Current Playwrights, Dude Playwrights, Female Playwrights, Unknown playwrights

Gun Violence Plays (Diana Burbano, Mark Harvey Levine, Eric Jones, John Minigan)

Howdy and welcome back to Unknown Playwrights. We took a break from profiling playwrights for a couple months, but we’re back in full swing now.

This is a very special post profiling plays about gun violence, an American epidemic. If you need a tally, there is always the Gun Violence Archive.

Gun violence in America seems pervasive when compared with the rest of the so-called civilized world. Here are the lowest death-by-firearm rates.

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Stats from the ol’ Wiki.

I spent a significant portion of my adult life in one of the countries on that list. The only time I felt unsafe or was threatened by violence was when I ran into other Americans there.

Here are the highest death-by-firearms rates:

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Stats here.

The US is smack dab between Panama and Uruguay. It is also ahead of the scariest place I lived in my life. Also notice that the US has way, way more guns than anybody else.

Recent attacks have specifically targeted minorities. The El Paso shooter “targeted Mexicans” but also ended up killing a German. Some shooters target synagogues. Muslims are also a target, though some shooters have killed Christians and Sikhs by mistake.

Something needs to be done, but as long as we have a racist joke personified as president, that might not happen, since he clearly has more important things on his mind.

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Seriously, dude. Just shut up.
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Seriously.

We will take a look at what American playwrights are doing to take a stand on this topic. We’ll start with Diana Burbano who has written extensively on gun violence.

Salat al-Janazah

The first play from Diana is Salat al-Janazaha monologue based on the horrific murder of Sabika Sheikh and nine others in a Santa Fe, Texas high school last year. The monologue is brief, so I’ll post the whole thing here:

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Miss Sheikh was very active on social media. If you want to see the video she made after getting accepted into the exchange student program, it’s here.

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News coverage of her funeral is below.

 

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Here it is with the US flag, via here.

As for the point made by the play, not calling terrorism “terrorism” when it’s done by white people is a thing. Even Rhianna gets it.

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Warning: not a made-up graph.

Gun violence is an important issue for Burbano. She has written several other plays and we will explore those.

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Death’s Release

 

Her next play is Death’s Release, in remembrance of Kimberly Vaughn Hart, another victim of the Santa Fe massacre. 

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Here, the play brings in magical realism.

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In the Anglosphere, magical realism seems to be  a trope connected to Latin America, though of course not every Latin American work has magical realism and not every work of magical realism comes from Latin America.

Gabriel García Márquez tends to be considered to be the most prominent writer using magical realism.

Anyways, these kids are using magic.

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If you hadn’t noticed, the “magic” is working because the kids are “crossing over” as they’re shot – Ana’s just not aware of it yet.

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Hint: it wasn’t a wand.

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This last line is a great line. Instead of putting the onus on racist killers, it seems to be the victim’s fault they got shot, Ya know, for existing and stuff.

That also ties into the second-to-last line about leaving one’s backpack in the corner. Bulletproof backpacks have become a thing in America, because we’d rather put the onus on the victim instead of the murderer.

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Quite literally the 2nd stupidest thing I saw today. The stupidest was the queen suspending the UK parliament, which proves America doesn’t have a lock on stupid.

By the way, here’s a cop explaining that the bulletproof backpack won’t stop a rifle round – despite the fact the recent shootings have all been by automatic rifle.

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That’s a painful realization.

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And in a way, they have trancscended death by sending a message through. This is a heartfelt and charming play, written in commemoration of a horrible murder.

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Not one content to hammer at gun violence through a mere monologue and short play, Diana has written even more.

Rounds Per Second

Rounds Per Second focuses not only on gun violence, but also the different realities people in the US exist in.

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“I wasn’t really looking at you.” The Washington Post wrote a whole article about this.

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The white woman screwing up a name, just like John Travolta.

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Nice comeback there, Prof…

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Still, the white professor describes her own murderer as “brilliant.”

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Hehe. ALL North Americans.

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Thank God for honest characters! The housekeeper lets the professor know the truth. The professor’s entitlement is still showing.

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Death. The great equalizer.

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Diana Burbano, a Colombian immigrant, is an Equity actor, a playwright and a teaching artist at South Coast Repertory and Breath of Fire Latina Theatre Ensemble.
Written work: Ghosts of Bogota commissioned by Alter Theatre, winner NuVoices, Actors Theatre of Charlotte 2019, Sapience, writer in Center Theatre Group’s writers circle,  Policarpa, Oregon Shakespeare Festival Brown Swan lab 2017, Drama League Rough Draft series May 2017, Fabulous Monsters, Steppenwolf’s “The Mix.”,Latinx Play Festival, San Diego Rep 2017, Festival51 2016 winner, about women in Punk Rock, Picture me Rollin’ (featured at the 35th annual William Inge Festival and Inkfest at 2cents.), Silueta, (about the Cuban artist Ana Mendieta), with Tom and Chris Shelton, and the TYA Shakespeare mash-up, Caliban’s Island winner 2017 Headwaters New Play Festival at Creede Repertory.(Published by YouthPLAYS). Libertadoras, Vamping and Linda were written for the 365 Women a Year project and have been performed around the world, with Linda featured in more that 20 festivals over the last year, including Center Theatre Group’s community library series. She is currently writing for Rogue Artists “Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta. She is also under commission from Alternative Theatre in San Rafael, and is in Center Theatre Group’s L.A. Writers Workshop 2018-2019.
She has been a working actor since leaving the Professional Actors Conservatory in 1991. She originated the roles of Ama de Casa in the Spanish version of Menopause the Musical, Thumb in Imagine, and Holo-1 in the Labors of Hercules. She recently played Ana Guerrero in Jose Cruz Gonzales’ Long Road Today/El Largo Camino de Hoy Dialogue/Dialogos project at South Coast Repertory.  TV includes The People vs OJ Simpson, Cold Case, Betas.

She played punk Praetorian guard Viv in the cult movie musical, The Isle of Lesbos
Diana is a member of The Dramatists Guild and The Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights

God Forbid

Our next playwright Mark Harvey Levine has fashioned a three-page play (God Forbid) about those people who dread the day they will ever have to use their guns…while yearning for the chance.

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The fantasy begins…

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The phrase “orgasmic crescendo” needs to be in some sort of playwriting hall of fame.

The play ends with everyone saying a not-so-reassuring “God forbid” to one another.

Only a Matter of Time

Levine then takes the medium down to its essence, producing a one page play entitled Only a Matter of Time, which you may read in its entirety here:

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And that’s what the playwright does best: deliver a knockout punch in as little time as possible.

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Mark Harvey Levine has had over 1700 productions of his plays everywhere from Bangalore to Bucharest and from Lima to London.  His plays have won over 45 awards and been produced in ten languages.  Full evenings of his plays, such as “Didn’t See That Coming” and “A Very Special Holiday Special” have been shown in New York, Amsterdam, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Sao Paulo, Sydney, Seoul, Mexico City, and across the US.  A Spanish-language movie version of his play “The Kiss” (“El Beso”) premiered at Cannes, showed at the Tribeca film festival, and subsequently aired on HBO and DTV (Japan).

Open Carry

Our next playwright, Eric Christopher Jones tackles the intersection between racism and gun rights in America with Open Carry. Let’s take a look.

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Oh, the Alamo!

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“Don’t shoot! Hands up!” has been a part of the most recent civil rights movement.

The play sets up the conflict early by having two people standing up for their rights. The white man wants his right to bear arms. Specifically, he wants to be able to carry his weapon in the open. To read more about how open carry laws intersect with racism, check out this article.

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Must be.

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You can even get audio here.

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Tamir Rice was a 12 year old boy killed by Cleveland police while playing with an Airsoft gun.

Alton Sterling was a 37 year old man shot by Baton Rouge police.

John Crawford III was a 22 year-old man shot by police in an Ohio Wal-Mart for simply holding a BB gun he’d picked up while shopping.

Keith Lamont Scott was a 43 year-old man shot by police in North Carolina for just hanging out in his truck.

Trayvon Martin was a 17 year-old shot and killed by a local night watch/vigilante in Florida.

Any guesses as to what race these victims all were?

The only good news is that at the time of writing this, there have been 100 less police shootings this year than the same time last year.

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Putin’s original bitch. Pretty nifty. It’s even a woodcut.

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Aha, the mighty Raymond has arrived – but still the other characters don’t know his race.

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Officer Ray. Sigh.

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This play eviscerates the notion that 2nd Amendment advocates aren’t racist a-holes. This is from the Wikipedia page about the Oath Keepers:

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For a thorough explanation of the 2nd Amendment’s role in perpetuating racism, check out this article (the first time this blog has ever linked to Teen Vogue).

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Eric Jones  is a Medford, Massachusetts born, Minnesota & Texas raised artist. Mr. Jones is a graduate of Texas Southern University; B.S. Pharmacy. He has been involved with the Christian theater circuit since 1995 as a writer, actor, director and composer. Writing credits includes: Untapped Potential, Wolf Man Wedding, The Baked Potato Incident, Dreamland, American Skin , Freedom Quilt, Liberators and Fired! The Musical. Currently, Eric won 2nd Runner up for the Screenplay Competition at The Beverly Hills Film Festival 2016 for his screenplay Dreamland. His award winning  film he could wrote & produced Dreamland Murders film  was selected to the Marche Du Cannes Short Film Showcase 2016 hosted by NWC Cinemas.. Two Musicals got their premiere in 2018. Liberators An American Musical at The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival & Three Crosses at Ensemble Theatre’s Stage Reading Series.. “I would like to thank God, my family, WRIC church and the Houston Theater community.”

Product Reveal

Next up, John Minigan has a very short play about the confluence of the gun rights activism and Christianity in America.  Let’s see what “christians NRA” gets us on Google:

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Oh.

It even got us an Israeli site. Despite the whole “turn the other cheek” thing and the whole “don’t kill people” thing in the Bible, there’s a definite connection between Christian (White) Nationalists and boners for guns.

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Meet Holly, Christian mother of three. At least it’s not a Confederate flag. (?)

Texas’ resident dipshit Lt. Governor of Texas Dan Patrick even claimed the recent massacres in El Paso and Dayton were “moral failings”  [yeah, comitting a mass-murder would qualify as a moral failing. Thanks, Dan] and called for prayer in school. (Dude really said that)

Mr. Minigan’s play Product Reveal takes down this bizarre relationship:

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The play, while satiric, is not far off reality. What’s so weird is just the other day, fashion brand Bstroy had their own product reveal. Let’s see what they revealed:

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Oh, hoodies based on school massacres with their very own bullet holes. People will love this! (Photo by Michael Kusumadjaja)
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Wait, so people DON’T like school massacre hoodies? Who’d a thunk it? (Photo: Michael Kusumadjaja)

Every bit as stupid as the play’s product reveal, we are living in our own surrealistically violent post-modern satire. Sigh.

Minigan Headshot 2 2019

John Minigan is a 2019-2020 Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellow in Dramatic Writing. His plays have been developed with the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Portland Stage Company, New Repertory Theater, the New American Playwrights Project, and the Great Plains Theatre Conference. Queen of Sad Mischance is a 2019 Gold Prize winner of the Clauder Competition and a 2018 O’Neill Finalist. Noir Hamlet—a Boston Globe Critics’ Pick, EDGEMedia Best of Boston Theater 2018 selection, and 2019 Elliot Norton nominee for Outstanding New Script—was produced at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. His work has been included in the Best American Short Plays, Best Ten-Minute Short Plays, and New England New Plays anthologies. He is past winner of the Nantucket Short Play Contest, the Rover Dramawerks Competition, the Longwood 0-60 Contest, Seoul Players Contest, and the KNOCK International Short Play Competition. John is a Dramatists Guild Ambassador for Eastern New England. Please visit johnminigan.com.

Our playwrights have been kind enough to answer some questions about their craft. The same questions were posed to each of them. I’ve organized their answers this way to show the diversity of thought amongst people whose goals are similar.
  1. How did you start playwriting?

Burbano: I started writing because good, challenging roles for Latina women could be counted on one hand and I aimed to change that.

Levine: I was at Carnegie-Mellon University as an Acting Major.  During my freshman year they announced they were starting up an Undergraduate Playwriting Program.  It seemed less crazy than acting.  I applied for and got into it.  So I got into the CMU Drama Department twice!

Jones: It was 1995, I was volunteering at a youth arts ministry and I was responsible for looking for material. What I read was least to be desired. So I desired to write the play myself. I’ve been writing ever since.

Minigan: I no longer remember the source of the quote, but I agree with it: “A playwright is a poet who got lonely.” I was a math teacher in a private school, writing poetry and a little fiction, and the drama teacher asked if I wanted to help with his program. Seemed like a good idea, and I quickly became much more interested in theater (writing, directing, acting, designing) than teaching math. The collaborative, fluid, and public nature of the work continues inspire me in ways poetry didn’t quite do.

  1. What are your influences?

Burbano: Women’s stories, especially unknown history. Caryl Churchill, Tom Stoppard, Sarah RuhlOctavio Solis, José Cruz Gonzáles

Levine: For short plays, David Ives most definitely.  He’s the master of the short play.  For playwriting in general, I’d have to say Neil Simon, Tom Stoppard and Alan Ayckbourn.

Jones: I’m a musical theatre fan. I love the songwriting of Pasek/Paul, Stephen Sondheim, Jason Robert Brown & the writing team of Lynn Ahrens & Stephen Flaherty. I really love Lynn Ahrens as a lyricist & Librettist. It’s very clever & moving.

