San Diego Playwrights

Getting San Diego Playwrights Produced on San Diego Stages

BACKSTAGE DRAMA–An Interview with Michael Vegas Mussman and Samantha Goldstein

San Diego Playwrights recently talked with playwright Michael Vegas Mussman and director Samantha Goldstein about their San Diego Fringe show “Backstage Drama”.

Tell us about yourselves.

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Michael Vegas Mussman

Michael Vegas Mussman: I’ve been playing around with art of improvisation for a couple years. When I started taking classes and performing at local improv theatres, I discovered this funky little community of improvisers. We improv people are so funny. To me, we seem like a bunch of grownup kids who loved doing theatre in high school and never wanted to quit, so we just keep running up on stage – even well into middle-age.  And we do it for free! So I decided to write about these weirdos and all the drama we get into. This is my second show at SD Fringe. Last year I wrote a one-act called “Kidnapping Lola” that was produced by Actors Alliance.

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Michael Vegas Mussman

 

Samantha Goldstein: I’ve been acting and directing in San Diego community theater for about eight years now.  It’s just a labor of love for me.  In the past year, I’ve directed two shows at Patio Playhouse in Escondido and have a third coming up.  I’m also currently acting in “Clybourne Park” at that theater.  I joined up with the “Backstage Drama” crew through a recommendation from Ronnell, who plays Angela.  She and I met doing a 24 Hour Theater Festival and she liked my style.  I’m very grateful because this is an amazingly talented and enthusiastic bunch of people, and Michael’s play is hilarious and fun.

Tell us about your play.

Michael Vegas Mussman: “Backstage Drama” is a comedy about an improv trio called Fruit Hole. The script calls for every other scene to be improvised. So it’s a hybrid of scripted dialogue with scenes that are made up on the spot. No two shows will be the same. I like to think of it as my love letter to the improv community. So I added a bunch of inside jokes for the improv people in the audience.

Samantha Goldstein: “Backstage Drama,” as Michael explained it to me, has some similarities to the great British play “Noises Off,” in the sense that the inner workings (and soft underbelly) of a theater performance are exposed by literally turning the show backwards.  The audience gets to see both the improv performance, in which the participants are confident, seasoned and skilled, and the shenanigans backstage, where jealousies, insecurities and missed emotional connections are revealed.

What are your challenges? What are your successes?

Michael Vegas Mussman: It wasn’t enough for me to write a script; I’m also producing my own show. The challenges are always the same – coming up with money, booking rehearsal space, figuring out everyone’s schedule, all those boring logistics. But the biggest success is finding six people who are willing to put on a play. All I did was ask, “Hey you want to be in my play?” I was shocked at how quickly these artists volunteered. Their enthusiasm has made it all worthwhile.

Samantha Goldstein: So far, the challenge is just getting all the people in one place at the same time.  Everyone is busy with work and other projects, so scheduling the rehearsals has been a bit of a challenge.  Luckily, I’m shielded from a lot of that by Michael’s tireless efforts.  The success is seeing how “game” everyone is to try stuff.  Sometimes when I’m directing, actors recoil from my goofier ideas because they worry about looking silly.  This bunch is not concerned. 😉

What is your next step?

Michael Vegas Mussman: Next we’ve got to promote, promote, promote and sell some tickets! After the Fringe Festival, I’m going to take a long nap. Then I’m going to concentrate on writing longer works for the theatre. Eventually I’ll move away from the little comedies and do more experimentation.

Samantha Goldstein: More rehearsals, with everyone there!  The more we practice, the better it’s all going to look.  I’m feeling very confident about the show being both hysterical and full of heart.  Oh, and next step for me?  Like Michael said, a long nap.  I’ve done back-to-back shows for a year now, and will still be producing another show and moving into another house this summer, so I have to calm down for at least a few weeks!  (I say this with mock-frustration—the fact is, I’m like Tinkerbell, and can’t exist without applause.  Which means whatever break I take must be mercifully brief.)

