San Diego Playwrights

Getting San Diego Playwrights Produced on San Diego Stages



“Writing the Changing World,” the third national conference of the Dramatists Guild, is being held in La Jolla July 16-19, 2015, at the Hilton Torrey Pines. The Dramatist Guild promises that the conference will be “a happening unlike any other.” The Guild states, “Bringing together more artists from film, television, and social platforms, we’re offering panels and workshops on storytelling for the future. Attendees will be exploring creative outlets in an ever-growing theatre community, have access to entrepreneurial marketing strategies for all creatives, and continue to map out challenging artistic paths.”

The conference will include many San Diego playwrights, some of who will lead panel discussions and present readings of their plays to attendees. The public is welcome to attend but a discount is offered to Dramatists Guild members. Admission to the conference ranges from $395 to $535 depending on when you sign up. There is a discount for students with valid I.D. Discounts for volunteers are also available through Tari Stratton,

For a full schedule of each day’s events and activities, click on the link:

Gary Garrison

Gary Garrison, Dramatist Guild Executive Director of Creative Affairs

We put the following questions to Gary Garrison, Executive Director of Creative Affairs at the Guild, as a way to glean some insights into the upcoming conference and how it might benefit local playwrights.

1) How does the conference title, “Writing the Changing World,” reflect the current state of affairs for playwrights, and what programs in the conference directly address this theme?

I think it’s important to recognize that no dramatist has a straight trajectory while building and shaping a career. There are often long periods of writing, with sometimes even longer periods of rejection, frustration and exasperation with little to no attention from the theatre community. What, then, can dramatists do to survive their careers? What can any of us do to keep ourselves above the poverty level, using whatever skills we have as dramatists or theatre people? One answer has become increasingly clear over the last five to ten years: we see more and more dramatists embracing film and television as a way of staying financially solvent. We also see, most often in television, network shows being helmed by playwrights.  Since a good number of our members are on the west coast, and film and television is such a prevalent industry there, why shouldn’t we make an effort to explore that industry as a source of work and commerce for playwrights, as well as understand the commonalities of craft and career? That’s why we chose the west coast as the site of our conference this year.

In terms of the conference title or theme, “Writing the Changing World,” the world is changing culturally and politically at break-neck speed — gay marriage, for example, has changed the cultural landscape of so many states in our country (California alone has been a fascinating study in the psychology of change). The legalization of pot has had a profound impact on the here and now. Banks all over the world are being indicted for bad business practices; weather is literally changing the face of our globe. As dramatists, what responsibility do we have in mirroring our current society and addressing our future? Hopefully the 2015 DG conference will answer some of those questions.

2) What special (out of the ordinary) kinds of programming are in the works for the conference?

Our conference is constructed primarily around panels, workshops and seminars. These are a few of the over 100+ events that will happen across our time there:

Audio/Radio Writing

The Playwright-Performer

The Making of Jukebox Musicals

One-on-One with Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez

Blogging as Political Activism for Theatre

Comedy Across Mediums

The Cultural Fingerprint in Writing for Television

Women Writing Women

Lisa Kron

Lisa Kron

What makes what we do particularly unique is that we have access to a number of reputable writers that sit on our Council of the Dramatists Guild, or work in collaboration with our Council members. So, for example, in the Comedy Across Mediums panel, we have Lisa Kron (Tony award winner for Fun Home this year), Dan Castellaneta and Deb Lacusta (The Simpsons), Mark Krause (cartoonist), Lisa Lampanelli (comedian), David Rambo (playwright and television writer, The Lady With All the Answers) and Michael McKeever (playwright).

3) Why San Diego (La Jolla)?

It was on the west coast, it was cheaper than any major city on the west coast — which directly translates to our members, it has a thriving theatre community, and quite frankly, where can you find a more beautiful setting?

4) Who are the keynote speakers?

John Logan (Red, I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers)

Marsha Norman (The Secret Garden, ‘night Mother, The Color Purple, Getting Out)

Linda Bloodworth-Thomason (Designing Women)

Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Wicked, Pippin, The Hunchback of Notre Dame)

Conference attendees include members of the San Diego Playwrights network who will lead panel discussions and present readings of their plays. On Thursday, July 16 at 3:00 p.m., Patrice Cassedy will lead a panel on Writing From History: Finding Your Niche (and Passion), featuring Aleta Barthell, Thelma Virata de Castro and Anita Simons. At 4:00 p.m., de Castro will speak about Building Community: How to Get Produced in Your Own City. Cassedy, Simons and Steven Oberman will complete the panel.

