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1. Theatre and race in Lorraine Hansberry’s Les Blancs

Many playwrights have explored race relations, particularly in America. The growth of the Civil Rights Movement gave rise to a range of plays protesting racism and exploring the African American experience. Lorraine Hansberry made history as the first black woman to have a play on Broadway: A Raisin in the Sun, also the first play on Broadway to be directed by a black director.

The post Theatre and race in Lorraine Hansberry’s Les Blancs appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. Local opera houses through the ages

Nineteenth and twentieth Century opera houses are finding new lives today. Opera houses were once the center of art, culture, and entertainment for rural American towns--when there was much less competition for our collective attention.

The post Local opera houses through the ages appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. Decisions...decisions...and hope for a brighter future

Once again as has been the case on too many occasions, a rejection slip slipped in my email 'in' box. Somehow, in spite of nice, genteel words of apology by the theatre or whoever is in charge of the rejection notices, it doesn't get easier.

Really, given my former position as a freelance newspaper columnist/writer for many years, rejection slips aren't an unusual occurrence, but receiving playwriting-related rejections is a downer.

This time the recipient of the rebuff was one of my favorite short plays, "The Lemon." A short comedy, it focuses on the trials and tribulations of a woman attempting to contact a towing company in order to get her car removed, while trying to convince a public phone user to make the call.  In spite of the usual assurances that the theatre will keep the play for possible future use, it was a disheartening notice. Dejection, as any writer will attest, never gets easier.

Looking back, none of my plays have yet to be produced in spite of witty dialogue, interesting plots and good spelling and punctuation. Look - gotta look for positive points where I can find them! Had high hopes for "The Shrubs", which didn't materialize and my short plays came back home without a successful showing.

Today while skimming through potential submission opportunities, came across a notification that the deadline for the BBC International Radio Playwriting Competition is coming up at the end of January 2016. In the past on two occasions, attempts to convert a play and a short story into radio format met with rejection. I'm toying with the idea - that's as far as it's progressed - of trying to convert "The Lemon" into a radio play. Given the fast approaching deadline, starting a new play isn't practical and it would be a personal challenge to see what can be accomplished in a month. Who knows...

Meanwhile, old soldier Joe McKenna and his vet pals are still meeting at the neighborhood bar, waiting for a new direction from the playwright. This play keeps calling me back in spite of self-declarations to let it die in peace. But it won't. There is something about the characters and the story line that is compelling and begging to be told.

"We ain't gettin' any younger," they all keep reminding me.

Neither are any of us, guys. Neither are any of us... Read the rest of this post

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4. Waiting and waiting.... Been there, experienced that, etc.

Hate to see a straight line indicating nobody has dropped by my playwriting blog, as is the case presently. Actually, this is applicable to all my blogs. As writers, the purpose of sharing our thoughts via a blog is to reach the public in the hope that something we have written strike their fancy or that they see and read as interesting. A straight line means nobody finds the blog worthwhile enough to drop by. Don't like straight lines but it goes as it goes. Anyway...

Still sending out my plays and short play-ettes here, there and everywhere and hoping to hit pay-dirt. Wish I could report some progress but alas and alack, it's still a waiting game. I've to confess that I've been hesitant to enter my ten-minute plays in competitions where a submission fee is required - reading fee as it is called - and no financial compensation is offered. Any feedback on this? It's nice to think that our time writing the play, be it a short one, is worth a token payment.

Came across a theatre recently that was holding a competition for full 2-act plays but they would only accept snail-mail-in submissions. There is a part of me that understands their rationale since having to print up potentially usable plays costs money and most theatres are short of funds these days. If this is the case and at least in my mind, it would be easier then to read plays submitted electronically, no? At least in my case, my plays have been edited so many times that printing each copy would cost a fortune, and then there's the postage...

Amazing how easy it is to come up with complaints about the unfair system. I mean, who else you gonna blame? Oneself? Neh...

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5. 3 Actors to Star in the Sherlock Holmes Theatrical Show

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6. GEORGE – 2015, Diversity Reading Challenge

I am back with my Diversity Reading Challenge on Mondays and hope to introduce you to a range of texts that you might not automatically select, but which I hope you will read and pass on. Title: George Written by: Alex Gino … Continue reading

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7. SCENES FROM LIFE - A SHORT PLAYETTE. At the coffee shop

POST PLAY DISCUSSION
 
SCENE: Coffee shop
AT RISE: Two friends discuss a theatre performance they have just seen
 
 FRIEND 1
(perusing menu)
Decisions…decisions… I just started seeing a dietician but I absolutely adore their chocolate-chocolate-and-more-chocolate molten lava cake… One more time couldn’t hurt.
 
