Posts tagged: LA FPI Blogger

Report from the Colorado New Play Summit

By Kitty Felde

The delicious set for THE BOOK OF WILL by Lauren Gunderson. Set design by Sandra Goldmark.

This is the third year I’ve flown to Denver for the annual festival of new play readings. In the past, I’ve attended Humana, CATF and the National New Play Festival, but the Colorado New Play Summit at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts is my favorite. Seven new plays in three days! It’s like a combination of cramming for midterms, eating everything in sight at a buffet table, and using all your season subscription tickets in a single weekend.

As a playwright, I find it extremely helpful to see that much new work all at once. It allows you to see trends and fall in love with new playwrights and come away with 101 ideas for your own plays.

Here’s a few trends spotted at this year’s Summit:

STRONG WORK

It was a particularly good year for new plays in Denver. Strong writing, big thoughts.

MOST LIKELY TO BE PRODUCED A LOT:

THE BOOK OF WILL by Lauren Gunderson is a love letter for every Shakespeare theatre in America. The late Will’s friends race against time and lawsuits to publish as many of his scripts as possible. It’s a big cast show, a perfect complement to a season of TEMPESTs and HENRY IVs. Round House Theatre in Maryland has already announced it will be part of its 2017-2018 season.

TWO WORD TITLES:

Don’t ask me why, but I’m fascinated with titles. Maybe because I’m so bad at writing them myself. This year, the trend seemed to be plays with two word titles. HUMAN ERROR and BLIND DATE were two of the new plays featured in readings. THE CHRISTIANS and TWO DEGREES were onstage for full performances.

POLITICAL PLAYS

I predicted that we’d get a flood of anti-Trump plays NEXT year, but they were already popping out of printers by the time I got to Denver. Political plays were everywhere.

The cleverest of the bunch was Rogelio Martinez’ play about Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the battle to come up with a nuclear treaty in BLIND DATE. Call it ALL THE WAY for the Reagan years. Very well researched, very funny. Martinez carries off an interesting balancing act, portraying a much more savvy and sympathetic Reagan than you’d expect, perhaps looking back at him with different eyes now that there’s a very different sort of president in the White House. Bravo. (I’d vote for a better title, but that’s my only complaint.)

The politics of Nazi Germany were the focus of a play by the man who wrote ALL THE WAY. Robert Schenkkan’s piece HANUSSEN is the tale of a mesmerist who dabbles in Nazi party politics. It has a highly theatrical beginning, and ends with a pretty blatant rant against Donald Trump.

Schenkkan pulled off a very difficult trick: bringing Adolph Hitler onstage and allowing him to come off as a rather likeable character. Perhaps it’s because he followed the Hollywood solution to making villains less unlikeable by giving them a dog. Hitler’s relationship with his annoying dog was quite delightful. (One wag of a fellow playwright at the conference observed that our new standard for unlikeable characters is now to ask: is he/she more or less likeable than Hitler?)

TWO DEGREES by Tira Palmquist is a climate change play. It received a fully staged production this year, after its debut as a staged reading at last year’s festival. It featured a set with panes of ice that actually melted as the play progressed.

There was also a nod to the protestors in pink hats (I actually spotted one or two of those in Denver) with Lauren Yee’s play MANFORD AT THE LINE OR THE GREAT LEAP. It’s a lovely piece about a young man’s search for an absent lost father, basketball, and Tiannamen Square. How can someone that young write that well? MANFORD is terrific and should get productions everywhere.

WHERE ARE THE LADIES?

Two of the five new play readings were by female playwrights, as were two of the three fully staged productions. (Thanks to Artistic Director Kent Thompson who established a Women’s Voices Fund in 2005 to commission, develop, and produce new plays by women.)

Yet, despite the healthy representation of female playwrights, there was a decided lack of roles for the ladies. Of the 34 named characters, fewer than a third were female. And with the exception of the terrific family drama LAST NIGHT AND THE NIGHT BEFORE by Donnetta Lavinia Grays, few plays featured roles of any substance for actresses. Nearly every one flunked the Bechdel test. The sole female in one particular play will likely be best remembered for her oral sex scene. Sigh.

PLAYING WITH TIME AND PLACE

I always come away from new plays with new ideas about what I want to steal for myself. In this case, the overlapping of scenes in different times and places happening at the same time on stage. Lauren Gunderson’s BOOK OF WILL very cleverly juxtaposed two scenes on the same set piece at the same time and it moved like lightening. Look something similar in the play I’m working on.

CHANGE IN THE AIR

The man who made the New Play Summit possible – Kent Thompson – is leaving. Kent’s gift – besides putting together a rocking new play festival – was making playwrights like me – those of us not invited to bring a new play to his stage – feel welcome. At the opening luncheon, all playwrights – not just the Lauren Yees and Robert Schenkkans – are invited to stand and be recognized by the theatrical community with applause from the attendees. That may sound like a small gesture, but it’s symbolic of the open and kind community Kent created. He made every one of us who pound away at our keyboards feel that we are indeed a vital part of the new play community. Thank you, Kent.

PS

In the interest of full disclosure, I will share that I had my agent send my LA Riots play WESTERN & 96th to the New Play Summit this year. It was not selected. I never received an acknowledgment that it was even received or read. But the non-rejection does not diminish my affection and admiration for the Colorado New Play Summit.

On Awards, and Fringe Accolades

by Jennie Webb

I’m not a big awards gal. As in, I don’t personally watch the Academy Awards and if you have an Oscar party I probably won’t come. Tonys are not really on my radar, and I pretty much stay away from local theater awards & ceremonies. (How clever of me to personally avoid any recent nominations, huh? Right. Let’s not go there.)

Awards MarqueNow I know awards are kind of a necessary not-so-evil. They’re a very useful tool for artists. In the best sense of the word, I think they can celebrate our art. And they mean a lot to a whole lot of people – just because there are winners does not mean the rest of the world (read “us”) are losers, right?

Okay.  Admittedly, I have not been above posting awards on my own damn resume. So I should just get over my fine socialist self, keep an eye on my over-developed empathy gene (why can’t everyone win?) and put this all into perspective.

Which brings me to the Hollywood Fringe Festival Awards. And a question about LA FPI’s contribution to them.

Awards are a big deal at the Festival, and when we first began to partner with the Fringe (thanks to an introduction by the incredible, soon-to-be-leaving-LA Cindy Marie Jenkins – thank you, mama!), the subject of sponsoring a Fringe Award came up. But wait: LA FPI can’t be choosing one artists or project over another! (See “socialist,” above.)

Still, we didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to celebrate female artists.  So we tried to  figure out how to give an award that would let us highlight numbers, give accolades and create some good old gender parity awareness.

NOTE Fringe Award

Thanks to Tiffany Antone for her “Most Wanted” design

Here’s what we thought up: We’ll give our awards to venues, not artists. We’ll tally the numbers to determine the overall percentage of Fringe shows written by women, and give “Most Wanted” Awards to recognize venues that had over 50% shows by female playwrights.

Well, we’ve done it for the past four years, and the numbers we got each year told us that about 39% of the scripted Fringe shows each year were by women. We gave away a few “Most Wanted” Awards every year and that was all well and good.

But for the first time, this year over 50% of the venues got LA FPI Awards – 10 total, the most ever. Also in 2015, we found that over 46% of the overall Fringe shows were femme-penned. Statistically, that’s a pretty significant leap… in the right direction!

I was ridiculously excited about this – thrilled at the reaction by the Festival peeps (Ben, Stacey & Meghan are my heroes for making this madness happen every year) and the Fringe Femmes. And so grateful to Madison Shephard & Julisa Wright (Constance Strickand behind the scenes) for graciously presenting the 2015  “Most Wanted” Awards.

Award Presenters

Julisa Wright & Madison Shephard at the Fringe Awards

I heard the Fringe Awards Ceremony this year was a blast and then some. Hooray for accolades, congrats to all of the “winners” and so glad LA FPI was a part of it, again! (Even though my ass was conspicuously absent, again – see “over-developed empathy gene,” above.)

So here’s where I am now with Fringe award-ness: When we first thought up the LA FPI Award we dreamed that in the best of all possible LA theater worlds, venues would proudly post them on their walls and compete for women artists to book in their spaces so they could get them. I’m not sure that this is quite happening, but I am gratified that theater operators have come up to me and told me that they deserved one, despite the numbers (tee hee hee).

What are your thoughts? Especially if you have a healthier attitude towards awards than some of us, is the “Most Wanted” Award something that gets our message out in the best way? Is there another way we can celebrate the work of the Women on the Fringe, and the theaters and theatermakers that are actively supporting that work?

