Tag Archives: creation

Do We Really Need This?

GLO 2014 Casting
Jen Bloom, Allie Costa, Liz Hinlein, Alex Dilks Pandola & Katherine James casting for GLO 2014

Guest blog post

by Alexandria Dilks Pandola

I started Green Light Productions in 2003 to create new opportunities for women in theatre. As of 2008, Green Light has exclusively produced plays written and directed by women.

This year, Green Light completed The Shubert Report to examine the 349 theatres that received $16.4 million in grants last year from the nation’s largest private funder of the performing arts. We found that only 26% of the plays being produced were written by women and that 125 of those 349 theatres weren’t producing ANY plays written by women.   Foundations, especially those as large as The Shubert Foundation, play a huge role in sustaining American Theatre – most of which is classified as nonprofit. Imagine the impact it’d have if they required applicants to produce seasons that had 50% female writers and directors?   Imagine the impact if just one major theatre a year decided to do a season of plays by women.   Just that one step…

In 2005, I took that step. Heather Jones sent me her one-act play “Last Rites” about a life-long friendship between two women.   It’s a beautiful play and I walked around with Heather’s script in my bag for month thinking about how it could be produced. I had the idea to create a festival of one-act plays all written and directed by women: GLO,  Green Light One-Acts.   And since the first GLO in, we’ve given world premieres to 15 one-act plays with productions in Philadelphia, New York and now Los Angeles.

In GLO 2014 we introduce to the world 4 new plays written by female playwrights based in Los Angeles – Allie Costa, Jennie Webb, Julianne Homokay and myself – with directors Liz Hinlein, Jen Bloom, Ricka Fisher and Katherine James. I have met the most incredible women just working on this first Green Light show here and I am so excited to plan our next steps here in LA.

Alex with artists at first GLO 2014 Read Thru
Alex with GLO 2014 Artists at First Read Thru

Getting here wasn’t easy. While I’ve had the absolute pleasure to work with hundreds of women who support our mission, over the years I heard a surprising amount of negative feedback – much of it from women who felt that the theatre didn’t need companies like Green Light. A female journalist actually responded to one of my press releases with “Do we really need this?”

Yes, we do. And we need YOU!

I hope that by forming new collaborations, asking lots questions, challenging those who need to be challenged and producing work by women, Green Light will continue to have a valuable impact on artists and audiences. And I hope you’ll be part of it.

Mark Your Calendars: November 6-9, GLO 2014, 4 plays written and directed by LA women artists at Miles Memorial Playhouse in Santa Monica. www.greenlightproductions.org.

Be part of Green Light Productions first foray into the LA theater scene (after mixing it up in NY and Philly).  Join the FB Invite here (LA FPI tix for only $10!). This femme-fest is Green Light Production’s annual event, but the company is looking for more women artists moving forward. If you’re interested in getting involved, contact [email protected].


Think local, write local

I continue my discovery of theatres around the Washington DC area and always compare them to our companies in LA. Last night, I saw a new show “Resurrectionist King” by a local DC writer Stephen Spotswood, at a theatre near the University of Maryland called Active Cultures Theatre.

Was it a perfect play? No. Was it a darned good attempt? You betcha. And creatively directed and pretty well acted.

But here’s the thing that impressed me: the play was commissioned by the theatre company Active Cultures.  It was based on a true story that someone had read in the local free weekly paper, about a local “celebrity” – a guy who dug up bodies for medical students to examine. The Resurrectionist King he called himself. And he did a one night show at a theatre near Ford’s Theatre (where Lincoln was shot) showing the audience the art of his craft.

Active Cultures worked for about a year with the playwright, developing the piece.  And then, instead of just a reading, they actually produced it!  What a concept.

The audience LOVED the fact that it was a story about their own community. They could identify with the places and some of the characters.

How many great stories are untold in LA? And why isn’t there a company commissioning local writers to write them?

Time management

There really are only 24 hours in a day.  And on a night like this, where I’m just getting home at 8:30 in the evening, the last thing that I want to do after dealing with words and sound bites all day is stare some more at my computer and deal with words and dialogue.  If I were a better person, I’d go to bed earlier and get up at the crack of dawn and write.  But I’m not that better person.

