San Diego Playwrights

Getting San Diego Playwrights Produced on San Diego Stages

Cygnet Theatre’s Playwrights in Process: An Interview with Ross Tedford Kendall

Tell us about yourself.

I’m originally from Kansas, but moved to Southern California for college. I attended USC for both undergraduate and graduate studies, earning two degrees in writing. By my estimate, I’ve been writing for about twenty years, but only recently seen success in playwriting. I don’t kid myself, it’s been a long, slow process. I have a full length production of my play, Gambit, in Chicago in November. It will be produced by Artemisia, directed by their artistic director Julie Proudfoot. I am a member of Moving Arts Theatre Company in Silver Lake, near downtown Los Angeles. They’ve produced a couple of my short plays and have helped me organize a few readings of my work, including this play. We’ve also recently hired a new artistic director, Darin Anthony, so we’re excited about that. I’m also a regular member of Lee Wochner’s Words That Speak playwriting workshop, where I’ve developed just about all my theatrical work.

Tell us about Pleasure and Pain.

I got the idea while watching another play. One scene in particular seemed to stand out, where a wife has confronted her husband over an affair, with the husband’s mistress present. The mistress would not leave without stating her case. I started thinking what would happen if that scene was the whole play. I had already written the Clementine character before, and she was complex enough to become involved in more than one story, due to her ability to generate conflict in any situation. Not only could she be the mistress who stated her position, she would not be easy to shut up, presenting a formidable challenge to the wife who dared to stand up to her. The other two characters came about from thinking about this situation taken to its breaking point. Who would the husband be? Why does he need to experiment with S&M? Why does he seek out Clementine? What would happen if the wife unexpectedly walked in on them? Come see the play and find out.

What are your challenges and successes with Pleasure and Pain?

Writing isn’t easy, at least not for me. In addition to creating characters and situations that are entertaining, theatre demands that the story work in a unique and yet universal theme; to make the story prove its worth in a larger context. It’s maddening, because I think once you start thinking about how all this works, your writing suffers. And yet, you can’t not think about it, either. Finding that balance is the real challenge, and it’s different every time. I have to do many, many rewrites, and I hate it, but it is how I work, and this play is no exception. In the end, if there is an end, it does seem to pay off. Pleasure and Pain was awarded honorable mention by Ohio State Newark’s New Play contest. That does feel good. So does collaborating with individuals and groups such as Derek Livingston, D Candis Paule and Robert May with Playwrights in Process. That makes all the trouble worthwhile, and reminds you why you do this.

What is your next step for Pleasure and Pain?

If the play is well received, I would like to send it out to production opportunities. Beyond that, just getting through the next rewrite. Just like all the others.

Ross Tedford Kendall's Mascot

Ross Tedford Kendall’s Mascot

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Cygnet Theatre’s Playwrights in Process: An Interview with Todd Goodlett

Todd Goodlett

Todd Goodlett

Tell us about yourself.

I am a screenwriter and a playwright.  I live in Santa Barbara with my wife and daughter.  My plays have been developed and produced at the Moving Arts Theater in Los Angeles, the Diversionary Theatre in San Diego, and The Landing Theatre in Houston.  My play, The Zapruder Film, was presented at the 2010 New American Playwrights Project at the Tony award-winning Utah Shakespeare Festival.  I have been a finalist for the Austin Film Festival, Amazon Studios, and the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.  I am a graduate of Texas Tech University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts and the UCLA School of Theatre, Film, & Television’s Professional Program in Screenwriting.

Tell us about Off the Map.

With disasters and tragedies headlining the news, Eunice and Arlen, two heavily-armed senior citizens, retreat to the desert, preparing for the end of the world.  Their grandson, Tommy, who is having an almost mid-life crisis and his political activist girlfriend, Mia, soon arrive on the scene.  Tommy tries to convince them that civilization is not on the verge of collapse but, when they witness a plane crash, Eunice’s doomsday prophecies appear to be coming true.


