here - Dramatists Guild

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here - Dramatists Guild
pp1-3 MarApr.indd 2
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VOL. 18 No 4
TABLE OF
CONTENTS
MAR/APR 2016
4
6
8
12
14
Editor’s Notes
Op/Ed
News
Ten Questions – CARLA CHING
Inspiration – CHRISTINE TOY JOHNSON
16
Check, Please
21
22
by LILY HARPER with CATHERINE CASTELLANI,
CARLA ROSE FISHER, NEAL ALEXANDER LEWIS, ALLEN MOGOL,
MADHURI SHEKAR, KRIS ANDERSSON, CARL KISSIN, and CYNTHIA
FRANKS
On The Cover – by HANNAH KOHL
Reality Check:
Expectation vs. Reality in First-Class Productions –
by AMANDA GREEN with CHRIS MILLER, BRUCE NORRIS,
and QUIARA ALEGRÍA HUDES
30
The Big “What Now?”
by GARY GARRISON with VICTORIA Z. DALY, CHARLES GERSHMAN,
GARRETT KIM, ELIJAH SHAHEEN, KYLE SMITH, SHAMAR WHITE,
and JANE WILLIS
38
44
The Music Department by GEORGIA STITT
Taxation and Artists, Part One by RALPH SEVUSH with
50
56
70
71
72
76
77
DG Fellows: KRISTINE M. REYES, and TIM ROSSER & CHARLIE SOHNE
National Reports
From the Desk of Dramatists Guild Fund by RACHEL ROUTH
From the Desk of Dramatists Legal Defense Fund by RALPH SEVUSH
Dramatists Diary
New Members
The
Classifieds
78
Why I Joined The Guild
GARY GARRISON, MICHÈLE RITTENHOUSE, THOMAS GARVIN, and
ROBERT OBERSTEIN
by CHRISTOPHER DURANG
pp1-3 MarApr.indd 3
Dramatist
is the official journal of
Dramatists Guild of America,
the professional organization of
playwrights, composers, lyricists
and librettists.
It is the only
national magazine
devoted to the
business and craft
of writing for
theatre.
2/8/16 2:23 PM
E D ITOR’ S NOT E S
Dramatists Guild
of America
OF F IC E R S
Doug Wright
President
Peter Parnell
Vice President
Lisa Kron
Secretary
Julia Jordan
Treasurer
STAF F
PHOTO: WALTER KURTZ
Ralph Sevush
Advisor to Council,
Executive Director of
Business Affairs
Gary Garrison
Executive Director of
Creative Affairs
Caterina Bartha
Director of Finance
& Administration
W
hen Amanda
Green pitched
The Reality
Check theme
to our Publications Committee, we had no
problem coming up with ideas for this issue.
The first reality check we encountered was a
familiar one. Like most of you, The Dramatist
has a budget. We had more ideas than pages
to print them on. This 80-page issue only
begins to explore the topic, so it’s a theme
we’ll likely revisit in the near future.
Our other challenge was acknowledging
the hard truths that come with a difficult
profession (in an industry that is famously
fickle), while trying to find a little humor,
hope, and encouragement along the way.
Those of you who find the silver lining
amidst an often-stormy profession dazzle
us. We’re inspired by your commitment to
the craft and your resilience in this business
called show.
The topic of agents is obviously missing from this issue, so we’ve updated our
online archive to include “The Agent Issue”
(March/April 2011). Our online archive is for
Guild members only, so have your username
and password ready. http://www.dramatistsguild.com/dramatistmagazine/pastissues.
aspx
And still, we haven’t covered it all. After
you read this issue, we hope you’ll come
away with questions we haven’t raised or
fully answered. Then email me. Let me know
what’s missing and we’ll add it to our list for
the next Reality Check.
Speaking of reality checks, for the third
consecutive year, The Dramatist has received
a generous grant from the John Logan Foundation—via the Dramatists Guild Fund—to
help sharpen its educational focus and
outreach. Considering the ever-rising costs
of printing and shipping, we are grateful.
And issues like this one are made possible
through his grant. Thank you, John. Thank
you to the Dramatists Guild Fund. Thank
you, Amanda Green and everyone who contributed to this issue.
And thank you. The Guild is better and
stronger because of you.
JOEY
[email protected]
David Faux
Associate Executive Director of Business Affairs
Roland Tec
Director of Membership
Tari Stratton
Director of Education & Outreach
Deborah Murad
Director of Business Affairs
Amy VonVett
Executive Assistant
to Business Affairs
Rebecca Stump
Manager of Member Services
Zack Turner
Director of Marketing & Online Media
Jennifer Bushinger
Office Manager, Chief Archivist
Sheri Wilner
Fellows Program Director
Nick Myers
Receptionist
Bekka Lindström
Graphic Designer
Lily Harper
Administrative Associate
Nathan Liu
Emily Ryan
Membership Interns
Jordan K. Stovall
Creative Affairs Intern
4 | The Dramatist
pp4-5 Ed Notes+Contrib.indd 4
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Dramatists Guild
of America
CONTRIBUTORS
THE DRAMATIST
Joey Stocks
Editor
Bekka Lindström
Art Direction
Tari Stratton
Associate Editor
Mark Krause
Cartoonist
Walter Kurtz
Contributing Photographer
Hannah Kohl, Dan Romer, Ian Sklarsky
Contributing Illustrators
Amelia French
Publications Intern
P UBLICATIONS COMMITTEE
Amanda Green
Interim Chair
Lynn Ahrens
Kirsten Childs
Daniel Goldfarb
Adam Gwon
Tina Howe
Quiara Alegría Hudes
Chisa Hutchinson
Christine Toy Johnson
David Johnston
David Kirshenbaum
Michael Korie
Deborah Zoe Laufer
Michele Lowe
Lin-Manuel Miranda
Lynn Nottage
Jonathan Marc Sherman
Rebecca Stump
Zack Turner
Amy VonVett
POLI CY STATEMENT
The Dramatists Guild from time to time provides opportunities for its
members to publish letters or articles of interest to playwrights and the
general theatrical community. However, the Guild does not necessarily
endorse the positions taken or the views expressed in such contributions. All such contributions are subject to editing by the Guild.
The Dramatist (ISSN 1551-7683) is published bimonthly, six times per year, by
The Dramatists Guild of America, Inc., 1501 Broadway, Suite 701, New York, NY
10036-5505. For subscriptions, call (212) 398-9366. Application to mail Periodicals postage rates is paid at New York, NY, and additional mailing offices. Annual
membership dues of $90 include $30 for a one-year subscription to The Dramatist.
AMANDA GREEN, a Tony-nominated lyricist/
composer & performer, moderates the roundtable
on page 22. She is currently writing An Americain
Boy with Olivier
Award winning
composer Richard
Thomas. Broadway: Addt’l lyrics,
On The Twentieth
Century revival;
Tony Award &
two Drama Desk
Award Nominations (lyrics,
music) for Hands
On A Hardbody; Bring It On, Drama Desk Nomination w/ co-lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tony nom
Best Musical; High Fidelity (lyrics). TV: addt’l
lyrics Peter Pan Live! NBC; special lyrics, Kennedy
Center Honors, CBS. 2014 Frederick Loewe Award
from the DG, Larson Award. DG Council Member.
Board member The Lilly Awards Foundation.
LILY HARPER is a recent graduate of Wellesley
College with a degree in American Studies. As the
newest employee
of the Guild, she
is thrilled to have
had the chance to
speak to a number of talented
dramatists for the
article on page 16.
She is grateful for
the opportunity
to publish her first
magazine article
and looks forward to more in the future.
ON THE COVER
HANNAH KOHL is a writer, composer, artist,
educator, and former Dramatists Guild Fellow.
Her cover art for this issue depicts some of
the realities of dramatists everywhere. To do
this, she spent hours cutting—by hand—the
entire piece from a single letter-sized sheet
of paper. There were no preliminary sketches.
She picks up her
Victorinox Classic Swiss Army
Knife (the mini),
unfolds the little
scissors, and
begins cutting.
She’s been profiled in The New
Yorker magazine
(papercutting), commissioned by Chicago Shakespeare and Chicago
Children’s Theater (musicals), and selected as
an “everyday visionary” to inaugurate the new
observation deck at One World Trade Center.
www.athousandtinysnips.com
GEORGIA STITT (composer/lyricist)
contributes “The Music Department” on page 38.
She is currently
writing Snow
Child for Arena
Stage, A.Jax for
Waterwell and
Tempest Rock
with Hunter
Foster. Her other
shows include
The Danger Year;
Big Red Sun;
Samantha Spade:
Ace Detective; Mosaic; and The Water. She has three
albums: This Ordinary Thursday, Alphabet City
Cycle, and My Lifelong Love. www.georgiastitt.com
POSTMASTER: Send address changes to The Dramatist, The Dramatists Guild of
America, Inc., 1501 Broadway, Suite 701, New York, NY 10036-5505.
Printed by Spectra Print Corporation
© 2016, The Dramatists Guild of America Inc. All rights reserved.
March/April 2016 | 5
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OP/ E D
Dear
Dramatist,
I
read with interest the issue
on language and the article
on David Mamet. I feel, at
the age of 54, that I am the
last living person who remembers a time that it was
not acceptable to swear in conversation. It was something men did
with each other in locker rooms,
not in front of women, and middle
class women didn’t swear. Period.
As recently as the 1970’s, the phrase
“Oh my God” was considered so
offensive that when Mary Tyler
Moore started using it as a punch
line on her show, it always got a
big—and shocked—laugh. One
thing that made David Mamet so
notable was revealing what was
in 1975 a secret world, a world of
swearing that was normally hidden from the ordinary middle class
audience. When I started writing,
I wrestled with this. Normally I
didn’t depict a character swearing
unless I wanted to show they were
an obnoxious clod. Now perfectly
delightful and intelligent people
routinely express themselves like
obnoxious clods. Swearing has
lost all meaning and all power to
offend; now it’s only crude sounding gibberish. And if it has lost any
power it once had, is language itself
a little less powerful in general? I
think maybe it is.
Yours truly,
AMY CRIDER
Chicago, IL
Dramatists Guild
of America
D G CO UNC I L
Lee Adams
Lynn Ahrens
Edward Albee
Kristen Anderson-Lopez
David Auburn
Tanya Barfield
Susan Birkenhead
Craig Carnelia
Kirsten Childs
Kia Corthron
Gretchen Cryer
Christopher Durang
Jules Feiffer
William Finn
Stephen Flaherty
Maria Irene Fornes
Rebecca Gilman
Daniel Goldfarb
Micki Grant
Amanda Green
John Guare
Carol Hall
Sheldon Harnick
Mark Hollmann
Tina Howe
Quiara Alegría Hudes
Julia Jordan
John Kander
Arthur Kopit
Michael Korie
Lisa Kron
Tony Kushner
James Lapine
Warren Leight
Mike Lew
David Lindsay-Abaire
Andrew Lippa
Robert Lopez
Emily Mann
Donald Margulies
Terrence McNally
Thomas Meehan
Alan Menken
Lin-Manuel Miranda
Marsha Norman
Lynn Nottage
Peter Parnell
Austin Pendleton
Theresa Rebeck
Jonathan Reynolds
Sarah Ruhl
Robert Schenkkan
Stephen Schwartz
John Patrick Shanley
David Shire
Stephen Sondheim
Jeffrey Sweet
Alfred Uhry
John Weidman
Michael Weller
George C. Wolfe
Charlayne Woodard
Doug Wright
Maury Yeston
D G R EG ION AL
R E P R E S E N TAT IV E S
Suze Allen
Gab Cody
Mary Conroy
Cheryl Coons
Dewey Davis-Thompson
Charlene Donaghy
William R. Duell
Brent Englar
Rob Florence
Nancy Gall-Clayton
Josh Gershick
Josh Hartwell
Laurie Flanigan Hegge
Donna Hoke
Julie Jensen
Stephen Kaplan
Duane Kelly
Michael McKeever
Francesca Piantadosi
Sheila Rinear
Jennifer Schlueter
Faye Sholiton
Kim Stinson
Aoise Stratford
Gwydion Suilebhan
Tom Tirney
Pamela Turner
Teresa Coleman Wash
Hartley Wright
“If yo
wo
D R A MAT ISTS G U IL D F U N D
Andrew Lippa
President
Carol Hall
Vice President
Kevin Hager
Secretary
Susan Laubach
Treasurer
Rachel Routh
Executive Director
p
Seth Cotterman
Director of Marketing & Outreach
Tessa Raden
Office Liaison
dr
Paige Barnes, Tori Hidalgo, Orian Israelsohn
Interns
The Dramatist is funded in part with major
support from John Logan, through a grant
from the Dramatists Guild Fund.
I MP O RTA NT P H O NE NU M B E R S
Guild Phone: 212-398-9366
Guild Fax: 212-944-0420
Toll-Free Phone: 800-289-9366
Coalition of Professional Women in the Arts & Media: 212-592-4511
6 | The Dramatist
pp6-7 OpEd.indd 6
2/5/16 7:18 PM
“If you want to know what people in the theatre
world really sound like, this is your ticket.”
– Terrence McNally
Select epiSodeS
Now AvAilAble oN ituNeS
Lynn Ahrens & stephen FLAherty
interviewed by Andrew LippA
the
legAcy
project
drAmAtiStS tAlk About their work
edwArd ALbee interviewed by wiLL eno
ChArLes FuLLer interviewed by Lynn nottAge
tinA howe interviewed by SArAh ruhL
John KAnder interviewed by KirSten ChiLdS
stephen sondheim interviewed by AdAm guetteL
Visit http://dgfund.org/legacyproject/
The Legacy Project is produced by nancy Ford, Carol hall,
peter ratray and Jonathan reynolds.
Dramatists
Guild D
Fund GF
pp6-7 OpEd.indd 7
the interviews are filmed
and directed
by | 7
March/April
2016
Jeremy Levine and Landon van Soest of transient pictures.
dgF’s media Advisor is Leonard majzlin.
2/5/16 7:18 PM
NE W S
LUFTIG WINS 2016
KLEBAN PRIZE
New York, NY – Dramatists Guild
member STACEY LUFTIG was
awarded the 2016 Kleban Prize for
most promising musical theatre lyricist
for My Heart Is The Drum (book by DG
Lasky Receives TCG Grant
New York, NY – Theatre Communications Group announced the recipients of
their annual Global Connections grants, intended to encourage cultural exchange
and understanding across borders. DG member JASON LASKY received the
“On the Road” grant for travel to Murmansk, Russia for his new play 40 Days of
Night. His goal is to put up a full production in Murmansk to celebrate the city’s
100th anniversary as well as to stage a production in the U.S.
Humanitas Prize Finalists
Include Guild Members
DG members were among the finalists for the 41st Annual Humanitas Prize.
Congratulations to the following Dramatists Guild members:
• DAN O’BRIEN, second place in the inaugural Humanitas/Center Theatre Group
Playwriting Prize for his play The House in Scarsdale.
• EUGENIE CARABATSO (Carnegie Mellon), David & Lynn Angell Comedy
Fellowship
• MATT HOVERMAN, Arthur “The Tardy Tumbler,” Children’s Animation
Category
• CHISA HUTCHINSON was among five of the Humanitas New Voices
Recipients.
member JENNIE REDLING, music by
Phillip Palmer). The $100,000 prize is
underwritten by the Kleban Foundation,
established in 1988 in the will of DG
member EDWARD L. KLEBAN,
lyricist of A Chorus Line.
IN MEMORIAM
CARY COHEN
joined 9/1/75, Gaithersburg, MD
GARY GELD
joined 8/15/69, Manhattan Beach, CA
THOM THOMAS
joined 9/12/08, Los Angeles, CA
PAUL AIKEN
T
he Dramatists Guild mourns the
passing of Paul Aiken, the fearless
leader of the Authors Guild for
over twenty years. He passed away January
30, 2016 after a long battle with ALS.
From the Authors Guild website: “The
[Authors] Guild owes a great deal to
Paul, who devoted his keen intelligence,
good humor, enormous energy, and the
best part of his life to our cause. Paul’s
optimism and tenacity—for writers, and
then for himself and his family—were
vibrant and rare. He was a beacon for all
of us.”
“’Paul Aiken was brilliant, fierce and
generous,” said Authors Guild president
Roxana Robinson. “Brilliant and fierce
can change the world, but it’s generosity
that makes it a better place. For twenty
years Paul worked to make the world
a better place for writers, readers and
everyone else affected by the written
word.’”
In lieu of flowers memorial gifts can
be made to these two organizations:
MAC Angels
2005 Palmer Avenue Suite 291
Larchmont, NY 10538
914-637-7010
http://macangels.org/index.html
OR
Project A.L.S.
801 Riverside Drive, Ste. 6G
New York, NY 10032
212-420-7382
http://www.projectals.
org/support-us/donate-now/
8 | The Dramatist
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NE W S
STEPHEN ADLY GUIRGIS
LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA
LAUREN GUNDERSON
DAEL ORLANDERSMITH
Dramatists Guild
Award Winners Announced
New York, NY – The Dramatists Guild
of America is pleased to announce the
recipients of their annual awards, which
will be presented at their annual meeting
on Monday, February 22, 2016, at The
American Airlines Theatre Penthouse
Lobby in New York.
This year’s awards go to STEPHEN
ADLY GUIRGIS, recipient of the
Hull-Warriner Award for his play Between
Riverside and Crazy; LIN-MANUEL
MIRANDA, recipient of the Frederick
Loewe Award for Dramatic Composition
for his score to Hamilton; DAEL
ORLANDERSMITH, recipient of
the Flora Roberts Award; LAUREN
GUNDERSON, recipient of the
Lanford Wilson Award; and STEPHEN
SCHWARTZ and MARSHA
NORMAN, co-recipients of the
Dramatists Guild Career Achievement
Award.
The Dramatists Legal Defense
Fund will also present their third DLDF
Defender Award to Edward J. Davis
Esq. of Davis Wright Tremaine, an
attorney who recently successfully
defended playwright David Adjmi in his
fair use case regarding his play 3C.
The Frederick Loewe Award, given
by the Frederick Loewe Foundation and
presented annually by the Dramatists
Guild Council to a composer recognizes
achievement in a theatrical score
presented in New York during the
previous theatrical season. Past winners
include Jeanine Tesori, Amanda Green &
Trey Anastasio, Alan Menken, Michael
John LaChiusa, Robert Lopez, Trey
Parker & Matt Stone, John Kander, Tom
Kitt, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Scott
Frankel.
The Flora Roberts Award,
administered by the Dramatists Guild
Fund, is presented to a dramatist in
recognition of distinguished work
in the theater and to encourage the
continuation of that work. Previous
recipients include Charles Fuller, Arthur
Kopit, Philip Kan Gotanda, Christopher
Durang, Michael Weller, Polly Pen, Craig
Lucas, Ed Bullins, Adrienne Kennedy
and Tina Howe.
The Lanford Wilson Award was
established by the estate of Lanford
Wilson and is presented by the
Dramatists Guild Council to a dramatist
based primarily on their work as an early
career playwright. Past recipients are
Francine Volpe, Michael Lew and Chisa
Hutchinson.
The Hull-Warriner Award is the
only award given by dramatists to
dramatists; it is presented annually by
the Dramatists Guild Council to an
author or team of authors in recognition
of their play dealing with controversial
subjects involving the fields of political,
religious, or social mores of the times.
Previous winners include Annie Baker,
Christopher Durang, Stephen Karam,
Lynn Nottage, David Ives, Tracy Letts,
Steven Sater & Duncan Sheik, Marsha
Norman and Dael Orlandersmith.
The Career Achievement Award
is a new award, presented by the
Dramatists Guild Council, in recognition
of distinguished achievement in a
sustained career of theatrical writing,
to a writer who has made a significant
contribution to the American theater.
STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
MARSHA NORMAN
March/April 2016 | 9
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N EWS
Finalists Announced for
2016 Edward M. Kennedy
Prize for Drama
New York, NY – Columbia University
Libraries/Information Services, on behalf
of the board of the Edward M. Kennedy
Prize for Drama Inspired by American
History, has announced the five finalist
works for the 2016 award and all were
written by Guild members. The plays
include:
An Octoroon by BRANDEN JACOBSJENKINS, produced by Soho Rep
Hamilton by LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA,
produced by The Public Theater
Indecent by PAULA VOGEL, produced
by Yale Repertory Theatre
Sweat by LYNN NOTTAGE, produced
Dramatists
Guild Council
Digest
I
n an effort to keep our
membership informed about
how the Guild operates, we
have added a bi-monthly column
highlighting some of the discussion
topics from the Dramatists Guild
Council Meetings. The Dramatists
Guild is run by an elected Council of
63 members who meet monthly to
discuss the business of the Dramatists
Guild, membership, and outreach.
by Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Vietgone by QUI NGUYEN, produced by
South Coast Repertory
The Edward M. Kennedy Prize is given
annually through Columbia University to a
new play or musical that, in the words of
the Prize’s mission statement, “…enlists
theater's power to explore the past of the
United States, to participate meaningfully
in the great issues of our day through the
public conversation, grounded in historical
understanding, that is essential to the
functioning of a democracy.”
The Prize Board of Governors includes
Mandy Hackett, Associate Director,
WINTER 2016
The 2016 Council Election will
open on January 14th and close
on February 22nd just before the
annual meeting. Online and paper
ballots are available. Members:
watch your mailbox and your inbox
for your ballot. There are seven
incumbents and six nominees. The
nominees are: Branden JacobsJenkins, Christine Toy Johnson,
Georgia Stitt, Lloyd Suh, Gwydion
Suilebhan, and Caridad Svich.
Winners of the election will be
announced at the end of February.
The Loewe Room has officially been
renamed The Mary Rodgers Room.
The Guild will host a ribbon cutting
ceremony and unveil a permanent
rotating archive.
The Guild has established a new
The Public Theater, New York, NY; Jean
Howard, George Delacorte Professor in
the Humanities and Chair, Department
of English and Comparative Literature,
Columbia University; Alice Kessler-Harris,
R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of American
History in Honor of Dwight D. Eisenhower,
Columbia University; TONY KUSHNER,
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright;
Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith,
Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient;
Amanda Smith, author.
Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith
created the prize to honor the life and
legacy of her late brother, Senator Ted
Kennedy. Finalists were selected through
nominations from a group of twenty
theater professionals around the country.
The jury will meet at Columbia in February
2016. The Prize will be announced on or
after February 22, 2016, the anniversary of
Senator Kennedy’s birth. The winning play
will receive an award of $100,000, and will
be honored in a ceremony at Columbia
later this spring.
Devised Theater committee to
research contractual standards
in the making and presenting of
devised theater.
The Dramatists Guild Fund held their
annual ‘Writers Thank Their Lucky
Stars’ Gala on October 28th 2015 at
Gotham Hall in New York City.
The Lilly Awards held its second annual
Broadway Cabaret celebrating
women composers and songwriters
at The Cutting Room in New York
City on November 9th.
Sean Flahaven was named the new
chair of the Music Committee
Georgia Stitt was named the new chair
of the Anti-Piracy Committee
Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty were
inducted into the Theater Hall of
Fame on November 16th, 2015.
10 | The Dramatist
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TE N QUE STIO NS
Carla C
CHRISTOPHER LARKIN
1
What was your most memorable
theatrical experience as a child?
Seeing Ben Vereen in Pippin at the
Pantages Theater. 2
Is there a production you wish
you’d seen?
Hamilton at the Public (I suppose
I’ll have to try to save my pennies
to get Broadway tickets now).
Rajiv Joseph’s Guards at the Taj at
the Atlantic, though I got to see
the Geffen version over here and it
absolutely blew my doors off. Blind
Mouth Sounds.
3
Who was the person who made the
biggest impact on your career?
Two people. Sung Rno invited me
to be a part of the inaugural Ma-Yi
Writers Lab when I was just starting
out being a playwright in earnest in
NY. It gave me community, a place
to share work, see my work in its
feet. Lloyd Suh gave me my first
production with his company 2g.
And then he turned the reigns of
the company over to me a couple
years later. And I was this super
green artistic director with no idea
what I was doing. All I did know
is that I wanted to shake up old
models and do something fresh. For
a glorious three seasons, with my
small but mighty 2g team, we got to
dream big. We created the Jumpstart Commissioning Program to
help people start brand new plays.
And the artist was in charge of what
they were writing, and how much
they wanted to workshop and show
later. And we created a sandbox for
the NY Asian American theatrical
community to play in once a year
with Instant Vaudeville. The idea
was that Asian American Theater
Artists from disparate corners of
the theatrical world would come together and get to know each other
over creating new work. It was also
a place to take chances, so say for
instance, if you didn’t usually clown
or dance or sing, it was a place to
do that, to stretch yourself. I think
I learned a lot being on the other
side for a little while. It’s there that
I started to learn about curating,
creating artistic teams and building
community.
4
Who are your heroes? (writing/
composing etc. or otherwise?)
Paula Vogel. Jhumpa Lahiri. Alice
Waters. Dave Eggers. The first two
because their writing just transports me. The last two because they
are using their art to improve access and quality of life for children
and to change the world.
5
If you could be anyone (past, present or fictional) who would you
choose to be and why?
12 | The Dramatist
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la Ching
Isamu Noguchi because of his innovation and synthesis Japanese and
American aesthetic sensibilities.
He created spaces and objects that
improved people’s daily lives. 6
If you could have a love affair with
anyone (past, present or fictional),
who would you choose?
Frida Kahlo.
7
When you sit down to work, what
must you have with you in the
room?
Green tea. Notebook and laptop.
A good pen. Quiet. A little red
Maneki-nekko and a photograph or
two.
8
When you’re in despair with a piece
of work, how do you maneuver out
of that?
It depends on if I’m on deadline. If
I am not, I put it away for a while.
Walk away totally. And I find that
the answers to the problems make
themselves apparent weeks, or
months later. And I can fix it. If
I’m on deadline…well, I read and
watch as much associated material
as I can. Hoping something in there
will shake loose the answer.
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9
If you hadn’t become a dramatist,
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• Seven issues of The
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A high school English teacher
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• Access to our Business Affairs
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10
Which of all your works is your
favorite, and why?
I think the current one is always
your favorite, so I just worked
on Nomad Motel at the O’Neill
Playwrights Conference. Puzzling
over it in a week-long workshop, it
changed and grew a lot once we had
the dramaturg, director, cast and
design team onboard. Suddenly, the
whole world of it became apparent—we could hear and see and feel
it—which was very exciting.
CARLA CHING’s work has been produced
or workshopped by South Coast Rep, Center Theater Group, The O’Neill Playwrights
Conference, Ensemble Studio Theatre, the Lark
Play Development Center and Ma-Yi Theatre
Company among others. She’s a proud member
of New Dramatists and The Kilroys. She’s also
been a teaching artist, cocktail waitress, administrative assistant and TV writer to support her
playwriting habit.
