Archive for the ‘Playwright Posts’ Category

My Case for Being a Philadelphia Playwright



My Case for Being a Philadelphia Playwright


I grew up in Philly. Okay, I’ve already lied. I’m a writer, and writers are liars. I grew up in Bala Cynwyd, which is only a few blocks from City Line Avenue. Which I would cross mainly by bike with my friends to go to Roy Rogers. So I grew up in Philly-ish.


But when I began writing plays I was living in New York City, so I was by no means a Philadelphia area playwright. I wasn’t an anything-area playwright. New York is not an area. It’s just New York. And if you are writing plays in New York City, your core community is most likely fellow unproduced playwrights. You wake up each day and remind yourself that you are in New York City (holy shit, I live in New York City!), you are writing plays (I can actually finish a play! And then another one! Me!) and that you don’t have an agent (Do I exist today? Is there a point to me? If I never wrote another play would anyone know or care?). There are good things about being a playwright in New York City. You can get absurdly good underemployed actors for your self-produced showcases. There is a staggering array of places to go have drinks and commiserate with fellow artists. But for me, I never got a great sense of community. I had some great individual experiences, but no long-slow build.


When I left I ended up where so many of us end up who have given up on their lofty dreams and come to grips with living in the real world: Jersey. So now I live and write plays in Princeton. For a while I thought this meant I was in playwright purgatory. We all want to write plays that matter, plays that rock peoples’ world, plays with “holy-shit-did-that-just-happen?” scenes. I just didn’t imagine such plays could be written in Central New Jersey. But I got over it and tried to write them anyway. Eventually I found a small, miraculous theatre in Trenton that produces new plays called Passage that has become a sort of artistic home.


But I also came to appreciate my proximity to Philly. Princeton hovers within the hour-ish range of Philadelphia and I began to realize that maybe if I hung out around enough I could call myself a Philadelphia-area playwright. And what’s interesting is how much I’m pleased to be able to (barely) refer to myself that way. I grew up watching theatre around Philadelphia (my father being a director in the city and theatre professor at Villanova), so I’ve always known there was great stuff happening here. But I think it took living in New York to really appreciate the strength of the Philadelphia theatre community.


I was lucky enough to be part of Playpenn in 2010, which is really a pretty major event in the regional theatre world. But when I arrived it was amazing to me how tight-knit people were: actors, directors, designers, writers and theatre professionals who really effing care about what they do.  Just about everyone seems to know each other and, more often than not, really like each other.  People want to see their fellow artists succeed. They post passionate FB posts about plays they are not involved with. I think this may be because people in the Philadelphia theatre community are here because they want to be here. They want to build a life in the theatre that can be maintained over time, that can grow and evolve.


I had another great experience as part of the National New Play Network’s showcase at Interact. And when Passage Theatre’s production of one of my plays won a Barrymore award (RIP)  a couple years ago, I felt I earned some Philly-area playwright street cred.


So now comes Philly OMPF. Already it’s been a great chance to reconnect with some very smart, very cool people. To me, a one-minute play celebrates the insanity of a playwright’s effort to connect with an audience in live performance. We all have less time than we think we do. A one-minute play puts the stopwatch on and makes us realize how little time we really have to make the connection.   I look forward to seeing what kind of mayhem we Philly-area playwrights can come up with in our 80 minutes. And I look forward to drinks after.


 -Jim Christy


The First Philadelphia One-Minute Play Festival in Partnership with InterAct Theatre Company runs July 29-31st. Proceeds to benefit the Philadelphia New Play Initiave-a program dedicated to supporting and uplifting the voices of local Philadelphia Playwrights. Tickets are $20 and available here. 



Categories: Playwright Posts

All You Can Ask For (In One Minute or Less) by David Robson


 David Robson Photo

All You Can Ask For (In One Minute or Less)


The idea sounded crazy: write two one-minute plays. Easy, you say? Nothing to it? All I could think of was, “Are you kidding me? I don’t know how to do that.” I’m used to working with a free and open sky, no limits. You want three acts and three hours, I can do that…I think. Ask me to weave a one-set, two-character, 90-minute play—sure, I kind of know what that looks like. But what can be said, shown, or done in 60 seconds?

I should back up and tell you how this all came to be. More than a year ago, InterAct Theatre Company’s producing artistic director Seth Rozin invited me and a gaggle of Philadelphia-area writers to participate in a meet and greet with Dominic D’Andrea, the New York-based producing artistic director of The One-Minute Play Festival.

The opportunity to spend three hours in a room full of other playwrights initially filled me with dread. Writers of plays can be a volatile lot: self-involved, envious, insecure, angry, and that’s just me. Unlike novelists and poets, even once we’ve thought of an idea, drafted it, revised it, and shown it to people we can trust, we still have to find a way to get the thing produced. And that last part of the process alone can be a minefield of bruised egos, petty jealousies, and back-bending obsequiousness.

Seth’s invitation also spoke of free snacks and beer, so I said I’d be there. Once inside the Adrienne theatre’s Skybox, I reconnected with old friends and became acquainted with new ones. I grabbed a beer, took deep breath, and prepared to give this thing a shot. Before Dominic introduced himself, we stood around making small talk for a while and, you know what, I almost kind of liked it.

Over the next 12 months, I attended all of the three or four sessions that Dominic led. His enthusiasm for one-minute plays and his interest in learning as much about the Philadelphia theatre scene put me at ease. All of us participated in exercises, brainstormed, and began a dialogue about what we most value about theater, the arts, and Philly in general.