What are your challenges and successes with Off the Map?

The challenge with Off the Map is all the characters are a bit delusional and somewhat paranoid.  Although the protagonist, Tommy, appears to be the voice of reason, I wanted him to be infected by the paranoia within the play’s environment and make a decision at the end of the story that puts him at a completely different place than where he started out.  I knew where I wanted the story to end but I didn’t know exactly how to get there.  That is something we worked on within the development process of the play.  My director, Derek Livingston, and my dramaturg, Jessica Ordon, were instrumental in helping with Tommy’s journey.

One of the other challenges with the play was trying to create a dialogue that was realistic, but also set the tone for this absurd and crazy world.  I created rhythm within the piece, using the repetition of sounds and words.  There’s also a character who shows up midway through the story who uses a lot of aphorisms and clichés, because he’s with the government and he’s always dispensing propaganda.  Overall, I feel like the language of the play bears some resemblance to reality, but ultimately it’s a very heightened reality.

As far as successes, I guess we’ll find out at the reading. Hopefully, people laugh.

What is your next step for Off the Map?

The play was first presented at the Landing Theatre in Houston this summer and it got a really great response.  I feel like we’ve taken the play to a new level through the process at Cygnet Theatre.  Hopefully, I can find a theatre that will take a chance on producing it.

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Cygnet Theatre’s Playwrights in Process: An Interview with Rachael VanWormer

Rachael VanWormer

Rachael VanWormer

Tell us about yourself.

I am a San Diego native – born and bred.  My first venture into playwriting was in high school, when I won the California Young Playwrights Contest, produced by The Playwrights Project.  I am primarily an actor and teaching artist, but have had several pieces produced as workshops and readings in smaller festivals throughout the years.

Tell us about Death of a Late Summer Songbird.

The play is based on events and characters from Harper Lee’s novel TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. The play focuses on Mayella Ewell – a young white woman – who falsely accuses Tom Robinson – a young black man – of rape in a Southern town in the 1930’s.  Lee’s novel offers some harrowing hints of the real story motivating her actions, and my play attempts to explore the many unanswered questions surrounding the events leading up to the accusation.

What are your challenges with Death of a Late Summer Songbird?

The primary challenge I have encountered with the piece is remaining true to the source material, while creating a piece that can stand on its own.  It is important that an audience find the characters relatable, sympathetic, and engaging, whether they are familiar with Lee’s novel or not.  The piece also attempts to explain – or at least offer insight into – what appears to be an act of incredible selfishness and prejudice.  The play does not excuse the characters’ actions, but it does attempt to offer a more complete picture of the circumstances they are up against.  Finding the balance in creating characters who do unforgivable things, but who are still interesting to watch, and worth wanting to know is a challenge I am still working on.

What is your next step for Death of a Late Summer Songbird?

More readings and more re-writes.

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Cygnet Theatre’s Playwrights in Process: An Interview with Robert John Ford

Robert John Ford’s play Sleeping Dogs is featured in Cygnet Theatre’s Playwrights in Process: New Play Festival, in collaboration with Playwrights Project.
Robert John Ford

