Newsletter: August 2017

27.2    August 2017

This is the Playwrights Forum’s last newsletter.  The Fall 2017 session is the last before the Playwrights Forum dis-incorporates at the end of this, its 36th year.

It’s hard to say “goodbye” to thirty-six years, the effort and excitement of working for and with so many colleagues.  You have, in turn, helped make me a better teacher and a better playwright.  This has not been a one-man show: thanks are hardly an adequate acknowledgment of my fellow dramaturgs, all the directors and countless (unpaid) actors, the members of my Board of Directors and Board of Advisors.  And, finally, our programs have been supported by hundreds of individual donations, for which I am especially grateful.
    Ernie Joselovitz

As many of you know, the Playwrights Forum will be officially “retiring,” on December 31, 2017.  We will be celebrating the Forum’s 36 years of nurturing DC area playwrights with an event (remarks and reception) at Imagination Stage on Monday, January 8th, from 7:30 – 9:30  (Space, regrettably, is limited.)

A formal invitation is forthcoming but we hope you will be able to attend and raise a glass to Ernie and the Forum teachers as well as to the many artists who lent their time and talents to developing new plays.

Please email Marty DeSilva ( or Elaine Joselovitz ( if you have any questions.

     FORUM 2. Forum 2 members must register with the application form on this page to continue or re-activate for the next 4-month session.  The fee is now $130.  Do try to include full or half payment as indicated.  Bi-weekly meetings are at 6:30 p.m., Wednesdays, at St. Mary’s Armenian Church, D.C.
     FORUM 1. To insure your place in the upcoming Forum 1 session, please fill out and mail the application form on this page.  Current members please notify us by September 10th.   Do try to include full or half payment as indicated.  If you have any problem with that pre-payment, don’t hesitate to contact Ernie at   The fee is $130.  Forum 1 will include two groups of 8-10 members, in 6 bi-weekly meetings, and the one-to-one e-mail option.  Our faculty includes, for the Fall, Ernie Joselovitz and Allison Pruitt. 

Wednesdays.  St. Mary’s Armenian Church.  7:00-9:30 p.m.   September 27th to December 13th. Pruitt.
    Thursdays.  Lawton Community Recreation Center.  6:30-9 p.m.  September 21st to November 30th. Joselovitz.
    One-on-One E-Mail Option.  Joselovitz.  

How to Register: we will confirm your place in one of our groups.  For any inquiries, please call Ernie at 301-816-0569 or Allison at 703-448-0209, or e-mail . 1. Current members who wish to continue are given priority. Please register by September 10th.   2. Members who discontinued at the last session will be offered the first chance to fill vacancies. 3. Associate members and then all others will be welcomed into the Forum’s remaining openings.  
If possible, email “intend to register” by September 10th : pforum7@yahoo.com____________________________________________________
Please register _______________________________________for the upcoming session of ___ Forum 1 ___ Forum 2
___ I was last a member of Summer 2017 Session.____  I am an Associate Member 
My preference is for the group at ___________________ on _______-day. 
I prefer the one-on-one email option _____.
I’ve enclosed a pre-payment of _____$130 _____ $65
Tel Number ______________________e-mail_______________________________
Street Address (if new member) _______________________________________
Send check and hard-copy of form to: PF, P O Box 5322, Rockville, MD 20848


The Dramatists Guild 2018 National Conference
New York City
July 26-29, 2018
1501 Broadway, Suite 701, New York, NY 10036.
Contact us:

From Marilyn Millstone: Compos Mentis, playing in Week 2 of the Silver Spring (MD) One-Act Play Festival, Aug. 18-20 (we’ll be there for the evening shows Aug. 18 and 19, but the 2 pm matinee on Sunday, Aug. 20 ). Location: Silver Spring Stage, Woodmoor Shopping Center, 10145 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring MD.  Tickets: at the door, or on the theater’s website: .

Rich Amada’s award-winning play, The Judicial Murder of Mrs. Surratt, will be produced at Aldersgate Church Community Theater this fall.  It will be the first full production run of the play, which will run September 29 through October 15.   

Ted Groll is finalizing arrangements for a premier production of one of his plays this Fall by a theatre company in Detroit.

Our Town Theatre (121 E. Center St., Oakland, Maryland) is presenting a public reading of Forum 2’s Barry Weinberg’s play, The Chadwick Story on Sunday, August 13, 2017, 2:00 p.m.
Karen Zacarias continues her partnership at Arena Stage with their production of her recent play, Native Gardens, September 15 – October 22.