By the last session—held this past spring—I noticed that I even looked forward to conversing again with my playwriting peers. Writing plays is not brick-laying or brain surgery, but it’s not easy either. It was enlightening and fun to talk shop, have a few laughs, and plug-in with other people doing what I’m trying to do. The more time I spent within this theater-community experience, the more my initial reluctance melted into a sense of gratitude that I’d been invited in the first place.

Still, it’s one thing to hang out and shoot the breeze with a group of artists. But how in the world was I going to tell a complete story in less than 60 seconds? In one minute you can be suggestive, hint at a larger world involving your characters, and, if you’re lucky, give the audience an intriguing experience. But beyond that, you’re limited by time; you can only do, say, and present so much in that miniscule time frame. How constricting, I thought.

After the last session, I went home and thought some more: Did writing a one-minute play mean starting with some heavy idea—death, identity, destiny—and molding it into a mind-blowing moment that would linger in the mind for days? Perhaps, I could set up a final reversal that, in the last seconds (57, 58, 59…), would shock and awe: “Granny is a serial killer! OMG!” But that seems cheap, doesn’t it? I’ve seen enough M. Night Shyamalan movies to know that after a while the surprise ending gets to be rather…unsurprising.

Between the deadline announcement and the deadline itself, I planned to write a whole host of one-minute plays. You know, write a play a day for two weeks and pick the two I liked best. (Invited playwrights were asked to submit two plays each.) Unfortunately, these best laid plans crumbled in the face of household chores, my kid’s dentist appointments, and the last three episodes of House of Cards. A minute long, I thought? No sweat. I can pump that out in, like, two minutes, right? Wrong. I avoided the work at all costs until the deadline began to loom. During those few weeks, I imagined three dozen others local playwrights sitting before their computer screens or note pads and suffering the same kind of artistic lethargy I was.

I also noticed that instead of writing I was reading a lot. At the top of my stack was a biography of Beat Generation patron saint and recovered junkie William S. Burroughs. The Beats represented a hole in my education, so I hoped to catch up. If there’s a BC/AD moment in the life of Burroughs it has to be what happened in 1951: While living in Mexico City, where his heroin/morphine addition was largely ignored by local authorities, a drunken Burroughs told a room full of party-goers that he and his wife Joan would perform a trick. He then asked his equally soused spouse to place a whiskey glass on top of her head; he’d shoot it off with his pistol. He missed. The bullet pierced Joan’s forehead, killing her instantly. This awful, tragic moment became my one minute. I revised it a few times and, along with a piece about two parents saying goodbye to their grown child, I send my entries to Dominic.

I still don’t know if I “did it right,” but that’s a feeling I’m used to as a playwright. As a comedy or drama of any length develops there is a lot of adding and subtracting. You want the thing to live and breathe in the mouths of real-life actors, and at times the sweet spot can be hard to locate. Writing a one-minute play forced me to sharpen my skills. 60 seconds, when you count out-loud, is a long time. A lot can happen, but it doesn’t have to. Characters say many things (quickly) or say almost nothing at all.

Although limited by the clock, the one-minute form opened a new world of possibilities and, ironically, provided an unexpected kind of freedom: the freedom not to too think hard or agonize too much over what comes out because there is no next moment. It begins; it’s over. The beauty of the form is just that: it asks you to reckon with a single, fleeting moment—to take a snapshot like one in your family album. And if our modest plays evoke cracked smile or a pregnant pause or a small sigh of recognition in those who see them, well, what more can you ask?


-David Robson


The First Philadelphia One-Minute Play Festival in Partnership with InterAct Theatre Company runs July 29-31st. Proceeds to benefit the Philadelphia New Play Initiave-a program dedicated to supporting and uplifting the voices of local Philadelphia Playwrights. Tickets are $20 and available here




Categories: Playwright Posts

Honest Livin’ in the City of Brotherly Love

July 16, 2013 3 comments



Honest Livin’ in the City of Brotherly Love



“A theater company whose mission is to support new and emerging voices just announced their season – it includes a play by a Pulitzer Prize winner. After reading the announcement, I laughed so loud that I woke the kids.”


I thought it was just another funny-cum-tragic status update. Instead it unleashed a firestorm of debate. Playwrights virtually bitch slapping producers. Producers typing shade at playwrights. Actors and directors chiming in with sighs and sympathies. In fact, some of the responses got so vicious that I deleted the post.


The reaction to my status update emphasized the need for an open and honest discussion about the reality of the new business of theatre – the post-recession, post-on-demand business of theatre and how these realities influence play selection. It is time to “come to Jesus,” as we say in the South, and openly admit that we face limitations in terms of what many of us can develop and produce. And that we need to share those limitations in order to best support the work that we can create.


Many of our conversations about play development and production selection feel like the uncomfortable break-up of a comfortable couple. You know what I mean. Neither party wants to hurt the other so you end up bickering over who gets the single copy of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” when you really should be discussing your unfulfilling sex life. You know. That conversation. However, how much better would life be in the long run, if we could just have the hard conversation and be honest with one another.


Because we know what the dishonest conversation leads to:


Playwrights are frustrated with producers because producers’ stated interests (as codified by mission statements, development guidelines, etc.) and the actual work that they select to produce or develop are not in sync. For example, the McCarter’s 2013 Lab Festival program with a goal to “build a bridge to emerging theater creators” gave a Lab slot this year to Steven Dietz, whom they touted as “one of America’s most widely-produced and published contemporary playwrights.” Now, I love the McCarter’s work and Dietz absolutely should have his work supported, but emerging playwrights were upset and disappointed that a slot went to such a well-established playwright.


