Newsletter: June 2015

PLAYWRIGHTS FORUM
NEWSLETTER

25.3   June 2015

WELCOME!  Playwrights Forum Summer Session!
Forum 1 continuing members include: Anne J. Gumbinner, Jeryl Parade, Maria Trunk, Ted Groll, Mary Lee McIntyre, Adrian Verkouteren, David Epstein, Paul Handy, Leon Levenson, Jack Mayo, Kaz Kazanjian, Lorelei Kornell, Ron Wood, Susan Kelly, Tricia Rudder, Bob Griffin.
Returning members include: Ruth Bennett, Michael Stang and James del Fiore.
Forum 2 active members: Jane Ross, Art Luby, Barry Weinberg, Sidra Rausch, Lucia Seyranyan, Marilyn Millstone, Joe Palka, Jason Ford, Jennie Eng, Tom Stephens.

Worth Noting

On June 13, Our Town Theatre in Oakland, MD (121 E. Center Street) will present Forum 2’s Barry Weinberg’s prize-winning play, End Papers.  The staged reading will start at 7:00 p.m.  End Papers was produced by the Little Theatre of Mechanicsburg (PA) in 2014 after it won the American Association of Community Theatre’s NewPlayFest, a nationwide contest.  End Papers also was been chosen by the Baltimore Playwrights Festival, the Reston (Virginia) Community Players’ New Play Project, and the Atlantic Stage (South Carolina) New Play Festival.   There is no charge for admission to the reading, but contributions to Our Town Theatre will be appreciated.  Further info: www.ourtowntheatre.wix.com.ott .

Play Reading at Iona presented by Thelma Theatre: Kitchen Sink by Forum 2’s  Paula Stone featuring Faith Potts.  Tuesday, June 23, 7 p.m. $5 contribution requested at door.  ( Iona Senior Services Center, 4125 Albemarle Street NW, Washington, DC 20016).

2015 Helen Hayes Award winners included Forum friend Jon Kalbfleisch (Musical Direction), Imagination Stage for its production of The BFG (Outstanding Production for Young Audiences, Outstanding Set Design), Adventure Theatre for Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol (Set Design), and friend Rick Foucheux (Best Actor).

Schedule of Readings

Public.

June 30    Saturday The Child Was Lost by Thomas Mason, Jr.  Directed by Wanda Whiteside.  7 p.m.  Tuesday.  Silver Spring Black Box Theatre (8641 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD 20910).  In cooperation with Live Garra Theatre.

July 13    Paris By Way of Lebanon by Lucia Seyranyan.  Directed by Brian Mac Ian.  7 p.m.  Monday.  St. John’s Episcopal Church.

July 20    The Loathing by Michael Oliver.  7 p.m., Monday, Iona Senior Services Center.

In-house.

June 8      The Audit by Maria Trunk.  Directed by Laura Gianarelli.  7 p.m.  Monday.  St. Mary’s Armenian Church.

June 22    The Chadwick Story by Barry Weinberg.  Directed by Scott Sedar.  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

June 10    Round Table Discussion
June 24    Round Table Discussion
July 8        Round Table Discussion
July 22    Round Table Discussion
August 5    Round Table Discussion
All Forum 2 meetings take place at 6:30 p.m. at St. Mary’s Armenian Church, D.C.

From the Forum Handbook….  

PLAYWRITING: THE PROCESS
“The pre-dialogue stage in the compositional process demands patience, endurance, and discipline as the companions to creativity.” Sam Smiley, PLAYWRITING; THE STRUCTURE OF ACTION.

Germinal idea
A play must begin somewhere: sometimes that’s an image, often a character and/or related stories, maybe a single incident, even (more difficult) a theme or subject area.  Most importantly, behind that image, that character, that theme is an emotional attachment.  It’s not enough to acknowledge “I like this character” even “I feel strongly about this subject”, you need to get in closer touch with yourself, keep asking “why this incident? What feelings? Why now?”  If those feelings are strong enough and are ready for exploration and expression, this may be the beginnings of a play.  There comes a point at which you know: I must write this play.

Random notes
Ideas become concrete when written, the act of writing helps clarify and focus.  The tendency is to seek the security of “making up your mind”.  BUT: it’s more important to keep an open mind, examining all your options, not limiting your search by making decisions too early, thereby eliminating possibilities.