Thanks for talking with us Michael and Samantha! Break a leg with “Backstage Drama”!

“Backstage Drama”

Fri June 24 @ 4pm

Sun June 26 @ 1pm

Mon June 27 @ 6pm

Wed June 29 @ 8pm

Sat July 2 @ 9pm

For more information visit sdfringe.org.

 

 

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HARLOWE–An Interview with Jennifer Lane

Center Theatre Group has announced the 10 finalists who have been chosen for the first annual Humanitas/CTG Playwriting Prize. The award will be given to the best new and unproduced play written by a Southern California playwright. San Diego Playwrights caught up with finalist Jennifer Lane to discuss her play, HARLOWE.

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Jennifer Lane

About HARLOWE: After suffering a potent physical trauma, Harlowe loses her sense of touch. When her sister brings her home to convalesce, she retreats to the bathroom and spends hour after hour languishing in the tub. Harlowe is a story of sisters and bodies; it is a story of how we heal.

 

During my second year of graduate school, I hit a bit of a dry spell. Maybe it was because I’d spent the last year and a half writing more than I ever had before in my life, or maybe it was because I’d just moved, or maybe it was because I was told that I needed to begin thinking about my thesis play and I was worried that I just didn’t have anything good left in my brain. Regardless, I wasn’t writing. And when you’re in grad school for a writing degree, and you’re not writing, it’s kind of a problem.

 

I do a lot of things when I’m not writing, mostly they involve streaming video on the internet or drinking coffee and staring at ceilings. But this time when I couldn’t write, I took a bath. This time, when I was stuck, I submerged myself under the water and held my breath until I couldn’t any more. When I was under the water, I listened to my heartbeat, and I was soothed, connected to something primordial. And when I got out of the water, I sat down at my computer, and three days later I had the first full draft of Harlowe.

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This is one of those magical stories of creation that artists chase for their whole careers, and rarely get. I didn’t have a play; and then — boom — I did. I don’t remember what it was like, writing it. I only know that it popped into being like Athena out of Zeus’ forehead, whole, fully formed.

 

Harlowe has never needed the major overhauls that some of my other plays have required, and as such, it bears a striking resemblance to that first, magical draft I wrote in those three mystical days. But I have had the privilege of developing the piece with a number of remarkable theatre artists, to whom I owe a great deal, who have made the play what it is.

 

First, Sarah Ruhl mentored me on it. There’s this pretty great part of being a Columbia grad student where they hire your number-one top-choice living playwright to mentor you on your thesis play, and I chose Sarah. I chose her because of Eurydice and In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play; I chose her because she began her writing career as a poet, and I needed a poet’s eye on the lengthy, metaphor-heavy monologues that littered the play. And she helped me sculpt those monologues into poetry in their own right.

 

From there, it was performed as part of the thesis festival at Columbia, directed by Jess K. Smith, and featuring a team of actors I still think of in my head whenever I work on the play. They got it up on its feet, water and all, and I learned how submerging your lead actress in water has an astounding impact on the speeches, and it remains one of the most satisfying artistic collaborations of my life.

 

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Columbia University Thesis Production of HARLOWE

 

After grad school, it was further developed during the Alec Baldwin Fellowship at Singer’s Forum, directed by Marlo Hunter. We focused our attention then on a character that had, up until that point, been mostly just a foil for everyone else on stage. She brought a phenomenal actor into the role and helped me dig into the character, and the entire process taught me an invaluable lesson about excavating theme to anchor characters to the heart of a story. Concurrently, it was presented in Washington D.C. at the Inkwell Theatre, directed by Lee Liebeskind. And I got to travel there to see the excerpt they presented. This was my first taste of travel for writing, and I was hooked.

