San Diego Playwrights

Getting San Diego Playwrights Produced on San Diego Stages

Out to Lunch and That 24-Hour Thing–Writing for Prompts in San Diego Fringe by Thelma Virata de Castro

Ah, there it is. The empty white page. What to do with it? Sometimes playwrights get lucky and are given prompts and a cast to write for. I lucked out this summer by being involved with two such productions in the 2017 San Diego International Fringe Festival.

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Jennie Olson Six, Kevin Six and Liz Silverman are the co-founders of New Play Cafe, a theatre company that presents short original plays in cafes. For the Fringe, New Play Café is presenting pieces written for the theme “Out to Lunch”, to be performed at an actual Panera Bakery.

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I’ve written a play set during World War II, and explored emotional minefields in others, but for “Out to Lunch” I entered a new battleground–middle school. My play “Team Death” is set during lunch at an average middle school. I couldn’t choose who to write for among the seven cast members, so I wrote a script that included all of them. There are the two main characters, Beth and Danilo, and their inner thoughts, plus some supporting characters, who are all named Peyton. As happens with many plays, the supporting characters took over, and Jennie requested I write some short scenes for them during the transitions to other plays. Watch out for the Peytons!

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I will also be writing for Logan Squared’s production “That 24-Hour Thing” for the fourth time. Producers Hannah Logan and Ron Logan meet with the playwrights early on a Saturday morning. We draw prompts for actors, setting, props and genre. We then have twenty-four hours to write our short plays, which will then be rehearsed and performed the following day. For “That 24-Hour Thing” I’ve written plays set in an art museum and an alley, and on a safari to capture Walter the Lionkiller dentist. Hannah has gathered incredibly talented theatre artists to participate. She calls it “theatre under pressure” and I love it.

 

Even when given prompts, a writer really is writing what matters to them. I am thankful for these opportunities to practice writing and exercise creativity. I may even take a shift at being a Short Order Playwright at “Out to Lunch”, in which the audience offers prompts for a monologue written during the performance. I’m not the greatest cook, but I hope you’ll find the plays tasty!

 

New Play Café’s “Out to Lunch”

Panera Bread, near Horton Plaza

225 Broadway, San Diego 92101

Arrive early to park and order food and drinks

Outside on patio—bring a jacket for evening performances

$10 plus $5 Fringe Tag

 

Playwrights—Thelma Virata de Castro, Hannah Logan, Melvin D. L. Price, Jr., Tori Rice, Tom Steward

 

Friday, June 23 @ 7:00 p.m.

Saturday, June 24 @ 3:00 p.m.

Sunday, June 25 @ 3:00 p.m.

Wednesday, June 28 @ 7:00 p.m.

Thursday, June 29 @ 8:00 p.m.

Friday, June 30 @ 8:00 p.m.

Saturday, July 1 @ 3:00 p.m.

 

For tickets and show information:

http://sdfringe.org/artists/new-play-cafe/

 

Logan Squared’s “That 24-Hour Thing”

San Diego Public Central Library

Neil Morgan Auditorium

Sunday, July 2 @ 6:30 p.m.

Free admission! Arrive early for parking and seating

 

Playwrights—Chip Bolcik, Thelma Virata de Castro, Salomon Maya, Liz Silverman, Janet Tiger, Nicolette Vajitay

 

Monologue Writers—Aleta Barthell, Will Cooper, Taberah Holloway, Todd Jackson

 

For tickets and show information:

http://sdfringe.org/artists/logan2-squared-productions-2/

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IN SECURITY–An Interview with Michael Mussman and Taberah Joy Holloway

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Last year we interviewed Michael Mussman about his 2016 San Diego Fringe play “Backstage Drama”. This year, he’s back with a musical! San Diego Playwrights spoke with Michael and director Taberah Joy Holloway about “In Security”.

Tell us about your newest project. What is “In Security” all about?

Michael: “In Security” is a musical spoof on corporate America. June is the only woman in her IT department, and she’s also the most competent. She comes across some damning information about her company, Hexagon Security. Will she keep the secret to herself, or will she blow the whistle? Oh, and there’s also a love interest with the new guy on the team, who’s also digging up dirt on the company.

Taberah: “In Security”, for me, is a story about a woman doing her best with somewhat limited options. She wants to do the right thing, but what’s the right thing in that situation?

My perspective is colored by my mother who was the only female electrical engineer at her company in the 1980s in the rural south. My own experience working in corporate law (where my starting class had four women in a pool of seventeen) also informs the direction.

