Let us all who live in the northeast raise our glasses in a toast to spring, ever so slowly shoveling its way out of the worst winter most of us can remember.
Much of my time this first quarter has been devoted to all of the people (contractor, interior designer, appliance and fixture retailers, insurance adjustors, and many more) necessary to bring our kitchen back to life from scratch. While I was away in Ashland (October) and my wife in California, an upstairs neighbor let a sink overflow – for hours. Hours, how can that be? It’s a long and frustrating story, but suffice it to say that the leak gutted our kitchen and part of our living room, much of the living space in the apartment beneath ours, and a part of the one below that. Fortunately, the owner of that last apartment was home, and able to alert the building super. Six months later, we’re still living in a rental apartment, all of our furniture is in storage, and we’re hoping to be back in our place by the spring. To say the least, it’s been a distraction from the writing.
Putting that aside, Florida was great. The Studio @620 put on a full production of A Question of Words at an interesting little theater in St. Petersburg, Florida. They flew me down for the opening night, which had a standing-room-only crowd. Although I couldn’t stay beyond that weekend, it finished its run (Feb/Mar) with a full house as well.
And shortly after returning from that production, I received a note from the artistic director of a well-respected theater in Oregon, who had seen the Ashland performance of A Question of Words, and loved it. She asked to open their next season with it (spring, 2015). More fun. Although not in Ashland, the theater is close by, so I’ll go early and jockey back and forth. Meeting and making new friends in Talent (the name of the town where the theater is located) and spending time with old friends in Ashland. ‘Old’ is a relative term in this case. I’ve only been going to Ashland for a year-and-a-half, but the people almost feel like family.
It’s been an interesting few weeks meeting with the staff and nine fellow playwrights who won the Theatrical Arts Institute’s Play Development Program. That organization recently moved into a renovated old building in the lower east side. Three New York theater companies each own and occupy a full floor for rehearsals, development and administration. And they share two small but state-of-the-art theater spaces on the ground and basement floors. For the past two and a half months, all the winning playwrights gathered weekly for a discussion of our scripts, one per week, until all had gotten feedback. The international winners would generally join us by Skype (Spain, Canada, Uruguay). The playwright explained his or her vision, while colleagues offered suggestions. Taking all that into account, the playwright and director then “develop” the play over the next few weeks, in preparation for a public reading. Mine – Life is Mostly Straws – will be in June.
Meanwhile, the director at the Actors Studio who showed interest my newest play, The Errant Gene, has jumped into its development with both feet. Over the past 90 days, she and I have been doing scene readings from the play (1-2 scenes each time, with Equity actors) in front of the Studio membership. We have two more scene sessions to go in April, in preparation for a full read in May. Repeated audience feedback and the concentration of two scenes at a time has brought the play along much faster than would normally be the case. An added bonus to these sessions is the potential clout of the membership who attend. At Monday’s reading (not my play, unfortunately), Al Pacino sat two seats to my right. One never knows.
And thrown in between was a reading of that same play at Brooklyn College, using students for most of the roles. It was a class project, designed by their teacher, who is a fan of my work.
All for now. See you next quarter.
October- December 2013
October was a great month for several reasons. The biggest was the week in Ashland for the New Plays Festival. My first visit, in October of last year, when I won the first time, left me feeling so good about the experience and so eager to start writing something new that I distrusted the euphoria – thought it must be a fluke. Then I went back in the spring, when they used another of my plays for a fund-raiser. And then once more when I won this year. It’s no fluke. They go out of their way to make it a rewarding experience for the playwright. Organized, supportive and friendly. It’s like spending a week at a spa, only they pay the bills.
And the pleasure was supplemented by the 2000-mile round-trip motorcycle ride that got me from Long Beach, CA to Ashland, OR and back. Temperature varied from the high 30s (very cold at high speed) to the low 80s: weather, from sunshine to rain and heavy fog; terrain, from ugly LA freeways to coastal roads, vineyards, mountain passes and redwood forests. Great views and memories.
After the short trip to St. Petersburg, FL to meet the cast and get to know the theater staff, the dates were set for the full production of A Question of Words, which is the comedy that won at Ashland, as well as the Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU-NY) play reading series this past summer. It’ll run in February and March of 2014. For details and/or tickets see their site – The Studio @ 620.
For the second year in a row, I have won the International Theatrical Arts Institute’s (NY) Play Development Program, for another full-length play of mine, Life is Mostly Straws. It will have a funded, rehearsed reading in Manhattan in the early spring.
I held an informal first reading of my newest play, The Errant Gene, at my apartment a couple of weeks ago – just to hear it read aloud. One of the directors from the Actors Studio asked to sit in. She stayed around for 90 minutes afterwards to discuss the possibility of a reading either of scenes or the full script (depending upon availability) in front of the membership shortly after the first of the year. She was very excited about its potential.
All for now. Happy and Merry.
July – September 2013
And the summer comes to a close with a soft click, which is the sound of me turning off my motorcycle and putting it back in storage on the west coast for a month or so. I spent most of the gruesome-est New York months in Newport Beach with in-laws and my bike. Weather, water, two wheels, family, all good. Malls, vanity plates on big, expensive cars, people who’ve had lots of “work” done, and did I mention malls, not good. It’s typically a slow time in the theater world, but those of you who know New York in July and August don’t need me to give reasons to be gone.
I worked – and continue to work – on the new play but it’s still not done. I’m eager to get it into a workshop or a full reading this fall. Just before I left New York for California, Maggie Grace (Google her), along with a handful of other professional actors, agreed to do a table read of the first act. She read the lead (a fierce, young woman recently graduated from a doctoral program in computer science) and was great. She confirmed my belief in the credibility of the character and the plot. I’m hoping to finish it sometime in October and begin the process of getting it into the right hands.
It was a slow few months as far as immediate activity goes, but a good time for news about the fall.
I’m a finalist for the Getchell Award, which is given by the Southeastern Theatre Conference. I had submitted Life is Mostly Straws. I won’t know more ‘till later in the year, but it’s gratifying to know I’m in the final eight.
The Reston players (Virginia) called to say that they want me to come down for a staged reading (some props, some blocking) of The Truth Quotient. They want to get audience reaction for the possibility of a full production next year. For any of you in the vicinity, the reading is Saturday night, December 7. I’ll be there, so say hello.
The Studio @ 620 in St. Petersburg, FL expressed interest – and has since put a contract in my hands – in doing a full production of A Question of Words in February of next year. I’ll be flying down in early November to meet the actors and director during the first read-through of the script (all gathered around a table to read the entire play aloud informally – an opportunity for questions, suggestions, etc.).
And last but not least is my plan for the Ashland New Plays Festival, which runs from October 21 to 27. As those of you who’ve read previous blog entries know, it is a great place to be if you’re a playwright (or actor, director, audience member, resident, et al). To add a bit of adventure, I’m going to fly into Long Beach on October 17, pick up my motorcycle, and drive the roughly one thousand miles (by the scenic route) to Ashland, and back.