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March/April 2016 | 13
pp12-13 10Q.indd 13
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•
INSPIRATION
by Christine Toy Johnson
in·spi·ra·tion
'
| insp 'raSH n|
e
with Atlan
e
From the Oxford Dictionary:
NOUN
1. the process of being
mentally stimulated to do or feel something,
especially to do something creative.
2. the drawing in of breath;
inhalation.
An extraordi
playwrights:
based works
playwrights
I can’t help but feel the two are related.
The ocean is one of my greatest places of
inspiration. I like to sit at the edge and as
the tide goes in and out: inhale possibility,
exhale doubts and fears. I look at the
endless, great expanse of water in front of
me and know that all things are possible.
Even a life in show business.
This is one of my
favorite photos.
The little figure
at the edge
of the sea,
Warwick Long
Bay in Bermuda
to be exact…is
me, being inspired.
It
to
“You
that.
dedi
expe
and
to th
–Cat
Ame
PHOTO BY BRUCE ALAN JOHNSON.
A
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PLEASE!
BY LILY HARPER
I’ve got a hunch that many
of you reading this article
made New Year’s resolutions
to write more, to finish that
project you’ve been putting
off, to have a workshop, to find
a way around that block, etc.
I know I did. While we’re all
still working on it, here are
a few reminders that we are
not alone in this struggle. Our
fellow dramatists have been
here, there and everywhere
and the stories below detail
some of the lengths we’ve gone
to in order to pay the bills while
pursuing our passions.
16 | The Dramatist
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Catherine
Castellani
A
musician friend called: could I
“help La Monte transcribe music?”
Composer La Monte Young? Yes,
definitely! I showed up at La Monte
and his wife Marian Zazeela’s cluttered Tribeca loft at 4 p.m., ready
to work. They sat me down at a
computer running WordPerfect 5
and stood behind me. Over the next seven hours, they
both consumed large quantities
of caffeinated gum (Japanese
“Black Black”), No-Doze,
and coffee-flavored hard
candies while standing
silently behind me. Mr.
Young had devised his
own system of musical
notation to express his
arrangements, and at long
(long) intervals he would
voice an instruction. I would
they’d
instantly type it up. Then I’d sit, and
stand, for another fifteen or twenty minutes until the
next instruction. The man was intent on the screen, on
the notation, listening for his next move. I quietly lost
my mind.
La Monte and Marian were very sweet, impressively caffeinated, and very focused—inexplicable
given how much caffeine was in their systems, really.
Released into the night at 11 p.m., I was overwhelmed
by the sensory input of the city after my unexpected
seven-hour meditation retreat and promptly got
completely lost in my own neighborhood. Money hard
earned.
CATHERINE CASTELLANI’s plays include The Bigsley Project, The
Mongoose and the Cobra, and WORK. Her work has been seen at
The ArtsCenter (Carrboro), Centenary Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville,
and City Theatre (Miami). She is a co-founder of The Geese.
Carla Rose
Fisher
A
s a songwriter living in
NYC, I always had side jobs
in addition to full-time
work because recording
music’s so expensive (dog
sitter, art model, coat check
girl, etc.). In summer 2007,
a six-week gig watching
two adorable dogs in my favorite UWS neighborhood was to fund a demo recording. What I didn’t
realize until I arrived was how filthy the apartment
was (an inch of dust on every surface, pee-stained
cupboards, and a sofa bed that felt like I was sleeping
on the springs). The dogs did their business anywhere
they pleased; I once awoke to poo next to my head on
the couch—good thing I don’t toss and turn! Joking
aside, one of the dogs developed a stomach condition
and nearly died. Their vet was no longer in business,
so I hailed a cab to an animal hospital in Midtown. He
received excellent care and recovered, but the strain
of it all left me on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I
moved to the suburbs soon after, thinking it was a sign.
Little did I know it was indeed part of my grand love
story: the day I moved to Harrison, I met my husband.
CARLA ROSE FISHER made her Broadway debut as a lyricist with the
song “Perfect” from It Shoulda Been You. She’s a BMI Workshop alum
and also a pop songwriter; her song “Go On” was released by EMI Canada
artist Amy Sky. Carla recently relocated to Seattle by way of New York.
March/April 2016 | 17
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Allen Mogol
Neal Alexander
Lewis
I
think, probably the hardest I have ever worked,
I was homeless. I moved to Colorado with a
friend who had invited me out to write. In a
complicated manner, things went sour, and
we came home one day to an eviction notice.
That was in May, I think, and my share of the
default (split evenly) was over two grand. I was
managing a petite cafe in a bookstore, waiting
tables at a small five-top hotel bistro in the morning,
and bartending there at night. I think I was working
around seventy hours a week while sleeping out of my
truck, which was parked behind the hotel, during bear
season. I had access to a shower, but I pretty much ate
out every meal, and spent a lot of time nursing PBR at
the bar while writing in the hours I had left. My goals
were simple: pay off the default, keep the eviction off
my record, and get into a house by winter. The owner
of the house I got evicted from invited me back, and as
autumn rolled in, I worked 27 straight days as the only
staffer in the bistro (which only did breakfast then):
cook/dishwasher/waiter.
NEAL ALEXANDER LEWIS has been writing Verse Drama for fifteen
years. His long relationship with the theatre has found him onstage,
backstage, and, for a time, managing the house for a 198-seat community
theatre. He has written ten plays and is currently working on his next
project. He can be found at www.playwrightneal.com.
18 | The Dramatist
pp16-37 Features A B C.indd 18
F
or four years, I marketed the SAT.
My job was to convey the benefits
of the college admission test, which
was much maligned for, among
other things, its multiple-choice
approach to assessing writing skills.
One morning, walking to work, I ran
into my former high school creative
writing teacher, Frank McCourt, who by then had won
the Pulitzer Prize for his
memoir, Angela’s Ashes. I
reintroduced myself, and
Mr. McCourt asked, “So
what are you doing now?”
Great. Luckily for me, we
were about to add an essay
to the test to better assess
writing ability—and to
help focus high schools on
the importance of teaching writing. So this is what
I told one of my writing
mentors, who called out,
“Should have done that years ago!” as he waved me
away with what I hoped was a smile.
ALLEN MOGOL, a librettist in the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop, is a
winner of the BMI Foundation Jerry Harrington Musical Theatre Award
For Outstanding Creative Achievement. Allen is working on a musical
about a notorious event in the early twentieth century.
Madhuri Shekar
I
love asking other artists what their day job is.
Maybe it’s the inner Indian Aunty in me. “This
writing-acting-drama and all is fine beta, but
what do you really do?”
Over the past few years I’ve juggled various
online freelance gigs while continuing to work
at my alma mater as a TA for a theatre history
course. I love teaching, and last fall I got my
2/5/16 7:22 PM
first real gig as a playwriting instructor, which was tremendously challenging and rewarding. I’m making the
transition this year from my freelance life to a full-time
office job, which I am both excited and nervous about.
I will miss my adventures in freelance hustling for sure.
My favorite story behind how I got a gig involves
hand surgery. About a month after I graduated from
my MFA (and thank god, when I was still on my student
health insurance), I accidentally shattered a glass near
my yoga matt. A normal person would ensure that
the area was thoroughly cleaned before attempting to
do yoga, but I do not have that good sense. I wound
up pressing my left index finger onto a piece of glass
while doing the downward dog. Despite obsessively
cleaning and bandaging my finger, a week later, there
was still something wrong. I finally went to the campus
medical center, where they sent me to the office of a
truly wonderful doctor (who I would later find out was
one of the top hand surgeons in the world) who examined my finger, got an X-Ray taken, and told me that I
needed surgery to remove a piece of glass that was still
lodged inside. Yikes.
After the surgery was done, I saw the doctor a week
later for a follow up. My finger had healed beautifully.
He seemed amused by me in general and asked me
what I did in life. I told him that I was a writer. To my
surprise, he looked intrigued. “Are you a good writer?”
he asked. “Uh, yeah,” I said. “It’s the only thing I’m
good at.”
The doctor then stood up, and closed the door to
his office, making this whole encounter weirder and
weirder. “My daughter is applying to medical school,”
he said. “Can you help her?”
And that was how I wound up being a college essay
consultant and writing coach to his bright and lovely
daughter. I was thrilled when I found out she got
into Emory Medical School, one of her
top choices. When I had a play go
up in Atlanta last year, we met
up for coffee, in person, for
the first time. The family
sent me a surprise bonus
check for Christmas as a
thank you. By far the nicest clients I’ve ever had.
A silly, easily avoid-
able accident led me to my first writing job after grad
school, at a time when I desperately needed it. It’s
funny how things work out sometimes.
MADHURI SHEKAR’s plays include In Love and Warcraft and A Nice
Indian Boy. Her plays have been produced or developed at the Alliance
Theatre, East West Players, Center Theatre Group, Victory Gardens, The
Old Globe, the Kennedy Center and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She
is a co-creator of the web series Titus and Dronicus (www.titusanddronicus.com). MFA: USC
Kris Andersson
Y
ou know those ads in the back of
papers of ill-repute that say, “Actors!
Make money on the phone!” Don’t
answer them. I was 25 years old, sitting in a room full of cubicles with
150 other people breathing heavily
onto the receiver to get customers to
cough up $9.95 per minute thinking they are calling a super model named Monique.
It can lead to vocal troubles. The line I was assigned
to, 1-866-HOT-GUYS, (that’s where the
ego boost ended) was all the way in the
back of the giant maze of single-mothers
and high school dropouts. When we got
a lonely soul to stay on the phone with
us for fourteen minutes, we qualified for
points towards our unattainable bonus.
But with so many “actors” working so
many different phone lines, between the
grunting, squealing, giggling and occasional braying (I don’t know either),
it was hard to get the attention of the
time keepers in the front of the room
who controlled the bonus money. I was
outfitted with a giant foam football
finger for just that reason. So when my
thirteen minutes rolled around on a call,
I would be “orgasming” loudly and waving the foam
finger wildly to attract attention. It didn’t always work,
so the “orgasms” got louder and more distracting.
Co-workers were impressed, but I still had to amp it
March/April 2016 | 19
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up in order to get the boss to notice me. After three
weeks of constant, high octane and non-diaphragmatically supported orgasm screams, I lost my voice and
couldn’t do it any longer. Do you know how painful it
is to be let go from a phone sex job because you have
developed laryngitis?
KRIS ANDERSSON is an actor and playwright best known for his solo
show Dixie’s Tupperware Party, which has been touring around the
world for eight consecutive years. His new show, Never Wear a Tube Top
While Riding A Mechanical Bull (and 16 Other Things I Learned
While I was Drinking Last Thursday), was commissioned by the
Denver Center for Performing Arts.
Carl Kissin
S
everal years ago, a stand-up comic
sought me out. He pitched me in the
following manner: “My agent told
me that the best way for me to take
my career to the next level is to have
someone write a sitcom around me.
I was told you are a very funny writer.
I would like you to write a 30-minute
spec script episode and a one-paragraph synopsis for
sixteen subsequent episodes.” He told me that the
script should be about a stand-up comic whose wife
“breaks his balls” all the time because he’s not making
it big in the business. When I asked how much he was
offering for this job, he told me, “$200 and free sandwiches at the shoot.” I tried to get him to understand
that writing a full-length sitcom script was a significant
undertaking. He countered by saying if he made it big,
I would get to be a writer on his staff.
I turned down the job and to this day
wondered if there was a writer out
there who created an entire sitcom for
him for $200 plus free sandwiches at
the shoot.
CARL KISSIN performed 4000 shows with the
improvisational comedy troupe Chicago City Limits.
He was in Talk Radio at the Public Theater and
Oliver Stone’s movie version. Three-time Manhattan
Monologue Slam champion. Carl wrote book & lyrics for the musical
Date of a Lifetime (Winner: “Excellence in writing – lyrics” NYMF
2011.) www.kissinimprov.com.
Cynthia Franks
W
hen I was in college in
Detroit and later as a
struggling writer in NYC,
I worked as a psychic even
though I do not believe
in such things. I know it
sounds like a scam, but I
did not engage in removing curses for $400 or anything like that. I would setup in a bar or Central Park and charge $20 for a psychic
consultation on one question. As a playwright, I
understood people and their motivations. How people
use language and gesture speaks volumes about them.
Many people have trouble making decisions in their
lives, but often reveal themselves so plainly that you
don’t need to be psychic to help them with their life
choices. Most people consulting a psychic are seeking
permission to do what is hard or what they want to
do and know someone in their life will disapprove of,
be it parent, friend or lover. I utilized my playwright
senses to read the answers people already possessed.
Most questions were about love, an easy one to read.
If they asked, “Is he the one?” and used weak language
with downcast eyes, it is obvious he is not. Did I feel I
was bilking people? Not really, but I did think my sign
should have read, “Ask a Stranger.” I always tried to
be careful when answering questions of a life altering
nature. As far as I know, I did no harm and many people
thanked me and to this day believe I am psychic. I’m
not, I’m just a playwright.
CYNTHIA FRANKS is a playwright and writer of fiction. Her short play
Then…, has been produced by Cray Havoc Productions in New York City
and recently in Russia. Cynthia’s other works have received staged readings
across the country. Her original monologues appear in the Monologues
for Actors series and New Monologues for WomEn by WomEn.
Currently she teaches and gives writing advice and tells stories on her
website FranklyWrite.com. Follow her on Twitter @cynfrank.
20 | The Dramatist
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H
ANNAH KOHL Piano teacher. Theater
teacher. English teacher. Music teacher.
Spanish teacher. German teacher. Math
teacher. Substitute teacher. Oppositional
Defiance Disorder Paraprofessional. UES Tutor. Hostess.
Waitress. Bartender. Café Owner. Artistic Director of a
Mexican Children’s Theater. Founder and Conductor of
an Award-Winning Mexican Children’s Choir. Tile-Layer.
Furniture-Maker. Tarot Card Reader. Publishing Marketing
Representative. Special Sales Associate. Founding Director
of Spanish Sales at an Independent Book Distributor. Grill
Cook at Yellowstone National Park. Linguistic Research
Assistant in Uruguay (twice). Director of Development at
a Small Non-Profit NYC Theater. Fundraiser. Party Planner.
Concert Organizer. Home Organizer. Tax Consultant.
Loans Consultant. Accountant. Estate Liquidator. Mobile
Phone Collections Agent. Online Test Tester. Babysitter.
Dog-sitter. House-sitter. Cat-sitter. Talent Show Judge.
Broadway Opening Night Planner. Skincare Consultant.
Publishing Consultant. Dramaturg. Script Doctor. Author’s
Assistant. Writer’s Associate. Music Assistant. Archivist.
Producing Associate. Producer. Director. Music Director.
Script Supervisor. Translator. Adaptor. Editor. Copy-Editor.
Bilingual Editor. Developmental Editor. Line Editor. Cover
Designer. Curriculum Developer. Ghostwriter. Actual
Writer. Korean Children’s Book Author. American Author
and Illustrator. Painter. T-Shirt Designer. Songwriter. Composer. Puppet Maker. Papercutter.
There is nothing that I have done that I don’t consider
important to my work as an artist and writer. The more
eclectic my work, the better I write and the more I have
to write about. The more diverse my experiences and the
farther I travel, the more I understand what it means to
be human. I simply walk through whatever door is open,
then deal with whatever’s on the other side. Every job
has value—even the horrible ones—and every person has
value—even the horrible ones. That said, the most wonderful jobs in my life came from the most wonderful people in
my life: my mentors. People I’ve worked for, then worked
with; who have shaped my world while helping me pay the
bills, then nudged me out of the nest just in the nick of
time; who have remained my champions and become my
friends. My mother, MaryAnn Kohl and my father, Michael
Kohl put me to work in their small businesses before I
was out of elementary school. Lynn Ahrens and Stephen
Flaherty brought me into the Fellows program, then landed
me my first Broadway paycheck as a Music Assistant on
Ragtime and followed up with years of work on Rocky.
Joseph and Elisa Stein first accepted me into their house as
Joe’s assistant, then warmly embraced me and wrapped me
up in their family. The best writers I know are also the best
people I know. Tom and Carolyn Meehan; Sheldon and
Margie Harnick; Rachel Sheinkin; Brian Selznick. You were
with me before I knew you and have your fingerprints on
every page, whether I’m writing things on them or cutting
things out of them.
My mentors were also among the very first patrons of
my artwork. In 2013, when I stumbled upon Scherenschnitte
(German for “scissor snips”) through an encounter with
Doug Fitch, Lynn took one look at what I was doing and
said, “You’re going to pay for your writing with those snips.”
She was right. (And not just because she commissioned
one!) Since my very snip—a commission from Giants are
Small and the NY Philharmonic—I have rarely cut into a
piece of paper that wasn’t already spoken for. Rather than
taking me further away from my writing, papercutting led
right back into it, opening doors to new theater projects,
connecting me with my literary agent Rebecca Sherman at
Writers House, and launching me into the career I’ve always
wanted: being a person who creates what she wants when
she wants without worrying about the job title. Everything
leads back to the art. Everything leads back to the page. To
the piano. To the paint. To the people. To the paper. Even
the horrible things. Especially the wonderful things.
March/April 2016 | 21
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Expectation
vs.
Reality
in First-Class Productions
BY AMANDA GREEN
WITH
CHRIS MILLER
BRUCE NORRIS
AND
QUIARA ALEGRÍA HUDES
Recently I sat around a table with
a few established and very highly
respected theater professionals
who are, by any standards, in the
top echelon: Quiara Alegría Hudes
and Bruce Norris, two Broadway
veterans both Pulitzer Prize
winners, and the composer Chris
Miller, whose musicals have been
produced in prominent theaters
off-Broadway and regionally, and
who is making his Broadway debut
this Spring with his musical Tuck
Everlasting. I asked them about the
realities of making a living in the
theater, even once you’ve “made
it.” And what a life and career
in that rarified “Broadway club”
really looks like.
22 | The Dramatist
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Amanda Green: What were your expectations about
making a living as a dramatist or composer when you
decided that this is what you wanted to do? How did
the reality live up to that?
Chris Miller: Such a deep question.
Amanda Green: Let me start with something more
specific. I think people have the illusion, as I did (even
though my family’s in the theatre), that once you’re
on Broadway, you’ve kind of made it. You’re all set and
you’ll make a living for the rest of your life. And then
rehearsals for my first Broadway show came around
and I kept waiting for the paycheck. Then someone
asked me in rehearsal, an actor I think, “Hey, when do
you guys get paid?” And I was like, “Yeah when do we
get paid?” I didn’t realize authors don’t get paid during the workshop and rehearsal process. Then my first
show opened and closed quickly. I found out that you
do not necessarily make a living on Broadway. How did
that pan out for you guys?
Bruce Norris: Well, to answer your first question,
I certainly didn’t have any illusion that I was going to
make my living doing that. I started off as an actor and
then I sort of shifted halfway through my so-called career into being a writer. I didn’t really expect to make
a proper living as an actor or as a writer. In kind of a
self-destructive way, I felt like I wanted to fritter away
all of the education my parents invested in me. I mean
in a completely, you know, chaotic kind of way. And
so, when the paycheck from the Broadway production
of Clybourne Park turned out not to be all that much, I
wasn’t really surprised because I wasn’t expecting it to
be. The more financially rewarding part was from multiple productions of it happening around the country.
So, the Broadway thing was almost like an afterthought
and I never expected to make much. Of course I’m
not involved in making musicals where that is actually
a possibility, so I guess that’s part of the reason I never
even anticipated that I would.
Chris Miller: I was kind of naïve about it because it’s
what I’ve always wanted to do. I never thought about it
financially or otherwise. I went straight from undergrad to graduate school and then I graduated, which
was when I learned my hard lesson of having to actually
make a living and make money. I thought I could do it
writing musicals or writing music.
I remember the first reading of a show that Nathan
[Tysen] and I wrote was produced by Lincoln Center.
We were like, “How much do you think we’re going
to get paid for this? $500? A $1000?” Then there’s
that dark moment where everybody’s getting their
paycheck. The stage manager or general manager are
passing out paychecks and we’re sitting there thinking, “I took off a week of work for this. How much am
I going to get paid?” And, of course there’s no check
for the writers and you think, “I’m supposed to be
grateful with handshakes or simply the opportunity or
whatever?” I didn’t necessarily have expectations that
I was going to make millions of dollars right away, but
it never occurred to me that I wasn’t going to make
money. Because you buy a cast album or a play script
and think, “Oh, this person wrote this and it was produced, surely they’re paid a living wage.” I mean, when
you call a plumber…the plumber comes and you have
March/April 2016 | 23
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to pay them $100 just to show up. Then they give you
Quiara Hudes: Right.
the estimate and still get paid to do the work. So, like
Bruce Norris: Which is a pittance.
anything else, why wouldn’t you get paid for your work?
Amanda Green: And then also, you have to hand
Bruce Norris: The answer is that people need
them the first draft and then maybe a few months
plumbers more than they need musicals.
later…
Chris Miller: Right.
Chris Miller: …you get the other half
Bruce Norris: I mean there’s a great demand for
Amanda Green: I wrote [and] produced in all these
plumbers.
little places, with no expectation of making money,
Chris Miller: This is true.
but you think at some point…at some point you’re
gonna get paid. And then it keeps getting pushed furQuiara Hudes: A timely demand for plumbers, you
ther and further down the road, like, “I see it up ahead
know. It needs to happen today.
in the distance…”
Bruce Norris: But the supply of musicals and plays is
Bruce Norris & Chris Miller: Yeah.
too great for the demand.
Quiara Hudes: It was helpful when I realized part of
Chris Miller: Tell that to a 22-year old. [Laughter.]
the deal of doing this is we’re gambling our time for
Quiara Hudes: I think for me, not growing up with
what matters to us. For personal dividends or for payany idea about theatre might have been an asset a little out or for anything. Anytime I choose to write somebit. There were no financial assumptions attached to
thing that’s essentially what I’m gambling on. That’s
it for me. My step father, who raised me and who is a
the choice I’m making. Whether the bet pays off in
local North Philadelphia contractor and business man, whatever way I want it to pay off is always a question.
would buy a crumbling corner lot and turn it into a bar One of my early business conversations was when I
and then make no money off of it for six months and
went to visit Paula Vogel. She has a house on the Cape
then have a great three months and then lose money
with her wife Anne. I don’t know if I even had a play
on it again. That was my assumption of how life works
produced yet. I was just a young writer. And she said,
and is actually pretty analogous to playwriting. I didn’t “This is what playwriting can buy you.” And I think it
have notions about Broadway starting out. I just was
was a pretty fair representation.
gonna write plays. Whatever was gonna happen with
Bruce Norris: I’d like to see that Cape house, ‘cause
them, was gonna happen with them. But one of the
I can’t afford a house on the Cape.
things that was surprising to me (and that took a little
getting used to), was that if and when there’s money,
Quiara Hudes: Well, I can’t yet either, but I think
it’s not really associated with if and when the labor
I might—one day—off of playwriting, depending on
happened or with what or how the labor happened. It’s how I use my money.
kind of disassociated…
Bruce Norris: Yeah.
Amanda Green: What do you mean by that?
Quiara Hudes: And it wasn’t a mansion. It wasn’t a
Quiara Hudes: You know, when you’re writing, you
palace, but it was a lovely place on the Cape. So it’s
don’t get paid while you’re writing.
okay if I keep at it. If I don’t spend like crazy, yeah, I
might be there one day…maybe not far above that and
Amanda Green: Right.
very possibly below that but…
Quiara Hudes: You might get paid four years after
Bruce Norris: Amanda, maybe your experience is
you’ve written the play.
the more unusual one because you come from a family
Bruce Norris: Or you might get a commission.
where the people actually did make a nice living from
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writing for Broadway, right?
Amanda Green: Yes.
Bruce Norris: So, that’s a very different experience
than most of us have. Do you think that’s part of why
you felt surprised…?
Amanda Green: Ah, yeah, I think so. Oddly enough,
you’d think being around it, I would know how it
worked, but my father was doing well. He was an older
man when I was born, already well established. So I still
had that assumption. I mean, as they say, you can make a
killing doing a musical but it is harder to make a living.
Bruce Norris: Maybe it’s a lucky thing that most
people who do this are either willingly naïve or just
oblivious to the actual economics of how it works because you wouldn’t keep doing it if you knew. I mean,
I think anyone who knows what the real economics
of being a playwright are would probably want to be a
screenwriter or a television writer. But because it is a
compelling way to spend your life…
Amanda Green: Yes.
Bruce Norris: …you willfully blind yourself to the
unfortunate reality. That’s certainly true in my case.
Or at least, I knew what the situation was but I thought
there would be enough pleasure in the life that I’m following that the loss of money wouldn’t mean anything.
That’s one thing to say when you’re 25, but when
you’re 55…
Amanda Green: Right.
Quiara Hudes: When I was working on In the Heights
on Broadway, I made a boatload of money. It was
incredible. We were having dance parties every time
one of those checks arrived. And I was very clear that
wouldn’t always be the case, so I did save it wisely. I
was like, “Let this buy me a few years of playwriting,”
which it did. The part of that process that was the most
bizarre for me was that glamour scene because, I was
like, this has nothing to do with the thing I’ve been
doing with the thing that exists right now.
Bruce Norris: And it’s the part that most people see.
Chris Miller: Yes.
Amanda Green: That’s why I think people get the
illusion that’s like everybody’s gotta be rich who does
Broadway.
Bruce Norris: Or the Tony Awards…“Look at that,
it’s in Radio City Music Hall where everyone’s in their
limousines and tuxedos.” That has nothing to do with
what we do every day.
Chris Miller: Right. Lately I’m having to do these
events and things for our show and I haven’t gotten
new clothes in probably five or six years and when I do,
it’s a shirt here and pants there and it’s the same two
pairs of jeans and the same pair of shoes. And I’m just
amazed at how can anyone afford to even buy clothes
for fancy events.
I’m always fascinated by going to openings and
[other] events where I wonder, “If I’m photographed
wearing the same clothes that I’ve always been photographed in, have the years have actually passed?”
(Everyone laughs)
Bruce Norris: Yeah, if you looked at any opening
night picture of me for any play I’ve written, you can
see I have like three suits. It’s always one of the same
three suits for the last fifteen years of my life.