It’s a funny show. For me, what is most important is telling a real story about real people while entertaining.

Tell us about yourselves.

Taberah: I am a kinesthetic human. Movement and the way we move through space fascinates me. Directing is surprisingly fun. I first debuted as an artist in the 2015 Atlanta Fringe. I tried to do everything in that first show (write, direct, act, produce). I have learned SOOO much. My main lesson is do one thing at a time. It’s easier and the product is better when there are multiple hands in the making. Since moving here two years ago, the San Diego theatre community welcomed me with giving opportunities to write, act, and direct. I am so grateful to Michael for allowing me to direct and to Thelma for connecting us.

Michael: I’m originally from Silicon Valley. This is my third time writing a show for Fringe. If you saw “Backstage Drama” at Diversionary Black Box last year, then you’ll remember Romo, the star of that show. She’s returning this year in the role of June. And this time she gets to show off her powerful voice.

Where did the idea come from, and how did you start?

Michael: One night I ran into Jordan Liberman at an improv show. Jordan is the accompanist for Minor Suspension, a long-running musical improv troupe. I sort of jokingly suggested we should write a musical together. Little did I know that Jordan was about to call my bluff. Next thing I know, I’m spending my weekends at Jordan’s house, jamming in front of his upright piano.

I worked for a huge corporation for seven years, and a startup for two years after that. A lot of what I witnessed — the office politics, the gossip, the disregard for talent — inspired me to create these characters. One of them is a bro who doesn’t realize his jokes are offensive. There’s a guy who cannot figure out PowerPoint. And there’s the young woman in marketing who never speaks up for herself, even when the guys are stepping on her. I put all those memories into the story. Anyone who’s ever worked in a cubicle will recognize a lot in this show.

What challenges have you faced, and what success have you enjoyed?

Taberah: There have been very few challenges. I have a great producer and musical director. And the actors! Did I mention how fantastically funny the actors are? Rehearsals are fun. I like working with this group of people. Everyone gets along, and we all want to tell a story together. The ultimate success is how all these talented people are working toward a common goal. I am proud of all my actors, and everything they bring to the table.

Michael: At first it I made it very difficult for myself. I assumed that I would just write some poetry and then hand over a libretto for Jordan to set to music. That did not work. Thankfully, Jordan taught me that most contemporary songs don’t rhyme very much. The rhythm and emotion are what matter.

I’m most proud of our song “Rumor / Scandal.” I didn’t have a very clear idea to start with — all I knew was I wanted it to sound like the opening number from Sondheim’s “Company,” where you have these overlapping voices all saying the name “Bobby” over and over. So I just started typing up fragments, the kinds of whispers you might overhear in a hallway or restroom. No one phrase makes sense by itself, but when you put them all together with music they’re zany and fun.

What makes this production special?

Michael: First, the venue. I really wanted to do a site-specific work. And thanks to the great people at Fringe, we got a space that actually looks like a corporate office, with a receptionist desk and everything! We’re staging “In Security” at SD Art Institute’s project space, which is on the first floor of Horton Plaza. I plan to serve coffee and bagels, just like a real-life business meeting.

Also, considering this is her first musical, I’m blown away by Taberah’s directing skills! She really got the story on a very deep level, and she has revealed all kinds of nuance in the characters.

What’s next for you?

Taberah: I have a feeling this show will lead naturally into my next creative project. It’s not evident to me what that is now because I am knee deep in bringing this show to life. I may do more storytelling at venues around town. We’ll see!

Michael: I’m shopping around to other theatres to see if we can get “In Security” remounted in other cities. Being in Fringe means we only get 45 minutes, so I’ll need to add a few more scenes and songs to make this a full length show. This whole experience has shown me that musical theatre really is my first love. So I definitely want to collaborate with more musicians, and I hope I get to work with Jordan again.

Thanks for talking with us, Michael and Taberah! And break a leg with “In Security”!

For more information and tickets, visit https://sdfringe.ticketleap.com/in-security/.

 

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OUR STORIES–Thelma Virata de Castro

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Last fall I attended a memorial service at the Buddhist Temple of San Diego. Umeko Kawamoto was born on November 16, 1920 and lived for almost 96 years. She was a daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, waitress, bank teller and community volunteer. At the service, her family shared some of her favorite sayings:

“Your life isn’t small. It should include more than yourself.”

