Newsletter: February 2015

PLAYWRIGHTS FORUM
NEWSLETTER
February 2015 25.1

HOW I READ YOUR SCRIPT
Panel and Discussion
Producer Shirley Serotsky, Acting Artistic Director of Theatre J
Director Dorothy Neumann
Actor Rick Foucheux
Designer Rosemary Pardee (costumes)

Will discuss how each reads a script, what each is looking for in that script: a producer deciding whether or not to include your play as part of its theatre season; a director committed to the production of that play; an actor hired to play a role in that play; and a designer with the task of designing costumes for that same play.

Moderated by Paula Stone.
Followed by a Q & A, and an opportunity to meet one-on-one.
Refreshments will be served.

Monday, 7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. February 9, 2015
St. John’s Episcopal Church, (rear entrance): 6701 Wisconsin Avenue, Chevy Chase, MD 20815.

$5 donation requested at door
RSVP: pforum7@yahoo.com
Funded by the Barbara Gross Memorial Fund
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Welcome to Playwrights Forum’s Spring 2015 session!
Forum 1 will include…. Continuing members: Adrian Verkouteren, Leon Levenson, Ted Groll, David Epstein, Molly Schuchat, Mary Lee McIntyre, Marilyn Millstone, Susan Kelly, Lorelei Kornell, Ron Wood, Patricia Davis, Jonathan Tycko, Kaz Kazanjian, Patricia Fitzgerald, Thomas Mason, Jr., Paul Handy, Maria Trunk, Joan Bellsey, Jeryl Parade, Bob Griffin, Renee Tynan, Bucky Mitchell, Tricia Rudder and John Carter.
Returning members: Jack Foley.
And a special welcome to new members: Elizabeth Jordan, Justin McCarthy, Jack Mayo, Olivia Haller, and Todd Wilson.

Forum 2’s Spring Session will include: Michael Oliver, Barry Weinberg, Patricia Connelly, Jane Ross, Diane Ney, Arthur Luby, Jason Ford, Lucia Seyranyan and Joe Palka.

WORTH NOTING
The National New Play Network, a nation-wide coalition of theatres especially interested in the production of new plays, headquartered at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, has announced its “searchable, on-line repository of scripts”, The New Play Exchange, managed by local playwright and Dramatists Guild representative Gwydion Suilebhan. For a nominal fee, playwrights can create a profile and upload a script or script sample, then enter searchable metadata. A theatre company can get a subscription and “go hunting for plays”. For further information, check out https://newplayexchange.org/ .

Congratulations to Forum long-time friends, Kathryn Bryer and Jerry Whiddon, nominated for Outstanding Directing by the Helen Hayes Awards. Lloyd Rose, of our Advisory Board, was also nominated, for Outstanding Play/Musical Adaptation.

Joan Cushing (ex-Forum) is seeing her musical play, Petite Rouge, produced at Adventure Theatre in Glen Echo through March 8. Performances Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Info: www.adventuretheatre-mtc.org

The Forum’s Marilyn Millstone will see her monologue The Hope Slope at the Valentine’s Day Monologue Festival, February 13th, 8 p.m. (647 Columbus Avenue, NYC).

