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.
April – June 2013
Wasn’t it March a few minutes ago? Yesterday? Hmmm…I had meant to do this month to month. “The best-laid schemes o’mice an’ men/ Gang aft agley,” with a nod to Mr. Burns. Of course, I had meant to be taller and younger by now as well.
A quick update on the old news, as well as some new news:
The International Theatrical Arts Institute (IATI) reading of Quietus went off as planned at a La Mama studio in the Village (NY) on April 9. Strong cast and a well-received reading, thanks to a great director with whom I’ve worked for the past couple of years – Eric Parness, the artistic director of Resonance Ensemble (NY).
On April 12, Dezart Productions put on a reading of the same play. Since I was in Ashland, Oregon for the fund-raising performance of Quietus, I couldn’t be there (Palm Springs, CA), but my wife and mother-in-law attended. The feedback suggested that the audience was looking for something a bit more farce-like. Can’t win ‘em all.
The Stonington Players (CT) put on a full production of An Ignorant Man in April and May. I was there opening night. Like any good community theater, the audience was engaged and everyone on and off the stage was having a good time. An added bonus for me was that the two leads were very strong, by any standard – Callie Frisell (Mary) and David Foulkes (Derby). Well rehearsed, well-directed and staged (Jackie Princevalle), and aptly cast throughout.
I was in Ashland for almost a week, in preparation for the public reading (4/15) of Quietus mentioned above. Remarkable cast – all alums of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival with tv/movie/stage resumés longer than my arm. Full house, standing ovation, hour-long talk-back, filled with intelligent questions and feedback. I love that place…
…which brings me to some good news just announced today (July 1). I won the Ashland New Plays Festival for the second year in a row with a play entitled A Question of Words. There will be a week-long set of activities and two performances the last week in October. I can’t wait to get back to the Sundance of theater on the west coast. It is the most organized, supportive, knowledgeable, unpretentious community of theater people I have ever encountered. Not that I feel strongly about these guys…
That same play won the Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU, NY) Play Reading Series this year, which resulted in a funded public reading of the play at the SoHo Playhouse (NY) this past Monday (6/24). These readings are put on for an audience of producers, who come on stage afterward to discuss production, staging, and funding issues, rather than the text or structure of the play. The reaction was encouraging. I’ll be meeting with one of the producers next week to talk about finding the best “feeder” theater in Connecticut for my work.
I am hard at work – and have been since the New York production of The Truth Quotient – on my newest play, tentatively titled, Dear Brutus, which promises to be the most controversial to date.
February – March 2013
I wanted to get all this news up sooner, but I’ve been swamped (a good kinda swamped), so a week or so late to the table again. Lots of good stuff, however.
I’ll start with snippets from the reviews of The Truth Quotient, which closed its three-week run at the Beckett Theatre on 42nd street on February 2nd:
“The Truth Quotient… is sure to be a success… raises a slew of questions regarding the nature and importance of truth… humanity… challenging its audience to consider a world in which we could pay for artificial company in the appearance of human loved ones who have passed…” InsideNewYork.com
“Manley’s work is… thought-provoking… He raises interesting questions about the nature of faith, trust, and love.” Washington Post.
“…this Richard Manley play at the Beckett Theater has a tantalizing conceit…”
New York Times
“Richard Manley’s extremely fresh take on being human in the information age… The characters battle each other in ways that will stay with you long after the show is over. ” NYTheatre.com
“Manley’s well conceived and well developed script is a trope for examining the existential meaning of family… The power of the play lies in its ability to present to the audience an alternative to suffering and loss that might prove to be more possible than probable.” Theatre Reviews Limited
“The lure of virtual friends in virtual worlds is powerful, and the near future is facing a ‘Pandemic of loneliness’ as Manley calls it. This makes The Truth Quotient a particularly timely project.” TheaterforNerds.com
Because of the reviews and the fact that TTQ was produced in New York, I’ve been getting calls and e-mails from agents and theaters from Los Angeles to Munich. Who knows where all that leads. I’ll keep you posted… or blogged.
And since my last update, I’ve nailed down some dates. The International Theatrical Arts Institute (IATI) has scheduled a public reading of Quietus on April 9th in Manhattan. For specific details, go to their website (www.teatroiati.org) and look under developmental programs.
Ashland has now set a date (Quietus), picked a stellar cast (from the Shakespeare Festival), and begun the publicity – down to designing the tickets, no less, and a poster. Images of both below. There will be a public reading on Monday, April 15th, in Ashland. Here’s the playbill. For additional details, go to their website (www.ashlandnewplays.org) or Facebook page or see the long piece in their newsletter here.
I was on the phone today with the director and set designer of the Stonington Players (CT), who are doing a full production of An Ignorant Man, to run from the end of April into May. Sounds like they are putting a lot of time and energy into it. It’s my first play, and a comedy, which is a lot of fun for a community theater. For the specifics, go to www.stoningtonplayers.org.
For newer news, thanks to making it to the finals, An Ignorant Man will have another public reading at Dezart Productions in Palm Springs, CA on April 12th. For more details, go to www.dezartperforms.com.
And last, and maybe least, Thank Emily made it into the semi-finals of the Nor’Eastern Playwriting Contest.
And the behinder I get. I should have had some news up here weeks ago. The upside of being busy with lots of work is lots of work. The downside is getting behinder (with credits to Lewis Carroll) on news about all that work.
Cutting to the chase, The Truth Quotient is in the midst of its three-week run at the Beckett Theatre on 42nd street (NY), and garnering great reviews. Here are the links to three:
The Washington Post piece was lifted from a review by a reporter from the Associated Press. Several newspapers and online sites (e.g., Salon) picked up the same review. The New York Times is due in this week.
And then there are the interviews for local magazines, such as this one from the Garden State Journal.
And blog coverage.
The Truth Quotient wraps up on February 2, after which I take a deep breath, and then begin to think about what I’d like to rehearse in front of the members of the Actors Studio in February or March… and then begin the casting for Quietus, which will have a workshop in March and a public reading in April at the IATI Theater (NY)… and then find time to meet with the director of An Ignorant Man (an early play), which is now scheduled for a full production at the Stonington Players in Connecticut in April/May… and then work out a time to get back to Ashland, where they’d like to do a workshop of something else of mine in the spring. Deep breath, deep breath.