 

Then, I put it away for a year before I took it to the Gulfshore Playhouse in Naples, Florida where it was part of their New Works Festival, directed by Lou Tyrell. Lou helped me polish it, til it had that production-ready shine, and then he brought it to his own theatre festival at Florida Atlantic University’s Theatre Lab. There, it was directed by Matt Stabile, who showed me that I was wrong when I thought there was no work left to do on it. His keen insights and unabashed enthusiasm about the play have blown it wide open for me, and I see it anew because of him and Lou and my cast at FAU Theatre Lab.

 

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Florida Atlantic University Theatre Lab reading of HARLOWE

 

Now, it’s a finalist for this amazing prize. To win the prize would be a huge honor all on its own, but what’s remarkable about this particular prize is that they attach money to the play itself as an incentive for a California theatre to produce it. That’s huge. That’s the dream. And I know I am echoing the sentiments of all of my fellow finalists when I say how thrilling that is.

 

I am in astounding company as a finalist, and it’s such a privilege to be in the running alongside such fantastic SoCal talent. And as I wait to hear about Harlowe’s status, I can’t help but think about the many remarkable artists who have touched the play, whose fingerprints are all over it. I’m writing this as a sort of love letter to them all, to say… Thank you. Working on this play has been a joy, and an education. You all have changed me utterly.

Thank you for sharing the story of HARLOWE, Jennifer! Good luck on its journey to production!

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WINDOW OF SHAME–An Interview with Aleta Barthell

Aleta Barthell’s play, Window of Shame, is a finalist for the 1st Annual Humanitas/Center Theatre Group Playwriting Prize. The award will be given to the best new and unproduced play written by a Southern California playwright.

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Aleta Barthell

Tell us about yourself.

I am an actress turned teacher and writer. I found myself frustrated as an actress with the roles that were available for women.  I decided to focus my effort on writing…and writing stories that show women making choices in their lives.

Tell us about your play.

 

Carlsbad Window of Shame

My play, Window of Shame, is based on a real event that I learned while on a ghost tour in New Orleans in 2002.

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Yolanda Franklin in New Village Arts Theatre reading 2012

In 1834, Doctor and Madame LaLaurie are famous in the French Quarter for their elegant parties in their resplendent home, but suspicions arise after a young slave woman climbs out of a darkened window on the second floor and jumps to her death, leaving Sally, the cook who is chained in the kitchen, to risk her own life to expose the horrifying secret that lives upstairs.

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Katie Calvin, Ashleyrose Gilham (on floor), Rhys Green and Kiana Jackson in New Village Arts Theatre reading 2012

 

In Window of Shame, I want to explore how moral atrocities are ignored and/or go undetected in a community and what finally pushes an individual to step forward to stop it. I want it to be a story that fills our senses with sounds (rhythms, chains, trumpets), flashes of light (lightning) and visual images using choreographed movement to convey the supernatural and grotesque in the story. I want the play to show an individual with seemingly the least amount of latitude for action, who exposes the moral outrage around her.

What are your challenges? What are your successes?

window of shame reading

Aleta Barthell in rehearsal for Fountain Theatre reading 2011

My initial challenge was to decide why it was important to tell a story about slavery and torture today. Then the U.S. invaded Iraq.  Then the U.S. tortured detainees.  Then Hurricane Katrina ripped open a window to life in New Orleans that no one believed had existed.  Suddenly, this story felt very resonant.

I also have wrestled with telling a story from a voice that is far away from me culturally. I have been fortunate to have an uncle who is a professor of slavery in the south who helped to guide me in my research to understand this world.

I had an actress, Judith Scott, drive down from LA for an initial reading of the play. She liked the piece so much that she gathered actors in LA and we had two readings of the piece in theatres in LA and also two readings in San Diego.

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Rhys Green, Kristianne Kurner, Manny Fernandes, M’Lafi Thompson, Abner Genece, Yolanda Franklin, Jarrod Weintraub, Fred Harlow, Katie Calvin, Milena Phillips, Aleta Barthell, Kiana Jackson and Ashleyrose Gilham in New Village Arts Theatre reading 2012

What is your next step?

