3...2...1... Bake Off!
by Greg Nanni
posted: 2015-03-05 12:04:34

Here are the Bake Off Ingredients!

From Jacqueline Goldfinger (Skin and Bone, Slip/Shot):
"An old hat. Any kind you like but it has to show its history in its curvature, folds, discoloration."
From Michael Whistler (Prescott Method, Mickle Street):
From Bruce Graham (The Philly Fan, Something Intangible):
"A really dumb beagle."

Playwrights, get writing! You have 72 hours! We will meet at 1pm at the Plays & Players Main Stage on Sunday, March 8th to read through all the plays!

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Play reading March 1
by Robert Castle
posted: 2015-02-27 11:47:13

On Sunday from 1:00 to 3:00 there will be a reading and discussion of my play, The Immortalists. Place: Spruce Hill Community Center at 257 S. 45th street. I had forgotten to remind people in the last PDC update. The play was workshopped a couple years ago. A full-length one act, four scenes. Each scene has a séance. Three take place in Berlin, Germany, in the years 1910, 1927, and 1943; the last, in California in 1965. Josef, a soldier of Otto the Great in the 10th century, is a reluctant spirit who is being asked to reveal the secrets of the future and the afterlife. His resistance to answering these mysteries puts his the mediums in possible harm's war. The characters and cast are: Sadie de Gloumeline/Josef of Westphalia: Melissa Amilani 1st Woman at Seance/Anna/Shirley: Heather Cole 2nd Woman at Seance/Gertrude/Tanya: Hilary Asare 1st Man at Seance/Karl/Jack: Ashton Carter 2nd Man at Seance/Fritz/Frank: Shamus McCarty I liked to thank Eris Washburn for her dramaturgy work on the play. She has done a great job with this and two other works I've presented in the last year. Bob Castle

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TOMORROW, Monday, May 19, 8pm, EAR Fuzz #4: What Is Theater? PDC @ Plays & Players Residency
by Robin Rodriguez
posted: 2014-05-18 06:53:19


...Plus on the following Monday, May 26, 7:30 pm, a public reading at P&P of Resident Greg Nanni’s compilation of one-acts, SCREAMS IN AMERICA.

A couple weeks ago, as playwriting residents Charly Simpson and Greg Nanni entered the program’s final month, they spoke about the experience and how they were preparing for EAR Fuzz#4. Here is some of that.

Charly said a prime benefit of the program was that it let her get comfortable calling herself a playwright. “It made me have to remember that, oh, you should be writing, or oh, you should be going to see that play... This is a part of your work, it’s not something you‘re just doing because you have free time. ... I do think that there is a momentum that has been built up by being in the residency that I wouldn’t have had otherwise... I’m getting more comfortable with how do I make this my career.”

Although she didn’t yet know what she’d present for the last EAR Fuzz (come see!) she shared her last major project: “...Writing a play where I can’t edit it at all, just keep going, forcing myself to just keep going, and so that’s my directive, to keep going with that.” So far she’s got 160 pages! Something too long for EAR Fuzz but she will be sharing it with her fellow residents.

Greg was more sure what he’d have for EAR Fuzz (unless he’s changed his mind—so come see!) He spoke of his last project.

“We had a meeting in April to talk about why you got into theater in the first place, what makes you excited about theater and also about the economics of theater and whether or not theater is a dying art form....we were encouraged to go back to what really made us excited about playwriting or acting or theater in general... I really liked the styles of ICEMAN COMETH. O’Neill. I really love that play. That play made me want to...to write drama and go into playwriting. But then I read Ionesco’s BALD SOPRANO and that made me very interested in writing absurdist comedies and I thought it was so cool because I never approached theater or anything like that before.

...So I thought about what I really liked about the BALD SOPRANO and ...how it sort of summarizes and mocks what we consider linear storytelling and basically from that thought process...I came up with this idea that I felt could only be done onstage. And then I wrote it in about 4 hours... It’s only 10 minutes... It will be given a reading at EAR Fuzz and then it will be paired with other one acts the following Monday for a full reading at Plays and Players Theater. (Reminder: Monday, May 26, 7:30 pm “Screams In America” by Greg Nanni. FREE)

If you haven’t met these residents yet, or just want to learn more about the program, please come tomorrow night and see what Greg and Charly come up with, along with actor residents Sarah Schol and Andrew Carroll.

1714 Delancey Place, Philly. Third floor. For entrance use the buzzer at the door to the left of the main doors. Admission is FREE, with suggested donation of $5 for PDC or P&P members, $10 suggested for general admission.

For more information on the Emerging Artists In Residence program please visit: http://www.playsandplayers.org/season/ear/ . For the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/296020897240967/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

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Monday, March 17, EAR Fuzz #3--Fight Your Fear; PDC @ P&P Residency
by Robin Rodriguez
posted: 2014-03-08 15:34:47


Monday, March 17 at 8pm there will be another chance for the public to check-in with this year’s PDC @ P&P playwright residents as they explore their chosen artistic goals. The February/March challenge to all P&P Emerging Artists in Residence (EARs) is: “FIGHT YOUR FEAR.” (Face what scares you most in your artistic journey.)

         To catch a glimpse of the residency process, or just to see how two PDC playwrights (Greg Nanni and Charly Simpson) plus two resident actors (Sarah Schol and Andrew Carroll) fight artistic fear, come to their public sharing— the event called EAR Fuzz #3, at Plays & Players Theatre. (1714 Delancey Place, Philly. Third floor. For entrance use the buzzer at the door to the left of the main doors.)

Who knows what will happen. But Charly Simpson, in her original application said, “When it comes to making art, I am terrified. I am scared to push my work as far as my mind wants to take it. I am afraid to commit myself to writing, afraid that I will fail.”

Greg Nanni, in his application said, “My greatest fear is to really go through a life with a character until she is real.” However in a residency letter he wrote to himself after January’s EAR Fuzz, he showed different worries. “...Do, without fear of admonishment,” he told himself. “One doesn’t need approval for everything.”

