Mixed Blood’s Amanda White Thietje on Radical Hospitality

February 28, 2013 Leave a comment

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Mixed Blood Theatre was founded by Jack Reuler 37 seasons ago, in 1976, with a mission to “promotes cultural pluralism and individual equality through artistic excellence, using theater to address artificial barriers that keep people from succeeding in American society”. That commitment to outreach is still central to our work at the theatre today, and continues to shape access and audience engagement efforts in every form. The notion of removing barriers is at the heart of Mixed Blood’s work.

Radical Hospitality, the no-cost admission effort that is changing the way we operate at Mixed Blood, started as a program that allowed the theatre to give away half of the seats for every performance—at no cost.  The initiative came out of almost a decade of research and strategic planning around creating greater access to live theatre for Twin Cities audiences.  An informal and staff-driven “strategic plan” was established in 1999-2000, and it guided operating ideals for the organization until a formal plan was introduced by the Board some years later. In pursuit of these strategic commitments, Mixed Blood built a foundation of access efforts that would support the coming decade.   With the belief that who attends the theatre is at least as important as how many attend, Mixed Blood staff and Board spent these years exploring ways in which to eliminate barriers to access.

In 2009, with funding from the newly established Minnesota Legacy amendment (which allowed for an increase in state sales tax with a dedicated percentage of that increase to go to the arts) to support this research, Mixed Blood staff and Board conducted a formal strategic planning process and revisited mission, vision, and core values.  Connecting mission, a vision that includes revolutionizing access, a core value of being egalitarian, and a strategic goal of developing new methods to attract and retain targeted audiences, they went in pursuit of a direct answer to the question, “What are the barriers to access for live theatre in the Twin Cities?”

That year, Mixed Blood hired a disability liaison and a Latino liaison, and a Latino Advisory Council was established.  Focus groups with leaders of disability organizations were conducted. Both groups identified cost and cultural content as barriers to participation.

In 2010, at the recommendation of Artistic Director Jack Reuler, Mixed Blood’s Board got right to the heart of the matter and explored the idea of “free theatre,” bringing in MBA students, IT specialists, and other consultants, and ultimately unanimously endorsed the launch of what would be known as Radical Hospitality.

2011 brought a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, supported by Legacy Funds, that allowed Mixed Blood to explore, launch and analyze Radical Hospitality. Eight months of development (including research into TCG’s Free Night of Theatre, Signature’s ticket initiative, and the Public’s Shakespeare in the Park) led to Radical Hospitality’s launch.

We opened the doors on September 6th, 2011, not sure what to expect, and there was a line outside waiting for Radical Hospitality tickets.  It works like this: two hours prior to show time, the Box Office releases available RH admission to anyone who walks up and requests a seat in person.  Mixed Blood has committed to reserving a significant percentage of the House for no-cost admission, and as a rule we try to keep it at around 50% of the theatre’s seats.  If someone wants to guarantee their admission, and not risk trying for a walk-up seat, they can reserve their seats ahead of time for a $20 fee. Starting 2 hours prior to show time, when RH admissions are opened, it is no longer possible to purchase a seat.  Anyone approaching the Box Office for a ticket is given one at no cost, and asked to make a donation if they are uncomfortable accepting complementary admission.  In addition to offering no-cost seats to our guests, Mixed Blood’s Disability Advisory Council advised that another major barrier to access for our guests with disabilities is transportation—as a result, Mixed Blood established a partnership with Red & White Cab in the Twin Cities to offer free round-trip cab rides to any audience members self-identifying with a disability.

While we may have been under the impression initially that Radical Hospitality was a “free ticket program”, we have since come to our senses.  It has changed the way we function both internally and externally, requiring a different staff structure (instead of Marketing and Development managers, we now have a Community Outreach team), a new grassroots way of thinking about advertising and marketing, and a different way of considering guest loyalty when cost is no longer a strong incentive.  It also presents an ever-evolving opportunity to learn from our non-traditional theatregoers.   Over the first season of Radical Hospitality, our audience taught us that that their preferred method of contact with the theatre and its programming is not always in our space: enter Producer in Residence Jamil Jude and the Free Speech program, born out of Radical Hospitality and designed to give our audience access to Mixed Blood way beyond their time in the Firehouse.  Free Speech allows audience members to share their opinions, questions, insights, accusations and suggestions publicly via Twitter, Facebook, our blog, and even on our Lobby walls.

Jamil and the staff conduct post-show Forums after every performance, and a Mixed Blood staffer live tweets these conversations to loop in anyone participating from outside the theatre. We host at least one Tweet seat night during each run—we started our first Tweet Seat night last season with Jamil and me and a friend of Jack’s who I suspect just felt sorry for us…this season, we’re filling the back row of the theatre some nights.  Each Sunday matinee in the run is followed by a Salon panel discussion on specific topics curated by Jamil and various community liaisons and is open to the public.