Robert John Ford

Tell us about yourself.
I am an Iowa-based award-winning playwright, composer and lyricist whose musicals and plays have been produced throughout the country.  Musicals for which I wrote the book, music and lyrics include: CAUCUS! THE MUSICAL (“the hottest new musical in the country” – Washington Post); SIX-ON-SIX – THE MUSICAL (“a slam dunk” – Des Moines Register); UTOPIA (“you will laugh…hard!”- Des Moines Register); and THE WORLD’S LARGEST ALUMINUM FOIL BALL (“must see” designation – St. Paul Pioneer Press).  Musicals for which I wrote the book and lyrics include: TRICE; CLEAN UP; and ROLF! (all currently in development in collaboration with various composers).  I also wrote the book for the musical FOREVER IN BLUE JEANS – A DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH.  My plays include: SLEEPING DOGS (winner of the 2013 Ashland New Play Festival and the 2009 Iowa Playwrights Workshop new play competition); THE CASSEROLE BRIGADE; WAKE; MY DINNER WITH ANDREW (“must-see” designation – St. Paul Pioneer Press); and HAPPENSTANCE.  My work has been featured nationally in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, TIME Magazine, US News & World Report, and on CNN, CBS, ABC, BBC and National Public Radio, among others.  For 15 years I worked in the business and artistic departments at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, serving as the casting director and artistic administrator for four of those years.  I currently am a lyricist in the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop in NYC (where I am developing a musical version of the feature film WAKING NED DEVINE) and maintain my own theatre production company – Right Brain Productions – in my home state of Iowa.  Please visit www.robertjohnford.com, “like” my page on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter at @RobertJohnFord (although I have yet to Tweet anything yet!).
Tell us about Sleeping Dogs.
Two mothers are trying to uncover the facts surrounding a car accident that has left one woman’s son dead and the other woman’s son comatose.  Their investigation, which leads to surprising and disturbing revelations about the circumstances leading up to and immediately after the accident, ultimately forces the mothers to re-examine the identities of both themselves and the sons they thought they knew so well.  Loosely based on a true story, SLEEPING DOGS examines the complex and very personal reasons why some people are content to accept matters as they appear to be while others are compelled to seek the truth at any cost.
What are your challenges and successes with Sleeping Dogs?
I began developing the script, which is loosely based on a true story, in 2005 and completed a first draft in 2006.  But I set it aside for several years as other projects became more immediate priorities.  In 2009, I submitted it to a handful of theatres and contests for consideration; that year, it was selected as the winner of The Iowa Playwrights Workshop new play competition in connection with Tallgrass Theatre in Des Moines, where it received a non-professional workshop production after a series of revisions.  That was followed up by a reading of the play at the Dramatists Guild in NYC in spring 2011.  After these successes, I again set it aside to focus on other projects.
Earlier this year, I began the submission process again.  Over the summer, I received notice that it was selected as a winner of the 2013 Ashland New Play Festival in Oregon and Cygnet Theatre’s Playwrights in Process New Play Festival in San Diego.
As part of Cygnet Theatre’s process, I have been working with dramaturg Derek Livingston (who will also be directing the reading) and have done two revisions in preparation for the reading in November.  While I felt the script was in good shape when I first submitted it, working with Derek on the revisions has been a great experience and has helped me make significant improvements.
What is your next step for Sleeping Dogs?
Several regional theatres have expressed interest in producing SLEEPING DOGS, so I’m hoping that it will see at least one professional production in the next theatre season.  Also, I am working with producer Hugh Hysell on a NYC workshop production next spring with the goal of an off-Broadway production in 2014/15.
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The Warriors’ Duet–An Interview with Charlene Baldridge

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Tell us about yourself.

I am Charlene Baldridge, poet and writer, born in Evanston, IL, in 1934.

All my life I’ve been a writer. After a stultifying career in banking, and a sometime career as a classical singer, I began writing for newspapers and magazines in the late ‘70s, then spent 14 years in theatre administration. Then I quit my administrative job to do a one-woman show I’d written. This was 1995. When that fell though, I said what-the-heck-wasn’t-meant-to-be, and returned to freelancing. I had retirement funds, which I spent while writing poetry, traveling, sitting in coffee shops, and trying to figure out who the heck I was, an independent woman at 62. I wrote for Copley News Service about everything from depression to sex and the senior citizen and eventually was able to earn enough writing just about the arts. Copley went south soon afterwards, along with most of freelance journalism gigs, but I had a specialty and an excellent reputation.

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Laura Jeanne Morefield and Charlene Baldridge

 What is your project?