On Thursday, July 16 at 8:00 p.m., in the “After Hours” portion of the conference, Cassedy will present White Playwright/Black Story, which will include a reading by San Diego actors Monique Gaffney and Sylvia M’Lafi Thompson of a scene from her off off-Broadway play Detroit Blues, followed by a discussion that explores the question: Can we tell each other’s stories? On Friday, July 17 at 9:00 p.m., Oberman will present Vanished: Taking it to the Fringe, which will include a reading from his interactive show “Vanished,” and a discussion of the process of producing it for the upcoming San Diego International Fringe Festival.  

Hope to see a bunch of you at the conference. Let’s welcome our fellow playwrights with open arms!

For more information about the Dramatist Guild and National Conference, visit

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TreePress Connects Playwrights, Teachers, and Directors–An Interview with Co-Founder Laura Fisher

We recently interviewed Laura Fisher, Co-Founder and Managing Director of TreePress, an international online play publishing hub that went live May 5. Here are her thoughts on this new London-based business.

Please tell us about your personal journey to TreePress.

TreePress started in response to challenges Co-Founder Adrienne Ferguson experienced in her classroom: an acute lack of playscripts available for schools.  As the curtain fell on each school play, we would pause for a lone gin and tonic before starting to think about what we would do next! As we struggled to find new work, Adrienne started to write her own.  This was where we discovered this incredible community of writers and commissioning theatres who were creating inspiring new material and producing for their stages…but it was so difficult to get it distributed. We wanted to connect these two groups: people who write scripts and people who need them. This is pretty much where TreePress began!

Tell us about TreePress and your colleagues.

Theatrical publishing is broken. We’ve fixed it. Theatres, playwrights and teachers have long written inspiring material, yet are unable to distribute it. We’ve created an online hub for teachers, directors, playwrights and publishers. You can browse, compare and license plays from all over the world.

Adrienne Ferguson has been teaching Drama for 15 years, including Head of Drama at Fettes College Prep School and Drama Leader for IAPS.  She has written 7 plays, directed at the Edinburgh Fringe and written for ‘Teaching Drama’. She has a B.Ed from Cambridge University, is a NATD committee member, trustee for FoolProof Creative Arts, as well as annually leading drama camps for a Scottish youth work charity.

I worked for PwC as a Management Consultant gaining experience leading innovative technology projects (with a focus on the Education sector).  In 2012, I was the Director of St Andrews Charity Fashion Show – expanding the show across multiple cities and raising over £120,000 for charity.

What would you like playwrights to know about submitting to TreePress?

We’re an exciting new way to self-publish and distribute your work more effectively. We accept all work (any type, any genre), for all ages. Our platform manages and sells the script and performance rights on your behalf. We’re currently invite-only and you can request an invitation on

If a play is accepted, what happens next?

The great thing about TreePress is… we accept everything! Once you’ve uploaded your work, it goes through a quick review process and then it’s ready to be sold all over the world. In addition, you can gather reviews, connect with people who are performing your work and reach out to a wider community of writers, publishers and directors throughout the world. We’d love to have you with us!

Thanks for talking with us Laura! Good luck with Tree Press! For further information please visit

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WordPlay Tuesdays at Diversionary Theatre and Ion Theatre Make a Casting Connection!


Mario Prado, Jr.

Mario Prado

So how does a printer in Palm Beach start acting at one of San Diego’s most reputable theatres when he doesn’t even know the theatre exists and hasn’t acted in 8 years? The answer is WORDPLAY TUESDAYS at Diversionary Theatre, in partnership with San Diego Playwrights. After an 8 year hiatus from “all things acting”, Mario Prado (who had acted both in New York and Los Angeles) felt that he needed to “reclaim what had been interred.” Having lost his mother last year, Prado found his innate creative urge too strong to resist, even if only to function as a momentary distraction. To that end he went to a “” gathering that sought actors to participate in the reading of original work. THAT reading lead to an invitation to participate in a reading of a piece by Michael Shames at WORDPLAY TUESDAYS at Diversionary Theatre, and while there he was asked to read in a second play by Tim West. He read with Hannah Logan. Recognizing that Prado had some “real actor” in him, Logan, encouraged him to audition for a role in a play she was producing at ion theatre, KIN by Bathsheba Doran. She was tenacious, and saw the hunger for theatre that only a fellow recovering thespian might recognize. From simply saying “yes” and being willing to support playwrights in developing their work, Hannah Logan got a rusty actor to blow off the dust and celebrate re-entry in two roles she needed to fill, AND one Mario Prado is getting to say “Hello” to his old friend, acting, in a big way. Shortly after being cast in KIN (in TWO roles), Prado was also cast in the upcoming reading of LYDIA by Octavio Solis, at ion. It just goes to show, a little willingness to help a fellow artist can be a “seemingly insignificant detail that can result in beauty.” (Quote from KIN)

Mario describes his recent re-entry into the theatre world as “illuminating, intrepid and deconstructive.” No doubt a rebuilding of sorts was in order, and Prado bravely signed up, hammer-ready.