Before I knew I was a finalist for Humanist prize, I had been working with a director/dramaturg from LA, Alan Freeman. Alan approached me after he heard me speak about the piece at the Dramatists Guild National Conference this summer in La Jolla, he wanted to know if I would be interested in doing some readings in LA and San Diego to garner interest from producing bodies and get the play on the road to production.  I said, “Yes!”

We are tentatively planning a reading here in San Diego at New Village Arts Theatre in February. I have also been fortunate to have the support of an excellent San Diego grant specialist, Lorraine Demi, who is helping us find grant sources for these readings and future productions.

Click here to watch the Window of Shame video promo.

Thank you for talking with us, Aleta! And good luck with Window of Shame!

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WORDS, NO WORDS AND TRANSFORMATION–Thelma Virata de Castro

I am the steward of A Little Free Library. The concept is to put books out in an accessible place where anyone is free to–“Take a book. Return a book.” This is a responsibility I took very seriously, at first. I had three sections–adult fiction, adult non-fiction, and children’s. My sons and I would notice when every book was taken and when new ones would arrive. (Of course, we always got first pick of the good ones.)

We’ve had this library for over two years now, and I must admit, it’s gotten junky. The problem is we have too many givers and not enough takers.

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Most of the fiction books are paperbacks that I would never read. The children’s section has been diminished. I can barely get a cover on the thing when it rains.

And textbooks. Why would anyone donate textbooks to A Little Free Library? And to top it off, Criminal Justice textbooks? They’re not the type of thing people typically pick up for a good read.

Serendipity.

Shaun Tuazon-Martin, a San Diego actor who co-incidentally lives in the same neighborhood as I do, put out a call for books. Textbooks! He was designing a set for a play about a linguistics professor. He wanted to fill the stage with books. I told him to come and get them. Please!

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The show opened recently, and at the last minute on a Friday night, I was able to see the production. Look what Shaun did.

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The play is Precious Little by Madeline George. In this excellent show by InnerMission Productions, the professor surrounds herself with words. She’s an expert. Amazingly, the books that I donated reflect the play’s themes. Shaun designed the set so that the walls, the furniture, and even the vines are all covered with words.

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You probably won’t be able to read the pages in the photo above, but they are taken from the Criminal Justice textbooks. One of the actresses portrays a gorilla in the play and there is discussion about whether the gorilla lives in an “enclosure” or a “cage”. Likewise, the professor finds herself in a situation where she feels imprisoned.

Pregnancy is an issue, and among the books were pregnancy manuals. Pages with illustrations of the female reproductive system are on display. Director Carla Nell also showed me a page with a photo of a statue. It was a woman mourning the loss of twins.

Precious Little 1

 And I was delighted to spot the Chinese dictionary above, with its spine facing out for the audience to see. When this book appeared in our Little Free Library, my oldest son snatched it up. He’s a collector and reading is his salvation. But, since he doesn’t read Chinese, I was able to convince him to give it up. Of course the professor would have this in her office. Words are her passion and her strength. Words are her suit of armor.

But can she connect with that gorilla in the zoo? Ultimately, the most powerful moments in the play are when there are no words.

Empathy. Communication. Understanding.

Beyond words.

Junk becomes art, and we are all part of the transformation.

Thelma Virata de Castro is a playwright, founder of San Diego Playwrights, and Little Free Library steward. www.littlefreelibrary.org

Precious Little by Madeline George is being produced by InnerMission Productions November 6-21 at Diversionary Black Box. Cast: Kathi Copeland, Jyl Kaneshiro, Jennie Olson Six. For tickets visit INNERMISSIONPRODUCTIONS.org

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I, JOAN–An Interview with Peter Mitsopoulos

Rosie Gordon as Joan of Arc in Peter Mitsopoulos's I, Joan

Rosie Gordon as Joan of Arc in Peter Mitsopoulos’s I, Joan

Tell us about yourself.