Let us know. We’ve got awhile to think about it. And in the meantime, accolades to all the Fringe Femmes from LA FPI – you’re all winners and we want you ALL!

 

2015-06-17 13.32.17

With Cindy Marie Jenkins & my favorite, award-winning, honorary Fringe Femme – we’ll miss you CMJ!

Interview with Playwright Robin Byrd

Robin Byrd weighs in:

LA FPI Blog Editor Robin Byrd

LA FPI Blogger Robin Byrd has been blogging since day one. Hers is an authentic voice determined to be heard.

1. How did you become a playwright? What brought you to theater?

I guess I sort of evolved into one.  I started telling stories at three and a three year old usually acts out a story so it’s theatrical by nature of the storyteller.  I had regular story time for my two younger sisters up until I was eight.  Even then I was acting out the story using spectacle and character development.  Decades later, I joined a very large church and in the orientation, someone said that a way not to get swallowed up is to join one of the groups so I went to a theater group meeting. This theater group would meet every month to discuss what the annual production would be.  Nothing seemed to pass the preconceived “Bishop Test”- based on biblical principles and something he – Bishop Blake – would approve of for his congregation.  This discussion went on for months.  Out of frustration, I suggested we write our own play. I wrote a synopsis which I didn’t know was a synopsis at the time; everyone in the group liked it and the president of the group, the late Stuart Brown, told me to write it.  I would bring in pages to the meetings and we would read them and then Stuart would go back to that darn synopsis and say but I don’t see this part and I’d have to keep writing till everything in that synopsis was in the play.  Everyone in the group was very helpful with pushing me to write and giving feedback.  After the play was completed, we did a workshop production of it.  I met Charlayne Woodard, theatre artist extraordinaire and she greeted me like I was a playwright and that is when I knew I was on this theater artist journey. (Funny the things you remember.) Thus, with “In Times Like These (Is He the One?)”, I started writing plays; by the time I wrote the book for the musical “For This Reason (A Love Story), I knew I was a playwright and I could see my voice as a writer introducing itself to me.

2. What is your favorite play of yours? Why?

My favorite play is always the one that I learn something more about craft or my voice as a playwright.

3. What is your favorite production of one of your plays? Why?

“The Day of Small Things” would be it because my family flew out to Los Angeles to see it.  My father was too ill to come but he was so proud of me.  There was one scene where something went wrong with the lighting queues so the actors had to improvise and walk onto the stage while the lights were up.  The scene was right after a funeral.  The actors walked slowly onto the stage as if in shock of the events, they had to play their “just before moment” on stage; they walked in a synchronized movement as if to an inaudible dirge.  It was magical, performance art at its best, had we been able to run the play longer, I would have asked them to do it again. (Actors – got to love good ones who can commit to their character and are able to react in character without losing a beat.)  Moments like these are what make Theater so alive.

4. What play by someone else has moved you the most and why?

There are a few plays for different reasons: “The Zoo Story” by Edward Albee made me take craft really serious; “Body Indian” by Hanay Geiogamah made me contemplate sound as a character; “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry made me look at family dynamics; “A Star Ain’t Nothin’ But A Hole In Heaven” by Judi Ann Mason made me look at family secrets; and “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams, taught me to embrace other dimensional storytelling; it’s a memory play and my whole life I’ve dealt with memory in some form.  As a child the beginning of most of my sentences was “’Member when…” so when I got to high school and “The Glass Menagerie” was on the reading list, it not only reminded me of the late night PBS filmed plays I loved to watch.  It felt strangely familiar.  “The Glass Menagerie” bears witness to writing remembered things; it is a testament to what can be done in a play, that boundaries should be lifted like a fourth wall, if it will help to tell the story.

In my work, I deal a lot with memory, flashbacks, visions, and dreams.  Writers are normally told to stay away from flashbacks, write what you know, write what you want to know, keep the story forward moving.  What I know is flashbacks and pushing forward beyond them so it is inevitable that flashbacks would show up in my work.  Perhaps, because I already had a good knack for remembering things, this made me susceptible to flashbacks.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that as a survivor of rapes (plural intentional), flashbacks ruled my life from the time I was 18 years/7 months/28 days old well into my twenties.  Writing is therapy; sometimes you have to make your own closure.  My way of dealing with the negative events in my life has been to channel it into my creative work.  I like being able to take down the fourth wall – as it were – of the past as it intersects the present, that’s the moment of change for me, a moment of lingering inner impact where new futures can be forged in the flames. It’s like dreaming and opening a door you just walked through only to find it leads somewhere else but doing it on purpose, like throwing jacks several times to get a better layout which will give a better end result.

Tom Wingfield, “The Glass Menagerie” (at least it is my interpretation) hits this intersecting of past and present on more than one occasion; he discusses his wanderings and how un-expectantly he could see his sister beside him in memory and how he tries his best to get away from those recurring moments:

“…Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be!  I reach for a cigarette, I cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest stranger – anything that can blow your candles out!”

In his memory she blows them out.  But he doesn’t change anything.  He doesn’t go back; doesn’t start again. He just stays in his hell.  I found that to be so sad.  He never found a way out of the perpetual maze.  He didn’t know how to dream another dream.  I never want to be found not able to dream again…

5. Who is your favorite playwright? Why?

I am not sure I have a favorite.  I do go on binges, devouring everything I can by playwrights that catch my eye.

6. How has your writing changed over the years?

I have become more confident in my gift.  I know my sound and I try to be as fearless in my plays as I am in my poetry.

7. What type of plays do you write? (Dramas, Comedies, Plays with Music, Musicals, Experimental, Avant-garde …) What draws you to it?

I mostly write dramas but I also tend to have music in my plays, it just happens and I tend to write my own music.  I have always loved musicals but have only written one to date with music, in addition to the composer’s music. I wrote a 10-minute comedy on purpose once just to see if I could do it.  I tend to have laughter in my plays naturally but I do want to write a full-length gut buster one day. I don’t write experimental or avant-garde plays, that’s not to say I might not try at some point.  I don’t care much for the abstract in art, poetry or plays.  If I can’t tell what it means, I tend to move on to something else.  I do write a lot about the revealing of secrets and the journey from bondage (emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical) to freedom.  I think what draws me to the subject matter is the fact that I am a survivor and I want to leave bread crumbs albeit in the form of stories for others to find.  I believe my plays take me to the door in the dream over and over again and each time I change the outcome on the other side as long as I can believe what I see in my mind’s eye can come to past.

8. Do you write any other literary forms? How does this affect/enhance your playwriting?

I write poetry.  I got the nicest rejection letter once saying how my work was so lyrical which I think is due to my poetry background.  I started out wanting to write fiction, one of my monodramas “Me, My Fiddle an’ Momma” started out as a short story.  My professor at Indiana University said it was so full of dialogue it felt like a play.  Some years later, I took an acting class with Ben Harney (Tony Award winner for the original Dream Girls) and he encouraged me to tweak it so I could perform it.  I did.  I found out more about writing drama by taking his acting class than I had in any book I read about drama.  I’ve studied screenwriting at the American Film Institute in their certificate program and plan to write more screenplays.

9. Why did you become a blogger for LA FPI?

Jennie Webb, one of the co-founders of the Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative walked up to me at the second meeting for LA FPI and asked, “How is your life going right now?”  Fine, I answered (not if you count everything that was going WRONG but I was in denial so technically, I was fine.)  She smiled.  “You want to be the blog editor?” Blink.  Nod. “Be the blog editor.  Yeah?  Yeah.”  Then she walked away to “herd” someone else to do something else.  And I, never having written a blog article in my life, wondered loudly in my head, “What the hell, did I just commit to?”  I sent copies of my first article to playwright friends on opposite sides of the continent – one in Sacramento, the other in Brooklyn – to get their opinions, because I was completely unsure of myself.  I barely knew what a blog was, let along write one.  But it has been the best experience and blogging helps tremendously with writing the essays sometimes asked for in submission packets.

10. What is your favorite blog posting?

I love all the different voices of the ladies who blog; they cover such timely subjects.  I am not sure if I have a favorite of my own but I do feel that “Write it Scared” was very instrumental in me putting together a manuscript of poems that dealt with some scary dark places. And, just looking at my level of “going there” enabled me to become more free.  In “She, Who Was Called Barren,” I wanted to experiment with creating an event depicting what it is like to survive trauma and how it can be a roller coaster of dark and light moments and what that feels like.

11. Who do you consider an influence where your writing is concerned? And, why?

I have a few influences but I would say Ezekiel, the prophet, mostly.  God was always telling him to go do something theatrical to “show” the Israelites what was coming in their future.  And, his language is so poetical.  He used a lot of symbolism; I like to use symbolism as well and have received many a “rejection” letter commenting on how lyrical my writing is.

