Saturday, June 24, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 957: C. Bain






C. Bain

Hometown:  Worcester, MA which is surprisingly urban, surprisingly postindustrial, surprisingly claustrophobic and rusty around the gills, if i remember correctly. I haven't lived there for a long time, and all of my family has also moved away.

Current Town:  I live in Brooklyn! In Flatbush. I have wanted to live in NYC for my whole life and thought it was a far-flung dream for a very long time. The city is effortful, yes, and expensive, yes. And it's one of my great loves.

Q:  Tell me about Uncivil Heart.

A:  Uncivil Heart is a piece of queer Civil-War-era Americana. It centers around a transboy who grows up in a plantation family in the antebellum south. He falls in love with a woman who is enslaved by his family. Then his family tries to force him into a cis-heteronormative marriage, and he runs away, and most of the play is him making his way back to her, her surviving the plantation/his relatives without his protection.

I am interested in locating queer bodies in history, especially in this cultural moment when language is developing and morphing really rapidly, it is important to remember that the things we are naming have always existed. And i think it's important to recognize ancestors, to imagine who we would be without our language. I am also really interested in Americanness, the american construction of race, how we are still haunted by it and murdered by it. I know that people in my family, not that long ago, were complicit in the slave trade. So, what do i do that is equivalent to that, as far as empathic failure? Who would i really be if i lived in a society that openly practiced slavery (rather than a more tacit prison-industrial complex)?

And every full-fledged project that i embark on is also a love story. I was in love with someone. It didn't work and i wanted to imagine how it could, so i imagined for 114 pages or so. It's a story about power, and how imbalances of power destroy the possibility of love.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  Oh gosh. I am working on a 2nd full-length poetry collection which is about mythology and creating mythological understandings of the self in the wake of sexual violence. Part of that is a very experimental theatrical treatment of the Orpheus myth. I am probably going to do a treatment of Uncivil Heart as a novel. I have been acting more than writing, the past year or so, which is different and weird for me. It's really satisfying to come from a writing background and then switch over and relate to text as an actor, to have that depth and investment regardless of the "meaning" or "quality" of the text.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  As a child, my dad thought it was really funny to play "open your mouth and close your eyes" and put grapefruit rinds in my mouth. He would promise over and over that it was not grapefruit rind. I would always eventually allow it. It was always rinds. I mean i live in hope. I mean i keep thinking something else will happen.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  I think theater is great. I wish more people knew that, and would let it be great. I also wish it would get us all paid.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I spent most of my creative life writing poems and performing alone, so i am still very much in a place where i learn from every collaboration, i learn in every production i am in and from every director/dramaturge/actor who i work with. I also get a lot from watching musicians, from visual artists, and i think it's important to think across disciplines as much as possible. I feel like i am not really cultured enough to have a worthwhile answer to this question.

Oh, ok, here -- Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, if you ever read this, just know that i really want to hold your hands and look into your eyes and try to explain how meaningful your work has been for me. There.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I like alienation, and contact. I like worlds that have interesting rules and/or break their own rules. I like when someone is clearly making art about the thing that is important for them -- urgency. It is exciting to me that in theatre you get to ask a question and then just kind of leave it, and that is really useful with issues of race and power and sex, where there is a lot going on in a kind of shadow-world underneath the world. I wish i were not excited by romance but i definitely am.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  Honey, where are you? Come over here, I'm the one who needs advice!

The only thing that is clear to me is that we are all given our own work to do, and that it is important to identify that and follow it. Even if it seems unattractive or unmarketable or hopelessly individual. Like that letter from Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille. It's true.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  

JUNE 29 / 7pm / The Kraine / Uncivil Heart as a staged reading, presented by Horse Trade Theater Company in the Queerly Festival!!!!

My website is tiresiasprojekt.com . That is also my instagram (very active) and twitter (half assed) handle.

I'm acting in a play called Autoportrait that will be at Dixon Place on July 27th, and reading at the NY Poetry Festival on Governor's Island on July 29th.

And i have this book of poems called Debridement. You should get it!

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MY PLAYS GO UP PLACES

PRODUCTIONS



KODACHROME

Production #1 of Kodachrome
Portland Center Stage
Portland, OR
February 3-March 18, 2018





Marian or The True Tale of Robin Hood

Production #2 of Marian
Know Theatre of Cincinnati
Cincinnati, OH
July 28 -August 18, 2017

Production #3 of Marian
Actors Bridge's Sideshow Fringe Festival
Nashville, TN
Opens August 4, 2017

Clown Bar




Production #24 of Clown Bar
Spirit Gum Theatre Company
Gatsby's Pub
Winston Salem, NC
Opens June 22, 2017.