KIN by Bathsheba Doran

OPENS March 14th

CLOSES April 4th,

RUNS Th-Sa, 8pm and Sat, 4pm

Go to for tickets and check out the ion theatre FACEBOOK page for pictures of Mario in his first table read of KIN

Or take a peek at his leap here:

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Sheila and Jeffrey Lipinsky Sponsor Playwrights Project’s Plays by Young Writers


Playwrights Project is pleased to announce that the 30th annual festival of Plays by Young Writers will be sponsored by the Sheila and Jeffrey Lipinsky Family Fund. As long-time friends and major donors of Playwrights Project, Mr. and Mrs. Lipinsky were the organization’s natural choice when seeking a major sponsor for the festival.

Jeffrey and Sheila Lipinsky

Jeffrey and Sheila Lipinsky

“We really care about Playwrights Project and want to invest where we can make a difference. The work that they do is so important and has made such an impact on so many young lives. By teaching playwriting in the classrooms, it has allowed the students to tell their stories in very propelling ways and make their voices heard. We are so grateful that our support can make an impact on this very  worthwhile organization, and we have been very impressed, over the years, with their ability to wisely use the funds provided. ” – Sheila and Jeffrey Lipinsky

The festival features winning scripts from the California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under, and will be held at The Sheryl and Harvey White Stage in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe on January 22 – February 1, 2015. For more information and reservations, please contact Playwrights Project at (858) 384-2970 or Visit

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.

In this year’s festival, hidden truths and unspoken needs complicate the lives of four families in very different ways.

Coffee, Cream, and Closure – Felicia, a busy career woman seeks the help of a medium to re-examine her relationship with her family.

Crown Prince Crazy – When 16-year-old Bennie’s family is deported, he must find a way to tell his mother he plans to stay in the U.S.

From Another House – Lena’s first meeting with her father and his family sparks discoveries and questions about the meaning of family.

Light – Danielle’s need to be accepted by her lighter skinned family exposes intra-racial prejudice and a search for self-worth.

All contest submissions were evaluated by theatre professionals who volunteered their time and expertise. Final Judges in the selection process included Deborah Salzer (Founder of Playwrights Project), Martin Benson (Founding Co-Artistic Director of South Coast Rep), Danielle Mages Amato (Literary Manager/Dramaturg at The Old Globe Theatre), Randy Reinholz (PSFA Director of Community Engagement and Innovative Programs at San Diego State University and Producing Artistic Director, Native Voices at the Autry), and Delicia Turner Sonnenberg (Artistic Director of MOXIE Theatre). Program Manager and Producer Derek Charles Livingston spearheaded the evaluation process, which focused on a sense of truth, imagination, fresh use of language, and grasp of dramatic structure. All contest participants who requested feedback received individualized written critiques.

The Festival is divided into Program A (appropriate for ages 11+) and Program B (for ages 16+). Each program includes two staged readings and two full productions. Two acting ensembles will present the two different programs, with actors playing multiple roles.

Program A for ages 11 and up

Full Productions

Coffee, Cream, and Closure by Matthew Maceda, age 15, Torrey Highlands

Crown Prince Crazy by Alberto Cordova, age 18, Escondido

Staged Readings

Best Friend Mistakes by Donya Sharifi, age 12, Rancho Peñasquitos

One Magical Day by Tricia Mendoza, age 14, Rancho Peñasquitos

Full productions directed by George Yé:

Coffee, Cream, and Closure was written by Matthew Maceda, who attends Westview High School. The play examines how we look at death, as a young business woman reconnects with her deceased father through the help of a medium she meets at a coffee shop. At age 15, this is Matthew’s first year competing in the older division of the contest, after winning readings three years in a row in the younger division. Founder Deborah Salzer will serve as writing mentor\dramaturg, supporting the playwright in further developing his play.

Crown Prince Crazy was written by 18 year old Alberto (Bert) Cordova who graduated from Orange Glen High School in Escondido this past June. Bert wrote his play during our program Border Lines\Fronteras de Lineas led by Erika Phillips and James Pillar. The play gives a theatrical glimpse into the internal and external influences impacting a 16-year-old boy who must decide whether to accompany his family back to Mexico or remain rooted and alone in his life in the USA.