I’m giving myself a pass this week.  I knew it would be a stressful week at work, what with threats of a government shutdown.  Plus, my Skype partner had another commitment and couldn’t make our once a week playwriting lab.   So no new pages for me. 

But just giving myself a week off gave me the space to actually send out some query letters and submit a couple of plays here and there.  And my brain has been working on rewriting the LA Riots play.  So I haven’t completely given up my identity as playwright. 

I’ve had a hard time finding a regular schedule for my writing – partly because of the unpredicability of the day job, partly because both my husband and I work out of an 800 square foot coop.  And he’s a writer, too.  There’s something about that other person sucking all the creative energy out of a place. 

When I was working on the many, many rewrites of “Gogol Project,” I found that if I could set aside 90 minutes a day, I could write a play.  That resolution has fallen away. I did manage to finish the first draft of a new play in spits and spots.  But after more than two decades of writing plays, I wish I knew a more efficient way to do it.

I’m curious about your writing habits.  Do you have a sacred place and time?  How long do you typically sit down to write at a time?  Is caffeine a requirement?

Now What?

You know that idea, the one that rolls around in your head whenever you don’t want to concentrate on the project you actually should be writing?

Then one day someone gives you time and resources and says that idea sounds great for a workshop. At least, that’s how it happened for me.

Now what?

Nothing is written, perhaps some notes jotted, an image folder created on my desktop but still sparse: this is the state of that project.

I start by collecting source material, images, and just seeking as much research on the topic at hand as possible.

How do you start a dream project?

A Writing Assignment

Kitty Felde – January 23, 2011

I work on Capitol Hill.  It’s a day job much like the theatre – lots of colorful characters and drama.  And mystery.

I’ve started collecting odd signs.  This one keeps haunting me…it sounds like the title of a play.  But I can’t imagine what it would be about.

So as I sign off this week, in the spirit of  leaving you with homework, I offer this sign as the title of the play you’ll never get around to writing.  Write a one paragraph synopsis – the annoying kind theatres keep demanding.  And this is your title:

The title of your next play

Dramaturgy and the Playwright

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about this week – Christmas is here, the semester is nearly over, and the possibilities seemed (frighteningly) endless; Should I lament the mountain of submissions that’s been haunting my desk?  Talk about what it feels like to send out job after job after job application as I pray for a professorship teaching playwriting and acting somewhere green (but snowy at all the right times too) allt he while trying to keep up with the algebra class on campus so I can continue to TRY to tutor these kids on absolute values?  Should I talk about my new play?  My new blog that is thrilling me but keeping me up late (www.LosAngelesFAIL.com)?  WHAT SHOULD I WRITE ABOUT?!

Then I woke up to a four-pronged debate happening on the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas listserve.


And I thought, this is going to be an interesting Monday.

Basically (and I haven’t the permissions of those contributing to the debate, or else I’d repost their comments here) the discussion began with someone sharing a post by a dramaturg lamenting the process of dramaturging a show being directed by the playwright him/herself.  (Woof, did you get all that?  Because, I ran that sentence all the way to the finish line!)  I imagine that in such a case as this, even the best intentioned playwright could be a bit unyielding to a dramaturg’s best intentions – (after all,  there’s certainly the chance for a more balanced discussion with three at the table instead of just two) but the firestorm of discussion it stirred showed me that there is quite a lot of contention amongst two of a play’s (very important) team-players…

Because, as with many things put together through community/committee effort, so many voices are sure to have different opinions on just how the idea at hand is to be realized.

Some interesting points made (on both sides):

  • A script ain’t a Play until others (actors, designers, directors, etc) get involved – the argument stresses that you can write a script, but you can’t predict the Play .  And until it’s “played” it’s just words/ideas on a page.

Hmmmmm….. How do you writers feel about that?  Doesn’t it seem just a wee bit pretentious to assume that a playwright can’t fully understand his/her own work enough to be able to “predict” what it will look like and therefore be allowed to expect that the thing will be treated with some form of reverential realization before getting dressed down by an outside “opinionator” (now, that’s a fun new word!) –  Does such a theory indicate the theorizer believes him/herself a necessary component to “helping” the playwright’s “script” become a Play?  And until it’s a Play, is it just, merely, some thoughtful scribble on a page requiring help?