Producers are frustrated with playwrights because they feel that playwrights are not honest about how their work fits into a larger aesthetic and, therefore, are submitting their work to every opportunity instead of to every opportunity that’s appropriate for their work. As a literary manager at a regional theater, over half the work that I received was completely at odds with our aesthetic, and this included work submitted by agents. Not only did it lead to frustration; it meant that I had less time to concentrate on the work that actually fit our needs, shortchanging everyone in the process.


However, we could relieve some of the anger, stress, and frustration while strengthening our community by simply being honest with one another.  Here are a few discussion questions to get the conversation started:


-What if producers let a playwright know within a shorter amount of time whether or not they will be producing the play? Instead of asking for constant rewrites or putting off production, season after season, maybe it would just be best to admit that a play is not a good fit and it’s time to move on.


-What if playwrights and their collaborators going through development hell of a new piece stopped submitting it for a season, to take the opportunity to step back and reevaluate whether it’s worth pushing forward?


What if the selection guidelines for submission opportunities that producers and developers release were more specific – for example, including information like maximum cast size?


-What if there are more festival showcases without a development component so that developmental resources are saved for works that artists are actually interested in developing? Many playwrights submit to development organizations even when they are not interested in continuing development on a piece simply because they want the work to be seen by industry professionals, but the playwright doesn’t have the connections to get the industry leaders to attend a self-produced reading.


-What if producers’ submission guidelines more accurately reflect their final selections, and playwrights stop script-bombing every opportunity that arises but instead submit to the select few that actually fit their script?


-What if playwrights – and it is incredibly hard to see your own work objectively – but what if we do a bit more research about the organizations that we submit to and are a bit more honest with ourselves about where our plays are in the arc of their development?


One of the reasons that I enjoy living and working in Philly is the “no bullshit” approach to life. Philadelphians speak their minds, for better or worse, whether or not you’re interested. They’ll speak their mind at home, on the subway, or at two a.m. at Quig’s Pub wearing a hairnet, high tops, and little else.


As a working playwright this honesty (“we like your voice but we’re not gonna produce your play due to X, Y, and Z, however, Such-and-Such over at So-and-So theater does this kind of thing”) is difficult to hear but, ultimately, helped me figure out where my voice fit within the theatre community. Then I could connect with collaborators who share my sensibilities when creating new work, and tailor my submissions to appropriate companies. As a result, I am more satisfied with the work I’m creating, and also feel that I’m refining and strengthening that voice. I’ve had three world premiere productions at three different professional theaters in Philadelphia within five years. Finding the right fit, quickly and honestly, was crucial to the success of all of those productions.


There are many reasons to make theatre in Philadelphia, from the thriving theatre scene with groups working in all types of theatre (university, fringe, LORT, etc.) in a variety of styles and aesthetics, to the relatively low cost of living which allows artists to buy homes and begin families. Of course, we have a few areas that we need to improve, especially when it comes to supporting emerging artists. However, I think that one of the keys to our success is that producers are pretty honest about what they’re interested in producing and theatre creators are generally honest about the type of work they are interested in making. This enables artists in the community to form strong, long lasting collaborations that yield exciting, innovative work.


Unfortunately, there will probably always be some writers who submit to every submission opportunity no matter how appropriate, and there will always be some producers who misrepresent what they are looking for. However, after working in theaters around the country for over a decade and settling in Philly for the past five years, for me the hard, honest conversation has lead to a more productive creative life than I could have ever imagined.


-Jacqueline Goldfinger


The First Philadelphia One-Minute Play Festival in Partnership with InterAct Theatre Company runs July 29-31st. Proceeds to benefit the Philadelphia New Play Initiave-a program dedicated to supporting and uplifting the voices of local Philadelphia Playwrights. Tickets are $20 and available here




Categories: Playwright Posts

The City of Big Shoulders




Chicago has a hell of a reputation to live up to. It’s a city that is famous for, among other things, burning to the ground and then rebuilding.  From scratch. It gave a home to the nation’s first skyscraper, and it’s been built on steel and sweat ever since. Even its nicknames promise something big: The City of Big Shoulders. The City That Works. The Second City.

The Second City. That’s a name that stings a little. As any second child can tell you, second just isn’t good enough. There is first, and there is ignored.  It puts a fire under your ass that can never, ever be allowed to go out. Because the moment you settle for second is the moment you allow yourself to be forgotten.

When I first moved to Chicago, I couldn’t figure out why everyone seemed to be draping themselves in the city’s flag. It’s everywhere: t-shirts, bumper stickers, artwork, logos, signs, tattoos, even dog collars. If you can squeeze four stars and a white bar on to it, someone in Chicago owns three. I had never lived in a place that felt so strongly about what it was, and what it was meant to do. It didn’t take me long to start understanding the feeling.

We are a churning mess of past, present and future. Unlike most of the Midwest, we’ve got a substantial amount of history to build on. Unlike most of the is East Coast, our history isn’t something we can live next to, it’s a ghost that haunts us. The great fire did more than just clean the slate; it made us realize that there was more we could do. The goal wasn’t to simply come back, it was to come back better. It wasn’t to replace, it was to exceed. We’ve never shaken that feeling.

We’re a city of drastic inequity. You can go from the opulence of the Gold Coast to the out-of-sight, out-of-mind South Side without too strenuous of a trip. You can flip from box scores for any of the city’s sports teams to obituaries of fifteen year olds killed in gun violence without really trying. Crime is a major issue, unless it’s not you’re not in “that” neighborhood, in which case you’re probably fine.