Minigan: I’ve been really shaped by my experiences working with students in 31 years running a high school theater program. Theater kids are passionate, clear, committed, and usually awesome. And working with lots of great teachers, writers, directors, and dramaturgs has influenced me (Kevin Coleman, Bridget O’Leary, Miranda Jonte, Dan Burson, and more). In terms of the craft of writing, my influences are pretty eclectic: Paula Vogel, August Wilson, Wendy Wasserstein, Brecht, Pirandello, Beckett, George S. Kaufman.

  1. What is your most memorable production and why?

Burbano: I loved “Ghosts of Bogota” in staged reading at Actors Theatre of Charlotte. It was vicious and funny and UNSENTIMENTAL!  My biggest pet peeve is my work is played too seriously.

Levine: In 2005, I got to go to Curitiba, Brazil to see an entire evening of my plays — in Portuguese!  It was an incredible experience.

Jones: I wrote my first musical Freedom Quilt back in 1999. I had the opportunity to have the show workshopped for a young performers showcase at the Ensemble Theatre. What touched me was how they treated me like a Rock Star when I arrived. I’ll never forget that.

Minigan: I think maybe the 2014 NY Fringe Festival production of Breaking the Shakespeare Code because it was such a rush to have my first full-length NYC production be sold-out and well-reviewed, and because it was my first time being produced by Hey Jonte!, a production company I LOVE working with and which I’ve now worked with maybe five times. Also up there was this summer’s Edinburgh Festival production of Noir Hamlet, because I was brought in to be more than the playwright—I was production manager, lighting designer, and on-stage/in-character crew member. It was amazing to feel fully a member of a professional performing company. I don’t often feel that way as the writer.

  1. What is your funniest theatre story?

Levine: I once accidentally sent the same group of short plays to a theater twice.  The first time they rejected it, the second time they accepted it.  The first time they rejected it because they were a theater that did edgy plays — and these plays were not edgy.   By the time I sent it the second time, they were sick of doing edgy plays and wanted to do something fun.  My second submission of the plays happened to arrive at just the right moment.  Timing is everything. 

Jones: I substituted for a role from my musical Liberators because the actor was sick. I accidentally sang the old lyrics of a song that me & my composer insisted we cut out. I totally forgot. Nobody noticed but everyone in the cast was laughing.

Minigan: This summer, while “hawking” my Edinburgh Fringe show on a sidewalk, speaking to any and all passers-by and trying to get them to take a flyer advertising the show, one passer-by yelled at me, “Stop talking to the wall!” It’s one of the biggest laugh lines in the play—clearly the guy had seen the show and found the perfect place to use my line.

  1. What are your writing habits like?

Burbano: I clean the house and write in spurts. I usually only get 2 or 3 pages done a day.

Levine: Terrible.  I have no time to write, and have to squeeze it in here and there.

Jones: I Must have four things . A. Coffee, B. Encyclopedia Britannica, C. Thesaurus & D. Show tunes. Lots of Show tunes.

Minigan: I’ve gone from two-month-a-year playwright while I was teaching to full-time playwright since I retired last summer. I write pretty much every day, usually in the morning, for at least two hours, and sometimes return later after clearing my head. I think I work best on paper—either writing new stuff with pen and legal pads or revising in the margins of a printed script. I revise a lot. If it’s not at least draft 15, it can’t be ready.

  1. What advice do you have for new playwrights?

Burbano: As my great mentor José Cruz Gonzélez says, “Dare to suck!”

Levine: Read lots of plays.  Go see lots of plays.  Have your work read by actors while you sit and listen.  Learn how to be objective about your work (easier said then done).  And edit out anything you possibly can.

Jones: Keep on writing & keep on making mistakes. Once you learn from those mistakes, keep on writing again until you have a draft script you are proud of.

Minigan: Finish the first draft. Don’t overthink it. No one (other than you) cares if it’s any good. It’ll be easier to make it good later when you’re not having to invent the whole thing.

  1. Who are some other writers you should get more attention?

Burbano: José Cruz Gonzélez, Monica Sanchez, Matthew Paul Olmos, Elizabeth Szekeresh

Levine: Babs Lindsay, Rich Orloff, Alex Dremann and Patrick Gabridge.

Jones: Local Houston writers like Michael Weems, Denise O’Neal, Crystal Rae, Nicholas Garelick, Fernando Dovalina & Donna Latham. Why go to NYC when there is great talent in The Lone Star State?

Minigan: Just off the top of my head: Miranda Jonte is a fierce, clear writer with a unique, smart voice. Emma Goldman-Sherman is brave, passionate, and powerful. Patrick Gabridge’s approach to writing historical pieces that illuminate the present is amazing. Greg Lam’s ability to use sci-fi to write so clearly about who and where we are is also inspiring. And this guy, Bryan Stubbles. Maybe you know him? Incredibly imaginative work — always outside the box.

  1. What are common themes in your work?

Burbano: Feminism, and the normalization (i.e. seeing us as just people) of latinx women.

Levine: Someone once said my plays are about ordinary people in extraordinary situations.  I like that.

Jones: My themes always comes back to Perseverance , Redemption & Second Chances. Being a follower of Christ, it’s my duty to present positive stories of how you can mess up but still get back up again. I hope my audiences get the message that you should never give up, even when the chips are down.

Minigan: Almost all of my plays, in one way or another, are about characters who choose to (or are forced to) abandon certainty and move into the unfamiliar. I think I’m focused on getting away from the answers we accept and, instead, deepening the questions we ask.

  1. What is one thing you wished you knew now, that you didn’t know starting out?

Burbano: That you have to be your own fiercest advocate and that NO ONE is going to give you anything just because you have talent. 

Levine: Have your work read to you!  It’s so important to hear your plays out loud.

Jones: Playwriting is hard!

Minigan: Any success you have is going to take a helluva long time. So find people you love to work with and try to work with them as much as you can. And enjoy that work, on whatever ‘scale’ it happens to be. It’s more meaningful than any accolades. And support new work by your fellow writers. The rising new play tide raises all boats.

  1. What do you have coming up soon? 

Burbano: Ghosts of Bogota at Alter Theatre, and Actors Theatre of Charlotte. Hoping to turn that into a rolling world premiere with NNPN.

Levine: I have several works coming up in Asphalt Jungle Shorts, a festival of plays where the audience walks around Kitchener, Ontario, and encounters the plays on the street.  And the New Short Play Festival in New York City is doing four of my short plays!

Jones: I have three musicals coming to workshop in 2020 where I wrote lyrics & Book. It’s Three Crosses with Composer Joshua Davis L. I have War Letters with Co-Lyricist & Composer Dan Markosian & Please Come Home for Christmas with Co-Lyricist & Composer Gary Sironen.

Minigan: I’m continuing to try to get a production of Queen of Sad Mischance. It’s had a lot of national and regional recognition – and twelve readings or workshops so far – but nobody’s biting yet. Also pursuing leads on a third and also a fourth production of my comedy Noir Hamlet. Fingers crossed. And I’ve now got four new drafts of full-lengths that need MUCH revision. Lots of writing ahead.

  1. What compelled you to write plays about gun violence?

Burbano: Because it’s the single most important topic in our country. We martyr babies because of the obsession with weapons of death.

Levine: The insane number of mass shootings we have in this country. 

Jones: I love watching CNN every morning and I get my daily fill of how the second amendment is being misused and witnessing the constant death toll of our citizens at the hands of Domestic Terrorists.

Minigan: Product Reveal was written in pure anger – sort of giving the middle finger to the folks who conflate religion and gun culture/second amendment and talk about the “God-given” right to carry weapons of war into the grocery store. I’ve written two short pieces about gun violence, this and Velas Votivas, and am in super early stages of researching a piece that looks like it’ll turn into a play about religious cults and gun violence.

  1. What responses have you seen to your gun violence plays?

Burbano: Death’s Defeat has been a powerful reminder to people about how young and innocent  the victims are. I’ve not gotten any pushback. Yet.

Levine: I unfortunately have not been able to attend any of the productions of these plays yet.  I’d love to see the response.

Jones: I know it makes people think and it gets under your skin a little. But it’s a scratch that needs to be itched because gun violence has been irritating our country since its foundation.

Minigan: I love that one reader on the New Play Exchange called this play “the manifestation of the American contradiction.” That seems completely right. I’ve been moved by the responses folks have had (as readers, actors, and audience members) to Velas Votivas, too – a play that’s part of the #CodeRedPlaywrights project memorializing victims of gun violence.

  1. What advice would you give a playwright who wants to be a catalyst for change? 

Burbano: Write with your feelings, anger, righteousness. And don’t be afraid to piss people off.

Levine: Don’t just preach to the choir.We have to reach the people who disagree with us.

Jones: Don’t be afraid to take the responsibility to put others to task when they are not stepping up! Life is too short just to live life trivially. Our words. Our dreams. And our actions must have weight. Just like original thoughts & black lives, they matter too.

Minigan: Be honest and bold in what you write and you will inspire those who agree with you and anger those who don’t. Be sneaky and sly and maybe you’ll get those who don’t agree with you on your side. It’s probably important to do both of those things.

  1. Personally, what role should guns play in America, if any? 

Burbano: They should be melted down and turned into sculpture. Owning a gun is something only frightened people do, and I would rather live with joy. 

Levine: We should have a few handy in case the British invade again.  Other than that…

Jones: I believe that every American should have the right to protect themselves. I come from a family of hunters & fisherman. However, we don’t need assault weapons to do so. The USA needs responsible Gun Reform & background checks for responsible gun ownership. If not, we won’t survive as a Republic.

Minigan: You like the second amendment? Buy a musket.

Hopefully through these writers’ work, you can see how artists can use their voice for advocacy.

While you’re with us, please check out our Unknown Playwrights (living & dead), Monologue Mondays and Theatre Horror Stories.

Until next time…

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Current Playwrights, Dude Playwrights, Unknown playwrights

Greg Hovanesian

Our next living playwright to be profiled is Greg Hovanesian. Greg is a based in Boston, MA.  His plays have been produced and/or developed by Boston Actors Theater, Playwrights’ Platform, Hovey Players, Image Theater, UAE Theater Festival, Jacklyn Thrapp LLC, Generic Theater, Centastage, and Ya Bird? Productions. It looks like he won’t stay unknown for long.

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This is Greg.

The first play of Greg’s that I read was Monologue for a Woman. The play is only two pages long, so you can read it here:

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This is an interesting discourse about honesty, but also about the banalities of life. The unseen interviewer(s) ask questions, but none of them contain any relevance. In fact it is the irrelevance of the unheard questions that provide the play’s relevance (and satire). But the character in the play can see through this irrelevance and calls them out on it in her own way.

The writing is sparse with a well-laced use of repetition in the “Good. Great. Good” progression.

Monologue for a Woman has had readings at Centastage’s Write On! and Playwrights’ Platform, both in the Boston area.

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This looks pretty cool, but this isn’t the play we’re reviewing.

Greg did have a full-length production of a “Tinder meets vampire” play entitled Thirsty in Boston. The entire play is on Youtube. The beginning is here:

 

Apparently both the evening and matinee shows were recorded. Here is the matinee:

 

The second play I read was Fat Ugly Pigs on Camera. I read it because it has an awesome title. No, it’s not about my high school reunion. But about the porn industry in an alternate reality, dominated by women. The summary follows:

Sue has some problems. In a world where women, as opposed to men, run the internet porn industry, she’s a successful producer. But that success has bred enemies: the courts, the FBI, and of course, her own son. As her world unravels, and as people who she loves become irrevocably damaged, the cameras continue to roll, capturing scenes of love for millions to see. There may be only one thing that can save her, and everyone else, from the madness…an act of violence, a piece of salvation, for all the world to see….

Now the amazing thing is, this play is not a comedy. The story is universal enough that it transcends the setting – this is a play about someone whose lifetime of bad choices catches up to her.

The scenes involving Jake (a lad in his 20s) are interesting because sometimes they play out like the beginning to a porno:
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This pretty much reverses the male/female power trip of the American patriarchy. Sue can be just as creepy as any dirty old man. Is it the beginning of a sex scene? You’ll just have to watch and find out. Hovanesian tempers the drama with humor.

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Run, Jake, run! Sue is in her 60s or 70s and tells herself that everyone is “family.” A very dysfunctional, incestuous family. All the people she works with treat Jake pretty much how you’d imagine male pornographers treat young women: as a commodity.

Sue (and the “family”) convinces herself that her company sells love, not sex. Towards the end, as their world closes in around them, Jake decides to turn the tables on Mary, a company gofer in her 40s or 50s.

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Some realities suck. This is an interesting play with well-written characters. There are three great roles for female actors here and one for a guy. By flipping the gender dynamics, Fat Ugly Pigs on Camera indicts American society to its core.

Fat Ugly Pigs on Camera had a reading at Playwrights’ Platform this year.

This is normally where I drone on about some dead playwright, but with living playwrights, we have the benefit of talking to them in the here and now. Greg has been kind enough to answer a few questions. Let’s learn about Greg and his craft in his own words:

  1. How did you start playwriting?

It’s sort of a long and convoluted story, but I guess it goes like this: I’ve always liked to tell stories and write creatively.  In high school, I took creative writing classes. And then I just sort of stopped for 15 years or so: I was writing a lot, whether it be academic history papers in college or pseudo-pop culture analysis on my blog, but not stories.  In 2015 I pushed myself back into writing. In a way it was to add some meaning to my life: I felt sort of stuck in a rut and needed to fill a void in my life. I wrote a few screenplays because I love movies, but I realized that not being in Hollywood is a huge obstacle to successfully doing that.  And there were other things about screenwriting that depressed me. Ultimately, I wanted my stuff to be heard. So I started writing plays. When I wrote my first plays I was going through a very difficult time in my life: my first 4 or 5 plays, and my first full-length, a play called PLATTSBURGH that takes place in a supermarket, were very self-therapeutic to me.  My life was a mess, things were out of control, and the only way to make the world feel okay was to write plays. They were my medicine.