I was born and raised in the Point Loma/Ocean Beach neighborhood of San Diego and I still live there. I graduated with a degree in theater from SDSU in 1976.

Tell us about your play.

I’ve been fascinated by Joan of Arc for many years. How did a teenage girl come out of nowhere to save her country and change the course of history? I struggled for a while deciding how to approach writing a play about her. Of course, she’s been the subject of multi-character dramas by great playwrights such as Schiller, Shaw, and Anderson. I had no desire to compete with them. I would only lose. I finally hit upon the idea of a one-woman show. Why not let Joan speak for herself? Why not let her command the stage alone, speaking directly to the audience about her life and adventures? That’s why it’s entitled I, Joan. Much of the dialogue is actual quotes from Joan herself and the incidents she describes actually happened.

Rosie Gordon as Joan of Arc

Rosie Gordon as Joan of Arc

What are your challenges? What are your successes?

As a playwright, I’ve haven’t exactly been a raging success. After writing I, Joan, I submitted it to several theaters in and out of San Diego. Of course, they all told me to get stuffed. After wondering why no one would produce this or any of my other plays, the answer finally hit me between the eyes like a brick: “Why should they?” Then I remembered a favorite saying of Joan’s: “God helps those who help themselves.” So I decided to go the self-production route. This is putting a major dent in my bank account, but it’s only money. And you can’t take it with you.

What is your next step?

I’m not thinking about the next step. The present moment is all any of us has. You can plan for the future, but you can’t count on it. I’m thinking only about getting this play on the stage. It’s a modest production in a modest venue, but I got lucky and managed to assemble a great team. Our director, Dhyana Dahl, has really thrown herself into the project. She’s a real pro. Her creativity and theatrical instinct have been most impressive. And her experience has been invaluable. Our stage manager, Katie Foggiano and our costume designer, Dominique Hill, are also very professional and very dedicated. And our actress, Rosie Gordon, is going to be something truly special in the role of Joan. This is a demanding job for an actress, but I have no doubt we cast the right one. I’m glad she came to the auditions.   Opening night is 9-17-15 and the website for info and tickets is www.joan.ticketleap.com/arc. We hope to see you there. Thanks very much.

Thanks for talking with us, Peter! I, Joan runs from September 17 to October 3, 2015, Thursday thru Saturday at 8:00 p.m.

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SHAKESPEARE’S OTHER SISTERS–The Road to AROHO by Thelma Virata de Castro

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf

“But I want to be Shakespeare’s Sister! I do, I do!”

Can’t you just hear Veruca Salt in the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? That was me after I received my rejection e-mail for the Shakespeare’s Sister Fellowship.  As fellowships go, this one was a dream. The concept was to give a female playwright a unique opportunity to develop a new play:

–A week at Hedgebrook, a retreat for women writers in Washington State

–A place in A Room of Her Own Foundation’s (AROHO) retreat  in New Mexico

–A week at Lark Play Development Center, to develop a new play in New York City with directors and actors

–All travel expenses covered

–Plus $10,000

“But I want to be Shakespeare’s Sister! I do, I do!”

But alas, 955 other female playwrights and I did not get the fellowship. I didn’t even make the top 40 semi-finalists.

I did, however, learn about the AROHO Foundation and their biennial retreat. 100 women writers across all genres gather for a week to explore Virginia Woolf’s themes, take master classes, and engage with each other in the land where Georgia O’Keeffe painted.

“I want to go to AROHO! I do, I do!”

That meant another application. I discovered that AROHO offered fellowships that paid for registration and housing. Unfortunately, I received yet another rejection. But I did check the box that said I’d still like to be considered to attend the retreat, even if I had to pay my own way.

Life went on.

