San Diego Playwrights

Getting San Diego Playwrights Produced on San Diego Stages

Local Flavor Play Reading of One-Act Plays by Janet Tiger and Lisa Balderston

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San Diego Playwrights, in conjunction with Scripps Ranch Theatre, presents the Local Flavor Play Reading series featuring two one-act plays:

“Sweepstakes” by Janet S. Tiger

In 1982, two sisters – completely different in so many ways – need to work together to deal with some life issues, including how to get a pizza for free.  Amidst the laughter and some strong language, they deal with very current issues.

“Transported” by Lisa Balderston

Two years after a mass shooting took their sons’ lives, two mothers run into each other during a late subway ride home. Although close friends when their sons were dating, they have drifted apart since the funerals. Regrets and resentments come to the surface as their reunion takes a turn and they reveal how much their lives have changed.

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Local Flavor Play Reading of Jane Doe in the Quiet Room by Jack Shea

Jane Doe updated

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Local Flavor Play Reading of Family Mystique by Anita Yellin Simons

Family Mystique-revised

San Diego Playwrights and Scripps Ranch Theatre are proud to announce that the next Local Flavor Play Reading will be Family Mystique by Anita Yellin Simons. The reading will be Monday, December 3 at 7:30pm. Suggested donation is $10. For more information contact Steven Oberman at stevenoberman23@gmail.com.
Directed by Timothy Cabal
Featuring: Janey Hurley, Hannah Logan, Timothy Cabal, Jack Roberts , John Carroll, and Kelly Saunders

Scripps Ranch Theatre performs in the Legler Benbough Theatre on the campus of Alliant International University in Scripps Ranch.

 

Scripps Ranch Theatre
Legler Benbough Theatre
Alliant International University
9783 Avenue of Nations
San Diego, CA 92131
(858) 578-7728
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Anita Simons

Playwright Anita Yellin Simons

Bio:

Anita Yellin Simons is a political activist and playwright who combines both her love of history and activism in her many award-winning plays. Her first play GOODBYE MEMORIES, about Anne Frank before going into hiding, has won numerous awards and had several productions and readings. HEARTLAND, about German POWs working on American farms and what happened to thousands of German-Americans sent to internment camps during WWII, had a production and placed second in the David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award, and was published by Sense Publishers in their social-fictions series. Later plays THIS WE’LL DEFEND, about female rape in the military, IN SANITY, about a family’s struggle with teenage drug addiction, and SILENCE IS NOT GOLDEN, about domestic abuse, have all had successful readings with professional talk backs that spark stimulating discussions and how to deal with each of the issues presented in the plays. She also has a comedy JOY VEY (co-written with Lojo Simon) about dueling new grandmas — one Jewish and one Gentile. Simons specializes in thought-provoking theater with humor and pathos.

Tell us about your play.

FAMILY MYSTIQUE is part of a trilogy of “autobiographical” plays about difficult periods in my life. The synopsis is basically: On August 4, 1964, seventeen year-old Linda Smolen is excited and scared to be off to college, but in one day sees her idyllic, albeit fantasy, family go from “The Sound of Music” to “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” when she has to deal with the harsh reality of her parents’ troubled marriage, her brother’s juvenile delinquency and her mother’s attempted suicide. Life isn’t fair and teenage angst and self-absorption hasn’t changed much in the past 50 years. When the play continues three years later in 1967, Linda is ready to face the future as a new feminist and say goodbye to her mother’s life of marriage and motherhood or in Linda’s mind “slavery.”

What have been your successes with the piece? What have been your challenges?

I always take my first draft of any play to Scripteasers to be read and critiqued. From that first reading, I made additional changes/cuts and had another reading at the San Diego Women’s Museum of California. I made some additional changes and then put the play away. I felt it needed further work. Now that I have an opportunity for another reading with a director and audience, I look forward to more input about how to improve this piece.

Please join San Diego Playwrights and Scripps Ranch Theatre in supporting local playwrights in the development process. We hope to see you December 3 for the reading of Family Mystique!

 

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Local Flavor Play Reading of FREEDUMB by James Caputo

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Tell us about yourself.

I am an actor, who became a director, who became a playwright. I find that both experiences inform my work.

In what way?

To give just a few examples: as an actor. I know how much time is necessary for an emotional swing; as a director, I know the importance of stage dynamics.  I write to accommodate such considerations.

What are your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?

I suppose dialogue is my strength. I find it a very natural thing – a flowing of the mind. My weakness is definitely plot. It is a constant screeching worry.

Speaking of plot, do you always work from an outline?

I never work from an outline. I wish I could, but it never works for me. It takes me forever to write one, and when I do I wander off of it almost immediately. It’s just not my process.  Freedumb started as a few monologues that eventually wound up in the middle of the play.  After 30 – 40 pages, a story may start to suggest itself, and for the first time, I have a vague sense of direction.

Tell us about that process, how much rewriting do you do, how many drafts?

I never look forward to rewriting, and my draft count is a few at best.  I write very slowly. I labor over each sentence, each word. I think when you do that, rewriting becomes less important. On a good day, I’m happy if I write three pages.

What are your successes?

My plays have been produced in 10 states from New York to California.  Locally, I have had full productions of four different full lengths.

What are your challenges?

Finding extended alone-time to write has to be my #1 challenge, isn’t it everybody’s?

Tell us about your play, that just had a Local Flavor reading.

 

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Leigh Akin, Hannah Logan, James Caputo, Lydia Lea Real, Krista Feallock, J.d. Burke and Steven Oberman (Not Pictured: Joe Paulson)

Freedumb is about talk-radio and its influence on our country. At a time when technology allows us the ability to be the most informed nation, we have become the most uninformed. The play examines those people: what they believe, what motivates them. We had a great audience for the reading, and I came away with excellent notes which I am incorporating now. Thank you San Diego Playwrights and Scripps Ranch Theatre for this wonderful opportunity. And a big shout-out to my director, Hannah Logan and her excellent cast: Lydia Lea Real, Joe Paulson, J.d. Burke, Krista Feallock and Leigh Akin.

What is your next step?

Freedumb is a political play, and political plays have a very short shelf life, so the usual development path is out of the question. I will be sending it out to political theaters and posting it on the New Play Exchange as soon as possible.

Thanks for talking with us, James! Break a leg with Freedumb!

For submission guidelines visit Local Flavor Play Readings.

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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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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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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.

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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?

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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.

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 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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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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