  1. What are your influences?

I think everything in life influences me.  Conversations I hear on the street, movies I watch, music I listen to, strange occurrences that I’ve witnessed while I’ve been living on this planet.  Music and movies are huge influences: I could go on and on about the bands and directors who have inspired me, the list is too huge. In terms of writers, Michael Crichton was probably the biggest influence on me as a child: when I read Jurassic Park, I learned not only that I love to read, but that I could write.  I was a huge Crichton fan as a 10 or 11 year old. More recently, other writers, such as Chuck Klosterman and Bill Simmons, opened my eyes to ways in which to read into the normalness of pop culture in ‘non-normal’ ways.  Cormac McCarthy is my favorite novelist ever: his Western stuff, the stuff that takes place in Texas and Mexico, is amazing. Michael Herr’s Dispatches is probably the most jarring book I’ve ever read, and it still influences me today: I read it while living in Vietnam, where I was a teacher for four years.  Kafka holds a place near my heart, and I’ve recently started reading some of Joyce’s short stories from Dubliners, and I think they’re amazing.  As far as playwrights go, well, just about everyone I’ve read influences me in some way or another, and I’ve tried to read as many playwrights as possible for the last three years or so.  I think I’ve read plays by over 100 playwrights at this point. Some of the top influences would be Suzan-Lori Parks, Henrik Ibsen (because he tackled big issues fearlessly), August Wilson (the greatest monologues ever written), David Mamet (people love to hate him these days, but his dialogue in the ‘80s was fire), Annie Baker, Sam Shepard, and others I can’t think of now.   But my playwright hero is Harold Pinter. Pinter’s at the top of the mountain for me.

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Scene from Water, via here.
  1. What is your most memorable production and why?

Probably my first production ever, which is a one-act called WATER.  I wrote it in February of 2016: it was at the height of the heinous situation with the water in Flint, which of course is still ongoing: the government says the pipes are clean, but people are still drinking bottled water.  There was something so egregious about everything that was happening: to me, it transcended politics. It was about right and wrong, not left and right. So I wrote a play about it. I was very new, so I didn’t know what to do with it.  A few months later, I found out that the playwrights group I had just joined, Playwrights’ Platform, had a festival. So I submitted it and it got accepted. The festival is very DIY: it was like, ‘Congrats, you’re in! Now find a director and actors.’  I didn’t really know many people yet: I had no idea how I’d find a director, and then I reached out to some classmates from a screenwriting class I had taken, and lo and behold, someone responded that she was a director. And I was incredibly lucky: I still work with that director today.  We’ve been a creative team for over 2 years. Anyway, the whole production was a circus: we couldn’t find actors for the male roles, everyone was out of town on vacation. So one day I just said, “I’ve taken 11 acting classes…I’ll do it!” And she was like, “Yeah?” And I was like, “Yeah.”  Then we rounded out the cast with one of my childhood friends, who had never acted but had done a lot of stand-up. We were a rag-tag team and had no idea what we were doing. And it was out of control from day one: everyday it was a new crisis. I was pretty much having a heart attack for an entire month.  But we rehearsed the hell out of it, and we got up there on stage and did really well. We won three awards. So I would have to say that was probably a high point.

  1. What is your least memorable production and why? [you can leave out specifics or names]

I can’t really say that I have a least memorable production of something I’ve written.  But there have been two I couldn’t attend: one was a monologue in New York, and the other was a one-minute play in Dubai.  I got to see some pictures, but it’s not the same. I wish I could have been there.

  1. What’s your funniest theatre story?

Probably something that happened in rehearsals.  In addition to being a playwright, I’m a pretty active actor and producer, so I’ve been in my share of rehearsals.  I don’t know if one thing sticks out: usually someone muffs a line really badly, and it comes out totally horribly, but it ends up being hilarious, and everyone laughs.  That might be something some playwrights have nightmares about! It’s usually stuff like that: funny little moments you don’t remember later. But there is actually one thing that comes to mind as a funny moment.  The second full-length I ever wrote was a play called THIRSTY. As soon as my director and I had one play under our belt, we were like, “Let’s do a big one!” It was a pretty crazy and ambitious thing to do; we had no idea what we were getting into or how much work it would be.  It was an exhausting project. Anyway, THIRSTY was a pretty wild play about vampire-like beings and online dating, and the apps both they and humans use for dating. And so late in the play, there was a fight scene with a dildo. I can’t take credit for the idea: originally, I wrote a golf club as a weapon.  And my director was like, “No, too dangerous.” So I rewrote it with a wiffle ball bat…and she was like, “Mmmm…how about a dildo? Since this character, Micah, is a sort of a sex fiend. He’d probably have one.” And I was like, “Yeah!” So I rewrote it, and then during rehearsals, I bought the biggest dildo I could find on Amazon.  So one night during rehearsals, the lead actor had the dildo and was sort of playing with it without realizing it: slapping it on his back, swinging it around, that kind of thing, during some downtime while the director was talking. One of the actors took some pics of him and we all kind of laughed because it was pretty hilarious at the time.  So yeah….maybe that’s my funniest theatre story…but I don’t know, really.

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Scene from Roboteacher. From here.
  1. What are your writing habits like?

I’m a weekend warrior.  I work during the week as an ESL teacher, so I have zero time to write during the week.  On Saturdays and Sundays, when I’m writing, I wake up early: 6am is perfect. I make my coffee, eat breakfast, listen to some NPR, drink my coffee, read some news, and then bang!  I’m writing. I like to write for a few hours: usually I finish by 11am or so. Sometimes I’ll go past 12. Eventually, I’ll hit a wall, and then I know to stop writing. At that point the quality starts to dip.  I just leave and come back the next morning.

  1. What advice do you have for new playwrights?

First, read plays.  Lots and lots of plays by lots and lots of playwrights.  Read lots of variety. Go to the Wikipedia page for Pulitzer Prize in Drama, then go to your local library and check some of them out.  Read short play anthologies and long plays. Once you feel you’ve read enough plays so that you have a feel for it, start writing. And don’t look back.  Write, write, write. Once you have some plays written, find a playwrights’ group and join it. Very important. Plays need to be heard, not just written.  They need to be test driven by actors. And actors are the most important people playwrights can meet. Actors know scripts: they know what makes scripts good, and what hurts them.  They are your allies. They want to help. Meet actors through playwright groups, and start to create some relationships.

  1. Who are some other writers you feel should get more attention?

It’s a difficult question to answer, because I think it’s tough to find the writers who are out there and aren’t getting the attention they deserve.  You have to work hard and search for them. The main place to look is on the New Play Exchange, known as NPX, which is a sort of social networking site for playwrights.  Recently you posted a list of NPX writers on your FB page who you think deserve more attention, which is really cool. Some of the playwrights I’ve read and enjoyed on NPX are Jennifer O’Grady, Jordan Elizabeth Henry, Lee Lawing, and Asher Wyndham, and of course yourself, Bryan Stubbles.  I’m hoping to be able to discover more playwrights that I enjoy soon, and maybe, through the process of word-of-mouth and reviews, I can help them to become more recognized.

  1. What are common themes in your work?

In all honesty, I’m not really sure.  It’s funny: before I was writing this stuff, I would watch a lot of movies by the same director, and search for recurring themes.  But I don’t really think about themes when I write. That being said, I do think there are recurring themes that I tend to re-visit, somewhat unconsciously.  A lot of my plays have a touch of the supernatural: I don’t think life is as normal as most people think it is, and I like to play with that idea, the supernatural just below the surface.  I’m not sure if I’d call them ghosts, but ghost-like people show up in my plays from time to time. I’m a huge fan of the films of Guillermo del Toro, in particular The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth.  I also love The Seventh Seal and the first couple seasons of Six Feet Under.   They all have a lot of mixing of those two worlds, the dead and the living, the supernatural and the real, and I like that.  I also like to write plays that happen in an alternate universe, a place similar to what we know, but distinctively different.  I think those places are interesting worlds to work in. They give you a lot of freedom to go wild and say whatever you want, whether factual or not, while staying on a plane that is easy for people to understand.  And I also like to write about technology from time to time: I love The Twilight Zone and the old Black Mirror episodes, the British ones, before they became not as good in the 3rd season.  I think it’s almost impossible for technology not to come up in writing these days, at least in the stuff I write: it’s everywhere and it’s always changing.  It’s fascinating and scary.

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Scene from The Look, via here.
  1. What is one thing you wished you knew now, that you didn’t know starting out?

I think the point of starting out is that you don’t know much.  When I started doing this, I knew zero anything: I had read a book on screenwriting and taken a screenwriting class.  That was it. But that made it kind of fun: I just jumped in without knowing anything about anything, and knowing zero people.  It’s been fun to learn on the fly.

  1. In Fat Ugly Pigs on Camera, a lot of dialogue is repeated. Is there any special meaning behind that?

A lot of my plays have repeated dialogue.  One playwright in particular, who I respect greatly, has told me a few times at readings that she wishes I wouldn’t do it as much.  But I enjoy doing it. And I think I’ve gotten it from a lot of playwrights I’ve read: I love when I’m reading a play, and there’s a lot of this between two people: “Wait.” “Huh.”  “But you said.” “Wait.” “Huh.” “Uh-huh.” Things like that, just back and forth with repeated dialogue. It happens a lot in plays by Albee and Mamet. In the early plays of Suzan-Lori Parks, there’s a lot of circling back and forth between repeated words and sentences.  There’s a lot of significance there. And then writers like Ionesco and Beckett, back in the ‘50s, they were taking it to the extreme, probably in order to challenge the establishment of what theatre was defined as back then. Anyway, repetition, as a writer, it gives me a little space to set things up, set up a scene, without using a conventional conversation, which can keep an audience on their toes.  But it also gives certain words a sort of significance, that otherwise wouldn’t be there. In FAT UGLY PIGS ON CAMERA there are certain words that are repeated, that maybe wouldn’t usually be spoken a lot in ordinary conversation: shark, sushi, action, etc.. If repeated a few too many times, there’s probably a reason for that, something I want the audience to think about. I’ll leave it at that.

  1. What gave you the idea to write “Fat Ugly Pigs on Camera” and “Monologue for a Woman”?

MONOLOGUE FOR A WOMAN was written first, and it’s a companion piece to a monologue called INTERROGATIONS, which was written for a man.  Both monologues are heavily inspired by Pinter: I was reading a lot of him at the time. INTERROGATIONS is more sinister in nature, but I wanted both to sort of unhinge an audience: the actor is talking to an unseen person, but in the process the unseen person becomes the audience.  Both have weird turns and are at least a little paranoid in nature.

FAT UGLY PIGS ON CAMERA was something I had wanted to write for a long time, in response to internet porn in general.  Porn is a weird thing: it’s something many human beings are drawn to, because at heart we are animals, and our animal instincts are aroused by what we see on camera.  But we are also human beings, and so many things in the world of internet porn just trample on everything good about being a good human being. The titles of some videos are horribly de-humamizing and almost always degrading towards women, and that’s where the name of the play comes from.  The way I wrote it was the only way I could think of writing something about internet porn that would pack a punch, but also wouldn’t be a lecture or take one side too strongly.

  1. How do you use humor in these two pieces?

It’s funny with humor: I think I’m a pretty funny guy in person.  Or at least some of my childhood friends might say that. But really, none of my plays are ‘comedies.’ That being said, humor leaks into just about all of them.  I think dialogue is too deliciously funny not to include some humor. In MONOLOGUE FOR A WOMAN, I think the humor depends a lot on the actor reading it: I’ve seen it read ‘funny’, but I’ve also seen it read dark, with virtually no humor.  The humor that’s there rests in her questions and responses: whoever is interviewing her seems to be something of an idiot, at least in her eyes, and some of her statements subtly express that.

As for FAT UGLY PIGS ON CAMERA, when I wrote it, I was really worried that I had written my bleakest play.  I stood back and looked at it and shuddered, because really bleak plays make me do that: I respect plays that are really bleak, but they’re not always my favorite.  So anyway, that’s what I thought I had: a humorless, bleak play. But when it had a reading, in Spring of 2018, the people in the audience were really, really laughing, in particular during Act I.  That may have been because the acting was stellar: every actor who read was fantastic, and the actor who played Jake actually took off his shirt during certain scenes and moved around, despite the fact that this was just an unrehearsed reading without a director.  It was amazing to watch. But I was really surprised by the laughter: I didn’t see it coming. People told me afterward it was the funniest play of mine they had heard. I was sort of shocked. So, I guess that the humor just seeped out, especially early in the play, without me really realizing that it was humorous.

  1. Are there any allegorical elements to “Fat Ugly Pigs on Camera”?

I think there may be.  I always like to put things like that in my plays: I learned how to use symbolism, whether allegorical or not, when I read INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison in high school.  Ever since that book, I’ve always tried to look at things not for what they are, but for what their meaning is: what do they symbolize? So, to answer: yes, there probably are!  And they’re there for a reason…if they’re there.

  1. What’s a question you’d like to be asked? Go ahead and answer that question.

Question: Do you listen to music when you write?  And if so, what kind?