Pipeline Playwrights will be presenting readings of four brand new short plays at The Kennedy Center’s 2017 Page-to-Stage New Play Festival! scheduled to read at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, September 4th in the North Tier Opera Lounge. 

Thanks to Leon Levenson

Contact: Charlene Donaghy    Email: .Website: Excellence in Playwriting – Association for Theatre in Higher Education  . The award honors a new play marked by sophisticated and nuanced storytelling.  Qualifying plays should be submitted through the ATHE website. See website for complete information. Full lengths, all genres. Deadline: 11/10/2017.
Contact: Daniel Bryant, Assistant Artistic Director.  Phone: 773-296-1108. Address: Congo Square Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Avenue, #210, Chicago, IL. 60657. Full lengths, all genres.  Deadline: 11/15/2017
Contact: Susan Westfall, Literary Director  Phone: 305-755-9401. Website: .  Email: . Address: 444 Brickell Ave., #229, Miami, FL 33131.  All genres. Preferred length: 10 min./10 pgs.  Deadline: 9/30/2017
Website:  Phone: 212-247-4982. Email: . Address: 549 W. 52nd St., NewYork, NY 10019.  The EST/Sloan Project commissions, develops, presents new work delving into how we view and are affected by the scientific world.These plays deal with the struggles and challenges scientists and engineers face, from moral issues to the consequences of their discoveries.  Deadline:11/1/2017

Sarah Lunnie, Lit Manager. Phone: 502-584-1265.  Website: .  Address: Actors Theatre of Louisville, 316 W. Main St., Louisville, KY 40202.  Email: .  Submissions considered for the Heideman Award, eligible for production and $100.  Plays, no musicals.  Preferred length: 10 minute/10 pages.  DL. 11/1/17.
Tyson Danner, Artistic Director.  Phone: 563-650-2396.  Website: .  Address: 1730 Wilkes Ave., Davenport, IA 52804.  Seek plays featuring strong female characters who focus on social justice and current events.  Grand prize is $500 and performance.  All genres, preferred length 10 min/10 pages. DL. 12/15/17.
Michael Koppy, Producer.  Email: .  Address: Box 461194, West Hollywood, CA 90046.  Website: .  Cast Limit 10.  Prefer: Musical theatre, 10 min/10 pages.  Send Audio CD, full script.  DL. 8/31/17
Website: .  Email: .  Address: 107 SW. 9th Street, Bloomington, IN 47404.  Phone: 812-334-1188.  Prefer full-length comedies.  Prize: $1000 and full production.  DL. 10/31/17
Website: .  Email: .  Address: American Academy of Arts and Letters, 633 W. 15th St., New York, NY 10032.  Awards for musicals by writers and composers not already established in the field.  Submission materials: application, audio CD, full script. SASE, synopsis.  Phone: 212-368-5900.  DL. 11/1/17
Website: .  Email: .  Phone: 415-318-5200.  Address: 397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, CA 94941.  Prize: $10,000 awarded to an established or emerging playwright and an developmental workshop as part of the theatre’s New Play Reading Series.  Genre: Plays, no musicals.  Full-lengths.  DL. 8/31/17
Todd Alan Price, Stanley Drama Director.  Phone: 718-420-4338.  Address: Wagner College, One Campus Rd., Staten Island, NY 10301.  Work must be un-optioned, unproduced, unpublished.  Prize: $2000.  DL. 10/31/17
August 28    Desert Blues by Michael Oliver.  Directed by Brian MacIan.  7 p.m.  Monday.  St. John Episcopal Church, Lounge, Chevy Chase.

September 25    She’s My Mother by Paula Stone.  Directed by Lynn Spears.  7 p.m.  Monday.  Iona Senior Services Center, Tenleytown.

August 21    Eleanor Roosevelt/Radio by Martha King deSilva.  Directed by Laura Giannarelli.  7 p.m.  Monday.  Lawton Community Recreation Center.

September 18    Flash Drive & Solitary by Barry Weinberg.  Directed by Andy Wassenich.  7 p.m.  Tuesday.  Lawton Community Recreation Center.

