San Diego Playwrights

Getting San Diego Playwrights Produced on San Diego Stages

Cygnet Theatre’s Playwrights in Process–An Interview with Paul-David Halem


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Playwrights in Process: New Play Festival is Cygnet Theatre’s annual festival of readings of new plays presented in collaboration with Playwrights Project. The festival introduces San Diego playgoers to new works by local artists and also offers a series of workshops designed to introduce curious audiences to the art of playwriting. In addition, the three-day festival at the Old Town Theatre includes opportunities for informal forums to meet the playwrights. The festival is sponsored by Bill and Judy Garrett.
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Paul-David Halem
San Francisco State University – BA Drama 1973  (Yes I’m old)
Tell us about yourself and your writing process.
For the first fifty years of my theatre life, I was a character actor – never a leading man.  About five years ago, I decided to try writing a play.  Much to my surprise and pleasure, I found that all of those years as an actor had developed my ear for dialogue.  My first play, Life Cycles, was selected by PowPac Theatre as their first World Premier in their 32 year history.  The play had a successful run and I was off and running as a playwright.  My next play The Brothers Lipschitz is a warped farce that had its World Premier at the Broadway Theatre in Vista this past November.  The play had wonderful audience reactions and we were asked to reprise it at Swedenborg Hall in San Diego this past June.  I have also written a dark drama titled The Bridge that has had one stage reading and I am currently submitting it to theatres around the country.  As far as my writing process, I am probably different from most other writers.  I don’t have an outline and have no idea where the story is headed until I write it.  I just write as fast as I can and, if I don’t like it, that is why there is a delete key.  I believe writers should write more and don’t overthink the process.
Tell us about your play. What was your inspiration?
Mannequins is my newest play and was selected by the Cygnet Theatre Playwrights in Process Festival.  The play centers around an erudite and somewhat delusional actor who has people coming in and out of his life.  There are two mannequins on stage.  In order not to open the fourth wall, his monologues are directed to the mannequins.  They are more than props.  They are, in fact, his life’s audience.  I’ve often been accused of having a warped sense of humor.  As for my inspiration – it is getting to have my characters have outrageous experiences that I would never get to have in my suburban existence.  I would best describe myself as a Walter Mitty who happens to write plays.
What do you hope to get out of the Playwrights in Process experience?
The truth is I already have gotten a tremendous amount out of the process.  In the past, I’ve had to beg people to read one of my scripts and give me some real insight and suggestions. I’ve found that is not an easy thing to do.  At the Playwrights in Process, I was given a gift named Derek Livingston.  He has now read four versions of my play and each time has given me detailed suggestions.  It has been so helpful to have a knowledgeable and creative mind give me input.  Cygnet has also cast my play with wonderful professional actors to read my lines and bring the characters to life.  This has been a fantastic opportunity and experience.
What is your next step? Any advice for other playwrights?
Of course, the next step is always to get my play produced.  This is different each time.   For my first play I was fortunate to have a director I had already acted for agree to read it.  He liked it and arranged a staged reading at PowPac.  It turned out the reading went really well and we were offered a spot in the following season.  With my second play, I got a theatre owner where I had acted in 8 plays over the years to watch a scene from the play.  I was able to have some of my theatre friends help me put on this private performance.  As it turned out, the theatre lost the rights to a show that was in their current season and we got the spot.  The point is you have to think outside of the box and really sell not only your play but yourself too.  Google Playwriting Contests and start submitting.  Having a play in your desk drawer does not make you a playwright.
Thanks for talking with us Paul-David! Good luck with Mannequins and Playwrights in Process!
Read the Cygnet Theatre Playwright Insight interview here: http://blog.cygnettheatre.com/2014/11/03/playwright-insight-paul-david-halem/

View complete information on workshops and plays: http://www.cygnettheatre.com/connect/playwrights.php

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Cygnet Theatre’s Playwrights in Process–An Interview with Diana Burbano