Answer: Sometimes!  I love music. It inspires me.  I listen to all sorts of music: Arvo Part, The Stooges, J. Cole, Neil Young, Baby Huey, and on and on and on.  But when writing, if I’m listening to music, it has to be without lyrics. And it can’t be too complex, no DJ Shadow stuff: if it’s too intricate and wild, I’ll get distracted.  There’s a J Dilla playlist that I really like, his stuff is really dreamy but not too out there, it’s perfect. Sometimes Aphex Twin does the trick: one time I listened to Track 3, aka Rhubarb, from his Selected Ambient Works Volume II album, over and over and over again on repeat on my headphones while writing a monologue.  Lately, though, I’ve just been going silent while writing. It depends on how I’m feeling on that particular morning. Also: when I need a break, I throw on the headphones and usually listen to a hip-hop song with lyrics: stuff by Raekwon, Jedi Mind Tricks, Kanye, that type of stuff. All those lyrics are good during a break.  But I only allow myself one song per break when writing: I’m very strict with myself, and after one song, it’s back to writing, no matter what.

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Scene from A Pleasant Evening. I’m guessing the title is ironic. From here.

Greg has been very busy lately. In 2016 his one-act play Water won Best Play at the Playwrights’ Platform’s 44th Annual Festival of New Plays.  His monologue The Look was published by New World Theatre in 2018 as part of A Solitary Voice: A Collection of Epic Monologues.  He self-produced his full-length play, Thirsty, in 2016 with his company, Ya Bird? Productions, and in June 2019 he will again be self-producing a play, this time his one-act play Wilderness at the Players’ Ring Theatre in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  Greg is also an actor who was awarded Best Actor at the Playwrights’ Platform’s 44th Festival of New Plays in 2016.  He is the President of the Playwrights’ Platform, where he also serves as Director of the Actors-In-Residence (AIR) program, and is a member of StageSource and the Dramatists Guild of America.  When he has spare time, he likes to read poetry he’s written at open mics and slam competitions around Boston. On October 26th and 27th his one-act play A BEDTIME STORY will be produced by River’s Edge Arts Alliance in Hudson, MA.  

For a link to all our playwrights, please check here.

Here are links to any and all things Greg Hovanesian-related:

The Playwright

His website.

His Facebook page.

His New Play Exchange page.

The Plays

Staged reading of Wilderness.

Upcoming production of Wilderness.

Production of Thirsty.

Review of Thirsty.

Announcement for a group of shorts, including his.

The Look gets a reading. And here.

Water performed.

One minute wonder A Pleasant Evening Out.

A Bedtime Story.

The Films

48 Hour Film Project

 

 

Current Playwrights, Female Playwrights, Unknown playwrights

Andy Rassler

Our first modern playwright hails from North Carolina, USA. Andy Rassler has acted, directed and taught theatre for decades. In the last few years she’s begun to see success as a playwright.

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Andy Rassler, our playwriting hero.

Generally her plays are humorous, positive and carry a message. However, they are by no means saccharine. Rassler’s years as a theatre teacher has informed her understanding of what Theatre for Young Audiences entails and she excels at it.

The first piece we’ll study is Dante’s Inferno Six. Despite focusing on youth plays, this 10 minute play is set in the reception area of the sixth level of Dante’s Hell. This is where heretics end up.

Uberti and Cavalcanti are the two secretaries and basically they are each other’s Hell.

This is from the midst of one of their flare-ups:

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Like many American workers, they actively hate their customers/clients, as exemplified here:

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Now that I think about it, people going to Hell might be kind of annoying and I would probably grow to hate them. Anyways, this Satanic version of the Battling Bickersons meet their match when their next victim, the heretic Margaret, is totally okay with going to Hell.

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Needless to say, Rassler’s Dante’s Inferno Six is a fun play for those who think Hell would be a fun thing. It also highlights something Rassler is adept at: dispelling stereotypes and upending expectations. We, the audience, have been taught to fear Hell (unless you grew up in this church) – yet Margaret is pretty nonchalant about facing that flaming tomb. Ironically, these same flaming tombs have lent themselves to an Xbox game. Here’s a vid of the performance. 

Now on the what may be termed Rassler’s magnum opus

Clothes Minded is a witty, honest one-act that expertly dissects prejudice in America.

The plot pretty much mimics real-life, except with fabrics in a washing machine. All the whites are getting washed together (as they do) when a sock of color shows up. The white fabrics lose it and freak out. However, unlike many real-life scenarios, this play has a happy ending.

Here is a choice moment:

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This really reminds one of racists’ arguments that they just want “the other” to follow the law, no matter how intrinsically stupid said law may be.

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Ker-plunk! From YouthPlays.

Since all this is set in a washing machine, there are numerous references to swimming, which harkens to not just the past and stereotypes about black people swimming but also the recent spate of “white people calling the cops on black people for living” – most famously Pool Patrol Paula and ID Adam.

This interaction and Colored Sock’s mini-monologue here is effective.

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That line “We’re not bad people” is rich. We’ve been hearing it oh-so-often.

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It’s “the other!!!” Via YouthPlays.

The play is peppered with racists’ go-to talking points.

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“Jacked-up” is right.

Some of my best friends…” is a hilariously bad argument. Even Hitler protected an Austrian Jew he liked, so keep that in mind before you start with that argument.

Here’s another:

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Ah yes. The siren call of eugenics. This is an extreme example of “following the law” – albeit a “natural law” that someone just made up.  

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Beware, the rag pile. Hehe. Labels can be some dangerous medicine.

So far in this blog, I haven’t talked much about my personal life, but I will share my own experiences growing up in Utah as a non-Mormon (that’s a label!) – the labels I was given ranged from “non-believer” to “Satan worshipper.” [insert about 1,001 other negative experiences here]

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Rehearsal time for Clothes-minded.

Much like the parents in Rassler’s play, this idiocy started with the parents. I heard “My mom says I can’t play with you” more than once. In this way, Rassler’s play spoke to me. The Colored Sock character is way too nice to the neighbors. Lucky for them.

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Oh man. This hits the nail on the head. The way some white people will speak in hushed tones about someone who married/had a relationship out of the race.

I was at a museum in Utah once and the lady working there was yapping on about Orrin Porter Rockwell and his multiple wives and at the end she whispered “and his Indian wife.”

And then (gasp!) tragedy happens.

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Eventually things work themselves out. This is a well-written play with a positive message and good roles for kids. The play was recently published by YouthPlays.

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They turn on their own, via YouthPlays.

Now is a chance to learn more about Rassler from the playwright herself:

How did you start playwriting?  

I started writing about 10-12 years ago. My theatre class always competes in the 1-act play festival in NC. We were having a really hard time finding a piece that we connected to, so the kids said, “Why don’t you just write one?” So…I tried it. And I loved it so much. We used the piece I wrote (called—pretentiously enough—‘Minor Paradox’)!

What are your influences?

For the cadence and style of dialogue, I attribute my style to Neil Simon, mostly. I don’t know that I’d call any other playwrights ‘influences’.

What is your most memorable production and why?

Of my own pieces, the most memorable was the one-act version of ‘In the Jungle.’ This play was inspired by my twin sister, Annette, who has cerebral palsy. The students who embodied the characters were so dedicated to the piece and when we performed it at the contest, there were many, many audience members in tears. I was approached multiple times afterward with meaningful and thoughtful words—it was magical.

What is your least memorable production and why? [you can leave out specifics or names]  

My least memorable? I don’t remember…lol.  No, I can barely remember a 10-minute piece I had produced at a local community theatre. Just didn’t work.

What’s your funniest theatre story?

Of all time? Hmmm…It was not funny at the time, but one of my students pushed me to use actual profanity. He had missed an entrance and I was in the back of the auditorium watching his classmates try to cover for him. I rushed out of the theatre, back to the dressing room, and there he was just yakking it up with his home girls! I said, “You’re on! Now!” and he kind of sauntered toward the door—so I grabbed him (literally) and said, “Get your <$*& butt out there!”—Now, I just shake my head.

What are your writing habits like?

I’m sporadic. Sometimes, I’m writing every free chance I get—then there might be weeks where I don’t write a word. When there’s a deadline looming that I want to submit, I’m gangbusters. I will do all my chores and other things in life, then sit down and dedicate 2-4 hours just to get the words out on the ‘paper’. Outline, write, write. Re-outline, write, write. Rewrite.

What advice do you have for new playwrights?

Don’t be intimidated that there is magic to this craft. There isn’t any magic or specialized something you need to get started. You have a story: tell it. Then you can use all the resources you can find to fine-tune that story.

Who are some other writers you feel should get more attention?

How about—Bryan Stubbles?!  I have not had the chance to read many ‘unknown’ writers. Sorry.

What are common themes in your work?

Handicapped people, outcasts, people on the fringe.

What is one thing you wished you knew now, that you didn’t know starting out?

I wish I knew how important it was to have a network of people to support your work. I feel pretty isolated, but I’m working on building connections.

In regards to Dante Inferno Six, why is Hell so funny?

If it weren’t, it would be devastating. It makes me think of those awful times when you’re not ‘supposed’ to laugh, but if you could, it would help everything.

Please describe the process that created Clothes-minded.

A local community theatre put out a submission opportunity for 10-minute plays with the theme ‘Diversity’. I thought about that theme and all I could think of to write were things that were so corny, or cliché, or I had no business writing them because I know very little about actual diversity. I thought about the concept of segregation—separating by color—and it segued into ‘What else do we separate by color?’=laundry! Ta-da!! Someone at the 10-minute play commented on how weird it was that there were only 3 items in the load, and I thought, “Hey, this would expand to a one-act in a pretty cool way.” Ta-da!!

How are the kids and audiences responding to Clothes-minded?

My students LOOOVED performing it and the audiences were greatly amused. It’s been produced by two other groups (besides mine) already in just a few months, so I’m hopeful it will go places!

What has the feedback from People of Color or other minorities been like?

The cool thing at the very start of this is that I had a person of color playing a white sock. It was wildly cool to have discussions at rehearsal—and audience members were trying to wrap their brains around that concept. I’ve honestly had nothing but positive feedback from everyone who’s seen or been in it.

What’s a question you’d like to be asked? Go ahead and answer that question.

Question: What is your ultimate goal as a writer?

Answer: To get productions of as many of my shows as humanly possible and to leave a legacy of meaningful work behind when I go. I know I won’t know it happened, but I’d love for a production of my show to happen 250 years down the road and it’s just as relevant and meaningful as today.

Before I list her productions, do our readers have any questions for Andy? Please comment below.

For a list of all our playwrights, please check here.

Rassler’s work has seen multiple productions, mostly in North Carolina, but also in Minnesota and Germany. Below is a list of plays and productions ( with links to sites or reviews):

September 2014: Walt Grace, One Act New Play Festival. Lee Street Theatre, Salisbury, NC

March 5-6, 2016: Dear Stephen, We Like Short Shorts. Storefront Theatre, Waxhaw, NC

April 7-9, 2016: Kiss A Squid 2016 Asheville National 10-Minute Play Festival Winner. Located at the The White Horse in Black Mountain, NC

June 10-19, 2016: A Foot and a Half Old Courthouse Theatre, Concord, NC

June 16-18, 2016: Don’t Bleed on Me, Lee Street Theatre, Salisbury, NC

August 26-27, 2016: Bless Me, Father, Lee Street Theatre, Salisbury, NC

August 25-28, 2016: Number Ten, Old Courthouse Theatre Concord, NC

October 2016: Don’t Bleed on Me, NCHS Entry, NCTC One-Act Play Festival, North Carolina

November 15-16, 2016: I’ll Bet You Didn’t Know Cary Playwrights’ Forum, Cary, NC

December 2016: Star of Wonder, Lee Street Theatre, Salisbury, NC

February 1-5, 2017: In the Jungle, UBI Theatre, Leipzig, Germany

August 12-13, 2017: I’ll Bet You Didn’t Know, Old Courthouse Theatre Concord, NC

September 15-24, 2017: Clothes Minded, Eden Prairie Players, Eden Prairie, MN

November 14-16, 2017: In Heaven There is No Beer, Cary Playwrights’ Forum, Cary, NC

 

Two of her plays have been published. Clothes Minded was published by YouthPlays and is available on Amazon.

Kiss a Squid is in Smith & Kraus’ anthology Best 10 Minute Plays 2015 and Don’t Bleed On Me is in Best 10 Minute Plays 2017

Andy’s personal website is here.  

Another profile of Andy from this year.

Several of her plays are available to read at her New Play Exchange page.

Thanks Andy!

 

Current Playwrights, Female Playwrights, Unknown playwrights

Martha Patterson

If there is one word to describe unknown playwright Martha Patterson, that word would be versatile. She works in a variety of genres and deals in everything from based-on-fact monologues to fun one-acts as well as full-lengths, covering all sorts of topics.

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Martha Patterson, probably envisioning her next play combining comedy, classical stories and revenge.

Martha kinda has theatre in her blood. Her aunt Elizabeth Patterson had a massive acting career in Chicago, on Broadway and on film and TV. Audiences might remember her from a few episodes of I Love Lucy she appeared on.

Her great-uncle was Sturgis Elleno Leavitt, who was a long-time professor and translator of Spanish, particularly Spanish plays of the Golden Age.

But we’re not here to talk about them. We’re here to talk about Martha and what she’s up to.

She received her BA in Theatre Arts from Mount Holyoke College and an MA in Performing Arts Education from Emerson College.

After several years of acting and teaching, Martha turned to playwriting and hasn’t looked back.

Covering all 140+ plays Martha has written would present it’s own year of blog posts (not that I’m opposed to it, it’s just I wanted to cover her work in a timely manner).

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Advert for a Scottish production of Martha’s play A Constant Man, one of over 140 plays she’s written.

The first play we’ll look at is a short parody of Shakespeare’s venerated Hamlet. Basically, Hamlet’s dad’s ghost shows up, but Hamlet can’t be bothered:

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The play is full of jokes like this…

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In addition to being funny, these lines upend the incest motif in Hamlet.

The play itself is 3.5 pages. Let’s take a look at some of the other bits:

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The answer to his dad’s question qould be “With Gertrude, Hamlet’s mom whom he secretly wants to bone.”

