San Diego Playwrights

Getting San Diego Playwrights Produced on San Diego Stages

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

on October 3, 2014

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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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