Rough Scenario
“With random notes, a playwright concentrates on materials, and in the rough scenario he struggles with form.” (Sam Smiley)

Its purpose is to answer the question: Do I have the makings of a play here?  Or: what more do I need to make this material into a play?

The Rough Scenario is a substitute for staring out the window trying to keep your mind on your proposed play, too often thinking about lunch or baseball or the kids.  It focuses your mind, directing it to the necessary specific demands.  It’s a way of thinking with a pencil, a way of doodling with purpose.

A Rough Scenario is scribbles, cross-cuts and erasures, “what ifs” and “wonder whys”.

Detailed Scenario
A Rough Scenario is not completed and then abandoned; it evolves into the Detailed Scenario, enlarging the details of certain scenario elements.  You might first write out a Narrative, that is, the story elements free from the enclosures of the stage, without reference to the how, where and selective “whats” of your story.  In your synopsis and scene-to-scene summary, how much detail must be a matter of individual needs, not evasion Excuses should not take the place of effective self-evaluation.  How much “room” do I need to assure spontaneity and discovery, and yet maintain structure and direction?

First Draft

Do not start writing your play when you’re 8 months pregnant; do not stop writing because of a painful ingrown toenail or because the Redskins lose the final four games of the season.  Write fast, write slow, write sequentially, randomly, but write.  Set a realistic deadline, arrange to make enough time without interruptions and without excuses.  Having done sufficient preparation, you can stop thinking, start listening to your characters, stay in the dramatic moment.  You’ll make exciting discoveries so you’ll make minor adjustments.  That does not mean you’ll be led helplessly in directions completely unforeseen into a play never previously envisioned (like starting out from Silver Spring towards San Francisco and ending up in New Orleans wondering why you can’t find sourdough bread).

Rewrites
Rewrites begin with finding and using supportive and knowledgeable feedback.  Don’t make the mistake of returning immediately to the dialogue, of applying band-aids to what may be a broken foot (or worse).  Step back.  Begin at the beginning: like the building of a house, begin revisions by checking its foundations. Re-examine the larger elements of your play; rewrite and consider improvement of your synopsis.  Then examine the dramatic function of each scene/section.  Then you’ll be reading for dialogue again.

Rehearsal (pre-production)
Rehearsals are a process of giving-over: the playwright gives over his play to the director who gives it over to the actors who give it to the audience.  Letting go, giving over your play, is difficult but necessary.  Don’t enter rehearsals with the overriding aim of making friends or, on the other hand, protecting your script from the corruption of your fellow craftsmen.  Don’t over-estimate (along with the producer and director) how much you can accomplish in substantial rewrites during the rehearsal period, beyond fine-tuning, adjustments for the individual actors and unforeseen complications of staging.

Post-production
From your audience, seek to discover when your play is clear and interesting.  In those two areas an audience can never be wrong: knowing when it is bored and when it is confused. Always listen to an audience’s reaction, never to an audience’s solution.

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 .

Former Forum 2’s Alexis Clements’ play Conversation is being prepared for its Norwegian premier.  Her play Unknown has been published by Private Commission, available on Lulu.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

Forum friend Caleen Sinette Jennings will be seeing her newest play, Queens Girl in the World, premiering in the upcoming season at Theatre J.

Former Forum 2 member Karen Zacarias’s play, Looking For  Roberto Clemente will have an encore production next season at Imagination Stage.  Her new comedy, Destiny of Desire, will open the new season at Arena Stage.

Former Forum 2 member Delores Whiskeyman Gregory will be premiering a new play of hers as part of the upcoming Capital Fringe Festival.  So too will Forum 1’s Graziella Jackson’s play After 11and Jeryl Parade (Forum 1).

Forum 2’s venerable Tom Stephens will see his ten-minute play May Tag featured in Fusion Theatre’s Short Play Festival in Albuquerque next month.

Spotlight On….  Barry Weinberg
by Forum 2’s Paula Stone   

Barry’s development as a playwright has been characterized by passion, a willingness to both create and seize opportunities to learn, and perseverance.