12. When did you find your voice as a writer? Are you still searching for it?

I found my voice a long time ago; it was recognizing that I knew my sound that came after I began calling myself a playwright.  Because I started telling stories at 3 years old and oral storytelling requires one to have a way of telling, I think that helped me a lot in developing my voice.  I like finding new nuances of my voice, that’s exciting to me.

13. Do you have a writing regiment? Can you discuss your process?

“Always be writing…” that is my mantra.  I do a lot of internal work first so I turn over stories and moments in my spirit before any one story makes it to the page.  I have to live it in some way before it will release authentically even if it’s a snippet of someone else’s story.

14. How do you decide what to write?

It is usually something that I can’t shake.

15. How important is craft to you?

Craft is very important to me.  At one point, I had thought that playwriting was not for me because I was not sure how to do it on a level where I could be respectful of the craft it takes to earn the “wright” in playwright.

16. What other areas of theater do you participant in?

I studied acting and have performed one of my pieces as well as my poetry.  I also have co-directed one of my plays and made costumes.  The reason I came to Los Angeles in the first play was to study fashion design at Otis/Parsons (now Otis College of Design) – to specialize in costume and men’s wear – that didn’t work out so I had to do a paradigm shift which lead me to writing plays.

17. How do you feel about the theater community in Los Angeles?

As an audience member, there is something for everyone.  As a playwright, I feel left out.  The worst part is when I have submitted something to a theater/company and go to see new work that has elements of what I submitted in someone else’s piece.  I would like to think that it’s a coincidence but when people can’t look you in the eye, you know they ciphered from your well.  It makes one a little skittish, although, I must say that this has happened to me outside of Los Angeles too; I try to take it as a compliment – a rude one – but one nonetheless.

18. How do you battle the negative voice? (insecurity, second guessing)

A lot of prayer and rehearsing of positive results – a place that I go to remind myself that my gift will make room for me and bring me before great men.  I have to know who I am and what my gift is and why it is.  There is always a little “buyer’s remorse” but it passes; it usually only turns up in the submission process.

19. Do you have a theme that you come back to a lot in your work?

Family secrets, ghosts and surviving trauma.

20. What are you working on now?

Being more fearless – a play about Race and a book of poetry on loss.

 

For more articles by Robin Byrd go to http://lafpi.com/author/ladybyrd/.  Robin’s first blog post is titled “Being a Playwright…being female…” dated April 19, 2010

Robin’s Bio

Robin Byrd is an Indiana born playwright and poet residing in Los Angeles. Growing up in Indianapolis (sometimes referred to as the northernmost southern city), attributes to the playwright’s affinity toward southern themes and language in some of her pieces.

Her plays which include The Grass Widow’s Son, Tennessee Songbird (the place where the river bends), The Book of Years, Dream Catcher, The Day of Small Things, For This Reason, In Times Like These (Is He the One?), and, Me, My Fiddle, An’ Momma have been read and produced in Los Angeles as well as read in Nebraska, Maine, North Carolina, and recently in Washington, D.C. Robin has performed Me, My Fiddle, An’ Momma in Los Angeles; the piece was also read at the 1st Annual SWAN Day event in Portland, Maine in March of 2008. Her plays Tennessee Songbird and Dream Catcher have won “Best Concurrent Play Lab Script at the 2008 Great Plains Theatre Conference” and been selected as a semi-finalist for the 2008 O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, respectively. Her poetry has been read in venues in Los Angeles and Indiana and has been published in two International Library of Poetry books.

The playwright is a member of The Dramatists Guild of America, Inc., the Theatre Communications Group, the Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights, Native Women Writers (at the Autry),  and the American Film Institute from which she holds a certificate in screenwriting. For more information on Robin please visit her website at www.ladybyrdcreations.com.

Robin acts as LA FPI Blog Editor.

Interview with Playwright Erica Bennett

Erica Bennett investigates:

LA FPI Blogger Erica Bennett has been blogging since 2010. Honesty and dedication to the arts are qualities that have shaped Erica’s work but it’s her unique point of view that draws the audience in and keeps them in their seats.

 

1. How did you become a playwright? What brought you to theater?

I tend to think of it as coming back to theater after most of my lifetime away. I began my academic career in the theater, after seeing a high school musical production and saying to myself, I can sing better than that. I rehearsed in my bedroom, auditioned and was cast in a musical review. Of course, I’m not a great singer. It was at community college that my competitive nature was converted; theatre became my favorite place of worship. And I found my strength in perseverance. I was fortunate enough to study acting with Don Finn, Jose Quintero, Arthur Mendoza, and Stella Adler. I left the theater, as part of a natural progression, to work in dramatic television as a writers assistant. I like to think that’s where I learned how to edit. I finally came home to the theatre thirteen years ago. I was driven there by illness and the force of wondering, what did I truly want to do with the rest of my life. Time is my driving force and my enemy; I feel like I have a clock on my shoulder, always. When I made a decision to write plays, I studied playwriting with Tom Jacobson (UCLA), William Mittler (Fullerton College) and Cecilia Fannon (SCR).

2. What is your favorite play of yours? Why?

My favorite play is the play I am currently writing, Bender. Bender tells the story of a woman who finds her voice once she finally learns how to love herself. I’ve found myself retelling this story in play after play. I like to think, I’m getting better at it with each one.

3. What is your favorite production of one of your plays? Why?

My favorite production is going to be of Love, Divine, my new short play written in verse for the holiday season that is being produced by New Voices at Stage Door Repertory in Anaheim on December 7, 8, 14 and 21, 2013 at 2:00pm. It’s my favorite, because it was such a fun challenge to write and because it’s my first production in six years.

4. What play by someone else has moved you the most and why?

I am moved by most things theatrical. Two years ago,  during my first and only trip to New York, I wept through War Horse at the Lincoln Center in the Vivian Beaumont Theatre. I wept for the majesty of it; the puppetry, the humanity, the storytelling.

5. Who is your favorite playwright? Why?

My favorite playwright as an actor was Tennessee Williams. Now? That is a really tough question. I will have to say, under pressure, I am my favorite playwright. Somebody has to be fully in my corner.

6. How has your writing changed over the years?

I have a tendency to be too internal with my stories, to the detriment of actual understanding. I generally need to develop my plays over time and with actors reading around my dining room table. I need to hear the words and talk about their intention as I go. Because I often write, but don’t fully understand why my characters speak. So, hearing the words helps me understand them. I think I work best this way, because I used to be an actor and feel a deep kinship and trust of them. I used to apologize for my process, but it is my process and now I own it. Consequently, I think I’ve become more effective at articulating myself on the page.

7. What type of plays do you write? (Dramas, Comedies, Plays with Music, Musicals, Experimental, Avant-garde …) What draws you to it?

I write plays with musicality. I’m drawn to musical plays because it’s where I feel closest to my center, to the world around me. When listening to music, I often experience a physical sensation, my heart swells, opens up; I experience joy. When I put words to music, it makes the joy even greater.

8. Do you write any other literary forms? How does this affect/enhance your playwriting?

I have tried to write conversational poetry, but am always pulled toward making them theatrical.

9. Why did you become a blogger for LA FPI?

I became a blogger for LA FPI because LA FPI trusted me enough to blog. I take writing posts quite, perhaps too, seriously. Sometimes I am so scared and intimidated that I don’t know what to say. I mean, I get to thinking, who am I to blog? Who cares what I have to say? I get over that thinking by just writing. The first organization that embraced me as a playwright was the Orange County Playwrights Alliance, led by Eric Eberwein, in 2009. I went to LA FPIs first meeting in 2010 representing myself as an Orange County playwright in a sea of Los Angelenos. I will forever be grateful to LA FPI for accepting me.

10. What is your favorite blog posting?

They are all great because every blogger is writing with their heart on their sleeve. I love everybody for putting it out there.

11. Who do you consider an influence where your writing is concerned? And, why?

I used to think, if I wrote like “so-and-so”, I’d be a playwright. So, I modeled my writing after other playwrights, like Williams and Beckett. Now, not so much. I am my biggest influence. My sense of time, the pressure of time in my life and music are my biggest influences.

12. When did you find your voice as a writer? Are you still searching for it?

I think I found my voice as a playwright when I realized that I am writing the same story over and over again but through different characters, and that it’s my story… Once I learn to love myself, I will find my voice… Once I could see that and articulate it, I think I spoke it aloud to Robin Byrd at a Dramatist Guild meeting in L.A., I began to understand what it is I’m actually working toward. Then, I began to face my fears as a person and on the page and love myself and through my characters. Only then did I feel like my writing began to blossom.