Quiara Hudes: In The Heights must have opened in
February, I believe, and the Tonys were in June but
like I said, the labor that you’re doing from writing to
being in rehearsal to being at previews and working so
hard in previews, that was totally disconnected from
making any money and, and there’s a lag time once it
opens so I don’t know if I had gotten my real first big
check yet for In The Heights so I went to Macy’s and
I got a $30 dress off the sale rack for the Tonys. But
then by that summer I paid off all my credit card debt,
playwriting has a huge amount of attrition right now to
film and TV for many reasons but this is a very real one
and a very valid one, you know. I think some people are
more sane than we probably are and like to get paid for
the work that they do.
Amanda Green: I have a writer friend who says he
takes film and TV to pay for his “playwriting habit.”
How do you guys [make it work]? Do you take TV and
film jobs?
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Quiara Hudes: Right now I teach to pay for my playwriting habit. I’m not energetic enough to write for a certain thing and then have energy saved to write for me and
my own purpose. I’m kind of amazed by people who do.
Chris Miller: Yeah, it would be nice to be asked. From
my own personal perspective as a writer, I find that I can
only do things that I’m actually passionate about and if I
had a job that paid me a lot of money to either write for
film or television, write music for it, I find that I tend to
not really focus on it because it’s not what I actually want
to be doing. I don’t know. I feel I just want to work on
things that I actually want to work on.
Quiara Hudes: Absolutely.
Bruce Norris: Yeah, and I’ve never really wanted to
write for those media, plural, because I’m an obsessive control freak and I demand control over the thing
that I do. The economic structure of those other media is different and the writers don’t have nearly the
level of control. People say that currently in TV that
there is a measure of control that is unprecedented
now, especially for cable. But I never was interested
except—full disclosure—a year ago, someone approached me with a book to adapt for a mini-series
and I did that. But I did it on spec because I didn’t
want anyone to give me any notes and change what I
wrote. But of course then they did give me notes so,
so it was a stupid move on my part. (Laughter.)
Amanda Green: Chris do you do anything like arranging or orchestrating, because I know some composers
make money doing that.
Chris Miller: I do on occasion, but I haven’t really
put myself out there in that way…
Amanda Green: Did you do arrangements for Tuck
Everlasting?
Chris Miller: Yes.
Amanda Green: Are you orchestrating it? Music
directing it?
Chris Miller: Financially, I’m sticking with being a
vocal arranger. I get paid the fee for vocal arranging,
because I don’t know when I’m actually going to get
paid as a writer. Hopefully they’ll finish my vocal ar-
ranger deal so I’ll get the fee for that and I can at least
have something coming in, even if it’s like $300 or
$400. I’ve been stretching $300 a week out for a good
fifteen years. As long as I have something coming in I
can figure it out.
Amanda Green: Yeah.
Chris Miller: I don’t generally arrange and orchestrate [often], although I would if more people asked.
But doing those particular jobs, I found out I really just
want to be writing my own thing. Maybe I shouldn’t
say that on record. Of course, I’d do the job but the
whole time I would be fretting and pacing and being
like, “I’ll never do this again. I just want to work on my
own stuff even if I’m making five cents.”
Amanda Green: Right. But you hit on an important
thing, which is the control over your…
Bruce Norris: I don’t work in musicals, but I don’t
know if you have the same degree of control as you
would writing one of your plays. Like for In The Heights,
how much input was there coming at you from other
people that you felt obliged to conform to?
Quiara Hudes: Because it was an author-driven project and not a producer-driven project, I had a good
deal of control. There were more voices in the room,
of course, but I had a lot of control. I was there with
casting. If there was something I felt I needed to put
my foot down about, I could. I don’t remember that
ever happened, but I could have. For me, I just don’t
have a crush on film and TV. I have a deep lust and
love and crush on playwriting and it is the control but I
think it’s also the ownership of the work, which is a little
bit different. It’s like whatever happens, I did this.
ALL: Yeah.
Quiara Hudes: I made it and it belongs to no one
else but me. There’s something about that that is, it’s
so deeply personal, you know…
Bruce Norris: Yeah.
Quiara Hudes: That’s always the case with plays. I
found that the times it becomes problematic in musicals is if something were to go wrong, I don’t get to
walk away with my work. I kinda learned the hard way,
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working on a project that I was adapting. I didn’t have
the rights. The producer had the rights and it didn’t
work out, so I left two or three years of what I thought
was really beautiful writing behind.
Bruce Norris: Did you choose to leave or did you
get fired?
Quiara Hudes: I chose to leave. Yeah. That was a difficult choice for me. I mean, I could take my words but
I didn’t have the right to adapt it. I don’t want to do
that again. I want to always be able to own my thing. In
some ways that is the payment for me at the end. The
bottom line.
Bruce Norris: Did it make it any easier? I ask this out
of self-interest. Did it make it any easier that it was an
adaptation other than something that had sprung from
you fully? I mean, you were adapting someone else’s
work, so when you lost control of it did that in any way
mitigate the pain of losing that control?
Quiara Hudes: No, because if it was something
that had sprung from me I would have had a copyright
control…
Bruce Norris: Yeah, that’s right. But I mean but did
you feel any less ownership over it because it was an
adaptation?
Quiara Hudes: No, because I took it as a passion
project…I didn’t take it for a money job necessarily. I
felt deeply passionate about writing a musical based on
that material. So it was hard. It was a heartbreak.
Amanda Green: Yeah, composers sometimes have
an easier time of recycling material from one [project] to another. I have a lot of lyrics that are not going
anywhere because the project didn’t work out. It’s sort
of a chance you have to take.
Is there anything you would have told your younger
self about having this career? Do you think, “I wish I
had known this about the life of a playwright or the life
of a composer?
Bruce Norris: There’s such an overwhelming
amount of things I would want to tell myself. I would
have said this to myself—and I did follow my own advice— “Don’t buy real estate and don’t have children.”
Because—and I’m serious—that really does free you
up in a lot of ways because your only obligation is to
your own failure, you know? If your failure does not
impact anyone else too much, then you’re in a much
better position. But most people don’t want to live
without a place to live of their own and without anyone to watch them die.
Quiara Hudes: Well, I did buy a place and I did have
children, so speaking from that side of the fence,
when I make decisions about what I’m gonna write,
I continue to ask myself, “What is it you want out of
this? What is it you want out of life? What is truly your
goal?” I am very gratefully in the fortunate position
that I do get offers to do things that will pay me a lot of
money and to do things that will pay me no money. And
that’s a wonderful position to be in. When you do have
kids, to say no to a money offer—that’s pretty real.
And yet I think we all can make decisions about what
kind of quality of life we want. I’ve made one that I feel
really comfortable with and I’ve also been really clear
about. At the end of the day, getting above my current
standard of living is not my goal and it scares me and it
seems dangerous to me and so…
Amanda Green: What seems dangerous? To get
above it, not want to get above it?
Quiara Hudes: To live a more expensive life, to be
perfectly frank. I’m comfortable…but I could be even
As the new president of the Dramatists Guild, I’ve had
the great pleasure of sitting down to lunch
with some of our colleagues in the
field. Not too long ago, Ralph Sevush and I met the Executive Producer and General Manager of
one of the city’s most prestigious
and well-established non-profit
theaters. As we took our seats for
a lovely, mid-day meal at a beloved
Times Square eatery, I was struck by an
inescapable, albeit shocking thought: only three of us
were earning a full-time living in the theater. Unfortunately, the odd person out was me.
– Doug Wright
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more comfortable and I’m choosing to not force my
hand to take money jobs.
Bruce Norris: Yeah, I mean if you made yourself
miserable doing work that you don’t want to do, you
might have more money but the consequences are
you’d be an unhappy person and that would impact
your children and you wouldn’t want to be that person
for them. You’d much rather set an example by being
happy in what you do.
Quiara Hudes: That’s true. And I send my kids to
public school and it’s fine. I went to public school, I
came out okay, you know…
Amanda Green: We’ve chosen a life in the theatre.
We’ve chosen a risky thing because we love it.
Bruce Norris: We really should have a banker at the
table here because that would really be the contrast that
we wanna have. How absurd is what we do compared to
the thinking of most intelligent people with an education? They would look at what we do as profoundly
stupid, you know what I mean? (Everyone laughs.)
Quiara Hudes: I have a banker in my family. She’s a
year older than me, and the first ten years of our postcollege relationship, anytime we saw each other was
her asking, “Wait, what are you doing? How does that
work?” And me saying, “I know why I’m doing what
I’m doing. How it works, I’m still figuring out.”
Bruce Norris: Even now when I visit my father in
Texas, he suggests that when I have some time off I
ought to get a job at a gas station because that would
help make some extra money. [Laughs.]
Quiara Hudes: I became a very good typist, so I was
able to get temp jobs immediately at a time when they
paid me about $22 bucks an hour. That was a lot of money
to me as a young person. That was great. I probably would
have told my younger self to also get a bartending license
so that in financial times like these, when the temp jobs
aren’t overflowing, people are drinking a lot and drowning their sorrows. You gotta have some hustle that aligns
with what you want out of life.
Chris Miller: Yeah, that’s what I would say to my
younger self too. I had no hustle at all coming out of
school. Maybe I still don’t. I thought, “Where do I
go? What do I have to do? I have to temp? Okay, I’ll
go temp.” So I temped (pure misery), but I had no real
plan for how this [career] was actually going to work. I
was just doing it and feeling my way through. [I wish]
somebody had said, “Get a bartending license. Get a
job at a bar even while you’re still in graduate school
and work your way up so that you have some sort of job
that allows you to have a schedule where you can write
while not draining all your energy and soul.”
Quiara Hudes: It’s not too late for your dreams, you
can still be a bartender. It’s never too late for education. (Laughter).
Chris Miller: Right. I just might be a bartender
before the year is out! (Laughter).
Amanda Green: I also wanted to point out, you do
teach at Wesleyan two days a week.
Quiara Hudes: I teach at Wesleyan.
Amanda Green: And that helps.
Quiara Hudes: That helps big time and I love it. It
also feels a bit like service, which is nice. It keeps me
on my toes in terms of being reminded what true creativity is and it keeps me reading more actively. I was
already an active reader but I’m very on top of what
people are writing right now and I love it.
I turned down a TV writing job, nice room of
people, you know, smart writing here in New York
that would have been a financial coup for us. And I
said no to it. I shouldn’t do that not knowing where
my next check is coming from. Because even with my
successful plays, like Water By The Spoonful, which did
well [regionally], I still don’t know when the checks
are coming. Sometimes checks come that you didn’t
expect. Sometimes you expect them to come and you
find out that production fell through altogether. So, I
started looking for a teaching job and it’s worked out
pretty well so far.
Amanda Green: The two of you [Quiara and Bruce]
have won Pulitzer Prizes for your plays. I would think
the public perception of a Pulitzer Prize winner is,
they’re set for life.
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Bruce Norris: Uhh, what is it? How much did we
get?
Quiara Hudes: Cash and prizes: $10,000.
Bruce Norris: $10,000 bucks and you get a paperweight. And it’s a nice paperweight.
Quiara Hudes: It is really nice.
Amanda Green: What’s it made out of?
Bruce Norris & Quiara Hudes: Crystal.
Chris Miller: Real crystal?
Bruce Norris: Yeah, it’s really nice. And it’s got
Joseph Pulitzer right there on it.
Quiara Hudes: People think you get the gold medal
but that’s just for a public service award. Did you get a
new suit, Bruce?
Bruce Norris: No, in fact when I was at the event, I
wore my oldest suit.
Quiara Hudes: It’s a luncheon and it’s very low key.
You’re there at the Pulitzer luncheon with people who,
while on their honeymoon in Rwanda a massacre happened and they went and shot it and got a Pulitzer for it.
It is actually an antidote to the glamour of a lot of the
theatre events. It’s people who are there telling stories
about the world that desperately need to be told.
Bruce Norris: Yeah, apparently she completely
got screwed on that. So the validation of the Pulitzer
alone won’t do it. It has to be “the right kind of show”
and, for whatever reason, Ruined did not get multiple
productions.
Quiara Hudes: For me, it also came with a book advance for the trade paperback of that. That was helpful.
Had you been published before?
Bruce Norris: Yes but by a small publisher. You had
never done that?
Quiara Hudes: No, I had acting auditions but I
didn’t have…
Bruce Norris: …the trade paperback.
Quiara Hudes: So, yeah it was a nice bump.
Bruce Norris: Hey, no one’s sneezing at ten grand.
Quiara Hudes: Oh, no, no, no…
Bruce Norris: But it’s not the MacArthur, either.
What is it up to now, a half million?
Chris Miller: $625,000. My palms start to sweat, I’m
like, what would I even do with that money? I don’t even
know. I’d be paralyzed.
Bruce Norris: Someone once told me I’ll never get a
genius grant but if there was an idiot grant I might have
a shot at that one. (Everyone laughs.)
Bruce Norris: When I won, I called my father and
said, “I guess I got a Pulitzer Prize.” And he said, “What Quiara Hudes: They should give out one of them a
are you talking about?” And I said, “Well, the Pulitzer
year.
Prize for drama.” And he goes, “Well that’s not the
Bruce Norris: I’m up for it.
Pulitzer Prize.” (Everyone laughs.)
Chris Miller: Yeah, that’s the funny thing about getQuiara Hudes: You should call my Mom up because
ting paid, you really never know when the check is gomy Mom is like, “It’s the only Pulitzer Prize.” (They
ing to come or how much the checks are going to be.
laugh.) But the big reward from that is essentially all
the regional productions you get.
Quiara Hudes: Right.
Bruce Norris: Yeah somehow it validates the play and
makes it more desirable for regionals to do the play.
But on the other hand, if you look at Lynn Nottage and
Ruined (2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama), she has told me
there have been something like maybe six total productions of that play [since]. So, the Pulitzer…
Quiara Hudes: Are you serious?
Chris Miller: I’ve not made a consistent amount of
money as a writer yet so I’m always surprised if or when
I get a check.
[There’s more! Members can read the full text of this
article by logging onto our website here: http://www.dramatistsguild.com/dramatistmagazine/currentissue.aspx]
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THE BIG
WHAT
NOW
BY GARY GARRISON
WITH
VICTORIA Z. DALY,
CHARLES GERSHMAN,
GARRETT KIM,
ELIJAH SHAHEEN,
KYLE SMITH,
SHAMAR WHITE,
AND JANE WILLIS
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?
2/5/16 7:22 PM
VICTORIA Z. DALY
CHARLES GERSHMAN
Gary Garrison: We thought because this is the
Reality Check issue, we should speak to a group of
writers that are all in various stages of studying dramatic writing, either formally or informally. There
must be common questions, worries, doubts, fears
and advice that you’re seeking. I’ve taught playwriting at NYU for 30 years in the Tisch School,
and before that at the University of Michigan for
five years. So I may not have all the answers, but I
may have something to offer the discussion that
might help you through to the next stage of your
writing.
I’d like to start by you introducing yourselves
and where you’ve studied or are studying dramatic
writing.
Garrett Kim: I’m studying right now at Fordham
University in their BA program. I’ve also done a
lot of work with First Stage Children’s Theater in
Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Kyle Smith: I graduated with a BFA from Adelphi
University in Theater with a minor in Writing. I am
now at NYU where I am in my first year of getting
an MFA for Dramatic Writing.
Victoria Z. Daly: I spent many years studying
playwriting at HB Studio in New York. I’ve done
workshops at the Actor’s Studio and the Kennedy
Center Summer Playwriting Intensive. In my own
writer’s group in New York City, the 9th Floor,
we’ve arranged a lot of ongoing education where
we bring in wonderful playwrights to work with us.
I have a degree in physical theater from L’Ecole
Jacques Lecoq in Paris, and now I’m in my second
year of my MFA at NYU/Tisch.
Shamar White: I studied theater in undergrad.
I was a Theater Performance major. After graduation I was kind of lost. I knew I wanted to write but
didn’t have the confidence. Then 9/11 happened,
and I joined the Army. I guess the Army was my the-
ater for a while. Fast forward ten years,
now I’m in grad school at NYU/Tisch
studying Playwriting, Screenwriting
and Television writing.
Jane Willis: I graduated from NYU/
Tisch many years ago with a BFA—actually, concentration on Film, but
moved into playwriting after that,
then took a hiatus from playwriting,
graduated from Bank Street College
of Education to go back and work with
kids and writing creatively. And now
recently, I’ve been taking playwriting
classes at The Barrow Group.
Charles Gershman: I have taken
classes at the Einhorn School for the
Performing Arts (ESPA) at Primary
Stages. It’s a terrific place and there’s
all sorts of dramatic writing forms that
are taught by great people.
I also I did a Master’s, an MA in
Theatre at Hunter College and was
able to do a year of the MFA classes
with Tina Howe and Mark Bly there.
And more recently I’ve studied with
Rogelio Martinez in private workshops, and Beth Lincks a.k.a. Arlene
Hutton at The Barrow Group.
Elijah Shaheen: I am currently getting a BA in the Screenwriting/Playwriting program at SUNY Purchase
College, and about five years ago I had
one of my plays professionally produced in Ossining, NY.
Gary Garrison: You all come from
these really interesting, diverse backgrounds, both as people, but then also
as students of writing. I’m curious to
GARRETT KIM
ELIJAH SHAHEEN
KYLE SMITH
SHAMAR WHITE
JANE WILLIS
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know, what is your nagging worry as a student of
writing -- whether that’s currently something your
worried about right now, or something you went
into your education with and that you’ve carried all
the way through and remains unanswered or unaddressed.
Jane Willis: My question is: when is my play ready
to bring into class to actually have people read
it and to be ready for feedback? I always have to
check where my insecurity level is with that.
And now that I’m kind of back into being able
to write full-time, I find that I have to sit with a
piece. It’s just part of my process. I have to kind
of sweat it out through a first draft that I’m feeling okay about it—and it’s not even a first draft.
Sometimes it’s a third draft, before I’m okay about
bringing it in and being able to—because our work
is so vulnerable at that point—being ready to field
comments. And I have to say, Beth Lincks’ class at
Barrow Group is very supportive during the process; maybe you’ve had the same experiences.
That’s one of my many burning questions today.
How do we know when we can stop sitting by
ourselves and bring it in and be open to feedback,
which is how our work grows, right?
to know about what you’re hearing, and make sure
when you get feedback, those three things are addressed.
Garrett Kim: Yeah, whenever I feel like I’m not
ready to bring something in or I feel self-conscious
about what I’ve written, I often find that I’m not
being as generous with myself as I would be in a
writer’s workshop. I think a lot of times with my
own work, I’m like, “Oh, man—no, this isn’t right,
this isn’t right.” Whereas if someone else brought
in a scene of similar, in process level, I would be
like, “It’s fine. These are the amazing parts of it,”
you know?
Something I’ve realized being in writer’s workshop, is how I look at someone else’s work in progress, and how I look at my own. So a huge thing
that I’ve been doing this past year [Laughter] has
been, like, “Okay, so the way I treat someone else’s
work, the generosity that I have—I’m allowed to do
that with my own work.” But it’s, like, not—[Laughter] it’s not easy.
Gary Garrison: We will never treat another
writer how we treat ourselves because if we did,
we wouldn’t have any friends. [Laughter] That’s the
truth. You would never say to another writer what
Gary Garrison: Though that is a really interestyou will say to yourself. Or you will never treat aning question, what’s even more interesting to me
other writer the way you will treat yourself. It’s just
is what’s behind your question—which leads me to too unkind. And we do that to ourselves time and
think: what do you expect out of a reading? What is time again. I’m tempted to say we beat ourselves
your hope? Your great fear? Are you afraid that it’s up before anyone else has a chance to. At least that
going to fall flat, that it’s not the play you thought
feels sadly familiar.
it was going to be? Or that it’s not written well? Or
Victoria Z. Daly: I don’t know the setup in Beth’s
is your great fear that other people will think it’s not
class, but what we do at the 9th Floor is the playwritten well?
wrights ask the questions, so the playwrights have
In order to answer these kinds of questions, I
the opportunity to shape the feedback. If there’s
think you have to get really clear with, “What do I
something that they don’t want to hear, they don’t
want out of any reading, at any stage in the prohave to. If they only want to hear actors read the
cess?” Of course, our very first reading is always
pages, or just talk about what people are following
the most tender and demands that you ask of
or what they’re leaning into, they can do that.
yourself clearly —what do I need to know from this
So, this is piggybacking on what Gary’s saying;
reading—because that points you in all the direcit sounds like you feel uncomfortable about how
tions ahead of you. I’ve said this before: go into
people are going to respond and whether they’ll
any reading with three things that you really want
say negative things. But if you’re the one who’s
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allowed to ask for what you want from them—
Jane Willis: Right.
Victoria Z. Daly: —you can also shape that, so
you will hear what’s really useful to you.
Jane Willis: That makes sense. I think my fear is
that I change my mind constantly. I am so suggestible, and I might walk in with a scene that’s maybe
not quite there in my heart, and then somebody
will make a suggestion and I’m like, “Oh, yeah!”
And then I’ll go home and I’ll work on that, but it’s
actually not what I had in mind, and then someone
else will say something else.
So for me, choice making is hugely challenging. That’s why I need to sit until I have a draft, and
then I’m ready for the kind of questions that you’re
talking about, which I think are absolutely helpful.
Charles Gershman: I totally relate to the things
you’re saying. I’ve studied with a number of different people, and everybody has a different style.
And so one of the tricky parts of being a student, I
think, has been realizing the format and the atmosphere in the room and learning how to use it for
the best, you know? Learning how to best use it for
your own growth and the development of your play.
One of the most challenging moments has
been when I’ve been with somebody who was a bit
prescriptive, like anti-Liz Lerman, more like, “I actually think you should do this.” And usually their
ideas are far more brilliant than anything I’m thinking at the time, but I can’t just let myself do that. I
have to really sit with it and come to that point of
view and fully see it—or on the flipside, argue with
them—or argue with them in my own head but not
say anything.
As I’ve gotten older, one thing I’ve tried to
work on is listening to myself and asking questions,
and sort of steering the conversation as much as I
need to.
Gary Garrison: What often happens in a room
when public responses are being given is that we
often jump about: “Oh, that’s a good idea” or,
“Oh, I didn’t see that” or, “Oh, that’s such a bril-
“The world of commercial theater, and even some
bigger nonprofit theaters, is pretty fickle
and unpredictable. But when you take
the work into your own hands, find
that community to work with, you
have the power to make a life for
yourself.”
– Lisa D’Amour
liant idea.” Yes, it’s great to get intelligent responses. But whatever you hear, it should lead you back
to one primary question: what am I writing about
and is that reflected in this scene or act? Anyone
can argue the strengths or weakness of a given
character, scene, act, moment. But no one can talk
you out of why you’re writing what you’re writing.
No one should be able to seriously challenge you
on why you’re writing a particular story because if
you allow them to, and doubt yourself, maybe you
don’t know as clearly as you should what you’re
writing about.
Shamar White: Are these scenes or plays that
you’re hearing out loud? Does the feedback come
from people who are just reading it? Because
sometimes when you hear it, that helps you see,
“Oh, this is what I want to write about, but that’s
not what I’m hearing.” I had this class with Gary
that really helped me hear my play—what was
there, and what wasn’t. It took me out of my own
head. That did wonders for me.
Jane Willis: Yes, people come in and read.
Shamar White: Okay.
Jane Willis: We writers read around the table, or
we have actors come in and read.
Shamar White: Okay, so you do get to hear it.
Jane Willis: Yes.
Kyle Smith: Before I go into first readings, I have
somebody I trust—an editor or another playwriting friend—read through it. And I feel like once
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you have that first central idea articulated, you
can show it to someone else that you trust and ask
them if they see it in your work. If they do, I think
bringing it in becomes a little bit easier.
Garrett Kim: Yeah, whenever feedback can be
almost objective, from the things that have been
written down on the page, like, “What are you getting from it?” I find that’s when feedback is most
illuminating for me. Listening to other people
interpret something that is not ready to be interpreted is mind-blowingly frustrating.
And like what you said, when feedback becomes
prescriptive, I’ve experienced that too, where
feedback became about how other people wanted
to do what I was doing. It gets challenging to find
the pearls of wisdom. How you can take the kind
of nasty, prescriptive comments and turn them
into, like, “Okay, they’re coming from this point
of interest, and that’s reading as this. I can take
something away from that, even if I don’t write the
scene [Laughter] as they want me to.”
Gary Garrison: I’m curious to know—and if you
could all be specific about this—do you know the
difference between instruction and destruction?
You’re all in learning environments, and we empower people who teach us in ways that are healthy
and then sometimes, not so much. So how much do
you empower those that teach you? Do you know
what’s helpful to you? Do you know what’s not
helpful to you? And are you ever surprised in the
classroom by either of those, or anything like that?
Elijah Shaheen: I think this has to do with who
you trust for feedback about your work. I think instruction includes good, clear opinions about what
your piece of work might be about and what would
help make your ideas work more effectively. And
obviously, destruction, is the kind of person that
says something like, “Oh, no, no. This is blahhhhhh! Terrible! It would’ve been more interesting if
it was more ambiguous!” That’s actually something
someone said to me when I was presenting a reading. When someone is just giving blatant personal
judgments, then that’s not constructive criticism.
I think it is best to listen most carefully to those
people that you trust, who know you and know
your work…people who support you and are also
willing to be honest with you.
And I feel like it also depends on the type of
story you’re trying to tell. Say you have a story
about—like you said, a son becoming a man. If
there is a certain part in the story that someone
says they feel should be left out, but you know in
your heart it’s supposed to be there to help move
the story along, you can’t take it out, and you
shouldn’t let anyone alter your vision.
Gary Garrison: I don’t know if this will address
this for you, but when we create our plays, we’re
actually the only God in that universe at that
particular point. So you need to take your position
in heaven about it. Which I know sounds odd, but
what I mean—
Shamar White: I’ve never thought about it that
way.
Gary Garrison: You get to decide everything in
the universe. Everything. It gets tricky, because
our tools are human behavior, and human behavior
is a fairly well-charted area of study. If you’re smart
about who you’re writing and what you’re writing,
you can say, “In my world, she is gonna behave this
particular way, and this is why.” But that implies
that you have to take ownership of the world
you’ve created and be able and willing to defend it
(in a manner of speaking) if necessary.
Garrett Kim: Going off “instruction versus destruction,” the first thing I thought of comparing
those two is how, I feel like I’ve been in situations
where a teacher has been very hands on and has
been very hands off.
One feels like they’re intentionally instructing
you, feeding things into you, and then the other
one—which, sometimes I appreciate more, actually, when I feel like I know what I’m doing is like,
they kinda take a back seat, they let you suss it out
in class. They’ll be there if you need them, but
they’re more just like maintaining the room and
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allowing discussions and stuff to happen, which
sometimes is more helpful than someone telling
you how to write a play. Like, I don’t know think
I’ve ever been told by a professor, “This is how
a play gets written. It needs to have all of these
things. If it’s not, then it’s not a play.”