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The Ghost is starting to get it. As is the dorky Danish prince –

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Spoiler alert: Hamlet falls for whatever lines his dead dad tells him, just like in the original.

This play is pretty funny and also quite silly, thus making it highly entertaining. And it’s an appropriate shortened alternative to that behemoth Hamlet, which seems to run 3 hours, minimum.

Hamlet’s Revenge has been performed in Korea by The Seoul Players in 2010 and has an upcoming production in the Phoenix area.

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The next short play of Martha’s that we’ll take a look at is Richard Gerstl, a serious monologue illuminating the life and sad death of the Viennese artist.

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When your self-portraits [the dong-free ones, at least] are this nuts, you know Martha’s gonna write an awesome monologue about you. He’s probably laughing because he was shtupping a famous composer’s wife.
Martha uses a very traditional and classical technique when setting up her plays –

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This certainly gives us a particular moment in time.

Richard introduces himself…in a way.

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Mathilde Schönberg  wasn’t repulsed. Anyways, this is interesting because so much is made of the male gaze, that it’s quite a relief when a different perspective is offered.

For those who don’t know the term, it’s kinda like when you can tell the heterosexual male director of a film is in love with the female star – then extrapolate that to how our culture tells stories. This is still endemic in theatre. You can read more about the male gaze here.

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Sounds like Richard has a bit of the male gaze himself. And he is not the most pleasent character…

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Like this, but on Mathilde Schönberg’s breasts. From here.

Did I mention he’s coiling a noose as he’s talking?

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This is a good play about a difficult topic. I don’t know if the real Richard Gerstl sought help. The play adequately summarizes the conflicts and crises in his short life…now you’re getting a brief lecture. Anytime this blog mentions a work dealing with suicide, we need to mention this…

SUICIDE STUFF FOLLOWS….

A former classmate of mine has had 5 (FIVE) of her brothers commit suicide, including 4 (FOUR) since last year. The last one was less than a month ago. She is absolutely one of the nicest people I know. This has brought suicide to the forefront of my mind.

If you’re in the US and are thinking about suicide, the hotline is here. Or simply text CONNECT to 741741.

In the UK the info is here or you can email jo@samaritans.org.

In Canada, a database of info is here or you can text 686868.

Every day I think about what my friend is going through.

If those don’t work, you can always message me at this blog. I WILL get back to you as soon as I see it.

END OF SUICIDE STUFF

Now back to Martha and a very funny play of hers…

Do y’all know steampunk? Our friends at the Oxford Dictionary say: A genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology.

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This is what steampunk looks like and we know this because it’s from a government website explaining steampunk.

This is a very bare-bones definition and for further enlightenment, one should look here.

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This is what steampunk looks like onstage, namely in Daniel Guyton‘s Art:Official Intelligence. Photo by Cathy Seith. Actors: Jeremy Clarke and Bob Smith.
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And this is what steampunk looks like in my fantasies. Just kidding, your fantasies. Photo by Bryan York. Model: GiGi.

Martha has cooked up a comedic steampunk revenge based around a fairy tale – Cinderella’s Revenge.

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Nice female-to-male ratio. Did you know Shakespeare wrote less than 16% of his roles for little boys women?
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Again, Martha provides us with that classical introduction.

Drizella and Jeremiah carry on like a couple of rich idiots for the first bit of the play.

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This dude sounds cool.

Jeremiah and Drizella argue and bicker until Cindy shows up with Prunella, who takes no guff from hyper-misogynist Jeremiah. Oh, and CIndy had previously married a prince who “ruined” her –

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Let’s analyze this exchange.

  1. Setting up Cindy’s bad treatment earlier in life. Check.
  2. Some down-home misogyny from Jer. Check.
  3. Steampunk sex joke. Check.
  4. Useless male. Check.

This being Steampunk times and all, Jeremiah doesn’t quite approve of Cindy’s choice of life partner. He hectors Cindy and Prunella until something cool happens.

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Spoiler alert: it doesn’t end well for Jerry Douchepunk.

Now we’ll turn to another monologue by Patterson: Amarilis. 

A little background info. Haïti and the Dominican Republic share the same island, Hispaniola. They often do not get along. Vox was kind enough to make an entire video about it:

In 1937, soldiers of the Dominican Republic, under orders from dictator Rafael Trujillo, commited the Parsley Massacre. This was a massacre of thousands of Haitians in the Dominican Republic.

Trujillo used the excuse that Haitians were criminals, which is a tactic certain other leaders are using even now.

It is called the Parsley Massacre in English because the pronunciation of perejil – “parsley” in Spanish – was used to distinguish Dominicans from Haitians.

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Wait, a quality role for a senior???? Good thing I was sitting down when I read this.

 

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When an elderly person asks “Are you sure you want to hear this?” you must think about it carefully. There’s a reason they ask it.

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That’s your reason, right there.

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Yeah. This.

The play ends with Amarilis focusing again on the present.

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The final play of Martha’s we’ll take a look at is the wondrous and wonderfully horrific short play A Doll’s Life. Let’s see what that’s about:

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This sounds fun.

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Not while her doll is bugging her.

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Because grilled cheese sandwiches totally own evil dolls.

 

 

This video could be retitled “How to kill Satanic dolls” – she uses enough butter to kill 13 Satans precisely. Geez.

So dad doesn’t really get it. But Amelia bugs him enough that he decides to inspect the closet, while complaining 100%.

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Whoops.

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Womp womp. We’re lucky enough to have a real live production of A Doll’s Life.

 

 

Martha was kind enough to take some time out of her busy writing schedule and answer a few questions:

1. How did you start playwriting? 

I’d always been a writer – of stories and poetry, as a kid – but I started writing plays in my late 30s, while in grad school studying Performing Arts Education.  I had thought I’d teach drama to high school students, after being an actress in California and New York, but discovered I didn’t really like teaching.  However, if I hadn’t gone to grad school I probably wouldn’t have become a playwright.  My acting training definitely informs my writing, in terms of characterization and knowing what kinds of parts are fun to play.

2. What are your influences?
In college as a Theatre student, I had to read lots of Shakespeare, Ibsen, Shaw, Chekhov, so I’m influenced by them.  Interestingly, when I started writing plays I wrote lots of long monologues into my scripts, partly because those writers did, but as time’s gone on, I keep my dialogue more clipped.  I’m told that audiences have short attention spans and prefer not to listen to long speeches. 
 
3. What is your most memorable production and why? 
Of my own work?  Probably a production of my political monologue AMARILIS, about the conflict between Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the early 1900s.  It was produced by the Border of Lights Festival in NYC, and they had an space in a church, served wine and cheese, and had a musician playing before and after the show.  I went to New York to see it and was really glad to meet the producer, who’s still a penpal, and the woman who played the elderly lady I wrote about.  The whole affair was elegant, and I always love being in NYC again. 
Of other people’s work, I really liked Caryl Churchill’s CLOUD NINE, which I saw Off-Broadway.  Clever mixing up of sexes and ages in the cast, and I don’t remember the plot well now – this was years ago – but I certainly enjoyed the play.
4. What is your least memorable production and why? [you can leave out specifics or names]
There was a production of mine in Hawaii and they sent me a DVD of the performance because I couldn’t go, and one of the actors fluffed his lines, and the lighting was too dim, and the show wasn’t very well staged.  I guess that’s my least favorite.
 
5. What’s your funniest theatre story?  
I started writing my first play in grad school, and the guy I asked to read the man’s part out loud to the class was so good, I kept writing the play and finished it with him in mind.  He wasn’t even really an actor.  I’ve never seen anyone play the role as well as he read it.  He had a quiet, deadpan delivery and it’s funny because it was an accident that I “cast” him.
 
6. What are your writing habits like?  
I usually have a vodka-and-tonic next to me, even if all the ice melts and it gets watered down before I drink it, and I often write late at night into the wee hours of the morning.  
 
7. What advice do you have for new playwrights? 
Don’t be afraid to try it, and do have your work read out loud, preferably by people who’ve done some acting.  You’ll find out where the dialogue lags. Share your work with other playwrights – they’ll often give good feedback, which you can take or leave, as you choose, but don’t be defensive – often after thinking about someone’s critique you’ll find they had valid comments.
 
8. Who are some other writers you feel should get more attention? 
Shakespeare.  (Kidding.)  Actually, among the writers I’m friends with, they’re all doing as well or better than I am, production-wise.  Dan Guyton is a pen-friend from Georgia who’s a really strong writer, has lots of funny plays but also wrote a full-length drama in verse, set in Hell – I don’t know how he managed to complete such a piece of work, all in verse.  Evan Guilford-Blake is another playwright from Georgia – lately he’s focused on fiction, though – but he’s excellent, and I recently read a beautiful, elegiac short story he wrote that he’s trying to get published.  

9. What are common themes in your work? 
Relationships are something I focus on – marriages or families with conflict.  But I also have political plays, and recently wrote one about the workplace, and I have a few plays for youth, and I can’t really say I have themes.  I will tell you I’ve written for themes requested by theatres, and even if they didn’t choose my play, I’ve usually gotten it done elsewhere.  So writing for themes has been very productive for me – it gets my creativity going, when otherwise I’d be at a loss as to what to write about.  AMARILIS was written for a themed event.  I think HAMLET’S REVENGE was, too.

10. What is one thing you wished you knew now, that you didn’t know starting out? 
Keep lots of your lines short, a rapid-fire back-and-forth.  Seems to work for me these days; as I’ve already said, long monologues can be dull.
11. How has the playwriting market changed since your first production in ’97? 
It’s more competitive.  I got three long one-acts produced right off the bat as a writer, Off-Off-Broadway, but this past year has a been deadly – only three productions and a few publications, which is less than my average.  I belong to the Playwrights’ Binge, an international listserv, and I share lots of opportunities with those people, but it’s been suggested to me to be less generous, just because I’m up against so many other authors!  There are 1000s of playwrights out there.
12. Please tell us about the process behind writing Amarilis.
First I had to do research, which I did online by reading brief histories of Haiti and the Dominican.  Then, I had to write the speech.  I came up with the character of a little old lady, I don’t know why, except that she had to be old because she’s recounting the conflict between those nations and it happened decades ago.  I imagined her talking to her neighbor, who is unseen, and the whole thing unfolded from there.
13. You have Hamlet’s Revenge and Cinderella’s Revenge – both comedies. How does one make revenge as hilarious as possible?
By using the unexpected.  I’ve read that there are two reasons why people laugh: 1) because the same thing’s happened to them (like slipping on the proverbial banana peel), or 2) because what happens is unexpected – the audience isn’t anticipating that action or line.  In HAMLET’S REVENGE I have Hamlet idly eating a sandwich while his father chews him out, and Hamlet is very unconcerned about avenging his Dad’s murder.  That’s an innately funny situation and you’re not expecting him to be so blase.
14. Multipart question: Have you faced ageism and/or sexism in your career? If yes, what advice or tips would you give fellow writers coming up against those obstacles?  
No, I don’t think I’ve faced ageism or sexism.  Most of the playwrights I know are over 45 or 50 anyway, and I don’t think it’s a hindrance, except when you find an opportunity to submit that’s only for under-30s, but that’s the theatre’s choice.
Much has been made of the need for gender parity in the theatre, especially among writers, but I’ve gotten my fair share of productions and publications, so I’m not complaining.
15. What is a question you’d like to be asked? Please go ahead and answer that question.
I suppose one question I’d like to be asked – do I attend the theatre often? – has a surprising answer: No, I don’t.  I saw so much theatre in my youth, and appeared as a leading lady in lots of productions, that I don’t feel the need to go very often these days, and it really is an expense.  I probably should get out and see what’s going on in theatre right now.  But often I’d rather read a play than actually see it, which I can do in half the time it takes to watch a performance.  And sometimes when I go to the theatre I get bored and restless.  I’d rather be at home writing!
Thanks so much Martha for sharing your talent and knowledge with us!
For a list of ALL our playwrights, please click here.
Everyone, please check the following links:
Martha’s website with a list of her productions.
The script for A Constant Man.
Listing for Brotherly Love in Texas.
Production of Amirilis.
Video of Girl Before the Mirror, a play about Picasso’s girlfriend.
Current Playwrights, Dude Playwrights, Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past

Feline Theatre (Florence Bell, Irene Woodbridge Clark, Frances Sankstone Mintz, Alan Rejón)

This post was prompted by a conversation with our friends over at Strange Company.

UPDATE/NEWS/EXCITING STUFF: This blog was recently featured in The Dramatist magazine (sorry, online edition only available to Dramatists Guild members – if I were in charge, I’d change this)

Beyond the musical Cats and beyond that Tennessee Williams play, — and beyond The Cat and the Canary lies a feline theatre ripe for exploration.

The Cat and the Fiddle

Our first example of said theatre is The Cat and the Fiddle – straight out of…..Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 10.43.34 AM

The book starts with some magnificent advice for adults regarding children’s plays, which is the following:

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If only the foul Mrs. Holbrook who directed our 3rd grade version of Stone Soup had such wisdom.

For those who don’t know, Hey Diddle Diddle/The Cat and the Fiddle is a well-known nursery rhyme in the English-speaking world. It goes like this:

 

It might date back as far as the 16th Century but the version most resembling what we know now was published in 1765.

This is a dramatization of that rhyme, published in 1922 when the author was 72 years of age.

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From the start: CONFLICT!

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Let’s explore that in detail…

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I don’t blame the dog, given the nightmare fuel in this movie clip of a cat playing a fiddle:

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Well, dog – that’s some skill you got there…

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Emojipedia time!!!

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Supposedly “over the moon” comes from the nursery rhyme – or not. Makes more sense if the moon is near the ground.