We’re a city that keeps trying. We’re not perfect. Some days, we don’t even look like we even approach “good”. But every day, we fight for it. We get angry, something that is so important. We remember what it is possible for us to accomplish.  Good enough just isn’t good enough. There is always room for improvement: personal, social, you name it, we know we can do better. And day by day, we do.

It’s not the same thing to any two people who talk about it. For some, it’s more grime than glamour. For others, this is the city they’ve been dreaming of all their life. In the same day, it can be what you curse when you wake up and what you thank God for when you go to sleep. But there’s one thing everyone can agree on; it’s home.

Like I said, it’s something different for everyone. I can’t speak for my fellow playwrights. But I can tell you what I know: To make art in Chicago, you can’t forget what this city is. Any of it. Ever. You need to know what the city means to you, and you need to have a working understanding of what it means to everyone else. I know that sounds impossible. Hell, even if it’s possible it sounds intimidating, if not  downright terrifying. But there’s a reason everyone in this city wears the flag. It’s part of us. The city gets into your pores, and you start thinking about what it means to be, well, Chicago. The stories you need to tell aren’t just your stories any more. They belong to you and your four million closest friends.

This is not a bashful city; if there is something to say, we’ll say it. This is not a timid city; we’ll listen to what you have to say and tell you exactly what we think of it. It’s this combination of knowing you have an audience mixed with the understanding that you have something to prove that makes Chicago theater special.

We can’t take anything for granted; every seat we fill is a ticket earned. Every person is different, and they want to know what we have to offer. Can we show them something they’ve never seen before? Can we give them a show they’ve seen dozens of times and make them think it’s brand new? We need to.  We know we have something to prove. We have to show that we’re part of this city. Prove that we’ve earned our spot here.

But we don’t do it just for them. Art in Chicago happens at the intersection of need and want. We face a drive to prove ourselves, but at the same time we know that we’re making the city a better place. We do this because we love it, and we know the people around us will love it too, as soon as we get a chance to show it to them. We are allowed to make our own rules, and speak our mind. We are allowed to be honest.

Let me say that again, just to make sure that I was clear; we are allowed to be honest. There is nothing more dangerous than an honest artist.

We are part of this city, just as it’s a part of us. We can say whatever we want about it. And it will listen. It may not like it, but it will listen. We can try to make it laugh, we can try to make it think. It is in our power to make it proud of everything it’s done, and ashamed of everything it still needs to do.  We do not need to lie, we do not need to pretend. After all, who can we trust if we can’t trust ourselves?

All of this is why I love Chicago, why I’ll always be proud to wear its flag. Permission to create, and expectation to succeed. A city that writhes and squirms and does everything it can to fix itself, to improve itself. To never stop growing. A city that won’t take no for an answer. A city that will not be ignored.

Chicago. It’s the City of Big Shoulders. It’s the City That Works. And you damn well better believe it delivers.


-Axel Arth


The Third Annual Chicago One-Minute Play Festival in partnership with Victory Gardens Theater is Monday June 17th and Tues June 18th. Tickets are only $15 for almost 100 brand new plays, and are available here.



Categories: Playwright Posts

” A minute comes and goes with all its possibility. “

February 10, 2013 1 comment


jr photo color high res


When I was asked to write for The One-Minute Play Festival, I started thinking about what a minute is. And what I want from theater.


We all love a good story, but what does that mean? I’ve never really been a “Plot” kind of person. I don’t care about the twists and turns of cause and effect that get us to some climactic moment where we see what it all means and then there’s that little twist at the end so I feel the satisfaction of getting what I expected but in a different color.


What I really want (from theatre, from art, from life) is Mystery, Poetry, Absurdity, Joy, Connection, Surprise. My heart cracking open into space.


Three of the most satisfying theater pieces I’ve seen recently weren’t exactly theater: one was the Anne Hamilton installation at the Park Avenue Armory, The Event of a Thread, where I was able to feel at one with all of humanity, nature and reality plus I got to swing on a very tall swing; one was a video/puppetry/performance by Fleur Elise Noble, 2 Dimensional Life of Her, an oddly hopeful expression of existential dread; and the third was the Laurie Anderson/Kronos Quartet collaboration, Landfall: Scenes from My New Novel, where music became words and the combination broke my heart.


All three of these pieces offered me everything I want (see list above). They each also offered me a certain kind of narrative experience – a sort of story – albeit not the usual. I was not being asked to focus on what outcome I might desire or fear or expect; I was being invited to engage fully in my experience and let it rattle around inside me.

When I look at the world (or my life) as if it were a Hollywood movie, it’s not hard to feel like the narrative arc could use some work. But when I can focus on present experience without worrying or fantasizing how the story might play out, I can engage more directly and be more responsive to the moment. I know, pretty basic Be-Here-Now pop Buddhism 101.


But might our addiction to the Hollywood version of narrative be affecting more than how many rotten tomatoes we click in a movie review? How is it affecting our experience of theatre, of our culture, of our own lives and relationships with others? And how can we create something that might offer an alternative view of theatre, culture, life?


During one of his workshops in our Theatre MFA at Towson, I remember watching playwright Mac Wellman put a key ring, a blackboard eraser and a cup of coffee on the table in front of us and saying, “There you go. That’s a story.”


Our lives are an accumulation of our experiences, and our internal meaning-generators create stories around those experiences so that we can make sense of it all: you consider hitting “send” on that 2am email; you give a buck to the woman at the intersection or you don’t; you sleep in late and decide how that affects your morning. Each moment is filled with potentiality and has tendrils reaching out in all directions, but it’s also whole in itself. “Meaning” is the story created by the juxtaposition of one moment with another, one image with another, one experience with another. Each moment stands next to another moment, but we’re the ones creating the narrative (if you’ll excuse the short slide from Ram Dass to Sartre).