I interviewed Umeko for Asian Story Theater’s Stories of the Sun Café in 2015. She was a waitress at the Sun Café, a historic restaurant in prewar Japantown, in what became San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. She was interned at Poston during World War II, but that was just one portion of her experience. She talked mainly about her family. She loved dancing and Johnny Mathis. Her motto was “Keep Busy”, which became the title for the script I wrote about her.

Interview picture Umeko Kawamoto

Umeko Kawamoto Interview with Kent Brisby and Thelma Virata de Castro (Photo Credit Joyce Teague)

Why do stories matter? At the reception after the memorial service, I sat and chatted with some of those who came to honor Umeko. The generation that followed the internees became historians, community leaders and civil rights activists.  Japanese Americans have been some of the most vocal to protest anti-Muslim government policies.

“Your life isn’t small. It should include more than yourself.”

Sun Cafe

 

Stories of the Sun Café focused on the Chinese American and Japanese American communities of San Diego. In Winter 2015, Asian Story Theater was awarded a California Humanities Community Stories Grant for Halo-Halo—Mixed Together Stories from San Diego’s Filipino American Community. I worked as Community Liaison and one of the playwrights for the project.

Halo-Halo Poster

In our Humanities-based approach for Halo-Halo, we solicited story ideas from community groups and our playwright team. We were given ideas for military stories, such as World War II Veterans, and education stories, such as the Filipino Language Movement. We learned about a pageant protestor in the 1970’s, and did historical research about Taxi Dance Halls and the Delano grape strike. One playwright wrote about a transgender civic leader, and another wrote about a young woman who is undocumented. Just as the dessert of halo-halo is made up of a mixture of ingredients, the Filipino American community contains a mixture of stories.

FANHS and FILAMEDA Social

Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) and Filipino American Educators Association Meeting

Someone I know asked if I could interview him for the project. I wasn’t sure why he wanted to talk. When we met, he shared his experience of domestic violence. Months later, I also interviewed his mother. Family is perhaps the highest value in Filipino culture. This mother didn’t tell her friends about her husband’s abuse because she didn’t want them to look down on her. Although these interviewees remain anonymous, their story is being told. The son is still healing, but he wanted people to know: “You are not alone.”

One of the most powerful experiences I’ve had in theatre was to sit in the same audience with Umeko and watch her story. Theatre brings people together to remember, to learn, and to feel. These are our stories.

Halo-Halo–Mixed Together Stories from San Diego’s Filipino American Community runs March 31-April 9 at the Lyceum Space, Horton Plaza, downtown San Diego. For tickets call 619-544-1000 or visit Lyceumevents.org. For more information about Halo-Halo visit AsianStoryTheater.org.

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BACKSTAGE DRAMA–An Interview with Michael Vegas Mussman and Samantha Goldstein

San Diego Playwrights recently talked with playwright Michael Vegas Mussman and director Samantha Goldstein about their San Diego Fringe show “Backstage Drama”.

Tell us about yourselves.

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Michael Vegas Mussman

Michael Vegas Mussman: I’ve been playing around with art of improvisation for a couple years. When I started taking classes and performing at local improv theatres, I discovered this funky little community of improvisers. We improv people are so funny. To me, we seem like a bunch of grownup kids who loved doing theatre in high school and never wanted to quit, so we just keep running up on stage – even well into middle-age.  And we do it for free! So I decided to write about these weirdos and all the drama we get into. This is my second show at SD Fringe. Last year I wrote a one-act called “Kidnapping Lola” that was produced by Actors Alliance.

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Michael Vegas Mussman

 

Samantha Goldstein: I’ve been acting and directing in San Diego community theater for about eight years now.  It’s just a labor of love for me.  In the past year, I’ve directed two shows at Patio Playhouse in Escondido and have a third coming up.  I’m also currently acting in “Clybourne Park” at that theater.  I joined up with the “Backstage Drama” crew through a recommendation from Ronnell, who plays Angela.  She and I met doing a 24 Hour Theater Festival and she liked my style.  I’m very grateful because this is an amazingly talented and enthusiastic bunch of people, and Michael’s play is hilarious and fun.

Tell us about your play.

Michael Vegas Mussman: “Backstage Drama” is a comedy about an improv trio called Fruit Hole. The script calls for every other scene to be improvised. So it’s a hybrid of scripted dialogue with scenes that are made up on the spot. No two shows will be the same. I like to think of it as my love letter to the improv community. So I added a bunch of inside jokes for the improv people in the audience.