Crown Prince Crazy rehearsal photo:  George Yé (director), Alberto Cordova (playwright), Jessica Ordon (dramaturg)

Crown Prince Crazy rehearsal photo: George Yé (director), Alberto Cordova (playwright), Jessica Ordon (dramaturg)

Alberto Cordova (playwright), George Yé (director), Eddie Garcia (actor), John Polak (actor), Miguel Padilla (actor)

Crown Prince Crazy rehearsal photo: Alberto Cordova (playwright), George Yé (director), Eddie Garcia (actor), John Polak (actor), Miguel Padilla (actor)

Staged Readings 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.

One Magical Day by Tricia Mendoza, age 14, who took part in a playwriting program at Black Mountain Middle School led by Wendy Waddell. A surprisingly young fairy godmother has a hard time finding a deserving human to help.


Francisco Brambila, Veronica Burgess, Zion Dyson, Eduardo Garcia, Virginia Gregg, Kimberly King, Dylan Nalbandian, Miguel Padilla, John Polak, Arnica Skulstad Brown, Reed Willard

Program B for ages 16 and up

Full Productions

Light by Ke’Ona, age 17, Escondido

From Another House by Eliana Pipes, age 17, Altadena

Staged Readings

With Your Own Eyes by Sol Manuel Garza, age 14, San Marcos

She Remembers by Jerusha Israel, age 13, Rancho Peñasquitos

Full productions directed by Rosina Reynolds:

Light was written by Ke’Ona, who took part in our playwriting program co-taught by her classroom teacher Ms. Ramirez and Playwrights Project Executive Director Cecelia Kouma. Ke’Ona’s play is about an African American teen living with her grandmother in kinship care, struggling with racial prejudice, a family that resents her, and a boyfriend with a dangerous lifestyle. The playwright will work with writing mentor Monique Gaffney, who performed the play during class sessions. Actors visited the class midway through the residency to read the students’ plays aloud and discuss possible revisions with the playwrights, and returned on the final day of classes to perform finished plays for students and invited guests.

From Another House was written by Eliana Pipes from Altadena, who submitted three noteworthy plays to this year’s contest. Eliana has had a play produced at The Blank Theatre in LA and is currently a freshman at Columbia University. This seriocomic play explores what really defines a family when a young woman connects with a father who never knew she existed. Aleta Barthell will serve as Eliana’s writing mentor as Eliana continues to develop the play for production.

From Another House rehearsal photo: Aleta Barthell (dramaturg), Eliana Pipes (playwright)

From Another House rehearsal photo: Aleta Barthell (dramaturg), Eliana Pipes (playwright)

From Another House rehearsal photo: Aliyah Malcom (actor), John Tessmer (actor), Saverina Scopelleti (actor), Whitney Brianna Thomas (actor), Rosina Reynolds (director)

From Another House rehearsal photo: Aliyah Malcom (actor), John Tessmer (actor), Saverina Scopelleti (actor), Whitney Brianna Thomas (actor), Rosina Reynolds (director)

Staged Readings directed by Derek Livingston:

With Your Own Eyes by Sol Manuel Garza is a futuristic play about a boy who doesn’t realize the degree to which he’s tied to the grid, until his uncle taps into the system. Sol Manuel wrote the play in English class at High Tech High North County, taught by Carol Cabrera, who began teaching playwriting with Playwrights Project.

In She Remembers by Jerusha Israel, an 80-year-old woman questions the meaning of life, when her lifelong friend’s memory fades. Jerusha took part in a playwriting program at Black Mountain Middle School led by Wendy Waddell.


Marshall Anderson, Whitney Brianna Thomas, Kimberly King, Aliyah Malcom, Eric Poppick, Saverina Scopelleti, Alexandra Slade, John Tessmer, Aaron Winey


Public Performances

Saturday, January 24 – 7:30 PM – Opening Night (four full productions\no readings)