This is my first One-Minute Play Festival, and I’m thinking of how the event might relate to our experience of this thing called “Story.” Dozens of playwrights write their disparate moments, but there is already a gestalt: we are all in Baltimore, we have all written them in the past month, they are each less than a minute. We also received the same guidelines from Producing Artistic Director Dominic D’Andrea, who then curates the evening. So the story of this evening lives in all these separate moments, but it is only fully created by their order and juxtaposition, their direction and performance, the experience of all of us in the room.


A minute comes and goes with all its possibility. One follows another and we experience layers of meaning and resonance in how they come together in our minds. Put them all together and it’s an evening, a story, a life.


-Juanita Rockwell



Baltimore’s First One-Minute Play Festival in partnership with E.M.P. Collective is Feb 9th and 10th at 8PM at E.M.P. Tickets are $15 and available here. The Sunday performance will livestream on New Play TV. 




Categories: Playwright Posts

You in?

February 8, 2013 Leave a comment



The other week, dead of winter, I found myself in a darkened warehouse, packed tight with other strangers. Makeshift walls had been erected to define the space and cut the winter air. Still, we all sat in our coats and were better for it. Packed in with us was a live band scoring the scene as colorful overhead projections floated across, creating a most malleable set design.

No, that’s not right. I was in a basement as an immersive performance unfolded in a cacophony of noise and lights, actors and audience inhabiting the same world. The energy was palpable and electrifying.

Or was I in a tiny black box theatre watching a clever production of a Charles Mee play? Slinking into an old, neglected movie theatre only to be overwhelmed with a grandiose rock musical, laden with heroes, monsters, and plenty of shredding? Stepping up to a state-of-the-art facility for the regional premiere of a hit play?

Well, it was something like that.

The reality of the Baltimore theatre scene is that it is something akin to a choose-your-own-adventure novel (with an emphasis on adventure). Baltimore is a city of artistic dabblers, dreamers, and experimenters from all walks of life, culturally and professionally.  Artists are unafraid to work hard, have fun, be overwhelmingly successful, and sometimes fail miserably. The range of work produced here speaks to that curiosity and the adventurous spirit of both artist and audience. You’re just as likely to see some “notable” from a multimillion dollar organization rubbing elbows (and beer cans) in a DIY production as you are at an established theatre.

This “try and see” attitude coupled with an enthusiasm for the unexpected makes Baltimore a wonderful place to develop and experiment with new theatre works for EMP. Our focus is in new works, from idea to workshop to production. When we have a weird idea or an offbeat play by an emerging playwright we want to develop, there’s no shortage of folks who give their talent, time, and energy to make it a reality.

I think this is an exciting time for the Baltimore theatre scene and its burgeoning class of young, industrious theatre makers which is why the opportunity to co-produce the One Minute Play Festival really seemed fitting. With the festival, we’re bringing together all these folks as well as established voices in the community. Under one roof, many voices, all Baltimore homegrown.

I hope that this is an opportunity of wider exposure for both artists and audience which fosters future collaborations and projects down the line. However, with over fifty plays, a slew of playwrights, actors, directors, musicians, and visual artists, the one sure bet is that it’s gonna be a wild, fun ride for everyone involved this weekend.

You in?


-Carly J Bales


Baltimore’s First One-Minute Play Festival in partnership with E.M.P. Collective is Feb 9th and 10th at 8PM at E.M.P. Tickets are $15 and available here. The Sunday performance will livestream on New Play TV. 

Categories: Playwright Posts

There’s something in the water!

February 1, 2013 Leave a comment




We moved to Baltimore in 2002. I was furious. Furious! I wanted to stay in Miami. At least I had friends in Miami. At least there are Latinos like me in Miami. At least my artistic pursuits could blossom in Miami. And of course, there was the beach and that soft, soft sand.

So, what did I do? I pouted for a very long time. I didn’t do much writing. I didn’t go to plays or shows. I did a lot of nursing, dishwashing, and carpooling and found myself pregnant all over again. Baby number four, here we go again! I think there was something in the water.

Then BAM! I received that ONE -TWO sort of punch to the face that only life could give you. It knocked me completely off balance.

A few months after baby number 4 came into our lives, my husband came home with a cancer diagnosis. WHAT! He seemed too young to have melanoma, the most dangerous kind of skin cancer. Oh boy…and now we have all these little kids. If the surgery didn’t get rid of it, then there wouldn’t be much hope. I cried a lot. I prayed a lot for him, for me. (And yes, he survived.)

Now, this is when listening to one’s intuition, for me, became of supreme importance. I listened to that teeny, tiny voice inside my head: If you were to die tomorrow, did you do what you really wanted today? I knew the answer in my heart. And sometimes, an artist must heed the call regardless of how crazy it appears.

I pulled out my old plays that I had written at Tisch School of the Arts. It had been about twelve years since they had seen the light of day. And, I liked them. They were like old, familiar friends. I rewrote one and “Kosher with Salsa” was produced through the Baltimore Playwright’s Festival. This led to joining the Baltimore Playwrights group, which then led to more opportunities.

