San Diego Playwrights

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ALL CIRCUITS ARE BUSY–An Interview with Hannah Logan

Hannah Logan

Hannah Logan

HANNAH LOGAN has been immersed in the performing arts at the professional level for more than twenty years. She graduated cum laude from The Boston Conservatory with a degree in Musical Theatre and a minor in Directing.

After several of her short stories were published, Logan began a collection of short stories about the colorful characters inhabiting a small, fictional Southern town called DeSales, as seen through the eyes of a precocious and intellectually gifted nine-year old girl. Upon reading several of the stories, a Los Angeles theatre company commissioned her to turn the stories into a play. That play, TRAILERVILLE, was subsequently produced in Los Angeles and New York and garnered much positive review.

In 2012, Logan moved to San Diego to continue her pursuits as an actor, writer and voice-over artist. One critic called her “a formidable addition to the San Diego theatre scene.” She received rave reviews for her portrayal of wacky, criminally-inclined Bunny, the only female cast member, in La Jolla Playhouse’s Craig Noel Award nominated ACCOMPLICE. Additionally, she was Agnes in ion theatre’s critically acclaimed production of Tracy Letts’ BUG. (ion theatre is a 49-seat Equity-waiver theatre located in the Hillcrest area of San Diego. Hannah is a company member.) Critics referred to Logan’s performance as “fearless,” “ferocious” and a “tour de force.” Most recently, she received outstanding reviews for her portrayal of cleaning-obsessed Virginia in New Village Arts’ THE CLEAN HOUSE.

Logan received “Critic’s Pick” from UT San Diego for her self-written solo show WORKS: IN PROGRESS, produced for San Diego’s 2013 Fringe Festival. The play was based on interviews she conducted with over 100 people from all walks of life who shared their stories about their careers, experiences with work, and their hopes and dreams. In March of 2014, her one-act comedy, HOMMAGE à FROMAGE, was produced in New York City by Love Creek Productions, a runner-up in Backstage’s Reader’s Choice Awards for “Favorite Off-Off-Broadway Theater Company to See.”

We asked Hannah to tell us about her new play ALL CIRCUITS ARE BUSY.

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What is your play about?

Well, the idea of a marriage that was mostly virtual was the seed from which the play was born. I saw a quote from a celebrity who was effusing about her fiancé, whom she almost never saw, because of their schedules. She said, “We are texting fiends. We text all day long.” First, I thought, “How does she get any work done if she is always texting?” Then I thought, “Well, yeah, if all I did was write little ‘letters’ to my partner we’d likely never have any conflicts or really have to work through anything.” I mean, “ I love you . . . Send me a picture of you… What did you have for breakfast?… Does the hotel have a good gym?” That’s easy. I cook brussel sprouts, which stink up the apartment for hours, and which Ron (Hannah’s husband) hates . . . that’s the stuff of life . . . the things you have to really work out. Never mind the REALLY big stuff.

ALL CIRCUITS ARE BUSY is about what I perceive to be the erosion of real human connection in the face of technological advancement and the ever-growing onslaught of “infotainment” and societal “improvements.” The lives of the main characters Penelope, Laura, Daniel, and Mavis interconnect throughout the play, while their individual experiences are largely that of disconnection or often isolation. Hopefully, it’s funnier and more compelling than that description. (Laughs) I am the WORST when it comes to describing my work . . . and one liner loglines, forget it.

I feel it is important to say that I readily acknowledge the MAJOR positive effects certain technology has also had in society, and that is made clear in the play as well, but what has disturbed me is our addiction to all the blings and dings and videos and TV shows that compel us to respond in a near-Pavlovian manner, very often, to things that are unimportant, have no real significance to our lives, or, frankly that do not need to be addressed THIS VERY MINUTE.