Friday, January 30 – 7:30 PM – Program B

Saturday, January 31 – 2:00 PM – Program B

Saturday, January 31 – 7:30 PM – Program A

Sunday, February 1 – 2:00 PM – Program A

Production Team

Director – Program A Full Productions George Yé

Director – Program B Full Productions Rosina Reynolds

Director – Program A Staged Readings Erika Phillips

Director – Program B Staged Readings Derek Livingston

Dramaturg – From Another House Aleta Barthell

Dramaturg – Light Monique Gaffney

Dramaturg – With Your Own Eyes Derek Livingston

Dramaturg – Crown Prince Crazy Jessica Ordon

Dramaturg – Coffee, Cream, & Closure Deborah Salzer

Dramaturg – She Remembers Tiffany Tang

Dramaturg – One Magical Day & Best Friend Mistakes Rachael VanWormer

Production Stage Manager – Sharon Strich

Assistant Stage Manager – Hannah May

Technical Director – Mark Robertson

Costume Design – Alina Bokovikova

Assistant Costume Design – Arianna Ibanez

Assistant Costume Design – Michelle Bales

Sound Design – Melanie Chen

Lighting Design – Sherrice Mojgani

Scenic Design – Timothy Nottage

Properties Design – Angelica Ynfante

About Playwrights Project:

Playwrights Project advances literacy, creativity and communication by empowering individuals to voice their stories through playwriting programs and theatre productions.

Playwrights Project gratefully acknowledges major support for this program from: City of San Diego Commission for Arts & Culture, Mandell Weiss Charitable Trust, Kinder Morgan Foundation, and Macy’s. Additional support provided by Balboa Park Kiwanis Foundation, Community Service Association of San Diego Unified School District, Mrs. Audrey Geisel / Dr. Seuss Fund, Kiwanis Club of La Jolla, Kiwanis Club of Old San Diego, National Endowment for the Arts, and ResMed Foundation

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How to Work with a Dramaturg–An Interview with Jessica Ordon

California Jack Cassidy has compiled a list of dramaturgs and editors who work with San Diego playwrights. Here is his interview with dramaturg Jessica Ordon.

Jessica Ordon

Jessica Ordon

As a dramaturg, you help make new plays work. You have a greater enthusiasm for your job than most people I know. Can you talk about that?

Maybe it’s just youthful idealism. But yes, I’m very excited about helping make new plays work. I think my enthusiasm comes out of a deep passion for theatre. This may sound trite, but I believe theatre has the potential to make the world a better place by starting conversations and by amplifying the voices of those whose experiences and stories are underrepresented in mainstream culture. How do we keep theatre relevant, and important, and world-changing? We keep writing good plays! And we keep encouraging and inviting people of all backgrounds to write, so that our theatre can be a richer, more varied, more diverse mosaic of voices.

You’re working with the winners of the California Young Playwrights Contest. What’s that like?

It’s always a joy to work with such smart, creative young people. Most are good students– they remind me of me. 😉 But also, every year, I’m pleasantly surprised by what young writers bring to the stage. I find myself reading or seeing the plays and thinking, “A 15-year-old wrote this? That writer is 17?!” Because I think that the themes and the stories in these plays, as well as the honesty and poignancy with which they are approached, are worthy of any experienced adult playwright. This year’s Plays by Young Writers Festival is no exception!

You also work with Native American playwrights as your day job. That must open you up to different views of modern culture.

Yes, I work as a literary assistant for Native Voices at the Autry, which focuses on the development of Native American theatre artists (though I am non-Native). Working with Native Voices has definitely heightened my awareness of diversity (or lack thereof) in mainstream theatre. It’s made me much more sensitive to issues of cultural representation onstage. But what I love most about Native Voices is their play development process, which lends itself so completely to the writer and his/her development as an artist. I feel like the company cultivates a real culture of generosity, collaboration, and care around new playwriting. I don’t know that it’s necessarily a Native thing– but to me, it’s the mark of a great theatre company under really good leadership.

There are cities with larger and better-funded theater communities than San Diego. Why do you work here? 

To be honest, I moved to San Diego just to try it out. It was my boyfriend’s idea and it was a good one, because we like it here. But there is a definite tension surrounding the fact that there are larger and better-funded theatre communities elsewhere, as you say, and we’re two young people who really need to work! So there’s some pressure to migrate. On the other hand, there’s always the optimistic notion of staying to help build a larger, better-funded theatre community right here. We’ll see what happens!

Do you have any tips for playwrights on how to work with a dramaturg?

The first tip is to try it, if you haven’t before! The second tip would be to trust your dramaturg. Take advantage of having their feedback, and use it as a learning opportunity about how to see your own work. Evaluating your play for strengths and weakness is difficult to do objectively on your own, but it’s a great skill to try to develop. Use your dramaturg to double-check your gut instincts and observations about your play. Final tip– don’t be afraid to push back. Don’t be a limp noodle! When a dramaturg makes a suggestion, it is truly with the best interests of your play at heart. But if you feel confused about where that suggestion comes from, how to implement it, or you simply don’t like it– don’t be afraid to disagree! Have your own opinions! The only thing more alarming than working with a playwright who makes no changes to their play at all is working with a playwright who makes EVERY change suggested to them and completely compromises the integrity of their play.