Kyle Smith: Going back to the question of how
much do I empower those that teach me—I do
empower them a decent amount, but only under
specific circumstances.
Specifically, I empower those who are intelligent note-givers and talented writers. Those
are the people I give more agency in my rewrites.
I do feel like I have the choice, and if I really do
love something, I will not kill it, no matter what
happens. If I make this choice that I think is really
powerful and I feel really passionately about, no
matter what note I get from a teacher, a friend, an
editor, I will not kill that choice. I will fight tooth
and nail to keep it in there.
Gary Garrison: What I admire about that position, and what I wish I could convince my students
of, is you can do anything in the world of your plays
as long as there is thoughtful reasoning behind it.
It’s when dramatists respond with, “I don’t know
why I did that,” that people can take a big pool
stick and poke a hole in it. To be able to say, “No,
this is the reason why I made this choice, and this
is what I’m trying to do. It may not be fully successful at this point, but this is what I intend,” is an
incredibly powerful place to be in the process.
Victoria Z. Daly: I think being able to distinguish between instruction and destruction is a skill
you acquire—or at least I try to—just like learning
the craft of playwriting. How to parse feedback’s
a skill, just like learning about dramatic structure,
conflict, character building—all those other things
that are always drilled into us.
I don’t give my instructors the kind of God-like
status, perhaps, that I used to, or take it all at face
value. I try to decide whether it’s useful to me.
Listening to you, Kyle, talk about whether you
were going to destroy something, I have to say,
I had one professor last year, to his credit, who
believed in a play I had no belief in, [Laughter] and
who kept telling me that he really thought it was
going to be great. I rewrote it this semester, and I
felt so much better about it. So that’s happened,
too. It’s not just about people destroying your
work, it’s also about listening to the ones who are
championing you, which I really appreciated.
Garrett Kim: Or who push you to do something
outside your comfort zone. I’ve had professors
who’ve told me to write the scary thing, the ambitious thing, instead of taking an easy way out,
which I think is so wonderful.
Charles Gershman: I absolutely agree with you.
Sometimes I feel like the most effective, or most
instructive and least destructive approach from
a teacher is to simply nurture and make you feel
confident. There are particular people I’ve worked
with who made me feel that way, and I just, I
cranked out a first draft really fast because I wasn’t
questioning or doubting myself.
Of course, later, when I read the draft, I saw all
the problems and rewrote it—rewrote it, rewrote
it—but those people are sometimes miracle workers, I think.
Shamar White: I kind of disagree. [Laughter] For
me—and this might stem from my background in
the Army—I kind of like to be broken down.
I mean, I like nurturing too, of course, but I
need to be challenged. I want honest constructive feedback. That’s why I came to grad school. It
doesn’t always have to be a pat on the back, it just
has to be helpful to my process. I feel most empowered when a teacher reads or watches my work,
and even though it’s a hot mess, they get what I’m
trying to do, what I’m trying to say. From there,
we’re able to workshop it, which I think empowers
them in return. And I’ve seen it in classes, where
some students have been broken down and they
get very defensive, they take it personally—which I
get, because writing is personal but for me, in that
instance, it just pushes me more.
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Gary Garrison: Whether you’re talking to teachers, directors, dramaturgs or producers, I think
what is more important is for you to say in some
form or fashion, “For me, this is how I like to work.
This is what I respond to—and by the way, this is
what I don’t respond to.” No one knows better
than you how you like to work in any process, and
it’s probably one of the more essential tools of collaboration that you’re able to communicate that to
other people.
Jane Willis: I think effective instruction, and
what I’ve found in teachers that have had an impact
in me on my work, is: what kinds of tools am I being given in class? When I’m sitting by myself in
front of the computer screen, what’s coming back
to me that’s helping me to move along in my play?
So I think effective instruction is kind of handing
that off, and there have been a number of tools
offered up in Beth’s class that I’ve found extremely
helpful. For example, I learned how to ask a question without couching it in an opinion. [Laughter]
Which is like learning how to exercise a whole new
muscle, because I’m so opinionated—of my work,
of everybody’s work. Using the father/son scenario
that you brought up before, Gary: If we ask only
the questions, we might ask: Why is Dad late for his
son’s birth? Why isn’t Dad there when his child is
born? What was he doing? What kept him from being there? Those questions would be truly helpful
to me if it were my play.
And there’s also language that goes along with
it phrases such as what’s the inciting event? What’s
the conflict? What does s/he want? Without the
language of play craft, how can we help another
writer develop his/her play? So again, these are
tools that can keep us moving along when we’re
sitting alone at the computer screen.
Gary Garrison: As a way of introduction to this
area of discussion: you’re all in school, or around
a school, certainly, and there will be a time in your
near future where that will no longer be the case.
So, there’s a moment where you will be set free of
this very regimented environment that shelters and
protects us somewhat. What, then, would you like
to know?
Charles Gershman: I have a husband in North
Carolina now, so that’s why I’m asking this—what
are the pros and cons of being an emerging writer,
not living in New York City, if such a thing is possible?
Shamar White: That was one of my questions,
too.
Gary Garrison: My answer now is different than
my answer would’ve been even five or ten years
ago. Because we are in the age of electronic media,
anything is possible, and you don’t have to be in
New York City at all. You have to have internet access and you have to be tech-savvy—you really do.
When I hear someone say, “I don’t know Twitter,
I hate Facebook, I don’t want to Skype…” my first
thought is, well, that’s silly. You need to know all
of those things and know them well. Ignorance
of technology is not an option. Why? Because
you want to be able to live anywhere in this world
without feeling disconnected to your career. So,
yes, you have to know how to Skype (for example).
I mean, you can have a dramaturgical Skype meeting
and you can watch rehearsals on Skype. The ramifications of that are huge.
Is it easier if you live in a metropolitan city?
I guess you could argue that, maybe. I’m not
convinced of it, though. I mean, we have Guild
members in every far corner of this country and
the world. Some writers are amazingly connected;
others sadly position themselves with, “I’m too old
or too tech-phobic to learn these tools.”
Shamar White: How would you get your footing in another place? NYC is where I’m building
my career. This is my community right now, but
I’m from Chicago where I’d love to have my plays
produced. I know it’s a great theater scene, but
still, I don’t know the theater community there. So
I’m not sure how to get established. I don’t know
where to start.
Gary Garrison: Right now, anywhere in the
country, you can walk in the door of any theater
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and say, “Hi, my name is (fill in the blank), I’m a
playwright. What can I do to help you?” Every theater in this country needs help—large or small—
everybody’s looking for a volunteer of some sort.
They depend on them, right? So it’s easy enough
for you to walk in the door and say, “This is who
I am. I’d like to get to know more about who you
are.”
I know we all have limited time. But we want
something from these theatres—a production,
their attention, to be considered for a writing
group, etc. And instead of walking in with our
hand out in that “what can you do for me” posture,
maybe a more productive approach might be to
walk in and say, “I want to get to know you, and I
want you to get to know me. And the easiest way
for that to happen is if I help you out. Can I work in
your box office? Can I work in your theater? Can I
be a reader for you?”
Joey Stocks: I’m going to interject here. I agree
with Gary and—if you’re a Dramatists Guild member and you are not living in New York City—we
have 30 regional reps located all across the country. Find your nearest regional rep and take them
for coffee. Connect. They are all volunteers, so ask
them if they need help. It’s all about networking,
which is exactly what Gary is saying. Connecting
with the DG reps might help you connect with
other local playwrights and general theatre community more quickly than if you were just on your
own. It’s a valuable resource you should explore.
VICTORIA Z. DALY’s plays have been developed at Actors Studio
and produced at ATHE Conference, Gi60 Festival (NYC/UK,)
Warner International Playwrights Festival, Berrie Center, Spokane’s
KPBX-FM, Edinburgh Festival, and elsewhere. She is founder of
NYC’s 9th Floor writers’ collaborative. Education: A.B., M.B.A,
Harvard; Certificat d’Etudes, L’Ecole Jacques Lecoq; current MFA
candidate, NYU/Tisch. www.victoriazdaly.com.
CHARLES GERSHMAN’s plays have been developed and produced
around New York City and around the U.S. His work often bridges
the absurd and the realistic, capturing extreme situations in the
everyday. He is indebted to Tina Howe, Arlene Hutton, and Rogelio
Martinez for their mentorship. www.charlesgershman.com
GARRETT DAVID KIM’s plays include The Great American
Novel Project, The Buck, and Pilot’s Wings. He will be graduating from Fordham University in May with a BA in Playwriting. He’s
proud to work at the 52nd Street Project as their Program Director.
ELIJAH SHAHEEN is nineteen years old and currently working on
his BA in screenwriting and playwriting at SUNY Purchase College.
His play The Movie Story was successfully produced at the Blueberry Pond theater in Ossening. Other writing endeavors include his
award-winning short films Princess Issues and Mute. Elijah is very
honored to be a member of the Dramatists Guild.
KYLE SMITH is a playwright originally from Orinda, California.
He is currently attending NYU for his MFA in Dramatic Writing.
His plays include Blinded, The Part of Me, Inherit the Earth,
Revolution, Frisky, and Squashy. His plays have been produced at
The Treehouse, The Robert Moss, and Shetler Studios.
SHAMAR WHITE’s plays include Battles and The Virgin, which
were both winners and received readings at the NYU/Tisch Dramatic
Writing Ten-Minute Script Festival. Originally from Chicago, IL, and
a combat Veteran, she is currently in the M.F.A. Dramatic Writing
Program at NYU/Tisch. Member, Dramatist Guild of America.
JANE WILLIS’ plays include: What She Wished For (directed by
Melissa Skirboll) staged reading, November 2015, at The Barrow Group. Slam! and Men Without Dates, (Ensemble Studio
Theater’s Marathon of One Acts. ) Slam!: anthologized in Ramon
Delgado’s Best Short Plays of 1986. The It Girl, screenplay,
(Martin Poll Productions/HBO), and outline/scriptwriter As The
World Turns.
[There’s more! Members can read the full text of this
article by logging onto our website here: http://www.dramatistsguild.com/dramatistmagazine/currentissue.aspx]
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THE MUSIC
DEPARTMENT
BY GEORGIA STITT
WELCOME TO THE
MUSIC DEPARTMENT.
For many people who aren’t musicians, the
fact that there is music happening during
a Broadway musical feels like magic. It is
mysterious—all of those people down in the
pit, the conductor waving his or her arms,
the emotional swell that sneaks up on you at
just the right moment in the play. How did it
happen? In a way, Broadway music IS magic,
yet another trick of the theater. But in truth,
it’s the culmination of many craftspeople,
many years of music education, and many
different line items in a producer’s budget.
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COMPOSER
ILLUSTRATIONS BY IAN SKLARSKY
I
n the beginning, someone has an idea for a show.
It might be a producer, or it might be a playwright, or it might be a composer or a lyricist or
the cousin of your next-door-neighbor. But someone
says, “Hey, this should be a musical!” and that’s when
the composer begins.
In my experience, writing a musical usually starts
with either a rough outline of an idea or even a rough
draft of a script (from a playwright), and the composer starts collaborating on how music will function
as part of the storytelling. What is the style of music?
How will the songs work? Who sings? What style of
singing is appropriate to these characters? For this
work, the composer becomes an author of the piece
of theater, and the tradition in musical theater is
that the authorship of the show is divided equally in
three parts: one third to the composer, one third to
the lyricist, and one third to the bookwriter—unless
the work is based on a pre-existing work (novel, film,
short story, etc.) and there is an underlying rights
holder, in which case there would be four equal parts
instead of three. In truth, this is a starting point for
negotiations, and there are many other ways deals
can be made manifest. Sometimes the composer/lyricist is the same person. Sometimes the bookwriter/
lyricist is the same person. Sometimes a team of two
people agrees to split everything 50/50 for simplicity
and equity. Sometimes a partner of higher prestige
will get a bigger piece of the pie. And sometimes a
director will take a piece of the author’s share off the
top, leaving the writers to divvy up the rest.
All of these points are negotiable, but a very fair
place to start a negotiation is with the assumption
that the person who composed the music is entitled
to a third (or quarter) of the authorship of the show.
Authors earn almost entirely royalty-based payments.
An author may or may not receive an option payment
or a commission (i.e, a fee or an advance against royalty income, if or when the show is produced), but
rarely would an author receive a weekly salary during
rehearsals or performances. It is assumed that the
authors’ payment comes
on the back end, in the
form of royalties.
An author’s property
can earn her income for
the rest of her life—and
beyond—and that is the
reward of authorship or,
in fact, copyright ownership. Indeed, this is
why theater authors are
members of a guild and
not a union. Beyond a
commissioning fee, if the
author is engaged to write
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a play (or given an advance if the play already exists)
and a producer acquires an option to produce it, the
composer begins receiving paychecks as soon as the
paying audience arrives. And then when the songs
go on to have their own lives, on recordings or in
printed sheet music or as telephone ring tones or on
a TV show, the authors of the songs are paid a licensing fee for each use. Music written for an unsuccessful show can actually cost the author more than she
earns (in the form of lost income, un-recouped demo
expenses and, yes, years of unpaid labor), but music
written for a successful show can generate considerable income for ages.
ARRANGER
A
nd now here’s where things begin to get
tricky. What is a composer supposed to deliver, fixed in a tangible medium of expression, in return for that piece of the authorship? Some
composers write at the piano and work out elaborate
piano accompaniments. Others compose on the
guitar and generate lead sheets with vocal lines and
chord symbols. Others don’t read or write music, but
can deliver elaborate recordings or sequenced files
to be transcribed and arranged. Legend has it that
several of our historic Broadway musicals were composed by authors singing into a tape recorder and
then handing off the cassette to a team of arrangers.
The bottom line is, sometimes composers need help.
It is pretty standard in the Broadway music community to understand that the making of a score
involves the COMPOSER, and then also 1) the
VOCAL ARRANGER who writes all of the vocal
harmonies and vocal countermelodies and textures,
2) the DANCE MUSIC ARRANGER who works in
conjunction with the choreographer to build the
dances based on the composer’s themes, and 3) the
INCIDENTAL MUSIC ARRANGER who works out
all of the underscoring and scene change music,
overtures, entr’actes and exit music. Each of these
jobs is fee-based, but arrangers customarily also negotiate for a weekly royalty, because they do not own
their work. Sometimes the composer does all of this
work himself (and is thereby entitled to the fee and
royalty), but sometimes there is a different person
for each arranging job. Sometimes even the music
director does all of the arranging, perhaps working at
night to notate on paper something that was improvised during the day’s rehearsal. And sometimes, the
arranging is actually done by the orchestrator.
ORCHESTRATOR
S
o, the composer and the arranger(s) have
come up with a score that gets you into
rehearsal. The pianist can play it, and maybe
there’s even a pianist and a drummer. (Especially
for dance rehearsals, there’s often a drummer in the
rehearsal room.) Or maybe it’s piano and guitar, but
it’s not the entire orchestra in rehearsal every day,
and there are many reasons for that. Orchestras are
big and expensive, so nobody pays for them until they
absolutely have to. Orchestra size is, in fact, one of
the points of conversation a music team has with a
producer very early in the process.
In accordance with the agreement between the
American Federation of Musicians and the Broadway League, Broadway theaters require a minimum
number of musicians determined by the size of the
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theater (the “house”). (Debating between musicians
and producers about the cost and value of orchestra
minimums circles around every few years as the musicians’ contracts come up for renewal.) Also, things
change quickly in the rehearsal room, and sometimes
in a few minutes of rehearsal, a song’s sheet music
might be ripped apart, re-ordered, re-structured,
put into a new key, given a bigger ending, etc. Those
changes take a few minutes to notate in a rehearsal
pianist’s book, but they take hours to change for a
whole orchestra.
An orchestrator’s job is to expand the score from
its rehearsal room state into a bigger score for a
larger instrumental ensemble. The orchestrator is
the person who decides, along with the composer,
which instruments will be used and what notes each
instrumentalist will play. For example: “If the clarinet player has the melody here, I will give him/her
the harmony over here.” OR: “I don’t want the harpist sitting there with nothing to do, so let me find
a way to include harp in the texture of this song.”
OR: “I need to keep the groove going through this
section of underscoring, but drums will be too loud.
I will put rhythm into the strings, but I will have them
pluck their strings instead of bowing, because that
will be quieter.” These are an orchestrator’s tools,
and for that he gets paid a fee and, again, customar-
ily a weekly royalty (either in a fixed amount or a
percentage of box office or operating profits of the
production).
Orchestrators are members of the musicians’
union, and their fees are based on the number of
measures of music in the score and the number of
instruments playing. A pretty basic starting assumption is that there will be four measures of music
on a page of orchestral score, and the union scale
lists minimum dollar figures depending on how
many instruments, or lines of music, an orchestrator will need. That figure is called a “page rate,” so
an orchestrator’s fee is calculated by determining
how many measures of music there are in the show,
divided by four and multiplied by the orchestrator’s
page rate. It’s all very straightforward until you learn
that many highly-lauded orchestrators can command
a page rate above union scale.
Indeed, everything above scale is negotiable,
including the issue of who owns the orchestrations
at the end of the day. Sometimes it’s the producer
and sometimes it’s the composer. It’s unusual for an
orchestrator to retain ownership of the orchestrations unless he has specifically negotiated to do so.
By and large, the orchestrations are paid for by the
production and then either owned by the production
or by the composer, who may, in fact, have ‘bought
them back’ from the producers.
MUSIC COPYIST
Y
ou thought we were done, didn’t you? Because now we’ve got the music composed,
arranged, and orchestrated—what else could
there be? Well, we’ve got to get the music OFF
the orchestral paper and onto the individual music
stands for the players, and that’s a job for a copyist.
Like orchestrators, copyists are paid by the page, and
their general price list is determined by the union.
You’re paying for their knowledge of music notation
but also for many other skills—proofreading the work
of the composer and the arranger/orchestrators,
knowledge of the instruments and their capabilities
and limitations, awareness of layout and considerate
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placing of page turns. In some cases, copyists have
developed their own fonts and symbols to incorporate the markings players usually hand-write into
their scores. A well-copied score is publishable. A
well-copied score saves rehearsal time and, in effect,
money.
It is worth noting that copyists are not traditionally entitled to royalties for their work, though orchestrators often are. Additionally, orchestrator and
copyist fees are determined based on the USAGE of
the work, so if, say, a copyist is paid to generate parts
for a Broadway pit, those parts cannot then be used
for another purpose without a “re-use” payment to
the copyist, as per their union agreement. Similarly, a
fee paid to an orchestrator for a score created for live
performance is not inclusive if that same orchestration is used in a new category. For example, when a
cast album is made, both orchestrator and copyist
get a re-use fee. Or if a number from a Broadway
show gets performed on TV or on a radio jingle or
in a concert hall, the orchestrator and copyist will
each get a re-use fee. As the show goes on to have a
life beyond Broadway, the orchestrations are often
included in stock and amateur licensing, and they are
the only design element that remains with the show in
perpetuity. For that, the orchestrators often receive
a one-time fee, essentially a buyout, at a rate determined by their union.
MUSIC DIRECTORS
S
often been involved in the hiring of the appropriate
arrangers, orchestrators, copyists, pit musicians, actors and sometimes even the sound designer, without
whom you wouldn’t be able to hear anything anyway.
The music supervisor will be the person who supervises the future music departments for additional
companies if the show goes on to a life beyond its
initial incarnation—that includes hiring and casting
tours and international productions and ensuring
they have the same quality as the original.
If there is no music supervisor, the MUSIC DIRECTOR takes on those supervisory responsibilities,
but his primary job is as an interpreter of the score.
The music director actually directs the music, telling
the singers, for example: “cut off on beat three,” or
“take a breath on the comma, not in the middle of
the word” or “we’re not all singing the same A-vowel
here; let’s fix that.”
THE CONDUCTOR
T
he CONDUCTOR is the one with the baton,
actually driving the bus and making sure
everyone plays/sings at the same time and
at the same tempo and with the same zeal. These
days, it’s not uncommon for the conductor even to
be conducting from the piano (or keyboard), using
head nods to communicate tempo and details like
entrances and cutoffs. There is usually a camera capturing video of the conductor’s face and upper body,
and this video is projected onto monitors all around
o. Who’s the boss? It’s a good question. In some cases, the composer
might seem like Top Dog, but it’s
pretty rare that the composer is in the
room making the day-to-day detailed decisions about the musical performances.
That person is the MUSIC DIRECTOR,
or in some cases, it’s the MUSIC SUPERVISOR. When a production employs a
music supervisor, that person is the head
honcho, and she oversees everyone in the
music department. A music supervisor
is part of the creative team, and she has
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the theater—for the actors, for the musicians who
may have limited sight lines, and even for the stage
manager calling the show.
Sometimes the MD and CONDUCTOR are the
same person, but sometimes the job is broken down
into its two distinct parts. Often on a big production
there is also an ASSOCIATE MUSIC DIRECTOR and
then an ASSISTANT MUSIC DIRECTOR and even
a MUSIC ASSISTANT. All of these people report to
the MUSIC SUPERVISOR (or the MUSIC DIRECTOR, as the case may be), and together they handle
the musical duties of several simultaneous rehearsals
and maintaining a score in constant flux. The associates are usually doing double duty as REHEARSAL
PIANISTS but sometimes there is need for an extra
pianist just to show up and play. Lucky music departments even have MUSIC INTERNS. I was one once. I
made $75/week.
PLAYERS
A
not pretty, but it does happen. What is it they say?
Oh, yes—the show must go on.
Magic? Nah, it’s just a bunch of music majors
meeting every night in the basement of a Broadway
theater, doing what they spent their lives learning
how to do. When they all create music at the same
time, musicians guide the energy of the show and
lead the audience down the author’s desired emotional paths. If they’re really effective, you can’t
imagine seeing a Broadway musical without them.
Next time you’re at a Broadway musical, stick around
for the exit music and then give the conductor an
extra round of applause. The music department is
having quite a party.
nd finally, there is the orchestra. On Broadway, an orchestra pit might employ a minimum of anywhere between four (Longacre,
Nederlander) and nineteen (Broadway, Minskoff, St.
James, Marquis) musicians in the pit, though there
are indeed cases where orchestra size exceeds the
minimum. Players get paid per show based on an
eight-show week, and there are several union perks
and bonuses if they do something special like play
more than one instrument or wear a silly hat during
Special thanks to my colleagues whose comments
the show.
contributed to this article:
Most of the players also have SUBS, who learn
the book and fill in when the players aren’t available.
DOUG BESTERMAN
(Think of them as orchestral understudies.) Many of
JASON ROBERT BROWN
the community’s best subs are prepared to play severMARY MITCHELL CAMPBELL
al Broadway shows within any given week. The person
who hires them all is called the MUSIC CONTRACSEAN PATRICK FLAHAVEN
TOR or MUSIC COORDINATOR, and he gets a
LINDSAY JONES
weekly fee and sometimes even a royalty to keep up
MAIRI DORMAN-PHANEUF
with all of the payroll paperwork and necessary union
STEPHEN FLAHERTY
reporting. I’ve heard stories about sub musicians in
CHRISTIAN HEBEL
midtown Manhattan getting an emergency call after
MARK SENDROFF
7:30 pm to show up and play an 8:00 downbeat. It’s
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BUSINESS EDUCATION
FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF BUSINESS AFFAIRS
Taxation
& Artists
Part
One
of Two
GARY GARRISON
RALPH SEVUSH &
MICHELE RITTENHOUSE
Transcript from the
Dramatists Guild 2015
National Conference
in La Jolla, CA
THOMAS F.R. GARVIN ATTORNEY &
ROBERT OBERSTEIN ACCOUNTANT
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Ralph Sevush: We’re going to be talking today
about taxation issues unique to writers and artists.
This conversation is inspired by a recent case involving artists, Susan Crile v. Commissioner of Internal
Revenue. I think it’s important for you to know from
the experience of writers what happens when the
IRS comes knocking and decides that your career as
a writer and your art is really just a hobby from their
perspective. So we’ll start with my Co-Executive
Director Gary Garrison, who unfortunately had this
issue arise.
Gary Garrison: I have a very complicated tax situation: I have four sources of income. My key income
comes from the Dramatists Guild, where I am
employed full-time as one of the Executive Directors. So any expenses that I might have related to
anything that I do with the Guild, I am reimbursed
through the Guild. Then I’m also, I taught for many,
many years (almost 23 years full-time at NYU) and
became a part-time lecturer when I went to the
Guild. I teach playwriting there, and I have expenses
associated with going to and from work, being sent
out by NYU to represent NYU in different places.
Those expenses are not reimbursed. I’m also a
lecturer across the country because I’ve written four
or five books. And that’s all on me when I go out
somewhere to talk from one of my books; those are
all my expenses. Often times, my travel expenses
will be picked up by the people who are hosting me.
I get a stipend. Some of the expenses are reimbursed and some are not. And then I am a playwright
and I go and see my own productions. I do everything that you guys do: I submit my material, I’m out
and about for dinners, I check into hotels. It’s often
not paid for, so I report those expenses as a playwright, sometimes a screenwriter and sometimes a
television writer. So the IRS looked at me and just
thought I was a big ole mess. In 2011, I was audited.
Here’s what I was audited for: all of my playwriting
expenses because they considered my playwriting
a hobby, even though I’m the Executive Director of
Creative Affairs at the Dramatists Guild, which is a
national playwriting organization, and even though
I teach playwriting at NYU, and even though all my
books are on playwriting. All their questions had to
do with my expenses as a playwright. And the person
on the phone that I actually spoke to at one point
said, “We consider this a hobby.” So what I was asked
to do was to write a narrative. I had to submit a narrative audit. I had to justify every expense of mine
narratively to the IRS.
Ralph Sevush: Well, you’re a storyteller.
Gary Garrison: (laughs) Yes. Which means, I had
to document all of my appointments, all of my
expenses, all of my hotel, all of my travel, all of my
meals and I had to put that against my journal. I’m
a fastidious record keeper. This is the only reason, I’m convinced, that I came out okay in this.
And “okay” is relative by the way. But I keep good
records of everything. It took me almost two months
to complete, every day. And I submitted seven
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notebooks to them, of expenses and calendars and
appointments and explanations. It would be everything: lunch with an Artistic Director. Here is their
webpage. Here is this Artistic Director’s bio, here’s
what we talked about at the meeting. All in narrative
form. For over 250 appointments.
Ralph Sevush: Wow.