Fears that every artist recognizes. But how exactly are Greg and Charly addressing them in the residency? Or did other demons line up to join battle? Come to EAR Fuzz next Monday (St. Patrick’s Day) and see. (FREE, with suggested donation of $5 for PDC or P&P members, $10 suggested for general admission.)

Note: The aim of the EAR (Emerging Artists in Residence) Residency is to develop theater artists’ work towards goals that they have articulated for themselves. The residency provides activities designed to inspire, encourages experimentation, offers support and guidance from artistic leaders, and the structure and discipline to really focus on the journey and seek results. Two actors and two playwrights spend eight months at P&P; PDC sponsors the two playwrights. The application process takes place every summer.

For more information on the Emerging Artists In Residence program please visit: http://www.playsandplayers.org/season/ear/  . For information on PDC, visit  http://www.http://pdc1.org/

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PDC writers featured in THE DRAMATIST
by Bill Hollenbach
posted: 2014-03-08 10:33:50

The current edition of The Dramatist, the professional journal of the Dramatists Guild of America has an excellent article by Tom Tirney, former PDC Executive Director.  It’s nice to see Tom is still beating the drum for our members. 

In the Philadelphia section of the Regional Theatre report, Tom focuses attention on Iron Age Theatre in Norristown, and its Co-Artistic Director, John Doyle’s work encouraging and producing new plays by local playwrights.  In the last few years John has produced three PDC playwrights.  John is a dedicated promoter of theatre with a social mission, and the article discusses at length the great work Kate McGrath has done in putting together Up From The Ashes, her riveting play about the cruel causes of the famous Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.  As written by Kate and staged by John, Up from the Ashes was a one woman tour de force that drew a stark line between the pursuit of profit and workers rights. 

Tom also emphasizes the work John has done with Bill Hollenbach on Citizen Paine.  The Iron Age production has had runs In Norristown, at the City Tavern, and the Philly Fringe before going onto production venues from Milwaukee to New York City.  With John’s encouragement Bill’s latest play, The Ghost of Joe Hill may appear at Iron Age in the future.

 Though not mentioned in the article, Chris Braak is another PDC playwright who has worked extensively with Iron Age.  His Red Emma beautifully evoked the ideas and persecution of the radical, Emma Goldman.

 Some excerpts from Tom’s article:

“John describes his idea process and how he works with writers: ‘We find our play- wrights principally through commissions.  I or Randall Wise (Co-Artistic Director of Iron Age) will have an idea about an issue or a person.  I start talking to authors, playwrights, and theatres and just interview folks who may write for us.  It’s labor intensive but our goal is always a production.’”

Says Kate, ‘There was no given topic for this commission but … I found a lot of material about the 1909 strikes in Philadelphia and realized I was headed into women’s rights territory.  Triangle connected all of that with worker safety issues occurring today.’”

Tom also quotes Hollenbach on the freedom that comes with dramatizing a political figure from history like Thomas Paine.  “That’s the great thing about working with Iron Age. Since it’s drama, you can have politics and all this stuff in there that you are passionate about without an audience member saying ‘What’s with all this political shit?’”

Thanks Tom for bringing Iron Age and PDC into the national light.

 And thanks to PDC’s  current leader, Todd Holtsberry, who has forged what looks to be an ongoing residency for a PDC writer. 


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PDC/Plays & Players Spring Ahead Bake-Off!
by Kristen Scatton
posted: 2014-03-06 10:04:08

 Hello Bakers!