As a non-MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) playwright, it is easy for me to get wrapped up in MFA envy. Having an MFA is not a guarantee of success, but it does allow for mentorship, development and connections in the very social business of theatre. Playwrights who are produced in regional theatres and who get the big fellowships usually have an MFA. Right, Veruca?

“I want an M.F.A.! I do, I do!”

So I was humbled when I read a post in the Hedgebrook Blog by Kelly Clayton. I was fortunate to receive a Hedgebrook residency in 1999 and I follow the posts by Hedgebrook alumnae. Word has spread about this incredible residency in which women writers get to stay in an individual cottage and are given space and time to write. Hedgebrook offers radical acts of hospitality, such as bringing your lunch to your door. The application process has grown extremely competitive. Over 1,000 women writers apply for just 40 spots. Kelly Clayton got in. She is a talented, dynamic writer, but in her heartfelt post she described her feelings of insecurity because she was a high school dropout.

Shut up, Veruca.

Last February, I volunteered to lead a writing session for a group of women that included residents of New Entra Casa, a transitional home here in San Diego for recently incarcerated women. The first thing I talked about was being friendly to yourself. If you weren’t friendly, you wouldn’t write. That writing session allowed the women to open up. In later conversations, they shared about the experiences that led them to jail. They talked about how the New Entra Casa Executive Director interviewed them for placement. They prayed that they would be chosen as residents for the program after they were released.

“Pick me. Pick me.”

A few days later, I was surprised to get an e-mail from AROHO. I had almost forgotten about the retreat. I had applied for the Shakespeare’s Sister fellowship back in July 2014. Turns out, I did get picked. I was one of the 100 women selected to attend the AROHO retreat in August 2015. I’ll be taking a Master Class with Ellen McLaughlin, the Shakespeare’s Sister Fellowship Creator and Mentor. And I am excited to meet Shakespeare’s Sister—Dipika Guha. Fortuitously, Dipika will be coming to San Diego to write a play for Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company’s inaugural InCommunity project.

I attended the Dramatists Guild National Conference in La Jolla this past July. The results of The Count were announced, which is the gender parity in theatre research study funded by the Dramatists Guild and the Lilly Awards. Bottom line: 4 out of 5 productions by regional theatres throughout the country are written by men. In analyzing the results, Marsha Norman said that when women’s voices are silenced, it’s not a world safe for children or anything. Tony award winner Lisa Kron said, “This is not the natural order of things . . . let’s just fix it.” I’ll be participating in a We Are Theatre SPEAK-OUT about gender parity at the 2016 AWP Conference with Aphra Benn, Martha Joy Rose, Laura Shamas and Jennie Webb (representatives from Guerilla Girls on Tour and the Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative).

I am Shakespeare’s Other Sister. So’s my friend Aleta. So are all my other female playwright friends. So are the women of New Entra Casa. So is “anonymous.”

From Virginia Woolf’s 1929 essay, “A Room of One’s Own:”

“ . . . Shakespeare had a sister . . . She lives in you and in me . . . for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh. . . . if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think, then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare’s sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down. Drawing her life from the lives of the unknown who were her forerunners, as her brother did before her, she will be born.”

Be friendly.

Thelma Virata de Castro is the founder of San Diego Playwrights. She’ll be sending her boys to day camp and entrusting her husband to pack their lunches when she attends the A Room of Her Own Foundation retreat.

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TURBULENCE–An Interview with Breaking Waves Playwright Katie Brady

Katie Brady

Katie Brady

Tell us about yourself.

I am a word-obsessed, board game-loving, tennis smashing, singer/songwriter who loves music, theater and open mindsets. I am also lucky enough to be married to my best friend and be the mother of two awesome boys. I had the privilege to front San Francisco-based bands Crackerjack Tattoo and Sweet Harriet and have enjoyed being on the other side of the curtain in Jesus Christ Superstar, 1940’s Radio Hour, The Boyfriend and Hello Dolly.