 FRIEND 2
Given that it’s past eight o’clock and the worst time for weight gain, I, on the other hand, will stick to my usual expresso
 
FRIEND 1
You’re so holy-holy, perfect, human being
 
FRIEND 2
Jealousy is futile. It’s my genes. Everyone in my family is thin, going back generations
You do realize I could eat whatever I wanted without guilt but I don’t, because I respect my body
 
 FRIEND 1
Hey! Me too! My body tells me regularly, “feed me chocolate-chocolate-and-more-chocolate molten lava cake’ and I’ll make you feel real good!”
 
FRIEND 2
Anywaaay…So what did you think of the show?
 
FRIEND 1
Well…it had its moments
 
FRIEND 2
You didn’t like it, I take it?
 
 FRIEND 1
I never said that
 
 FRIEND 2
What are you saying?
 
 
FRIEND 1
It had its moments

 
FRIEND 2
Which means?
 
 
FRIEND 1
 
Kind of dragged in parts
 
 
FRIEND 2
I dunno. Made me laugh – a lot
 
 
FRIEND 1
That’s ‘cause you’re easily amused
 
FRIEND 2
Is it necessary to insult me, just because you consider yourself (makes quotation marks with her fingers) “a playwright”?
 
FRIEND 1
It’s the words and how they’re put together that interest me
 
FRIEND 2
Seemed like one great show, overall, in my eyes
 
 
FRIEND 1
You didn’t find that the first act seemed to never end?
 
FRIEND 2
I go to the theatre to be entertained. Period. I don’t agonize over whether the first act is better than the second because really, I don’t care! If the actors can provide a couple of hours of escapism, then they’ve done their job
 
 
FRIEND 1
We obviously view the entertainment through different eyes. I’m interested in the flow of the dialogue…the inter-action of the performers…things of interest to a person who writes plays -
 
 
FRIEND 2
- remind me how many of your plays have been produced –
 
 
FRIEND 1
So? What does that have to do with anything? It’s not for lack of trying. Have you any idea how many playwrights are out there all over the planet, hoping that someone will share them with the world? Gazillions I can tell you – including me! I mean, well known one’s, too! One day – one sweet day – someone, somewhere will read one of my plays and say, “this is the winner we’ve been waiting for!” One day, you and I, will sit here as we do after a night at the theatre, and discuss the merits of one of my plays. You’ll tell me how witty the dialogue was and how it made you laugh and how lucky that our friendship has maintained over the years…
 
 
FRIEND 2
So, are we ordering or what?
 
 
FRIEND 1
I’m thinking here perhaps it is too late for something heavy like the chocolate-chocolate-and-more-chocolate molten lava cake
 
 
FRIEND 2
Good idea - think healthy
 
(waitress approaches to take order)
 (cont’d.)We’ll have two expresso coffees, please…
 
 FRIEND 1
…hang on…
 FRIEND 2
I thought you decided against the cake
 
 
FRIEND 1
The cake is on the heavy side but a small butter pecan muffin wouldn’t even register on the scale.  Now about the play…the acting was adequate but then they didn't have much to work with...


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8. SCENES FROM LIFE: A SHORT PLAYETTE At the theatre

INTERMISSION
 
 
SCENE: WOMEN'S WASHROOM IN THEATRE
 
AT RISE:  FEMALES LINE UP TO USE BATHROOM
 
 
FEMALE 1
Line is really long...hope we have enough time
 
FEMALE 2
(turning around)
Sorry?
 
FEMALE 1
I was just commenting that there's a lot of women waiting to get in and only a 15 minute intermission
 
FEMALE 2
When 'ya gotta go - 'ya gotta go, right?
 
FEMALE 1
(moving anxiously from foot to foot)
Don't I know it - and I really have to! Go, I mean
 
FEMALE 2
It usually picks up and moves faster when they near the end of the intermission
 
FEMALE 1
Hope so... Do you notice how the guys seem to be able to do what they have to do in three minutes?
 
FEMALE 2
That's cause they don't have as much clothing to remove and don't stare at the mirror or fix their makeup
 
FEMALE 1
Once in dire desperation, I used the men's washroom. I had to. I pushed the door open, screamed 'is anybody there 'cause I'm coming in!'
 
FEMALE 2
What happened?
 
FEMALE 1
I held my head down and didn't dare glance at the urinals. Went in a cubicle, slammed the door and never urinated so fast in my life! Thank goodness there was nobody in there, as far as I knowThe line is moving but barely. C'mon people - move quicker!
 