Samantha Goldstein: “Backstage Drama,” as Michael explained it to me, has some similarities to the great British play “Noises Off,” in the sense that the inner workings (and soft underbelly) of a theater performance are exposed by literally turning the show backwards.  The audience gets to see both the improv performance, in which the participants are confident, seasoned and skilled, and the shenanigans backstage, where jealousies, insecurities and missed emotional connections are revealed.

What are your challenges? What are your successes?

Michael Vegas Mussman: It wasn’t enough for me to write a script; I’m also producing my own show. The challenges are always the same – coming up with money, booking rehearsal space, figuring out everyone’s schedule, all those boring logistics. But the biggest success is finding six people who are willing to put on a play. All I did was ask, “Hey you want to be in my play?” I was shocked at how quickly these artists volunteered. Their enthusiasm has made it all worthwhile.

Samantha Goldstein: So far, the challenge is just getting all the people in one place at the same time.  Everyone is busy with work and other projects, so scheduling the rehearsals has been a bit of a challenge.  Luckily, I’m shielded from a lot of that by Michael’s tireless efforts.  The success is seeing how “game” everyone is to try stuff.  Sometimes when I’m directing, actors recoil from my goofier ideas because they worry about looking silly.  This bunch is not concerned. 😉

What is your next step?

Michael Vegas Mussman: Next we’ve got to promote, promote, promote and sell some tickets! After the Fringe Festival, I’m going to take a long nap. Then I’m going to concentrate on writing longer works for the theatre. Eventually I’ll move away from the little comedies and do more experimentation.

Samantha Goldstein: More rehearsals, with everyone there!  The more we practice, the better it’s all going to look.  I’m feeling very confident about the show being both hysterical and full of heart.  Oh, and next step for me?  Like Michael said, a long nap.  I’ve done back-to-back shows for a year now, and will still be producing another show and moving into another house this summer, so I have to calm down for at least a few weeks!  (I say this with mock-frustration—the fact is, I’m like Tinkerbell, and can’t exist without applause.  Which means whatever break I take must be mercifully brief.)

Thanks for talking with us Michael and Samantha! Break a leg with “Backstage Drama”!

“Backstage Drama”

Fri June 24 @ 4pm

Sun June 26 @ 1pm

Mon June 27 @ 6pm

Wed June 29 @ 8pm

Sat July 2 @ 9pm

For more information visit sdfringe.org.

 

 

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HARLOWE–An Interview with Jennifer Lane

Center Theatre Group has announced the 10 finalists who have been chosen for the first annual Humanitas/CTG Playwriting Prize. The award will be given to the best new and unproduced play written by a Southern California playwright. San Diego Playwrights caught up with finalist Jennifer Lane to discuss her play, HARLOWE.

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Jennifer Lane

About HARLOWE: After suffering a potent physical trauma, Harlowe loses her sense of touch. When her sister brings her home to convalesce, she retreats to the bathroom and spends hour after hour languishing in the tub. Harlowe is a story of sisters and bodies; it is a story of how we heal.

 

During my second year of graduate school, I hit a bit of a dry spell. Maybe it was because I’d spent the last year and a half writing more than I ever had before in my life, or maybe it was because I’d just moved, or maybe it was because I was told that I needed to begin thinking about my thesis play and I was worried that I just didn’t have anything good left in my brain. Regardless, I wasn’t writing. And when you’re in grad school for a writing degree, and you’re not writing, it’s kind of a problem.

 

I do a lot of things when I’m not writing, mostly they involve streaming video on the internet or drinking coffee and staring at ceilings. But this time when I couldn’t write, I took a bath. This time, when I was stuck, I submerged myself under the water and held my breath until I couldn’t any more. When I was under the water, I listened to my heartbeat, and I was soothed, connected to something primordial. And when I got out of the water, I sat down at my computer, and three days later I had the first full draft of Harlowe.

HarloweFlier

This is one of those magical stories of creation that artists chase for their whole careers, and rarely get. I didn’t have a play; and then — boom — I did. I don’t remember what it was like, writing it. I only know that it popped into being like Athena out of Zeus’ forehead, whole, fully formed.

 

Harlowe has never needed the major overhauls that some of my other plays have required, and as such, it bears a striking resemblance to that first, magical draft I wrote in those three mystical days. But I have had the privilege of developing the piece with a number of remarkable theatre artists, to whom I owe a great deal, who have made the play what it is.

 

First, Sarah Ruhl mentored me on it. There’s this pretty great part of being a Columbia grad student where they hire your number-one top-choice living playwright to mentor you on your thesis play, and I chose Sarah. I chose her because of Eurydice and In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play; I chose her because she began her writing career as a poet, and I needed a poet’s eye on the lengthy, metaphor-heavy monologues that littered the play. And she helped me sculpt those monologues into poetry in their own right.