San Diego Playwrights has a listing of dramaturgs who work with local writers. I love the idea of getting help on my plays. But I don’t have much experience with this. What steps should I take to get off to a good playwright/dramaturg relationship?

This is a wonderful question and I’m glad you asked. For anyone interested in being a dramaturg or curious about hiring one, the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) offers a brilliant (free) resource called the Employment Guidelines. (Find it here: In this document, you can read up on different situations in which a dramaturg may be hired, as well as industry standards on services dramaturgs offer, how to credit the dramaturg, how to come up with a contact or letter of agreement, etc. There is even a page of suggested fees for different types of dramaturgical services.

What I’ve learned from these guidelines (and from past experience) is to always have an honest conversation at the outset of any project or collaboration about what either party expects from this working relationship. For playwrights hoping to hire a dramaturg, you should begin with a discussion about what you want to get out of the process. Be clear about your expectations, and your dramaturg should do likewise. For example, if you want feedback on your play, it’s important to agree with the dramaturg on what constitutes “feedback.” A page of written notes? A phone call? Script coverage? Also, set an end goal. Are you looking to finish a first draft for submission? Are you polishing a nearly complete draft for production? What’s your deadline (date) for completing the script in its current form?

Once you’ve sorted out these details, it is highly recommended that there be some kind of written contract or letter of agreement. This doesn’t have to be scary or difficult– think of it instead as a guideline or a way of documenting what you hope to achieve. Get this part done early so that it doesn’t get in the way later.

Thank you, Jessica! It’s great to have you on our dramaturg resource list. And we’re looking forward to the Plays by Young Writers this year.

There are two different programs that will be presented from January 22 to February 1, at the Old Globe.

For more information and reservations, please contact Playwrights Project at (858) 384-2970 or Visit

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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.


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

Do you have a website, or testimonials?

I have both: 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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The North Park Playwright Festival–An Interview with Jeff Bushnell

Tell us about yourself.
My wife, Summer Golden, and I opened North Park Vaudeville and CandyShoppe in 2003 with the mission of producing new, unproduced plays and involving as many people as were interested, in making live theater.  We welcome everyone, young or old, experienced or brand new, and those with various handicaps.  Since that time we have produced over well over 400 brand new, mostly short, plays from around the world. Most through our North Park Playwright Festival or our Ten Minute Madness program.  We also usually do one royalty play a year, a melodrama, and various other programs and music shows.  We run a large program for mentally challenged actors and they act in shows of their own and some of the actors act in our productions.  They do a great job and are well received by our audiences.We have introduced literally hundreds of people to acting and directing and have a large group of people who work in our theater.  It is totally run by Summer and myself and funded by us.North Park Vaudeville is a small, 35 seat, theater.  While small we are extremely well equipped and nicely decorated.  It is not your usual storefront black box.
Tell us about the North Park Playwright Festival.
In support of our mission of new plays and new people, Summer started the North Park Playwright festival in 2003.  The first festival had only 12 plays, most local.  The second year a local playwright asked if he could put the word out to his online playwriting group.  This increased our submitted plays to over 60 and it has since grown to the point that we receive over 250 plays each year from playwrights around the world.  We have met many of them and many submit each year.The festival runs over four weekends in October each year.  A different program of 6-7 plays is presented each weekend. The festival is different from most.  There is no cost to enter.  Plays are read and “voted on” by the directors and the plays with the most “votes” get produced.  The plays are assigned to a director that wants to direct the play.  Some directors are new and some are experienced.  We have many that have directed for us for years.  Some of our actors are brand new and others are very experienced.  The festival is a vehicle for supporting our mission of new plays and new people.  Almost all playwrights that have come and seen their work performed have been very happy with the result and really enjoyed themselves.
How does the North Park Playwright Festival support local playwrights?
We provide an opportunity for local playwrights to have their work performed.  As the directors vote on the plays they are required to include at least one local play in their total of 5 votes.  This way we always have local plays in the work to be performed.  This year we have four local plays out of the 25 being performed.  It is not a workshop or a reading. The playwrights are not involved in the directing or performance aspects of the play.  It is as if the play was being done in another state. New playwrights have to understand that after they send their work off, it is up to the director as to how it will look onstage.
How can local playwrights support the North Park Playwright Festival?
Submit their plays!  All plays must meet the standards we are looking for, these can be found at  We look for short “ten minute” plays with no more than 4 actors.  Plays should be suitable for production with minimal props as we do 6 plays an evening. We also don’t do nudity, “blue” or bathroom humor.  Most subjects are OK, but we screen all plays and if we have objections we contact the playwright and let them know what they are.Tickets to the festival are available at our website,
Thanks for talking with us, Jeff! Good luck with the North Park Playwright Festival!

