Newsletter: June 2014

PLAYWRIGHTS FORUM
NEWSLETTER

June 2014

WELCOME TO FORUM 1 SUMMER SESSION!

Continuing: Ted Groll, David Epstein, Mary Lee McIntyre, Barry Weinberg, Adrian Verkouteren, Leon Levenson, Lorelei Kornell, Deryl Davis, Mary Bax-Morrow, Anne Stingle, Susan Kelly, Ron Wood, Kaz Kazanjian, John Tycko, Jack Foley, Paul Handy, Joan Bellsey, Robin Cuddy, and Thomas Mason, Jr.

Returning: Molly Schuchat, Bill Costanza, and James Beller, Jr.

A special welcome to new members: Bucky Mitchell, Graziella Jackson, and Joe Riener.

WORTH NOTING

The current issue of the Dramatists Guild’s The Dramatist includes essays on “What Inspired You As A Writer” by ex-Forum 2 members Ellen Byerrum andClarence Coo.  Ellen, living in Denver,  is currently writing “an Irish play” and the latest of her mystery series, Veiled Revenge.  Clarence is currently a resident playwright at New Dramatists, NYC, the Ma-Yi Writers Lab, and program administrator of Columbia University’s MFA Writing Program.

Jennie Eng will have a staged reading at the DC Jewish Community Center of her new play, Spectacular Women (in their natural habitat) on June 17 at 7:30 pm. The play was conceived and written as part of Theater J’s Locally Grown festival.  Ticket info: http://washingtondcjcc.org/center-for-arts/theater-j/on-stage/locally-grown.html

Keith Donaldson recently passed away.  Keith came into the Forum in 1993, and was immediately writing plays: family dramas like Reunion on the Hill and The Greers of Magnolia Court to social-issue plays like Road Rage, a low-key guy but as a writer disciplined and determined.  His life changed, his many church activities broadened, and when he returned to writing, it was with novels, three of which were published.  A kindly and righteous man, he’ll be missed.

FORUM 2 SCHEDULE
June 11    Round Table Discussions
June 25    Round Table Discussions
July 9        Round Table Discussions
July 23    Round Table Discussions
August 6    Round Table Discussions
*All meetings take place at St. Mary’s Armenian Church, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

READINGS SCHEDULE

Public.
June 2        We Could  by Joseph Talarico.  Directed by Mary Suib.  7 p.m.  Monday.  Iona Senior Services Center, Tenleytown.

August 4    Mr. Carver and Me by Ron Wood.  Directed by Dorothy Neumann.  7 p.m.  Monday.  St. John’s Episcopal Church/Norwood Parish, Chevy Chase.

August 11    Medal of Honor by Arthur Luby.  Directed by Patrick Doneghy  7 p.m.  Monday.  MetroStage/Alexandria.

In-house.
July 14    The Expedition by Robin Cuddy.  Directed by Andy Wassenich.  7 p.m.  Monday. Lawton Community Recreation Center, Chevy Chase.

August 25    Ford vs. Ford 1846 by Jason Ford.  Directed by Brian Mac Ian.  7 p.m.  Monday.  St. Mary’s Armenian Church, D.C.