 

From there, it was performed as part of the thesis festival at Columbia, directed by Jess K. Smith, and featuring a team of actors I still think of in my head whenever I work on the play. They got it up on its feet, water and all, and I learned how submerging your lead actress in water has an astounding impact on the speeches, and it remains one of the most satisfying artistic collaborations of my life.

 

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Columbia University Thesis Production of HARLOWE

 

After grad school, it was further developed during the Alec Baldwin Fellowship at Singer’s Forum, directed by Marlo Hunter. We focused our attention then on a character that had, up until that point, been mostly just a foil for everyone else on stage. She brought a phenomenal actor into the role and helped me dig into the character, and the entire process taught me an invaluable lesson about excavating theme to anchor characters to the heart of a story. Concurrently, it was presented in Washington D.C. at the Inkwell Theatre, directed by Lee Liebeskind. And I got to travel there to see the excerpt they presented. This was my first taste of travel for writing, and I was hooked.

 

Then, I put it away for a year before I took it to the Gulfshore Playhouse in Naples, Florida where it was part of their New Works Festival, directed by Lou Tyrell. Lou helped me polish it, til it had that production-ready shine, and then he brought it to his own theatre festival at Florida Atlantic University’s Theatre Lab. There, it was directed by Matt Stabile, who showed me that I was wrong when I thought there was no work left to do on it. His keen insights and unabashed enthusiasm about the play have blown it wide open for me, and I see it anew because of him and Lou and my cast at FAU Theatre Lab.

 

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Florida Atlantic University Theatre Lab reading of HARLOWE

 

Now, it’s a finalist for this amazing prize. To win the prize would be a huge honor all on its own, but what’s remarkable about this particular prize is that they attach money to the play itself as an incentive for a California theatre to produce it. That’s huge. That’s the dream. And I know I am echoing the sentiments of all of my fellow finalists when I say how thrilling that is.

 

I am in astounding company as a finalist, and it’s such a privilege to be in the running alongside such fantastic SoCal talent. And as I wait to hear about Harlowe’s status, I can’t help but think about the many remarkable artists who have touched the play, whose fingerprints are all over it. I’m writing this as a sort of love letter to them all, to say… Thank you. Working on this play has been a joy, and an education. You all have changed me utterly.

Thank you for sharing the story of HARLOWE, Jennifer! Good luck on its journey to production!

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WINDOW OF SHAME–An Interview with Aleta Barthell

Aleta Barthell’s play, Window of Shame, is a finalist for the 1st Annual Humanitas/Center Theatre Group Playwriting Prize. The award will be given to the best new and unproduced play written by a Southern California playwright.

aleta barthell playlaprize

Aleta Barthell

Tell us about yourself.

I am an actress turned teacher and writer. I found myself frustrated as an actress with the roles that were available for women.  I decided to focus my effort on writing…and writing stories that show women making choices in their lives.

Tell us about your play.

 

Carlsbad Window of Shame

My play, Window of Shame, is based on a real event that I learned while on a ghost tour in New Orleans in 2002.

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Yolanda Franklin in New Village Arts Theatre reading 2012

In 1834, Doctor and Madame LaLaurie are famous in the French Quarter for their elegant parties in their resplendent home, but suspicions arise after a young slave woman climbs out of a darkened window on the second floor and jumps to her death, leaving Sally, the cook who is chained in the kitchen, to risk her own life to expose the horrifying secret that lives upstairs.

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Katie Calvin, Ashleyrose Gilham (on floor), Rhys Green and Kiana Jackson in New Village Arts Theatre reading 2012

 

In Window of Shame, I want to explore how moral atrocities are ignored and/or go undetected in a community and what finally pushes an individual to step forward to stop it. I want it to be a story that fills our senses with sounds (rhythms, chains, trumpets), flashes of light (lightning) and visual images using choreographed movement to convey the supernatural and grotesque in the story. I want the play to show an individual with seemingly the least amount of latitude for action, who exposes the moral outrage around her.

What are your challenges? What are your successes?

window of shame reading

Aleta Barthell in rehearsal for Fountain Theatre reading 2011

My initial challenge was to decide why it was important to tell a story about slavery and torture today. Then the U.S. invaded Iraq.  Then the U.S. tortured detainees.  Then Hurricane Katrina ripped open a window to life in New Orleans that no one believed had existed.  Suddenly, this story felt very resonant.