Gary Garrison: It was maddening. This was
for 2011, I had a certain deadline I had to make. I
submitted them on Friday and then on Monday, I
got my audit notice for 2012 for exactly the same
thing. I was angry for months. I was angry because I
always thought that if I got audited, I would end up
in somebody’s office, to be really frank with you. I
mean who knew I was going to have to sit and write
a narrative about every single expense I had? That
was just insanity to me. The way my accountant explained it to me was because the IRS is short staffed
that this is what they
would prefer to do now. I
was clear to all but $1,500.
I had to pay $1,500. I was
so angry and so tired and
so overwrought with all of
it, this is in the 2011 audit,
I asked my accountant,
“Can I just pay the penalty?” I’m so tired, I was so
battered and beaten down.
Which would have been
substantial. And he said,
“It’s an admission of guilt,
if you do. It will open the
door for seven years."
Ralph Sevush: So did you hire a lawyer at any part
of this?
Gary Garrison: I had a lawyer ready to go but I
never had to use him because I was cleared of 2011
and I was fined on 2013. I still don’t know what I was
fined for. I mean I was so just ready for it to be over
with, I just signed the check and
sent it in. I don’t know if that’s
an admission of guilt. I was just
glad to get it over with. I was just
beaten down.
Ralph Sevush: Have you gotten any other audit
notices?
Gary Garrison: No, no, I’m good so far.
Ralph Sevush: Now, let’s continue with Michèle
Rittenhouse, a Dramatists Guild member and playwright who unfortunately had a similar experience.
Michèle, could you tell us what happened?
Michèle Rittenhouse: Yes, in late March of
2014, I received my first love letter from the IRS
for $21,000 and a “come on into my office and let’s
talk about it” from the caseworker. I freaked out. I
did a worksheet, and I had sent it to my accountant
and I paid a fair amount of money to have my taxes
done every year because I’m also the director of a
theatre arts and technology program at New Jersey
Institute of Technology and I’m a playwright, and so
my accountant said, “Oh, well I will meet with this
guy if you turn over a power of attorney to me.” So I
went, "Okay," and the following week I received my
second love letter for 2012. 2011 was the first one,
2012 was the second one for $22,000. I said, “Okay,
here’s the power of attorney, do something.” And
my accountant eventually met with the IRS representative and nothing was resolved, and I had to do
a narrative, just like you, Gary. And the IRS agent
disallowed absolutely everything that I deducted,
whether as a theatre director or a playwright. I just
didn’t understand what was going on and then my
accountant came back and said that the caseworker
thinks that I’m a hobbyist and not a true playwright.
And that’s when I freaked out and I emailed Gary
and in the subject line it said, “Am I a playwright?”
All of a sudden, the US Government was packing for
me. They were telling me I was not an artist. Well,
I am vocal about this situation at my university, and
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I also work at Rutgers University in Newark as an
adjunct because we have a joint program with them.
I found out that three of my colleagues who are also
artists were audited for the same year for the same
reasons.
Gary Garrison: I was asked
to do the same thing.
Gary Garrison: So we were audited, and we didn’t
know each other when we were audited the exact
same two years.
Gary Garrison: I was asked
to do my office at the Guild,
my office at NYU, my office
at home and any other ancillary offices, a portal office if I
had one.
Michèle Rittenhouse: I guess those are the targeted years because it was 2014. I signed the power
of attorney. There were lots of negotiations back
and forth. I did the narrative. The IRS said, “That’s
not good enough.” Then they wanted spreadsheets,
so I did the spreadsheets. I photocopied all my
material for both years and made a copy for myself
and then my accountant called and said, “Well, how
can you prove you’re a playwright?” So I sent him
thirteen scripts and my accountant printed up all
thirteen scripts and dropped it on the IRS agent’s
desk. And I printed up all 35 rejection letters that I
received and all the submissions that I’d made, and
the outstanding letters and acknowledgements of
receipt.
Gary Garrison: And if anything proves that you’re
a playwright, it’s 35 rejections.
Michèle Rittenhouse: I’m very persistent though,
and I got letters from both universities stating that
these expenses are absolutely non-reimbursable
by the universities and they come out of my own
pocket and I have to develop my craft in order to
teach my craft. Then my agent drafted a letter and
sent it. The website where my plays are posted with
my agent was sent to the IRS, and their agent said, “I
don’t have time to look at websites.” I love this request (this was my favorite): he wanted a photograph
of my offices to prove that I was a writer. So I sent
him photographs of my
offices in Upstate New
York and in Manhattan.
How intrusive is that?
Michèle Rittenhouse: Seriously?
Ralph Sevush: Actually, another issue I hope we’ll have
time to get to is about the other kinds of expenses,
including home/office expenses, and how deductible that is. But how did this resolve?
Michèle Rittenhouse: Well, I missed deadlines
for filing for 2013 because I was waiting for a determination which did not occur, and so I went ahead
and asked my accountant to file for no deductions
whatsoever for teaching or playwriting for 2013. I
said, I don’t know what he’s going to say and they’re
going to come after me and it’s going to cost me another $11,636.00 for my accountant to deal with all
that other stuff. So, no offense, we all have to make
money but you know, it was just way over the line.
And so how it ended up resolving was this February
2015, I finally got a determination and, out of the
$43,000 that was originally asked for, they dropped
all the penalty fines, they readjusted some, a few
mistakes that were made in there, and I ended up
paying for 2011, $2,259.00, and for 2012, $1,673.00.
Ralph Sevush: That’s about 10% of what they originally asked for.
Michèle Rittenhouse: That’s correct, but that
was the adjustment for those two years. We’re not
there yet. Then I had to pay $5,800 for 2011 and
2012 $6,900 with the adjustments, added to those
adjustments, and then it came to a total of $29,000
March/April 2016 | 47
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Great ch
Join us t
instead of $42,000 which was originally asked. And
then, the State of New York came after me because
of the adjustments. We refiled and I ended up having
to pay that and then I just received an adjustment for
that before I came here of $2,300, so they’re nickel
and diming me to death, it’s just horrible.
Gary Garrison: I should tell you that my $1,300
that was disallowed were about my meals and
entertainment. You know how if you go to a dinner
or something, they disallowed all of them in 2013. I
don’t know why they didn’t in 2011, but 2013 looked
bad to them for some reason. So that’s what they
disallowed.
Ralph Sevush: I’m going to introduce Tom Garvin
now. Tom is an attorney from Los Angeles, Beverly
Hills. He’s driven down through the rain to be with
us today and I appreciate that very much. Tom could
you talk to us a little bit about the big picture here,
the architecture. Could you describe what that is
and how that works?
Thomas Garvin: I will, but first I have great respect
and high regard for the written word and for authors
and playwrights. So don’t take any of these comments as anything other than just, unfortunately,
I happen to be the person on the panel who’s the
lawyer. (everyone laughs). It’s a very good question. It
goes the other way around which is, we have a voluntary compliance system, and so the cornerstone
of the tax system is that everybody self-assesses,
reports the amount of their gross income, and the
taxpayer has the individual burden of proof to establish their deductions. It doesn’t matter whether
it’s a mortgage deduction, medical or anything else.
Everybody has something that they like, an avocation, a pleasure, a pursuit, something that they find
enjoyable. People that have a passion for horses,
cars, or wealthy people that like having their own
jet aircraft. The tax law says it’s the burden of the
taxpayer to establish that, if you’re going to claim an
expense or deduction that the deduction is permitted under the tax code. So one of the things that
they don’t permit under the tax code is deductions
for what are, sometimes in shorthand referred to as
“hobby loss” deductions. So if you’re going to take
a deduction, you have to then say, here is what the
activity was that I was engaged in, it was a business
undertaking, a commercial undertaking, and then
establish how it is that you have the primary purpose
of generating a profit, and then establish your entitlement to all the deductions. The tax authorities
have heard every possible thing from the people that
like horses or they like private jet aircraft, or they
like collecting cars, or they paint and they give their
paintings away. If you’re someone who has as your
job the auditing and the selection of returns and
asking questions, you know, human beings are human beings. I’m sure you’re all absolutely wonderful
and would be the best people in the world to get to
know. But the statistical odds of 1,000 people coming together in a room and 1,000 people all being
100% scrupulously honest and scrupulous in selffiling is unlikely. The system of taxation that we have
in this country relies on self-assessment, and the
tool by which they try to deal with compliance, as
it’s often referred to, is random audits or something
that triggers an audit, and it does result in the types
of experience taxpayers have when they’re audited.
As a result there’s this dividing line between, on one
hand, establishing that you’re doing something for
a business pecuniary profit motive and establishing what the scope of that is, and on the other hand
what is it that are the deductions attributable that
you then are claiming as expenses are legitimate
permissible deductions. There is a short one-page
handout that gives you a sense of what the factors
are that go into determining whether the activity is a
trade or business carried on for a profit.
MFA
CRE
WRI
SPECIALIZE
PLAYWRITI
SCREENWR
TELEVISION
LIBRETTO
FICTION
POETRY
GRAPHIC N
CREATIVE N
Learn more
goddard.ed
or call 800
FIND
Lesley Un
ranked #4
the uniqu
scripts wit
directors.
to be reco
our partne
American
MFA IN CR
Fiction
Nonfic
Poetry
Writin
Writin
[This article will be continued in the May/June 2016 issue
of The Dramatist.]
Visit lesle
we can he
48 | The Dramatist
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432GSASPA15.indd
Great change happens at the edges.
Join us there.
Learn more at
goddard.edu/MFAwriter
or call 800.906.8312.
STEPHANIE LEARY
SPECIALIZE IN
PLAYWRITING
SCREENWRITING
TELEVISION WRITING
LIBRETTO
FICTION
POETRY
GRAPHIC NOVEL
CREATIVE NONFICTION
STEPHANIE LEARY
MFA IN
CREATIVE
WRITING
PLAYWRITING AND SCREENWRITING FACULTY
MFA Residencies in Plainfield, VT, and Port Townsend, WA
Kyle Bass Deborah Brevoort Rogelio Martinez Susan Kim Darrah Cloud
VISITING WRITERS AND INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS
Philip Himberg, Sundance Institute Theatre Program
John Clinton Eisner, Artistic Director, The Lark
Christopher Durang, Playwright
Polly Carl, HowlRound and Theatre Commons
Christine Vachon, Film Producer
Dael Orlandersmith, Playwright
Nilo Cruz, Playwright
FIND YOUR AUDIENCE
Lesley University’s MFA in Creative Writing,
ranked #4 by Poets and Writers, affords
the unique opportunity to work on your
scripts with professional actors and
directors. You’ll also you’ll have the chance
to be recognized as a playwright through
our partnership with the Kennedy Center
American College Theater Festival.
David Greenspan, Playwright and Performer
Lynda Barry, Playwright and Cartoonist
Jane Anderson, Playwright, Screenwriter, Director
Greg Kotis, Playwright and Librettist
Todd Haynes, Screenwriter and Director
Marisa Smith, Smith and Kraus Publishers
Terry Nolan, Artistic Director, Arden Theatre
“From the Deep,” rising
playwright Cassie M. Seinuk’s
play about an Israeli prisoner
of war and an American
student captive thrown
together, packs a potent,
emotional punch.
– Theater Mirror
MFA IN CREATIVE WRITING
Fiction
Nonfiction
Poetry
Writing for Stage and Screen
Writing for Young People
Visit lesley.edu/stage to discover how
we can help you find your audience.
Cassie M. Seinuk ’13
Playwright, Author of “From the Deep”
Winner of the Boston University
Jewish Cultural Endowment Grant,
the Latinidad Playwriting Award at
the Kennedy Center American College
Theatre Festival, and the Pestalozzi
full-length play prize at the Firehouse
Center for the Arts New Works Festival.
pp44-49 Feature E.indd 49
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6/30/15 1:40 PM
Dramatists
Guild
2014-2015
FELLOWS
Kristine
M.
Reyes
W
KRISTINE M. REYES is a playwright raised and based in New
York City. Her work has been performed in NYC, Chicago,
Minneapolis and Los Angeles, and includes Stage/Mother, Lola
Luning’s First Steps, Quarter Century Baby and Queen for
a Day. www.kristinemreyes.com
50 | The Dramatist
pp50-55 Fellows.indd 50
hat made
the fellowship so special to me
was being
in a group
of both
playwrights and musical theater writers.
The feedback I received from my fellow
Fellows and the mentors was always so
insightful, specific, and smart. But when
it came from the musical theater Fellows in particular, it often challenged
me to see new ways to approach my writing. Their process is so different from
my own experience as a playwright, and
it expanded my understanding of how to
create work that is theatrical, dynamic,
and compelling.
2/5/16 7:23 PM
Excerpt from
Lily in Love
LILY, a Filipina American Catholic woman, is a good
daughter who’s always known exactly what to do with her life.
But when she falls in love with ARLENE, her life suddenly
becomes very complicated.
ARLENE
You can’t just buy a dog without telling me.
LILY
But it was a surprise! Why, you don’t like her? She was
the cutest one in the shelter.
ARLENE
Lily, you don’t surprise someone with a dog.
LILY
Yes, you do! People do it all the time!
ARLENE
Yeah, to their five-year-olds. On, like, their birthdays.
LILY
I thought you loved dogs.
ARLENE
No, you love dogs. And I love you. So I humor you.
LILY
No, you don’t! You love dogs too! Whenever we see a
cute dog on the street, I always point him out to you,
and you go, “Aww, how cute!”
ARLENE
LILY
Yes, it is.
ARLENE
No. I do not say, “Aww, how cute!” I say, “Oh. How
cute.” Hear the difference?
...
You gotta take it back.
What? Why?
SCENE 5
That’s not how I say it.
LILY
I don’t understand how you can be so grumpy when
such an adorable sweetie face is looking at you with
her big, brown, puppy dog eyes!
LILY
ARLENE
No, of course you don’t.
ARLENE
LILY
ARLENE
We can’t take care of it.
LILY
Of course we can! Didn’t you say we’d make such good
parents?
ARLENE
To a kid, Lil. Not a puppy.
LILY
But...a puppy is like a kid?
ARLENE
A kid grows up. A puppy stays a dog. And you’re always
gonna have to feed it and clean up its shit and piss, and walk
it however many times a day. No, a puppy is not a kid.
LILY
But a puppy stays cute and fluffy forever, and never
grows up to be a sulky, sarcastic teenager! A puppy is
way better than a kid!
ARLENE
But I don’t want a puppy. I want a kid.
LILY
Oh...You were serious about that?
ARLENE
Weren’t you? You had your serious face on and everything.
LILY
Come on, I was so shit-faced that night.
ARLENE
Yeah, but all that baby talk came from somewhere.
It’s okay to admit it, Lil. You want a family, you always
have.
LILY
I want different things now. I want you.
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ARLENE
And you have me. But that doesn’t mean we can’t also
have a family.
It’s just that...
LILY
I didn’t even think you wanted one.
What?
ARLENE
I didn’t think I did either. But when you brought it
up...I dunno. It felt right.
LILY
ARLENE
LILY
There’s a chance she might not get adopted. And then
they’ll have to...
LILY
Yeah...I really wasn’t expecting that.
ARLENE
No! Don’t you go all Sarah McLachlan on me! That’s
not my problem!
ARLENE
Trust me, I was surprised by it too.
But...
LILY
You know you can’t take me seriously when I’m that
drunk, babe.
Lil...
ARLENE
But I thought maybe you were ready to–
She’s so...
LILY
I’m not. I’m sorry, Arlene. I didn’t mean to get your
hopes up.
Lil!
ARLENE
So...you brought home a puppy as some sort of consolation prize?
That’s not–
Yeah. I think it is.
(BEAT)
LILY
ARLENE
LILY
Okay, fine...Maybe it is. But I’m trying my best here,
babe.
ARLENE
I get it, Lil. But I’m not five. You can’t make things better by waving a puppy at me.
LILY
You’re right, I’m sorry...I can take her back if you want.
LILY
ARLENE
LILY
ARLENE
LILY
Okay, okay! We won’t keep her. But let me at least try
and find her another home. Please?
...
ARLENE
LILY
The puppy says please, too! “Pretty pretty please,
pretty lady!”
ARLENE
Okay, fine! But you’re responsible for all its shitting
and eating and walking. And it better not piss in my
shoes.
LILY
Thank you, babe! I’ll find her a new home as soon as I
can, I promise.
(BEAT)
And I’m sorry. I really am.
ARLENE
Yeah, I think that’s a good idea.
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Tim
Rosser &
Charlie Sohne
O
ne of the most striking parts of the fellowship was that
everyone was coming from such a different background
that there wasn’t a reigning ideology in the room of how to
put a show together. Playwrights certainly have a different
perspective and different tools than musical theater
writers — but even among the musical theater writers,
it was really striking how every team in that room had a
unique approach to putting together a song - and, for that matter, putting together
a show. This led to a freeing environment where people were really responding to
the material that was put in front of them on its own terms.
TIM ROSSER and CHARLIE SOHNE are recipients of the 2015 Jonathan Larson and Mary Rodgers/Lorenz Hart Awards. Their work
includes: The Boy Who Danced on Air (NAMT 2013, NAMT Development Grant 2014, NAMT Production Grant 2015, World
Premiere at the Diversionary Theater in 2016), The Profit of Creation (Yale Institute for Music Theatre 2011), and their boyband slash
fiction pilot script Truth Slash Fiction (Finalist - Austin Film Festival Script Competition 2015, currently in production with Schloss
Creative). Their work has been seen in concert at: The Kennedy Center (Millenium Stage), 54 Below, Birdland, Broadway au Carre in
Paris and Above The Arts and Theatre Royal Stratford East in London. They were also members of ASCAP’s Johnny Mercer Songwriters
Workshop and participants in the 2015 Rhinebeck Retreat.
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Excerpt from
Run Away Home
Run Away Home is loosely based on a few different true
stories. In our show, a mother (LEANNE) whose son (AUSTIN) has been missing for five years, has her life turned upside
down when a boy shows up claiming to be her long lost child.
Over the doubts and objections of her daughter (AMBER),
LeAnne takes the boy in as her own.
This first moment from the show occurs right before the
boy arrives. Amber has been doing all she can to keep her
mother afloat these past few years, while LeAnne has dedicated
her life to trying to find her lost son. Things have reached a
breaking point however, and Amber can no longer support the
two of them on her meager salary. She suggests that LeAnne
dip into a savings account where she’s been keeping money
tucked away for Austin’s college. LeAnne refuses to touch the
account—her boy is coming back and will expect her to be
there for him.
AMBER
And when they cut off the power and put you out on
the street, what then? You’re just gonna let that money
sit there? (Beat.)
LEANNE
...No. It won’t be sitting there at all. It’ll be helping my
baby boy when he goes off to school.
SONG: Folks Out There
LEANNE
IT MEANS HE WON’T BE WORKIN EXTRA SHIFTS
HE’LL BE IMPROVIN’ ON HIS NATURAL GIFTS
SIGNING UP FOR SPORTS
MAYBE RUN TRACK
HE’LL BRING HIS OLD GUITAR AND LEARN TO
PLAY
LIKE HOW HE USED TO STRUM IT EVERY DAY
GOD, I HATE THAT NOISE
…WISH IT WERE BACK
AND IT ALSO MEANS IF SOMETHING SOMEHOW
TURNS OUT WRONG
HE WON’T HAVE TO WORRY
HE CAN GET ALONG
CAUSE HE’S GOT FOLKS OUT THERE WHO CARE
HE’S GOT FOLKS OUT THERE WHO CARE
WHEN YOU GOT FOLKS OUT THERE WHO CARE
YOU CAN DO ANYTHING
LeAnne brings her daughter closer.
LEANNE
IT MEANS HE’LL COME HOME ANY TIME OF
YEAR
TO DO HIS LAUNDRY OR JUST HAVE A BEER
GOD HE’S SOUNDIN’ SMART
SEE HOW HE’S GROWN?
IT MEANS HE’LL HAVE A CHANCE TO MEET
SOMEONE
OR FOOL AROUND A BIT AND HAVE SOME FUN
AMBER
Mom!
LEANNE
GETS IT FROM HIS MOM
…HE CAN’T BE ALONE
AND IT MEANS THAT IF THE WORLD BECOMES A
BIG OL’ MESS
HE WON’T HAVE TO WORRY
HE WON’T HAVE TO STRESS
CAUSE HE’S GOT FOLKS OUT THERE WHO CARE
HE’S GOT FOLKS OUT THERE WHO CARE
WHEN YOU GOT FOLKS OUT THERE WHO CARE
YOU CAN DO ANYTHING
LEANNE
AND AUSTIN HAS A SWEETNESS
AUSTIN LOVES HIS MOM
WHEN OTHER KIDS MADE FUN OF HIM
MY AUSTIN WOULD STAY CALM
CAUSE AUSTIN HAS A SPIRIT
…THAT’LL BRING MY BABY BACK HOME
AMBER, HE’S COMING HOME
WHAT’S GONNA BE HERE WHEN HE COMES?
WHAT’S GONNA BE HERE WHEN HE COMES?
A BROKEN WINDOW
A BUSTED FENCE
…AND A LITTLE MONEY, AMBER
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WON’T BE LONG, NOW
WON’T BE LONG, NOW…
Later in the show, AMBER has doubts as to whether
this new boy is actually AUSTIN, but LEANNE refuses
to listen to her. Frustrated and feeling more alone than
ever, AMBER turns to the memory of the boy who
meant so much to her.
SONG: Simply Because
AMBER
REMEMBER MOLLY’S DINER WHERE WE’D
ORDER CORNED BEEF HASH?
REMEMBER HOW YOU’D FEEL IT IN YOUR
CHEST?
BUT YOU STILL REFUSED TO LEARN
CHERRY COKES
APPLE PIE
AND THE TIME WOULD START TO FLY
MOLLY KEPT FRYING
HEART WOULD START TO SINK?
REMEMBER HOW HE’D PUNCH THE WALL AND
CURSE?
I WOULD RUN AND LOCK MY DOOR
YOU’D APPROACH
THEN YOU’D KNOCK
THEN WE’D STAY UP LATE AND TALK
IT HELPED ME FORGET IT
SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU WERE THERE
THE DAYLIGHT SEEMED TO HAVE MORE
COLORS
SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU WERE THERE
THE NIGHTTIME SEEMED A BIT LESS GREY
WE HAD THAT SPECIAL SPOT
BY THE MILLPOND, IN THE WOODS
A SMALL ESCAPE
WHERE ALL THE THINGS THAT MADE ME
AFRAID
WOULD SLOWLY START TO FADE
REMEMBER HOW THE KIDS AT SCHOOL WOULD
CALL OUR FAMILY TRASH?
REMEMBER THEY’D MAKE FUN OF HOW WE
DRESSED?
HOW MY EYES WOULD START TO BURN
REMEMBER HOW I SEEMED TOO SCARED TO
EVER MOVE AWAY
REMEMBER HOW I TOLD YOU ALL I FEARED
THAT I’D COME BACK FULL OF SHAME
YOU IGNORED EVERY STARE
LIKE YOU DIDN’T EVEN CARE
IT STOPPED ME FROM CRYING
BUT YOU SAID
NO, YOU MUST
AMBER TREAT THE WORLD WITH TRUST
THE WORLD CAN SURPRISE YOU
SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU WERE THERE
THE DAYLIGHT SEEMED TO HAVE MORE
COLORS
SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU WERE THERE
THE NIGHTTIME SEEMED A BIT LESS GREY
I REMEMBER HOW IT SCARRED MY SOUL TO
WAKE THAT FATEFUL DAY
AND HEAR THAT YOU HAD UP AND
DISAPPEARED
…THE DINER’S NOT THE SAME
REMEMBER HOW INSANE IT GOT WHEN MOM
WOULD START TO DRINK?
REMEMBER EVERY HOUR SHE GOT WORSE?
AND WE’D NEVER KNOW WHAT FOR …
SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU WERE THERE
I LEARNED THAT LIFE CAN LOSE ITS COLOR
SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU WERE THERE
I LEARNED THE BRIGHTEST COLORS FADE
I WOULD FREEZE
YOU WOULD CROUCH
AND THEN HELP HER TO THE COUCH
YOU’D NEVER SWEAT IT
SHOULD I RUN TO THOSE WOODS?…I DON’T
DARE
SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU WERE THERE
REMEMBER HOW WHEN BRYSON YELLED MY
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NATIONAL
REPORTS
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DG Regional Representatives across the country
Atlanta
by Pamela Turner
I
t’s two days into the new year and Manuel’s
Tavern, the iconic soul of in-town Atlanta
since 1956, has shut down for renovations
by a new “outsider” owner. I’m scared.
It won’t be the same. Then, I remember
an interview with author Ray Bradbury who
preached that life should be about standing
on the edge of a cliff, jumping off, and then
making wings on the way down. Okay. Scary
can also be exhilarating: a new beginning.
With this in mind, I’d like to acknowledge
the changes happening at Working Title Playwrights as Managing Artistic Director (and
DG member) Jill Patrick steps (jumps!) down
to focus on her own writing projects. She
THE GUILD HAS 30
REGIONAL REPS
in urban areas with the greatest
concentrations of Dramatists Guild
members. Your Regional Reps are
there to answer any questions you
may have about your membership,
keep you informed on local
programming sponsored by the
Guild, and provide up to three
regional reports for The Dramatist
each subscription year. A complete
list of Reps (and their email
addresses) can be found on the
Staff Directory page of the Guild’s
website.
has been director since 2006, and with the
conviction that it is time for new “blood” will
officially transfer from staff to board member
by February 2016.
A commanding and charismatic presence,
Jill has increased both membership and community relations while developing expanded
programming such as the Ethel Wilson Lab
and the 24-Hour plays. Now Patrick’s successor, theatre director Amber Bradshaw, is
ready to take her own leap and there for the
ride is DG member playwright Paul Donnelly
who joined the board in 2013. As part of a
writers’ community “from the late ‘70s until
[he] left the DC area in 2009,” Donnelly
credits WTP as an important part of his reengagement into writing and makes assurance
that the “Monday Night Critic Sessions…are
invaluable and will always be the core of what
we do, [springing from] the impulse to serve
writers.” But Donnelly admits that he is most
excited about finding ways to “enhance the
community of artists participating…expanding
the range of voices we serve…whether that’s
generationally or artistically.” He mentions
56 | The Dramatist
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PHOTO: PERRY PATRICK
the support that theatres such as the Alliance
and Essential have given to WTP and says that
increasing that roster of collaborative partners is likely to be part of the new strategy, as
is further development of financial sponsors and “enhancing [our] public profile.”
Personally, he hopes to help with strengthening WTP’s administrative structure. “The
greatest enemy to any of these plans,” says
Donnelly, “is being discouraged by the fact
that it isn’t easy.” Amen, Brother. www.
WorkingTitlePlaywrights.com.
