San Diego Playwrights

Getting San Diego Playwrights Produced on San Diego Stages

RAY’S LAST CASE–An Interview with Out on a Limb Playwright Tim West

on June 26, 2014

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Tell us about yourself.

I’ve been a playwright in San Diego for twenty years. I got my start as a playwright from The Fritz Blitz of New Plays, which for 15 years staged 3-6 new plays a week for 5 weeks. My first play was Clearance (1995) followed by Charade (1996) and FDR Can Walk (1997). In 1998, my one act satire Female Problems and Abducting Arrianna, a full-length commissioned adaptation of Nobel laureate Dario Fo, had a full run on the main stage. The next year, my Blitz plays were presented there as Strange Bedfellows. Early on, I was commissioned by Sledgehammer Theatre to write Phenomenal Acceleration (1999) followed by The Universal Monster Show (2002). Sledge also gave me opportunities to perform my work at the Regional Alternative Theatre Conference, and to teach playwriting.

Starting in 2000, I took three invitational workshops at the Audrey Skirball-Kenis Foundation. One was with Obie Award-winner Deb Margolin, and I worked with Deb and that circle of writers for about a year after. Her method has become the core of my own teaching practice at Cygnet, San Diego Writers Ink and elsewhere. Also in 2000, my first full-length play, Amelia Earhart, Lost & Found, debuted the new space at 6th @ Penn, and I penned the San Diego Zoo’s annual regional marketing presentation.

Some bad experiences in theatre encouraged me to take some time away from writing, 2002-06, returning with the one-act Breakfast for Dinner and the full-length Cooperstown. The former won an award in the 2007 Actors Festival, the latter had readings at NCRT (2009) and Cygnet (2012) and was placed in the A. Bartlett Giamatti Research Center at the National Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame.  Last year, I had a reading of the first act of Friendly Witness: a Technicolor noir in ion’s short-lived Naked Plays series.

San Diego presents a lot of opportunities for the local playwright.

It does, but with fewer opportunities to get work produced in town after the demise of the Blitz and the Actors Festival, local playwrights have had to re-learn how to create more opportunities for ourselves. I’m trying to do that now.

Last spring, I decided to return to the short form, and submit a play each week. As a result, Comfy Chair was staged in Colorado, and I got to see my ten minute verse play Great Reckoning in a Little Room staged at Playwrights Horizon as part of Red Bull Theatre’s Obie Award-winning Revelations Readings. This year, Two in the Bush was mounted in Bloomington, Il., and my radio play WIN won a prize in Richmond, VA. I’ve also been awarded a commissioned to write Sky Unlimited by the San Diego Guild of Puppetry.

It certainly helps with the advent of Out on a Limb: New Plays from America’s Finest City. I used Green Flash at Sunset (2012) and Blackout at Battery Cliff (2013) in my successful application to be Artist in Residence at Cabrillo National Monument, so far as I can tell the only theatre artist among the 32 AiRs in the National Park Service.

Out on a Limb is a terrific opportunity for local writers like George Soete, Lisa Kirazian, Steve Oberman, Emily Sperling and now Jack Cassidy, Jake Edmondson and Lizzie Silverman. There is every possibility that I will be edged out next year by the rapid increase in submissions to this great and growing program.

Ray Image Revised 6.22.14

Tell us about your play for Out on a Limb this year.

Ray’s Last Case grew out of my long-time interest in the famed detective novelist Raymond Chandler, who lived in La Jolla 1946-59. It is hard to describe. It’s like much of what comes out of me these days, it seems. It’s concerned with the sense of failure, which I think comes from a linear conception of time. It’s hard to describe.

It was enough of an odd duck that OoaL founder and producer Robert May thought it might work as an offering in the San Diego Fringe, so it is slated to open on July 4th on the Tenth Avenue Arts Centre mainstage. (Don’t confuse it with my self-produced play, Olivia Bolivia at the Spreckels.)

What are your challenges? What are your successes?

Challenges as a writer? Time. Time, and earning a living with my art. I’ve tried to derive more of my income from it these last two years. ‘Success’ can be measured in other ways. I like to think I’ve played some small part in the rising sense of community among playwrights in San Diego. There are young playwrights out there who may be capable of success as others measure it. I’d like to help that succession.

What is your next step?

I’ve got more ideas than time to write them, or places where I might see them staged. I’ve got a play partly outlined, called Drowned Cities, about the damming of the Stanislaus in 1979. I’ve got a play in me, The Good Son, that I promised I’d write after my mother passed. I’ve got a play entitled And the Oscar Goes to Olivia de Havilland still percolating from the same February writing prompt that resulted in Olivia Bolivia. However, right now I have to focus on mounting Olivia Bolivia.

That’s really where I’d like to see area playwrights moving: self-production. It’s self-empowerment, and it involves us in our craft and our community in ways that are much more productive than the lottery of adding your play to the pile in some literary manager’s office. I know: I used to be a literary manager.

So if there’s anyone out there who shares an interest in that model, check out the link to P13 in New York on my website (www.timcwest.com) and let’s have that conversation.

And I’ll see you at the Fringe!

Thanks for talking with us Tim! Good luck with Ray’s Last Case, Out on a Limb, and the San Diego International Fringe Festival!

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