My hope is that ALL CIRCUITS ARE BUSY will start a dialogue about this lack of consciousness, the addiction to it, really. We, in some ways, have become zombies, following the next e-mail, post, text, reality show, with little thought about whether we want to, if it is actually worth our time or if it is pulling us away from moments in our lives that are right in front of us . . . real, intimate and often, profound.

We make so many choices . . . well, if you can call them that, out of habit . . . just letting ourselves be pushed, pulled, manipulated and stimulated by a relentless barrage of messages insisting that we simply MUST give them our attention . . . all of them, right NOW. And obviously, if most of our life is virtual we are going to miss the real thing. All that being said, I am as much a culprit of it as anyone and have even experienced anxiety making a decision to NOT pick up a text, call, message the second it comes in. Isn’t that kind of scary?

There are already rehab centers for internet and computer addiction. Did you know that? And it’s being researched for possible inclusion in the DSM (Manual for Mental Disorders). It’s a real thing, and it can affect our lives as much as alcoholism or gambling, or anything else that draws us away from facing our real lives and threatens our relationships and positive participation in society. I’ve seen five-year-olds have nuclear meltdowns when their iPads  were taken away after their allotted daily computer time.

And it’s not just about the lack of human-to-human connection. Texting while driving causes more than 3000 deaths a year and has been proven to be six times MORE dangerous than drunk driving. I have many times been certain I was driving behind someone who was drunk, they were swerving so much, only to discover they were texting . . . on the freeway!

I probably sound like an anti-technology zealot. I, in no way, mean to vilify technological advancement, only to say that our obsession with it comes at a cost.

ALL CIRCUITS ARE BUSY also touches on all the so-called “reality” programming and obsession with celebrity that is such a big part of our media. Both of them put our attention on lives that are not ours . . . and frankly, which are generally not real at all. Once I auditioned for what I later discovered was a reality-TV show. Basically, for the audition, I played the part of a waitress who goes ballistic on her manager when he accuses her of stealing. I guess my hysteria was convincing because I was offered the role and then told I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement. In essence, I had to say I wasn’t an actor, but, in fact, an insane shrew. I appeared in a “reality” dating show years ago and decided then that 1) this is NOT reality and 2) these shows not only take jobs away from actors and writers, but deprive audiences of stories that are creative, require thought and perhaps even transform thinking.

Um, okay . . . off the soapbox, but that’s what my play is about . . . unless you meant “Tell me about the characters and what happens in your play,” in which case I completely failed this part of the interview. For those details, you’ll have to see it. (Laughs)

What are your challenges?

I seem to write plays that are difficult to produce, or so I have been told. I was commissioned to write TRAILERVILLE, based on short stories that the producer liked and thought would make good theatre. It had a 23 member cast, and was set in a trailer park and a diner. They made it work beautifully. However, your average theatre will not take on something of this magnitude, no matter how well-written, as it is simply “too expensive.” For the record, the theatre company that produced TRAILERVILLE was tiny, with a small budget.

It has often been my experience that large theatre companies will say “too big, too much, too many characters,” while theatres accustomed to working with tiny budgets are sometimes less daunted and simply say, “Well, this is a beast. How can we make it work in our tiny space with hardly any budget?” What is that quote? “Need breeds imagination?” No, wait. “Necessity is the mother of invention?” But then if she is the mother of invention, then she also breeds imagination . . . I’d imagine . . . right? ion theatre is a perfect example of this inventiveness. If they believe in something enough, Claudio Raygoza (Executive Artistic Director) and Glenn Paris (Producing Artistic Director) rarely say, “We can’t.” Only, “How can we?”

Another challenge of writing, at least for me, is that there is no pleasing everyone and no matter how clear you think you are, someone will determine your play is about something completely different . . . and some people hate everything . . . and not everyone laughs at the same thing. You have to write from your gut, then get it in front of an audience. For me, part of the joy of writing is watching the text come alive through talented artists who bring their own imagination and creativity to it.

What is a success for you?

