Monday, June 29, 2015

Rumpelstiltskin hits the small screen

After the reading of The Real Meaning of Things earlier this month, I've had more than one person suggest I should write more adult plays. I tell them that I already do. In fact, I now have two adult full-lengths making the rounds of professional theatre companies.

It's just that it's hard to get adult plays produced. Schools and children's drama camps are much more open to producing a play by an unknown playwright than adult theatre companies are.

But that's not the reason I write children's plays.

This is.

Friday, June 19, 2015

You're Driving Me Crazy to be published

I just received a contract from Pioneer Drama Service for my driver's ed comedy You're Driving Me Crazy, my sixth play with them.

You're Driving Me Crazy is a collection of four 10-minute plays which can be performed together or individually. They're simple to produce, requiring only a few simple props and no set other than a few chairs (one play does call for several easy-to-find sound cues). Here's the blurb:
Learning to drive is an important rite of passage for any student. But that doesn't mean you can't have fun with it! These four plays take a hilarious look at the world of driver's ed. In them, we meet: 1) a nervous teacher who doesn't seem to know the first thing about driving, 2) a teenage girl who brings some unexpected guests to her first driving class, 3) a teenage boy who's forced to share a car with his temperamental ex-girlfriend, and 4) a teenage girl who can't break away from her smartphone long enough to learn how to drive.
I've been submitting the individual plays to contests over the last two years and I'm thrilled with the response. They've snagged 19 productions around the world--and not just with school-age groups. One of the plays was produced by a community theatre at the Minnesota State Fair. Another one was produced by a university in Pennsylvania. That same play received a staged reading by an off-off-Broadway theatre company and was later produced at the Short + Sweet Festival (the world's largest short play festival) in Canberra, Australia, where it won the Director's Choice Award.

Look for the plays to be published this December. In the meantime, you can read a sample by clicking here.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The real meaning of theatre

Just came back from the final reading The Real Meaning of Things at the Rough Writers New Play Festival. We had about 40 people at the first reading a week ago and nearly a full house of around 100 tonight, and the response to the festival as a whole and my play in pa

The after-reading talkbacks provided an interesting contrast. Last week, they were mostly question for me and the other playwrights: what inspired you to your this play? How much research did you do?

Tonight the tables were reversed as the audience members told us what they thought. And there was one comment in particular that grabbed my attention.

My play takes place during Georgia O'Keeffe's first trip to New Mexico. She has been frustrated in New York, and as she explores this wild new land, she discovers something that she has long been searching for:

I mean it. Most of the women I know, they'd have been screaming for help, afraid the coyote would get them. 
I'm not afraid. I'm like that coyote. I belong here too. 
In the desert? 
In the desert. In the mountains. The whole of New Mexico, I guess. It's such a quiet, lonely place. It makes me feel—oh, I don't know. 
Oh, God. Not that. 
Then what? 

There's no stage direction before that final word to tell the actress to pause, but she did--exactly as I had hoped.

The comment I wanted to mention was in reference to that line. The commenter said that he had expected the next word to be "Alive", but when Georgia said "Hungry"instead, it somehow seemed better. It somehow seemed right. Also, exactly as I had hoped.

As a playwright, you're at the mercy of your actors. This is both good and bad. Actors can often misinterpret your intent. But when they get it right, it's a powerful thing.

And sometimes, they uncover things you didn't even know were there.

Of course, the best part of any reading is sharing the experience with your friends. I had a lot of friends at tonight's reading--including a good-sized contingent from my playwriting group--and I'm grateful for their support. I especially enjoyed the chats we had afterwards, about theatre, about life, about everything and nothing.

I want to send out a big thank you to Nathan Halvorson, director of the festival, and the entire crew at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. It was a great festival, and I can't wait to submit next time around.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Rough writing

It's always nice to get mentioned in the press, even if that mention is a brief one. Which is why I'm happy to report that my short play, The Real Meaning of Things, got a shout-out in this month's issue of American Theatre magazine, the Bible of the American theatre community.

The article covers the Rough Writers New Play Festival at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, and focuses on Jade O'Keeffe, a Toronto-based playwright whose full-length play Two Nine One Letters is one of the centerpieces of the festival. O'Keeffe based her play on the extensive series of letters between Georgia O'Keeffe and her lover-turned-husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz. And yes, in case you're wondering, Jade is a relative of the artist, though a distant one.

My play was not nearly as well-researched, inspired as it was by a single sentence in Georgia O'Keeffe's Wikipedia entry. But it was a really good sentence.

I attended the first reading of my play last weekend, and the FAC did a fantastic job with it. They cast two of my favorite local actors: Mike Miller as a hard-bitten rancher and Amy Brooks as a humorously prickly Georgia O'Keeffe, and their performances precisely captured the awkwardness I was going for.

If you're in the area, I encourage you to stop in this Saturday at 8pm for the final reading of this and three other plays by local playwrights.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Crazy in Manila

Photo by Candid Ventura (

Just got word that my driver's ed comedy You're Driving Me Crazy #1 has been accepted into the Short + Sweet Theatre Festival in Manila this September. The Philippines is my 6th country, joining the US, Canada, Australia, South Korea and the UK as places where my plays have been performed.

The weird thing is that I didn't even know this play was still in the running for Short + Sweet, since I first submitted it to this annual series of play festivals over a year ago. But hey, I'll take it. The festival itself will take place at the huge, ultra-modern Samsung Hall.

If you have a play you'd like to enter in Short + Sweet, visit their website by clicking here. Although I don't usually enter contests that charge fees, I had no qualms about entering this one. After all, you can't beat this deal,w ith just AUS$20 (about US$15) getting you into 24 contests in some of the coolest, most exciting cities around the world.

Break legs, all!