In its first season, 47% of Radical Hospitality users were 30 or younger, 33% of them reported annual household incomes of $25,000 or less, and 30% were people of color.  Following Next to Normal, the first show of our second season, 60% of Radical Hospitality users were 30 or younger, 37% of them reported an annual household income of $25,000 or less, and 30% of them were people of color.

Radical Hospitality requires just over $200,000 annually to thrive—this amount is extracted from the organizational budget for ticket income replacement, operations, fundraising and audience development efforts. We continue to seek out individual, corporate, foundation and government support.  Mixed Blood also asks its supporters who are able to consider “paying it forward” by providing a seat in the theatre for someone who might not otherwise have been able to afford the experience.  If our guests are not able to pay something for admission, we ask them to keep coming back to the theatre, again and again, and bring friends with them. It is Mixed Blood’s hope that in doing so, guesets will voluntarily become supporters of a vision that offers access to live theatre for everyone.

On a personal note, I believe that access to the arts is a quality of life issue: just like food, shelter and purpose, the opportunity for creative exploration is important to health.  I am a proud proponent of Radical Hospitality’s spirit; I believe that in the coming seasons, we’ll have the data we need to determine whether or not in addition to allowing for greater diversity in our audiences, access to the arts creates more arts “users” in our community at large.

 

-Amanda White Thietje

 

http://www.mixedblood.com/radical-hospitality 

Categories: One-Min Play Info

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

February 10, 2013 1 comment

 

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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

Writer/Director

http://www.juanitarockwell.com

 

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

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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

 

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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

Announcing The 1st Minneapolis One-Minute Play Festival In Partnership With Mixed Blood Theatre

January 31, 2013 2 comments

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The One-Minute Play Festival and Mixed Blood Theatre Present:

THE 1st MINNEAPOLIS ONE-MINUTE PLAY FESTIVAL

THREE PERFORMANCES ONLY: Sun Mar 3rd, Mon Mar 4th, Tues, Mar 5th  All at 8PM

At Mixed Blood Theatre

1501 S4th St

Minneapolis, MN

Tickets are $20 and available at

Mixedblood.com

Radical Hospitality no-cost admission is available on

Tuesday, March 5th

Featuring 70+ Brand New One-Minute Plays by:

Trista Baldwin, Alan Berks, David Grant, Anton Jones, Christina Ham, John Heimbuch, Dominic Taylor, Qui Nguyen, Ricardo Vazquez, Janaki Ranpura, Cory Hinkle, Deborah Stein, Dominic Orlando, Anna Moench, Joe Waechter, Martin Zimmerman, Taous Claire Khazem, Mire Regulus, Jeannine Coulombe, Carson Kreitzer, Gregory Moss, Aditi Kapil, Gemma Irish, Jessica Huang, May Lee-Yang Layla Dowlatshahi, Kim Hines, Rachel Jendrzejewski, Rhiana Yazzie, Eric “Pogi” Sumangil, Laurie Carlos, Michael Kinghorn, Keli Garrett, Aamera Sidiqqui, Theo Goodell, Lisa Brimmer, Shira Naharit, Stanton Wood, Khary Jackson, Eliza Rasheed, Sarah Myers, Katie Kaufmann, Sha Cage, Ki Seung Rhee, Syl Jones & more.

Directed by:

Jamil Jude, Jessica Finney, Brian Balcom, Maren Ward, Laura Leffler-McCabe, Scotty Gunderson, Cassandra Snow & Harry Waters, Jr, & Theo Goodell. 

Curated by:

Dominic D’Andrea

* * *

The One-­Minute Play Festival (OMPF) is an NYC- based theatre company, founded by producing artistic director Dominic D’Andrea. OMPF works in partnership with theatres sharing playwright or community-specific missions across the country. In each city, OMPF creates locally sourced playwright-focused community events, with the goal of promoting the spirit of radical inclusion by representing local cultures of playwrights of different age, gender, race, cultures, and points of career.

The work attempts to reflect the theatrical landscape of local artistic communities by creating a dialogue between the collective conscious and the individual voice.

OMPF works with partnering organizations to identify programs or initiatives in each community to support with the proceeds from the work. The goal is to find ways give directly back to the artists in each community. Supported programs have ranged from educational programming, youth poetry projects, teaching artists working in prisons, playwright residencies and memberships, and community arts workshops.