Frequent addresses for meetings and readings…
St. Mary’s Armenian Apostolic Church, 4125 Fessenden St NW, Washington, DC 20016.
St. John’s Episcopal Church, 6701 Wisconsin Avenue, Chevy Chase, MD 20815.
Iona Senior Services Center, 4125 Albemarle Street NW, Washington, DC 20016.
Round House Theatre’s Education Center. 925 Wayne Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20910.
Twinbrook Recreation Center. 12920 Twinbrook Parkway, Rockville, MD 20851.
MetroStage. 1201 North Royal Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.
Centro Nia.  1420 Columbia Rd., NW, Washington DC 20009
Lawton Community Recreation Center.  4301 Willow Lane, Chevy Chase, MD 20815.
DC Arts Center.  2438 18th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009

August 9    Round table discussion
August 30    NOTE: One week skipped
September 13    Round table discussion
September 27    Round table discussion
October 11    Round table discussion
October 25    Round table discussion
All meetings begin at 6:30 p.m. at St. Mary’s Armenian Church.  

by Harry Bagdasian

Recently Ernie & I were talking about the Playwrights’ Forum, how it started as “The Playwrights’ Unit” and about how it had its roots in the activities of New Playwrights’ Theatre. He asked me to put that in a feature for the Forum newsletter. I will try to make it brief, but those who know me are aware that when looking back I am prone to go into a tangent now and again and again and again. Anyway, here goes.

Playwrights’ Theatre was founded by a handful of veterans from the University of Maryland’s theatre department in 1972. We produced one-act plays in our comfortable 24-seat theatre in the basement of a townhouse on 20th Street, NW. We had an extensive schedule of readings of new plays and offered bills of two or three one-acts in full production. Some plays that received readings were workshopped to full production. For the next eleven years that was our focus – readings which could lead to full productions. Critics came. Richard L. Coe wrote in the Washington POST that T.J. Camp, III’s play, THE RETURN OF CAPT. D. B. AMATUCCI was “the best short play I have seen in a long, long time.” Several plays went on to be produced by other theatres and many were published. When we became New Playwrights’ Theatre in 1975 (long story) and then moved into the old Holton Arms Girl’s School gymnasium on Church Street, we really hit our stride. We would produce up to nine full productions of new plays & musicals a year, offered a couple rehearsed readings a month (1 performance with talk back), offer well-rehearsed staged readings (two performances with talk back) and even a series of Wednesday afternoon cold readings of new plays. In addition there were four years when we did “Dramathons” as fundraisers – generally readings and full productions of 26 plays in 52 hours.

Yes, from 1976 to 1984 we were incredibly busy on Church Street doing whatever we could to stick to our goal of “fostering the creation, growth and production of new American plays and musicals.” What a time it was! And we were always broke! But that’s another story.

In the fall of 1977 we produced our first (of about 12) plays by some guy from San Francisco named Ernest Joselovitz – HAGAR’S CHILDREN. Yep. That’s the one Richard Coe told NY producer Joseph Papp to check out and yep, Joe moved our production to his New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theatre. A year later we received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to fund a playwright in residence. We gave the grant to Ernie and he was in residence from 1977 to 1984 (paid and unpaid, depending on the grants we could pull in.)

So. What’s all that got to do with the Playwrights’ Forum? Well, when Ernie moved to Washington, DC he started attending my playwriting workshop which we offered to provide new dramatists a series of exercises in the structuring of dramatic action. You see, I had latched on to Professor Sam Smiley’s book about the structuring dramatic action and decided that was the way to go when advising novice playwrights – create biographies of your characters before you throw them into situations on stage and clarify your story points before you start writing dialogue by creating a rough scenario then a scenario. This approach enables a dramatist to know her characters and the action of every scene so that dialogue better served story points as well as character creation. Truth be told, not every workshop participant followed my guidance and jumped into writing dialogue before they knew their story points (or their sequence). They would always then have problems with rewrites trying to clarify story points amid all that dialogue – they were like a kitten entangled in a lot of yarn.

Anyhow, Ernie would drop in on those 10 week long workshops, participate in writing exercises (sometimes) and he contributed quite a bit.

I can’t remember if it was my idea or Ernie’s but we established the rule that we would never let a playwright read their rough scenario or scenario to the rest of the group. It always had to be read aloud by a workshop member of our choosing. This restricted the presentation to only what the playwright had on paper, keeping them from adlibbing additional information.  

This was a very useful rule. It helped keep things focused and enabled the group to spot inconsistencies or holes in a story’s progression. Oftentimes, this approach enabled playwrights to carefully consider how they would plot out their story points. Sometimes a play would start with a linear plot but the writer would discover that non-linear plotting would better create the magnitude needed.