Production #25 of Clown Bar
Majestic Repertory Theatre
Las Vegas, Nevada
Opens July 13, 2017.


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Friday, June 23, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 956: Stephen Bittrich




Stephen Bittrich

Hometown:  Grew up in a small town — Seguin, Texas.

Current Town:  Austin, Texas for the past 3 years after living for 27 years in NYC

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  A collaboration with playwright, C. Denby Swanson, and actor, David Marantz, called I AM MY OWN SANTA. Colin (C. Denby) is doing most of the actual writing, Dave has been lending great stories about his life experiences, and I’m there to throw out ideas, help structure, help support, help dig deeper. Sometimes I feel like it’s just an excuse for the three of us, who like each other quite a lot, to Skype and hang out every few weeks. We recently got a small grant from Scriptworks to bring Dave to Austin to work on the play in person and to do a reading at Hyde Park Theatre (a wonderful little space of about 80-85 seats in central Austin). The working together and the reading went quite well, and I think we got some solid ideas for the next draft. I’ve been very impressed to see how Colin works up close.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  I started off wanting to be an actor. My father (now retired) was an English professor at Texas Lutheran College (now Texas Lutheran University), and my mother a middle school English teacher, so I lived in a literary house growing up with rooms and rooms full of books. And my father directed a lot of the community theater productions as well as some college productions in Seguin while I was growing up. When I was about 7 or 8 my dad asked me to play the Indian Prince (or the “Changeling Boy”) in an outdoor college production of MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. This is the child that Titania takes care of and fawns all over, and Oberon is somewhat jealous and wants the boy to be his own henchman. I was a shy kid, and I wasn’t particularly interested in doing it, but my dad bribed me by saying that I could climb a tree. I was very much into climbing trees, so I finally agreed to do the little part. Well, I discovered even at that young age that I kind of liked being fawned over by scantily clad fairy college women. I think I was probably hooked on theater at that point.

I don’t know if that explains who I am as a person, but that’s how I got the theater bug. I also got the movie bug from my dad…

My dad also taught a film course (or often used films to compliment classes like World Lit), and in those days he would get 35MM prints of these movies and bring the projector to our home, and we’d show them on the wall of our “TV Room,” the floor of which was covered with shag carpet and loads of pillows. I could thread the projector myself even at a young age. I remember 3 films in particular that he’d get year after year, ULYSSES (with Kirk Douglas), ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, and THE MUSIC LOVERS (a Ken Russell film about Tchaikovsky). ULYSSES I must have seen 40 or 50 times. (I think I even ran it backwards once). My parents reminded me that when they would take student groups to Rome through the college during the interim semester, my sister and I went along, and we could easily identify the mythological figures featured in the statues much to the amazement of his students (who could not). I was obsessed with mythology for a while. I created a Greek mythology board game in elementary school which was kind of a rip off of the game of Life.

Okay, okay, since you ask…

In junior high I had a teacher name Daryl Fleming who was great for kids like me – those with a little more than average ambition to be creative. I pitched to him that I wanted to write a STAR TREK play and would cast myself as Captain Kirk. He told me to run with it, I did, and we put it on for some of the other classes. My first play.

Sorry, you asked for one story!

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  I wish there were more theaters that made doing new plays their mission. The Drilling Company in New York did that for a time Off Off Broadway. Then they lost their space, and now they do mostly Shakespeare in the Parking Lot and Shakespeare in Bryant Park. I hear from some theater Artistic Directors that new plays are a tough sell, so I wish there was a plentitude of easy grant money support for that mission. It’s important, I think.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Sam Sheppard, Edward Albee, Caryl Churchill, Tom Stoppard, Annie Baker, Adam Rapp, Shaw, Chekov, Shakespeare. Shout out to Artistic Director Hamilton Clancy and all the members of The Drilling Company. That was my “sweet spot” for 15 years, and they produced about 14-15 of my one-acts, a couple of my full-lengths and encouraged several other full-lengths to be developed. I long to find that place again that’s working on new plays and is excited to hear what I’m working on.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  This is the most difficult question… because there’s not any consistent rhyme or reason. I’ve been very excited by things that have surprised me and were passionate and unexpected… often imperfect. A lot of the most exciting stuff has been in smaller venues. The exciting ones usually make me want to go home and write. I got a cheap ticket to an all male AS YOU LIKE IT once, and I thought I was going to be bored. I loved it. I still remember a crazy wild thrilling version of OEDIPUS REX put on by La Cucaracha Theater (now gone, I think) in the mid-80s. I saw CLOUD NINE Off Broadway before I officially moved to New York, and that blew me away.