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Lady Bell was kind enough to add sheet music:

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I can’t read sheet music, but I heard if the notes go up, the voice goes up.

The cat gets all mad:

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“Impertinence” – such a cat word.

“day week” <<< is this a typo? Does anyone know???

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“You’re so vain”…of course you’ll get Carly Simon’s famous song, but in Canadian French and produced by the dude who married Celine Dion.

So the dog and cat make a bet. If cat loses, cat must leave…

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Oh snap!!! Bye bye kitty cat…

The author, Lady Florence Bell, had a somewhat interesting life. She was born to an well-known Irish physician in Paris. She married another well-known chap. Through this marriage she was stepmother to Gertrude Bell, who became an archaelogist and apparently a founder of modern Jordan and Iraq (?!) – seriously, look it up.

Wikipedia claims she was “one of the few representatives of His Majesty’s Government remembered by the Arabs with anything resembling affection”

Anyhow, her stepmom Florence (our playwright) wrote a bunch of plays and books and you can read some of them here.  The Cat and the Fiddle is right here.

Before we move on to the next “cat fancy” play, we must leave you with two videos…

Here is someone rapping Hey Diddle, Diddle…I bet little kids love him.

I wish my uncle were that cool. The video and rapper right there is one of the awesomest discoveries made while researching this blog.

Now, on to the next play – The Egyptian Cat

The Egyptian Cat

I think most the world knows Ancient Egyptians worshipped cats.

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Revered cats, turned into fertilizer by the usual suspects.

Thus the setting for this 1916 opus is a land full of reverence for cats.

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42 bucks!!! [This is pretty much more than my plays ever made] 

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Pictured: If American theatre were an emoticon.

The play opens with some serious instructions for a a giant artificial cat to be built:

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“Spit fiercely.”

And it even comes with DIAGRAMS!!!!

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A LOBSTER!!!!!!

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The stuff dreams nightmares Satan’s nightmares are made of. 

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“not too frequent”

Oh, and this is a shadow play. I don’t think wayang puppetry has anything to worry about.

This is a love story about a maiden with three suitors, of whom she loves one.

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Like all cats, even special ones require cream…

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Typical cat….

The Maiden asks the cat to help her get the one guy she loves…they need to escape. The cat has demands.

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“GIVE ME THAT SPIDER”

The maiden does the cat’s bidding.

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She explains what she needs.

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The cat takes care of business…

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Tough kitty – bye bye not-in-love suitors….

By the way, the word “vain” pops up here again. I know this is a different meaning of vain, but we get to hear a DIFFERENT version of Carly Simon’s song.

This English version comes from Surabaya-born Indonesian singer Ervinna ….

And like many stories, there is a happy ending.

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That’s one content cat. Except they stroke her the wrong way…

The only thing I could find about the author is that she apparently lived in North Carolina, USA.

The Wolf and the Cat

This pièce de résistance appears in the 1915 tome Story-Hour Plays by Frances Sankstone Mintz.

It is taken from a fable collected by Ivan Krylov. The play is really, really short. Like short  enough for the whole play to be included right here.

But you should totally check Krylov out because according to the Wiki Gods :

“A multitude of half-legendary stories were told about his laziness, his gluttony and the squalor in which he lived,”

In this play, a big bad wolf meets Vaska, the cat.

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Did y’all get that moral? Don’t be mean to people because they won’t help you later. Burning bridges.

The Hen and the Cat

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An illustration is worth 1,000 words.

This fun piece of theatre is supposedly based on an African fable, but I have yet to find it.

This first scene is awesomely short:

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Talk about exposition.

And so it goes. The cat, being a passive-aggressive weirdo, sends its child to the Hen.

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And the Hen sends her kid to talk to the cat.

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The cat is more “controlling stalker” than friend.

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They finally get going and the plot takes a twist as aberrant as the cat’s mind:

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The cat seizes her kids???? Really???

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Yes, you just read the real-life true story of why cats and hens aren’t friends.

In real-life, I’ve seen chickens puff themselves up to scare cats. I should write a play about it.

The play ends with a question for the kiddos:

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Good question. And I have found the answer. It must’ve been a VERY slow news day in Toronto. Probably ran out of poutine-interest stories.

The author, Frances Sankstone Mintz, appears to have been a night school/immigrant English class teacher in the American state of New Jersey.

All her other books are about turning foreigners into good Americans.

Have a gander.

Here is the book of plays she wrote, containing The Wolf and the Cat and The Hen and the Cat. Time for a sequel: The Wolf and the Cat and the Hen and the Mercedes Benz. Any takers?

And now for a real treat, there is an author out there who is continuing the tradition of cat plays and I don’t mean plays that have the cat’s head explode and get nominated for a Tony.

El Gato y el Ratón/The Cat and the Mouse

Alan Rejón has written some very interesting short plays, all in Spanish and they are on a website with plays written by others.

The plays are short enough to include here. This one has a very unique twist.

I’ve included the original Spanish, followed by a translation. And look for the twist!

Historia: Un pequeño ratón se da cuenta que está a punto de ser cazado por un gato, intentando salvarse nuestro pequeño amigo comienza una pequeña charla.

(El ratón está de espaldas cuando de repente el gato comienza a correr hacia él.)

Ratón: ¡Espera!, ¡Espera!

Gato: ¿Qué quieres?

Ratón: ¿Por qué haces esto?

Gato: ¿Qué cosa?

Ratón: Cazarme.

Gato: Pues, porque tengo hambre.

Ratón: Bueno, ¿Te gusta mi sabor y la textura de mi piel?

Gato: Humm, de hecho no, odio cuando la cola pasa por mi garganta y todavía después de unas semanas sigo escupiendo bolas de pelo blancas.

Ratón: Entonces ¿Por qué cazas ratones? No tiene sentido.

Gato: Tal vez, pero en la iglesia de Doraemon el gato que vino del futuro, nos enseñaron que para estar cerca de él debemos comer ratones pues ustedes no lo aceptan a él como el único viajero del tiempo y salvador de la comunidad gatuna.

Ratón: No puedo creer que esa sea la razón.

Gato: Hagamos un trato, te dejare libre si aceptas a Doraemon como único viajero del tiempo y salvador de la comunidad gatuna.

Ratón: Claro que no lo aceptaré, para empezar por que no existe y segundo, si lo hiciera, entonces no me convendría creer en él ya que solo quiere salvar a los felinos.

Gato: No te atrevas a decir que no existe, rata blasfema, porque está en todos lados y puede desatar su furia, además en mi iglesia tenemos una comunidad de ratones creyentes a los cuales dejamos en paz.

Ratón: Doraemon sólo era la caricatura de un gato azul, ¿Cuántos gatos azules conoces?

Gato: Yo creo que para demostrar su divinidad Doraemon eligió el color azul para que ninguna raza sea discriminada y la televisión fue la manera de extender su mensaje en nosotros.

Ratón: Bueno, explícame esto, Doraemon era un robot, ¿Por qué tendría que comer ratones si ni estomago tiene? Yo creo que tu iglesia ha inventado todo sólo para poder controlarlos.

Gato: Pues, pues… (El Gato se come al ratón) Tanta plática me abrió el apetito.

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Doraemon, a hint of terror to come.

Setting: A small mouse realizes that he is about to be hunted by a cat, trying to save himself,  our little friend begins some small talk.

(The mouse is on its back when suddenly the cat starts running towards him.)

Mouse: Wait! Wait!

Cat: What do you want?

Mouse: Why are you doing this?

Cat: Doing what?

Mouse: Hunting me.

Cat: Well, because I’m hungry.

Mouse: Well, do you like my taste and the texture of my skin?

Cat: Humm, in fact no, I hate when the tail goes through my throat and even after a few weeks I keep spitting white balls of hair.

Mouse: So why are you hunting mice? It makes no sense.

Cat: Maybe, but in the church of Doraemon the cat that came from the future, we were taught that to be close to him we must eat mice because you do not accept him as the only time traveler and savior of the cat community.

Mouse: I can not believe that’s the reason.

Cat: Let’s make a deal, I’ll let you go if you accept Doraemon as the only time traveler and savior of the feline community.

Mouse: Of course I won’t accept it. To begin with because it doesn’t exist and secondly, if I did, then it would not make sense for me to believe in it since it only wants to save the felines.

Gato: Don’t you dare to say that it doesn’t exist, blasphemous rat, because it is everywhere and can unleash its fury, in addition in my church we have a community of believing mice whom we leave in peace.

Mouse: Doraemon was just the caricature of a blue cat, how many blue cats do you know?

Cat: I think that to demonstrate his divinity Doraemon chose the color blue so that no race is discriminated against and television was the way to spread his message in us.

Mouse: Well, explain this to me, Doraemon was a robot, why would he have to eat mice if he doesn’t even have a stomach? I believe that your church has invented everything just to control them.

Cat: Well, well … (The cat eats the mouse) So much talk opened my appetite.

Say what??? A play that began as a typical Tom & Jerry thing escalates into an anti-organized religion polemnic featuring its own Molloch anime character demanding dead mice.

Fortunately for us, there are several Youtube videos of this play, including one college production from UPN Morelos. And one we should term “paper bag theatre” –

Escenografía: Un callejón, con algunos botes de basura.

Personajes:
Perro Dóberman (Voz fuerte y babeando)
Perro Akita (Orgulloso y callado)
Perro Chihuahua (Trembling, talks in a singsong manner)
Perro Vagabundo (Perro/gato)
Introducción: Un día como cualquier otro 3 perros amigos paseaban por el callejón buscando algo para comer, mientras se acercaban a los botes de basura vieron a lo lejos a otro de sus amigos, un perro algo raro (flaco y con poco cabello, el perro vagabundo) al que llevaban meses sin ver… Bueno, excepto por el Chihuahua quien tendría un chimes que contarles.
Chihuahua: Oigan, oigan, adivinen qué me contaron del vagabundo.
Dóberman: No sé, dinos.
Chihuhua: ¡El pobre enloqueció y se cree un gato!
Akita: ¿Estás seguro? Yo creo que sólo son habladurías de la gente.
Chihuahua: Pues seguro, seguro, no pero…
Dóberman: (interrumpiendo) Pues vamos a ver, llamémosle.
Akita: Si es cierto no hay que burlarse de él, hay que ayudarle.
Chihuahua: Claro, claro.
Dóberman: ¡Hey vagabundo, ven!
(Vagabundo los mira y corre hacia ellos.)
Vagabundo: ¡Amigos, tiempo sin verlos!
Akita: Sí, mucho tiempo, para ser sinceros te hablamos para saber si es cierto algo que han estado diciendo de ti.
Vagabundo: ¿Qué cosa?
Akita: Pues…
Dóberman: (interrumpiendo) Que te crees un gato…
Vagabundo: Jajaja, claro que no me creo un gato…
Akita: Eso creí…
Vagabundo: ¡Soy un gato! Miren como hago Miau.
Chihuahua: No lo puedo creer.
Dóberman: Claro que no eres un gato.
Vagabundo: Sí lo soy mira como digo Miau.
Akita: Amigo no eres un gato y te lo podemos demostrar.
Vagabundo: ¿Cómo?
Akita: Bueno, para empezar si fueras un gato nosotros te perseguiríamos y no lo hacemos.
Vagabundo: Eso es porque soy un gato rudo, mira como hago Miau (con voz ruda)
Chihuahua: Eso no demuestra nada, si fueras un gato te gustaría el pescado y no te gusta.
Vagabundo: Bueno, lo que pasa es que soy un gato vegetariano, mira como hago Miau (con voz elegante y chupándose los dedos)
Dóberman: No, no, no, si fueras un gato podrías trepar a los árboles y estoy seguro que no puedes.
Vagabundo: Claro que no puedo y eso es porque soy un gato pesado, sólo mira como hago Miau (voz pesada)
Akita: Si fueras un gato serias flexible y podrías lavarte a ti mismo con la lengua.
Vagabundo: Claro que puedo, miren. (Improvisa movimientos gatunos)
Chihuahua: ¡Santos caninos!
Dóberman: Esto es muy perturbador.
Akita: Ok, ok eres un gato pero deja de hacer eso.
Vagabundo: ¿Ven? Soy un gato y digo Miau.
Dóberman: ¿Cómo aprendiste a hacer eso?
Vagabundo: Yoga.

Setting: An alley, with some garbage cans.

Characters:
Doberman (loud voice and drooling)
Akita dog (Proud and silent)
Chihuahua dog (Tembloroso, cantadito speaks)
Vagabond Dog (Dog / cat)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pics from here, here and here.

Introduction: A day like any other 3 friendly dogs walk through the alley looking for something to eat, as they approach the trash cans saw in the distance another of their friends, a somewhat weird dog (skinny and with little hair, the vagabond) who has not seen them for months … Well, except for the Chihuahua who is telling them.

Chihuahua: Hey, listen, guess what they told me about the tramp.
Doberman: I don’t know, tell us.
Chihuhua: The poor guy went crazy and thinks he’s a cat!
Akita: Are you sure? I think they are just gossiping about people.
Chihuahua: Sure, sure, no, but …
Doberman: (interrupting) Well let’s see, let’s call him.
Akita: If it’s true, don’t make fun of him, you have to help him.
Chihuahua: Sure, sure.
Doberman: Hey vagabond, come!

(Vagabond looks at them and runs towards them.)