For those who don't know me, my name is Jeremy Gable, and I'm going to be your host for the PDC/Plays & Players Spring Ahead Bake-Off! I'd like to welcome you all, and thank you for agreeing to participate in this year's Bake-Off. We're pleased as punch to have you (and I'm not sure if you're aware, but punch is exceedingly hard to please).
Dozens of amazing plays have been created from PDC/Plays & Players Bake-Offs over the years, and all of us here are excited to see what all of you will bring for this year's event.
As we promised, the ingredients for the Bake-Off (each given to us by a nationally renowned playwright) are being announced ........ now! Let's go over them, shall we?
From Quiara Alegria Hudes: A search for a person or a people
From Samuel D. Hunter: A can of Diet Coke from 1993
From Johnna Adams: Twisted child
These will also be posted on the websites for PDC (pdc1.org) and Plays & Players (playsandplayers.org). The bios for the ingredient givers are at the end of this e-mail.
Now here's how it's all going down:
PLAYWRIGHTS: Get writing! Make sure to use those three ingredients in your play, but use them however you like. Be bold, creative, daring. Write big, take risks, push yourself, have fun with it. When you're done, have a drink to congratulate yourself. And when we meet, make sure you bring enough copies to be read by as many performers as you'll need (including stage directions).
ACTORS: Stretch. Do vocal warm ups. Yoga. Walks through Rittenhouse while listening to John Mayer's early work. Whatever you need to do to prepare. And when we meet, bring an open mind and the willingness to help create amazing work.
PLAYWRIGHT-ACTORS: Do both of the above. (And if any of you actors want to try your hand at writing a script, we'd love to hear it)
On Sunday, March 9th at 12:00 p.m. (and in case the title of "Spring Ahead" didn't clue you in, it's Daylight Savings Time that day, so make sure to adjust your clocks), we will gather on the mainstage of the Plays & Players Theatre at 1714 Delancey Street. We'll talk, we'll schmooze, we'll eat, we'll drink, we'll get to know each other.
And then when we are all met, we'll sit down and read plays that, at this very moment, are merely glimmers in their writers' eyes.
Feel free to e-mail me at gablewriter@gmail.com if you have questions about anything (or at least about anything related to the event. Please field all questions on mathematics, science and philosophy to other more appropriate parties).
And now for those bios that we promised...
QUIARA ALEGRIA HUDES is most recently the author of The Elliot Cycle, three standalone plays written over an eight year period. Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue, the first play, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2007. Water by the Spoonful, the second, won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The final play,The Happiest Song Plays Last, opened February, 2013, at New York’s Second Stage Theatre. Hudes wrote the book for the Broadway musical In the Heights, which received the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical, a Tony nomination for Best Book of a Musical, and was a 2009 Pulitzer Prize finalist. For the original Off-Broadway incarnation of Heights, Hudes won the Lucille Lortel and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Musical. The touring companies of In the Heightshave performed at Puerto Rico’s Centro Bellas Artes, LA’s Pantages, and Tokyo’s International Forum. Other works include Barrio Grrrl!, a children’s musical that premiered at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2009 and toured nationally; 26 Miles which premiered at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre in 2009 and was published in American Theatre Magazine; and Yemaya’s Belly, Hudes’ first play, which premiered at Portland Stage Company and received The Clauder Prize. Hudes’s honors include the United States Artists Fontanals Fellowship, the Joyce Fellowship at the Goodman Theatre, the Aetna New Voices Fellowship at Hartford Stage, the Roe Green Award at the Cleveland Playhouse, fellowships at Sundance Theater Institute and the O’Neill Theater Center, and a residency at New Dramatists. The City of Philadelphia honored Hudes with a Resolution in 2011 and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel declared April 27, 2013 “Quiara Hudes Day” in Chicago. After graduating from public school in Philadelphia, Hudes went on to receive a B.A. in music from Yale University and an M.F.A. in playwriting from Brown, where she studied with Paula Vogel. She was recently inducted into the Central High School Hall of Fame--in the first round of women to receive this honor since the school’s founding in 1836. Hudes is on the board of Philadelphia Young Playwrights, which produced her first play in the tenth grade. She now lives in New York with her husband and children.
SAMUEL D. HUNTER’s plays include The Whale (2013 Drama Desk Award, 2013 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play, Drama League and Outer Critics Circle nominations for Best Play), A Bright New Boise (2011 Obie Award for Playwriting, 2011 Drama Desk nomination for Best Play), and his newest plays, The FewA Great Wilderness and Rest, all set to premiere in the 13/14 season. His plays have been produced by Playwrights Horizons, South Coast Rep, Victory Gardens, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Denver Center Theatre Company, Clubbed Thumb, Page 73, and elsewhere. Sam is the winner of a 2012 Whiting Writers Award, the 2013 Otis Guernsey New Voices Award, the 2011 Sky Cooper Prize, and the 2008-2009 PONY Fellowship. His work has been developed at the O'Neill Playwrights Conference, the Ojai Playwrights Conference, Seven Devils, the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, JAW West, and elsewhere. He has active commissions from LCT3, Steppenwolf, Playwrights Horizons, and MTC/Ars Nova. He is a member of New Dramatists, an Ensemble Playwright at Victory Gardens, a Core Member of The Playwrights’ Center, a member of Partial Comfort Productions, and is currently a Resident Playwright at Arena Stage. A native of northern Idaho, Sam lives in NYC. He holds degrees in playwriting from NYU, The Iowa Playwrights Workshop, and Juilliard.
JOHNNA ADAMS received a Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association Citation in April 2013 for her play Gidion's Knot. She is the 2011 recipient of the Princess Grace Award and a 2012 Finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award. Gidion's Knot was published in the December 2012 edition of American Theatre Magazine. The Contemporary American Theatre Festival premieredGidion's Knot in Shepherdtown, WV, in summer of 2012 and twelve regional productions are planned around the country for the 2013-14 season, including productions at InterAct Theatre (Philadelphia), Profiles (Chicago), Kitchen Dog (Dallas), Stages (Houston) and Furious Theatre Company (Los Angeles). Flux Theatre Ensemble (New York) produced her play Sans Merci in spring of 2013 in New York. The script was nominated for a New York Innovative Theatre Award for best play. Her play Skinless was developed at the 2012 MFA Playwrights’ Workshop at the Kennedy Center and read at Rattlestick (New York) in winter of 2012. Johnna’s plays Angel EatersRattlers8 Little AntichristsSans MerciCockfighters and The Sacred Geometry of S&M Pornare published by Original Works Publishing and a forthcoming edition of Gidion’s Knot will be published by Dramatists Play Service, Inc. Johnna graduated from the DePaul University Theatre School with a BFA in Acting and received a 2012 MFA in Playwriting from Hunter College with Tina Howe.
Thanks, everyone! We'll see you Sunday!
Jeremy Gable, Philadelphia Dramatists Center, and Plays & Players

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Monday, January 20—Calendars align; yield PDC/P&P Twofer!!
by Robin Rodriguez
posted: 2014-01-17 10:10:00

To celebrate, the two organizations join forces and offer a $5 deal for a combined Book-Play-Club plus EAR Fuzz, which would normally cost, well, who knows.

The 6 pm event, the monthly Book (Play) Club, is typically available only to members of P&P (Plays & Players Theatre). However this Monday, PDC MEMBERS can also secret themselves to the theatre’s (in)famous third floor bar, QUIG’S, and discuss a play! With drinks!! And Heather Helinsky, a dramaturg!!!

Then at 8pm, for five bucks and the secret word (PDC Member) step into the adjoining parlor and glimpse a PDC @ P&P Playwrighting Resident exploring his or her artistic development. In public. This event, EAR Fuzz, occurs but four times a year and offers the curious, the supportive, and the “hoping to apply next year”, a peek into the overall P&P Emerging Artist Residency (EAR).