13. Do you have a writing regiment? Can you discuss your process?

My writing regiment is to write every spare minute. I have no process but to write. Write and write, as much and as quickly as I can in the time I have available to me.

14. How do you decide what to write?

Usually it’s an inspiration brought out by an image, text or music.

15. How important is craft to you?

Craft, to me, is what allows inspiration to live on a page.

16. What other areas of theater do you participant in?

I have a tendency to want to direct and produce.

17. How do you feel about the theater community in Los Angeles?

I live the life of a cloistered academic librarian who writes (mostly) between academic semesters. I love the idea of the L.A. theater community and hope to participate more in the future.

18. How do you battle the negative voice? (insecurity, second guessing)

I accept it as truth and then it recedes from lack of attention.

19. Do you have a theme that you come back to a lot in your work?

Yes. Love. Forgiveness. Faith.

20. What are you working on now?

Bender, a two-act full-length play with music written by Karen Fix Curry.

 

For more article by Erica Bennett go to http://lafpi.com/author/ehbennett/.  Erica’s first blog article is titled “1. Phishing (2008)” dated June 7, 2010.

Erica’s Bio

Erica Bennett is a playwright and tenured librarian at Fullerton College, where, as Systems Librarian, her primary responsibility is to coordinate the use of technology in the library.

Her short documentary Mendez v. Westminster: Families for Equality has aired on KOCE-TV (PBS) since October 2010. It is centered about her play El Primer Dia de Clases. Her plays Freed and Jolly and Bean were respectively presented in staged readings at the Laguna Beach New Play Festival and Newport Theatre Arts Center in 2009.

In November 2011, after a two-year development process, her play Water Closet was read by the White Horse Theater Company in New York City at the Dramatists Guild of America. The play was workshopped and read by the Fullerton College Playwrights Festival in January 2012. In May 2012, it was selected by the Orange County Playwrights Alliance “OCPA Studios” for a reading at the Hunger Artists Theatre, which she directed.

Her 10-minute play, A Waffle Doesn’t Cure Insomnia, was selected for publication in the Best American Short Plays 2011-2012. A staged reading was directed by Bennett and presented by OCPA’s Discoveries series in December 2012 at the Empire Theatre, home of Theatre Out. The Fullerton College Playwright’s Festival is producing her 10-minute play, Don’t Ever Love Me, as part of its 10 Cent Story Project in January 2013.

Bennett received her B.A. in Theater Arts from California State University, Fullerton, where she studied acting with Donn Finn and Jose Quintero. Upon graduation she moved to Los Angeles where she studied acting with Stella Adler and Arthur Mendoza. She was featured in Benicio Del Toro’s short film Submission. She worked for nearly ten years in dramatic television production on such shows as The Young Riders, Gabriel’s Fire, Under Suspicion and The Big Easy, as a writer’s and development assistant.

Bennett holds a Master of Library & Information Science from UCLA, and is a member of the Society of California Archivists, the Dramatists Guild of America and the Orange County Playwrights Alliance.

 

Interview with Playwright Analyn Revilla

Analyn Revilla is deposed:

LA FPI Blogger Analyn Revilla, a blogger since day one.  Analyn delves with surgical precision into the heart of inner thoughts and lays bare the road living and growing in a writer's voice.

LA FPI Blogger Analyn Revilla has been a blogger since day one. As Thinker/Sage/Truth-seeker, Analyn delves with surgical precision into the heart of inner thoughts and lays bare the road to living and growing in a writer’s voice.

How I became a playwright is through a writing class I took with Al Watt back in 2007.  I wasn’t working, and he offered a free session at the library.  I enjoyed and got a lot of value from that introductory class so I joined his writing group.  The small group of writers had to submit a sample of their work, and the following class he announced to the group, “We have a playwright!”  That moment is akin to a newly adopted dog from a shelter, and being renamed by the new owners.  The event is like being given a new identity.  “You are no longer ‘Codi’.  Your name is Goliath!’.  (These are both true stories.  I just adopted a puppy and renamed her Goliath.)

I came to the theater by a serendipitous route.  I was working at a café on San Vincente and Hauser, and the title of the story was “The Unimagined Life”.  I sat at table by the window and looked across the long stretch across San Vincente to big letters spelling “Imagined Life”.  Weird.  I walked across and knocked on the door.  A woman answered, and I asked what the place was about.  She called to another person, and the next woman that came to see me was my writing mentor’s wife.  Yes, it was Al Watt’s wife, and I recognized her, but she didn’t know me.  She said the Imagined Life is an acting studio, and she teaches young children about creativity.  I’m a big believer in signs and so I decided that this is a path I need to explore.

My favourite play of mine is a short one that is set in a salon (or “beauty parlor”).  It’s a place where tongues tend to get loose, because customers are vulnerable and exposed while they are being worked on.  It’s therapy at many levels when someone is analyzing your hairstyle and the health of your hair.  Our heads are our crowning glory, and we’re so open to ideas or sometimes we get encrusted in our ideas of who we think we should be.  I have so much trust in my hair “caretaker”, and we’ve become friends over the years, and shared so much about ourselves.

The play that has moved me the most was watching the CTG’s production of “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett.  The acting, the set, the time of day, the story…  I was moved through and through and cried my eyes out.

That answer segways to my favourite playwright who is Samuel Beckett.  I wish I could’ve lived his passion and romanticism through and through.  He took risks in his own life, and the nature of his personality lives in his plays.  There’s also the dark side of his ideas, which I say dark, but not ominous by nature, but fullness.  Life is light and dark, and the shadows are the meanings between the lines.  I like his ideas and how he enlivened them.

My writing has evolved in its depth.  I think I write more succinctly and directly now.  Maybe that’s what comes with experience of life.  I feel like I want to say more with less.  Sometimes not saying anything at all conveys so much more.

I’m only working on one play and it is drama and avan-garde, maybe even experimental.

I like poetry.  I was a poet first before being a playwright.  I like journaling too, though to some people they think it isn’t really writing.  Both forms are important I think, because it’s exploring inwards and outwards.

I became a blogger for LAFPI, because (laugh…) I was one of the first people to volunteer.  (Thank goodness they allowed me to do it.)  I had been writing and blogging for other groups before, and when those opportunities dried up, the LAFPI came along to save me.

Favourite blog posting?  That’s a toughie.  There’s a lot of good ones out there.

Amy Goodman is one of the influences in my writing, because the type of news reporting she does for DemocracyNow! is about issues that we don’t see in normal channels.  I appreciate the deep investigative and responsible reporting that organization does.  I read their news daily, and I also donate to the organization because I think it’s important to support advertisement/corporation funding-free sources of information.

I found my voice as a writer while working with LAFPI and also working at the Imagine Life studio.  And yes, I am still honing the sound and tone of my writer’s voice.

I don’t have a writing regiment, and the little I have are stolen moments which bugs me so much… It really eats at the inside of me, and it hurts.

I decide to write by what I’m thinking and feeling…. Something that gnaws at me is a sign that I need to explore this.

Craft is important to me, if I understand the question correctly… craft is a skill that shows that the writer cares about the work, and gives soul and a head of responsibility to the work.  When I think responsibility, I think the ability to respond to what the work is asking of me and the audience.  Is it moving the situation forward or sending us back to non-evolution, non-communication, non-understanding i.e. less compassion and empathy towards others.

The theater community in LA is thriving, because there are a lot of hands and feet keeping it going by volunteers – people who care.

I battle the negative voice by drinking wine.

The theme that comes back to me a lot in my work is the first line of the song “Alfie” by Burt Bacharach… “What’s it all about?  Alfie?  Is it just for the moment we live?…”  So on.

I’m just finishing answering the questions to our anniversary blog, and I’m going to work on Original Sin again, workshopping it this time around.

Thank you.

For blog articles by Analyn Revilla, go to http://lafpi.com/author/analynrevilla/.  Analyn’s first blog is titled “Going the Distance” dated May 24, 2010.

Analyn’s Bio

Analyn is a new playwright, and she is currently working on her first play, “Original Sin”. This play has been in the works for two years, though it had its first public reading in April 2010.  Like “Alice” in Lewis Carroll book, she gets deeper into the rabbit hole of the story and emerges from the burrows with a wealth of subtexts about her humanity and the characters in her story.  Analyn imagines a life of living fully in the theater, but for now she supports her imagined life with a career in Information Technology.  She believes our humanity lives in our imagined life and contributes by actively supporting LAFPI and in writing, imagining and writing some more.

