San Diego Playwrights

Getting San Diego Playwrights Produced on San Diego Stages

Out On a Limb with Scripps Ranch Theatre and Robert May

on July 8, 2013

Some background about Scripps Ranch Theatre and Robert May:

Scripps Ranch Theatre (SRT) is committed to producing quality and entertaining theater, consistently. SRT has earned a reputation as one of the finest small theaters in San Diego. We are pleased to be celebrating our 35th season starting in the fall of 2013.  Scripps Ranch Theatre is known as one of the most successful, award-winning theaters in San Diego, and has a very vital and growing subscription base.

Robert May, Producer of Scripps Ranch Theatre's Out on a Limb

Robert May, Producer Artistic Director of Scripps Ranch Theatre’s Out on a Limb

Robert May is the producing Artistic Director for Out on a Limb – New Plays from America’s Finest City.  Robert founded and produced last year’s first annual Out on a Limb and is thrilled to present OoaL once again.  Robert is also an accomplished actor, free-lance sound designer, and award-winning director.  He will be directing The Liar in SRT’s upcoming 35th season.  Robert is a member of the Board of Directors for SRT.

What is the Out on a Limb program?

The idea for Out on a Limb was first borne out of my frustration that the Fritz Blitz no longer existed.  I was fortunate enough to be involved with the Blitz for several years as a director, and I loved being involved with brand new plays that no other directors or actors had fully produced.  I was also a member of the Board of Directors for Scripps Ranch Theatre, and at the beginning of 2010 I started brainstorming ideas with a few other trusted people for a new play program to be held at SRT on an annual basis.  After many meetings and talks with mentors and peers and anyone else that would listen to this crazy, risky idea, the main plan for Out on a Limb was presented to the SRT Board of Directors and approved to move forward.  We planned to present the 1st Annual OoaL in June/July of 2012.  One of the main “complaints” that I’d heard over the years from playwrights is that they could get endless staged readings of their plays, but no full productions of their work.  My knee-jerk reaction to that complaint usually was “Well, write better plays”.  Sarcasm aside, I could see a common thread in the complaints – at best, the work would have a table read or two, some feedback, a rewrite, a staged reading for a small audience, and then die because that was as far as the organization working with the playwright was willing or able to take it.  OoaL wanted to be taken seriously and we wanted to work with people who were serious about new work.  As a result, we set up OoaL with the following criteria:

  • We  would ask playwrights to submit an idea for a play, not a play that had already been written.  The only caveat is that the idea has to have something to do with San Diego (whatever that means to the individual playwright).
  • The playwrights whose idea was chosen to move on would be asked to create a first draft of a one-act play and, from those, two or three would be  chosen to move on to readings, feedback, rewrites, and a full production on SRT’s mainstage at the end of the process.
  • SRT would pay an honorarium to the chosen playwrights, and a stipend to everyone involved with OoaL – directors, designers, actors, crew. A professional effort would be given to the playwrights and the program to show our community that we are committed to and serious about supporting new work by area playwrights.

What do you hope to achieve?  Is there risk involved in producing local playwrights?

I’ll share with you my “Producer Notes” from the program for the upcoming 2nd Annual OoaL, as I think it addresses both of these questions:

“Why call it “Out on a Limb“?  Why not call it something that sounds safe and happy, like the “Happy, Shiny, Nothing to Worry About Here New Play Program“?  Well, besides the awkward title, it’s considered a risk in the theater community to produce brand new work by playwrights who may or may not be “established”, who live and work and write and create and try their hardest to get someone to notice their art, their work, and who live right here in or around America’s Finest City.  We embrace that risk and truly want to make Scripps Ranch Theatre, and San Diego, a place for playwrights to develop new work, have their voices heard, and actually produce their work on our stage.  Through our submission process we are able to live with the play from the birth of the idea through to production, working with the playwright through readings, vital feedback, rehearsals, and on to the production you’re about to see.  Another exciting aspect of the OoaL program is the possibility for these one-act plays to have a life in the future.  We are currently working with playwright Lisa Kirazian, whose one-act play On Air premiered in last year’s OoaL, to develop her piece into a full-length play that may be included in one of SRT’s mainstage seasons.  I can’t express how proud I am that this program exists at a theater willing to take the “risk” of producing area playwrights and giving San Diego an opportunity to shine.”

I hope, with the full support of SRT, to get playwrights in our area thinking, writing, exploring, playing, and creating work that gets seen, gets supported, and may have life after this process.  The fact that we are working with a playwright from last year’s OoaL to develop a full-length version of her one-act play thrills me to think of the possibilities for the future of new work in our community.

What are your challenges?

Getting the word out to all the playwrights in our area about OoaL, whether they’re established or just beginning.  I think the word is out there to some extent, especially since we have proved that we weren’t just a one-year thing.  We open the 2nd Annual OoaL on July 12, and shortly after we close on July 21 I’ll be gearing up to plan for Year 3!  However, I get a sense that there is still a feeling out period going on, like there are playwrights who aren’t quite sure what to make of our program, or they have questions but don’t know who to talk with for answers.  Well, I’m here to tell you we’re real and I’m more than happy to sit down with individuals or groups or collectives (such as San Diego Playwrights!) and answer any questions that will get our area playwrights excited about submitting to the Out on a Limb program.

How can San Diego Playwrights support Scripps Ranch Theatre and Out on a Limb?

Not just San Diego Playwrights, but anyone reading this interview:  Spread the word to all the playwrights and theatre lovers that you know and are connected with in person and through social media.  Invite me to a meeting to discuss OoaL and your questions, concerns, ideas, dreams, etc.

Come see the 2nd Annual Out on a Limb – New Plays from America’s Finest City and join us as we support the new work of your peers.  You’ll see three brand new one-act plays in one evening:  July 19 through 21 and July 26 through 28.  Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm.  The plays are:

Blackout at Battery Cliff, by Tim West

Hannah Logan and J. Tyler Jones in Tim West's Blackout at Battery Cliff (Photo Credit Ron Logan)

Hannah Logan and J. Tyler Jones in Tim West’s Blackout at Battery Cliff (Photo Credit Ron Logan)

A Slip From Reality, by Steven Oberman

Shane Allen and Jaysen Waller in rehearsal (Photo Credit:  Allan Salkin)

Shane Allen and Jaysen Waller in rehearsal for Steven Oberman’s A Slip from Reality (Photo Credit Allan Salkin)

Mermaids, by Emily Sperling

Hannah Logan and Aaron Acosta in Emily Sperling's Mermaids (Photo Credit Ron Logan)

Hannah Logan and Aaron Acosta in Emily Sperling’s Mermaids (Photo Credit Allan Salkin)

If you contact me at newplays@scrippsranchtheatre.org and mention that you read this interview on San Diego Playwrights, I will offer you $10 tickets to OoaL (regular price is $15).  I hope to see you all there!  Thanks for the opportunity to talk about Out on a Limb.

Thank you Scripps Ranch Theatre and Robert May for supporting San Diego playwrights!

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