To recap, with details:

6pm, Quigs, a clandestine discussion of “The Human Fruit Bowl” by Andrea Kuchlewska. Also, with dramaturgical assistance from Heather Helinsky, a comparison to some short plays by Italian radical playwright Franca Rame. For the text, etc, go to <http://www.playsandplayers.org/membership/member-events/>

8pm, EAR Fuzz. January’s topic: "Change Your Medium." Artists try on a new style, method, or art form. To that end, the two PDC playwriting residents, Charly Simpson and Greg Nanni, plus the EAR Actor Residents, Sarah Schol and Andrew Carroll, have met with choreographers, portrait artists, photographers, stained glass artists, and yes, even dentists. Come witness the fruit of their labors. Each EAR Fuzz also ends with an audience “communal ritual” in celebration of the growth, plus an opportunity to share the evening’s inspiration on an arts & crafts style feedback board!

P&P is at 1714 Delancey Place, Philadelphia. For entrance, right bell at the door that is to the left of the main doors.

Facebook event link:



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Cool video teaser for Ashes
by Kate McGrath
posted: 2014-01-16 08:31:57

 Hi again.  Still the same self-promoting hustler I've always been, sorry! Please come see the show.  Folks have been saying they don't know where the show is, so here is the info: 1636 Sansom.  In between 16th and 17th on Sansom Street.  It is at Off-Broad Street Theatre.  Used by Azuka, Maukingbird, etc. etc.  Hope you can come.  8 pm Fri, Sat, Sun and a 2 pm only on Sunday.

Here's the YouTube trailer to show the work of the amazing Isa St. Clair.  Please tell your friends!--Kate




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bill rolleri said on 2014-01-16:

Kate, Am aiming for the Sunday showing. For years you have not tooted your own horn enough (if at all)so, when you do speak up, PDC members should heed the call.



Inside the Iron Age residency--ASHES blog from Kate
by Kate McGrath
posted: 2014-01-08 07:02:17

Sooooo, opening of ASHES is tomorrow.  Final revisions, watching a mesmerizing actress tackle tricky historically-based text, seeing how an invested and talented director shapes text and staging ideas into moments of living and breathing theatre, hearing those first samples of music and sound--all so exciting.  ASHES is not a traditional play in terms of either structure or content--the design is to create a touring piece of interest to students or communities around a social justice topic, but within those perimeters the team at Iron Age has been hard at work making this a piece of theatre (puppets, projections, voice-over, etc.) so we hope the appeal will be for a broad audience.  The last ten pages, which were to serve as a bridge back to the present, had to be refined and reduced at the suggestion of the team, so I went with it--made those cuts in a hurry so that the script could be finalized in time to share it. All you playwrights know how challenging that can be. While listening to the play during a few runs, and being on book for the actress a few times, I found places earlier in the play I can cut later on. There was and still is a lot of deliberate repeition of themes/events due to the going in and out of time periods--part of the cyclical/circular structure I always envisioned for this.  So, going into the touring production later I already have new ideas for trimming back in some places, putting a few things back in others.  Watching Isa has been a joy in and of itself, I can not say enough about her devotion, talent, and magical presence on stage.  Hope you can come and see the play at either venue. Thanks to Todd H and John D for all the pr--the info is out there if you need it.  Let me know whatcha think if you can catch the show--  I value and crave the collective PDC genius and energy, as I always have, but especially now!   Stay warm. --K



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PDC@Iron Age Residency Production coming in one week!
by Kate McGrath
posted: 2014-01-02 05:08:30

PDC Members, please come to see the PDC @ Iron Age Residency 2013-14 full production opening next weekend, January 9th-12th  running five performances at Centre Theatre (Iron Age's home) in Norristown and moving to Philly January 17-19th for five performances at Off Broad Street in Center City, Philadelphia!  

UP FROM THE ASHES, Tragedy and Change by PDC member Kate McGrath asks the question: why do workers face risk of death or injury even today, in 2013, when we have such examples from our past to motivate real and lasting change?
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire forms the central part of this one-woman show that examines the labor movement’s efforts before and after the 1911 tragedy, from multiple points of view—factory owners, protesters like Mother Jones and Rose Schneiderman, and the immigrant workers themselves. The American Dream belonged to all of them. So what went wrong?
PDC at Iron Age Residency. Featuring Isa St. Clair. Tickets, times, directions to the two locations, discount information etc.  at:   http://iron-age-theatre.ticketleap.com/


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Bill Hollenbach said on 2014-01-05:

This PDC Iron Age residency deserves the support af all PDC members. But you must go see this play for it's own merits. The script is written with craft and passion. When you leave the theatre you' will be looking within, examining your soul. A must see.


james dimartino said on 2014-01-02:

The relevance of the Triangle Shirt Waist disaster stands out in the light of the Bangladesh Garment Workers fire... how quickly we forget. Who thinks about dead Coal Miners when we flick a light switch? It's the collateral damage of our consumer society. Kudos to Ms. McGrath for shining a light into our dark past and our muddy now.



This weekend PDC LAB @ Walking Fish!
by Kate McGrath
posted: 2013-12-13 06:19:27

 PDC Members!  This is your chance to see this pilot program, co-project of PDC and Walking Fish Theatre in action and to support the great work of three of our members.  $6 at the door per show, or Festival pass for $15.  

This week City Paper ran this article below: it also gives the basic info we have sent you before. Thanks, Mark Cofta for helping promote.

Hope to see you all at the Fish!--Kate, PDC Board Member



By Mark Cofta 
Published: 12/12/2013 | 


The Philadelphia Dramatists Center’s new play lab at the Walking Fish Theatre presents a show-and-tell of three plays in process by accomplished local writers: Bill Hollenbach’sInside the Gatehouse on Friday, David Robson’s Paint/Gun on Saturday and, on Sunday afternoon, The Bibliophile by Brian Grace-Duff. The program helps playwrights develop new work in a safe, nurturing environment. These rehearsed readings, cast with professional actors, allow the writers to hear their work brought to life — and provide valuable audience reactions. 

