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Attend the Inaugural Seattle Rep Writers Group Showcase

May 4th, 2012 by Seattle Repertory Theatre

Last November, we launched the Writers Group, a forum for playwrights, as part of our New Play Program.

The five Northwest participants – Emily Conbere, Vincent Delaney, Al Frank, Elizabeth Heffron, and Stephanie Timm – have been hard at work attending biweekly meetings, utilizing Seattle Rep resources and perfecting their plays….and now they’re ready to share them with the community!

Seattle Rep's Writers Group (pictured from left to right): Emily Conbere, Vincent Delaney, Stephanie Timm, Elizabeth Heffron, and Al Frank.

Come on down to Seattle Rep on the following Fridays at 3 p.m. to catch their new works:

May 4 – Foreclosure
by Vincent Delaney, directed by Anita Montgomery 
What happens when your best friends lose their home but refuse to leave it? Foreclosure examines what we really owe our neighbors and takes a sharply comical look at a modern collapse that shows no sign of ending.

May 11 – The Harold Scholarship 
by Emily Conbere, directed by Erin Kraft
After the loss of their son six months prior, Mr. and Mrs. Harold invite the son’s best friend to spend the weekend with them. During this time, they offer him a scholarship with stakes that are exceedingly high.

May 18 – The Weatherman Project 
by Elizabeth Heffron and Kit Bakke, directed by Sheila Daniels
How far would you be willing to go to fix the problems you see in your country? In 1968, five young people are about to find out.

June 1 – Ain’t No Place Like Home 
by Al Frank, directed by Kaytlin McIntyre
Long days, late June. Seattle is heating up. People camping in the I-5 greenbelt known as ‘the jungle’ worry about change. With no place else to go, they’re hoping a peaceful summer will keep them out of the spotlight – at least until after the Fireworks.

June 15 – Rats in the Garden of Eden 
by Stephanie Timm, directed by Kathleen Collins
When Pearl shows up at her younger sister Opal’s doorstep with a suitcase and a box of “sensual products” to sell after a long, mysterious absence, she finds Opal living in an insular world of romance novels and poetry. Rats in the Garden of Eden explores what happens when someone has to choose between fantasy or reality—one leads to madness, the other to inevitable disappointment.

The Writers Group at one of their very first meetings.

More information is available online at www.seattlerep.org/Plays/NewPlays. All play readings will take place at 3 p.m. in Seattle Rep’s PONCHO Forum. They are free and open to the public.

Following this year’s showcase, the writers will begin work on their new plays that they will be presenting next year. Applications for the 2012 – 2014 cycle will be accepted starting this June.  

Braden Abraham

New Writers Group on the Block

November 1st, 2011 by Braden Abraham

Seattle Rep's Writers Group (pictured from left to right): Emily Conbere, Vincent Delaney, Stephanie Timm, Elizabeth Heffron, and Al Frank.

Shortly after Jerry Manning was appointed artistic director, he and I sat down to discuss the tenets of our New Play Program. We wanted Seattle Rep to be a leader in creating a culture of new work in Seattle. This meant continuing our tradition of introducing Seattle audiences to the most exciting playwrights from around the country—Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare’s premiere of An Iliad, Bill Cain’s premiere of Equivocation; workshops with Adam Rapp, Anne Washburn, and Alan Alda are a few recent examples. It also meant doubling down our efforts to encourage the exceptional writers who live here. We’re doing this through new play commissions (Cheryl L. West, Robert Schenkkan), completion commissions of works already in progress (R. Hamilton Wright / David Pichette, Todd Jefferson Moore), readings and workshops (Stephanie Timm, Bryan Willis, Marya Sea Kaminski), partnerships (New Century Theatre Company, Northwest Playwrights Alliance, Western Washington University, UW), and, through our most recent component, Seattle Rep’s Writers Group.

One of the best parts of my job is regularly meeting with playwrights to discuss their work. As Jerry and I were laying the groundwork for the New Play Program, I met with several writers who had recently moved to Seattle. They were trying to get the lay of the land and struggling to find a venue for their plays. When I asked them what would be most helpful in terms of ongoing support (beyond more funding and production opportunities), they all said: a writers group. This was around the same time that Neil Ferron (our literary intern last season who is also a playwright) and I were brainstorming ways to facilitate a more supportive environment for writers in Seattle. It seemed like it was time to start something new.

Playwrights Emily Conbere and Vincent Delaney look through a script.

I looked at peer theaters around the country to see what comparable programs had been successful. I talked to colleagues who had initiated writers groups at the Public Theater, Ars Nova, Ensemble Studio Theatre in NYC, and the Huntington Theatre in Boston. I talked to both local and national seasoned writers and dramaturgs who had participated in writers groups or had been a part of local organizations dedicated to supporting writers – remember Seattle Dramatists?

This was how the Writers Group was born. There seemed to be a need to provide a space and incentive for playwrights to gather and share their work. It’s also an exciting opportunity for the Seattle Rep artistic staff to get to know these writers and their work over time. This deeper level of conversation was important to me in particular, because I was looking for a more meaningful way to engage with local playwrights than reading hundreds of unsolicited play submissions each year that the Rep had no means of producing.