FEMALE 3
(behind both of them)
Don't mean to interrupt but there's another bathroom located downstairs. Everyone seems to gravitate to this one for one reason or another
 
FEMALE 1
Thanks for the suggestion but if I'll lose my place if I check it out and I don't know if it's an improvement on this.
 
(ASIDE TO FEMALE 2) Perhaps if you would hold my place...?
 
FEMALE 2
Don't think that's a good idea. If you end up returning, they'll attack me figuring you're trying to cut in the line. You have to decide which is the better option
 
FEMALE 1
All I know is that I really gotta pee!
 
FEMALE 2
Even if I let you in front of me, it's not much of an improvement
 
FEMALE 1
It's better than nothing and I would be most appreciative. Things are really getting desperate!
 
FEMALE 2
I suppose I could...I mean, I've been where you have....
 
FEMALE 1
Oh thank you, thank you!
 
(FEMALE 1 moves in front of FEMALE 2)
 
(CONT'D. FEMALE 1) Almost there...just a few more to go...
 
(moving back and forth from foot-to-foot)
 
FEMALE 1
(to female in front of her)
'...such a long line up...oh dear and intermission is almost over... Really, really, have to go...you would do that for me? You're too kind...thank you...'
 
(FEMALE 1 moves up the line)
 
FEMALE 1
(to herself)
A person has'ta do what a person has'ta do...the flush of victory is at hand...
 
 


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9. The School for Scandal on the Georgian stage

Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s comic masterpiece 'The School for Scandal' premiered at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in May 1777. The play was an immediate success earning Drury Lane, which Sheridan owned and managed an enormous amount of money. 'The School for Scandal' explores a fashionable society at once addicted to gossip and yet fearful of exposure. Jokes are had at the expense of aging husbands, the socially inexpert, and, most of all, the falsely sentimental.

The post The School for Scandal on the Georgian stage appeared first on OUPblog.

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10. 30 Days of Teen Programming: Empowering Teens Through Theater

I can take no credit in the creation of my library's longest-running teen-led program (teen programming guideline 3), and only a little for it's continued existence since I took it over in 2007. Project Playbill is an intense, 5-week summer theater program. Teens meet together at the library three days a week to write, produce and perform an original short play. Besides the inherent value in their participation, we also entice them with volunteer service credit.

In 2008, My then-supervisor told me that I could cancel Playbill if more teens didn't participate, because it sucks up a tremendous amount of time. In fact, because Playbill depends on teen leadership and labor to run, the fewer teens who show up, the more work I end up doing. That's one of the reasons why no teen is ever turned away: you can't host a teen-led program without teen participation. For the first couple of years I ran it, attendance hovered around five teens. I seriously considered putting Playbill out of its misery.

Then, in 2009, it took off. Three teens who I'd pulled in the previous year (a pair of sisters and one of their guy pals) were not only passionate about theater, but supremely talented and driven. They recruited new members on their own before summer even began. They set up a facebook page and cajoled their like-minded friends into joining. As their friends pulled in more friends, the program spread by word of mouth.  Attendance grew to the point where there wasn't a lot of work for me to do other than the occasional odd job that no one else could (to purchase spray paint in my town, for instance, you need to be over 18).

PLaybill 2014 Cast and CrewThe teens do it all: write and edit the script, lead rehearsals, throw costumes together, paint the set, play sound effects, run the lights, and even decide on casting  -- with my okay, but I've never had to say "no" to their choices. Attendance at every rehearsal is not mandatory, but the teens understand that the success of their play depends on their active participation. The skills they learn go beyond the obvious writing and acting to sticking to a schedule, working as a team, problem-solving and decision-making.

One thing I've learned is that, for the most part, teens are good at self-selecting the right roles for them. Some teens know right away that they only want to be on crew, and others are ready to do a little of everything. The younger actors are sometimes disappointed when bigger parts go to older, more experienced actors; but are usually satisfied with their smaller assignments. As they come back year after year, the teens gradually take on more responsibility. It's gratifying to watch a goofy, misfit kid grow into a funny, talented writer who gets along with everyone.

Playbill Cast and Crew 2012Attendance does go up and down a bit from year to year, as teens graduate high school and move on. Some teens have gone on to study theater or related fields in college, and I've heard that those three key members from 2009 have started their own nonprofit to help other young actors.

Last year we had 18 participate, and I'm not sure how many to expect this year. Promoting the program and recruiting new members from schools and other organizations is one area where I could do better -- the truth is that I haven't needed to promote it much over the last few years. I'm determined that as long as the teens keep showing up, however, I'll keep Project Playbill going.