I joined the steering committee of the Jewish Theatre Workshop. Yes, there is a Sabbath observing theater in Baltimore! From time to time, I work in their box office. I was recently hired to be a “bilingual set of eyes” on a new play that will premiere at Single Carrot Theatre this spring—“The V.I.P” by Aldo Pantoja. Would I have been able to evolve in another city? I’m not sure.This is something that I discovered and it truly is Baltimore’s little secret: Theatre abounds in this city–not just traditional theatre with a subscriber base, but all kinds of theatricality (magic, music, acrobatics, storytelling, spoken word, performance art; I hope I didn’t miss anything). I could go out every night if I wanted and experience something new. Even if you’re looking for theatre that doesn’t exist, you could probably get it going. Among creative artists, you will find more lovables than dislikables, more open hearts than closed minds, more unobstructed windows than locked gates. Creativity overflows here. There must be something in the water!

Even with all this said, sometimes the waters aren’t so sweet and the drinks don’t bare charming names—Lonely Lolita, Stifled Stella, Frustrated Fridah. When I feel isolated at the Imagination Station and have had too many cocktails, I ask myself: What is a good, next step? So, this is where looking around and extending beyond my watering hole comes in. I used to write mostly plays for and about Latinos. I still do. But, I have expanded the cast to include other races and use Baltimore as my backdrop. Race, culture, religion and the kinds of things that make us hate or love each other is at the core of my current work. This city is pulsating with character!

Baltimoreans are a receptive and thirsty people. They want good theatre experiences. But they also want to see themselves reflected in what they pay for. Should we forget this? Baltimore is not just a black/white city. There are other groups within these extremes and they should be included in the conversation.

Sometimes, I can find myself fantasizing about an actor/playwright/director lab, a place where theater peeps can play and test out scenes—a playlab for people who create, live, and love in Baltimore. And, I am not talking about play labs that require approval or an application. (Please…no more applications!) It’s not easy to know what a play’s strengths or weaknesses are if you haven’t flexed your dramatic muscles. I wish I could tell you I had artistic collaborators. I have the Baltimore Playwrights Group. Thank goodness for this thoughtful, intelligent bunch of people!

This One Minute Play Festival feels like a theatrical blind date. A person named OMPF is coming to Charm City to take me out for a drink. Actually, OMPF is taking a bunch of playwrights out for a drink—so it’ll be like speed dating. And, you know what? I’m grateful for my one sip, my one drink, and my one minute.


-Miryam Madrigal


Baltimore’s First One-Minute Play Festival in partnership with E.M.P. Collective is Feb 9th and 10th at 8PM at E.M.P. Tickets are $15 and available here. The Sunday performance will livestream on New Play TV. 



Categories: Playwright Posts

Theater of Place.

January 28, 2013 2 comments



I was born on the Fourth of July in 1968 in what I consider one of the most American cities in the United States: Baltimore. It was a time of tremendous transformation for the city. Huge stretches of blight became gentrified, quaint shopping and tourist attractions right in front of our eyes all throughout the 1970s. A thriving population that made it the 7th largest city in the country the year I was born dropped by almost 19% in the 1970s and 80s, even as (to my young mind) life in Charm City got better and better. The National Aquarium! The Inner Harbor! The Orioles! What wasn’t there to love?


As an adult, of course, I understand that the story of Baltimore during that era isn’t quite as simple and clean as it seemed at the time. But that’s the era in which I fell in permanent love with the city, and for that reason, I’ll probably always see it with rose-colored glasses.


Of course, I do have a present-day relationship with Baltimore, too; I live only a half-hour away in the suburbs of DC, and I visit all the time. I’ve had my car broken into, I’ve seen decay where I didn’t know it existed, I’ve seen places I treasured a long time ago be torn down or fall into complete disrepair… so I understand it’s not a dreamscape. But still… every single time my car nudges off 95 North into the city, and the landscape of Baltimore blooms into view, I feel a fresh sense of homecoming… or maybe of belonging. I continue to love the city with everything I’ve got.


Visiting Baltimore now feels a bit like going back in time. Everywhere I go there are historic echoes: memories from my own childhood, of course, but also the deep resonance of history. The Old St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Charles Street, for example, takes me back not only to a eulogy I delivered there when I was a young man, but three hundred years into the past when the church was first founded, its pews filled with lions from American history: Supreme Court justices and signatories to the Declaration of Independence. The Tiffany windows and Italianate bas-reliefs inspire story after story after story. I couldn’t suppress them even if I wanted to.


My relationship with Baltimore probably explains why I’ve written about the city for so long and so often; beginning with the crude sketches and poems I banged out on the typewriter I kept in my basement when I lived in the suburbs of the city. My master’s thesis—I got an M.A. in poetry from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins—was a collection of poems inspired in large part by the neighborhoods surrounding the Inner Harbor. My first play, THE TREEHOUSE, is set in the suburb I grew up in, and my later work includes a fable that takes place entirely on the U.S.S. Constellation. Not long ago I had the chance to write a short film about listening to the national anthem at Camden Yards for Centerstage, and it might have been the most emotionally fulfilling experience of my creative life.


All of this is to say that when Dominic D’Andrea offered me a chance to contribute to the Baltimore One-Minute Play Festival, I honestly never even considered writing about anything other than the city itself. I mean: I could have done anything! But it just never occurred to me. As those who attend the festival will note, I wrote about the National Aquarium and, for the second time in my career, the U.S.S. Constellation. (I will admit: I am obsessed with that ship.) I like what I wrote, and I hope others do, too.


Actually, the truth is… I didn’t write about either place. I wrote stories set in those places. But I can’t shake the feeling that without those places, my stories wouldn’t exist. Ancient Romans believed that certain meaningful structures—churches, for example, or homes—were protected by a genius loci, a spirit that was often depicted in great detail in elaborate icons. I think I may treat certain inspirational places as if they’re home to a fabula loci—a complex, continually-evolving story complete with manifold characters, themes, and plots, any thread of which would repay a listener’s attention.