I also have wrestled with telling a story from a voice that is far away from me culturally. I have been fortunate to have an uncle who is a professor of slavery in the south who helped to guide me in my research to understand this world.

I had an actress, Judith Scott, drive down from LA for an initial reading of the play. She liked the piece so much that she gathered actors in LA and we had two readings of the piece in theatres in LA and also two readings in San Diego.

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Rhys Green, Kristianne Kurner, Manny Fernandes, M’Lafi Thompson, Abner Genece, Yolanda Franklin, Jarrod Weintraub, Fred Harlow, Katie Calvin, Milena Phillips, Aleta Barthell, Kiana Jackson and Ashleyrose Gilham in New Village Arts Theatre reading 2012

What is your next step?

Before I knew I was a finalist for Humanist prize, I had been working with a director/dramaturg from LA, Alan Freeman. Alan approached me after he heard me speak about the piece at the Dramatists Guild National Conference this summer in La Jolla, he wanted to know if I would be interested in doing some readings in LA and San Diego to garner interest from producing bodies and get the play on the road to production.  I said, “Yes!”

We are tentatively planning a reading here in San Diego at New Village Arts Theatre in February. I have also been fortunate to have the support of an excellent San Diego grant specialist, Lorraine Demi, who is helping us find grant sources for these readings and future productions.

Click here to watch the Window of Shame video promo.

Thank you for talking with us, Aleta! And good luck with Window of Shame!

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WORDS, NO WORDS AND TRANSFORMATION–Thelma Virata de Castro

I am the steward of A Little Free Library. The concept is to put books out in an accessible place where anyone is free to–“Take a book. Return a book.” This is a responsibility I took very seriously, at first. I had three sections–adult fiction, adult non-fiction, and children’s. My sons and I would notice when every book was taken and when new ones would arrive. (Of course, we always got first pick of the good ones.)

We’ve had this library for over two years now, and I must admit, it’s gotten junky. The problem is we have too many givers and not enough takers.

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Most of the fiction books are paperbacks that I would never read. The children’s section has been diminished. I can barely get a cover on the thing when it rains.

And textbooks. Why would anyone donate textbooks to A Little Free Library? And to top it off, Criminal Justice textbooks? They’re not the type of thing people typically pick up for a good read.

Serendipity.

Shaun Tuazon-Martin, a San Diego actor who co-incidentally lives in the same neighborhood as I do, put out a call for books. Textbooks! He was designing a set for a play about a linguistics professor. He wanted to fill the stage with books. I told him to come and get them. Please!

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The show opened recently, and at the last minute on a Friday night, I was able to see the production. Look what Shaun did.

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The play is Precious Little by Madeline George. In this excellent show by InnerMission Productions, the professor surrounds herself with words. She’s an expert. Amazingly, the books that I donated reflect the play’s themes. Shaun designed the set so that the walls, the furniture, and even the vines are all covered with words.

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You probably won’t be able to read the pages in the photo above, but they are taken from the Criminal Justice textbooks. One of the actresses portrays a gorilla in the play and there is discussion about whether the gorilla lives in an “enclosure” or a “cage”. Likewise, the professor finds herself in a situation where she feels imprisoned.

Pregnancy is an issue, and among the books were pregnancy manuals. Pages with illustrations of the female reproductive system are on display. Director Carla Nell also showed me a page with a photo of a statue. It was a woman mourning the loss of twins.

Precious Little 1

 And I was delighted to spot the Chinese dictionary above, with its spine facing out for the audience to see. When this book appeared in our Little Free Library, my oldest son snatched it up. He’s a collector and reading is his salvation. But, since he doesn’t read Chinese, I was able to convince him to give it up. Of course the professor would have this in her office. Words are her passion and her strength. Words are her suit of armor.

But can she connect with that gorilla in the zoo? Ultimately, the most powerful moments in the play are when there are no words.

Empathy. Communication. Understanding.

Beyond words.

Junk becomes art, and we are all part of the transformation.

Thelma Virata de Castro is a playwright, founder of San Diego Playwrights, and Little Free Library steward. www.littlefreelibrary.org

Precious Little by Madeline George is being produced by InnerMission Productions November 6-21 at Diversionary Black Box. Cast: Kathi Copeland, Jyl Kaneshiro, Jennie Olson Six. For tickets visit INNERMISSIONPRODUCTIONS.org

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I, JOAN–An Interview with Peter Mitsopoulos

Rosie Gordon as Joan of Arc in Peter Mitsopoulos's I, Joan

Rosie Gordon as Joan of Arc in Peter Mitsopoulos’s I, Joan

Tell us about yourself.