Q:  A defining moment as a playwright?

A:  I was a finalist for Actor’s Theater of Louisville’s 10-Minute Play Contest. They picked about eight 10-minute plays to actually produce that year, and mine was one of them. At that point I was perhaps more of an actor than a writer. I decided to go to Kentucky to be a part of the experience and stay at this gorgeous historic hotel (the Seelbach). I was treated with such deference by the literary department and staff of ATL. They invited me to rehearsals for the one-acts and also invited me to sit in on a rehearsal of THE ADDING MACHINE that Anne Bogart was directing at the time. It was so different from how I was treated as an actor – (“Can we get the ‘talent’ to shut up for this next take?”) And I thought, “Wow, I could get used to this. I wonder if it’s always like this… the honored playwright.”

Q:  Why Austin now and what has your theater experience been like there?

A:  I grew up in Texas about an hour from Austin. Some close friends of mine I knew from NYC theater moved to Austin to start a family, and I stayed with them for a beautiful week of relaxation and catching up. When I left I got a text about how I should move to Austin. I wasn’t sure if they were joking, so I asked and waited for the response. Their reaction would literally seal my fate. If it had been lukewarm I’d probably be in NYC right now, but they were so enthusiastic (“Yes! Come!”) and offered to put me up in their guest house for several months. I had divorced rather recently and was having a difficult time affording New York and/or finding the right roommate fit, and I felt my life had become about working to pay rent. So I decided to go on a little adventure. Life is always changing, sometimes so slowly you don’t notice. And sometimes you need to embrace it. That was three years ago. People in Austin complain about how expensive it is. It’s cheaper than New York.

I’ve seen a lot of cool theater since being here. I think the quality is quite good – very talented pool of artists. The various groups can be a bit insular. And I wish there were more new plays being done. I guess I was foolishly dreaming that having been published about 8 times and produced around the country (and the world) people would be asking me to read stuff I’m working on, but the truth is that it’s hard to get people to “let you play” wherever you go. You just have to keep working at it and keep wearing them down!

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  If you write to entertain yourself, and you keep at it, you will receive some profound rewards along the way. If your definition of a profound reward is a lot of money, you may want to think about doing something else. Find a small theater doing new work you respect and do your best to join their family.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Keep an eye out for the next incarnation of I AM MY OWN SANTA which is a dark, bitter, and redemptive one-man show about theater, love, family, cater-waiters, Hanukkah, and the last Christmas tree on the lot.

For people looking for my plays, Broadway Play Publishing (www.broadwayplaypub.com) handles my Texas farce, HOME OF THE GREAT PECAN (www.homeofthegreatpecan.com). And my other plays are handled by me on my website (www.StephenBittrich.com and here, www.shortplaysforhighschools.com). My shorts particularly get about 20-25 productions from high schools and colleges during the year.

Recently I shot and edited 4 short films for the Cherry Lane Theatre and La Femme Theatre Productions’ Off-Broadway revival of THE TRAVELING LADY by Horton Foote. The films document a trip to East Texas by Jean Lichty, who plays Georgette in the production. (And my production company, Brain Fire Entertainment – which I run with Earl Ameen – provided the equipment and support – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLlfwDeAeVpX7ByurJKYW9sfPKe2cNtNiW)

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SAVE THE DATE - SEPT 19, 5PM




My wife, Kristen Palmer and I will be doing a book signing at the Drama Book Shop of our newly released plays.

Details Here:

http://www.dramabookshop.com/event/adam-szymkowicz-and-kristen-palmer-reading-and-signing

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 955: Elyzabeth Wilder






Elyzabeth Wilder

Hometown: Mobile, Alabama

Current Town: Sewanee, TN

Q:  Tell me about your EST marathon play.