What does that mean, exactly? I’m honestly not sure. I know that I spend lots of time trying to conjure a place before I start writing. I browse through as many images as I can find; I sometimes create a Pinterest board of images, then leave the board open in a browser while I write. I read whatever I can about the place: non-fiction, preferably, thought fiction will do. And I spend a lot of time looking for symbols I can integrate into whatever story I end up telling: points of focus that might have found their way into all the narratives that ever unfolded in a particular location, like the metal fence that surrounds the original Washington Monument (yes, that’s in Baltimore) or the cobblestones that make up Thames Street in Fells Point. They often end up being significant for me.


I really wish I thought I had it in me to do for Baltimore (or at least for part of it) what August Wilson did for Pittsburgh’s Hill District. I’m daunted, however, not only by the enormity of the project, but also by the inevitable comparisons to Wilson’s work of immense genius… comparisons in which I would certainly come out on the short end. (The younger me—the kid with the courage to stand up at a very young age and deliver that eulogy in the Old St. Paul’s Episcopal Church—is shouting “Come on, come on, do it!” as I write this blog post.) Perhaps I’ll get old and foolish enough to try it, even on a smaller scale, though I think it’s more likely that I’ll just keep letting the lived story of Baltimore—the one I experience every time I visit—just continue to play out in my head: a theater-for-one version of Wilson’s Century Cycle.


Nah, I’ll never stop writing about Baltimore and its fabula loci. I’m in love—the kind of love that wants the whole world to know. And I probably will be forever.


-Gwydion Suilebhan


Baltimore’s First One-Minute Play Festival in partnership with E.M.P. Collective is Feb 9th and 10th at 8PM at E.M.P. Tickets are $15 and available here. The Sunday performance will livestream on New Play TV. 



Categories: Playwright Posts

The Wind, Ever At My Back

January 20, 2013 Leave a comment



When Dominic invited me to write for the NJ OMPF, I knew what I was going to write. One piece would be about my firstborn son discovering cannoli. The other would be about an old friend.

I don’t live in NJ anymore, but I spent about a third of my life there. Went to high school, learned to drive, dipped a toe or three into theatre, met my future wife though we had no idea at the time. And I lived not so far away from Passages Theatre, as it turns out. I lived out near Princeton Junction & Grover’s Mill. I was there for all the War of the Worlds 50th Anniversary stuff. I graduated from West Windsor Plainsboro High School back when there was only one.

There were a couple of teachers who really got me. They knew where I was coming from, they were able to challenge me and channel my energy, they let me write. English teachers, the choir director, those make sense. And then there was my first social studies teacher.

Back then, the school went from seventh grade through twelfth, there was no middle school. I had transferred in at the tail end of seventh grade, marvelling at the early 1970s styling of the building. Lots of open spaces and team teaching, very few windows. Curves and angles in odd juxtaposition, a sunken library, a mezzanine, a theatre with no wings and an orchestra loft…it’s an interesting building.

I really didn’t get to know many people that month, but I did like my social studies teacher. He learned quickly that I was a writer–I’d always been a writer–so we got to talking about books, movies, plays, all that jazz.

Ninth grade, I took his elective class, Anthropology/Modern Europe. It was two short classes, each lasting half the year. I didn’t really have any interest in the topic per se, I took it mainly to hang out for forty minutes a day. Of course, I wound up working more and harder in that class than in the required ones.

Eleventh grade, I took his IPLE class. That’s Institute for Politics and Legal Education. Again, probably did more work in that elective than in anything “real.” And since I haven’t gone into a career in either politics or law…

The rest of the time, we’d catch up between classes, hang out in study halls. He read a lot of random short stories I’d turned out, and helped find me a job as a student reporter for the local newspaper. That evolved from a news column to a humor column when the editor realized his readers didn’t care about high school news & events. That led to other writing work around Princeton. I’m pretty sure he had a hand in getting me nominated for the Governor’s School of the Arts. At the time, the school was used to having math and science stars, but they weren’t sure what to do with us writing types.

His philosophy had always been to teach students how to think for themselves. It wasn’t so much about memorizing facts and figures as how we processed and understood them.

Early on, he had a parent/teacher conference with my mother where he said, point blank, “David learns more at home than he does from here.” He was one of the few who was happy to work with that, to take up that gauntlet.

At the end of Anthropology, we had an oral presentation. We were each to choose a culture and describe where it came from & (if applicable) where it had gone. We had to have three examples of items unique to this culture, and then explain how & why they had developed these items. I asked if I could make up a culture. He didn’t even blink. The rest of the class wasn’t thrilled, but it was an elective, it didn’t really matter. Once we started presenting, they realized I’d also woven a lot of jokes into the presentation. It was by no means serious, but it took what we had learned about cultures & how they evolved, how they developed specific tools, etc. (I’d been reading “Always Coming Home” by Ursula K. LeGuin at the time, so making up a culture from whole cloth was already on my mind.)

That was the first time I made up the subject of a major project, but it wouldn’t be the last. Thanks to him and his example, they were always fully sanctioned, and they all earned A grades.

He also gave me the best single piece of writing advice I’ve ever gotten. “The only way to become a better writer is to write.” I said that editing was important, too. “I cut that part.” Easy laugh line. “But yeah, you won’t know what to edit if you don’t keep writing.” Dropped the mic.

We stayed in touch after I’d graduated. I was in the area for several years after that, so I’d go out to the occasional soccer match–he was a well-decorated soccer coach for the school. Whenever there was an alumni thing, we’d catch up. After I’d moved, married and had a child, we went back to visit when the choir director retired.