An Interview with Kevin Six of New Play Cafe

Kevin Six

Tell us about yourself.

I am a native of San Diego and a product of our schools and nonprofit organizations.  I was in Jr. Theatre from ’77 to ’83, the School of Creative and Performing Arts, City College, and SDSU into the ’80s.  I have also worked at (or volunteered for) a number San Diego performing arts organizations.  I love San Diego and what we have to offer the world.

New Play Cafe

New Play Café

Tell us about New Play Café. 

New Play Café provides audiences and processes to playwrights.  We give our audience new plays in short doses — which includes food (usually dessert) and beverages.  We will perform in just about any venue that has good food and space to perform. Originally we thought that the food was the draw, and it might be for some, but when I talk to audience members, I find that everyone has at least one play that he or she really identified with. So the food and coffee are icing on the cake, if I can get the dessert metaphor to stretch that far.


New Play Café’s Legends Playwrights (from left) Jennie Olson Six, Tom Steward, Thelma Virata de Castro, David Hogan, Brianna Caraet, Tori Rice, Kurt Kalbfleisch, and Dramaturg Jessica Ordon


How does New Play Café support San Diego playwrights?

We only ask San Diego playwrights to submit, so there’s no national or regional competition.  Not that our playwrights couldn’t compete, we just want to showcase local talent.  We read every play submitted and offer feedback at table reads.  We try to get two table reads in per production; one with writers and directors, and another with actors.  Each party has something valuable to offer and we think that playwrights get a lot out of the process — especially when we see them scratching things out during the reading.

How can San Diego Playwrights support New Play Café?

I love the idea of a member-service umbrella organization that, collectively, gives individuals what they cannot often create on their own.  Exposure, space and access to funding are probably the three biggest things I look for — followed closely by networking opportunities.  Every time I talk to individual artists (writers, actors and dancers, mostly), they want a place to perform, a reason to create and the money to do it.  I think we’re talking about an annual new play festival aren’t we?

Additionally, writer’s roundtables or groups work really well for some writers.  I know I work harder under deadline and if I’m showing my work to people I like and respect. To have the literary officers at every theatre in San Diego know me by name and sight would also be good.  In smaller theatres, San Diego Playwrights can be that officer, funneling vetted, polished new plays to theatres who want to do them — and enticing those who are afraid of doing them.  I don’t know what that enticement looks like but I think it has to do with allowing them total artistic control while saving them a ton of money.

Thanks for talking with us Kevin! Good luck with Legends and New Play Café!

New Play Café & Enterprise Theatre Company present Legends (in 10 minutes or less), an evening of new 10-minute plays by San Diego playwrights. Tickets are $25, includes dessert & beverage from DeMi Café Café.  September 6-21, 2014. Thurs-Sat at 7:30 pm. Sun at 7:00 pm. Location DeMi Café Café, 1735 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116. Questions? Email or call (619)663-4852.

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Playwrights Project and giveBIG: A Chat with Lizzie Silverman

Lizzie Silverman

Lizzie Silverman

Tell us about yourself.

My first involvement with Playwrights Project was in November 2010, when my play The Art of Disappearing was selected for dramaturgical development in the Play by Play program for emerging adult playwrights. I also served as Assistant Stage Manager on Playwrights Project’s 2011 Plays by Young Writers festival. I worked at Cygnet Theatre for almost three years, collaborating closely with Playwrights Project on the 2013 Playwrights in Process: New Play Festival. I am also the co-founder of New Play Café, a theatre company dedicated to new work by local writers. In July, my one act play “Unplugged” will be performed as part of Scripps Ranch Theatre’s third annual Out on a Limb: New Plays from America’s Finest City. I am currently the full-time Office Manager at Playwrights Project.


What is giveBIG?

giveBIG is an online networking and giving event on May 6, 2014 that provides hundreds of local nonprofits the opportunity to gain exposure to and start relationships with new donors. As a major incentive for success, The San Diego Foundation has offered an incentive pool of $150,000 to encourage giving during this 24-hour event.

PWP Logo w slogan

How is Playwrights Project participating?