I think it is a success for me to just keep writing, even if no one is watching, even if it feels like what I am writing is “unproducible,” even if not every single person laughs or cries in all the right places, even if some people just don’t get it . . . because, if you feel called to it, as I do, if you feel you must write, then I think you are meant to be a creative channel that way. And if it is produced and people do get it and are moved by it and DO laugh in the right places there is nothing like it. But that’s more like a bonus.

ALL CIRCUITS ARE BUSY--First Table Read

ALL CIRCUITS ARE BUSY–First Table Read

What is your next step?

On December 8, ion theatre is hosting the first public reading of ALL CIRCUITS ARE BUSY. Originally I gave Claudio a script to read because I was at the point where I really had no idea if it was good or not and just didn’t want to keep writing if it wasn’t. Claudio is incredibly honest and discerning. I was literally afraid to see him after I gave it to him and sort of avoided him, knowing if it was a boring, trite or unprovocative play he would kindly, but honestly, tell me.

I was forced into the inevitable when I went to scene study class, which he teaches.  He came up to me while other students were settling in and very quietly said, “I read your play . . . twice. It’s good.”

I think I repeated back, “You mean good? Like good?”

“Yes, let’s do a reading . . . get it in front of an audience.”

I might have said, “Like, people watching?”

He must have said yes, because that’s what we’re doing.

Thanks for talking with us, Hannah! Good luck with ALL CIRCUITS ARE BUSY!

Staged Reading of ALL CIRCUITS ARE BUSY by Hannah Logan

Director: Glenn Paris

Associate Producer: Claudio Raygoza

Featuring: Rhianna Basore, Laura Bohlin, Brenon Christopher, Trina Kaplan, Hannah Logan, Kevin Manley, Jackie Ritz, Whitney Brianna Thomas

Monday, December 8, 2014

6:30 pm Reception

7:00 pm Reading followed by talkback

ion theatre

3704 6th Avenue

San Diego, CA 92103

Suggested donation $10 

Reservations required. RSVP to mshannahlogan@gmail.com

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JOY VEY–A Comedy by Anita Yellin Simons and Lojo Simon

Anita Yellin Simons and Lojo Simon have been writing plays separately and together since they first met in a UCSD Extension class nearly 10 years ago. Together they have written two comedies and a drama.

Anita Yellin Simons

Anita Yellin Simons

Lojo Simon

Lojo Simon

Their latest effort is called JOY VEY, a comic two-hander about two grandmas during the Christmas/Chanukah season. Gammy Leigh has big plans for her holiday overnighter with her grandbabies, including a surprise visit from Santa. She isn’t alone with her twin grandbabies for five minutes when Bubbie Arlene unexpectedly shows up at the door armed with Chanukah gifts galore and a know-it-all attitude that even the most mellow Gammy can’t abide. Thus begins a fierce competition for the title of World’s Best Grandma and a battle of wills that leads the ladies to debate everything from breastfeeding to childrearing to the merits of Arlene’s ex-husband, Mark.

 

JOY VEY will be workshopped this December at the Center for Jewish Culture in La Jolla. Audiences are invited for two workshop productions on Dec. 4 and 6 at 7:30 PM at the La Jolla JCC. The production stars San Diego standouts Jill Drexler and Rhona Gold and is directed by the renowned musical theatre actor/director Evan Pappas of New York City.

Local audiences may remember the political drama HEARTLAND penned by Simons and Simon (no, they are not related), which made its debut at Mira Costa College in Oceanside in 2008, under the direction of Eric Bishop. HEARTLAND has won several national awards, including first place in the Dayton Playhouse FutureFest. Both JOY VEY and HEARTLAND were workshopped at Scripteasers in San Diego. HEARTLAND is now available in book form on Amazon.

Simons and Simon say that they like to work together because they enjoy the camaraderie, and each holds the other accountable for getting the work done. That doesn’t mean that co-writing is easy, especially for these two women who often find themselves at odds artistically. But judging by their success, they manage to reach successful compromise.