A quick tangent. By that point, they’d built additions onto the school, added windows everywhere, closed off some open spaces and made it much more like a traditional school building. They’d also split into a middle & high school, then a second high school over in Plainsboro, which was very much a traditionally designed school building. And it was full of windows. My wife can attest to this: we wandered the new building, pushing the baby stroller, and I kept growling, “Fucking windows! THEY HAVE FUCKING WINDOWS!” Fortunately, it was long after school had let out; we were there for an alumni choir rehearsal. I just needed to share that detail. He loved hearing about that.

I introduced him to the new family, he told me about his new family, we traded little local gossip. He was stunned by the baby–our firstborn was only a few months old–and enjoyed hearing the story of how I met his mother. And as we left the building, he said, “May the road rise up before you, the wind ever at your back.”

That was the last time I saw Mr. Welsh. Call me Brian, he’d said, you’ve earned it, you’ve spawned. We traded email addresses, promised to stay in touch. Traded a little detail here & there, followed each other’s news that popped up online. But life gets in the way.

I saw it first on Twitter. Another alum, one year behind me, tweeted an RIP. That didn’t seem right, so I hit Google. A story in each of the local papers, a mention on one of the tv stations. It was more than just a death, it was much, much worse. I tweeted back, we shared our shock, grief, all the Kubler-Ross stages. I wouldn’t be surprised if people in the cast, the crew, the audience recognize the story, it was in all the papers there for a few days.

Even now, two and a half years later, it doesn’t seem real.

I don’t want to say any more before the festival. All you need to know is, the play is set in a bar. It’s later that night. And this one minute play is dedicated to the memory of Brian Welsh. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.



-David J. Loehr

David J. Loehr is a playwright, artist-in-residence with Riverrun Theatre Company, and the editor & artistic director of 2amt.


The 3rd Annual NJ OMPF in partnership with Passage Theatre is Saturday Jan 9th at 8PM and Sun Jan 10th at 7PM. THe Sun performance will stream live on New Play TV. Tickets are $15 and available here. 



Categories: Playwright Posts

My Garden State

January 18, 2013 Leave a comment

Amy E. Witting



A minute of time is such a delicious measurement of a theatrical moment.  I’ve never written a one-minute play before and didn’t know how to write a one-minute play.  But I did it (twice) – in multiple one-minute intervals.  The thing is – Jersey is becoming more and more part of my identity the longer I have lived away from the state.  I have found myself defending my roots more often these days.  I didn’t come from the South (Jersey that is) – I grew up in a bedroom community (not sure what that even means) of New York City.  The skyline just hazy enough in the distance to feel the energy of the city that never sleeps.  I didn’t have high hair, aqua net, and a love for spray tans, but I had a community of bursting creativity that allowed me to explore my writing at a very early age.

I’m not sure how many, if any, Maple trees were in Maplewood growing up, but it was a quaint town full of so many possibilities of adventure right off the New Jersey Transit Line.  A quick thirty minutes to Penn Station my love for writing on trains started, as I would take any opportunity to jump ship and explore the concrete jungle I now call home.   Those minutes in transit would turn into pages of a play, short story, or memory that I needed to simply put down on paper.   I kept many of these stories to myself because I was, and still am, horrible at spelling and grammar.   Luckily I’ve discovered the amazing tool of an editor or kind friend who is happy to help.  During the lazy summer days at the town pool I would get lost in worlds that I created.  I never realized when I was growing up how lucky I was to live in such an amazing town in an underrated state.

My pride for Jersey wasn’t always forefront on my mind.  In fact when I went off to college in upstate New York I often never admitted what state I was from.  Always saying I lived “outside the city”.  The City, in my opinion, made me sound cool and hip and edgy.  Clearly I was also close-minded in thinking that there was only one city in the whole country that mattered.   When it slipped out that I was, in fact, from The Garden State – people would ask me, “What exit?”  I never understood, and I still don’t know what exit I lived off of.  As time went on and Snooki was born, raised, and let loose on television I realized what the world was seeing was not the place I called home.

Maplewood, New Jersey is where I learned how to unlock my voice. It’s where I learned to express myself.  It’s where I learned that no matter what I would be embraced as an artist.  I was never steered on a different path, always encouraged by teachers, always told by my parents to follow my dreams…even if my dreams were to never be in a math class again and create absurd stories about Cat Knappers with cheese problems.  Recently I was down at my parent’s home (now in South Jersey which is an entirely different place than North Jersey) I went through some boxes filled with memorabilia from the eighteen years of living in Dirty Jerz.  What I discovered was my life today is pretty similar to what it was like growing up in Maplewood.  Granted I no longer sneak around going to parties or have to depend on my parents for rides to my wide range of activities, but I am still writing, performing, and living a very creative life.   I run into more and more people, including one of the directors for the OMPF, that live in Maplewood.  My one play was being rehearsed at the culture center I know well.  It’s amazing how that small community that I can draw a map of in my mind is still thriving as such a creative town in a beautifully underrated state.

Perhaps all the bad press on reality television is just a cover to keep the gem that Jersey really is locked up safe to those who know it well.  I’m proud to be from the Blueberry Capital of the world, and really looking forward to seeing what can happen in one minute.

-Amy E. Witting


The 3rd Annual NJ OMPF in partnership with Passage Theatre is Saturday Jan 9th at 8PM and Sun Jan 10th at 7PM. THe Sun performance will stream live on New Play TV. Tickets are $15 and available here. 




Categories: Playwright Posts