Interview with Playwright Diane Grant

Diane Grant takes the stand:

         I think we are all born to tell stories and to listen to them.  Leslie Marmon Silko says “I will tell you something about stories. They aren’t just entertainment. They are all we have to fight off illness and death. You don’t have anything if you don’t have stories.”

LA FPI Blogger Diane Grant, has been blogging since 2010 – the beginning. Diane’s thorough research of subject matter makes her work not only entertaining but educational as well.

1.  How did you become a playwright? 

As I child, I learned to love stories.  My father was a wonderful storyteller who could take the ordinary events of family and of daily life and spin them into something that always made us laugh.  My Aunt, my dad’s sister, also told stories.  She was the National Secretary of the Women’s Temperance Union in Canada and would travel from town to town with her felt board, speaking and reciting.  I was very impressed.

When I was in middle school and I can still remember being mesmerized by hearing a performance of The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes.  Our school auditorium was full of rowdy students when suddenly a man dressed all in black appeared on the stage and began….

“The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.

 The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas….”

It’s hard to imagine now but that auditorium was utterly quiet until he came to the end.  I thought, “Oh, I want to write something like that.”

I’m a Canadian from Vancouver, British Columbia, and my desire to write was reinforced every time my mother, grandmother and I would go to Theatre Under the Stars, an outdoor musical theatre in Vancouver’s gorgeous Stanley Park, where the singers had to compete with the seals barking and the peacocks screeching.  Magic!

2.   What is your favorite play of yours?

I just did a performance of my one act comedy, Rondo a la Condo, with The Kentwood Players, which remains my favorite play.  I don’t know why, except that I’m crazy about the characters, who are all trying to find a little peace and quiet but who keep each other on high alert much of the time.

3.   I loved a production of another short play of mine, called Sex and Violence.  It’s a difficult play to do because the comedy is dark.  The protagonist has grown slightly mad and his wife, who despises him, has to be played as a cold, ambitious woman, indifferent to his pain.  This production captured all of that and got all the laughs that were there, too.

4.   What play by someone else has moved you the most and why?

One of the plays that most moved me was The Glass Menagerie, which I grew to know well because I played Amanda Wingfield in two different productions.   I hate productions of it in which Amanda is played as a self centered shrew.  Her story is so contemporary.  She’s a single mother, abandoned by her children’s father. She makes terrible mistakes but she loves her children and tries to keep everything afloat in a time of depression.   Her son also deserts her and his sister, and his guilt is at the heart of the play.   And the language is superb.

5.   Who is your favorite playwright?  Why?

I have a few favorites.   Right up there is Shakespeare with his wit and insight and gorgeous language.  It’s amazing that so many of his words and thoughts are still part of our lives.  I wonder how many books there are with titles taken from his plays. Tom Stoppard’s sophistication and crisp language is thrilling.  (I keep looking for revivals of Arcadia.  Saw a very moving production at Vox Humana a few years ago.) Ann Jellicoe was an early influence.  I admire her immediacy, sense of place and culture, her zest for life.   She also plays with style and is not afraid to work outside a conventional framework.  Shelley or The Idealist is one of my favorite plays.

6.   How has your writing changed over the years?

I’ve learned to cut, cut, cut.  I still overwrite and am fortunate to have a husband who is a fine editor and who spots every comment on a situation, every repetition.  I’ve also learned to enjoy rewriting.  And rewriting.

7.   What type of plays do you write?

Although I’ve written plays with political themes and dramas, generally speaking I write comedies.   I like to call them “profound comedies.”  And I don’t know if I’m joking about that.  I don’t start out to write in any style.  Comedies are just what happens.  I often use music, too, and like the way it enlivens the proceedings.

What also influenced my style was working in a company that built new plays from research, documentary material, and improvisation.  We’d write as we sat on the stage, put the pages on their feet and go.

8.   Do you write in any other literary forms? 

I write poetry on occasion.  I’ve used poems in my plays but have usually turned them into songs.  My husband and I used to write screenplays, which involved a lot of walking around the block.

9.   Why did you become a blogger for the lafpi?

The fab trio, Jennie Webb, Ella Martin, and Laura Shamas asked me to become part of the lafpi and I was absolutely delighted. Women are still not adequately presented and represented in the theatre and we need to raise our voices.  I don’t know if I volunteered or was drafted to blog.

10.  What is your favorite blog posting?

Catching Up, which is about my fellow bloggers.  The bloggers’ voices are so diverse and wide ranging. I like getting to know their different worlds and approaches to writing and life.

11.  Who do consider an influence where your writing is concerned?  And why?

My first mentor, George Luscombe, the Artistic Director of Toronto Workshop Productions, encouraged me to write.

12.  When did you find your voice as a writer?  Are you still searching for it?

I think I found it early on but couldn’t describe it.  I’ve been criticized for being too implicit but I like nuance, subtext, and irony, and have been writing like that for a long time.

13.  Do you have a writing regimen?  Can you discuss your process?

I used to write every day and kept a daily journal but have found that the business of marketing has intruded something fierce and I write more sporadically.  I just read a quote from Bertolt Brecht that says, “It’s not the play but the performance that is the real purpose of all one’s efforts,” but he doesn’t say tell you how you get to the latter.

14.  How do you decide what to write?

I don’t think about it consciously.  When I have made a conscious decision, it has often been the wrong one.  I tried for over a year to write about the friendship between Paul Robeson and Albert Einstein before I realized that I’d never be able to make it work.

15.  How important is craft to you?

It’s key for me.  Searching for conflict, clarity, a character to root for, a beginning, middle, and end are what I look for when I rewrite.

16.  What other areas of the theater do you participate in?

I’m an actress.  At one of the lafpi  meetings at Theatricum, I got to stand on the Theatricum stage and thought I’d die from joy.

17.  How do you feel about the theater community in Los Angeles?

I’ve seen some great plays and some rotten ones but there is always something going on that’s interesting.  The Black Dahlia’s production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot was out of this world and I still think of a number of plays I saw at the Odyssey, Tracers, to name one, with real pleasure.

18.  How do you battle the negative voice?

The negative voice is my default position, so I deep breathe and walk a lot.  It’s thematic in my life, walking.

19.  Do you have a theme that you come back to a lot in your work?

I realized recently that I write a lot about betrayal and abandonment.  But I also write about love, and betrayal and abandonment are part of that.

20.  I have three rewrites that I’d like to settle down and work on.  When those are finished, I hope that an idea will immediately attack and start the words flowing again.

For all blog articles by Diane Grant, you can go to http://lafpi.com/author/dianegrant/.  Diane’s first blog is titled “Gender Neutral” dated May 10, 2010.

Diane’s Bio

Diane Grant is an award winning playwright and screenwriter, whose film Too Much Oregano won the Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize.

She was a co-founder of Redlight Theatre, the first professional women’s theatre in Canada.  Her plays, which have been produced and published in the US and Canada, include Nellie! How The Women Won The Vote, Sunday Dinner, Sex and Violence, The Piaggi Suite, Four Women In Search Of A Character, Rondo a la Condo, A Dog’s Life; and The Last Of The Daytons, a semi-finalist for the 2007 National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center.

Will To Win, a documentary on the Southern California Shakespeare Festival, written by Ms. Grant, and produced by filmmaker Kerry Feltham, previewed in Los Angeles and the Folger Shakespeare Library in 2007 and is recommended by the Royal Shakespeare Company of London.

Ms. Grant has performed at the Stratford Festival and the National Arts Centre of Canada.  She was Literary Manager of the Los Angeles Write Act Repertory Company, a mentor for the young playwrights’ group HOLA, and a member of  Los Angeles’ Wordsmiths.  She’s a member of the Dramatists Guild, The Playwrights Guild of Canada, the International Center for Women Playwrights, and is Vice-Chair of the Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights.

Diane acts as LA FPI Task Force Coordinator.

Interview with Playwright Kitty Felde

Kitty Felde sequestered:

Kitty Felde

LA FPI Blogger Kitty Felde joined the blog team in 2010 during our first year. A generous artist who shares her many talents on and off the page, Kitty’s is a voice to hear; she’s fearless.

1. How did you become a playwright? What brought you to theater?  I’d always loved to perform. In fact, I was an actor for about ten years – mostly commercials, but also a Woody Allen film (Radio Days), an equity show at SCR, and tons of commercials (including Skippy Peanut Butter with Annette Funicello).

I’d written a revision of a Jean Claude Van Itallie one-act in college, but that was about it, as far as playwriting. Until I had a day job that bored me out of my mind. I had a quiet office and a keyboard at my disposal. I wrote my first play – a melodrama called “Shanghai Heart” that the LA Times favorably reviewed. I haven’t stopped writing plays.