Their writing process usually involves a lot of phone calls and email exchanges (Lojo Simon currently lives in Orange County) that lead to preliminary character development, story and plot. One of the writers typically begins writing text, and when she reaches a natural stopping point or simply gets frustrated with her progress, she emails the script to the other one, who picks up where her partner left off. Rewriting is done constantly as are follow-up conversations, as the demands of the script change and grow throughout the writing process.

What’s next for the playwriting duo?  Probably another comedy since they’re so much more fun than drama.

For Joy Vey tickets, please call (858) 362-1348.

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The Journey Continues–An Update from Devra Gregory, WOMAN IN THE MIRROR, A DANCER’S JOURNEY

San Diego Playwrights last interviewed Devra Gregory in August, 2013. Since then, Woman in the Mirror, A Dancer’s Journey was featured in the 2014 San Diego International Fringe Festival. We caught up again with Devra to ask about her latest adventure.

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What’s happening next with Woman in the Mirror, A Dancer’s Journey?

I have been  blessed to be the first production co-produced by the Horton Grand Hotel and Theatre. I had a random connection with an old acquaintance who introduced me to the owner of the hotel, Dori Rose, and we really hit it off. She is a very spiritual down to earth woman and we connected on a deep level. Through her I made the connection to the theatre. I am performing my longest run so far, December 4th-21st, 2014. Eleven shows in all!

When I first created my one-woman show I did capitalize the “M” in WoMan, since I wanted to emphasize the connection with the Michael Jackson song. Now it’s written Woman In The Mirror, A Dancer’s Journey because I am taking focus off of the man I impersonate and focusing the story on my own journey.  The show has changed somewhat since it’s inception in 2012, but since it’s my life on stage, the basic story is still the same.

What have you learned at this point in your journey?

I have learned to keep going no matter how difficult it feels. There are good shows and bad ones, good runs and not so good. Someone sent me a quote recently that said “The race is not to the swiftest, it’s to those who keep running.” I feel compelled to keep running the show, to get my message out to the world even if it’s for a few significant people. The planet is in a state of crisis and anything each of us can do to inspire or encourage change is a monumental move in creating a planetary shift. I know this sounds like a huge goal for a performance, but the show is more than that for me.  I have overcome huge obstacles like never having written or produced a show then winning an award for it, or the fact that I used to be painfully introverted and in hiding mode a lot of the time, now I’m alone on stage. That says to the world we CAN change if we stick to something, and find a true sense of passion and purpose.

What are your plans for the future?

My goal is to be hired to perform as an inspirational presentation in a variety of settings, not just in theatres. I would love to tour this show and know the right producer will appear, because this performer is ready! I am also co-creating a workshop with Brenda Adelman who also has a one woman inspirational show. We are joining forces to empower women to step into their power. This will happen early next year.

I will continue to host a ceremonial event I created called Sacred Flame Fire Circle where people can experience a fullness of expression around a big bonfire. It’s an incredible feeling being outside under the stars like our ancestors dancing to the beat of drums. As some of you know I am a Wiccan Priestess and yearn to share the beauty and sacredness of the natural world, because that is really what Wicca is about. We need to heal the planet by honoring the Earth and our direct connection to all that is. That is what drives me forward. I hope I will have time to continue those events as well as my show!

Thanks for talking with us again, Devra! Good luck with Woman in the Mirror, A Dancer’s Journey!

TICKETS: http://WomanInTheMirror.bpt.me or 800-838-3006

Website: http://www.DEVasMJ.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/WomanintheMirror.Dev

YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/DevraGregory

To learn more about Devra, read our August 2013 interview: https://sandiegoplaywrights.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/woman-in-the-mirror-an-interview-with-devra-Gregory/

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California Young Playwrights Contest Winner–Donya Sharifi

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Playwrights Project will produce its 30th annual festival of Plays by Young Writers at The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe on January 22 – February 1, 2015. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 581 plays submitted by students from across the state. Four scripts will receive full professional productions, and four scripts will receive staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.

