San Diego Playwrights

Getting San Diego Playwrights Produced on San Diego Stages

An Interview with Cecelia Kouma, Executive Director of Playwrights Project

on July 21, 2013

What is the mission of Playwrights Project?

Playwrights Project’s mission is to empower individuals to voice their stories through theatre.  Since its founding by Deborah Salzer in 1985, the organization has engaged youth in the process of playwriting as a way to help them develop literacy skills, advance communication, and explore their creativity.  Students experience the power of theatre as they write plays – turning their passion into stories enacted by professional actors.  There’s no better reward than watching the expressions on the students’ faces as their lines are performed.  In 2007 after Deborah retired and I became the organization’s Executive Director, the board of directors, staff, and I embarked on envisioning the future of Playwrights Project and expanded our vision to reach beyond schools and into community groups with playwriting opportunities, such as foster care, military, LGBT, immigrants and seniors.  We also initiated a program called Play by Play: Cultivating Emerging Playwrights to support adult playwrights in developing new plays.  

Please tell us more about your programs that support adult playwrights.

Our Play by Play program provides adult playwrights with table reads and discussions of selected scripts, pairs each playwright with a dramaturg for 1-on-1 advice, and culminates in a staged reading of the play followed by a post-performance discussion with a discerning audience.  When budgets and schedules permit, we’ve also been able to expand Play by Play to include workshop productions with New Village Arts Theatre, and called the collaboration Playwrights Village.  We are currently working with Cygnet Theatre to produce their Playwrights in Process New Play Festival.  Four plays will receive the Play by Play treatment, and staged readings will be presented at Cygnet’s Theatre in Old Town, November 1-3, 2013.

In partnership with Diversionary Theatre, we also offer Word Play Tuesdays, an opportunity for playwrights and other writers to hear 10-minutes of their work in an informal gathering in Diversionary’s lobby on the 2nd Tuesday of each month (September through June).  Playwrights submit their pieces online or in person at prior WordPlay Tuesdays.  Scripts are selected on a first come first served basis.  Actors are cast from the audience and a discussion is facilitated by Playwrights Project staff, based on the level of feedback desired by the playwright.

Coming this year, we will begin a new program sponsored by the Irvine Foundation that pairs a playwright with a designated community to create site-specific theatre pieces relevant to each population.  The Community organizing and script development process begin this fall focused on adults involved in foster care and immigrants along the Mexico/San Diego border.  Next year, the program will serve members of the military and incarcerated or previously incarcerated adults. The program includes an online component, with videos and text of interviews and performances, to engage the general public in discussing the issues raised and helping to shape scripts-in-process.

What are some of your successes with adult playwrights?

Adult playwrights who have taken part in our programs have received valuable feedback on their scripts and made significant improvements to the works involved.  Additionally, they have reported that they have grown as playwrights; often looking at their writing in a different way than they had before they took part in the program.  Audiences have gained a better understanding and appreciation for the playwriting process. Many have told us they are more interested in seeing new work as a result of attending our Play by Play performances.

How can San Diego Playwrights support Playwrights Project?

Join us at WordPlay Tuesday  at 8:00pm on the 2nd Tuesday of the month in September through June (http://www.diversionary.org/wordplay.html).  Sign up for your work to be read, take part as an actor, or attend as an audience member and contribute to the conversation to support the work of fellow playwrights.

Join our mailing list or watch for announcements about Playwrights in Process.  Playwrights will be announced shortly and performances will take place in November 1-3.  New submissions will be invited next spring, for performance the following fall.

Watch our website or send an email to write@playwrightsproject.org to subscribe to our Plotline Newsletter and receive updates on our Community Stories program.  We welcome your attendance at community performances and comments on the online portion (currently in development).

Thank you Cecelia Kouma and Playwrights Project for supporting local playwrights!

Cecilia Kouma (back row, left) and local playwrights (clockwise) Stephen Metcalfe, Ingrid Hoffmeister, Jennie Olson-Six, Thelma Virata de Castro and June Gottleib

Cecelia Kouma (back row, left) and local playwrights (clockwise) Stephen Metcalfe, Ingrid Hoffmeister, Jennie Olson Six, Thelma Virata de Castro and June Gottlieb

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