Fri.-Sun., Dec. 13-15, $7, Walking Fish Theatre, 2509 Frankford Ave., 215-427-9255,walkingfishtheatre.com

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Apologies to David Robson. No "e" .
by Kate McGrath
posted: 2013-11-27 09:36:07

 I was in a rush and got David Robson's name wrong in my blog post.  I have gone thru and corrected everything on the website, the event post, any other notices, etc.   My sincere apologies to him and to those who have corrected me since this morning. (And this from a girl whose maiden name is Rindfleisch...sigh.) Gotta go pack a car. Happy Thanksgiving to all.--Kate

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PDC LAB @ Walking Fish readings coming up!
by Kate McGrath
posted: 2013-11-27 06:26:57

Please come and support this pilot program--of interest to new and old PDC members alike--Bill, David and Brian are the featured playwrights.  Read on and save the dates!  --Kate 

A PLAYWRIGHT’S PROCESS: Please join the Philadelphia Dramatists Center and Walking Fish Theatre at LabFest, the inaugural public sharing of the 2013-14 PDC LAB @ Walking Fish, December 13, 14 and 15 at Walking Fish Theatre.  An exciting new play will be read each night by a cast of professional actors. Tickets will be available at the door for $6 per reading, or a LabFest price of $15 for all three performances. Reserve your seat by calling (215) 427-9255 or leave your ticket information at info@bsomeday.org. Further information and directions to Walking Fish Theatre can be found by visiting http://www.walkingfishtheatre.com.  A  moderated discussion will follow the readings.

 The schedule for the staged readings is as follows:

      Friday, December 13 @ 7pm, THE GATEHOUSE by Bill Hollenbach directed by Stan        Heleva

Saturday, December 14 @ 7pm, PAINT/GUN by Dave Robson, directed by Gina Martino

Sunday, December 15 @ 2pm, THE BIBLIOPHILE, by Brian Grace-Duff directed by Michelle Pauls


Philadelphia Dramatists Center (PDC) members Brian Grace-Duff, William Hollenbach, and David Robson were selected this past September to become the first participants in this unique pilot program: PDC LAB @ Walking Fish Theatre, which represents a new play development partnership between Walking Fish Theatre and the PDC. The lab produces workshops and readings intended to help playwrights take their plays through various stages of revision, the creation of a safe environment for playwrights, with a goal toward ultimately moving the play from page to stage. 


Michelle Pauls, Co-Artistic Director at Walking Fish Theatre, commented recently on what the LAB is designed to accomplish. “Play development is of the utmost importance in our line of work. That means giving time and space to a playwright to write, read, change, read again, etc. for an extended amount of time--longer than the usual rehearsal schedule of two to four weeks, much longer. There needs to be space for the play to grow, so that means time in between reading drafts--it is a process! At Walking Fish Theatre, we are process-driven, we believe in the artist, and want to provide a safe place for an artist to create. We are so excited to team up with PDC to workshop three brand new plays, all at various stages of development. Who knows, you might see one of them on our stage soon!”


First up on Friday, December 13 at 7 pm, will be playwright Bill Hollenbach.

Bill Hollenbach’s work ranges from the political and social, THE PERSECUTION OF CITIZEN VASILYCH, INSIDE THE GATEHOUSE, CITIZEN PAINE, and THE GHOST OF JOE HILL; to absurdism, SEVERED HEADS; and to farce, JIMMY THE D and THE CONTESTANTS, a radio play. His works have been honored as the Grand Prize Winner at Midwest Radio Theatre, as a recipient of a Special Opportunity Stipend from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and as a finalist at Dayton Playhouse’s FutureFest. His produced plays have appeared in many venues from Milwaukee to New York City.


Bill has this to say about the LAB process:  “Rewrites.  The nasty bane of a playwright's existence.  Each time you turn your hand to it, your confronted by what you've already written.  And you like it.  So it's easy to soldier on tinkering and tweaking when what you need is to look at the play in a whole new way.  Wham!  That's what I've got from the PDC/Walking Fish Lab experience.   I thought I knew the play, INSIDE THE GATEHOUSE, to be about four wealthy, white characters in their gated community suddenly finding themselves under attack from without and, under stress, turning and attacking  each other within.      But when I met with director, Stan Heleva, his first words were: "Casting.  What would you think if I cast two of the characters as black?"  Wham!  My play is about us versus them, I protested.  How can I bring the them inside? Pretty easy when somebody really gets you to open your mind.  I think it works.  Come see.”


Saturday December 14th at 7pm will feature David Robson’s play PAINT/GUN. Like Hollenbach, Robson is no stranger to play development, and he recently shared his insights on what the LAB has offered him:


“Once a first draft, maybe a second, is done, this playwright needs to air it out. The solitary name of writing a play keeps me in a bit of a bubble, and there's a nervous pleasure that comes from sharing it with a sympathetic director, an insightful dramaturg, and thoughtful actors. The first out-loud reading of my new play PAINT/GUN was a shock. I'd lived for over a year with the characters' voices in my head, but I had no idea whether those voices would translate from page to mouth. But at that first reading, it quickly became clear to me that the actors were pretty much hearing what I had written. It sounded great; they got this story of these three characters


immediately. Our work continued though. Director Gina Martino helped the actors navigate the play's shifting allegiances and the often deadpan humor. Dramaturg Theresa Leahy filled all of us in on the world of the play. As for me, I looked for the cracks--the places where stakes needed raising, the lines fell flat, or the diction wasn't specific enough. This kind of process is invaluable because unlike a novel, say, a play has to live and breathe in real time and until it begins to live and breathe in front of you, you don't quite know what kind of beast you have on your hands. The beauty of working on a play is that although it has my name on it, this beast is no longer mine alone. I have fellow travelers on this journey. Their commitment to the play is something for which I'm very grateful.”