Tell us about your play.

“Turbulence” is a heart-warming comedy about a teenager flying to his first year of college on an athletic scholarship.  Chaos arises when the son reveals that he didn’t actually get the scholarship and, in fact, was not accepted to the college. It’s an exploration of authenticity and acceptance in an anxiety-riddled environment.

What was it like to work with the actors to workshop your play?

Day one I was impressed. Our auditions were 100% improvisation. I think it takes a good bit of moxie to stand in front of three playwrights and be an Ewok on vacation or a foul-mouthed grandmother. Post-audition it’s been inspiring to watch these talented folks bring the characters to life.

What’s next?

I’m currently co-writing a musical that explores some similar themes as “Turbulence.”

Katie Brady’s play “Turbulence” will be produced by Actors Alliance and San Diego Playwrights as part of the Breaking Waves Festival in the 2015 San Diego International Fringe Festival.  Performances are July 24 @ 9:00 pmJuly 25th @ 2:30 pmJuly 29 @ 6:00 pmJuly 31 @ 7:30 pm and August 2 @ 11:30 am at the Raw Space Theater.  https://sdfringe.ticketleap.com/breaking-waves/dates

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KIDNAPPING LOLA–An Interview with Breaking Waves Playwright Michael Vegas Mussman

Michael Vegas Mussman

Michael Vegas Mussman

Tell us about yourself.

I’m a theatre dork, an old-fashioned romantic, a wannabe novelist. My adorable husband is from Chile, and we live in Mission Hills with a belligerent Maltese named Sweetie.

Tell us about your play.

About a year ago I woke up from a weird dream, grabbed a yellow pad, and wrote: “Monologue from POV of woman locked in the trunk of a car.” Then I promptly forgot all about it. Months later, I signed up to write a play for Breaking Waves. At the auditions, I met the actors, and that car-trunk idea came right back into my head. Now the woman in the trunk has a name, Lola, and a story.

What was it like to work with actors to workshop your play?

It was thrilling, stressful, amazing, insane, wonderful. These actors are ridiculously creative. All I did was give them a simple premise – two guys driving an old car, woman in the trunk – and they ran with it. They practically wrote their characters’ stories from scratch. They threw so many ideas at me. I only wish I could have used more of them.

What is your next step?

I wrote a one-act a about a closeted gay man who learns the true meaning of Pride. It’s basically “A Christmas Carol” but with disco balls and rainbow flags. I call it “A Pride Pastiche.”

Last night I had this weird dream that featured drug cartels, spies, and aliens from another dimension. My goal is to work all of that into a play and take it to Broadway.

 “Kidnapping Lola” by Michael Vegas Mussman will be produced by Actors Alliance and San Diego Playwrights as part of the Breaking Waves Festival in the 2015 San Diego International Fringe Festival. “Kidnapping Lola” tells the story of Diego and Lil Bing, two partners in crime who kidnap people for money. One of them is thinking about a career change. Performances are July 24 @ 9:00 p.m., July 25 @ 2:30 p.m., July 29 @ 6:00 p.m., July 31 @ 7:30 p.m. and August 2 @ 11:30 a.m.   https://sdfringe.ticketleap.com/breaking-waves/dates

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QUARANTINE–An Interview with Breaking Waves Playwright Wesley Mullins

Wesley Mullins

Wesley Mullins

Tell us about your play.

“Quarantine” tells the story of the first night a doctor spends in isolation once she returns from treating Ebola patients overseas.  As if being confined to one room for two weeks isn’t bad enough, she soon discovers her new home is haunted by two inept ghosts.

Where did you come up with the idea? 

The doctor is inspired by real people in the news over the last year.  I’ve been fascinated by the stories of Ebola workers who risk their lives, surrounded by death, working in unimaginable conditions and then react so strangely when asked to spend time in quarantine.  I wanted to write about someone doing something heroic and then being forced into isolation where they’d have to deal with the realities of what they’d just experienced.