Vagabond: Friends, long time, no see!
Akita: Yes, a long time, to be honest we’re talking to you to know if what they have been saying about you is true.
Vagabond: What did they say?
Akita: Well …
Doberman: (interrupting) That you think you’re a cat …
Vagabond: Hahaha, of course I don’t think I’m a cat …
Akita: I thought so …
Vagabond: I am a cat! Look how I meow.
Chihuahua: I can’t believe it.
Doberman: Of course you’re not a cat.
Vagabond: Yes I am, look like I say “meow”.
Akita: Friend, you’re not a cat and we can prove it to you.
Vagabond: How?
Akita: Well, to begin with if you were a cat we would chase you and we do not.
Vagabond: That’s because I’m a rough cat, look at me meow (with a rough voice)
Chihuahua: That doesn’t prove anything, if you were a cat you would like fish and you don’t.
Vagabond: Well, what happens is that I am a vegetarian cat, look at me meow (with an elegant voice and sucking fingers)
Doberman: No, no, no, if you were a cat you could climb trees and I’m sure you can not.
Vagabond: Of course I can’t and that’s because I’m a heavy cat, watch me meow (heavy voice)
Akita: If you were a cat you would be flexible and you could wash yourself with your tongue.
Vagabond: Of course I can, look. (Improvises cat movements)
Chihuahua: Holy dogs!
Doberman: This is very disturbing.
Akita: Ok, ok you’re a cat but stop doing that.
Vagabond: See? I am a cat and I say “meow.”
Doberman: How did you learn to do that?
Vagabond: Yoga.

Another twisted tail tale. So here we have another reference to the fact dogs can’t climb trees.

And fortunately for us, we have some Youtube videos of this play in action:

That last one comes with bloopers!!!

 

I don’t know much about the author. I’m assuming he’s Mexican because all the productions appear to be Mexican.

The plays are available on the website and they have a Youtube page with some videos.

And along with the Spanish theme + cats, here is a Spanish-language cover of The Cure’s The Love Cats, which against all odds and Mother Nature, manages to be weirder than the original….

 

And as a final, final special treat, here’s Catwoman herself (and Yzma) – Eartha Kitt – singing about being a different kind of cat….I dunno…she still jumps on furniture.

 

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I’d eat mice for her any day, but not for that false god Doraemon.
Current Playwrights, Dude Playwrights, Unknown playwrights

Ryan Bultrowicz

This week we return to living playwrights with the oh-so-prolific Ryan Bultrowicz.

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Our dapper playwriting hero ordering a mob hit pizza from the prop room. And is that a dead squireel in the background?

How prolific? The man has 18 plays (and counting) on the New Play Exchange.  That’s a few to choose from. So I decided to lead with his comedy-romance-drama-horror I Found Her Ear and She Stole My Heart because…it’s entitled I Found Her Ear and She Stole My Heart.

I Found Her Ear and She Stole My Heart

Part of the genius of the work is that the synopsis is built into the title. Do I really need to tell you what I Found Her Ear and She Stole My Heart is about?

The writing in this play is smooth, smooth, smooth. Let’s explore.

Bringing up shades of Blue Velvet, Edward tells his brother about an ear he found. A woman’s ear.

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Tyler is a pimp/low-level criminal and all-around dick. Edward is the nicer of the two. And more romantic, too.

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He might just be very, very lonely, too.

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Bultrowicz does an amazing job with the exposition. We know one brother is a criminal/jerk-ass and the other can fall in love wth a severed ear.

 

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Did I mention the play incorporates magical realism? We’ve touched upon magical realism before in Benjamin Gonzales‘ and Yolanda Mendiveles‘ work before.

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Did he write a play entitled Three Women and an Onion? Of course he did! It played at Madlab.

So Tyler promises Edward he can find the woman, but only if Edward will do him a favor: dump a car in a lake.

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That trunk contained one of Tyler’s many enemies.

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Edward may have killed someone.

Now look how Bultrowicz sets up this dialogue…it’s like 1-2-3-twist. That twist takes us in a new direction.

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Thus Madalyn appears with a bandaged ear, but Edward suspects all is not as it seems.

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And in a part I found disturbing, Edward, who thus far has been meek and mild, turns into his brother…kinda.

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Edward is being a horrible human being right now.

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I see Jon Stewart’s retirement is going well.

Tyler of course was outside waiting, like all psychopathic pimps…

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He’s not finished.

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Sounds like Tyler has made the blackmail official. Again, Bultrowicz throwing us that curve in the dialogue he does so well.

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Unsure if this is about the guy Edward supposedly killed or someone in their past, like their father…or a random rodeo clown?

Caroline – the lady following the crow, makes her way to Edward’s room. She’s missing an ear. Edward is certain they were meant to be together.

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As long as murderers have a good reason , I guess it’s OK.

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And now comes what I feel is a great monologue, for a great character, for any actress:

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And that explains a lot!

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Edward is still kinda low in the self-esteem department. BUT he’s in love. And he did do something horrible to Madalyn.

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Oh that dialogue!!!

Caroline tries to convince Edward to stand up to bad-boy brother Tyler.

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Spoiler alert: Tyler doesn’t make it to the end of the play…alive.

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Strangled and gutted by a crow. Damn.

Edward and Caroline live happily ever after.

Now, for random fun, here’s a video of Ryan’s play Dream Date:

And some pictures:

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Next, we’ll look at Gentle Strokes, a short play that is actually a hilarious stroke of genius.

Gentle Strokes

This has a lot going on. Particularly an indictment of how the male gaze continues to dominate art – and maybe what people can do about it.

Full disclosure: I once pitched a thriller with a female protagonist to a female Hollywood executive who rejected it and told me she “really likes” the male gaze.

shrug_1f937

The antagonist in Bultrowicz’ play not only likes the male gaze, but likes being a creepy-ass male.

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I can see it. From a production of Gentle Strokes.

Emily is receiving a painting lesson from Stanley, who first comes off like Bob Ross. A creepy Bob Ross.

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Of course once a guy gets going…

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Did you know there’s an emojipedia?

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Again, Bultrowicz with that punchline. His dialogue is like a four punch combination in boxing. 1-2-3-BAM! Here’s a great link on how to throw an actual 4 punch combo.

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Incidentally, Stanley is available at Wal-Mart.

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Gentle Strokes -01

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Emily asks what is wrong with him. Short answer: everything…

Stanley’s actions make her question her marriage…

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Emily agrees to Stanley’s bizarre proposition.

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1-2-3-BAM!

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And now I reached a point where I was totally ready to review another short of Ryan’s – maybe it was The Audience Disturbs Marcel’s Bath Time and He Is Very Upset With You All – which is becoming popular. A trailer for that play is below:

We’ll have a photo dump of all the stills from The Audience Disturbs Marcel’s Bath Time and He Is Very Upset With You All at the end of this post. 

Perhaps it was The Rabbit’s Hole which is about magicians who have died while doing magic – and which I have reviewed on the New Play Exchange and you can too!

You can also view The Rabbit’s Hole in its entirety here:

And there’s a second video here:

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Or was it People Are Just Furniture With Emotions which I read and is brilliant and contains the line “I’m not being shy. I just…why would I sit on him?

I was prepared to review one of those when a very special Ryan Bultrowicz play caught my eye:

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It gets even better.

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Two-Timing Loaf of Bread

The set up feels superficially similar to Matthew Weaver’s Arguing with Toasters. Must be the Zeitgeist.

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Pictured: a two-timing bastard.

Carol tells bread about a vision she had. Of them being all nice and happy.

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Bread, being a typical male, fears commitment like he does a toaster. Carol doesn’t take kindly to this.

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Bread is mean to her.

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Bread asks her the time. He wants her to leave.

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Why could bread want her to….OHHHHH.

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There’s this really cheesy Clint Eastwood movie where the clue to catch the killer is literally spelled out “N-O   O-N-E” – it’s really sad. This play is like 10x better than that movie.

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Bread doesn’t know how to love. If only bread knew about Quora, we could’ve avoided all this mess. There’s even a song about it.

 

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Victimizer playing the victim. Typical.

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Well, bread. I have a feeling shee’s not really caring about what you say.

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I’m scared.

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Wow. Bread had Mommy issues. This is the second scene of Bultrowicz’ that reminds me of Blue Velvet.

Bread’s dead.

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Carol and Sophie are alive. I just hope they ate some of their ex and fed the rest of him to ducks at the park.

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If you are anyhwere near Mary Baldwin University, Two-Timing Loaf of Bread will be performed there soon with Marcel AND Three Women and an Onion!!!

For those of you who would like a healthy relationship with bread, here is a recipe on how to bake banana bread – because banana bread would never hurt you.

 

The Playwright

So I basically stole his biography off his New Play Exchange page. I’ll hyperlink and [add emphasis] where necessary.

“Ryan Bultrowicz is a [badass] Mexican-American playwright based out of Washington D.C. and Virginia. He’s interested in creating [hilarious] innovative, experimental, and magical shows. His works have been produced all over the world. He is the author of Dream Date (Queensland University, Australia), The Rabbit’s Hole (Baumholder American School, Germany), Shower Thoughts (Network Theatre, London), The Audience Disturbs Marcel’s Bath Time and He Is Very Upset With You All (Tiny Dynamite, Philadelphia), Three Women and an Onion (MadLab, Ohio) and many more. His acting credits include playing Macbeth (Macbeth), Vincent Cradeau (No Exit), Creon (Antigone), Scoop Rosenbaum (The Heidi Chronicles) and many more.

He is a Communication Studies major with a concentration in Mass Media at Longwood University. He spends his free time there working with the theatre department in numerous ways that include acting and writing. He is passionate about theatre and hopes to create works that will force audiences to question their comforts and beliefs.

I love talking with fellow playwrights, actors, or artists of any kind. Feel free to reach out and start a discussion with me, I’d be thrilled to hear from you. [You should do this. He really is a good guy.]

Ryan was kind enough to answer some questions for us.

How did you start playwriting?

 

I’ve been doing theatre since I was in the eighth grade and was writing short sketches everyonce in a while but not taking it very seriously. Eventually, my sophomore year of college, Iwas unsatisfied with the amount of acting opportunities around me. I go to college in a verysmall town and theatre isn’t really a big part of that towns culture. So, there basically weren’tany more ways to get involved with theatre for the year but I still needed it as an outlet.That’s when I started taking playwriting seriously and once I did that I realized what anincredibly freeing art form it can be.

 

What are your influences?

Sara Ruhl, Martin Mcdonagh, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, William Shakespeare, Arthur Miller.

 

What is your most memorable production and why?

Recently, I got the chance to go see a professional production of my show “The Audience

Disturbs Marcels Bath Time and He Is Very Upset With You All” in Philadelphia and that

was so amazing. It was also an incredibly unique theatrical experience that even I, the

playwright, had not had before. It was really cool to be able to experience that for the first time with an audience.

 

What is your least memorable production and why?

I’ll just say…if you choose to produce one of my shows please don’t change the lines and

please don’t break the fourth wall (unless it’s one of my plays where I break the fourth wall) to ad-lib to the audience.

What’s your funniest theatre story?

In February, I actually self-produced a production of “The Audience Disturbs Marcel’s Bath Time and He Is Very Upset With You All” where I played the titular character, Marcel. To really simplify the play, it’s basically about a man trying to take a bath, noticing an audience in his bathroom, and proceeding to yell at them and call them perverts. We were fortunate enough to sell out! The show started, I danced, spotted the audience, and started going in on them, awesome, right? Well, this older couple that randomly stumbled into the theatre that day without knowing anything about the show was clearly not expecting to be directly addressed. After being called perverts by a rabid shirtless man they left almost immediately.

 

What are your writing habits like?

 

Ideas can hit me from any direction and I never know when it’s going to happen. Generally, I get the idea and then I think about it for a few days or weeks, and then once it’s been stirring around in my mind I can usually knock out a first draft in another week or two. Then I rewrite it, have some trusted readers go through it with critiques, rewrite it again, prematurely submit it somewhere, rewrite it again, and so on.

 

What advice do you have for new playwrights?

This is for all artists, but I think it’s especially important for playwrights, if you have the opportunity to go sit in an audience and see a play…GO! Other than that, write every day. I know that sentiment is expressed so often but it’s a good one. Don’t kill yourself doing it but at least try to think about writing everyday, or jot down one line of dialogue, or something. Oh, and if you have an idea for a play or you don’t and you want to write a play anyway…start now! You’ll be glad you did in the future. I know, personally, I’m glad I found playwriting at a young age because I imagine in ten years I’ll have a lot of writing experience under my belt and my work will have really benefited from that.

 

Who are some other writers you feel should get more attention?

Scott Mullen, Matthew Weaver, Karen Fix Curry, Jennifer Kokai, Steve Martin.

What are common themes in your work?

Death, life, love, loss. Anything that scares me or anything that excites me. Who knows

which is which!

What is one thing you wished you knew now, that you didn’t know starting out?

That I didn’t have to try and write plays other people had already written. I’ve had the most success writing the plays that I would want to see myself.

I love looking at vulnerable individuals and putting them in situations controlled by arrogant individuals.

How did you come up with a play about a guy falling in love with a severed ear?

 

It’s been awhile but I’m almost positive I was inspired by a dream. That’s usually how I find a good starting point for my shows. I let my subconscious mind do the hard work!

 

Other times I can be inspired by hearing fragments of sentences from strangers, but I really hope I didn’t hear anyone talk about how they’re in love with a severed ear.

I Found Her Ear and She Stole My Heart has some effective magical realism. What advice can you give playwrights who want to infuse their plays with magical realism?

The brilliant thing about the stage is the unsurmountable possibilities for what can be done. As I have fallen deeper and deeper into the craft of playwriting this is an idea I’ve been unyieldingly pursuing. I crave to create those instances that I have felt a few times before in the theatre, watching a fantastic play, becoming so enthralled in its world, and never wanting to leave. For my plays, like I said, a lot of them come from dreams and I think magical realism can be used as a successful way to capture that feeling for an audience. If you’re someone who wants to learn how to do magical realism better then please go see some plays that utilize it or even just read some!