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Playwrights in Process: New Play Festival is Cygnet Theatre’s annual festival of readings of new plays presented in collaboration with Playwrights Project. The festival introduces San Diego playgoers to new works by local artists and also offers a series of workshops designed to introduce curious audiences to the art of playwriting. In addition, the three-day festival at the Old Town Theatre includes opportunities for informal forums to meet the playwrights. The festival is sponsored by Bill and Judy Garrett.
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L to R Diana Burbano, Tom Shelton, Christopher Shelton

Tell us about yourself and your writing process.
Tom and I are partners and have a 7-year-old son. We wanted a project we could work on together. We brought Chris in as a director and he shaped the story. I suppose it’s a devised piece, I write Ana usually, Tom writes Carl and Chris shapes and edits, although that’s not absolute, as all of us tackle any problems that come up. We get together, eat a lot, laugh a lot and edit a lot. It’s like writing for television.
Tell us about your play. What was your inspiration?
I started writing Silueta as a project for myself to perform. I was and am dismayed at the lack of interesting roles for women of my age and ethnicity. I also found the story of Ana Mendieta compelling and interesting and rich and couldn’t believe no one had really heard of her! In my mind she is as fascinating as Frida Kahlo, and SHOULD become a role model for Latinas. Her tragic and insane death shouldn’t overshadow her very real powers as an artist. I am also very interested in rich language and text. I hope this play has that.
What do you hope to get out of the Playwrights in Process experience?
Collaboration with talented actors and directors! It is invaluable to hear the work read and worked by people who are not as familiar with it as we are. We hope to learn a lot about our play from the actors and director.
What is your next step? Any advice for other playwrights?
Write. A lot. Overwrite. Most of it will be awful. Then edit. Be ruthless. 

Thanks for talking with us Diana! Good luck with Silueta and Playwrights in Process!

Read the Cygnet Theatre Playwright Insight interview here: http://blog.cygnettheatre.com/2014/11/03/playwright-insight-diana-burbano/

View complete information on workshops and plays: http://www.cygnettheatre.com/connect/playwrights.php

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Cygnet Theatre’s Playwrights in Process–An Interview with David Jacobi

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Playwrights in Process: New Play Festival is Cygnet Theatre’s annual festival of readings of new plays presented in collaboration with Playwrights Project. The festival introduces San Diego playgoers to new works by local artists and also offers a series of workshops designed to introduce curious audiences to the art of playwriting. In addition, the three-day festival at the Old Town Theatre includes opportunities for informal forums to meet the playwrights. The festival is sponsored by Bill and Judy Garrett.

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David Jacobi

Tell us about yourself and your writing process.

I’m originally from New York, and am a current MFA Playwriting student at UC San Diego’s Playwriting Program. Before coming here, I lived in China for three years, where I self-produced plays and taught five-year olds how to say “I would like a cheeseburger.”

As far as my writing process goes: I’m constantly collecting things (articles, bits of history, dialogue overheard on the bus) and putting them into a drawer. When I’ve ready to sit down and write a play, I aim to write the entire first draft in two or three days. It’s terribly exhausting, but it allows me to get out of my own way. Sporadically, I’ll glance into the drawer, and see if anything I’ve collected over the years communicates with what I’m writing.

Tell us about your play. What was your inspiration?

This play started as a ten minute play based on a footnote from David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest,” which mentions a fictional film about a boy and his cocaine-abusing father burning spiders in the desert. As I developed the play further, I found myself thinking about something I was very interested in as a boy, which is professional wrestling. For all its faults (and it’s got many,) it was my introduction into theatre. Pro Wrestling is predicated on a lie. Despite that, it maintains a deep, emotional relationship between audience and performer.

What do you hope to get out of the Playwrights in Process experience?

Through many rewrites, this play has found its shape. What I’m happily focusing on during this experience are the “angry” moments. This play is visceral and at times, brutal. I’m working with amazing collaborators to figure out when I can really turn the screws on these characters.