David Robson is an award-winning playwright whose work for the stage has been hailed as "an important contribution to contemporary theater" by the Philadelphia Inquirer. He has an MFA in creative writing from Goddard College, an MS in English Education from St. Joseph's University, and a BA in Communications from Temple University. His plays include ASSASSIN (InterAct Theatre Company/Act II Playhouse), PLAYING LENI (co-written with John Stanton, Madhouse Theater Company), A FEW SMALL REPAIRS (Painted Bird Productions/Theater Catalyst), and MAN MEASURES MAN (InterAct Theatre Company, Barrymore Award nomination). He is the recipient of two fellowships in playwriting from the Delaware Division of the Arts. David is a member of the Dramatists' Guild and a former playwright in residence at the Lark Play Development Center in New York City. 

Finally on Sunday, December 15th at 2 pm, the LAB will present THE BIBIOPHILE by Brian Grace-Duff, directed by Michelle Pauls.  As a playwright, Brian Grace-Duff uses his full breadth of theatrical experience –from directing to design to stage management- to inform his work and fuel his passion to be a true collaborator on fearless plays. Most recently, he was selected as the Artist-in-Residence at BRAT Productions, which culminated in the world premiere of THE LAST PLOT IN REVENGE. Other recent presentations include FOR CHANGE with Philadelphia Theatre Company’s PTC@Play and work in Philadelphia’s One Minute Play Festival.



The lab is also designed to foster a relationship between Philadelphia-based playwrights and an important local theater. By facilitating intensive workshop opportunities, hosting staged readings, and moderating focused/specific post-reading discussions, PDC LAB @ Walking Fish Theatre is meant to serve as a model for artistic partnerships between playwrights and theaters throughout the city—partnerships that strive to cultivate an enduring, thoughtful, and engaged local audience.


The Co-producers:


B. SOMEDAY PRODUCTIONS AT WALKING FISH THEATRE: B. Someday Productions, a 501.c.(3) non-profit theatre-arts corporation, is a small independent producing and presenting theatre company, producing main stage shows, cabaret productions, educational outreach programs, co-producing comedy, and family theatre programs. B. Someday was honored with its first Barrymore Award for its outreach program, Of Mythic Proportions in 2010 by the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. Established in 2007, Walking Fish Theatre, home to B. Someday Productions, is located in Kensington, on the Frankford Avenue Corridor of the Arts in Philadelphia. B. Someday is committed, within its community and beyond, to bringing and creating art on the Frankford Avenue Arts Corridor. B. Someday Productions uses theatre, literature and myth to bring together artists and the community to discover new strategies for urban our challenges. B. Someday celebrates tradition while renewing the creative process through producing theatre--original, adaptation and in existence--providing educational programs and operating the Walking Fish Theatre.


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Aneesh said on 2015-11-22:

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Ear Fuzz better link for details
by Kate McGrath
posted: 2013-11-08 11:07:39

 This is the real link is for the info about Ear Fuzz at Plays and Players coming up on Monday, November 18th.  Hope PDC members can attend and celebrate over at P&P


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EAR FUZZ coming up in a few weeks!
by Kate McGrath
posted: 2013-11-07 17:09:52

 Hi, everybody!  Please come out to support the PDC @ Plays and Players Residency, the details are in the link below.  Please save Monday, November 18th as a wonderful opportunity to come and see what is up over at our sister organization, Plays and Players.  It is always an interesting time, and our chance to hear the new batch of residents share.  How cool!  Hope you can all make it!--Kate McGrath 



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Celebration Theater-PDC short plays submission deadline approaches!
by Kate McGrath
posted: 2013-09-15 05:43:04

 Hi, ladies of the PDC! 

Just a reminder that the deadline for submitting to the PDC Celebration Theater co-production entitled Girltalk is this Thursday, September 19th.  The guidelines are in the link to the Celebration Theater website, below.  The call is for ten minute plays, old or new, and we'd love for you to submit your plays (three play limit) so please consider doing so asap!!!


Thanks everyone!--Kate

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Open Dress of RED HERRING at Villanova Theatre on Sept 29th a benefit for Ed Shockley
by Kate McGrath
posted: 2013-09-09 11:02:03

 September 9th, 2013

Villanova Theatre offers a Pay-What-You-Will Open Dress Rehearsal of Michael Hollinger’s RED HERRING on Sunday, September 29th --proceeds to  benefit PDC Founder Ed Shockley and his family, while Ed continues to recover from his stroke of a year ago.

 Every now and then the world of theatre becomes audience to a drama that plays out in the life of one of its own central figures; in this case that‘s multiple-prize-winning playwright Ed Shockley who is fighting his way back to recovery after suffering a stroke. In the absence of health insurance. PDC friend Michael Hollinger’s play RED HERRING is opening the fall season at Villanova Theatre, and the proceeds from the production’s open dress rehearsal will serve as a benefit for the Shockley family. Here is a great way to see a terrific play by one of Philadelphia’s better-known playwrights, and help Ed out at the same time. PDC members are urged to come on out to this one-of-a-kind event!

 Ed Shockley is unique among theatre artists in more ways than one. But fundamental to that is the fact that he gave “supporting-actor” status to the advancement of his own career when he founded the Philadelphia Dramatists Center in the mid-nineties after achieving widespread recognition as a highly gifted artist. He made it his goal to create a support resource in the form of a community of aspirant playwrights to help elevate the City of Philadelphia to greater height as a “theatre town.” As a consequence, many of the dramatists who have gained stature through the production of their work locally, regionally and nationally in the last decade owe much of their success to the teaching, coaching and mentoring of Ed.

 We hope to see tons of PDC members out at Villanova on

Sunday, September 29th at 8 pm

VILLANOVA THEATRE – 800 E. Lancaster Ave. – Villanova, PA – Box: 610-519-7474 RED HERRING    written by Michael Hollinger    directed by Harriet Power          

(Production dates:  October 1 - October 13, 2013) 

About the play: “madcap mischief, rising to helium-giddy heights!" – Washington Times - Three love stories, a murder mystery, and a nuclear espionage plot converge in this noir comedy about marriage and other explosive devices. It's 1952: America's on the verge of the H-bomb, Dwight Eisenhower's on the campaign trail, and I Love Lucy's on Monday nights. Meanwhile, Senator Joe McCarthy's daughter just got engaged to a Soviet spy, and Boston detective Maggie Pelletier has to find out who dumped the dead guy in the Harbor—or else lose out on a honeymoon in Havana. A blunt-nosed, sharp-eyed look at love and tying (and untying, and retying) the knot.    