WASHINGTON AT A GLANCE FOR PLAYWRIGHTS
A version of this article originally appeared in the January/Feburary 2015 issue of The Dramatist. Reprinted by permission of Dramatists Guild of America.
by Gwydion Suilebhan
DC features more than twenty theatres, large and small, that have made new plays part of their regular programming. Among them:
Adventure Theatre/MTC*
Arena Stage*
Banished?Productions*
Dog & Pony DC*
Doorway Arts*
Flying V*
Force/Collision
Forum Theatre
The Hub*
Olney Theatre
Pinky Swear*
Rorschach Theatre
Signature Theatre
Studio Theatre
Taffety Punk Theatre Company
Theatre Alliance*
Theatre J*
Venus Theatre
Washington Rogues*
The Welders*
Woolly Mammoth*
DC also features several theatres that have recently produced the work of a local playwright (denoted with a * above). And it doesn’t take our thriving Capitol Fringe Festival into account. That’s another 160 shows or so, most of them new plays as well.
DC is home to a few important theatres that have regularly commissioned new work from local playwrights: most notably Theater J, through its Locally Grown program, but also Adventure Theatre, African Continuum Theatre, Discovery Theater, Imagination Stage, the Kennedy Center and Signature Theatre.
There are several New Play Development Programs at work in the city, led by The Inkwell, the Kennedy Center’s Page-to-Stage Program, First Draft, and Theatre Alliance’s Hot House Reading Series.
Although the National New Play Network’s (see above) mission is (of course) national, its presence in DC has resulted in commissions of several DC playwrights and readings of DC playwrights’ work.

READINGS SCHEDULE

Public.
March 20 White Lies by Tricia Rudder. Directed by Sheilah Crossley-Cox. 7 p.m. Monday. St. John’s Episcopal Church.

April 20 The Telltale Harp by Lorelei Kornell. Directed by Scott Sedar. 7 p.m. Monday. St. Mary’s Armenian Church.

April 27 The Seventh Most Popular by Jonathan Tycko. Directed by Andy Wassenich. 7 p.m. Monday. Iona Senior Services Center.

In-House.
February 23 Workshop Reading Series #1. Cold readings from plays by Ron Wood, Renee Tynan and Jeryl Parade. Directed by Mary Suib. 7 p.m. Monday. 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

FORUM 2 SCHEDULE
January 21 Round table discussion
February 4 Round table discussion
February 18 Round table discussion
March 4 Round table discussion
March 18 Round table discussion
All Forum meetings take place at St. Mary’s Armenian Church at 6:30 p.m.

SPOTLIGHT ON…. “THE WELDER WAY”
by Caleen Sinette Jennings

(Five Washington-based playwrights formed a new playwrights’ collective dedicated exclusively to developing and producing their own new works. The Welders’ inaugural members-playwrights Bob Bartlett, Renee Calarco, Allyson Currin, Caleen Sinnette Jennings, and Gwydion Suilebhan and Executive and Creative Director Jojo Ruf.)

I don’t remember when we started using the term, “The Welder Way”. It’s come to mean stepping up to a huge responsibility with a gung ho smile, rolling up your sleeves and getting the job done. It means blurring the line between self-interest and collective interest. It means doing something way scarier than you thought. We must have come up with the term when we were knee-deep in mounting our first production. Welder Ally Currin, was our “canary in the coal mine” with her magnificent play, Carolina Layaway Grail. Ally describes this time eloquently:
Opening a play is always terrifying for a playwright, and being the first Welder up was doubly so. Not for the usual reasons, however. I found that my central fear with GRAIL was not about how well my play would do in front of audiences. I was most worried about failing my fellow Welders. Fortunately that was impossible to do, because having a collective like ours means that the playwright/AD has unconditional support and absolute belief in her work from the team. And when everyone stands unflinchingly and enthusiastically behind the art, and gives so selflessly, you have the recipe for complete success.