We received over eighty submissions for our first Writers Group. From those submissions we selected five writers for the first two-year residency. Each year we hope to bring on three to five writers, constantly maintaining a group of eight or nine. When selecting writers from this year’s pool of applicants, we looked for a mix of experience and vision, the types of approaches that would benefit from an on-going conversation. We looked for dynamic variety, distinctive artistic voices, good theatrical instincts, and a purposeful desire to take part in a collective. I couldn’t be more excited about our inaugural group: Stephanie Timm, Emily Conbere, Vincent Delaney, Elizabeth Heffron, and Al Frank.

Expect to hear more about the Writers Group and the plays they are working on in the months ahead.

Braden Abraham is Seattle Rep’s Associate Artistic Director.

A promo photo for 100 Heartbreaks from when I last did the show. Not my real hair.

This is totally weird. Usually, I am the one on the other side of these blog posts making sure an artist writes in a timely manner, or editing out grammatical errors (here’s hoping I can proof well enough in my tired/exuberant state).

I am the Rep’s Associate Communications Director. But I am also a playwright and performer. And I am so blessed that the Rep’s New Play Program is supporting my work right now. Today was day two (of three) of a workshop of my play 100 Heartbreaks. It’s part theatre, part live country show, and it started as a one-woman show. Its new incarnation includes a band and a whole lot of new material, which we’ve been feverishly working on for the last two days.

Our artistic director Jerry Manning had seen the one-woman version of show at the Capitol Hill Arts Center in 2008. He loved the whiskey-drinking, country-singing character, Charlane Tucker, and since then has been championing the project any way he can. This season he approached me, my director Erin Kraft (the Rep’s casting director) and music director Rob Knop (the Rep’s marketing director) about including 100 Heartbreaks in the New Play Program.

I’ve had a lot of “Oh my God” moments in the last two days. Even though I work at Seattle Rep, working there as an artist is totally different. There are little things that are often a luxury in fringe theatre (you mean someone is going to print scripts out FOR me?). And there are big things like the fact that this workshop has allowed us to assemble a truly remarkable team of actor/musicians: Basil Harris, Jeff Fielder, and Mark Pickerel. The moment yesterday when we ran through the first number in the show and the song that I had always played by myself on my acoustic became a fully realized drum/bass/guitar boot stomper was magical.

Tomorrow we have a workshop performance for staff and a handful of invited guests. I’m excited about sharing this work with an audience. But the real gift has been this time to work. To step away from my desk and walk downstairs to our PONCHO Theatre to collaborate, to play, to think, to try.

And now, back to writing—playwriting, that is.

Andrea Allen

Why I love new plays. For reals.

April 8th, 2011 by Andrea Allen

New plays are almost as good as bacon on ice cream.

I just got back from the Humana Festival in Louisville, Kentucky. This festival of new work celebrated its 35th year at the Actors Theatre of Louisville. Jerry asked me if I’d like to go, and never having been, I jumped at the chance.

I had an amazing time—not just because it was the first time my husband (set designer Matt Smucker, whose work was last seen at Rep in Three Tall Women) and I have gotten away together since our 3 ½- year-old twin sons came into our lives; not just because there was a fine number of bourbons to choose from; not just because of the sunny 70 degree temps. No, I loved seeing 7 new plays in 2 ½ days. More like 10 plays if you count the 10-minute plays as separate. So, basically, an entire season at the Rep in 3 days. I loved it. For reals.

Add to that experience that neither my husband nor I were directly involved in the making of any of those plays and were therefore able to discuss/dish freely without having to go all defensive on one another, and suddenly I remember how important it is as theatre artists—no, as people—to re-fill the proverbial well. To step into the worlds of other writers, actors, directors and try to glimpse how the heck their minds work. Here are a few of the highlights.

Adam Rapp’s The Edge of Our Bodies—a one-woman show about a 17-year-old girl traveling Metro North from her prep school in Connecticut to see her boyfriend in NYC to tell him she is pregnant. Adam so perfectly captured that young woman’s voice—made her real, not clichéd, and took me back in my own life to being 17 and so sure I was both a woman and a small child at the same time. It reminded me of how I as a teacher connect with teenagers, and yet only glimpse a small slice of the journeys they are on.

Anne Washburn’s A Devil at Noon—alright, I have to say it, I think Anne Washburn is crazy. Good crazy. I first met her doing a new play workshop-thing at Annex Theatre (Hothouse). I didn’t work directly with her, but became aware of her wild perspectives. And this play took me all over San Francisco, the writer’s mind and the moon. I may not have understood the journey, but boy it was fun to go on that rollercoaster with her.

A Rey Pamatmat’s Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them—capturing the voices of three young people (two 16-year-old boys falling in love, and the younger sister), all living in a world separate from adults, yet ruled by them. It reminded me of Charlie Brown’s parents and their off-stage (or in Charlie’s case, off-frame) voices not quite making sense, not quite paying enough attention as the children try to decipher the world around them. I think the character of Edith, and her over-sized stuffed frog Fergie, will be with me for a long time to come.

Jordan Harrison’s Maple and Vine—it’s likely to be the next hot thing in theatre. Or that’s how it seemed to me. Funny, interesting, and exploring how constraints in our lives actually bring us closer to one another. A mixed race couple who both work in NYC and have recently had a miscarriage decide to join a community of people who attempt to live as if in 1955. That’s the plot, but it’s the nuances and characters that bring it alive.

Finally, let me just say that Doc Crow’s was a great restaurant. I had cinnamon ice cream with pork rinds and bacon, topped with bourbon sauce that literally made me want to push Matt out of his chair so I could eat it all myself. Sure, it sounds like an abomination, but man, it’s really good.

Andrea Allen is Seattle Rep’s Director of Education.

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