Dramatist Guild Event: Taking Control of Our Own Fates
by Patricia Connelly

The Dramatist Guild’s day-long event, Playwrights: Taking Control of Our Own Fates, was held at the Kennedy Center on Sunday, May 4th. Led by Guild representatives Gwydion Suilebhan (D.C.), Brent Englar (Baltimore), and Noelle Viñas (D.C. Guild Ambassador), the event included four sessions led mostly by local playwrights and one brainstorming session, all focused on the theme of playwrights producing their own work.
Gwydion Suilebhan opened the day by pointing out that there are more good plays written than there are opportunities for production. He estimated that approximately 1500 new plays get world premieres each year but that about 2,250 new plays never get produced.  The answer for playwrights, according to Suilebhan, is seizing the means of cultural production, taking control of our own fates, and producing our plays ourselves.
FIRST PANEL.  Playwright Brett Abelman moderated the first panel, Ask the Expert: How to Fringe, which featured several playwrights who had each produced several plays in the Capital Fringe. Some also produced plays in other Fringe festivals including Laura Zam in the New York Fringe and Bob Bartlett in the Edinburgh Fringe. The general consensus from the panelists was that the Fringe offers an opportunity to try out new work and a way to get your work on its feet. The Fringe also offers a low-risk way to launch a new production.
The time to apply for Capital Fringe is October each year. Venues are assigned sometime in March and all marketing materials must be in by May. When thinking about your play for Fringe production, think about minimal sets that can be loaded and struck within 10 to 15 minutes at most. Some venues have no storage space, so you have to be ready to carry your set, costumes and props, in and out for each show.  The reported costs averaged about $2,000 for a Capital Fringe show which included $825 in fees. Some of the panelists paid the money out of their own pockets, some raised money using Kickstarter and one person mentioned a family sponsor.
According to playwright Stephen Spotswood, the most important thing you can do to prepare for Fringe is to choose your collaborators – director, actors and stage manager – early on. One of the panelists suggested having your key people lined up even before you submit your application because by the time the spring rolls around, it’s difficult to find people who are not already committed. The bottom line was that producing in the Fringe is exhausting and exhilarating – and a good option for self-producing. [This year’s Capital Fringe dates are July 10 – July 27.]
SECOND PANEL. The second session was Social Media for Playwrights and featured Devon Smith, a knowledgeable and savvy social media expert, as the sole speaker. She gave a general overview about the types of social media people are using and their uses for playwrights. Her point was that “social media is a conversation.” According to Smith, there are different ways playwrights can use social media: to do audience research and speak directly to your audience; as a kind of emotional support system, not only to connect and derive inspiration from other theater artists, but to collaborate with them; to get to know and “hang out” with artists in other media; and, finally, as a way or a place to make and present art. Smith talked about how companies and businesses use social media as a way to market products, advertise, and connect with potential consumers. The ultimate goal is to get email addresses. She suggested that Twitter, as a way to “shout back and forth” may be the most useful social media tool. The key, according to Smith, is finding the right group of people. Her advice to those who want their own website is to do it yourself through sites such as Squarespace or WordPress.
THIRD PANEL.  The third panel, Playwrights Raising Money, was moderated by JoJo Ruf, Associate Executive Director of the National New Play Network and Executive and Creative Director of the Welders, a playwrights collaborative. Each of the panelists discussed ways in which they have raised money and supported their work. Included among them were: applying for grants and specifically grants from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities; submitting a proposal to produce your work as a Mead Theater Lab project; crowd funding through sites such as Indiegogo, Kickstarter and GoFundMe; building business partnerships and relationships; and working within educational institutions and venues. Ari Roth, playwright and Artistic Director at Theater J, said that self-production is not vanity production. He emphasized that it is easier to raise money for “the big idea” and advised playwrights to be about more than “I.” People will give money if you have something burning to tell. Along the same line, local playwright Jackie Lawton emphasized learning how to talk about your work. “Know why it’s important now and why it’s important to a particular community.”
PANEL FOUR. The last panel, Roundtable: Local Playwright Initiatives, was led by local playwright Renee Calarco who is also one of the founders of the Welders, which was started in D.C. at the end of last year. Both she and Caleen Jennings, another Welder, discussed the formation of the group, their process of building a cohesive, collaborative group, and the role and skills of the Executive Producer. Danielle Mohlman talked about her group, Field Trip Theater, which she formed with colleagues with whom she had worked at Studio Theatre. Another playwright/producer on the panel was Joanna Castle Miller who founded Wait Don’t Leave Productions. The discussion was informative and highlighted what the panelists have found to bemost important in launching and sustaining a successful theater group: people with good organizational skills; a maintained focus on fund-raising and audience building; a defined mission; deadlines; articulated goals; a rigorous schedule of meetings; shared values among collaborators; written contracts; and, in some instances, starting small and growing slowly.
The final session was Town Hall Brainstorming during which the participants broke up into smaller groups to discuss topics such as getting your work out there, working with educational institutions, connecting with other playwrights, and diversity. By the end of the day, the crowd of about a hundred playwrights from the D.C./Baltimore region who attended had been given a great deal of information and a slew of ideas – as well as inspiration – for going forward with their own productions.