This discussion point alone saw many comments… One of the best (and most balanced) arguments I read stated that “dramaturgy is a function, not just a title, and nobody has a monopoly on insight” (credited to John Guare in regards to a note he once received, and applied, from an usher)  Isn’t it healthier for the working relationship at large if ALL involved are approaching the play with this mindset?  Rather than approaching the play as a thing that needs to be beat into shape by these new involvees (dramaturge/director/etc.)?

  • A text isn’t ever really fixed… This argument was made a few times in regards to plays “evolving” over time from production to production.  The caveat being that “new/emerging plays” (vs. those by dead playwrights) need to be aware of this “ever evolving” theatrical condition (and presumably, more open to dramaturgical responses) than those “dead” plays, long proven to work (Williams, Miller, etc.) or old enough to allow for as much “evolution” as the public will allow.

Does approaching a script as a constant “work in progress” help/hasten the development process, or does this attitude in fact, get in the way of fleshing out what the writer has written?  Jessica Kubzansky, a talented writer/direct and mentor of much esteem, has oft said “Commit to everything, but marry nothing” when working with new plays.  I LOVE this mentality!  For how can you possibly know whether a thing works, if you don’t first try it out – and try it honestly, sincerely, and to the best of your abilities?  It is only then that the “team” producing a script, and the playwright him/herself can truly decide whether the thing works.  But to approach a script thinking “It’s only words, and it’s going to have to evolve to suit those producing it” is a little too close to Hollywood practicum for my tastes…

And this was right about the time that copyright got thrown in the mix… And also about the time that someone piped in with a flippant remark that

  • Copyright is an American invention and European playwrights expect their work will be meddled with. (obviously, you can discern my opinions on this… the commentator himself did not use the term “meddle”)

Look, I’ve had this discussion before – (who hasn’t?)- when I was at the Kennedy Center Page to Stage Festival with one of my plays, I got to speak on a panel with other playwrights, dramaturgs, directors, actors, and development people.  Someone asked how we felt about letting directors have their way with our work, and the discussion suddenly got a bit frosty.  The argument was made that Shakespeare gets re-vamped/reworked all the time, and my reponse was “Yes, but how many of those ‘revamps’ are ever any good?”  The last thing I need is some cocky director looking at my text as his/her own blank canvas… I don’t write that way.  Some might (Thank you, Charles Mee and others, who write in such open and bold manner as to invite collaborators to “play” with your text.) but, until I write a script and include the author’s notes “Do with this text as ye will” – I’d like those directing or producing the thing to honor my intentions.  After all, why produce the thing if you just want to change it all around?  (I do actually write for designers and directors to have a lot of interpretational freedoms in most of my plays – because I see the benefit to varied productions on those scripts… but I include those encouragements in my author’s notes… and they’re prescribed freedoms within the context/world of the play.)

Ultimately, my response to this argument is that we have copyright and licensing laws to protect the text, and I’m THANKFUL for this “American” process!  I am thankful that we, as playwrights, can write with the expectation that our intentions should be honored and that we can also chose to eschew those protections if we see fit.

In any case… I’m not going to sit here and exclaim that the text as I first excitedly print off is the same that will be left on opening (or closing) night… but I am going to declare that until I’ve worked with actors and directors and maybe even a dramaturg or two, the script deserves to be flexed on its own merit.  It needs to be tested, discussed, tried, and re-worked… and I will do the work/revisions based on my interpretations of those readings/run-throughs/and discussions.

For, if a dramaturg wants to write a play, they should, in fact, take up the pen and paper.

If they want to dramaturg a play, they should approach it as a lover of words and “inspector” of moments/theme/consistency… they should approach the script AND the playwright with respect. (and in my experience, most good dramaturges do just this)

If it’s tearing apart and remodeling a person is into, then I think they should consider a career change… Hollyweird is always looking for new development personnel to “Fix” and “Mangle” screenplays… And the pay is way better too 😉

Stealing Time to Write

Everyone does it: sometimes in a restroom, in a corner of a park, in your bedroom, hell – some people even do it in a public cafe.

We all steal time to write.

I say steal time because it feels selfish, inward, private.