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Colonial Quickies second weekend! And a good review!
by Kate McGrath
posted: 2013-07-17 12:35:12

 One more weekend to see Colonial Quickies featuring plays by PDC members Alex Dremman and Kate McGrath, among others.  Good summer fun.  Here's the link to a review that ran in a local paper the Delco News!


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Kire said on 2015-11-22:

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Robert said on 2015-11-14:

You actually make it seem relaly easy along with your presentation but I find this matter to be actually something which I think I might by no means understand. It sort of feels too complex and extremely huge for me. I'm looking forward on your next put up, I will try to get the cling of it!


Bill Hollenbach said on 2013-07-19:

Kudos, Kate.



Colonial Quickies is opening in two days!!!
by Kate McGrath
posted: 2013-07-09 15:02:38


Hi, PDC members!  Make sure you check out the upcoming production of Colonial Quickies.  PDC members have been featured in previous years, and this year my play OVERBITE gets its premiere!  Affordable, fun, and in a great suburban location-- this theatre loves local playwrights!  So get yourselves on out to it in the next two weeks!  I'm gonna be there with bells on this Saturday night.  Please join us.  Below is the basic info, and you can always go to their website...Cheers, Kate


Colonial Quickies! Up Next

colonial_logoOur 2012-2013 season concludes with our 13th annual Summer Short Play Festival “Colonial Quickies!” The ‘Black Box Theater production will feature original short plays written by playwrights from across the region and the country, staged by nearly 30 local theater artists.

This production is not recommended for younger children as some plays contain adult language and mature situations.

Production opens on Friday, July 11 at 8 p.m., and continues through Sunday, July 21.

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IronAge Residency: Update from the salt mines!
by Kate McGrath
posted: 2013-06-11 11:01:07

 Hi, all!  Just did another draft/revision of the play I am writing (one-woman show to tour) for the residency at IronAge. During the last month, very useful feedback came to me from some IronAge company members I admire, namely Ray Sarceni (whose play Manna I saw this past year at IronAge--really very cool and made my head spin) and Bob Weick, author of Marx in Soho, one of the company's touring productions, and John Doyle, who is my main point person this year.  Getting feedback from these guys is like getting golf lessons from Phil Mickelson.  Or something like that.

So I tried a new framing device, and made the motivation to tell the story of these factory workers in the 1900s a bit clearer--I hope.  I also added things that will be cut later--hmm. What is that expression: "...One step forward, two steps back..." Or perhaps it is a little bit like adding liquid --milk or water--to confectioners' sugar.  Ever wondered what's going on there, seems like the sugar just goes into a black hole, and you need to add more to make good frosting. You want this sucker to be THICK. But you also have to be able to spread it, goddamn it.  So you add more water.  A capful of vanilla goes in. Desperation takes over. Now it's just a GLAZE--holy crap!  Then it seems you are randomly adding more and more powdered sugar, you get a little wacky, there's stuff in your hair, you yell at the kids to back away, which they do so in terror of what you are creating in the kitchen, a white cloud descends....etc.  

So, my process is a little bit like that.  I just need to find the right consistency for the play to feel informative but not preachy. I want the audience to weep a little and think a lot more.  That kind of thing.  Then, next week, I will begin hearing the play with an actress--I'll have to update you on that once it happens but it is kind of exciting and definitely more exciting than frosting by itself, or frosting for frosting's sake.  

Tonight I'm off to Plays and Players to take in the EAR (Emerging Artists in Residence) showcase.  I think it used to have the word "fuzz" in the title, but no longer?  Anyway, it is at 8 pm down there, in case you didn't get the info.  Three PDC playwrights are on the docket: Robin, Alisha and Tommy, and there are other thing happening as well.

Cheers, Kate McGrath, PDC-IronAge Playwright in Residence 2013

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PDC President's Blog...where have I been?!? TAKE TWO
by Todd Holtsberry
posted: 2013-05-29 09:20:14

Hello PDCers,

I want out by saying how proud I am to be a part of our great community of theater artists! What started out as a writers organization, now affords all of us opportunities to interact with other artists who are involved in the creation and development of new theater...right here in Philly!

We are about a 100 strong, and growing every week. We are working towards our future, while focusing on our present, and honoring our past. We are creating more and more opportunities for us all to play.

The more we come together as a community, the better off we will all be.

I meant to blog a little more frequently than I have, to keep you all informed as to what is happening within the PDC and what your board is doing to keep us the fine organization that we are. It wasn't as easy as I thought it would be, to blog frequently, but I directed a play, have been running a staged reading series, working on new collaborations, strengthening old ones, running the board of the PDC, and working a couple of jobs.

-Writer's Circle is running strong under the leadership of Walt Vail!

- Our Residencies at Plays and Players and Iron Age Theatre are going strong...we are already working on the next year of them both, always looking at how they've been and how they could be better.

- We brought back the Bake-Off and it rocked so much, we will be doing it again next year at Plays and Players, on Sunday, 3/9/14. During the Bake-Off 10 new plays were created and read.

- We have the new PDC LAB @ Walking Fish Theatre starting and you will be hearing more about that as time goes on.

- Philly's Primary Stages is going strong at the CEC!

- We have started a nice collaboration with the Mermaid Inn Theatre, in which different PDC writer's plays will be featured.

- Our Literary Manager, and PDC Board Treasurer, Quinn Eli is doing great work in setting up readings at Spruce Hill Community Association and other locations.