I was born and raised in the Point Loma/Ocean Beach neighborhood of San Diego and I still live there. I graduated with a degree in theater from SDSU in 1976.

Tell us about your play.

I’ve been fascinated by Joan of Arc for many years. How did a teenage girl come out of nowhere to save her country and change the course of history? I struggled for a while deciding how to approach writing a play about her. Of course, she’s been the subject of multi-character dramas by great playwrights such as Schiller, Shaw, and Anderson. I had no desire to compete with them. I would only lose. I finally hit upon the idea of a one-woman show. Why not let Joan speak for herself? Why not let her command the stage alone, speaking directly to the audience about her life and adventures? That’s why it’s entitled I, Joan. Much of the dialogue is actual quotes from Joan herself and the incidents she describes actually happened.

Rosie Gordon as Joan of Arc

Rosie Gordon as Joan of Arc

What are your challenges? What are your successes?

As a playwright, I’ve haven’t exactly been a raging success. After writing I, Joan, I submitted it to several theaters in and out of San Diego. Of course, they all told me to get stuffed. After wondering why no one would produce this or any of my other plays, the answer finally hit me between the eyes like a brick: “Why should they?” Then I remembered a favorite saying of Joan’s: “God helps those who help themselves.” So I decided to go the self-production route. This is putting a major dent in my bank account, but it’s only money. And you can’t take it with you.

What is your next step?

I’m not thinking about the next step. The present moment is all any of us has. You can plan for the future, but you can’t count on it. I’m thinking only about getting this play on the stage. It’s a modest production in a modest venue, but I got lucky and managed to assemble a great team. Our director, Dhyana Dahl, has really thrown herself into the project. She’s a real pro. Her creativity and theatrical instinct have been most impressive. And her experience has been invaluable. Our stage manager, Katie Foggiano and our costume designer, Dominique Hill, are also very professional and very dedicated. And our actress, Rosie Gordon, is going to be something truly special in the role of Joan. This is a demanding job for an actress, but I have no doubt we cast the right one. I’m glad she came to the auditions.   Opening night is 9-17-15 and the website for info and tickets is www.joan.ticketleap.com/arc. We hope to see you there. Thanks very much.

Thanks for talking with us, Peter! I, Joan runs from September 17 to October 3, 2015, Thursday thru Saturday at 8:00 p.m.

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SHAKESPEARE’S OTHER SISTERS–The Road to AROHO by Thelma Virata de Castro

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf

“But I want to be Shakespeare’s Sister! I do, I do!”

Can’t you just hear Veruca Salt in the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? That was me after I received my rejection e-mail for the Shakespeare’s Sister Fellowship.  As fellowships go, this one was a dream. The concept was to give a female playwright a unique opportunity to develop a new play:

–A week at Hedgebrook, a retreat for women writers in Washington State

–A place in A Room of Her Own Foundation’s (AROHO) retreat  in New Mexico

–A week at Lark Play Development Center, to develop a new play in New York City with directors and actors

–All travel expenses covered

–Plus $10,000

“But I want to be Shakespeare’s Sister! I do, I do!”

But alas, 955 other female playwrights and I did not get the fellowship. I didn’t even make the top 40 semi-finalists.

I did, however, learn about the AROHO Foundation and their biennial retreat. 100 women writers across all genres gather for a week to explore Virginia Woolf’s themes, take master classes, and engage with each other in the land where Georgia O’Keeffe painted.

“I want to go to AROHO! I do, I do!”

That meant another application. I discovered that AROHO offered fellowships that paid for registration and housing. Unfortunately, I received yet another rejection. But I did check the box that said I’d still like to be considered to attend the retreat, even if I had to pay my own way.

Life went on.

As a non-MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) playwright, it is easy for me to get wrapped up in MFA envy. Having an MFA is not a guarantee of success, but it does allow for mentorship, development and connections in the very social business of theatre. Playwrights who are produced in regional theatres and who get the big fellowships usually have an MFA. Right, Veruca?

“I want an M.F.A.! I do, I do!”