Gentle Strokes is flat-out hilarious (as are many of your other plays). What are some tips you may have for writing comedy?

I owe a lot of my comedic sensibilities to having studied improv comedy since I started

doing theatre. The core principles of improv and especially long-form have really helped me with writing comedy. I think at the core of a successful comedy there should be something honest about the world being exposed. If anyone is interested, there’s a fantastic book called “Truth in Comedy” that is wonderful and can sum this up in a way better way than I can.

 

What can American theatre do to be more welcoming to playwrights of all backgrounds?

 

More local theatres need to start getting involved with playwrights! Read their work!

Produce their work! Help enable them to spread the passion!

 

What’s a question you’d like to be asked? Go ahead and answer it.

This may not ever come to fruition, but I want everyone to know I’m working on a play about a woman who goes to Hell to try and rescue her dead yoga instructor.

I say this because now you will constantly be having to check my NPX page to see if I’ve uploaded it!!!

Wow, Ryan. Thank you so much. I’m sure we’ll never trust a loaf of bread again.

As promised, here are a bunch of pictures from The Audience Disturbs Marcel’s Bath Time and He Is Very Upset With You All – I think a few have our playwright. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now, links to any and all things related tp Ryan Bultrowicz:

His New Play Exchange page.

His Lindkedin page.

The Rabbit’s Hole production.

The Drowning Star, published at Lazy Bee Scripts.

Extensive interview regarding Marcel.

A Cold Blue Place shortlisted by a UK theatre.

Broadway World review of Marcel.

Review of Marcel.

Gentle Strokes at Mildred’s Umbrella.

The Lamentable Tragedy of Titus and Juliet.

More Marcel.

Marcel, Marcel.

Upcoming event featuring Marcel, the Loaf of Bread AND Three Women and an Onion!

Yet another Marcel review.

Dream Date.

Interesting entry for Gentle Strokes.

Marcel!

Three Women and an Onion.

Someone didn’t like Marcel.

A poem.

Another Dream Date.

Shower Thoughts.

 

Current Playwrights, Dude Playwrights, Unknown playwrights

Ricardo Soltero-Brown

This week’s playwright is Orlando-based Ricardo Soltero-Brown. His work is vast, prolific and varied.

montage ric
The 9 faces of Ricardo Soltero-Brown.

For example, on the Facebook for playwrights New Play Exchange he has 55 plays available.

But choosing among 55 plays can be a challenge. It’s not Lope de Vega territory, but to use the Bard of Avon as an example, you could end up with A Midsummer Night’s Dream or The Two Noble Kinsmen.

[Note: because the scripts analyzed here haven’t been produced, no photos exist, so we’re using photos of the playwright’s produced work, FYI (smiley face)]

I’m happy to have chosen the plays I did. Let’s get started:

The Sun, the Moon & Stars is a fun parody of love stories with different settings.

The first is set in some faux-Olde English world, with a technique slightly reminiscent of the first story of Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask); the use of false archaic English for comedic effect.

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In the emphasis on “wit” it reminds one of George Farquhar’s work.

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Flashback to Farquhar’s work: She said he had an “infinite deal” of wit and I had “more wit than any body” – it must’ve been the greatest day of his life.

For the era, “wit” was a common subject and Soltero-Brown really plays with it.

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Sometimes we watch a play and it is so marvelous that it looks like fun to be a part of – like “I’d like to work on that” – reading this play, it looks like it was fun to write.

And there is even more wit:

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I’m not sure how one unwits oneself, but it sounds fun.

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Okay, so there is a plot here in which one character coaxes a love confession out of the other [a love for a third, unseen character]. The topic turns to sex.

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“A liar as an actor” – I love it.

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The story ends like a play from 1700, too.

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Neat poster for Jealousy, another Soltero-Brown work.

The next third of this play takes place in a drawl-drenched, Southern Gothic hotbed of hotbed-dedness.

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Did you know there’s a site called study.com? Not a dating site.

Famous authors in the Southern Gothic genre include Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner and in drama, Tennessee Williams. Though my personal favorite is Carson McCullersReflections in a Golden Eye.

Anyways, let’s see what debauched Southern cooking Soltero-Brown has deep-fried for us today:

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The Southern Patriarch – typified by Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – becomes “Father” here…and he knows better than anyone else.

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The great Cameron Gagne in the aforementioned Jealousy. Photo by AA Gardner.

But Rebecca is rebelling against the ideal of Southern womanhood – she (GASP!) smokes and is friendly with the maid.

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There’s a huge plot point right there.

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Huh. A controlling boyfriend or girlfriend? NO WAY.

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She makes a cameo!

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It’s never too late. Just ask Grandma Moses. But Denise does have good advice to wait things out.

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The Jacket, 2012. Photo by Candace Kaw.

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“Visit his house” sounds fair enough. But there’s a catch…

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That does complicate things. I imagine it kinda looked like this:

Sucks to be Omar. Unless Omar is his friend. The case was solved.

So Sean shows up at Rebecca’s place…

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Father’s dream come true. Wonder if he knows she’s a firebug? So Rebecca had a plan for Sean – naturally. If his house burnt down, then he would need another house. I admire her practical nature.

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Yay, Sean!!!!

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The Jacket, 2012. Photo by Candace Kaw.

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Rebecca sure seems determined.

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Oh. Somehow Sean and Denise have a conversation about Rebecca and it comes with a twist.

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OMG Denise is in love with Rebecca!!!! 

Here are some stills from a 2018 production of Jealousy. Photos by AA Gardner.

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The final story in the trilogy is set in space. A couple of stars are jealous of the sun:

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What a douche.

It gets worse. The Sun’s positive attitude grates on them, too.

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Moon shows up.

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No, not that moonshine.

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But Moon is more on the ball.

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The First Star admits it.

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He’s doing yoga now. Reminds me of I, Claudius –

Oh, by Jove! Which is always to say “by myself

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The Jacket, 2012. Photo by Candace Kaw.

The stars and moon get all existential:

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Great theatre always questions our raison d’être – and this is great theatre.

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Well, there goes Elon Musk and his Space X thing.

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[insert joke about how he’s just trying to get higher here]
The two stars then see a third star being born, which wraps up the play.

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That was fun. But there were still 54 more plays to choose from. I chose a longer one-act entitled Match Made in Hell. 

Basically…it’s the ol’ “sell-yer-soul-to-Beelzebub” story…except our hero Sherman’s got a plan: He likes a woman and thinks selling his soul will somehow result in said woman falling in love with him because women respond really well to Satan making them do stuff.

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Satan’s name is Lucy. Because of course it is. And Lucy’s got a bit of a ‘tude.

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If you ever need to ask someone “What’s wrong with me?” you may get an honest answer.

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I have a feeling she’s using him as her own personal entertainment source.

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The whole “Women like jerks” theory has resulted in numerous self-help articles.

But of course nobody really realizes they’re dating a horrible person when they’re in love because…most people lack self-awareness, which also results in numerous self-help articles.

Here are some stills from Jealousy. Photos by playwright/photographer AA Gardner. From 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Satan/Lucy doesn’t do any wonders for one’s self-esteem. Lucy demands that Sherman describe this mystery/dream woman.

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And sex pops up.

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Homemade-Peanut-Butter-Recipe-2
Enjoy.

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The movie they’re referring to can be found here.

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The Last Seduction, German poster.

It’s nice Satan and Sherman appreciate the same sex scenes in the same movie. They have much in common.

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So Lucy really has no filter…..

Lucy plans to turn Sherman into a philosopher. Because she has an agenda, too.

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They sign a contract and what happens next…will probably be in the sequel.

Here are some stills of another Soltero-Brown play, Jealousy, in a production from 2014. Photos by Kevin Abel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In addition to full-lengths and one-acts, Mr. Soltero-Brown writes quite a few monologues.

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Pictured: A few monologues.

We have special video of one of his monologues, if you can dig it. The monologue is entitled “Miss” and is in response to the shooting in Jonesboro.

Note to foreigners: America has such a strong addiction to high school shootings, that there are actually two Jonesboro shootings, one in Jonesboro, Arkansas in ’98 and one in Jonesboro, Georgia just last year. This is the Georgia one.

The text is here:

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And the video:

Cameron Gagne did a great job acting [recognize her from Jealousy?] and Dustin Burton did a great job filming.
One other noticeable trait in Ricardo’s plays is his use of experimentation. He wrote a play called Woman. I shall post the play in its entirety:
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One word, two letters of dialogue. I don’t know any other playwright doing that.
I know what you’re thinking: what if we translated the entire play into the awesomest languages on Earth? FYI the awesomest languages on Earth are Sesotho, Korean, Betawi and Javanese.
Sesotho, you say? Thank you to actress, activist, refugee, opera singer, Sesotho speaker and all-round wonderful human being Victoria Sethunya.
                                                                                       MOSALI
Emisa.
                    Lumela.
Khutsa.
Meanwhile, in Korean:
                                                                                       여자
중지한다.
                  안녕.
침묵시킨다.
And of course, Betawi (thanks to my Betawi friend Rafif) Hit him up if you’re eager to learn Betawi. He’s like a one-man army, spreading the love of Betawi culture all around the world.
                                                                                    PREMPUAN
Brenti.
              Tabé.
Ndekem.
And in the rich Javanese language (thanks to badass playwright and native Javanese speaker Dhianita Kusuma Pertiwi).
                                                                                    WADON
Meneng.
          Monggo.
Sirep.
“Wadon” can also be used in Betawi, but I thought it would be tedious to use it twice, so I went with “prempuan.”
If anyone is wondering, the worst language in the world is German. I could rewrite the play in German, but I don’t want to give German the satisfaction. Keine Zufriedenheit.
So far, we’ve only talked about Mr. Soltero-Brown’s plays…he’s actually been quite active in the Orlando Theatre scene.  The official bio:
“His plays have been performed and read at Valencia College, Rollins College, University of South Florida, Horizon Theatre Company, Dixon Place, Actor’s Express, by Pipsqueak Collective, RHCR Theatre Company, the Orlando International Fringe Festival and more. He won the Florida Playwrights Competition in 2014, and was a playwright apprentice at Horizon Theatre Company. He has been recommended by Caridad Svich and Gary Garrison. He was published in ‘The Louisville Review’ and ‘The Dionysian’, was interviewed by Performer Stuff, 50 Playwrights Project, Podspell, and Adam Szymkowicz;”
Here’s that Podspell interview.
Here is the video of a short he wrote, Beldam & Gaffer:

 

 

Here he is talking about acting a few years back:

 

 

More links and fun stuff at the end, but first, let’s hear what insights the man himself has about playwriting.
How did you start playwriting?

 

I was writing a screenplay at the time and was told of a play contest, I attempted to write an adaptation and realized I loved dialogue.

What are your influences?

Suzan-Lori Parks, Caryl Churchill, Harold Pinter, etc. I seem to be fascinated by the success and failure of communication.

What is your most memorable production and why?

Jealousy, it worked. I was grateful for it.

What is your least memorable production and why?

Jealousy, it didn’t work. I was grateful for it.

©2014 kabelphoto
Pictured: Jealousy poster from 2014. What’s not working? Photo by Kevin Abel.

What’s your funniest theatre story?

During rehearsals for The Jacket we started a run where we replaced every occurrence of the word “jacket” with “penis”. It was too good, really, I had to stop them because we were so close to the run.

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A 2012 production of The Penis um, The Jacket. Photo by Candace Kaw.

What are your writing habits like?

Silence, paper and pen, sometimes a typewriter.

What advice do you have for new playwrights?

Write short plays.

Who are some other writers you feel should get more attention?

Inda Craig-Galván, Nelson Diaz-Marcano, Celine Song, Franky Gonzalez, and Asher Wyndham.

What are common themes in your work?

Sex, gender, politics, language.

What is one thing you wished you knew now, that you didn’t know starting out?

How much shit I was going to write.

Can you please tell us about the development of The Sun, the Moon & Stars?

I believe I came up with the title first and wrote the plays from there. I wanted to write an evening of three one-acts that were thematically linked, The Stars is about loving yourself.

How does one create such a diverse and varied body of work such as you have?

I attempt various styles and genres of plays.

The Sun, the Moon & Stars as well as A Match Made in Hell do a great job parodying established tropes. What advice do you have for writing effective parody?

It’s interesting that you consider some of my plays parody, I appreciate it. I suppose it has something to do with attempting certain styles of plotting…and hopefully turning it on its head.

You identify as Latino/American/Puerto Rican. What are some ways American theatre can become truly welcoming to everyone?

What an astonishing question.

I’m not sure how to answer, but I’ll try. It’s not just the playwrights and the stories we tell, it’s the actors and directors and techies, too. Lately, the plays I’m writing don’t assign gender or race or even ability to the characters. That’s the part I’ve been doing.

What’s a question you’d like to be asked? Go ahead and answer that question.

I’m doing fine.

©2014 kabelphoto
Of course he’s fine, with all that mad playwriting money. Note: that represents about 10 years’ worth of royalties for playwrights (well, the ones on this blog anyways).  Photo by Kevin Abel.

 

Glad he’s doing fine!!! Here are the links!!!

His New Play Exchange page.

The man’s Twitter.

An interview with the awesome folks at 50 Playwrights.

Interview at Performer Stuff, where he has a lot of stuff.

Interview at the cool playwright interview blog.

Review of The Princess of Caspia script

Jealousy at the Orlando Fringe

Review of the same.

Review of an earlier production.

Second review of same.

Anti-gun violence play put on by high schoolers

Dramatic readings by Mr. Soltero-Brown.

Immigration-themed play available for free performance.

Here are all our other playwrights.