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11. Which Shakespeare performance shocked you the most?

Inspired by Stanley Wells' recent book on Great Shakespeare Actors, we asked OUP staff members to remember a time when a theatrical production of a Shakespeare play shocked them. We discovered that some Shakespeare plays have the ability to surprise even the hardiest of Oxford University Press employees. Grab an ice-cream on your way in, take a seat, and enjoy the descriptions of shocking Shakespeare productions.

The post Which Shakespeare performance shocked you the most? appeared first on OUPblog.

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12. Who are the forgotten Shakespearean actors?

Stanley Wells’ latest book, Great Shakespeare Actors, offers a series of beautifully written, illuminating, and entertaining accounts of many of the most famous stage performers of Shakespeare from his time to ours. In a video interview, Wells revealed some of the ‘lesser’ remembered actors of the past he would have loved to have seen perform live on stage. The edited transcript below offers an insight into three of these great Shakespeare actors.

The post Who are the forgotten Shakespearean actors? appeared first on OUPblog.

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13. Still waiting - what does that mean, she who pens plays ponders...

As mentioned on numerous occasions in this blog, patience isn't one of my strong points. This usually doesn't work in my favor especially when it comes to waiting for updates/news regarding the fate of my plays. Many of them took cyber trips to numerous geographical locations around the globe in the hope that they would see a stage but so far, no response one way or the other.

According to the various playwriting related sites where this topic is discussed and digested, this is not a good sign but perhaps no definitive decision has been made as to their stage-a-bility. At least that's what I tell myself.

There is a pattern as to my follow up process, which includes avowing to myself that I will wait to receive "the word."

"Gotta give it time," I tell myself. "People don't respond because you want them to. Your plays are among hundreds, maybe thousands, that are submitted with dreams of production."

Patience today, patience tomorrow, inevitably, and when experiencing a particularly discouraging "why do I bother" or "maybe my plays suck" period, a follow-up e-mail is sent out. Usually, the end result is no response followed by a period of "why didn't I wait."

Upon reflection, perhaps a follow-up questionnaire to the submitted theatres would facilitate the process. Something to the effect:

Dear blah-blah (insert theatre name/producer/to whom it may concern),

Recently, (insert date that play was submitted), you were the lucky recipient of my play, blah-blah (insert name of play).

It has been (number of days/weeks/months/years/who remembers) since there has been any updates as to whether said play strikes your fancy. Perhaps the lack of communication on your part is a result of (pick one) a) stunning dialogue requiring further thought b) seeking a period of time in which to program the play to optimize audience participation  c) unable to open file.

When could a decision on its fate one way or the other be expected: a) days b) months c)years d) never (please circle one)

Yours forever in hope,

A. Playwright

It's worth a shot. Am I right?


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14. Playwright's ruminations - the fix is in

Sitting down in front of the computer, chin in hand and thinking about playwriting. Again. Note the word, "thinking" but not the actual act of taking fingers to keyboard and producing some worthwhile dialogue. Still further delayed the process by going over finished plays and assessing whether they need fixing or editing, something I'm prone to do in both my writing and painting. Frequently, the end result is ruining any progress on whatever project I'm "fixing."

I'm an inordinate "fixer" of all my artistic undertakings, which really don't require further adjusting. Recently, I applied what I swore were the absolute final strokes to a black and white painting first started three years ago, which has been "fixed" over the years. Perhaps this will be the reality and then again, who knows.

In as far as my plays are concerned, some have been altered to the point where all objectivity has been  lost as to the strongest version. Most often, the changes are relegated to small dialogue adjustments or altering what appears to me to be a weak a scene. In the end, a decision has to be made which version is the best version to submit, followed by a period of self-doubt and whether my plays are actually produce-able. Perhaps this is a common pattern with writers in general in that the selection of the right words is paramount to the whole story line. In as far as dialogue is concerned, the character has to utter words and phrases that suit her/his mannerisms, personality and mien and therein lies the challenge.

Although the actual act of submitting plays is a positive move, there is also the self-doubt that creeps in  waiting for updates on their fate. Negative thoughts like:

- perhaps the wrong version was sent - whatever that is
- maybe I don't have what it takes to be a "real" playwright
- given the volume of experienced and produced playwrights, many of whom are familiar names to   
  the public and within the theatre community, do my literary gems stand a chance?