To manifest the team’s belief in each playwright’s work, early on we agreed that a brother/sister Welder should be there with the Welder Artistic Director every night – for moral support, last minute emergencies, to make the curtain speech and to collect post show donations. As a result, I had the privilege of seeing Ally’s play five times. I got to see the engine, the guts, the deep structure of the play. I got to watch Ally greet the audience, interact with cast and SM, and just generally handle the enormous pressure of being Artistic Director of her own play. Ally is fiercely seasoned and unflappable, but this was huge even for her. We teased her good naturedly about her tendency to turn to the rest of the Welders for advice, when she knew that our standard answer would be, “You’re the AD, it’s your decision.” So on the closing night of her play, when she publicly handed over the Welder’s torch to me, I patted myself on the back for having observed Ally so closely in preparation for my own stint as AD. In addition, we had an extensive post mortem and from that created policies and procedures that made my life so much easier. I only wish Ally could have benefitted from what we learned and not a day went by when I didn’t thank her in my heart.
Having closely observed the process and the post mortem, I thought I was prepared to become AD. But there was no way to prepare for actually walking in the shoes of a Welder Artistic Director for my play, Not Enuf Lifetimes. Little did I know how much I would be immersed in the production process. Just as my playwriting skills were challenged by the rehearsal questions and notes I was getting from my director and actors, my body and stamina were challenged as I hauled lumber, painted, climbed ladders, and shopped for props and costumes. I was triple the age of our TD Austin Byrd, in fact, I had been his Intro to Theatre professor in his freshman year at AU. But he was now my teacher as I drilled the legs onto platforms (I still can’t hold the damn drill straight enough). I was triple the age of props designer Lauren Chilton, who guided me as I painted the ply wood black, researched and created a coffee shop blackboard menu. I was triple the age of Kelly Rowan who patiently corrected my texturing technique at least a dozen times as I graffitied the floor and platforms. I schlepped armloads of costumes costume designer Katie Touart who was the expert on what my characters would wear.
It was no surprise that the work was dusty, detailed, and draining. The real insight was that when you’re a Welder, being the architect of your play means way more than creating its structure on the page. You are the architect of an experience that involves every Welder, every worker involved in mounting your play. Welder Gwydion lifted light boxes and door frames despite battling the flu. Welder Renee wrote press releases, sold tickets and managed comps. Welder Bob supervised the scene shop and drove plywood from Bowie to D.C. for cutting. During load-in, I was profoundly humbled to be accepted among a team of perfectionist designers and technical folks who dedicated themselves to building my show from the ground up. I stepped back and observed the bee hive-like atmosphere in the theatre and thought, “These people are working their asses off because of an idea in my head, a fiction, a made up story. Will it be worthy of their work?” When the actors walked onto the set for the first time they joyfully exclaimed as their world had come to life. David Wilson, who played not one but two roles, was also sound designer. He not only selected the iconic hip hop of that particular era, but he tweaked and fine-tuned the sounds of an urban alley and a busy coffee shop. The actors playing the characters in my fictional family took time to create a home address and an outline of key events in their shared backstory. Melissa Flaim, who played the mother, wrote out seven letters to her onstage husband Frank as if it was the 60’s and he was serving in Vietnam. This was extra work that came out of the actors’ time, imaginations, and commitment to create fully realized people. Director Psalmayene, facilitated difficult but ultimately rewarding and team-strengthening discussions with the actors about race, class, white privilege, religion, child abuse and other issues in the play. These discussions came out of their emotional hides. Since the play touched on several sensitive issues, I debated about whether I should do one or two audience talk-backs. At the second preview, an audience member pointed his finger at me and said, “You have to do a talkback after every show. You can’t send us out of the theatre without giving us a chance to talk about what we’ve seen.” So, I did a talk back every night for 14 nights. It was emotionally exhausting and unbelievably rewarding.
On the day of the strike, Welder Jojo and I deconstructed platforms. Ally loaded the U-haul and stored props in her basement. The Welders had been with me from the very first read through to the post mortem.
At our closing night celebration, I passed the Welder’s torch to Bob Bartlett. I asked Bob how he felt and he said:
We’ve built something strong and lasting in so short a period of time. And the support we’ve received and continue to receive has been remarkable, encouraging, and vital. We’ve known all along that we can’t do this alone – and we haven’t had to. Onward!

As playwrights, we speak of being “immersed” in our work. We speak of theatre as being “collaborative”. Having been a Welder Artistic Director I know that I’ve used these terms way too lightly in the past. I am humbled, awed, exhausted and rejuvenated by the power of this experience. I am excited, energized and dedicated to creating this life-changing experience for Bob, Renee, Gwydion, and successive generations of Welders. It’s the Welder way.