Because this was for the Fringe Festival, I wanted there to be something Fringe-worthy about it.  A good Fringe play features some experimental, fun elements in the storytelling.  What better way to liven up the doctor’s confinement than to put her in a room with a couple of ghosts.

This is your second year participating in the Fringe Festival.  How do you like it?

I like the festival because Fringe attendees seem to want to have a good time; they are a welcoming, accommodating audience.  I’m usually afraid to take risks in my writing, but the Fringe Festival is the perfect spot to explore new genres and aesthetics.

“Quarantine” by Wesley Mullins is produced by Actors Alliance and San Diego Playwrights as part of the Breaking Waves Festival in the 2015 San Diego International Fringe Festival.  Things go from bad to worse for an Ebola doctor.  After she’s ordered to spend time in quarantine, she discovers that the room where she’ll spend the next two weeks is haunted by two ghosts. Performances are July 24 @ 9:00 p.m., July 25 @ 2:30 p.m., July 29 @ 6:00 p.m., July 31 @ 7:30 p.m. and August 2 @ 11:30 a.m.   https://sdfringe.ticketleap.com/breaking-waves/dates

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TINY–An Interview with Out on a Limb Playwright Tori Rice

Tori Rice (Photo Credit Dana Patrick)

Tori Rice (Photo Credit Dana Patrick)

Tell us about yourself.

I’ve been writing stories since I could hold a pen. I’m a Mom, a Teaching Artist, a Playwright and an Actress. I was born in Indiana, raised in Arizona, and have lived in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and now here.   It’s like I just kept moving further west.  Next stop . . . the ocean. (Tori’s website  www.toriking.com)

Tell us about your play.

The inspiration for “Tiny” came out of an article I read about the thousands of people who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001.  The article spoke about the ‘ambiguous loss’ suffered when there is no verification of a missing person’s status as alive or dead.  I started reading up on disappearances, and how those who are left behind cope differently.   I wondered what would happen if a child disappeared out of a home without a trace–how would those parents navigate through that.  Sometimes I write about things that scare the crap out of me.  This is definitely one of those plays.  And I don’t know if I’d have written the play this soon without the competition from Scripps Ranch Theatre’s Out on a Limb (OoaL).  I read that article about ‘ambiguous loss’ right around the time of the deadline requesting a ‘Statement of Intent.’  It was Lizzie Silverman, who was produced in last year’s OoaL (and now for her second year in a row!) who encouraged me to enter.  The stars aligned there for me.

What are your challenges? What are your successes?

I have a very strong inner critic.  I tend to overthink and overtalk.  I fear that I am not all that eloquent when I try to talk about writing, or shoot, anything in general.  I carry ideas around for a long time . . . sometimes so long that instead of percolating, they can stagnate.   Balancing life in general is another challenge.   But I do have endurance, which I think is key for a writer.  And I love storytelling.  I love to hear other people’s stories, I love crafting a story, and I absolutely love the process of collaboration.  I recently enjoyed a wonderful collaboration with my immersive play, Sisters in the System, commissioned by Playwrights Project: Telling Stories, Giving Voice to Foster Youth. (See https://sandiegoplaywrights.wordpress.com/2015/03/13/sisters-in-the-system-an-immersive-theatre-piece-by-tori-rice/.)

Truly though, each play now feels like a success because my work has matured so much over the years.  I’m grateful for new play development opportunities.  Mad props to all those supporting new play development in San Diego.  There are so many talented artists here; I feel incredibly lucky.

What is your next step?

I’ve been writing shorter plays, so my next step is a new full length.

Thanks for talking with us, Tori! Good luck with “Tiny and Out on a Limb!

Scripps Ranch Theatre’s Out on a Limb runs July 10-12 and July 17-19. For more information and tickets visit http://www.scrippsranchtheatre.org/out-on-a-limb/.

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