 

About Mixed Blood Theatre

Now entering its 36th season, Mixed Blood Theatre invites the global village into its audience and onto its stage for provocative, inclusive, and predictably unpredictable theater. With programming in its historic firehouse in Minneapolis, regional tours, and customized productions addressing workplace inclusion, Mixed Blood uses relevant and entertaining theater to spawn a ripple effect of social change. In 2010, Mixed Blood Theatre Artistic Director Jack Reuler received the Theatre Communications Group’s prestigious Peter Zeisler Memorial Award for exemplifying pioneering practices in theater, freedom of expression, dedication and risk-taking for the advancement of theater arts. This year, with support from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, Mixed Blood launches Radical Hospitality, providing no-cost access to its mainstage productions for all audience members.

For more information visit: mixedblood.com.

Categories: One-Min Play Info

Theater of Place.

January 28, 2013 2 comments

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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

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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

A minute.

January 18, 2013 2 comments
Ben_portrait_2003a-1
A minute.
60 Seconds.  A  minute.
The time that it takes to measure your pulse.
It’s cool. Multiples of 2’s and 3’s
in different permutations.
Blood flowing from the heart, and to the heart
in vessels too small to ignore.
A fistful of playwrights
their time, talent and expertise to squeeze
the essence of play
down to one minute.  One.
Up to 60 seconds.
Beckett’s done it. But Sam I am not.
Chopin’s waltz runs longer than its namesake.
Even sound bites on the 6 o’clock news are shorter.
And you learn all that you need to know
of the tragic, the fraudulent, the corrupt or the aspirational.
60 is the new 40 according to the fashion mags.
Einstein’s relativity defying secrets of the universe.
60 is the standard highway speed limit
A mile a minute. The distance it takes
to measure your pulse, your flow.
In Art there is no limit
but the tattered edges of imagination.
A friend who directs TV commercials is intrigued
‘It’s what we do in  advertising, get everything in
as soon as possible. Character, conflict.  Resolution and product.”
Just don’t be oblique. See how stingy – generous you can  be with
your time, your sounds your willingness to share your love.
Parse syllables.  Pare “Wonderful” down to “great.”
Rhythm. Contrast. Payoff.
Laughter: that straight line between two odd points.
Oh and try to refer to Sandy,
The superstorm – hurricane that knocked us on our collective asses,
that  got us to our collective senses.
Or  write of relationships or how we live now in our state.
Like  blood flowing back to the home heart,
to unload its waste and to revive with oxygen.
O2 . 60 seconds. One minute.
The time it takes to flow in vessels too small to ignore.
-BV MARSHALL 
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

“David, I have an idea.” Or the Origin Story of OMPF According to David Lee White.

January 17, 2013 1 comment

 

David Lee White

David Lee White

 

I’ll never forget that night several years ago when Dominic D’Andrea turned to me and said “David, I have an idea.” Dominic always had ideas.

 

“What’s your idea?” I asked.

 

Dominic turned to me with a look of determination and said “I want to start a play festival.”

 

“Good idea!” I enthused. “Everyone loves a good play festival. What’s the hook?”

 

Dominic looked around to make sure no one was listening, leaned in close, crushed his cigarette on his shoe and said “It’s a 24 hour play festival.”

 

I was intrigued. “I’m intrigued,” I said. “So it would be a whole day of play readings? Like straight through for 24 hours?”

 

“No dude,” he chuckled. “I mean every play would be 24 hours long.”

 

“Tell me more.”

 

“It would be like…” and here he looked up at the ceiling and paused for a few hours, “It would be like…every play would start at 8:00 pm and end the next night, 24 hours later, at 8:00 pm”

 

“Would there be an intermission?”

 

“Fuck, no.”

 

“Interesting,” I mused. I tried to think of playwrights that had written 24 hour plays. If one page equals one minute, we’d be looking for scripts that were 1,440 pages long. “Could they be less than 24 hours?” I asked. “What if they were 21 or 22 hours long?”

 

“24 hours!” Dominic barked. “Did I stutter?”

 

“Okay. How many plays would be in this festival?”

 

Dominic thought for a bit. “Anywhere between 50 and 70.”

 

“Ah,” I nodded. “And would all the plays happen at the same time at several different venues?”

 

“No, no, no!” Dominic shouted, punching his fist into the wall. “They’d be one right after the fucking other. It would just go on and on! 70 plays, each one lasting 24 hours, one ends, the next one begins! No one sleeps, no one eats and intermissions are for pussies! 70 straight days of new plays! This is a great fucking idea!”

 

I could tell Dominic was overwrought. I lit him another cigarette. I waited until his breathing stabilized before I finally spoke.

 

“What if…and I’m just speaking hypothetically…but what if you just scaled the length of the plays back just a wee, tiny bit. Not a lot. I don’t think you should compromise your vision. But what if you just trimmed it down a little.”

 

Dominic walked over to the window and rested his arm on the sill. He took a drag off his cigarette and stared out across the skyline. After a few seconds he turned to me and smiled. “I have another idea,” he said.

 

And that night, the One Minute Play Festival was born.

 

-David Lee White

 

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