2. What is your favorite play of yours? Why?  My NEW favorite is an unproduced piece for young adults that no one may ever produce since it has a character in blackface. It’s “The Luckiest Girl” – the story of a ten year old African-American girl who moves to Holland with her grandmother, a lawyer at the war crimes trials. Tahira’s homesick and latches on to the Dutch holiday tradition of Sinterklaas – and his politically incorrect sidekick Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete. Her grandmother – as you can imagine – is horrified.

3. What is your favorite production of one of your plays? Why?  I think the premiere of “A Patch of Earth”, my Bosnian war crimes courtroom drama. The Alleyway Theatre in Buffalo flew me upstate in glorious fall, put on a terrific production, even gave me the Maxim Mazumdar Award. The play’s been produced worldwide since then, but I remember that production best.
I also loved “Gogol Project” – a truly collaborative adaptation brought to life by the talented Rogue Artists Ensemble. They make magic on stage with puppets and masks. I think I wrote 14 drafts for them.

4. What play by someone else has moved you the most and why?  I saw Bill Cain’s “How to Write a New Book for the Bible” at South Coast Rep a few months ago and wept buckets and buckets. It isn’t a perfect play – certainly needs a trim – but I connected on a personal level, having lost my own mother several years ago.

5. Who is your favorite playwright? Why?  These days, it’s Enda Walsh, Bill Cain, and Ellen Struve.

6. How has your writing changed over the years?  I think I’ve gotten braver, more personal in my writing. Being glib is easy for me. It’s digging deep that’s tough.

7. What type of plays do you write? (Dramas, Comedies, Plays with Music, Musicals, Experimental, Avant-garde …) What draws you to it?  I’ve written a musical comedy, a melodrama, a radio play, a courtroom drama, a one woman show, a play for young adults, ten minute pieces, you name it! It’s the story and characters that draw me in.

8. Do you write any other literary forms? How does this affect/enhance your playwriting?  I’m a public radio journalist by day. Sometimes, the stories I cover inspire a theatrical piece. More often, it wears me out so the last thing I want to do when I get home is sit down at the keyboard again.

9. Why did you become a blogger for LA FPI?  I support the work of LAFPI! Particularly when you can count on one hand the number of productions a theatre has produced by women playwrights. It’s a wonderfully supportive group! And as an ex-patriot Angeleno, it keeps me in touch with my LA community.

10. What is your favorite blog posting?  The one about how to best use feedback from a staged reading.

11. Who do you consider an influence where your writing is concerned? And, why?  My mother, a teacher, who encouraged and nagged me and offered to loan me the $2 thousand that I spent on my very first computer if I ever needed it. My high school English teacher for four years, Sister Judith Royer, who now heads the theatre department at Loyola Marymount University. And Jean Giraudoux, the French playwright, who saw magic in everyday life and dared to write about it on stage. I was in 3 of his plays in high school, wrote a paper about him for English class, then acted in another of his plays in college, directed by the professor – Robert Cohen – who wrote the book on Giraudoux!

12. When did you find your voice as a writer? Are you still searching for it?  I’ve always written like I talk. And when I go back and blush as I read romantic short stories from my early school days, I can still hear that same voice.

13. Do you have a writing regiment? Can you discuss your process?  This is the hardest thing for me: finding a structure to write. My day job consumes me. Theoretically, because I’m on the east coast, I have an extra three hours in the morning before the folks in the Pasadena office are aware of me. That’s when I SHOULD be writing. But the reality is, I need tea – lots of it. And I drink it while reading the paper and tweeting and clearing the emails. Then it’s a mad dash to cover stories.

So, I’ve decided the best time for me to call my own is at dusk. My brain is clear (hopefully) of the debri of the day. I can escape to a desk down the hall – or to the stairwell steps around the corner – and breathe. And think. And write. I usually start with a freewrite – not the three pages advised by “The Artist’s Way” – but as much as I need to slough off the issues of the day to clear space in my head. I’ll return to it when I’m stuck, just to brainstorm with myself, trying out ideas. I’ve also created a new file for myself while I write: leftovers. This is where I’ll put lines of dialogue – or entire scenes – cut from my play. It’s somehow comforting to know it isn’t lost forever, that I can go back and retrieve it if I need it. Sometimes I do. But usually I don’t. (Maybe someday I’ll write a play just with these leftovers!)

When I have a draft I can stand to hear out loud, I like to schedule an informal reading. It’s usually in my living room with lots of wine for me and the actors. A more formal reading by a company or a festival is the next step, with lots of rewriting in between. Then, if the stars are in order, a full production.

14. How do you decide what to write?  It’s either a story that won’t leave me alone (like the war crimes play “A Patch of Earth”) or something that’s been bugging me (like “Clybourne Park” which I thought got desegregation all wrong and it led to my ten minute play “The Flier”) or characters that I’d like to spend some time with (my current project, a romantic comedy set on Capitol Hill).

15. How important is craft to you?  Very. I try to learn from other writers – how did they do that? Why does that work? What doesn’t? I find writers groups enormously helpful – hearing other plays in progress, figuring out how to make them sing.

16. What other areas of theater do you participant in? I’m a Helen Hayes judge here in DC. That’s the local version of the Tonys. I see about 3-4 plays a month. And I think if I left my day job, I’d work in a costume shop. I LOVE to sew and create clothing!

17. How do you feel about the theater community in Los Angeles? It’s interesting to contrast with DC: both are STRONG communities. Both have larger theatres that snub local playwrights. Both have a strong group of smaller theatres reaching out to local talent. I miss my LA writing group at Ensemble Studio Theatre. And I miss ALAP (Association of LA Playwrights). And there’s no LAFPI in DC!

18. How do you battle the negative voice? (insecurity, second guessing)  I have a weekly Skype appointment with a wonderful Omaha playwright I met a few years ago at the Great Plains Theatre Conference. Ellen Struve and I spend an hour every Wednesday night, sharing pages, talking about plays we’ve seen or read, and sharing the insecurities we all feel as writers. She gives me courage to face blank pages for another week.

19. Do you have a theme that you come back to a lot in your work?  Justice. And that nagging question of why neighbor turns against neighbor, almost overnight.

20. What are you working on now?  It’s a five person comedy set on Capitol Hill – a modern version of “Pride and Prejudice” called “Statuary Hall.”

For all blog articles written by Kitty Felde you can go to http://lafpi.com/author/kfelde .  Kitty’s first blog article is titled “Act Two Hell” dated November 1, 2010.

Kitty’s Bio

By day, she’s a public radio reporter covering Capitol Hill.  But in her real life, Kitty Felde is an award-winning playwright.

Felde’s written everything from a courtroom drama about the Bosnian war (A PATCH OF EARTH, winner of the Maxim Mazumdar New Play Competition) to a one woman show about Alice Roosevelt Longworth (ALICE, winner of the Open Book/Fireside Theatre Playwriting Competition) to an adaptation of a trio of short stories by Nikolai Gogol (GOGOL PROJECT, winner of the 2009 LA Drama Critics Circle Award.)

Her one-act TOP OF THE HOUR has been chosen for the Provincetown Theater’s Fall Festival for a reading and will premiere in New York City in December.

She’s a co-founder of Theatre of Note, a Helen Hayes judge in Washington, DC, and a proud member of the Dramatists Guild, ALAP, and FPI.

Interview with Playwright Tiffany Antone

Tiffany Antone evades questioning:

Tiffany Antone

LA FPI Blogger Tiffany Antone is one of the six bloggers to kick off the LA FPI Blog back in 2010. Direct, bold and innovative, Tiffany not only creates with words on the page; she creates venues for art to happen.

1.  How did you become a playwright?  What brought you to theater?    I grew up an actress – I was always auditioning, performing, and staying in the theatre till the last possible second.  I moved to LA in 1998 to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts… but I wasn’t the most amazing actress ever, and I hated auditioning.  I decided to apply to UCLA in pursuit of my Bachelor’s Degree.  I took a playwriting class in my first year and fell in LOVE.  I had always written, but this was the first time I had written a play – it felt like exactly what I should be doing.

2.  What is your favorite play of yours?  Why?  My favorite self-penned play is Ana and the Closet.  The play is incredibly fantastical and (I think) poetic.  I’ve been fortunate enough to see several readings of the play (including an AMAZING reading at the Kennedy Center), but it hasn’t yet been produced.  I think it’s to do with the fact that there are a number of “theatrical” moments in the play requesting multimedia projections, flying people, and a black river that writhes on stage beneath a crumbling ledge… (I know, I know… I’m not asking for much, am I?)  But even though it’s a wild show, it has it’s heart a very moving story about traversing the abyss of deep loss. I look forward to the day a director envisions bringing these moments to life with Bunraku artists in charge of the magic… Theatre is nothing if not inventive.