Another DG member taking the leap
was Nedra Pezold Roberts, who decided
five years ago to trade her extensive teaching and academic writing career in favor of
becoming a playwright. “I just couldn’t juggle
creative writing [along with everything else]
so I ‘retired’.” The first two years were pretty
tough, but “I seem to be finding lots of traction over the past three years.” Now Roberts’
name just keeps popping up everywhere,
from a recent reading of Wash, Dry, Fold at
Essential Theatre, which is now scheduled
for production at Chicago Street Theatre in
May-June 2016 after winning the AACT 2015
NewPlayFest, to earlier news that Vanishing
Point won the AACT 2013 NewPlayFest and
Skydiving Playwright – Jill Patrick
the 2013 Southeast Playwrights Competition,
to an article “Thoughts on the Playwright’s
Experience” in both The Purple Pros on-line
magazine and The Atlanta Writers Club
eQuill. There are many more productions,
readings, and awards, including Roberts’ note
that “the craziest thing was in June 2015 when
I had not one but two plays running simultaneously in New York City.” Maybe she knows
crazy by way of being a native “New Orleanian” – “I passed my childhood and early adult
life falling in love with my city” – who calls it
“the touchstone for my soul.” At least one
of her plays takes characters “straight out of
the New Orleans I know,” though she says
that all of her plays begin with “voices in my
head, snatches of conversation…that won’t
leave me alone…” Roberts has taken to heart
a quote from Lillian Hellman (my paraphrase)
that when stage lights come up they come up
on trouble, and also one from Athol Fugard,
“The playwright’s job is to figure out what
to tell and when to tell it.” In response to
the latter, she adds “I think my obligation to
an audience is to engage their minds as well
as their emotions.” Perhaps the “mind” part
comes from learning “early in my teaching
career that I needed to pay attention to what
Playwright Nedra Pezold Roberts
PHOTO: CATI TEAGUE PHOTOGR APHY
PHOTO: PERRY PATRICK
Jill Patrick
my students were hearing when I explained
something…to anticipate their confusion and
short-circuit it with clarity.” As for the emotion part, take note of an audience who had
fallen in love with her “Uncle Slack character” (a Vietnam P.O.W.) in Wash, Dry, Fold
and “became very vocal in their objections to
his dying at the end of the play (reading, Dayton Playhouse’s 2014 Future Fest). Afterward,
a stagehand who was also a Vietnam veteran
came up to Roberts with tears in his eyes and
said, “Don’t listen to them. You did the right
thing. You gave Slack the only way to get out
of his cage. You set him free.” Making wings.
www.nedrapezoldroberts.com
[email protected]
March/April 2016 | 57
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Austin/
San Antonio
by Sheila Rinear
I
Ann is a Maryland/DC-based playwright,
director, and actor. She has co-authored several full-length and ten-minute comedies with
her brother, Shawn. These include Romeo &
Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending, which won
Best Comedy and Best Overall Show at the
2010 Capital Fringe Festival, and which has
been published by Playscripts. Short works
have been performed in DC by Pointless Theatre, Pinky Swear Productions, and Rorschach
Theatre, and in London by Etcetera Theatre.
Ann received her B.A. in theatre and English
from the University of Maryland, College
Park.
Brent: Can you describe a theatre experience that shaped you as a writer?
Ann: When I was a kid, my dad took me
to a production of Noises Off, and it blew my
mind. The experience of being in this packed
theatre, everybody laughing and grinning,
stuck with me. All these strangers walked into
this room and, with each joke that made them
laugh together, became more of a community. Plus, they staged the show with the director character sitting in the audience with us,
yelling through a megaphone. It hammered
home even more this idea that we were all in
this together—the audience and the people
in the show. So, yeah, I’m a comedy writer,
and when I direct, I ignore the fourth wall.
Brent: Are there themes to which you
Ann Fraistat
Baltimore
by Brent Englar
L
ast year my ambassador, Katie Ganem,
moved out of the region. I’d like to
introduce my new ambassador, Ann
Fraistat (FRY-stat).
CLINTONBPHOTOGR APHY
n Austin, a 2015 graduate of The University of Texas MFA directing program, Jess
Hutchinson, has founded a new theater
company, groundswell (www.groundswelltheatre.com) devoted to the development
of new work. I asked Jess to tell me about
groundswell.
Jess: In the same way that some of the
other great theatre schools—Yale, Brown,
UCSD, for example—have professional
companies directly affiliated with their MFA
programs, we saw an opportunity to create
that kind of company here in Austin, separate
from but certainly still in conversation with
UT. We also wanted to provide a place
where the kind of rigorous development and
experimental productions of new plays that
we all enjoyed as students could continue
after school, utilizing the shared vocabulary
that geniuses like Steven Dietz, Kirk Lynn,
Liz Engelman, and Suzan Zeder have taught
us, and continuing to build on the important
relationships we forged by being Longhorns.
groundswell is our attempt to do all of those
things while continuing to bring Austin into
the vital national new play conversation.
News about her new company was
impressive enough, but groundswell—with
guidance and support from UT’s Chair of the
Department of Theater & Dance, Dr. Brant
Pope, and his faculty—have already organized
their inaugural conference for playwrights:
groundswell playwrights conference/GPC.
This conference, at the time of writing this
report, was on the calendar for January 17-23,
2016 in Austin on the UT Campus. The
conference was founded on the notion of
selecting writers rather than selecting specific
scripts. Three playwrights—a UT alum, a
faculty member, and a current graduate
student—were invited and offered time and
resources to work on whatever they want for
a week after which there will be a final marathon day of readings and discussions open to
the public…and it’s all free.
Jess: Many play development oppor-
tunities are all about the play you submit.
We want to champion writers we love, and
trust them to bring in whatever strikes their
fancy—a passion project. UT has a great thing
going with its MFA programs in playwriting
and directing, but there’s no established
pipeline between UT and the professional
world. We’ve borrowed elements from other
development conferences we love—places
like PlayPenn, the O’Neill, and the New
Harmony Project—in order to craft what we
hope will be a valuable week for all the artists
involved, and for our audience, too.
I asked Jess if the company and its conferences will remain a pipeline strictly for UT
affiliated playwrights.
Jess: I’m not sure just yet. This really is a
beta-testing year to see how it goes. The desire to showcase UT folks certainly is strong,
so my gut is that it will remain an invited
conference that focuses on UT, but we might
decide to change course after this year.
I really admire this young director who has
the energy to solve a national problem by offering solutions in her own community.
Jess: There is not yet a widespread
enough community that values new work,
especially new play-type plays (as opposed
to more avant garde or devised work) in our
region. It’s hard enough to be an artist at all
in Texas, right? But I’m encouraged. The national conversation about how and why we
are making this work in the broadest sense
feels like it’s turning. I think it’s more important than ever for artists to be vigilant, come
together, and start getting even more creative
about how we’re getting our work heard and
how we’re considering our communities and
our audiences as we do it. I’m hopeful that
the GPC will be part of that push. Ambitious?
Absolutely. But I come from Chicago where I
was taught to make no small plans.
[email protected]
58 | The Dramatist
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CLINTONBPHOTOGR APHY
find yourself returning in your work?
Ann: Shawn and I love to mash comedy
up against other genres, which have varied
from horror to Shakespearean romance. One
constant, though, is that our plays tend to
explore how people can be changed by their
relationships, for better or worse. When it
ends up for the better, it often becomes
about how people can find the power of hope
and redemption in each other.
Brent: Which theatre companies in
your area provide outstanding support for
dramatists?
Ann: The one I’d most like to highlight
is Venus Theatre (in Laurel), which accepts
open submissions and produces only new
works. With every show that opens at Venus,
a new play debuts, and that’s really exciting—
especially because so many are written by
female playwrights, who often receive fewer
opportunities than their male counterparts.
Brent: What led you to join the Dramatists Guild? How have you used its resources?
Ann: In 2011, I joined the Dramatists
Guild on the advice of a more seasoned
playwright. My brother and I were interested
in trying to get a play published. When we
received a publishing offer, the DG offered us
wonderful advice about how to move forward
with the contract and how to work with our
publisher to bring it in line with industry
standards. Their sample contracts have been
a huge help in understanding what our rights
are as playwrights, and how to work without
accidentally giving those rights away. We also
use the DG Resource Directory to find opportunities. That’s how our ten-minute piece
Of Mice & Madness was selected for the
London Horror Festival!
Brent: Why did you agree to become a
DG Ambassador?
Ann: Writing is so often a solitary activity,
but theatre is inherently collaborative. It can
be hard to know how to bridge the gap. When
I first graduated from college, I was doing a
lot of self-producing, so I had a built-in outlet
for my and Shawn’s plays. More recently, I’ve
been self-producing less, and Shawn and I
have begun to feel that gap more. How do
we take these plays we’ve created on our
hard drives and help them find their way to
a stage where they can live and breathe? I
know we’re not the only ones trying to puzzle
pp56-69 NationalReports.indd 59
this out, and I love the idea of trying to help
create more opportunities for other local
playwrights to workshop their plays. Readings
and workshops are vital because when we see
our shows on their feet, that’s how we can
best learn, grow, and feel inspired to keep on
creating.
[email protected]
Colorado
by Josh Hartwell
B
oulder Ensemble Theatre Company
cares about playwrights who have
kids. Of course, yeah, they care
about other playwrights, too. But
BETC Generations is the company’s play
writing competition and workshop opportunity for dramatists who have children under
eighteen years old.
The venture has evolved. The first
incarnation of Generations was a different
idea entirely (then called The Generations
Project). A couple of us would meet with a
group of seniors over the course of several
weeks, simply to help document stories from
their lives. Then we split up and massaged
these stories into a site-specific play. It was a
successful event, and since Generations has
morphed, it definitely feels more at home
with the Boulder Ensemble family.
“Coming out of that, we were looking for
a way to put more of an emphasis on new play
development,” Producing Ensemble Director
Stephen Weitz said. “We identified a funding
source called Sustainable Arts Foundation
which supports artists and writers specifically
with families. It was a great connection to
who we are as a company, so we switched it
into an open play competition.”
The subject matter of the plays does not
need to have anything to do with parenting.
Other than the having-young-kids requirement, there are few limitations. The play
must be a full-length, unproduced play requiring fewer than seven actors.
“That’s just to keep it to a level so that
it’s something that we could conceivably
produce,” Weitz said. “Developing a play is
like looking for a house. We look for a strong
structure and strongly drawn characters.
Clear narrative arc. When I talk to the writers,
the first question I ask them is, ‘for you, what
is this play about? What do you want us to
leave thinking about?’ And then, with a little
guidance and love from our creative team,
we’re going to help mine the best story…I
hear from a lot of playwrights. Other competitions are helpful, but a lot of them are
not workshopping the plays in detail. Writers
have told us that it’s really exciting to get to
work with a group of actors for a week, and
to spend a little more time with the words of
the play.”
I asked Heather Beasley, Director of Programs and Grants, how BETC Generations
differs from other writing competitions.
“A fair number of other competitions
offer the winning playwright a residency and a
staged reading with public feedback,” Beasley
said. “But we’re the only one that offers a
childcare stipend during the residency…I also
think the quality of our residency experience
is unique. We put in roughly 30 hours of table
work, director/dramaturg/playwright script
meetings, and staging time prior to the public
reading, over just six days. The two playwrights who have completed the residency
so far have both spoken about the intensity
of our focus on their own goals for their work.
Our creative team serves the winning play by
making space for the playwright to rewrite,
hone, and strengthen the script at the residency’s center.”
And, music to many writers’ ears, BETC
does not require submission fees—a factor
that Simon Fill, the Generations winner from
2015, can appreciate. The program helped
him “provide that elusive affirmation so many
playwrights have to contend with,” Fill said.
“Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s
professionalism, passion for my new play
Burning Cities, their genuine desire to make
the play as strong as possible while keeping my artistic vision and voice intact, their
lack of ego—all these qualities permeated
the play development process…Stephen,
Heather, and the actors provided a great deal
of feedback. I was present for every rehearsal,
and revised during them. I did larger revisions
day and night when not in rehearsals. The
atmosphere at rehearsals was warm, passionate, and honest. There was a total focus on
improving the play.”
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Connecticut
by Charlene Donaghy
I
cut my theatre teeth in community theatre
enough years ago that I am not going to
say when it started. And, currently sitting
in Nebraska, teaching at the incomparable
University of Nebraska Omaha low-residency
MFA in Playwriting, I decided to check out
Omaha community theatre. Did you know
that Henry Fonda began his acting career
at the Omaha Community Playhouse at
age twenty, when his mother’s friend,
Dodie Brando (mother of Marlon Brando),
recommended that he try out for a part in an
upcoming production? How wonderful is that
little tidbit?
The American Association of Community Theatre has an inspiring website quote
from Robert Edward Gard’s 1968 Theater
in America: appraisal and challenge for the
National Theatre Conference. Gard states
“Community Theatre occupies a peculiarly
important position in the American theater
picture…It engages more people in theatrical activity, albeit part-time, than all the
rest of the American theatre put together,
including schools and colleges.” And while
I, and many of us, now also enjoy time in the
professional realm of theatre, the geeky,
retainer-wearing, chunky junior high-schooler that I was, who first tripped across the
boards at The Warner Theatre (never mind
how long ago) appreciates that community
theatre did and does exist.
As I swing back into Connecticut, I don’t
have enough room here to list the number
of incredible community theatres in our
state, ranging from Desultory Theatre Club
to Barnyard Theatre Ensemble, Westport
Community Players, and the list goes on and
on. I asked my fellow Connecticut Dramatists
Guild members for their thoughts and experiences with Connecticut community theatres.
Bill Squier writes: I’ve benefitted greatly
from Connecticut theaters that are either
community-based or semi-professional.
Curtain Call in Stamford has been a terrific
place to either try out my new musicals in
main stage readings or small productions on
the second stage. The Spirit of Broadway
Theater in Norwich (now the Chestnut Street
Playhouse) premiered four of my musicals in
full productions and commissioned me to
write a fifth. Both theaters gave the shows
runs from two to five weeks and at SBT I was
encouraged to try revisions out up until the
last performances!
Kato McNickle states: I used to run a
community/Connecticut based new play
development project called the Local
Playwrights Festival, with space donated by
The O’Neill; it was modeled on the National
Playwrights Conference. It nurtured a handson community for developing new work,
used 50-60 local actors, and developed up
to eight plays each year. I am still working
with many of the folks that I met through that
initiative.
I echo my fellow CT DGers in that my
experience with community theatre in Connecticut has been good in building a community of theatre artists that I am honored to
be a part of and support. However, seeing as
Keith Paul of Desultory Theatre Club.
MANDI MARTINI – © THE WARNER THEATRE 2015
Heather Beasley, again, emphasized the
importance of including parents of young kids
as writers. “Want more successful women
playwrights and playwrights of color? Make
sure more playwrights can keep writing, and
cover their basic expenses while doing it, so
they can keep writing through their parenting
years…Parent playwrights need to tell the
stories of our young families, or caring for our
aging parents and kids at the same time, or
the pressures parenting puts on a marriage,
and all the many stories of middle age. Because they’re our stories to tell.”
For more information, or to eventually
submit to Generations (BETC starts accepting submissions again sometime late in the
summer), visit http://www.boulderensembletheatre.org/. Overall, Generations has
been fantastic for BETC, and Stephen Weitz
feels like it’s “a good mirror to who we are as
a company,” adding…“All the members of
our staff have young children. We fight that
battle between doing good creative work and
supporting our families. Developing plays is
important. If theatres don’t take on the development of good work, then we as a company
shouldn’t be surprised if we can’t find good
BETC plays.”
[email protected]
this is the reality check issue, I think more can
be done. One of our members brought forth
the reality that some theatres simply don’t
produce works by local dramatists. They
cultivate a community of talented actors, directors, designers, and the like, but they don’t
offer the same for local writers. And while
reality is such that community theatres work
hard to raise funds to keep the ghost light on,
there is something to be said for leaving the
light on for local dramatists, as well. So here’s
my challenge for any and all Connecticut theatres: leave one slot a season, or make a new
summer slot, or find a weekend, to produce a
play from a Connecticut dramatist. Email me
and I’ll even advance it all—gather the scripts,
form a reading committee, select plays, and
put you in touch with brilliant writers. Your
role: make productions for Connecticut
dramatists in your theatre, community and
professional, a reality…check!
[email protected]
Florida - West
by Dewey Davis-Thompson
P
oor little Gainesville. Big exciting
Gainesville. Somehow both are true.
All but alone in the vast interior of
north-central Florida, Gainesville
is best known for UF and the Gators (think
Gatorade) but it also enjoys a thriving arts
scene—at least in comparison to the rest of
the region.
The sporty university that dominates
the area also has a robust theatre department with several playwrights on the faculty
and classes in playwriting, comedy sketch
writing, and dramaturgy, as well as acting
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and tech—all electives in the BFA, BA and
MFA programs. UF is home to three School
of Theatre + Dance performance venues,
including the Constans Theatre, Black Box
Theatre and G-6 Studio. All of them present
a variety of new works.
Professor Ralf Remshardt, who teaches
playwriting and dramaturgy, says the studentrun theatre company The Florida Players
produces three full shows per year, and every
year at least one of them is a new full length
play or an evening of new shorts.
UF also recently staged Spill, written by
Leigh Fondakowski in collaboration with
visual artist Reeva Wortel. Spill is based on
interviews conducted by Fondakowski and
Wortel with Louisiana residents, fishermen,
oil industry and government officials, and
families of the victims of the BP Deepwater
Horizon explosion. Fondakowski used the
same play development technique when she
served as the head writer for the widely influential plays, The Laramie Project and Laramie:
Ten Years Later.
Spill tells the stories of people attempting
to confront the natural disaster in 2010 and
centers on the question: What is the true human and environmental cost of oil?
Spill first went through a series of workshops and staged readings in 2012 and some
performances at Wesleyan University, which
commissioned the play. An early version of
Spill premiered in March 2014 at Louisiana
State University’s Swine Palace Theater in Baton Rouge. A revised version of the play was
recently produced by the TimeLine Theatre
in Chicago.
The Hippodrome is the only professional
theatre for an hour and a half in any direction,”
says their dramaturg (and UF alum) Stephanie
Lynge. “The Hipp” stays hip with productions
like the southeastern world premiere of Mr.
Burns by Anne Washburn. They also recently
produced Women in Jeopardy by Wendy
MacLeod and All Girl Frankenstein by Bob
Fisher.
“In addition to bringing in contemporary
shows, The Hipp reaches out on many artistic
levels,” says Lynge, pointing to the development of the new play The Snow Queen, based
on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale that
also inspired Frozen. “My version is more like
the fairy tale...” says writer Charlie Mitchell,
who is also a UF theatre professor. He was
commissioned by the Hippodrome to write
the work for the holiday season and is now
seeking publication opportunities.
Acrosstown Repertory Theatre may not
be Equity, but they are committed to working
with local playwrights, including works by the
homeless. They recently had the world premiere of Chuck Lipsig’s Hometown Knights—
a 2014 one-act entry in the Acrosstown’s
Gainesville Homegrown Local Playwrights’
Festival, now in its fourth year. The play was
so well received that the director requested it
be adapted into a full-length play.
Lipsig says “Aristophanes wrote Knights
to parody the politicians of his day; a friend
of mine wondered how it might work with
current-day politicians. However, it occurred
to me at the time that current politicians
don’t need my help to generate comedy. So,
while its roots are in Aristophanes’ classic, I’ve
made the effort to make Hometown Knights a
farce on modern politics.”
Acrosstown has also recently staged locally written one-act plays Comfort Phone and
Do You See Me? by Matt Goode and BethAnn Blue, as well as Lydia by Octavio Solis
and Escape of Unicorn by James Sunwall.
Several community theatres in Gainesville
also produce new works, and the Writers
Alliance of Gainesville provides a forum for
writers to interact and learn outside the
university system.
[email protected]
Kentucky
by Nancy Gall-Clayton
T
he Kentucky Women Playwrights
Seminar (KWPS) will mark its tenth
anniversary with Impressions, a festival of eight new scripts inspired by
Kentucky Women Playwrights Seminar at work
the lives and paintings of Impressionist artists.
These artists were chosen from a packet
of postcards purchased at the Metropolitan
Museum of Art, which the playwrights visited
when they were in New York to present their
collaboratively written piece Shh! at the Dramatists Guild’s Friday Night Footlights in 2014.
Guild member Trish Ayers, the group’s
founder and director, set up the Footlights
presentation and the trip from Kentucky to
New York as well as the museum outing.
When she discovered every artist in the museum packet was male, Ayers used her talent
and passion for bringing people together by
asking members of the Feminist Artists of
Kentucky (FAK) to create art to accompany
the new plays. Three members of KWPS
are also part of FAK – Ayers, Pat Cheshire
Jennings, and Patricia Watkins, and all three
are crafting both visual art and scripts for
Impressions.
Patricia Watkins used collage to sculpt
heads of Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin
for Brenda K. White’s play titled Expressions
and a Soul after a phrase found in letters written by Van Gogh. Watkins shredded prints of
paintings by Van Gogh and Gauguin to create
the heads.
Readings of the new work and an exhibition of the visual art will be presented by the
Berea Arena Theater, a longtime supporter of
KWPS, on April 30, 2016. Ayers hopes KWPS
can eventually present Impressions at the
Metropolitan Museum
of Art.
Ayers founded
the Seminar using an
Art Meets Activism grant from the
Kentucky Foundation
for Women. Motivated
by a successful first
year, Ayers continues
to mentor, foster
Trish Ayers, founder and
director of Kentucky
Women Playwrights
Seminar
March/April 2016 | 61
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Heads of Van Gogh and Gauguin created
by Patricia Watkins for Impressions
collaboration, teach, lead discussions as new
work is shared, and at the end of each season,
organize a presentation of members’ work.
In 2011, the Foundation honored Ayers
with the Sallie Bingham Award, which recognizes “Kentucky women who are leaders in
changing the lives of women and girls across
the state by supporting feminist expression in
the arts.”
Composition of the group changes each
year. Ayers tries to “put together the right
mix of personalities” and likes having new
members. The youngest member is in her
twenties; the oldest are in their seventies.
Four members travel at least 50 miles for the
five-hour monthly workshops in Berea, and
half belong to the Guild.
This season, two women are writing their
first plays: Beth Myers, editor of The Berea
Citizen, and Pat Cheshire Jennings, a retired
social worker.
Karen Devere, who says she is not yet
comfortable calling herself a playwright, is
writing her second play and heartened to “be
among people who purposively work toward
bringing us to a better place in our writing and
in our lives generally.”
Glenda Dent White, the author of two
shorts, had never written a play when she
was invited to join. An experienced actor,
she is serving the group as a reader during the
development process this season.
The author of a dozen plays, Brenda K.
White, finds KWPS a “wonderful group for
a playwright, novice or experienced.” She
recently retired from teaching to pursue writing full-time.
Kristin Hornsby teaches at Northern Kentucky University and is writing her sixteenth
play. After graduate school, she missed having
a support group that both encourages and
Los Angeles
by Josh Gershick
A PLAYWRIGHT’S BRIEF GUIDE TO
WORKING WITH A PUBLICIST (AND WHY
YOU SHOULD)
H
ere is what every playwright wants:
full houses, great notices, standing ovations. (Even if they claim
principally to be interested in world
peace.) But how often have I heard a selfproducing playwright complain that, in the
end, the audience “just didn’t turn out.”
Granted, that writer’s got to start with a
good story; it’s got to be on the page. Then
a crack team must be assembled, from actors
to designers. But one player critical – even
vital – to a production’s success is often
overlooked: a good publicist.
“I can’t tell you how many playwrights
have said to me, “Why have you gotten all this
press?” said DG member Wendy Graf, whose
plays include All American Girl (StageScene
LA’s Outstanding Solo Production, 2015)
and No Word in Guyanese for Me (winner of
the 2012 GLAAD Award for Outstanding Los
Angeles Theater). “Finding a good publicist is
important on the micro and the macro level.
The micro is: you want to promote your show.
The macro is: you develop a relationship with
this person, with the press and with the larger
community.”
Graf has self-produced, co-produced, and
been produced by others. Her go-to publicist
is always Lucy Pollak, one of the Southland’s
leading performing arts publicists.
“Self-producing writers will say, ‘It’s not in
the budget’,” said Graf. “But getting a good
publicist is as important as getting a good
director and good actors. A good publicist
knows you, understands your work and knows
what you’re getting at. She has a relationship
with every play. In the last five years I’ve been
working with Lucy, she’s exposed me to so
many reporters, and I get reviewed in the context of my whole body of work – it’s ‘a Wendy
Graf play’ – not just one play.”
“Collaboration is key,” said Pollak. “When
a playwright is my client, I work closely with
that writer. My job is to represent the essence
of the play and understand what it’s about.
I read and re-read the play. I attend the first
table read. I want to hear the play read aloud,
in the actors’ voices. I like to get behind it,
beneath it. I want to understand the play in
my gut, to illuminate it.”
Pollak has followed a Graf play all the
way from early draft, through developmental
readings to production.
“I trust her and respect her judgment,”
said Graf. “When she says, ‘Listen, see this
show,’ reviewers listen. She’s a colleague, a
friend and a trusted and discerning eye. She
always figures out the heart of the play and
knows how to promote it.”
Good promotion of a play starts with a
smart press release, said Pollak.
“The press release is the calling card of
WALTER KURTZ
pushes its members. Hornsby finds KWPS fills
that void for her.
Betty Peterson teaches at Somerset
Community and Technical College and is the
author of ten plays including Desert Flower,
which is included in World Premieres from
Horse Cave Theatre (Motes Books 2009).
Peterson praises Ayers for fostering an atmosphere where writers respect one another and
offer honest criticism without trying to rewrite
others’ plays.
Peterson sums up her admiration of KWPS
this way: “Every state should have its own
Women Playwrights Seminar.”
For more information, visit http://www.
kywomenplaywrights.org and the Facebook
pages for KWPS and the Feminist Artists of
Kentucky.
[email protected]
Wendy Graf
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operation?
“There’s a prejudice [among some reviewers] toward self-producing playwrights, where
the playwright is the actor, the writer, the
producer, the designer,” said Pollak. “The assumption [of reviewers] is, ‘Oh, that’s a vanity
production.’ Don’t have your name all over
the production. Create a company name.”
Promotion begins long before the curtain
rises and continues through closing night.
Don’t be shy.
“The best thing a playwright can do is to
be available to promote the play. If I set up an
interview, be there,” said Pollak. “Promoting
a show, it’s everybody working together.”