Barry remembers loving the theatre while growing up in Minneapolis.  From high school onward, he went to plays by road-show and resident (Guthrie Theatre) companies.  In college, at the University of Minnesota, he wrote a couple of fifteen-minute musical plays for campus competitions where fraternities and sororities were paired to perform in tents in the university’s field house.  These plots were necessarily rudimentary, the music was simple and loud, and Barry doesn’t recall winning anything, but he had a great time.

After attending UMinn Law School, Barry’s career as a lawyer took him to Washington DC and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.  He began by investigating the beatings during the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, then was a litigator, and later served as a supervisor, including Acting Chief of the Voting Section; he retired in 2000.  While he doesn’t feel his work had much influence on his playwriting, he does credit it with teaching him to accept criticism. 

Barry continued to frequent the theatre after he moved to DC.  He clearly remembers his first playwriting effort:  He had just retired from the Justice Department, was on his way home after seeing The Weir at the (old) Round House Theatre, and decided that he wanted to make people come alive on stage.  At the time, he was busy writing a law review article.  So while researching and writing the article, he wrote “Play 1”—he never gave it a real title—and invited friends to his house for a reading.  “It was fortunate that we served food and wine during intermission, because the play was so bad I spent the entire second act wishing it would end.  Mercifully, it did, and I immediately abandoned it.” 

Realizing he needed to learn the craft of writing a play, Barry contacted for guidance a Minnesotan friend — Barbara McConagha – who was playwriting and living in DC.  “She said that ‘Ernie Joselovitz is the only show in town,’ for what I wanted.”  Thus Barry became a member of Playwrights Forum and over the years slowly learned how to add drama to dialogue.

Barry values opportunities to learn and he perseveres.  For example, after his play, End Papers, was read at the Baltimore Playwrights Festival in 2011, Barry Feinstein invited him to workshop it with his Theatrical Mining Company in Baltimore.  From late 2011 to Spring 2012 they worked on a single, pivotal scene in the play.  “Barry’s direction demonstrated that my heartfelt play about a woman repeating her mistakes about men is, in fact, ‘all about the money,’ as Barry kept telling me.  So I rewrote the play.”  He deleted two characters, refocused the action, and totally revised the second act, including drastically revising two of the remaining five characters.  End Papers became a far more driven, interesting play, and went on to win the American Association of Community Theatre’s NewPlayFest in 2013, which included a world premiere production by The Little Theatre of Mechanicsburg and publication by the Dramatic Publishing Company in 2014.  His other recent successes include his play It’s Your Funeral, which in 2014 was a winner in both the Frostburg (MD) One-Act Play Competition and the Old Opera House Theatre’s One-Act Play Festival (Charles Town, WV).

Barry credits retirement and his wife, Lyn, for giving him the time, without pressure, to explore playwriting together with his other interests.  “The Playwrights Forum was a constant that kept me focused on playwriting amidst the swirl of my other post-retirement activities.”  In general, he finds the time to write plays by neglecting other tasks.  “Unless I am overtaken by some other large research or writing project, I begin playwriting after my morning workout, or I start in the late afternoon after running errands and doing other, less interesting chores.  I work in spurts of about four hours for several days in a row, at which point I need to lay off for a while.  But when I take a break from playwriting, my plays continue to ruminate in my brain, and new ideas pop up, usually when I’m in the shower or when I’m ready to fall asleep, forcing me to make notes about them and then return to writing the next day.”

Barry’s ideas for his plays grow out of his characters.  “I begin with a situation, usually a silly situation involving a couple of characters.  I write dialogue within the situation, and keep writing from there.  In essence, I make up plays as I go along.  I don’t make an outline, nor do I know at the beginning how a play will end.”  His finished plays rarely include the situation he begins with which, while funny, tends to stop the action of the developing play.  “But even when I can’t develop a situation beyond a few pages of dialogue, I sometimes find that one or two characters are interesting, and I develop their story.” 

All through his life Barry has formed thoughts in terms of dialogue, whether he was just walking along or, as a litigator, thinking about his upcoming direct- and cross-examination.  And he revises a lot.  “My most recent three plays have twist-endings that require hints and clues throughout the plays.  When my plays are finished, these hints and clues seem organic to the play, as if I knew all along how the play would end.  In fact, when I reach the end of a play I have to go back and insert many of the hints and clues that lead to a proper resolution.”

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