Where to hold these workshops was always a challenge. The NPT space on Church Street was always busy preparing for or presenting readings and productions of new plays and musicals. Somehow, our production coordinator at the time, Kathleen Tosco would find free or really cheap places for us to hold our workshops. St. Thomas’ Church at 18th & Church Street, NW was used occasionally, as was a church on Thomas Circle. One of my favorites was scheduled when Kathleen found out about a new Federal Government program to find uses for Federal spaces during off hours. We lucked out when Kathleen arranged for us to use a big, fancy conference room in the Treasury Building on 15th Street, NW. It had big comfortable leather chairs around a beautiful conference table in an oak paneled room … with lots of ash trays. Yes, they let us smoke in those days. That delighted me because I had a two pack a day habit back then.

Weekly meetings had playwrights reading their scenarios and receiving feedback from fellow workshop participants. When stories were relatively clear, the playwright would then move on to dialogue and the new scenes would be read by the other playwrights.

There was a while when Kathleen arranged for us to use classrooms and the basement cafeteria of a Catholic girl’s school over on 24th Street, NW.  We also used their cafeteria for auditions and for rehearsals of Tim Grundmann’s musicals (when not using Ford’ Theatre’s or The Kennedy Center’s rehearsal rooms.) The tricky part of using the school at night was that a nun would admit us and then by 7:30 all doors would be locked. We had to exit the building by a side ally – after we carefully switched off the circuit breakers which killed the lights (and saved Rome on its electric bill.) That was a curious process – we were carefully told NOT to switch off a certain circuit breaker which controlled electricity to the school’s kitchen. Well, Ernie wasn’t a pro when it comes to things electric. One night he turned off all the circuit breakers. Fortunately, the only loss was all the ice cream for which we had to reimburse the school $70. That was a lot of money for a poor theatre company in 1980.

Our work with playwrights’ (above and beyond the reading, staged readings and full productions) was expanded one summer to include a playwrights’ retreat in Staunton, Virginia The retreat brought three Washington area playwrights, and three winners of playwriting awards in the American College Theatre Festival. We also had a gaggle of actors (including our resident acting company Jamie McLean, Jim Brady, Gardner Hathaway, Carol Ingram and Fred Strother. Also working with us one summer was a young actress named Molly Smith – yes, the Molly now leading Arena Stage. 

I seem to recall that when the writers were all busy at their typewriters (yes, it was a while ago,) Ernie and I spent a lot of time playing poker with the actors as well as Scrabble. When Robert Small and Paul Hildebrand left NPT they took the concept of the playwrights’ retreat and developed a highly successful summer-long, international playwrights’ retreat in Staunton.

Another story about Ernie. One day back in 1980 I think it was, Ernie asked if he could meet with me about his new play, FLESH EATERS about a writer who was a victim of  Senator McCarthy and the U.S. Congress’ HUAC. I would be happy to read it, but Ernie said no, he wanted to read it to me. So we retreated to a backstage corner, took seats on two old folding chairs and he read me the play. It was one of the most exciting times I experienced as a producer. Having a playwright passionately read those scenes in which a playwright was refusing to compromise his integrity as a writer … I was actually moved to tears. I immediately scheduled the play for the coming season.

That’s the way it worked in those days. I very seldom denied our stage and full resources to our three playwrights in residence Ernie Joselovitz, Tim Grundmann and Mark Stein as well as several writers who worked their way through the workshops and readings process.

Ernie and I continued with dozens of playwrights’ with the help of a variety of directors, actors and two exceptional dramaturgs, Robert Schulte and E. Lloyd Rose. Then I “retired.”
Ernie took the workshop concept and continued working with playwrights in the “Playwrights’ Unit.” Meeting weekly, groups of 12 to 14 playwrights would meet and support each other. Scenarios would be shared and discussed as would dialogue scenes – just as we had done for years prior.

Looking back, there were several playwrights who developed plays via the Forum. Some dramatists went on to become widely produced … Oni Faida Lampley, Ally Currin, Karen Zacaris, Nancy Nillson, Karen Evans, Sean O’Leary, Peter Perhonis, Mary Hall Surface, Paul Donnelly, Joe Palka, Martha DeSilva, Joe Morogielo and many others developed their playwriting skills and new plays & musicals with Ernie’s guidance.

Okay. Ernie is very gracious to acknowledge that The Forum grew from our 7 years together at New Playwrights’ Theatre, but the truth of the matter is his Playwrights’ Forum helped many more writers answer their creative compulsion. So many dramatists have succeeded because of Ernie’s dedication to the craft! He’s the “inciting incident” in so many of our lives. As a theatre community, I don’t think we can ever thank him enough for his generous willingness to assist fellow dramatists.

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