What is your next step? Any advice for other playwrights?

In April of 2015, Widower will receive a workshop production at the Wagner New Play Festival at UC San Diego. This is my final year, and I’m currently deciding where my next theatrical home will be.

My advice to other playwrights? Well, I can only speak about what works for me, but I hope this helps: I treat this like a craft. No one’s making sure I put in the time and effort, so that job falls on me. I never really learned how to stop making mistakes, I only learned how to better spot them and buff them out. Playwriting is a lot like carpentry, if carpentry had a lot less heavy lifting and slowly drove you insane.

Thank you for talking with us David! Good luck with Widower and Playwrights in Process!

View complete information on workshops and plays: http://www.cygnettheatre.com/connect/playwrights.php

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Cygnet Theatre’s Playwrights in Process–An Interview with Thelma Virata de Castro

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Playwrights in Process: New Play Festival is Cygnet Theatre’s annual festival of readings of new plays presented in collaboration with Playwrights Project. The festival introduces San Diego playgoers to new works by local artists and also offers a series of workshops designed to introduce curious audiences to the art of playwriting. In addition, the three-day festival at the Old Town Theatre includes opportunities for informal forums to meet the playwrights. The festival is sponsored by Bill and Judy Garrett.

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Thelma Virata de Castro

Tell us about yourself and your writing process.

I was born and raised in San Diego. I grew up in Paradise Hills, which is the setting of my play Cookies for Prisoners. I’m married and have two sons. I run the home front (boy, this place is a mess) and I’m the founder of San Diego Playwrights. I belong to two writing groups.  My writing process revolves around feedback, deadlines and lack of sleep. To exercise, I go for walks in my neighborhood. I’ve found that ideas keep coming as I walk.

Tell us about your play. What was your inspiration?

Cookies for Prisoners is about Margie, a low rent Martha Stewart who is the caretaker of the neighborhood. She demonstrates care and concern for everyone, except her own son. There is an actual cookies for prisoners program that was my inspiration. People are asked to bake cookies for prisoners who participate in a Christian outreach program. As you bake the cookies, you’re supposed to pray for the prisoners in several steps–pray over the ingredients, pray as you mix, pray as you drop the cookies onto the cookie sheets. My idea for the play was to have characters bake cookies for prisoners, but to have the characters be as guilty as the prisoners themselves.

What do you hope to get out of the Playwrights in Process experience?

I want my play to be better! I want it to hold together as a full-length piece from beginning to end. Producer Derek Livingston, director D. Candis Paule and dramaturge Robert May have really challenged me with their observations and questions. I’ve had to discipline myself and make sure that the wackiness I love to write has a purpose. I’ve scaled back and even gotten rid of some of the issues in order to focus on the main theme. The actor feedback helped me clarify the characters. I’m hoping to balance all the craziness with emotional truths.

What is your next step? Any advice for other playwrights?

With Cookies for Prisoners I’m looking for further development and production opportunities. When San Diego Playwrights did a survey last year, the greatest resource playwrights had to offer was feedback. I laughed because feedback is free! It is not to be undervalued, though. I suggest to other playwrights to get their work OUT THERE. Join a writing group, or start one yourself. Submit to WordPlay Tuesdays at Diversionary Theatre and Scripteasers. Submit to Scripps Ranch Theatre’s Out on a Limb and New Play Cafe. Produce yourself in the San Diego International Fringe Festival. Keep growing and challenging yourself. And submit to Playwrights in Process! Thank you to Cygnet Theatre and Playwrights Project for this wonderful opportunity.

Thank you for talking with us Thelma! Good luck with Cookies for Prisoners and Playwrights in Process!

Read the Cygnet Theatre Playwright Insight interview here: http://blog.cygnettheatre.com/2014/11/03/playwright-insight-thelma-virata-de-castro/

View complete information on workshops and plays: http://www.cygnettheatre.com/connect/playwrights.php

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