So I was humbled when I read a post in the Hedgebrook Blog by Kelly Clayton. I was fortunate to receive a Hedgebrook residency in 1999 and I follow the posts by Hedgebrook alumnae. Word has spread about this incredible residency in which women writers get to stay in an individual cottage and are given space and time to write. Hedgebrook offers radical acts of hospitality, such as bringing your lunch to your door. The application process has grown extremely competitive. Over 1,000 women writers apply for just 40 spots. Kelly Clayton got in. She is a talented, dynamic writer, but in her heartfelt post she described her feelings of insecurity because she was a high school dropout.

Shut up, Veruca.

Last February, I volunteered to lead a writing session for a group of women that included residents of New Entra Casa, a transitional home here in San Diego for recently incarcerated women. The first thing I talked about was being friendly to yourself. If you weren’t friendly, you wouldn’t write. That writing session allowed the women to open up. In later conversations, they shared about the experiences that led them to jail. They talked about how the New Entra Casa Executive Director interviewed them for placement. They prayed that they would be chosen as residents for the program after they were released.

“Pick me. Pick me.”

A few days later, I was surprised to get an e-mail from AROHO. I had almost forgotten about the retreat. I had applied for the Shakespeare’s Sister fellowship back in July 2014. Turns out, I did get picked. I was one of the 100 women selected to attend the AROHO retreat in August 2015. I’ll be taking a Master Class with Ellen McLaughlin, the Shakespeare’s Sister Fellowship Creator and Mentor. And I am excited to meet Shakespeare’s Sister—Dipika Guha. Fortuitously, Dipika will be coming to San Diego to write a play for Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company’s inaugural InCommunity project.

I attended the Dramatists Guild National Conference in La Jolla this past July. The results of The Count were announced, which is the gender parity in theatre research study funded by the Dramatists Guild and the Lilly Awards. Bottom line: 4 out of 5 productions by regional theatres throughout the country are written by men. In analyzing the results, Marsha Norman said that when women’s voices are silenced, it’s not a world safe for children or anything. Tony award winner Lisa Kron said, “This is not the natural order of things . . . let’s just fix it.” I’ll be participating in a We Are Theatre SPEAK-OUT about gender parity at the 2016 AWP Conference with Aphra Benn, Martha Joy Rose, Laura Shamas and Jennie Webb (representatives from Guerilla Girls on Tour and the Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative).

I am Shakespeare’s Other Sister. So’s my friend Aleta. So are all my other female playwright friends. So are the women of New Entra Casa. So is “anonymous.”

From Virginia Woolf’s 1929 essay, “A Room of One’s Own:”

“ . . . Shakespeare had a sister . . . She lives in you and in me . . . for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh. . . . if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think, then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare’s sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down. Drawing her life from the lives of the unknown who were her forerunners, as her brother did before her, she will be born.”

Be friendly.

Thelma Virata de Castro is the founder of San Diego Playwrights. She’ll be sending her boys to day camp and entrusting her husband to pack their lunches when she attends the A Room of Her Own Foundation retreat.

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TURBULENCE–An Interview with Breaking Waves Playwright Katie Brady

Katie Brady

Katie Brady

Tell us about yourself.

I am a word-obsessed, board game-loving, tennis smashing, singer/songwriter who loves music, theater and open mindsets. I am also lucky enough to be married to my best friend and be the mother of two awesome boys. I had the privilege to front San Francisco-based bands Crackerjack Tattoo and Sweet Harriet and have enjoyed being on the other side of the curtain in Jesus Christ Superstar, 1940’s Radio Hour, The Boyfriend and Hello Dolly.

Tell us about your play.

“Turbulence” is a heart-warming comedy about a teenager flying to his first year of college on an athletic scholarship.  Chaos arises when the son reveals that he didn’t actually get the scholarship and, in fact, was not accepted to the college. It’s an exploration of authenticity and acceptance in an anxiety-riddled environment.

What was it like to work with the actors to workshop your play?

Day one I was impressed. Our auditions were 100% improvisation. I think it takes a good bit of moxie to stand in front of three playwrights and be an Ewok on vacation or a foul-mouthed grandmother. Post-audition it’s been inspiring to watch these talented folks bring the characters to life.

What’s next?

I’m currently co-writing a musical that explores some similar themes as “Turbulence.”

Katie Brady’s play “Turbulence” will be produced by Actors Alliance and San Diego Playwrights as part of the Breaking Waves Festival in the 2015 San Diego International Fringe Festival.  Performances are July 24 @ 9:00 pmJuly 25th @ 2:30 pmJuly 29 @ 6:00 pmJuly 31 @ 7:30 pm and August 2 @ 11:30 am at the Raw Space Theater.  https://sdfringe.ticketleap.com/breaking-waves/dates

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