Thursday, January 28, 2010

Marketing for Playwrights at KACTF in Durham, NH on Friday

Tomorrow I'm off to Durham, New Hampshire, for the day.  I'm going to the Region 1 meeting of the American College Theatre Festival at UNH, which has already been going on for a few days.  I'll co-lead a marketing workshop for young playwrights with fellow playwright, Steven Bergman.  I'm looking forward to it--I love talking about marketing for writers.

While I'm at the festival, I hope to sit in on a directing workshop led by Adam Zahler, and also catch the dramaturg luncheon.

Even though the ACTF is really for college students, it's actually a huge opportunity for local theatre folk to catch some interesting workshops.  You can get a day pass for $30.  There are lots of workshops for playwrights and shows and acting to watch.  If you're a playwright with some free time, it's a great way to learn something and see some rising theatrical talent.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Playwriting in 3D Workshop tonight, 6:30pm--talking to Designers

Tonight I'll help lead the second installment of Playwritiing in 3D, an evening dedicated to expanding the conversation between playwrights and designers.  We'll talk with two set designers and two costumer designers about how they approach design, and especially how they approach new work.  I led a similar workshop with Stagesource last April, where we talked with sound and lighting designers.

Here's the info:

Join us on Monday, January 25, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at The Charlestown Working Theater, 442 Bunker Hill Street, Charlestown, MA, for this discussion, presentation and audience Q&A.  Admission is $15 for StageSource and Rhombus members, $25 for non-members.   Sign-up on-line or by phone by calling 617-720-6066.  Payment is due at time of sign up.

As playwrights strive to create work that takes full advantage of the three-dimensional world of the theatre, they need to understand how designers think and how they use design to shape the environment and impact of a production. What are the possibilities? What confuses designers in a script and what delights them? Are there ways to start the interaction between playwrights and designers sooner? What vocabulary will allow playwrights and designers to work more effectively together? 

These are just some of the questions that we'll address in an extended conversation (and show and tell) with costume designers, Gail Buckley and Greg Maraio, and set designers, Richard Chambers and Christina Todesco. Moderated by the Rhombus playwrights' group's Patrick Gabridge.   This is an evening for anyone interested in new work, design, and the collaborative process.  Last year's panel of sound and lighting designers was a resounding success, and now we're back with set and costume designers to help fill in the rest of the picture.

The Charlestown Working Theater is located in a brick Victorian-era firehouse at:

   442 Bunker Hill Street
   Charlestown, MA 02129

Saturday, January 23, 2010

the work goes on and a contest from

Constant State of Panic is continuing to run in DC, and I keep receiving good reports.  I already miss being able to see the show every night.  I'm still digesting my notes from the show, trying to figure what sorts of rewrites I want to do on the script as I look forward.

And Recognition is still running in Pick of the Vine in San Pedro, California.  I've had some nice feedback from them, too.  (We've made people cry, which is always a good sign.)

Lots and lots going on here this week.  On Monday, I'm leading another Playwriting in 3D workshop here in Boston, at the Charlestown Working Theatres, from 6-9pm.  If you're around, don't miss it.  We'll have a lively discussion with costume and set designers about new plays.

I'm still hard at work on my new novels (among other things).  Today, I'm sending off the start of my new middle grade novel to a fun contest at, where agent Mary Cole at the Andrea Brown Agency looks at the first 500 words of a whole bunch of manuscripts.  (I'll be she'll get hundreds and hundreds.)  Hers is a blog definitely worth reading if you're writing for kids.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Constant State of Panic now open (and very cool)

I've gotten to see three performances of Constant State of Panic, and will go see the 2pm Sunday matinee in a couple hours.  They've done a great job with the show.  We're getting very strong performances from all the actors, and the set is amazing.  This is a show with some tricky technical demands, and they've really wowed me and pulled off some very fun stage magic.  (I don't want to give away too much, because it's fun to be surprised.  Even when I got there Friday night, I said, don't show me all the mechanics of how this stuff works--I want to be surprised with the audience.)

We had two good panels yesterday.  After the 2pm show, we had a discussion on Methods and Models of New Play Development, with six artistic directors and directors from around the DC area.  They all had different experiences with new plays and we had some good spirited discussion about how much a writer should keep practicality in mind while writing a script.  There were about a dozen people who stayed for the talkback, which was fine.  It's tricky to get people out to a Saturday afternoon sometimes.

Last night, we had a very warm audience, including a group of 22 MIT alumni (my alma mater) who stayed afterwards for a talk with me and the director and the cast (who were very kind to stay, despite have a super long day).  We had a lovely talk, and it was nice to learn that some of the people there had never been to a small theatre like ours before, usually attending the Kennedy Center and the like, and they were very impressed with the quality and intimacy.  That was especially rewarding,

On opening night, I had a good chat with several young audience members about how the issue of race is handled in the show.  The audience members were a mixed-race group, and they really enjoyed seeing a mixed-race couple on stage, for whom race affected their lives, but the play didn't necessarily have to be "about" race.

It's these kinds of conversations that stick with me as a writer and help make all of this worthwhile (in addition to the free brownies and champagne on opening night).