My journalistic partner and confidante was my own daughter, Laura Jeanne Morefield (Oct. 8, 1960-July 17, 2011). After some rough times when I was in my late 50s and she in her 30s, she and I became very close, traveling together each year, checking in almost daily with dreams, poems and other endeavors, and even sharing some creative friends. She, too, had had a stultifying career in banking, then returned to college, got her degree, and became a fulltime writer of poetry and creative prose, a novel and film scripts mostly. Though getting published was not important to her, she wrote a radical political column in her community’s conservative newspaper. I was always surprised she survived that.

Then after her brother died, Laura and I shared 10 or more years of cultural travel. She received a fatal diagnosis of stage four colon cancer in 2008. She fought for three years and died July 17, 2011. Impossible, it seemed, my life without her. I looked for her everywhere. She was right there on the page before me. Fortunately, she left me an assignment, to collect and edit her post-diagnosis poetry, which she thought her best. I titled the book The Warrior’s Stance, and when the manuscript was sent to a national chapbook contest, it received glowing comments from the publisher, did not win, but placed in the top 13. Then Dan Morefield decided to self-publish the book. Just when the manuscript was completed, Laura came to me in a dream and asked “What next, Miss Mommy?” The what-next became a play titled The Warriors’ Duet. Now, I would have my say in this two-hander, envisioned as a music stand reading for two women of certain ages.

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What happened to the project?

I showed whatever it was I’d written to Claudio Raygoza and Glenn Paris, creative friends and admirers of Laura’s literary oeuvre. In May 2012 Claudio directed a staged reading at ion theatre with two Equity women, Karson St. John as Laura and Linda Libby as Mom – the ones I chose! It was a full house and we had a talkback afterwards with a grief therapist, just in case anyone needed a professional. No one did. Many wanted the play to be longer, knew exactly how it could be done, and, I suspected, wanted to adapt it for their own institutional needs; and others, including Claudio and Glenn, wanted me to preserve its integrity.

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Justin Warren Martin’s poster art

What was your plan to get your play produced?

I sent the script to everyone I could think of nationally and locally, garnering many suggestions and much admiration for the work’s clarity and literary merit. Katherine Harroff of Circle Circle dot dot phoned and asked if she could pair it with a script she was going to write about her mother. Then she called and said she wanted to put it into the inaugural, 2013 San Diego Fringe Festival. The Warriors’ Duet played three sold out Fringe performances at the Cabaret Theatre at 10th Avenue Theatre and received an award for best percentage of capacity sales. Due to the numbers of people turned away, Circle Circle remounted the play in September 2013, again co-directed by Katie and choreographer Anne Gehman, this time four performances at Liberty Station’s White Box Theatre. The work, which had five dancers and two actors, sold very well and was a huge success artistically. I sold Laura’s book after performances and have already had many re-orders.

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Samantha Ginn and Kathi Copeland in Circle Circle dot dot production of The Warriors’ Duet

What is your goal now?

My goals now are several and I am working on bringing each about. I would like to see the theatre work performed as originally intended, utilizing major actors such as A. R. Gurney did with Love Letters. I would like to see it in play festivals. I would like it to be produced by LORT B theatres nationwide. Because of its minimal staging it would be economical to produce. And I would like it used as fundraiser for the helping fields, grief counseling, colon cancer research, etc. Both play and book have already attracted much attention in these areas.

There are other factors that support the play. Proceeds of book sales go entirely to Colon Cancer Alliance in Washington, D.C. Laura’s chapbook is attractive, upbeat and profound. There is a major event in the offing, too. Two months before she died, Laura sent her ten “favorite poems” to American composer Jake Heggie (Dead Man Walking and Moby-Dick), who has set my poetry since 2004. Jake is setting Laura’s poem, “The Work at Hand,” into a concerto for soprano, cello and orchestra, to be premiered in November 2014 by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. As long as I can move, I am available to talk about this woman so beloved and such a warrior. It’s a powerful, inspiring story that has already changed lives.

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