Donya Sharifi

Donya Sharifi

Best Friend Mistakes

By Donya Sharifi

Age 12, Rancho Peñasquitos

Directed by Erika Phillips 

Best Friend Mistakes by Donya Sharifi, age 12, is a fresh take on best friend betrayal when Harry misses his best friend’s birthday party. Donya took part in a playwriting residency at Mesa Verde Middle School led by Founder Deborah Salzer.

How did you first get involved with writing?

I have been writing ever since I was little. I would always make my own books and stories whenever I could.

How did you come up with the idea of your script?

I honestly had to do the script, it was a class grade. I always loved writing about fights, so that’s why I did it.

What themes are involved in your piece?

The theme of my story is just two best friends who got into a fight.

What is the message you hope the audience takes away with them?

I hope when the audience leaves, they get that friends fight. Every friendship has bumpy times.

Do you plan to continue writing?

Writing is a passion to me; I write whenever I can, and I have packs of notebooks with stories.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

When I grow up, I want to be a lawyer. Everyone says that if I have good writing, I can be a perfect lawyer. Or something to do with sports.

For more information and reservations, please contact Playwrights Project at (858) 384-2970 or write@playwrightsproject.org. Visit http://www.playwrightsproject.org.

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SCRIPT DOCTOR–An Interview with Anne Marie Welsh

Playwright California Jack Cassidy talks with Script Doctor Anne Marie Welsh about her career as a theatre critic and how she helps playwrights strengthen their scripts.

Anne Marie Welsh

Anne Marie Welsh

You’re a professional book/script doctor. What does that mean?

I help authors make their books, plays or screenplays the best they can be, by clarifying the writer’s intention. I pay close attention to dialogue, pacing and especially dramatic structure, and offer advice on how to polish the style while maintaining the author’s voice. That’s key to the coaching part of the practice—helping a writer discover his or her voice and then the right tone for each work.

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Tell us more about your background.

I began writing for newspapers as a sports stringer when I was 14. I have a Ph.D. in English with an emphasis in drama, and have taught courses in the history and criticism of theater and dance at several universities. My first deep sense of vocation as a writer came when I wrote about dance and theater in the Watergate summer of 1974 in Washington, D.C. That career took root and blossomed for 35 years there and in San Diego. Since leaving the UT in 2008 I’ve done some free-lance reviewing, but mostly I’ve been writing books – three of them on theater — and helping writers as an editor, book doctor and coach. I rarely review shows for local publications anymore, so I began developing a new niche as a script and screenplay doctor. Given my experience, I’m good at it (or so people tell me), and I feel comfortable and happy helping fellow writers!

You helped me with my play about government surveillance, Border Grill. I know you also did uncredited work on an award-winning memoir. Can you talk about any of your previous clients, or do you maintain a code of silence about them?

I’ve worked with dozens of fascinating clients, some of whom want to remain anonymous; many others are happy to be identified and have written testimonials about our work together. My clients have ranged from an octogenarian mystery novelist to several authors writing for Young Adults, to a gifted young romance writer. Yogis, Yoga therapists, playwrights, screenwriters, essayists, and Ph.D. candidates have worked with me, many memoirists, as well as some corporate clients needing help with speeches, reports, newsletters, or web content. A diverse client list has turned my editing and coaching work into an engaging second career.

When you’re hired to help with a play, how does it work?

If the playwright has a complete draft, I read it, mark it up with comments and suggestions, then write a report assessing its strengths and weaknesses and suggesting changes —often to its structure—that I think will make it more appealing to theater directors and audiences.

If someone would like to discuss their play with you, how should they contact you?

Call me at 858.456.5205 or write at annemariewelsh@gmail.com

Do you have a website, or testimonials?

I have both: http://www.annemariewelsh.com and on the Services page there are many testimonials.

What brought you to San Diego?