4.  What play by someone else has moved you the most and why?  Argh!  I hate these types of questions because they limit the field so narrowly… Okay, I’l pick three – how about that?  Three of my favorite plays are: Sarah Ruhl’s Euridice (HOLY COW – the lyrical nature of the script and the you-would-think-impossibly-contradictory-succinctness, the fantastic staging… oh, I was in love with the first read!), Anything by Albee or O’Neill (the men are story genies!), and I’m going to list two final plays in tandem because I LOVE how they are – in principle – both family dramas, and yet each ignite into something much more perverse, combustible, and ultimately delightful on stage:  August Osage County by  Tracy Letts, and The Pain and the Itch by Bruce Norris.

Yeah, yeah… I know – that was way more than three (sigh) but I tried!

5.  Who is your favorite playwright?  WhyCan’t pick just one… just can’t!  But top honors on my bookshelf go to Martin McDonough, Sarah Ruhl, David Lindsay-Abaire, Suzan Lori Parks, and of course the great Albee, Shephard, O’Neill & Williams.

7.  What type of plays do you write?  (Dramas, Comedies, Plays with Music, Musicals, Experimental, Avant-garde …)  What draws you to it?  This is always a hard question for me to answer, because I don’t just work in one medium or style.  I have written fantastical plays, “sci-fi” plays, and kitchen-sink dramas, and – I’m currently working on my first absurdist piece. The thing that draws me to write is the world, and the “how” of its writing is dependent on the story I’m trying to tell.  My only “rule” when it comes to drafting a script is does it pass the “Who gives a shit?” test.  If I have an idea and I ask myself (honestly) “Who is going to give a shit about this play/screenplay?” and the answer is “Probably nobody” then I don’t waste my time developing it – I just scribble the idea down in my little notebook and turn the page.  That way, I’m not cluttering my calendar with brutal work on material that would probably be better off written as a poem that will sit in the back of my desk drawer – because if I’m the only audience for something, it’s probably not going to be a very good play.  If I feel an audience exists for the story in my head/heart, then I set to figuring out it’s mood, style, and shape and start writing.

8.  Do you write any other literary forms?  How does this affect/enhance your playwriting?  I am also a screenwriter, which terrified me when I first sat to developing the skill-set for it.  I think working in both mediums makes me a better assessor of story, and enables me to create/inhabit very different worlds. And if I ever sell a screenplay, I’ll be a much happier playwright 🙂

9.  Why did you become a blogger for LA FPI?  I jumped on board because there are so many layers to gender parity in theater – why not start delving into/and/writing about them?  I love the sense of togetherness LAFPI supports! 

13. Do you have a writing regiment?  Can you discuss your process?   Snacks.  I have to have snacks in every nook of my desk.  I also have to be careful with my “other” life, meaning Tiffany Who Pays the Bills must not work so much that Tiffany Who Writes gets buried in exhaustion.

16. What other areas of theater do you participant in?   I find myself doing a lot of producing lately, and teaching acting/production/writing.  It’s good to be comfortable in all of these areas (especially since some of them actually PAY a girl), and I’ll probably continue to work in these areas as they provide a different brand of satisfaction – that of realization (vs. the incompleteness of a play un-produced).  Writing is definitely my “Ahhhh” place, but I don’t think I’ll ever be of a mind to stop my other theatrical endeavors… I like wearing more than one theatre hat.

For blog articles written by Tiffany Antone please go to http://lafpi.com/author/tiffanyantone/.  Tiffany’s first blog article is titled “It Takes a Village” dated May 16, 2010.

Tiffany’s Bio

Tiffany is proud to have received her MFA in Playwriting from UCLA’s prestigious school of Theater, Film, and Television, where she also completed her BA in Theater.  She also holds her A.A in acting from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Tiffany was a 2008 Hawthornden Fellow, which included a writing residency in Scotland, and a 2009 Sherwood Award Finalist with Center Theatre Group.  Tiffany has received the Tim Robbins Award for plays of social importance, James Pendelton Foundation Prize, Hal Kanter Award in Comedy Writing, Dini Ostrov Stage Spirit Award in Playwriting, the Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme Scholarship, and the Florence Theil Herrscher Award.

Her plays have been read and/or performed in Los Angeles, New York, D.C. and Minneapolis.  Her plays Twigs and Bone and Ana and the Closet were both Jerome Finalists and O’Neil semi-finalists for 2009 and 2010.  Ana and the Closet was also presented at The Kennedy Center’s Page to Stage Festival in 2009.  Her play In the Company of Jane Doe was a Princess Grace semi-finalist in 2006, a winner of the New Plays on Campus series with The Playwrights’ Center, and winner of the 2008 New Works for Young Women contest with the University of Tulsa.  In the Company of Jane Doe premiered in January 2010 at The Powerhouse Theatre (LA Theatre Ensemble). Tiffany’s play The Good Book was a winner of the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway play festival and is available through Samuel French publishing.

Other plays include The Low Tide Gang, Ham Brown’s House (Princess Grace Semi-Finalist, 2008), Little Phoenix, Stalled, My Pet George, and From the Rubble. Screenplays include The Sisters Roberts and A Disappearing Woman (Golden Brad Finalist 2009).

Tiffany currently lives and teaches in AZ and runs Little Black Dress INK, a producing org for female playwrights.  You can read more about Tiffany at www.TiffanyAntone.com or on her blog www.AwdsAndEnds.com.

Tiffany acts as an LA FPI Graphics Consultant.

Interview with Playwright Cynthia Wands

Cynthia Wands cross-examined:

LA FPI Blogger Cynthia Wands has been blogging from day one.  Her use of the visual  teamed with her intense depth as a writer is phenomenal.

LA FPI Blogger Cynthia Wands has been blogging since 2010. Her use of visual art teamed with her intense depth as a writer is phenomenal.

1.  How did you become a playwright? What brought you to theater?

I was a working actress for several years in San Francisco and Boston. As a child I loved going to see plays (a rare opportunity as my father was in the military and we moved frequently). I remember seeing the Scottish play when I was in junior high school in Northern Maine and it blew my mind. 

2.  What is your favorite play of yours? Why?

I used to think that Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” was one of my favorite plays, until I had to play Titania in a run for over 100 performances.  I would be okay never seeing that play again.  Now I tend to remember Christopher Fry’s “The Lady’s Not Burning” as a favorite, but I haven’t seen it in years – so it might be another old chestnut.

3.  What is your favorite production of one of your plays? Why?

I had a reading of my script “The Lost Years” at the Dramatist Guild Footlight Series in Los Angeles that was really wonderful – the cast was very special.

4.  What play by someone else has moved you the most and why?

I remember sobbing at “Rabbit Hole” because of the subject matter and the performances.  It really gutted me.

5.  Who is your favorite playwright? Why?

I like Wendy Wasserstein, and Tina Howe, but I find them dated, in my own conveyor belt of time.  I also like Mary Zimmerman, but some of her writing feels thin and watery.  Maybe it was the rain onstage.

6.  How has your writing changed over the years?

I’m trying to stay away from the easy laughs.

7.  What type of plays do you write? (Dramas, Comedies, Plays with Music, Musicals, Experimental, Avant-garde …) What draws you to it?

I write comedies that have a lot of drama in them.

8.  Do you write any other literary forms? How does this affect/enhance your playwriting?

I’ve written screenplays, and two novels.  They’ve informed my character research, although I have to say that my acting life informs a lot of my approach to conflict within a character’s reach.

9.  Why did you become a blogger for LA FPI?

I read a few of the blogs on the LA FPI page and thought “Wow, these women are so honest about their writing and what they live with.  I wish I could do that.”  So I did.

10.  What is your favorite blog posting?

There was a recent blog on the LA FPI from a writer who wrote that she had a planned her blog to be about being the most unsuccessful playwright ever, and just in the past few days, she had a playwrighting opportunity and that changed her.  I loved reading that.

11.  Who do you consider an influence where your writing is concerned? And, why?

My influences are a crazy quilt of what entertains me:  Old roadrunner cartoons, Emily Dickinson, Jessica Tandy, performance art and my husband’s gothic glass art.  The images and voices inform me of my own searching.

12.  When did you find your voice as a writer? Are you still searching for it?

I ‘m still searching for my voice as a writer.  Sometimes I sound like my twin sister. Sometimes I sound like a sitcom writer.  And other times I can hear my own voice.

13.  Do you have a writing regiment? Can you discuss your process?

I woke up at 3:30am this morning and wrote for two hours and then went back to bed. Usually I like to write late at night.  But I haven’t had the 3:30am call to write before.  I got enough down on paper that it was worth it.  Although I may feel differently by 3:30pm this afternoon.