[email protected]
Josh Gershick
Minneapolis/
St. Paul
by Laurie Flanigan Hegge
A
h, what a beautiful thing for a playwright to be asked: What is the play
you want to write? That is exactly
the call Walking Shadow Theatre
Company put out when they asked for
submissions for their first-ever new play commission program this past fall. Playwrights
from Minnesota and western Wisconsin were
A Midwinter Night’s Revel by John Heimbuch, directed by Amy Rummenie, produced by
Walking Shadow Theatre Company, 2015, featuring Philip D Henry, Kayla Dvorak Feld, Eric Weiman,
Heidi Fellner, & Jaxen Lindsey
DAN NORMAN
the production. It’s got to be intriguing. It’s
helpful to have materials from the playwright
to use as a springboard—and I always discuss
the play in-depth with the playwright—but
I write my own press release. I have my own
specific style. I would never expect the playwright to do my work for me. On the other
hand, I would never send out anything that
wasn’t approved by the playwright.”
It’s never too early to start pitching a play.
“Lead time is a publicist’s best friend,”
said Pollak. “I like a minimum of four-six
weeks in advance of opening. A longer leadtime for pitching is even better: Some publications want material months in advance.
(Lead time for Los Angeles magazine, for
instance, is three months.) Special invitations
to press go out two weeks in advance. There
are lots of shows and events in LA: I want my
invitation to get there first,” she said.
A single blurb and 100 “likes” on your
Facebook page will not fill the house.
“There’s research that suggests it takes
nine impressions before a person buys a
ticket,” said Pollak. ”Publicity plays only one
part. A [potential] ticket buyer may read a
review, see a blog-post, pick up a postcard.
But the bottom line is, once you get people
into the theatre, it’s word-of-mouth. That’s
why it’s important to front-load the show:
Get those reviewers, bloggers, concierges
into the seats that first week to generate that
word-of-mouth, to get that momentum.”
What if my production is a one-man
pp56-69 NationalReports.indd 63
asked to send up to three two-hundred word
pitches for new projects, specifically pieces
that had not gotten past the idea stage. I sat
down with Dramatists Guild member John
Heimbuch, one of the co-artistic directors of
the theatre, to find out how his own experience as a playwright informed the submission
process as he and his wife/co-artistic director
Amy Rummenie and their executive director
David Pisa solicited and selected ideas for
two commissions, which they hope to see
through to production.
John, the Twin Cities’ DG rep prior to
my tenure, is himself an incredibly prolific
and well-respected writer; Walking Shadow
frequently produces and develops John’s
work. In seeking new writers, they created a
submission process that mirrors the way John
himself would pitch a project to his longstanding collaborators. The beauty of their
method is that folks who were entirely unknown to Walking Shadow were granted the
privilege of the pitch (usually a situation only
given to those who have cultivated a close
relationship with an artistic director) as a blind
submission. Once John, Amy, and David each
identified their favorite ideas, they looked at
work samples to further determine a match,
and only late in the game did the identities of
the playwrights emerge. John explained that
he learned a great deal about the playwrights
in our community from hearing what we are
March/April 2016 | 63
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[email protected]
dramatistsguild.com
Co-Artistic Director John Heimbuch
64 | The Dramatist
Co-Artistic Director Amy Rummenie
pp56-69 NationalReports.indd 64
CHRISTOPHER BOWLSBY
Gemma Irish and
Savannah Reich,
I was struck by
how intentionally open-ended
the commissions are. John’s
own experiences
as a playwright
have granted him the
understanding that the pitch
the Walking Shadow team loved
might transform into an entirely different play
in the writing process, and that is exactly as
it should be. In Gemma’s words: “Because
its administrators are also practitioners,
Walking Shadow has empathy for its artists, which comes through in the way they
have set up this commission. They are
very open to the creative process, and the
inherent uncertainty therein.” As John said,
“It’s the playwrights prerogative to take the
work where it needs to go. If we’re not the
right home for it anymore, I’ll do everything in
my power to help them find the right home.”
In a world where the submission process can
be frustrating, this is a breath of fresh air.
On the winter solstice, I happened to be
in the audience for John’s new play A Midwinter Night’s Revel, set exactly one hundred
years before to the day. This play borrowed
characters from A Midsummer Night’s Dream
and landed them in WWI England. John
created this piece with the support of a grant
from the Minnesota State Arts Board. His
initial idea, given the time to incubate and
the financial support for travel and research,
grew into a beautiful and bold play written
entirely in verse. I can’t help but see the direct
correlation between the support John has
received for his own projects and the support
Walking Shadow is now giving in the form of
this openhearted commission. I’m looking
forward to what emerges next.
Walking Shadow was just named Best
Company of the Year (2015) by the Twin Cities’ l’étoile Magazine (Congrats!). Next up:
The Aliens by Annie Baker and Lasso of Truth
by DG member Carson Kreitzer in
a co-pro with Workhaus Collective.
ELISE R ADTKE-ROSEN
interested in exploring next. I myself generated some pitches for this submission, and
while I wasn’t chosen, I have started working
on one of them, which I was delighted to
report to John when he expressed his hope
that the submission process itself might spark
playwrights to consider new projects. They
were also interested in discovering local
playwrights they didn’t know, and supporting
playwrights in our community who may have
self-produced at the MN Fringe Festival in
the past but hadn’t yet made the leap to a
full-length production, tailoring their work
sample request to include fringe-length material with that in mind. As a result, the team
received pitches from newbie playwrights and
post-emerging artists, all pitching on a level
playing field.
In talking with John about the commissions, which were awarded to playwrights
DAN NORMAN
Compleat Female Stage Beauty
by Jeffrey Hatcher, directed
by John Heimbuch, produced
by Walking Shadow Theatre
Company, 2012, featuring
Wade Vaughn
2/5/16 7:24 PM
JASON HORNICK
the pace of her career at all.
“I don’t know how much further my career
would be if I had ever lived in New York…and
I may live there one day,” she replied. “I do
know that living in D.C. helped me to establish myself in a way that living in Texas, where
I grew up, wouldn’t have. Moving to Chapel
Hill hasn’t negatively impacted my career at
all. I’m still part of the national conversation
and my work is being read and presented
throughout the country.”
Lawton sums up her feelings about her
move when she states that she does not
“know what it means to be a North Carolina
playwright, yet…but I look forward to finding
out and seeing how it impacts my voice as a
writer.”
[email protected]
North
Carolina
by Kim Stinson
W
hat happens when a produced,
published, and award-winning
playwright moves from a major
metropolitan area to a smaller
city in a state whose professional theatres
are spread from coast to mountains and take
hours to drive between? Does her playwriting
career suffer or thrive? Looking at the biography for Jacqueline E. Lawton, it is easy to see
her thriving with her move from Washington,
D.C. to Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
In addition to writing plays, Lawton currently serves as an Assistant Professor in the
school of Dramatic Arts at the University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH),
one of sixteen public universities in the state.
Lawton’s success as a dramaturg and playwright has continued, as well.
She is a recipient of the 2015-2016
Kenan Institute’s Creative Collaboratory
Project Grant which is an opportunity that
would not have been open to her had she
stayed in the D.C. area. The grant is to fund
Lawton’s writing a play, Ardeo. The play is
to explore the “personal narratives from
pp56-69 NationalReports.indd 65
health practitioners and patients at the North
Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC-CH.”
Lawton is to begin working on the project in
February. According to Lawton, “this play will
highlight the power, impact, and significance
of narrative medicine to create new stories of
healing and understanding.” After conducting
interviews with staff and patients, Lawton will
have two months to write the script for the
public reading scheduled in May. North Carolina members should look for emails in April
with information about a meeting that is to be
held in conjunction with the play’s reading.
Lawton is happy with her move down
south, which she made about a year ago. “It’s
a beautiful state with endless blue skies,”
she commented. “The biggest transition
was learning how to write around so much
sunshine!”
Getting used to a different lifestyle has
been good for her, as “the pace of living is
slower, the food is great, and it’s an affordable
place to live well. I have more time to write
than ever before, which is good because I’ve
got a number of commissions that need to be
written!”
Those of us who are from North Carolina
know that it is a place where one can carve
and etch out a career; however, sometimes
those outside of our fantastic state may have
different conceptions of what it is like here.
With this in mind, I asked Lawton whether she
felt her moving to North Carolina had slowed
Northern
Ohio
by Faye Sholiton
D
ramatists have a guild, not a union,
because we own our work and our
ownership is inviolable. This distinction didn’t stop four Cleveland
DG members from launching “Playwrights
Local 4181,” a group devoted exclusively to
supporting theater artists in Northeast Ohio.
On their to-do list: new play development,
staged readings, full productions, professional development, partnerships with other
theatres, new technologies, and community
outreach.
The project is the brainchild of playwright/educator David Todd,
who moved back to Cleveland in
2014. He noticed that many area
dramatists were not being served by
even the most supportive producPL4181 founder David Todd
STEVEN MASTROIANI
Jacqueline E. Lawton
March/April 2016 | 65
2/5/16 7:24 PM
ing companies. Markets large and small had
playwright centers, he thought. Why not
Cleveland?
Early in 2015, Todd met with colleagues
Tom Hayes, Arwen Mitchell and Michael
Geither to create a “center of gravity” for
area dramatists. Echoing the area’s blue collar
vibe, they chose a worker motif. Everyone
pitches in for the common good. (“4181” represents Cleveland’s latitude and longitude.)
The group hit the ground running, assigning titles and tasks. Todd is Artistic Director.
Hayes is Managing Director. Mitchell is
Literary Manager and Geither is Director of
Education and Engagement. They quickly
obtained non-profit status and found space
at Waterloo Arts, in the city’s newly revitalized North Collinwood neighborhood. Arts
organizations now offer an active schedule
of programs, exhibits and live performances
there.
By November, PL4181 had brought to
Collinwood the first Cleveland Playwrights
Festival. The two-day event featured
staged readings of six short works, Michael
Laurenty’s full-length Dye Jung, and a live performance/podcast of Geither’s Flame Puppy.
There were workshops on craft and a professional development panel. By any measure,
the event was a success, with more than 150
artists and area residents attending.
Now underway is a Spring Play Lab that
offers writers three months of support with
their full-length scripts. PL4181 provides
directors, actors, and dramaturgs as well as
space for table readings, feedback, rehearsal,
and public staged readings. New works by
Nivi Engineer, Claire Robinson May, and Amy
Schwabauer are the centerpiece of the April
Lab.
PL4181’s first fully staged production
comes this May with Les Hunter’s To the
Orchard. Winner of a Foundation for Jewish
Culture New Play grant, it had early readings
at Boston Playwrights Theatre and Brooklyn
College. It took a move to Cleveland to stage
its world premiere.
PL4181’s second production is slated for
this November. It’s a documentary-style piece
about the November 2014 shooting death
of twelve-year-old Clevelander Tamir Rice.
Police opened fire after mistaking the boy’s
toy gun for a real one—and compounded the
66 | The Dramatist
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damage by delaying a call for help. Neither
officer involved will face criminal charges in a
case that has gained national prominence. Six
writers are interviewing community members,
media, and law and government officials
to reflect the impact of the tragedy and its
aftermath. Following the play’s opening at
Waterloo Arts, it will tour throughout the city
and its inner-ring suburbs.
Plans are also in the works for a March
2017 weekend-long celebration of Clevelandborn playwright Mac Wellman. On the
drawing board: a production of Bitter Bierce,
Wellman’s homage to satirist Ambrose Bierce.
Other Wellman plays (or Wellman-inspired
scripts coming out of Wellman-style workshops) will be performed. The playwright is
scheduled to attend the festivities.
The company couldn’t manage without
partners. PL4181 relies on co-sponsorships
with multiple organizations, including
universities and theatres working on the
Wellman festival. They now provide or curate
live theatre performances at Waterloo Arts
events. And their staff of educators lead writing workshops throughout the city.
Playwrights Local partners next with the
Dramatists Guild, co-sponsoring our April
regional meeting as part of its spring festival.
The Guild benefits by welcoming potential
members. And who knows? Guild members
just might find solidarity in this new union.
For more information, visit www.playwrightslocal.org.
[email protected]
Philadelphia
by Tom Tirney
Seth Rozin giving a tour of the new space
produce over 80% of Philadelphia’s new work
and premiers in any given year. While InterAct
is the only theatre in the city that dedicates
its entire season to new work, the partner theatres sharing the space generally have at least
one premier as part of its programmed schedule. And PlayPenn’s professional readings are
entirely devoted to new play development.
Fittingly, the first play to go up at the
Drake is Guild member’s Kristoffer Diaz’s
#the revolution, produced by InterAct. Premiering on January 22, 2016, this dark comedy
skewers slacktivist politics by chronicling a
social-media driven revolution that upends
equality in America. This is Diaz’s second
premier in Philadelphia following a 2009
production of The Elaborate Entrance of Chad
Deity.
InterAct, Simpatico, Azuka, and Inis Nua
will present full seasons of work in both
theatre spaces which have been designed so
that two plays can run concurrently. Further,
PlayPenn will hold its educational classes,
seminars, and annual July summer conference
at the Drake as well.
InterAct Theatre is spearheading this
move into the 8,500 square foot performing
space after eighteen years at the 106-seat
T
he former ballroom in the beautiful Drake Building in Center City
Philadelphia is being converted into
a dual theatre facility that will soon
house four companies—InterAct, Simpatico,
Azuka, Inis Nua—as well as the new play
development organization, PlayPenn. The
as-yet-unnamed theatre space will represent
the only multi-company space in the city and
opens January 2016.
This is a boon for Center City and for
writers. Together, these five companies
Seth Rozin in the new performance space
of the Drake Building
2/5/16 7:24 PM
Portland
by Francesca Piantadosi
Oregon New Play Prize at Artists Repertory Theatre Offering A Unique Approach
To New Play Selection
blueprints of the new performance space
in the Drake Building
Adrienne on Sansom Street. It is also a change
in the approach to theatres and performing
arts: the $5M capital campaign for the Drake
is economical considering how many theatres
will be housed under one roof and how many
artists in turn will have an opportunity to
participate in new work.
Seth Rozin, Artistic Director of InterAct,
has a vision to cultivate a “new play” community and make the space a social hub for
artists in the city and the region. Rozin wants
the new venue to be known not just for the
theatres it houses but to be a place where
theatre makers come to read, research, collobarate, and discuss.
“The Philadelphia theatre community has
evolved to the point where a real and spiritual
home for new plays and playwrights is not
only needed but also possible. We hope the
Drake becomes that place.”
Guild member playwrights should take
note and investigate opportunities with the
entities at the Drake. The organizations involved at the Drake have been responsible for
several full-scale productions and professional
readings of Guild playwrights such as Michael
Lew, David Robson, A. Zell Williams…and of
course, Kristoffer Diaz.
[email protected]
I
n 1982, six artists looking for an opportunity to present the work of contemporary
playwrights in an intimate setting formed
Artists Repertory Theatre. It operated as a
cooperative in the local YWCA’s 110–seat Wilson Center for the Performing Arts. Now in
its 31st season, it is Portland’s longest-running
professional theatre with two stages and a full
season of plays.
While they’ve done many readings and
productions of new work throughout their
many seasons, the current artistic director,
Damaso Rodriguez, has made it a priority.
Not only are they commissioning new work,
they’re also establishing a unique way of looking for plays.
Luan Schooler, Director of New Play
Development, said she read an article on
Howlround by Gwydion Suilebahn (“From
Submission to Searching: A Paradigm Shift
in Connecting Plays and Producers”) and
thought there must be a better way for her
theatre to find plays worth producing while
“supporting playwrights in our home state.”
She wanted to give the same opportunity to
the “unknown writer from Hermiston or Crater Lake” of whom they might not otherwise
be aware of.
Thus The Oregon Play Prize was born.
The rules state the play must be written by
an Oregonian and (along with the artistic
staff) will be chosen by Oregonians. Yes, she
thought it would be “an interesting idea to
let the audience have the same input into the
final selection as the organization.”
The first step is that a panel of Artists
Repertory Theatre’s staff and volunteers will
read all blind submissions and select three finalists. Then descriptions and writing samples
of the finalists will be posted in the spring
of 2016. Oregonians can then read those
samples and vote for the one they most want
to see produced.
In addition to the $10,000 prize, the
theatre will also provide the playwright with
development support before producing the
play in an upcoming season.
Scripts may be in any stage of completion,
from a well-developed idea to a completed
draft. Plays must be unproduced.
While the current model of playwrights
submitting plays to the powers-that-be might
be the way it’s always been done, it’s nice to
know that at least one theatre is striking out
to find new ways to reach out to playwrights
and find new work to be explored.
[email protected]
Utah
by Julie Jensen
H
ere’s some good news: two professional theatres in the Utah Region
are seeking new plays by young
writers to honor David Fetzer.
David Ross Fetzer was an actor in Salt
Lake, a young man with a spray of wild hair
who always looked intriguing and packed a big
wallop as an actor. He performed extensively
in theatre productions locally as well as in
film in Los Angeles. He could be quirky or
ordinary, confused or vulnerable, calm or
agitated. His gifts were strong and numerous.
He died suddenly in December 2012, three
days after his thirtieth birthday, a total surprise
and a tragic loss. At the time, David was in the
process of starting a new theatre in this town.
New Works Theatre Machine was dedicated
to attracting eighteen to 35-year olds to
the theatre and by the time David died, had
produced two plays, both of them edgy,
surprising, frightening, and disarming.
Within a year of his death, his family and
friends, led by his mother, Betsy Ross, created The David Ross Fetzer Foundation for
Emerging Artists, dedicated to encouraging
the work of young filmmakers and playwrights
under the age of 35. The result is that two
professional theatres in Salt Lake City are
teaming up with the foundation to further the
theatre goals valued by David Fetzer.
Salt Lake Acting Company advertises
nationally for plays by young writers under
the age of 35 and gives the winner a week
of rehearsals with a professional company,
March/April 2016 | 67
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Western
New York
I
WNY playwrights and Dramatists Guild is a
natural and exciting addition to our commitment to the artists of Western New York.”
Metz chose three Charles Burchfield
paintings—“Snow Patterns,” “December
Light,” and “Horn Call from Sibelius Fifth”—
and regional playwrights were asked to submit
a play inspired by one of them (as a benefit
to membership, Dramatists Guild members
could write and submit two). Nine—three
representing each work—would then be
selected for reading on the museum’s Second
Friday, at the close of the Mystic North:
Burchfield, Sibelius, & Nature exhibition.
Blind copies of the plays were then sent
to three judges: playwright/actor Kathleen
Betsko Yale; actor/director/Niagara University theater professor Doug Zschiegner; and
theater critic/co-host Theater Talk/Buffalo
State Assistant Dean of Humanties Anthony
Chase.
Judges scored the plays on Mastery of
Craft, Ease of Casting, Strength of Connection to the Art Piece, Strength of Story,
Strength of Characters, Strength of Dialogue, and Overall Quality. Interestingly, the
PHOTO COURTESY BURCHFIELD PENNEY ART CENTER
culminating in a staged reading at the theatre.
The first winner of the Davey was Katherine
Vondy’s The Fermi Paradox, which was read in
August 2015. The second annual competition
is underway, deadline February 2016, with a
weeklong workshop and reading planned for
by Donna Hoke
next summer.
Plan-B Theatre, in keeping with its mission
n Western New York, where the arts are
to produce new plays by local writers, adverplaying a significant role in the city’s renaistises locally for playwrights under 35 “with a
sance, regional playwrights presenting
Utah connection.” The winning play is given a
readings at the Burchfield Penney Art
full production as a part of the theatre’s four- Center (BPAC)—which celebrates the work
play season. The first winner of the Davey
of local visual artists—seemed a natural colwas produced in the winter of 2014, Carleton laboration. Fortunately, Don Metz, Associate
Bluford’s Mama. That play eventually won
Director and Head of Public Programs at
City Weekly’s Award for Best Original Play
BPAC, agreed.
and Best Theatre Production. The second
“We wanted to do this because we are a
winner of the Davey at Plan-B just completed very committed arts organization in our comproduction, Rob Tennant’s Booksmart. The
munity, particularly as it pertains to collabonext two winners have been announced,
rations and partnerships,” Metz says. “The
Morag Shepherd’s Not One Drop, to be pro- Burchfield [which is located on the campus of
duced next season, and Austin Archer’s Jump, Buffalo State College] has a 36-year history
to be produced the season following.
of producing and presenting language art,
When interviewed for this article, Shanpresenting four readings a year and working
non Musgrave, Associate Artistic Director at
with the English department on numerous
Salt Lake Acting Company, in charge of new
student writing projects. Working with the
work, said they are looking for
plays that match Fetzer’s spirit.
Then she quoted Fetzer’s own
criteria, “Plays that incorporate
new and unconventional ways
of telling stories and that create
for an audience an unexpected
and engaging experience.”
Jerry Rapier, Artistic Director of Plan-B Theatre, said
they seek plays that fit David’s
aesthetic and their own mission “to produce unique and
socially conscious theatre with
a focus on new plays by Utah
playwrights.”
Guild members are encouraged to check out the David
Ross Fetzer Foundation and
its involvement with both Salt
Lake Acting Company and
Plan-B Theatre. Playwrights
under the age of 35 are in
demand!
[email protected]
“December Light,” 1930
com
68 | The Dramatist
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WNY Playwrights Celebrate the Work of Charles Burchfield: L to R: Playwrights James
Marzo, Darryl Schneider, Cathy Lanski, Karen McDonald, Joy Scime, Winifred Storms, Anna
Kay France, and Jon Elston
PHOTO COURTESY BURCHFIELD PENNEY ART CENTER
plays were almost perfectly divided among
the three artworks. The final selections were
(a * indicates a Guild member):
Plays inspired by “Horn Call from
Sibelius Fifth”
Life is Beautiful at the Edge of the Forest, by Joy
Scime
Horn Call for Queen of the Damned: From the
Mixed Up Files of Mr. Charles E. Burchfield, by
Winifred Storms
A Song in the Key of Caleb, by Karen McDonald*
Plays inspired by “Snow Patterns”
Snow Patterns, by James Marzo*
Coming Home, by Anna Kay France*
Szary, or the Meeting Hour at Evening, by Jon
Elston
Plays inspired by “December Light”
The Swans, by Darryl Schneider
See You in St. Paul’s, by Frank Canino*
Tastefully Stuffed, by Cathy Lanski*
While I was excited about the event, I
couldn’t have anticipated such an overwhelming response—the 156-seat Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Auditorium filled to capacity,
overflow seating was added, people stood,
and, finally, more than 50 people had to be
turned away (as theater people, you know
how painful that is!). We ran the nine plays
without intermission, and the corresponding
paintings were projected as they were read.
“There was such a sense of excitement,
and riveting attention paid to the works,”
says playwright Anna Kay France. Playwright
Marzo concurs, “There was tremendous
energy in the auditorium. The acting talent
was awesome, and the diversity of plays made
it enjoyable for everyone.” Their thoughts
were echoed by all the playwrights, as well as
by audience members and the participating
actors, who expressed delight at the unique
event.
“Exposing new audiences to the work of
Charles E. Burchfield is at the heart of our
mission,” Metz says. “And the writers took a
wonderful approach to Burchfield’s work—
they took something static and brought
Burchfield to life in a very different way. They
did a wonderful job becoming Burchfield
fans.”
For many in our playwright community,
submitting work to an opportunity was a new
experience, and the enthusiasm that generated proved to be one of the most satisfying
elements of the evening; it’s momentum
I’d like to see continue. “During the past
decade, Buffalo’s playwrights have invested
immeasurable sweat, time, and soul in commanding the attention of the general public
and in demonstrating that being a playwright
in Buffalo is an actual thing,” says playwright
Jon Elston. “Having our work presented to a
large and enthusiastic auditorium, more than
filled to capacity with some avid theatergoers
as well as a magnitude of delighted nontheatergoing art lovers, signified a triumphant
affirmation of our community’s efforts.”
And as rep, I can’t ask for any more than
that.
[email protected]
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Let Us Know!
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number, and/or email address to
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In order to maximize security
protection of your personal data,
no contact information can be
updated directly via our website.
March/April 2016 | 69
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FROM
THE
DESK OF DRAMATISTS GUILD FUND
by Rachel Routh
“I always took for granted that the best
art was political and was revolutionary.
It doesnt mean that art has an agenda
or a politics to argue; it means that the
questions being
his January I was fortunate
raised were
to see a workshop of Sell/
Buy/Date written and
explorations into
performed by Sarah Jones.
On my way home, my cab
kinds of anarchy,
driver asked what I had done that night.
Instead of giving a satisfactory if trite
kinds of change,
response, I explained that I saw a show
about trafficking, protestation and the
identifying
exploitation of women. Because the
show frames it as a hindsight view of
errors, flaws,
our time from the future, it allowed for
a fair amount of humor and complexity,
vulnerabilities in
but I didn’t have that theatrical device
at my disposal as I answered.
systems.”
The driver was clearly surprised at
T
– Toni Morrison
first to get such a blunt response, and
the ensuing conversation was full of
questions, uncomfortable moments,
Pinter length pauses. I didn’t know
what to say when he told me he’s ok
with prostitution because “similar
personalities…like pimps and hoes”
just seem to “find each other.” And
he didn’t know how to respond when I
pointed out questions of consent when
most sex workers in the US are first
“pimped” before they turn eighteen.
When I got out of the cab, the driver
confirmed the name of the show so
he could see it. And I was reminded
that this is the power of theatre, to
inspire dialogue and to give us reality
checks. What is going on in the world
around us that we take for granted or
choose to ignore? What are the different perspectives of the people we
have passing interactions with every
day? What do we decide to do after being moved by a compelling piece of art?
If we accept our assumptions of what is
around us, nothing will change. Theater
gives us that opportunity to explore
questions of alternate possibilities and
to confront whatever it is we’re dealing
with. For DGF, the question we work to
answer is how to best serve writers and
help foster the work that brings about
these conversations. Since we opened
The Music Hall last April in response to
writers need for space that is not cost
prohibitive we’ve seen the impact providing a free space has on advancing the
writing process. Not only is The Music
Hall a place where writers can work,
it has been a safe space for over 1,000
writers to push their own work from the
desk drawer to the hands of actors and
in front of audiences.
Now as we do another reality check
this year to see what more we can do to
help you, all we ask is that you do the
same with your art to help the rest of us.
RACHEL
[email protected]
70 | The Dramatist
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2/5/16 7:25 PM
FROM
THE
DESK OF RALPH SEVUSH, ESQ.
THE DLDF CENSORSHIP DATABASE
Who is Watching the
Watchmen?
I
n addition to my work here at
the Guild, I am also the executive director and treasurer of the
Dramatists Legal Defense Fund,
which the Guild founded in 2012
to educate and advocate on behalf of
copyright protection, fair use, and free
expression in the dramatic arts.