And it just feels so good. Especially when it feels horrible during the process, it feels so good when you’re done. Writing is very much like spinning class in that way.

The true reason we steal time to write, though, is because we find it so easy not to write.

There’s laundry, the dog, the kids, the love interest, the season finale we could consider research, the day job, sleep, Facebook, Twitter, blogs about writing – no matter how you add, multiply or divide the time, these only equal procrastination.

I recently learned the hardest part about being self-employed: when deadlines aren’t met, you mostly disappoint yourself.

When I don’t write, I only disappoint myself.

Time to stop talking about it and start doing it! See you later………

The Thought My Soul Appalls

buddhas celebrate My childhood playmates were Gilbert & Sullivan*.

My family saw shows together. That’s what we did. We saw and       produced shows. We subscribed to ART (American Repertory  Theatre) in Cambridge and The Huntington Theater in Boston. We traveled hours to see the College Light Opera Company and drove back the same night. On vacations, we’d squeeze the Baseball Hall of Fame in between Glimmerglass Operas in Cooperstown.

If Gilbert & Sullivan played within three hours of us, we saw it. We bundled in the car, return trip full of patter songs and arguments on the character interpretation or a set piece. I auditioned for NYU with Pinter and was accepted, mostly because I astonished the Dean with my resume, listing only male roles and whores.

Not finding my voice in New York City, I got my license – didn’t really learn how to drive – and ended up in Los Angeles. List of jobs in roughly chronological order: QA for a lotion and scrub factory, personal assistant, Equity Stage Manager, customer service for adult products while stage managing, staffing assistant, director, staffing supervisor, clutter-clearer, recruiter at a not for profit school for kids with special needs, teaching artist, playwright, artistic associate, producer, bum, outreach chair, representative-at-large, career coach, resume re-vamper, consultant, writer.

I know we all mostly are slashers (actor/writer/producer, for example), but this list just feels ridiculous.

As much as some of those day jobs were hated, they fuel my creative bank. Who doesn’t like a good story about temping in an adult products factory? Seriously. Everyone in LA has the crazy day job story. It’s a rite of passage here, like visiting the Getty for the first time or realizing you can’t get to the 101 south from the 134 west.

In May it all added up, when I started calling myself a Storyteller. The title encompasses all the ways I tell stories: outreach, novel, poem, play, PR, resume, blog, branding – and now, I tell stories all day. It’s pretty cool. Honestly, it’s the only thing I actually know how to do. (Did I mention both my parents are also librarians?)

Now that I love every hour of my work, I hope I won’t lose that connection to completely random people in Los Angeles brought only by the day job. That would be a shame. Most of my stories originated within the hours when worth is measured by a time-clock. At least that’s the story I tell myself when I need a temporary gig.

*in case you want more Gilbert & Sullivan – and who doesn’t? Click here.

Don’t Change…

It’s a funny game, this game of time, writing away the hours to creative and adventurous ends.  I’ve enjoyed spending some of it with you this week as I bounce forth, furiously toiling away at my current list of projects; a rewrite, a new play, a screenplay hot off the treatment treadmill and (finally) into pages, an outline – alright, a dozen – as I try to wrangle the story ideas pounding down my door into some sort of tangible form until I can give them the attention they so deserve…

And I’m a bit tired, a lot excited, 50% amazed, and 100% thankful that I’ve got so much in the creative crock pot and that I keep on going… keep on writing… in the face of all that flies at me.

Because it ain’t easy.

Wait, let me rephrase that- (clearing throat) – Becaaaaauuuuuuse….


Yeah, that looks better.  That looks more accurate.  If I could include thundering drums and brass, a host of angels flapping their mighty wings, and a lusty Sallie Mae recoupment officer cackling at you from under a pile of Visa, Discover, and Mastercard bills, it would be closer to the point, but you get the idea.

Because why?  (say it with me now) It ain’t easy.

And yet we work, and pound away, to birth these stories haunting us, treating us to a mysterious kind of rapture that only artists understand – the drug of the creators; I made this.

And when I stare down upon those beautiful pages, those curvaceous words and fat happy brads… I feel high.

I am a creative junkie!

And I’ve no hope of changing 😉