14.  How do you decide what to write?

My subjects seem to find me.  Or chase me until I write about them. (Now apparently they find me at 3:30 in the morning…)

15.  How important is craft to you?

That’s an odd question for me – that’s like asking an actor or director how important is craft for them?  If they’re (we’re) not skilled enough to create a magical event, then it’s really not the theatre I want to help create. So I feel craft is what we use to create theatre – so I think it’s very important.

16.  What other areas of theater do you participant in?

I will sometimes read scripts as an actor for other playwrights, but that’s the extent of my participation.

17.  How do you feel about the theater community in Los Angeles?

I’m not really as engaged as I would like to be in the Los Angeles theatre community.  I have a lot of family issues on my plate and it’s a challenge to participate. And frankly, because I haven’t been “produced” in Los Angeles I feel like I don’t quite belong here.

18.  How do you battle the negative voice? (insecurity, second guessing)

I have an ongoing battle with my back biting voices.  They can stall my work and create a kind of paralysis.  The only thing that seems to work for me is to belong to different writing groups and be accountable for showing up with pages.

19.  Do you have a theme that you come back to a lot in your work?

I seem to write a lot about the duality of the human/mystic experience.  It’s hard to cram a lot of jokes in that one.

20.  What are you working on now?

I’ve been working on a “new” script for the past year.  I’m in rewrites and it feels like I’m trying to rebuild one of those Christmas gingerbread houses (oh no the marshmellows are melting all over the gumdrops).  Okay, so that was not the best image for this script.  (Again, my problem with going for the cheap joke.) But it’s probably time for a coffee and aspirin!

 

To read all articles by Cynthia Wands, go to http://lafpi.com/author/ravenchild.  Her first blog article is titled “Breaking Up An Iceberg With A Toothpick” dated October 25, 2010.

 Cynthia’s Bio

I am looking to create language based plays which explore the mystic and historic elements of our consciousness.

I worked for many years as a stage actress in San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles, and had the opportunity to work with some extraordinary theatre artists.  My work included plays produced at the Magic Theatre, San Francisco Rep, Celebration Theatre, and the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival.   I have also had the opportunity to read as an actor for new works for the Theatre Series on KCRW (The House In The City), and independent play readings at the Coast Playhouse (The Crimson Thread), Burbage Theatre (Pearls & Marlowe), and the Marin Playwright’s Festival (Sarah Bernhardt).

My exposure to the plays and playwrights gave me an appreciation for magical realism, and my writing explores the connection between the natural and unknown.

My theatre writing has been informed by studying with Dakota Powell at UCLA and also with Murray Mednick at the Padua Playwrights Workshop.  I have also studied playwright classes with Leon Martell at UCLA, and studied with Jack Grapes in his Method Writing classes.

I have developed scripts at the Ohio State University retreat for playwrights with the ICWP (International Center fro Women’s Playwrights). The Dramatist Guild has hosted a reading of “The Lost Years” in November 2007 for Footlight Series in Los Angeles.

I am a member of The Dramatist Guild, ALAP (Alliance for Los Angeles Playwrights), LAFPI (Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative) and ICWP (International Centre for Women Playwrights).  My theatre works include:  Best Fest Forward, The Lost Years, Emily, and The American Woman. Screenplays include:  Whitley Heights, The Wedding Ring, and The White Datura.

I am the author of two novels, Gift of Afternoon Light, and Improbable Fiction.  My short stories have been published in Mo+h Magazine and Bombshelter Press.

Interview with Playwright Jen Huszcza

Jen Huszcza detained for questioning:

Jen Huszcza

LA FPI Blogger Jen Huszcza has been blogging with us since 2010. Her dry humor and wit is a gift we like opening again and again and again.

I just finished up my blog week, so this makes me feel so self-indulgent.

How did you become a playwright?  What brought you to theater?

It was all a big mistake actually. I should be a screenwriter with a house in the hills and a BMW. I studied screenwriting in college but jumped over to playwriting because the playwrights were cooler than the screenwriters.

What is your favorite play of yours?  Why?

My favorite play is always the play I finished most recently. My most recent play is a short play called Rebec, CA, and it brings a smile to my face. I smashed a smartphone in that one. I also recently wrote a longer play called Bury That Horse, and it’s about kicking and kissing.

What is your favorite production of one of your plays?  Why?

My favorite production is my first production of my first play, Viper, back at NYU. That was the play that opened it all up for me. It was done in the Dramatic Writing Festival of New Works, and it had an outstanding director, cast, crew. It was beautiful both in process and result.

By the way, shout out to Gary Garrison who produced the New Works Festival back then. He did an outstanding job of surrounding my play with great people.

What play by someone else has moved you the most and why?

Back in the 90s, I saw Letters from Cuba by Maria Irene Fornes at the Signature Theatre in New York and was crying like a baby at the end because it was so beautiful. Fornes also directed the production.

Who is your favorite playwright?  Why?

This is a hard one. I have a core team of playwrights that I love. If I get stuck when I’m writing, I call the team—I’m speaking metaphorically since most of my team is dead.

How has your writing changed over the years?

My plays have become less expensive to produce.

What type of plays do you write?  (Dramas, Comedies, Plays with Music, Musicals, Experimental, Avant-garde …)  What draws you to it?

Crazy, sexy, cool plays. I love physicality. I love writing plays set outside. I love comedy, but I don’t set out to write comedy. I believe experimentation should be done in playwriting. Otherwise, what’s the point? I write women, men, animals. I’ve even gone into vegetables a few times, but they’re hard.

Do you write any other literary forms?  How does this affect/enhance your playwriting?

Yes, I have written long form prose, novels, screenplays, musicals, blogs, essays, short stories. Long form prose & novels: big canvases, I’m comfortable with the epic. Screenplays: condense. Musicals: respect for the lyrical, comfort with the drama in music, impatience with over-sentimentality. Blogs & essays: cohesive thought, what do I want to say. Short stories: character depth.

Why did you become a blogger for LA FPI?

It seemed like a fun thing to do.

What is your favorite blog posting?

Back in January 2012, I wrote about the Kobayashi Maru Scenario.

http://lafpi.com/2012/01/the-kobayashi-maru-scenario/

Do you have a writing regiment?  Can you discuss your process?

I don’t have a writing regiment, but I do have a reading regiment. I read daily.

How important is craft to you?

I used to think craft was not important, then I read play submissions for a variety of theatre companies. Yikes. I can be experimental, but I have a grounding in craft. Writing is no different from anything else. If you want to crochet a scarf, you need to learn the stitches. If you want to paint, you need to learn line and color. Craft is the basics. I also have found that craft comes in handy when you’re developing scripts with actors and directors.

What other areas of theater do you participant in?

I’ve worked box office for a variety of theatres. Trust me, box office is not a cushy job.

How do you feel about the theater community in Los Angeles?

Great acting pool.

Do you have a theme that you come back to a lot in your work?

I have a bag of tricks. There are things I go back to again and again, but I don’t reflect a lot on recurring themes or ideas. Maybe when I’m older, I’ll look back, but I’m not in a looking back stage right now.

What are you working on now?

I am writing a play for an actor friend of mine. It has death and kissing. That’s really all I can say. I’m in the middle of it.

 

For more blog articles by Jen Huszcza, go to http://lafpi.com/author/jen-huszcza/.  Her first blog article is titled Yes, Sure, Okay, Yes dated June 14, 2010.

Jen’s Bio

Jen Huszcza is a playwright currently based in Los Angeles.

She has a BFA in Dramatic Writing and an MFA in Musical Theatre Writing from NYU. After graduating from college, she stayed in New York and worked a variety of day jobs including video librarian and study guide writer. She eventually moved to Los Angeles for better weather and more trees.

Out in Los Angeles, three of her plays have been presented as staged readings in the Monday Night Living Room Series at the Blank Theatre in Hollywood. Also at the Blank, she was an Associate Producer on Michael John LaChiusa’s See What I Wanna See, and she was a Weekly Producer and Playwright Mentor for the Young Playwrights Festival.

She wrote and acted in Gunfighter Nation’s collectively written piece, LA History Project: Pio Pico, Sam Yorty, and the Secret Procession of Los Angeles, presented at the Lost Studio.

She is a script reader for a variety of theatre companies. She is a member of the Playwrights and Directors Lab at the Actors Studio West.

In addition to plays, she has written ad copy, film reviews, blogs, bad poetry, screenplays, a novel, and several short stories.

She has heard numerous pronunciations of her last name, but the one she prefers is Hooo-zhah.

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