Please join Playwrights Project for a fun Open House on May 6, 4:00-8:00pm, at 2372 1st Ave, San Diego, CA 92101. Come find out more about this inspiring organization; meet the staff, board members, teaching artists, and actors. Stay for a drink and light snacks and learn about Playwrights Project’s programs – you may even see a short improvisation or reading!

Plus, on May 6, any donation of $25 or more made to Playwrights Project through the giveBIG website will go further because of the incentive pool funds. There will be a laptop at the Open House so that you can make your giveBIG contribution. Can’t attend? You can still donate online on May 6! Here’s the link to the donate page (donation form will be active on May 6):

For more details about the Open House and Playwrights Project’s participation in giveBIG, visit

Playwrights Project Founder Deborah Salzer

Anahid Shahrik and Diep Huynh in Forty Miles from Tel Aviv, Plays by Young Writers Festival 2003

Anahid Shahrik and Diep Huynh in Forty Miles from Tel Aviv, Plays by Young Writers Festival 2003

How does Playwrights Project benefit our community?

Founded in 1985, Playwrights Project reaches up to 10,000 people annually through programs proven to teach the power of spoken and written language; nurture promising young writers; and develop theatre artists and audiences. Along with classroom programs, Playwrights Project conducts the annual California Young Playwrights Contest for writers under the age of 19, and professionally produces the winning scripts. Other programs dramatize stories from the lives of seniors, foster youth, and underserved populations, and support the development of emerging playwrights.

Carol Cabrera and Patrick McBride in Fairy Tale, Plays by Young Writers Festival 2014

Carol Cabrera and Patrick McBride in Fairy Tale, Plays by Young Writers Festival 2014

Playwrights Devyn Krevat, Zoe Kamil, and Carly Cipriano

Playwrights Devyn Krevat, Zoe Kamil, and Carly Cipriano

How can our community support Playwrights Project?

Spread the word! Let people know that you plan to donate to Playwrights Project on May 6 through giveBIG. And please tell folks about the Open House – we would love to see some new faces. Follow Playwrights Project on Facebook and Twitter to receive updates, and please share this event with your friends, family, and colleagues!

Thanks for talking with us Lizzie! And good luck to Playwrights Project and giveBIG!


Playwrights Project:

Playwrights Project giveBIG info:

Playwrights Project Facebook:

Playwrights Project Facebook Open House event:

Playwrights Project Twitter:

giveBIG Donate Page for Playwrights Project:


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Playwrights Project Presents Plays by Young Writers

Playwrights Project will produce its 29th annual festival of Plays by Young Writers at The Sheryl and Harvey White Stage in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe on March 6-16, 2014. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 165 submissions by students statewide. Four scripts will receive full professional productions, and five scripts will receive staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.

All contest submissions were evaluated by theatre professionals who volunteered their time and expertise. Final Judges in the selection process included Deborah Salzer (Founder of Playwrights Project), Martin Benson (Founding Co-Artistic Director of South Coast Rep), Stephen Metcalfe (Director & Screenwriter of films like Pretty Woman and The Marrying Man), and Delicia Turner Sonnenberg (Artistic Director of MOXIE Theatre). Program Manager and Producer Derek Charles Livingston spearheaded the evaluation process, which focused on a sense of truth, imagination, fresh use of language, and grasp of dramatic structure. All contest participants who requested feedback received individualized written critiques.

The Festival is divided into Program A (for ages 11+) and Program B (for ages 16+). Each program includes two-to-three staged readings and two full productions. Two acting ensembles will present the two different programs, with actors playing multiple roles.

Program A

Directed by George Yé

Staged Readings

Pound by Matthew Maceda, Age 14, Rancho Peñasquitos

Mostly Perfect by Heidi Erwin, Age 13, Rancho Peñasquitos

A Perfect Home by Kirra McColl, Age 11, Leucadia

Full Productions

Fairy Tale by Devyn Krevat, Age 17, Carmel Valley

Thirty-Nine to Forty by Erica Myrmel, Age 15, Ocean Beach

Program B

Directed by Manny Fernandez

Staged Readings

The Island by Carly Cipriano, Age 14, Rancho Peñasquitos

Opposite Togetherness by Siobhan Snider, Age 14, Point Loma

Full Productions

Little Elephant by Isaac Dwyer, Age 16, Idyllwild

Nine Hours by Zoe Kamil, Age 17, San Francisco

For more information, or to purchase tickets for the Plays by Young Writers festival, visit or call (858) 384-2970. To find out more about the California Young Playwrights Contest, visit

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