Now when I'm watching the show, I'm sitting there with my notebook, trying to make sure I understand what I see as the strengths and weaknesses in the show.  I'm grateful for the opportunity to see four performances of the play, but that's all I get, and in a few weeks, it'll be closed, and it'll be up to me to figure out what changes to make that will help the play continue to move forward in its life.  So as much as I'd like to just sit back and watch, I need to be paying close attention and make sure I'm soaking it all in.

I'll very much miss the Madcap folks when I leave.  They've been tremendous to work with--extremely thoughtful and dedicated.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Off to DC for Constant State of Panic

Tomorrow I head off to Washington, DC, to see the opening of my newest full-length, Constant State of Panic, which is being staged by the Madcap Players at the H Street Playhouse.  I've been getting great feedback from my director and producer, and have been working hard to sell tickets as best I can from Boston.  But this weekend, I'll finally get to see the play under full sail and see how it works.  No matter how well things go in rehearsal, you never really know how a play is going to turn out until you bring up the lights and perform it in front of an actual audience.  That's both the really interesting part about theatre, as well as the really scary part.

I'm especially grateful that I'll get to see the show four times this weekend, which means in front of different audiences.  Each one is different, and for some plays (like Pieces of Whitey) their responses can vary drastically.  I'm guessing CSP won't be quite so volatile, but we'll see.

In addition to the show itself, I'm looking forward to seeing all the folks I had a chance to work with when we workshopped the show this fall, as well as some old friends who are coming to see the play.  We're also putting together a panel on new play development,  after the Saturday matinee with six artistic directors from around the area--I'm hoping to learn a lot from them and have a chance to meet a lot of DC-area playwrights.

Here I go.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Confirmed Sighting in SLAM Boston, Jan 7-9, at BPT

My award-winning short comedy, Confirmed Sighting, about two women who see an Ivory-Billed Woodpecker (previously thought extinct) will run January 7-9, at the Boston Playwrights Theatre, at 7:30pm, 949 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, as part of SLAM Boston.  The audience directly affects which plays win prizes, so please come and cheer on your favorite (I'm hoping that it's mine, so I can earn some pizza money).

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Recognition in Pick of the Vine starting this Friday

My short play Recognition will be part of The Little Fish Theatre's Pick of the Vine festival in San Pedro, CA, starting  this Friday. 

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2009 Output

Since I tallied the input for 2009, I thought I might as well give the output.  This was a particularly good writing year for me.  I wrote:

  • A final version of edits and proofing on my new novel, Moving (A Life in Boxes)
  • A rewrite of my new full-length plays, Constant State of Panic (which opens in less than 2 weeks in DC)
  • A new half-hour comedy one-act (for students), Reassembling Sasha, now published by YouthPlays.
  • Another half-hour comedy for students, The Next Big Thing.  (Scheduled for publication early in 2010)
  • A new ten-minute play, Schedule-Meister (still unproduced)
  • A complete middle-grade novel, Buried Treasure.
  • plus a bunch of freelance business writing (that helped pay some bills).

Production-wise, 2009 wasn't bad.  The year saw a bunch of productions by schools, through the various publishers that handle my work.  Theatres doing my work included:

  • Confirmed Sighting by University of Maryland, Baltimore College.  (The script won their competition.)
  • Stop Rain in Boston, by the Actors Refuge Repertory Company
  • Recognition in the Boston Theatre Marathon, by the Wellesley Summer Theatre
  • Lies, Lies, Lies and Counting Rita in Los Angeles, from Theatre Unleashed
  • My radio plays Love and Lightning and Tundra Games were rebroadcast by Shoestring Radio Theatre in CA.

Den of Iniquity and Counting Rita were both published in Best of anthologies from Smith & Kraus. 

Overall, I'd say that a minimum of 4,000 people heard, read,  or saw my work performed this year (and probably a lot more if you count all the productions at high schools and competitions), which is okay.

I'm guessing that 2010 is going be a lot better--I already have four productions scheduled (3 in January alone).

2009 Inputs

I'm a numbers guy (as many of you know), so I tend to keep track of how many books and plays and movies I take in each year.

Here are my totals for 2009:

Books read:  51 

I have friends who read a lot more books, but this is more than I usually read.  I read dozens that I liked a lot, but a few of my favorites were:

The Book Thief and I Am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak
The Giant's House: A Romance by Elizabeth McCracken
Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese
by Brad Kessler

Plays read:  12

Favorites included:  Breath, Boom by Kia Corthron and The Song of Extinction by E.M. Lewis.

This is a pathetically small number, I know, but I was reading a lot novels and non-fiction instead of plays this year.  In 2010, I plan to read a lot more plays.

Plays and readings watched:  29

I know people who see 100 plays a year, but this was a good amount for me.  (Back in the days before kids, I might see 75 readings and plays a year.)  Favorites included Sleep No More from Punchdrunk and the ART and SpeakEasy's Boston production of Reckless.

Movies watched:  52

Most these were via Netflix.  I didn't see any great movies in 2009, though I liked Up in the Air quite a bit, and was really struck by The Garden.  And I'd highly recommend Iron Ladies of Liberia. We did watch the entire new Battlestar Galactica series, which was tremendous.  And now we're hooked on Veronica Mars (just starting Season 2).

I've got a big pile of books already waiting to be read in 2010 (I just finished Nick Hornby's latest, Juliet, Naked, and liked it quite a bit.)