This past year, the DLDF saw large
growth as an organization. After sponsoring programming at the Guild’s national conference in La Jolla, we hosted
a live panel on fair use with playwright
David Adjmi, who had been sued by a
TV company because they claimed his
play, 3C, infringed their copyright in
the sitcom Three’s Company. We filed
an amicus brief in that case, which
was ultimately won by the playwright,
upholding his right to make fair use of
the TV show in order to create a transformative parody. We also supported
the high school students of Maiden,
NC and their re-mounted production of
Almost, Maine, which had been canceled
by the school administration because
a short scene in this work (one of the
most widely produced plays at schools
across the country) that had the temerity to suggest that two men could literally “fall” in love.
We are also preparing a brief to
urge the Supreme Court to review the
landmark case of Author’s Guild v Google,
in which the 2nd Circuit court held that
it apparently was just fine for Google
to download an entire library to build
a for-profit search engine, without
permission of the authors whose works
they were infringing en masse.
And recently we helped sponsor
the “Banned Broadway” program by
the TADA! Youth Theater in New York
City, in which teen actors performed
scenes and songs from shows which had
faced censorship. In considering this
program, it raised a foundational question for the DLDF board: which plays
are being censored, by whom, and why?
I mean, we certainly knew anecdotally, but only from what we ourselves
happened to read or hear about. There
was no systematic way of tracking and
updating this information.
To answer these questions, the
DLDF is now building a database of
dramatic works that have faced censorship around the country. It is our intention to identify specific shows that
have been cancelled or closed due to
legal, political or economic pressure,
or had to overcome such obstacles in
order to be seen.
To do this, we will need your help.
We’ll be creating a survey form for
Guild members, as well as making it
available to the public at large on the
DLDF website, to collect your reports
of this type of behavior. We will need
to know the name of the play, the playwright, the producing organization,
the protesting parties, and the nature
of their claims against the work. After
“crowdsourcing” the database entries,
they will be vetted by our DLDF attorneys and staff. We are specifically
looking for plays and musicals that have
faced documented production challenges in the U.S. over the past five
years.
We are doing this to help playwrights and the general public to
understand the scope and scale of the
issue, and to see who is being targeted
by these oppressive acts and who is
doing the targeting. We are hopeful
that, by turning the tables and watching the social watchdogs nipping at the
heels of our society’s artists, we can
expose these forces of repression and
undermine their ability to be effective.
The database will also serve as a useful
document of the cultural history of our
time and could be valuable to future
scholarship in this area. And, if the
database can accomplish even some of
these goals, we think it can be a useful
tool in the public’s defense of free
expression in the dramatic arts.
With your help, and with apologies
to Juvenal and Alan Moore, WE will be
watching the watchmen. So we look
forward to your input.
The Dramatists Legal Defense
Fund…because words matter.
RALPH
March/April 2016 | 71
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D RA MATISTS D I A RY
Dramatists
Diary
Submit your news items online. The
Member News Form allows you to
update us on productions, readings,
workshops, publications and more. And
all through one form that allows you to
choose where you want the news item
to appear: the online member bulletin
boards, the e-Newsletter or the magazine. Or, all three! The choice is yours.
To contribute a news item visit: http://
www.dramatistsguild.com/memberdirectory/magazine/getnews.aspx or
find the Member News button at the
bottom of our website’s home page.
Items submitted for publication in The
Dramatist will be printed in the earliest
possible issue.
Please remember, the Dramatists Diary
is a record of past events. These listings
are not advertisements. You may not
submit a news item that is older than
one year.
Please do not send your news items via
USPS mail.
Questions? Email
[email protected]
BROADWAY
Fiddler on the Roof music by JERRY BOCK,
lyrics by SHELDON HARNICK, book by
JOSEPH STEIN. Broadway Theatre.
She Loves Me music by JERRY BOCK,
lyrics by SHELDON HARNICK, book by
JOE MASTEROFF. Roundabout Theatre
Company, Studio 54.
Bright Star music by EDIE BRICKELL and
STEVE MARTIN, lyrics by EDIE BRICKELL,
book by STEVE MARTIN. Cort Theatre.
Eclipse by DANAI GURIRA. Golden Theatre.
The Humans by STEPHEN KARAM. Helen
Hayes Theatre.
Hughie by EUGENE O’NEILL. Booth Theatre.
OFF-BROADWAY
Smart People by LYDIA R. DIAMOND. SecondStage Theatre.
I and You by LAUREN GUNDERSON. 59E59
Theaters.
Marjorie Prime by JORDAN HARRISON.
Playwrights Horizons.
Old Hats by BILL IRWIN and David Shiner,
music and lyrics by Shaina Taub. Signature
Theatre, Irene Diamond Stage.
Prodigal Son by JOHN PATRICK SHANLEY.
New York City Center Theater.
The Robber Bridegroom book and lyrics
by ALFRED UHRY, music by ROBERT
WALDMAN. Roundabout Theatre Company,
Laura Pels Theatre.
OTHER NEW YORK
Benchmarks by GLENN ALTERMAN. T.
Schrieber Theater, New York, NY.
A Team Player by DALE ANDERSEN. Lama
Theater Company, New York, NY.
Astoria Stories by KARI BENTLEY-QUINN,
Nathan Brisby & Lizzie Hagstedt, Ty Defoe
& TIDTAYA SINUTOKE, DYAN FLORES,
Ben Gassman, HOLLY HEPP-GALVÁN,
ALEXANDER SAGE OYEN, Christopher
Torres, and KATHLEEN WARNOCK. Astoria
Performing Arts Center, Astoria, Queens,
NY.
Through The Cracks by KAREN CECILIA,
Manhattan Repertory Theatre, New York
City, NY.
Merman’s Apprentice book and lyrics by
STEPHEN COLE, music by David Evans.
Birdland Jazz Club, New York, NY.
Force Continuum by KIA CORTHRON. Fordham University Theatre, Pope Auditorium,
New York, NY.
Clifford the Big Red Dog LIVE! book by JEREMY DOBRISH, music and lyrics by Dennis
Scott. Brooklyn Center for the Performing
Arts, Brooklyn, NY.
The Brazilian Dilemma by WILLIAM FOWKES.
The Collective NY’s C:10 Comedy at Teatro
Circulo Theatre 2, New York, NY.
Wives and The Academy by MARIO FRATTI.
Theater for the New City, New York, NY.
Originality based on a play by MARIO FRATTI,
music by Haim Elisha. The Aviva Players, The
National Opera America Center, New York,
NY.
Ethereal Killer by ZANNE HALL, Manhattan
Repertory Theatre, New York City, NY.
Being There by FRAN HANDMAN. American
Renaissance Theatre at Cap 21, New York,
NY.
Sleepwalker Time by LINDA KAMPLEY,
American Renaissance Theater at CAP 21,
New York, NY.
Strays by PHILIP J KAPLAN. T Schreiber Studio,
New York, NY.
The Owl Answers (And Sun) by ADRIENNE
KENNEDY. Fordam University Theatre, Pope
Auditorium, New York, NY.
The Guardian by CONI CIONGOLI KOEPFINGER, Manhattan Repertory, New York, NY.
Burning by GINGER LAZARUS. Resonance
Ensemble at Theatre at St. Clements, New
72 | The Dramatist
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2/5/16 7:26 PM
D R A M AT I STS DI ARY
York, NY.
Candle in My Window (God Bless the Christmas Jews) music by HOWARD LEVITSKY,
lyrics by Marc Miller. New York Festival of
Song, New York, NY.
Late with Lance! by PETER MICHAEL
MARINO. Triple Crown Underground, New
York, NY.
You Are Perfect by CYNTHIA A. MARION.
White Horse Theater Company at The WorkShop Theater Company, New York, NY.
White People by J.T. ROGERS. Fordham
University Theatre, Pope Auditorium, New
York, NY.
Interludes: A New (Orleans) Play by CLAIRE
CHRISTINE SARGENTI, Zinc Bar, New
York, NY.
Family Archive by ANN MARIE SHEA. Torrent
Theatre, Theatre 54, New York, NY.
YO MISS! Written and performed by JUDITH
SLOAN. The Club at LaMaMa. New York,
NY.
The Last Hotel book, music, and lyrics by
Donna Dennehy and ENDA WALSH. St.
Ann’s Warehouse, Brooklyn, NY.
REGIONAL
Forever House by TONY ABATEMARCO. Skylight Theatre Company, Los Angeles, CA.
A Lump of Coal for Christmas by NORMAN
ALLEN. Adventure Theatre, Glen Echo, MD.
A Little Love Goes a Long Way by GLENN ALTERMAN. Riverside Theater, Iowa City, NY.
Sorry Doesn’t Have to Mean Good Bye-Bye
by GLENN ALTERMAN. Gypsy Rep Theater,
Tampa, FL.
The Dodgers by DIANA AMSTERDAM.The
Hudson Theater, Los Angeles, CA.
Hair Frenzy by TRAVIS G. BAKER. Penobscot
Theatre Company, Bangor, ME.
Blue Line Bowdoin by LUDMILLA BOLLOW.
Bostonia Bohemia & Fort Point Theatre
Channel, Boston, MA.
In the Rest Room at Rosenblooms by LUDMILLA BOLLOW. Catherine A. Hickman
Theatre, Gulfport, FL.
The Almost True and Truly Remarkable
Adventures of Israel Potter, American
Patriot by JOE BRAVACO and Larry Rosler.
Winnipesaukee Playhouse, Meredith, NH.
Yellow by LISA BRUNA. Camino Real Playhouse, San Juan Capistrano, CA.
The Angelina Project by FRANK CANINO.
Wimberley High School, Wimberley, TX.
See you in St. Paul’s by FRANK CANINO.
Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY.
The Nativity by DELVYN C. CASE, JR. Colonial
Oaks Baptist Church, Sarasota, FL.
The Tale Of The Innkeeper’s Wife by DELVYN
C. CASE, JR. First Lutheran Church, Portland, ME, and First Presbyterian Church,
Bonita Springs, FL.
The Writing Of “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day” by DELVYN C. CASE, JR. First
Presbyterian Church, Bonita Springs, FL.
Inland Empress by TOM CAVANAUGH. The
Lounge Theatre, Los Angeles, CA.
Two Turtle Doves by HAL CORLEY. Willits
Community Theatre, Willits, CA.
The Font by HAL CORLEY. Cone Man Running
Productions, Houston, TX.
The Sum of Your Experience by TRACE
CRAWFORD. Glendale Community College, Glendale, CA.
Spreading It Around by LONDOS DARRIGO.
Hunterdon Hills Playhouse, Hampton, NJ.
This Random World by STEVEN DIETZ. 40th
Humana Festival of New American Plays, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Louisville, KY.
Living on Love by JOE DIPIETRO. Asolo Repertory Theatre, Sarasota, FL.
Zane To Gate 69 by C. J. EHRLICH. Overtime
Theatre, San Antonio, TX.
Lullaby by MICHAEL ELYANOW. Theater Latte
Da at The Ritz Theatre, Minneapolis, MN.
Good Monsters by NATE EPPLER. Nashville
Repertory Theatre, Nashville, KY.
The Luckiest Girl by KITTY FELDE. Atwater
Village Theatre, Los Angeles, CA.
Aphrodite at the ER by NANCY GALLCLAYTON. Acme Theater, Maynard, MA.
Mother Lode by VIRGINIA WALL
GRUENERT. Off the Wall Productions at
Carnegie Stage, Carnegie, PA.
The Revolutionists by LAUREN
GUNDERSON. Cincinnati Playhouse in the
Park, Cincinnati, OH.
The Resignation by DANIEL GUYTON. Riverside Theatre, Iowa City, IA.
The Wedding Night Tweets by DANIEL
GUYTON. M.T. Pockets Theatre Company,
Morgantown, WV.
The Counterfeit Dick by ZANNE HALL, Shawnee Playhouse, Shawnee, PA.
Holiday Recovery Dinners, Inc. by HOPE
HOMMERSAND. Holiday Stories/ Three
Cat Productions, Chicago, IL.
Recess at Our Lady of the Bleeding Heart,
Mind, and Spirit - Once Reformed by
TERENCE PATRICK HUGHES, Santos
Dantin Studio Theater, Orlando Shakespeare
Center, Orlando, FL.
Residence by LAURA JACQMIN. 40th Humana
Festival of New American Plays, Actors
Theatre of Louisville, Louisville, KY.
All That He Was book and lyrics by LARRY
TODD JOHNSON, music by Cindy OConnor. Loyola Marymount University Theatre
Department, Los Angeles, CA.
Cardboard Piano by HANSOL JUNG. 40th Humana Festival of New American Plays, Actors
Theatre of Louisville, Louisville, KY.
Bad Kitty On Stage by MIN KAHNG. Freight
& Salvage Coffeehouse. Bay Area Children’s
Theatre, Berkeley, CA.
The Housekeeper by GINGER LAZARUS. Fresh
Ink Theatre at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre,
Boston, MA.
My Heart Is The Drum lyrics by STACEY
March/April 2016 | 73
pp72-77 BackOBook.indd 73
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D RAMAT I STS DI A RY
LUFTIG, book by JENNIE REDLING, music
by Phillip Palmer. Village Theatre, Issaquah,
WA.
Leaving Mom In Hollywood by RHEA
MACCALLUM. Dragonfly, Hollywood, CA.
Resurrection For Dummies by RHEA
MACCALLUM. Small Fish Radio Theatre
and Thespinarium, Chicago, IL.
The Real High School Musical book, music
and lyrics by ANGUS MACDONALD.
Fanatic Salon Theater, Culver City, CA.
Wondrous Strange by MARTYNA MAJOK,
JIEHAE PARK, Meg Mirsoshnik, and Jen
Silverman. 40th Humana Festival of New
American Plays, Actors Theatre of Louisville,
Louisville, KY.
Life is Mostly Straws by RICHARD MANLEY.
[email protected], St. Petersburg, FL.
A Bronx Tale: The Musical music by ALAN
MENKEN, lyrics by GLENN SLATER, book
by Chazz Palminteri. Paper Mill Playhouse,
Millburn, NJ.
Alice at Wonderland & Beef by THOMAS J.
MISURACA. Fort Point Theatre Channel,
East Boston, MA.
The Best Thanksgiving Ever by THOMAS J.
MISURACA. Drama West Fest, Los Angeles,
CA.
Claus & Effect by THOMAS J. MISURACA. Actors Workout Studio, North Hollywood, CA.
Keeping the Wolf From the Door by THOMAS
J. MISURACA. Readers Theatre Repertory
San Pedro, San Pedro, CA.
Offender and The Other Man by THOMAS
J. MISURACA. Whitefire Theatre, Sherman
Oaks, CA.
Deception by NANCY P MOSS. Lincoln Hall,
Portland State University, Portland, OR.
Wellesley Girl by BRENDAN PELSUE. 40th
Humana Festival of New American Plays, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Louisville, KY.
All the Details by CARY PEPPER. Rover Dramawerks, Plano, TX.
Hangin’ On The Edge by CARY PEPPER. Bellarmine University, Louisville, KY.
For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday by SARAH
RUHL. 40th Humana Festival of New
American Plays, Actors Theatre of Louisville,
Louisville, KY.
Off The Grid by MARK E. SCHARF. The
Crefeld School, Philadelphia, PA.
Best in Class by ANN MARIE SHEA. Barrington
Stage Company, Pittsfield, MA.
Briar Rose by ANN MARIE SHEA. Southeastern Regional Technical High School, South
Easton, MA.
Madame Secretary, Frances Perkins by ANN
MARIE SHEA. Mount Holyoke College,
South Hadley, MA.
Strip Talk on the Boulevard by DONNA
SPECTOR. Cloverdale Playhouse,
Montgomery, NY.
Candid Candidate by DONALD V. TONGUE.
Leddy Center for the Performing Arts, Epping, NH.
All Together Now by PHILIP MIDDLETON
WILLIAMS. New Theatre (Coral Gables),
Miami, FL.
Antigone adapted by JOHN YEARLEY. Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s Off the Hill
series. On tour.
I Think You Think I Love You by KELLY
YOUNGER. Milwaukee Repertory Theatre,
Milwaukee, WI.
Best Lei’d Plans by KELLY YOUNGER. Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield, MA.
ABROAD
Adam & Steve by JOHN CHARLES BAVOSO.
Short + Sweet Play Festival, Sydney, AUS.
Perfect by FRANK CANINO. Sky Blue Theatre/
British Theatre Challenge, London, UK.
The Perfect Independent Film by TRACE
CRAWFORD. Short + Sweet Play Festival,
Sydney, AUS.
A Trip to Eden by NANCY GALL-CLAYTON.
Short + Sweet Play Festival, Sydney, AUS.
Manservant 3000 by THOMAS J. MISURACA.
U & i Productions: A Sketchy Winter Night,
Daejeon, Jung-gu, South Korea.
Gladys In Wonderland by ROSEMARY
FRISINO TOOHEY. Central Alberta
Theatre, Red Deer, CAN.
READINGS AND WORKSHOPS
The Kindness of Enemies by GLENN
ALTERMAN. Lama Theater Company/Kraine
Theater, New York, NY.
WE R PUNK ROCK!!! by CHINITA L.
ANDERSON. Theater Alliance, Washington,
DC.
The Lost Girl music by BEN MARK
BONNEMA, lyrics by ARIANNA ROSE,
libretto by BEN MARK BONNEMA and
ARIANNA ROSE. NYU Players Club @ the
Kimmel Center, New York, NY.
The Gig book, music and lyrics by DOUG
COHEN. Mainstreet Musicals, Temple
University, Philadelphia, PA.
Love in the Time of Cockleburs by NANCY
GALL-CLAYTON, Arts Resources or the TriState New Works 2015, Huntington, WV.
The Agony of David by ANTHONY ERNEST
GALLO, Villa Rosa Stage, Mitchelville, MD.
Paul by ANTHONY ERNEST GALLO, Baltimore, MD.
Team of Friends by ANTHONY ERNEST
GALLO, Cosmowriters, Washington, DC.
The Queen is in the Parlour by MARC
GOLDSMITH and LAURENCE HOLZMAN,
Workshop Theater, New York, NY.
Dead Giveaway by DANIEL GUYTON, The
Storefront Theatre, Waxhaw, NC.
A Good Man music by RAY LESLEE, book and
lyrics by Philip S. Goodman. Mainstreet Musicals, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
The 7th Disorder by RHEA MACCALLUM.
Underground Theatre, Hollywood, CA.
Fifty Shades Of Santa by RHEA MACCALLUM.
74 | The Dramatist
pp72-77 BackOBook.indd 74
2/5/16 7:26 PM
D R A M AT I STS DI ARY
F.A.C.T., New York, NY.
Hoodwinked by EMILY MANN. McCarter
Theatre Center, Princeton, NJ.
Night Divers by SUSAN CLAIRE MIDDAUGH.
Four Quarter Theater at Conley Studio Lab
@ Drama League Theater Center.
The Search by E. KYLE MINOR. Theatre For
The New City, New York, NY.
Still Point by MARK E. SCHARF. Comparative
Drama Conference, Baltimore, MD.
Maidens by KENLEY SMITH. The Writing
Room, Ingram New Works Festival, Nashville
Rep. Studio A, Nashville Public Television
building, Nashville, TN.
Whisper at the Top of Your Lungs by
MATTHEW THOMAS STOFFEL. Black Hills
Playhouse, Rapid City, SD.
Sanctuary by CARIDAD SVICH. Arena Stage’s
Kogod Cradle Series, American Voices New
Play Institute, Washington, DC.
PUBLICATIONS
The Bully’s Eye by SAM AFFOUMADO, More
10-Minute Plays for Teens. Applause Theatre
& Cinema Books.
Bright Half Life by TANYA BARFIELD. Dramatists Play Service.
Quarry Road by B.J. BURTON, The Best Scenes
for Kids Ages 7-15. Applause Theatre &
Cinema Books.
Dolor by HAL CORLEY, The Best American
Short Plays (2014-2015). Applause Theatre &
Cinema Books.
Absolutely Everything ** You Need to Know
About Teaching and Performing Improv
by TRACE CRAWFORD. Electric Whirligig
Press.
Discovery by NANCY GALL-CLAYTON. OneAct Play Depot.
Speed and Herndon and Lincoln by
ANTHONY ERNEST GALLO. Browns Court
Publishing Company.
Teresa by ANTHONY ERNEST GALLO, A
Two-Ad Drama. Browns Court Publishing
Company.
Two monologues from Georgie Gets a Facelift
by DANIEL GUYTON. Monologues from the
Plays of Next Stage Press. Next Stage Press.
Wait Until Dark adapted by JEFFREY HATCHER. Dramatists Play Service.
The Nibroc Trilogy: Plays by Arlene Hutton
by ARLENE HUTTON, edited by SHAN R.
AYERS. Motesbooks, Inc.
All in the Timing: Six One-Act Plays (revised
edition) by DAVID IVES. Dramatists Play
Service.
Lives of the Saints: Nine One-Act Plays
(revised edition) by DAVID IVES. Dramatists
Play Service.
Fading by PHILIP J KAPLAN. One Act Play
Depot.
Youth on the Roof by LAURA KING. YouthPLAYS.
Act One by JAMES LAPINE. Dramatists Play
Service.
Mend the Envelope by JASON LASKY, QU
Literary Journal. Queens University of
Charlotte.
Kill Me, Please! By RHEA MACCALLUM.
The Best Women’s Stage Monologues of 2015.
Smith & Kraus.
Choir Boy by TARELL ALVIN MCCRANEY.
Theatre Communications Group.
The Sixth Victim & Other Plays by J. T.
MCDANIEL, The Sixth Victim & Other Plays.
Riverdale Books.
Miss Julie: Freedom Summer by STEPHEN
SACHS. Dramatists Play Service.
The Island of Dr. Moreau adapted by MARK E.
SCHARF. Steele Spring Stage Rights.
Where’s the Rest of Me? By DAVID E.
TOLCHINSKY, The Best Plays From The
Strawberry One-Act Festival Volume Eight.
Black Experimental Theatre/iUniverse.
Pirate Appreciation Day by MATTHEW W.
WARNER. Off The Wall Plays.
Petra by JOHN YARBROUGH, Best American
Short Plays 2014-2015. Applause Theatre and
Cinema Books.
RECORDINGS
Merman’s Apprentice book and lyrics by
STEPHEN COLE, music by David Evan. Jay
Records.
AWARDS
Single Again/The Mash-Up by VIVIAN
GREEN. Finalist, 12 Peers Theater’s New Play
Podcast Series.
Dead Giveaway by DANIEL GUYTON. Honorable Mention, We Like Short Shorts Playwriting Competition, The Storefront Theatre.
40 Days of Night by JASON LASKY, Global
Connections: On the Road Grant, Theatre
Communications Group/Andrew W. Mellon
Foundation
Enemies: Foreign and Domestic by PATRICIA
MILTON, Outstanding World Premier Play,
Theatre Bay Area.
A Better Place by DALE ANDERSEN. Honorable Mention, New Works of Merit.
The Marble Muse by DIANE BAIA HALE.
Finalist, 2015 First Flight Festival. Boomerang
Theatre Company. Third Prize, Henley Rose
Playwright Competition for Women, Yellow
Rose Productions. Third Place, 84th Annual
Writers Digest Writing Competition, Writers
Digest Magazine.
OTHER
The Night John Lennon Died...so did John
Doe novel by LOUISA BURNS-BISOGNO.
New York, NY.
Table Manners in Santa Monica audio play by
WILLIAM FOWKES. San Francisco, NY.
MARK E. SCHARF, ESTA Festival Adjudicator,
Lewes, DE.
March/April 2016 | 75
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NE W ME MBE RS
The Guild
Welcomes...
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76 | The Dramatist
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C L A S S IF IE DS
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THE ARCH AND BRUCE BROWN
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ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING** YOU
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March/April 2016 | 77
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“If
ILLUSTRATION BY DAN ROMER
Christopher
Durang
B
efore I was a member, I was invited to a cocktail
party at the Guild. In the previous year, I had two
showcase productions at 11 p.m. David Levine
somehow heard of me and encouraged me to attend.
Many playwrights were there, and I was thrilled to
talk to John Guare and Sheldon Harnick and over the
moon to meet Stephen Sondheim.
At the party, I learned the Actors Equity showcase contract had
suddenly changed where if a play moved and one of the actors did not
move with it, that the producer had to pay off the actor or, if that did
not happen, the playwright was responsible to pay the actor or actors
who didn’t move. A couple of writers signed this without understanding it and one in particular was in trouble—being asked to pay money
he did not have.
Thanks to the Guild, I knew not to sign. Playwright Michael Weller
was spearheading changing that new contract and I went to some
meetings because of him. Luckily, it got changed fairly fast. But it was
an early example of how playwrights needed help to understand our
contracts and sometimes try to change them.
Surprisingly, my Titanic play moved to off-Broadway and, happily,
all the actors moved with it. I got an agent, Helen Merrill, who was a
believer in the Guild, so I became a member as my play was moving. It,
however, got the worst reviews ever. Oh my, oh my.
A couple of years later, Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You was
a surprise success at Playwrights Horizons, then moved off-Broadway
and I won a seat on the Dramatists Guild Council. For the next twenty
years I was very involved with the Guild, sometimes about contracts,
pp78-80 WhyCDurang+Ads.indd 78
sometimes about non-profit theaters taking percentages, sometimes
just pleasure being around all these inspiring writers.
In 1985, my play The Marriage of Bette and Boo was produced at the
Public Theater. It was acclaimed and won multiple Obie awards… but
The New York Times dismissed it. Joe Papp said he would have moved
it had The Times liked it. A year later that play was a finalist for the
Hull-Warriner Award, an honor bestowed by the Dramatists Guild
Council. The deadline had passed, and David Levine and Mary Rodgers
suggested that they give the prize that day. Suddenly, Frank Gilroy (The
Subject was Roses) said he hadn’t seen the play or read it, and he thought
it was only fair that he read it first, and see who else in Council hadn’t
read it. I certainly understood the logic, but felt a little like…“the
production was really good, maybe reading the play is harder…”
A month later, I was in L.A. and got a call from David Levine.
“You won,” he said. I could hear Council members applauding in the
background. It’s my favorite phone call and knowing that my fellow
playwrights had chosen the play was so significant to me. I was grateful
that Frank Gilroy made us wait. Later, he told me in person he indeed
voted for it once he read it.
CHRISTOPHER DURANG’s plays include Beyond Therapy, Laughing Wild, Betty’s
Summer Vacation, Miss Witherspoon, Why Torture is Wrong… He won a Tony and
a Hull-Warriner Award for his play Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. He teaches
with Marsha Norman at Juilliard. He is a lifetime Council member of the Guild.
2/5/16 7:26 PM
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