Ending and Beginning…

by Robin Byrd


A few weeks ago, I put some things on my “to do” list that I want to finish or start before the new year and took a look around at the space I am in (physical, mental, and creative). I have been here before at this crossroad but didn’t stay long enough to make tracks. This time I am already knee deep in the snow, climbing for the sake of sanity.

I see story in everything. It could be called a haunting but it’s what I live for. Unexpectantly, a coworker and I had a wonderful conversation about writing and how most everyone has at least one story in them. We talked about oral storytelling and the way it becomes theatrical if done right. ALAP (Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights) has an event called “In Our Own Voices” where the playwright must be the reader or one of the readers in 5 minutes of their work. I have participated twice and am always rejuvenated to the nth degree afterwards. This coworker is not a writer per se but stories are starting to peek out at him. I encouraged him to write them down.

I have work to do as well.


I have been torn between creating new work or tweaking old work but like reading my work aloud, creating new worlds and characters on the page is being reborn every time; it is flying high – up to meet the sun.


The end of this year finds me writing and reading and exploring new ways to hear my words out loud. How about you?

Have a happy and prosperous new year.

New on the LAFPI Podcast: “What She Said” – Alyson Mead with Jami Brandli

Jami Brandli

December, 2018

Alyson Mead speaks with Jami Brandli about Greek mythology, theatrical mash-ups and manners in the time of Trump in her play Bliss: Or Emily Post is Dead!Moving Arts premiere at Atwater Village Theatre. (Her new play Sisters Three opens in LA on December 14th,  produced by Inkwell Theater at VS. Theatre.)

Listen In!

What conversations do you want to have? Send your suggestions for compelling female playwrights or theater artists working on LA stages to Alyson Mead at lafpi.podcast@gmail.com, then listen to “What She Said.”

Click Here for More LAFPI Podcasts

On Pilgrimages

by Chelsea Sutton

When I was in France in September for an impromptu trip,  I had about two days to spend in Paris. I’d never been there before, I didn’t speak the language, I had a lot of work I knew I’d be flying home to. I was happy and grateful but stressed.

But there was one thing that I felt drawn to, the thing that I couldn’t leave Paris without doing: visiting the grave of Oscar Wilde in Père Lachaise Cemetery.

It felt like a pilgrimage. I’m not a religious person. I probably couldn’t truly articulate what I believe. Energies, maybe. Ghosts. I don’t know. I’m not even a hard-core Oscar Wilde fan. But I needed to go there.

I didn’t bring the right shoes for the amount of walking I’d been doing all week. My feet and legs ached. I got turned around a dozen times just finding the entrance of the cemetery. Once inside, I wandered for a long time, searching for the exact location of the grave. Père Lachaise is well organized but its long winding paths can play tricks on you.  I could feel every cobble stone under my shoes. It was cold and I was hungry and I felt like I’d never find him.

Obviously people make this trek all the time. I am not unique. Roses and gifts littered his grave. Lipstick marks covered the protective glass installed around the huge grave stone to combat graffiti from adoring fans. Tourists from England and Sweden and Germany paraded by in the half hour or so I spent there, sitting on the curb across the path from the grave. I felt almost embarrassed that I didn’t have a flower to offer. He probably hated that.

Instead, I sat there and asked him questions.

How did you do it? How did you have the confidence? 

I thought about the tragic way his life was cut short. And felt silly for asking him anything, since anything I had experienced is nothing compared to his life. But still, I admitted to him, that while I don’t deserve it, I’d sure like this advice.

Can I do this? This writer thing? 

I feel silly saying I did this. But it was a pilgrimage to connect to something deeper, some sort of literary history, to figure out if I’m crazy for doing what I’m doing, for wanting what I think I want.

I think it is important to find stillness and ask these questions. To a god, to a literary giant, to someone you’ve lost, to yourself. You’ll get an answer if you ask the question. It may not come in the form of words and a life plan, but in the form of a warmness, a feeling in the pit of your stomach, a sudden lightness in your breathe, in your step.

I made my way out of the cemetery, but it wasn’t easy. I was pretty convinced the ghosts wanted to try to keep me there, confusing me, sending me down more painful cobblestone paths to drain me. But then I found the opening.

I spent the rest of the night wandering more streets, eating cheese, reading, and drinking hot chocolate. And felt like myself. And at peace with that feeling.

We’re getting close to the new year. I’m watching friends and family achieve things, get married, have babies, buy houses. Lovely choices and happiness in so many forms. Seeing others’ choice can sometimes make you question your own. So make your own pilgrimage. Maybe not to Oscar Wilde’s grave (if you do, bring shoes that can deal with those cobblestones) but to a place with the energy that will help you focus and ask that question that’s burning in your mind.

And then listen for the answer.

Finding writer’s block

I think it has finally happened. I think I have writer’s block.

Deep breath and keep writing!

When I started writing, I was taking classes to learn how to write, the different genres and structures.  I was also reading books and articles about writing and from the beginning I read how there was no such thing as writer’s block. I always thought about writer’s block in terms of not being able to continue to write.  You know, you’re half way through your story and you don’t know what happens next.

But since I finished my last play, I have written bits and pieces of ideas and thoughts, but I never thought of what I was going to write next.  It usually just came to me and I sat down and wrote about it.  I would write and re-write the same thing, different ways, working the story out.  But right now, I’m at a loss.  I finished the story, had my characters yell and scream the things people don’t dare to say out loud.  I had found the perfect setting for this to happen and made the cast small enough to include all the backstory I had dreamt up.  And now.  Nothing.  I can’t even see the next thing.  Instead of writing a play, I sit trying to finish a collection of essays about the same subject, and am rehashing the same stories in different settings, trying to get a different audience to understand.

Right now I can’t imagine another play, another story I want to write.  When I was writing, I was reading different blogs and books about the subject.  Different viewpoints, trying to understand the story from all sides. Listening to podcasts and interviews, talking ad-nauseum with friends about their thoughts on the subject.  But nothing.  I can’t imagine that I am done with the subject. It still keeps me up at night, or wakes me early in the morning, usually at 3 am.  But why can’t I write anything more about it? Why can’t I see it anymore and better yet, is this writer’s block?

In the articles I had read about, they said there was no such thing. It’s a figment of your imagination, you’re just not working hard enough.   Even trying to write this on this blog this week has been a pain staking task.  Racking my brain.  What do I say? How do I say it? Who will read it? Does it matter?

But wait. A glimmer of hope.  I started this post on Monday. It’s now Sunday night, my last day to post and there is a story brewing.  While getting lost in distraction and procrastination this week, I found a new book to read and a different angle on my story. Actually a whole new play.  Now starts the ruminating.

I would love to hear your thoughts on writer’s block, because I’m sure it is not done with me.

Happy writing!  Jennifer

 

New on the LAFPI Podcast: “What She Said” – Alyson Mead with Maureen Huskey

Maureen Huskey

October, 2018

Alyson Mead speaks with Maureen Huskey about finding your voice, identity and her play The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man, opening October 27th @ Son of Semele.

Listen In!

 

What conversations do you want to have? Send your suggestions for compelling female playwrights or theater artists working on LA stages to Alyson Mead at lafpi.podcast@gmail.com, then listen to “What She Said.”

Click Here for More LAFPI Podcasts