I moved here in 1983 for a job on the arts staff of the then San Diego Union, now UT-San Diego. I was the dance critic, backup theater critic, and arts reporter. For the last 10 years as a member of that shrinking staff I was the chief theater critic.

What are some of the common problems with play scripts, both with beginning authors and famous, established playwrights?

Endings bedevil many playwrights, including one of my favorites, Sam Shepard. Dialogue, of course, which can be flat and one-dimensional. Foreshadowing, too, can be so blunt it telegraphs what’s coming and deprives the poor audience of dramatic tension and/or surprise. A flabby structure can have a similar effect, making the action lose momentum, go slack or just dwindle away. Overwriting. Clumsy exposition. There can be as many problems as there are elements of the craft! Identifying those weaknesses (as well as the script’s strengths) is a key element of what I do as a script doc.

What advice do you have for us playwrights?

First, the old-but-true cliché, writing is rewriting. The second would be to develop a tough enough hide to accept criticism and a keen enough judgment to know which critiques are on target and which aren’t—for you and the work that wants to be born from you. Always read your work out loud to yourself before you show it to anyone else. And finally, stay true to your vision and process without worrying too much about results. Once the script becomes communal property around the table or in the rehearsal room, that’s a different story, of course. But trying to please an imaginary audience or director (or agent) while in the creative flow of writing—that’s a recipe for disaster, or at least for artistic failure. The person you have to please first as a writer is yourself; you are the one who has to live with your own artistic conscience.

My scripts are sometimes too “on the nose.” Can you talk about that problem?

Sometimes playwrights want to make a point, often a political or satiric one, but state the opinion or point of view in ways better suited to an essay or harangue than a play. In the hands of a great writer, debate plays can be terrific and engaging. But more often, dialogue is best when it is rich in subtext, hinting at the unspoken intention of the speaker, not hammering home thematic points. Or when it’s oblique. When dialogue is just straightforward exposition or point-scoring it tends to be flat and uninteresting, failing to do one of its most important jobs, which is to define character and hint at (as yet) unseen conflicts. And pretty often, the flatness is simply a matter of the playwright forgetting to “show” not “tell.”

How would you evaluate San Diego as a theatre town?

It’s definitely one of the top five or six in the country. Think how lucky that makes all of us here, to be able to see strong work in theaters large and small and often before it’s seen elsewhere.

You teach yoga, don’t you?

I teach Deep Yoga three days a week in La Jolla, as well as monthly Yoga workshops. I also lead Yoga retreats in inspiring places. This late-in-life blessing has opened my life in so many ways.

I always think that getting you to evaluate a script is a little like going straight from script to review, without all the messy production steps in the middle. It lets me avoid problems that would have been much harder to change if I had gone to production before consulting you.

I take that as a big compliment, Jack. Obviously I see ahead to production issues or problems when I read a script. So thank you for noticing that.

The spelling “theatre” seems to be overcoming the old spelling “theater.” Why is that?

Actually theatre is the old U.K. spelling and frankly I don’t like its usage in the U.S. I think it is pretentious to use that international spelling (theatre) in the U.S. where “theater” was for so long the favored spelling. San Diego theaters are nearly all Theatre now and though it’s not a big deal for me, I really don’t know why.

What do you look for in play reviews by other critics?

That’s easy. Intelligence, insight, contextual knowledge, passion and humor, and a fabulous writing style that makes the work—and the response—come alive for me.

What makes you so good-humored? 

Thanks for thinking I am! I come from a big Irish family that loves to laugh, but more importantly, I know most people do the best they can, and so I don’t spend much time judging or gossiping about others. I know how little is actually under my—or anyone’s— control, so I tend to take the bad with the good with equanimity, and then go gratefully forward with the flow of life. Raising three sons helped deflate any bubble of pretension or perfectionism I might have had!

You work fast! You used to do overnight play reviews in the days when you had to go to the newspaper office to file the story, right?   