And so the uncertainty continues but something drives me to persevere. The possibility, whatever the odds that  there  is a theatre "out there" somewhere that will see something special in my plays is enough to keep me going and press on. Meanwhile, some fine tuning of the dialogue and changes to the story arc is required to Dead Writes. Really.

P.S.: just read that Larry David's new play, "Fish In the Dark" is a big hit on Broadway. It should only happen to me!  Mazel-tov, Larry...or Mr. David. Good to note that good comedy will always draw a crowd.

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15. Show Books

It’s holiday time so some shows based on outstanding children’s books are currently being performed in Sydney and surrounds, as well as in other cities around Australia. A highlight is The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Penguin), a production created around four books by Eric Carle: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, of course, The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse – […]

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16. Why art matters - Lily Hyde


They can’t put on plays in the evening in Donetsk, because of the curfew. They have had to hang a sign on the theatre entrance saying ‘Please don’t bring weapons with you’ – but not everyone obeys. The stage is not just their calling anymore; it is literally home. The actors are living in the playhouse, because their houses have been destroyed by shelling or are on the frontline. 

One recent Sunday afternoon they performed Chekhov. The sound of shelling roared from the suburbs, but inside the theatre a string quartet played Bach to the pre-performance crowd. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me down to lie in green pastures A frock-coated actor shepherded his flock into the darkened auditorium, leaving behind all the troubles and dread for two brief hours, two magical hours made of lighting and costume and make-believe – and words, words, Chekhov’s wry, witty, warmly humane war of words. That, to set against the real war outside.

Afterwards in the dressing rooms, where actors live now with their children in a world of mirrors and make-up, where jars of home-made gherkins jostle with tubes of facepaint, we drank to peace. And to art, to theatre and literature and music, all those hopelessly fragile, endlessly enduring things. 

         
 www.lilyhyde.com

 

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17. A New York Theatre Offers A Better Deal For Playwrights

PLAYWRIGHTS-articleLarge

The company, Playwrights Horizons, announced on Tuesday that it has started covering roughly 50 percent of the health care premiums for its writers during the season in which their works are produced. The theater is also paying the writers for “preproduction activities,” like rehearsals and meetings with the directors, designers and producers.

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18. “Macbeth” Yanked From Turkish State Theater After Gov’t Officials Actually See The Play

macbeth

A group of officials from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism attended the production in Ankara last Tuesday and reportedly stalked out without applauding; the play was promptly replaced on the schedule. Last month the now-former director of Turkey’s State Theaters resigned, complaining of censorship by the Culture Ministry.

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19. You Had A Better Chance Of Seeing The UK’s National Theatre In Detroit Than In Non-London Great Britain

One-Man-Two-Guvnors-005

“It is crucial that the NT, with its £17.5m of annual public investment, is seen to be reaching all theatregoers in the UK, not merely those who live within easy reach of London’s South Bank. That means the NT needs to make available much larger parts of its repertoire to theatre lovers in all parts of the country.”

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20. Philadelphia’s Prince Music Theater Calls It Quits

wkzblog18-a

“Having received no offers for a takeover, the organization that occupies the Prince Music Theater on Friday terminated its lease with the owners of the building on Chestnut Street just west of Broad Street. American Music Theater Festival, founded in 1984, also intends to dissolve. The future of the building is uncertain.”

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21. Why Would Harvey Fierstein, Of All People, Write A Show About The 1899 Newsboys’ Strike?

harvey

“Kids love it” – his brother’s kids, specifically, loved the Disney movie – “so I had that affinity. I got stuck with the story, and there was little I could change, but, as the strike happened during the time of the women’s struggle to vote, I began thinking about my own recent turn of the century.”

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22. Australian Playwright Says It’s Time For The Return Of Radio Plays

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“The internet means a lot of people can listen to the [BBC] World Service online. No writer is going to turn up their nose at a potential 40 million listeners.”

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23. Last Ditch Efforts To Prevent Strikes In London’s West End

West-End-generic-shutterstock_134600603-copy-630x310

“The union is seeking London living wage – £8.80 – for workers on three pay grades below that rate, and a 6% rise for all other members.”

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24. Theaters Are (Finally?) Recovering From The Recession, Says Report

Family_Album_final

“Earned income was up an impressive 40.8 percent (adjusted for inflation), although total attendance was up only 0.4 percent.”

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25. Bradley Cooper Plays A Man Who’s Haunted Him For Decades

bradley cooper

Starring in The Elephant Man on Broadway “is serious business for the actor: a scoop of earth following his gradual but precipitous soar into the showbiz stratosphere, with its thinner, giddy-making air.” It’s also a role he’s been fixated on since age 12.

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