Thursday, October 08, 2015

I Interview Playwrights Part 795: Ron Osborne

Ron Osborne

Hometown/Current Town: Glendale, MO (a suburb of St. Louis)

Q: What are you working on now?

A. I’m revising/editing a new comedy titled GHOSTLY DOINGS IN DIXIE set in North Carolina as well as a poignant comedy set in Virginia titled DREAMING IN BLACK & WHITE. With one exception, all of my plays – a dozen or so and counting – are comedies and all are set in the South. Why comedies? Because comedy comes easier to me, and they’re lots more fun to spend six months to a year with. The South? Because I find Southern characters by their very nature, personalities, situations, etc. offer greater opportunities for humor.

Q. What kind of theatre excites you?

A. I tend to see and read plays that are similar to those I enjoying writing, hoping – I suppose – I’ll pick up something that’ll help me in my next effort. I’ve found that I‘m often motivated by something I’ve seen or read and, boy, does that help when I sit down in front of a computer.

Q. Who are your theatrical heroes?

A. Before concentrating on playwright I had the good fortunate to work for a highly creative person at a major motivation agency who suggested I work up short skits to help sell one of our travel products to a Fortune 500 company. I wrote a skit personalized to the company: together we gathered props, hired equity actors, etc. The response to the show was more than either of us expected, so much so that I went on to write many more, a number of which were presented to the various companies’ distribution organizations. Without this start (thank you, Al Gesimar) I doubt I would’ve ever written the words “Act One, Scene One.”

My other hero – perhaps angel’s a better word – is Rick Rose, Producing Artistic Director at Barter Theatre, the LORT-member State Theatre of Virginia. In 2001 I submitted a play to Rick for consideration in their Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights. It went on win the competition, was produced as a mini-production, then moved to Barter’s 500-seat main stage for 44 performances. The play (FIRST BAPTIST OF IVY GAP) was subsequently published by Samuel French and, to date, has been produced by nearly 200 theatres. There’s more … thanks to Rick, Barter premiered another five of my plays, four on the main stage.

Q. What advice do you have for playwrights just starting?

A. Above all, be realistic in your expectations; the fact is, too few theatres take a hard look at the efforts of playwrights without credentials. So consider forwarding the play to groups that can help build credentials that’ll make theatres sit up and pay attention. The best bet, in my opinion, are those that sponsor new play competitions. Chances are, with a little luck and a lot of persistence, one’s efforts with be rewarded. The key, at least for me, was to not give up.

Another piece of advice … consider writing a comedy. Based on my own experience, theaters (as well as competition sponsors) seem more receptive to plays that’ll make their audiences laugh. Which isn’t to say, you can’t treat a serious subject you may want to discuss with humor. One more … because so many (if not most) theatres want to premier a new play, be careful whom you give first-production rights.

Q. Plugs?

A. How about one for Samuel French, Inc., a terrific company to work with and to select plays from? I’m fortunate that seven of my plays are published by them.

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