12:30 a.m. was the deadline at most papers for the first 15 years of my career. That writer’s adrenaline really started pumping around 10:30 to 11 p.m. as I raced from an aisle seat to my car. I was younger back then, and loved the excitement of writing and putting another review “to bed” on time.

What do you do to get away from it all?

I sit at a secluded little beach near my house – Little Point, it’s called. I bring a book and a towel, and pretty often, I just fall asleep. Strange how that works. And love how that feels, like a lizard on a rock in the sun. And not an Albee lizard, by the way.

California Jack Cassidy is the author of “Border Grill”, a play about government surveillance that was produced in Scripps Ranch Theatre’s Out on a Limb 2014. He’s also a scientist, and he works a little bit of science into all his plays.

 

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LONGVIEW, TX–An Interview with Anna Rebek

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Tell us about yourself.

I started acting in green tights as Peter Pan in 4th grade. Ever since then theater has been my rescue and my escape. The only thing that’s brutal about theater was forming these families of trust within a cast and then going back to regular life afterwards; it couldn’t be reality. I studied acting, directing, painting and playwriting at Yale. It was inspiring to be submerged in that environment with others who were focused and ambitious and sharp. I learned all the methods, did all the exercises and learned from excellent minds, but in the end it wasn’t an academic framework that gripped me in performances, it was the rawness.

I like challenges, and I like working with people whom I respect. I’m a tough critic… I’m not often impressed by the theater I go see. I can always appreciate the work that goes into it, but I don’t usually find a truly relatable character, or a vulnerable performance or see choices made that blow me away with their bravery or savagery or brittleness or wit. I want to be blown away when I go to the theater. I need the challenge of it. I crave it so much that I wrote the play Longview, TX, because I needed to hear real voices on stage, from relatable characters and have actors I most respect blow me away. And they do.

Anna Rebek

Anna Rebek

Read more about Anna, her inspiration and how she wrote for her cast on the InnerMission Productions InnerBlog http://innermissionpro.tumblr.com/.

What are your challenges?

Watching the show with a room full of people was definitely more nerve-racking than I’d anticipated!

After this experience of writing and directing Longview, TX, it would be very difficult to be a playwright who then turns the play over to someone else to direct. It’s not that I don’t think another approach to the work could be an excellent take; it’s just that when I write I have very specific ways I hear the dialogue being delivered. It’s probably because I’ve been an actor for so many years.

Moving forward I’m curious about how my writing approach and technique will evolve…should I continue to write for specific performers I know that can push the work forward? Or should I nurture the story only and then hustle to find the talent…

I loved Texas as a backdrop for this play because it has dialect, music, food, and big personalities. Texas comes with a culture all its own that I knew and could draw from for the dialogue. I’d like to visit or even invent other places with writing, while still keeping the voices and characters real and grounded. That’ll be a challenge.

What are your successes?

As a writer, having people come up to me after the show and say how they could relate to each of the characters, and that they couldn’t predict what anyone was going to say next. Unpredictability is a HUGE compliment. Also giving the audience credit that they’ll be able to piece together the mystery aspect of the story. Treating an audience with respect so they come up to me and say “hey, I figured it out at the end” is cool.

As writer and director I do feel like having been able to keep people excited and on board with the project is important. Keeping morale up even if there’s tension, or collaborative differences, that was harder than I thought it would be… and although my tone wasn’t always chipper, I know that our team met my high expectations. They are proud to be a part of it and they want to blow me away every show. That’s a success.

What is your next step?

Well, before we leave the space we’ll be filming the play. I’ve always been conflicted about theater being this one time only event that evaporates after all the hard work that went into it. I did produce a feature film in 2011 and I’ll do it again with this script on stage in the space. I look forward to exploring this show as a hybrid of theater and film. The camera can go into places the audience can’t and get all up in it!

Thank you for talking with us, Anna! Good luck with Longview, TX!

Longview, TX runs through November 16. For ticket information please visit http://www.welcometolongview.com.

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