KVELLING
Pronounced exactly as it’s spelled.  Yiddish: to gush, to swell.  Here is where you will find tidbits about Forum members and Associate members.  Good things that have happened to our colleagues inside and outside the Playwrights Forum neighborhood.  Send all kvelling direct to the Playwrights Forum at pforum7@yahoo.com .

Forum 2’s Patricia Connelly will be working towards her MFA at through Goddard University, Vermont.

Forum 2’s Paco Madden has been accepted into Arizona State University’s MFA/Dramatic Writing Program, which he will be starting this Fall.

Marta Vogel’s musical, Willa Wants to (Gulp) Walk will be performed by the Prince George’s Children’s Theater, under the direction of Nia Barge, in the Summer Playgrounds and Camps operated by M-NCPPC in Prince George’s County, MD. Her brother, Raymond Vogel, Jr.,arranged the music.

John Marogiella’s Play Date had its world premiere at Oldcastle Theatre Company in Bennington, Vermont.  The script will be read at Abingdon Theatre Company in Manhattan in June.  His Civilizing Lusby was selected for a MainStage Reading at the Great Plains Theatre Conference in Omaha, Nebraska.  The script will also be published this fall.  John’s  two ten minutes, Prologue and Fashion Specifics, will be at the Capital Fringe Festival in July.

Tim Treanor’s play, Dracula. A Love Story, developed over much time at Playwright’s Forum, will be in the Fringe Festival this year. Directed by Chris Henley and Jay Hardee, in The Mountain at Mount Vernon Church on Massachusetts Ave. July 12,18,20, 24 and 26.  Meanwhile, his  novel — The Seduction of Braulio Jules — can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Associate Member Catherine O’Connor has had several short plays read by Playwrights Collaborative.

Sylvia Toone has recently completed her seventh year as the visiting performance director and adjunct professor of theater and English at the University of Salerno, Italy. This year’s performance, “Who Do You Think I Am? Or, What You Will”, was loosely based on Twelfth Night.  Sylvia also continues to serve as an informal liaison in various student exchange programs between the faculties of the media university, HdM, in Stuttgart, Germany, where she taught until 2012, and the University of Salerno.

Joan Cushing’s Breast In Show (Forum 2’s Marty de Silva book) will be in the 2014 DC Fringe Festival.  Marty and Joan also have a new musical, 101 Dalmatians, commissioned by Imagination Stage, with a double opening, September at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, and  December at Imagination Stage, both productions directed by Janet Stanford.  Joan also has a commission from Children’s Theatre of Charlotte to adapt a book called Ella’s Big Chance:  A Jazz Age Cinderella.  It is set in the Roaring 20’s London, by British author and illustrator Shirley Hughes.  Also been commissioned by Circa ’21 Dinner Theatre in Rock Island, IL to adapt Lucy Rose:  Busy Like You Can’t Believe, a popular children’s book, as a musical.  Her musical Petite Rouge:  A Cajun Red Riding Hood opens off-Broadway in February, 2017 at the New Victory Theatre.

Kristy Simmons (Forum 1) had a staged reading of her 10-minute play Tree Danglings at The National Museum for Women in the Arts as part of DC-SWAN Day, and a world premiere of her 10-minute play The Dog Therapist in BOOM! Theatre’s 2014 Brave New Works Festival.

Alexis Clements saw a public reading of her most recent play, Unknown, produced at WOW Café Theater in New York City, in May.

Sanctuary Theatre and The Performing Knowledge Project will present Robert Michael Oliver in a one-man performance of Song of Myself: The WHITMAN Project at the 2014 Capital Fringe Festival in an interdisciplinary production that includes original music, photographs, and a film featuring over 50 local artists and activists.  Forum 2’s Elizabeth Bruce and Forum 2’s Robert Michael Oliver facilitated an ACTING FOR WRITERS Workshop at the 2014 Split This Rock Festival in Washington, DC.  Elizabeth is continuing her residency at BloomBars in Columbia Heights with her STEM-Themed Theatrical Journey Project for Young Children, ages 3-5.

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