A:  Santa Doesn't Come to the Holiday Inn is about a two people who find themselves stuck in a hotel together in an attempt to create Christmas for their daughter despite their recent divorce.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I'm working on a new play about a photographer who goes in search of a former subject. It's a play about reinvention, the stories we tell, and the secrets we keep.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  I grew up in the South, so I was always surrounded by storytellers. Every day at 5 o'clock my great-grandmother, who was very much a proper Southern lady, would stop for Happy Hour. She drank bourbon and ate extra-sharp Cracker Barrel cheese and peanuts. I would sit with my grandmother and her sisters and listen as they all told stories. It was at their feet that I became a writer.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  I'd like to change the economics of the theatre. I'd like to see the cost of seeing theatre and producing theatre become more affordable, and therefore, more accessible. And I'd like to see theatre artists fairly compensated for their work so that they can afford to make theatre.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I grew up reading O'Neill and Williams, because those were the only plays they had in our public library. They taught me a lot about storytelling and structure. Paula Vogel and Jose Rivera were the first to introduce me to the possibilities that exist in the theatre and challenged my imagination.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I like theatre that takes me into worlds I'm unfamiliar with. I like the smaller, untold stories that somehow resonate in a larger context. When I leave the theatre, I like to feel like I've been on a journey.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  If you're going to write plays, then you need to read plays and see plays.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  This past year I turned 40, so I've been taking 40 people out to lunch: People who helped shape the first 40 years and people I hope will inspire the next 40. I've been writing about each lunch. People can follow along at www.40lunches.com and on Facebook at @40lunches.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Simple Explanations of Theater Terms For Non-Theater People

Simple Explanations of Theater Terms For Non-Theater People


Hi there!  Just dipping your toe onto "the boards" for the first time?  You may hear a lot of phrases you’re unfamiliar with.  I put together this handy thesaurus.  I didn’t alphabetize it because I’m a theater person and you might find we do things a little different in these parts.  If you want to be perceived as “in the know,” (and who doesn’t), learn these simple theater phrases.  Amaze your friends and make your enemies jealous!  No enemies?  You’ll have some now.  Welcome to theater!

Ghost light --  It is well known among theatre-types that all theaters are haunted.  Ghost light refers to the natural light given off by your theater’s ghost.

Stage Right and Stage Left – Every theater person knows this well.  It refers to the direction the Stage Manager is facing.  Stage Right and Stage Left is always the Stage Manager’s right and left.

“To go up” – This refers to the ability of certain performers to say the end of their line in a high pitched shriek.  It is the sign of a seasoned performer.

“Standing O”  --At the end of a successful performance, a performer may orgasm while bowing.  Remaining standing while having an orgasm is a sign of a professional.

“The Scottish Play” – This is a certain play by Mr. William Shakespeare about a Danish prince that must never be spoken of aloud, because the theater will burn down.  It will burn down.  Don’t even think it.

The Green Room –This is the backstage room in which everyone but you is probably having sex right now.

Gobo – Refers to Gobo Shaw, also George Bernard Shaw, godfather of the modern theater.

Proscenium – A scene shop run by pros.

Vom --  The hybrid voles/mice that live in the costume shop.

“Line”  -- Something an actor may shout during a rehearsal.  It’s good luck.  It means “Line my cage with gilded guilders.  May this play make us all rich.”  It is good manners to pretend the actor has not said this.  Live in the silence until something new happens.

“off book” – When an actor says they are “off book,” they are saying they made up something new and are going to surprise everybody with words they wrote that are not in the script or “book.”

A.D.  – This is the accent director.  Try out all the accents you are working on when you speak to them.  They will appreciate it.

Gaffe tape – A recording of all the mistakes everyone makes during the show to be played at the cast party to embarrass everyone.

“10 out of 12” – This is the practice of casting 12 actors when you only need 10 and letting them snipe and fight to stay in the cast.

Blocking – Like in hockey or football this means preventing someone from moving the way they are trying to move.  It is hilarious and oft practiced onstage on opening night.

Dramaturg – A turg of the drama, thus drama-turg.

Cheating Out – Just another way to say “mooning the audience.”

“Going dark” – This means, “I’m about to say something pretty bleak right now about my life. But I’m going to warn you first.”  Usually the lights go off right before this confession to prevent embarrassment.

Raked Stage– Once upon a time stages were raked, meaning there was someone whose job was to rake leaves off the stage.  These days it refers to a stage that is filthy on purpose.  Feel free to leave your trash onstage, especially cigarette butts.

Spotlight—Really?  You don’t know what a spotlight is?


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