- We have secured an Assistant Literary Manager, Nell Bang Jensen, who has taken a lot of load off Quinn's shoulders and who will also be a real asset to PDC members with a free dramaturgical consultation on any PDC member's play.

Here's what we're working on:

- Even more collaborations with theaters in and near Philadelphia, that will provide opportunities for our writer's plays to be produced...look for those announcements within the next 45 days!

- A totally new website that we are going to have designed, in collaboration with Jon Dorf and the Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights. We will be working with a webdesigner who will essentially design the same website for both organizations, but with each of our own, unique, information for our respective organizations. This will allow us to have a totally redesigned, and updated, website that will be a much greater resource for our members. Our website address will stay the same, just the site itself will change. Look for that to happen by the end of this year.

- We are looking for dedicated PDC members to run for our next board this fall. We will be forming our nominating committee soon. If you are interested on being on that committee, or running for the board, please let me, or any other PDC board member know soon. You can email me at toddzz@hotmail.com. We will be losing a few board members, and need to start working on our next board now. If you're serious about the PDC, serving on our board is a great way to show it!

- We have reopened our search for a new Executive Director for the PDC. We are considering different options, including having two Co-Executive Directors. We may have found some candidates from within our organization, but we are also open to other candidates. Look for news on that, hopefully, by our fall Annual Member meeting and board elections!

- We are looking into another visit from a well known playwright (like our last visitor, Nicky Silver)...look for more news on that by the fall.

- We are looking into another type of writer's circle...one that would be a different format, maybe a coffee shop, or bar, that would appeal to writers that our current Writer's Circle does not. This is NOT meant as a substitute for our existing Writer's Circle, but rather an attempt to serve a wider spectrum of developmental opportunities for our writers and their varying styles and likes.

- We are looking into ways for us to come together more...as a COMMUNITY. We might even start having socials with a name like PDC "Community"...that might be pure socials, or maybe mixing events, where writers can talk to directors, actors, producers, dramaturgs, etc. These are just ideas, but the PDC is a hard working board, and everything starts with ideas.

I hope you are as PDC Proud as I am. We have a great organization and we need to let everybody we know about it and encourage them to join our COMMUNITY. It's as simple as asking "Are you a member of the PDC?" If they say "Yes.", you thank them. If they say "No.", you say "Why not?" Then you tell them about the great things we have happening and how to join...i.e. by going to our website.

If you have any question about the PDC, the work of it's board, or how you can make a difference, please let me, or any board member know.

Thanks for being a member of the PDC...A community of theater artists!

Todd Holtsberry

PDC Board President


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Dan Bove said on 2013-08-17:

Come see Someone Brought Me at the second stage at the Adrienne Theatre as part of GayFest, the Philadelphia Gay and Lesbian theatre festival. It's a post-apocolyptic story of exes and new beginnings.http://www.quinceproductions.com/someone.html



New Opportunity for members: PDC Labs at Walking Fish!
by Kate McGrath
posted: 2013-05-28 12:42:48

 Hey, everyone!

Just wanted to make sure our wonderful PDC members have seen our new call for submissions to PDC Lab at Walking Fish Theatre.  Brand new, this play development project is quite exciting, and offers our members yet another opportunity to work with an up and coming professional theatre company in this area--one we all love, Walking Fish Theatre.  Please consider submitting--deadline is June 30th.  Best of luck to all who decide to submit.  Cheers, Kate (PDC @ ironAge Playwright in Residence 2012-13, and PDC Board member, etc. etc.)

Philadelphia Dramatists Center is proud to announce a new program for PDC members: PDC Lab @ Walking Fish Theatre!

This pilot program represents a new play development partnership between Walking Fish Theatre and the PDC. The Lab produces workshops and readings intended to help playwrights take their plays through various stages of revision, the creation of a safe environment for playwrights, with a goal toward ultimately moving the play from page to stage. 

The Lab is also designed to foster a relationship between Philadelphia-based playwrights and an important local theater. 

By facilitating intensive workshop opportunities, hosting staged readings, and moderating focused/specific post-reading discussions, PDC Lab @ Walking Fish is meant to serve as a model for artistic partnerships between playwrights and theaters throughout the city—partnerships that strive to cultivate an enduring, thoughtful, and engaged local audience.

Three (3) playwrights will be selected to participate. In addition to hearing the play read by professional actors under the guidance of directors handpicked by the Walking Fish artistic staff, the playwrights work with PDC-affiliated dramaturgs to identify questions and goals for their plays. The plays will be rehearsed and revised over the course of a three-month period, culminating with a staged reading and/or script-in-hand development performance. During this period, playwrights will meet on at least three (3) occasions with their respective casts and collaborative teams to strengthen the plays by means of improvisation, table readings, and on-site revision. Additional meetings may be scheduled as necessary. Each selected playwright is required to attend all meetings of his or her team. 

The final reading or script-in-hand performance will occur at Walking Fish Theatre in December and be open to the general public. One play will be read each night over three consecutive nights. After his or her play has been featured, each playwright is required to participate in an in-depth discussion moderated by the dramaturg. This three-night event, billed as “LabFest,” will be held at Walking Fish Theatre on December 13, 14 and 15, 2013.

The deadline for submission is June 30. 

Applicants should provide in their cover letters a DETAILED STATEMENT of the goals they hope to pursue in the development of their work during the Lab process. The works itself and the clarity, specificity, and substance of the playwright’s statement will be the sole basis for consideration. All submissions will be forwarded to the artistic personnel of Walking Fish Theatre. Final selection of three playwrights will be made by Aug 31st, 2013. Walking Fish Theatre, not PDC, makes the final selections, and will announce the three playwrights by September 1st, 2013.

Plays that are developed through the PDC Lab may be considered for full production at Walking Fish Theater during a future season at the discretion of the Artistic Directors. 


• PDC Lab @ Walking Fish accepts submissions of full-length plays, or one-act plays longer than 30 pages to be developed over a three-month period. Submissions must be UNPRODUCED. (Non-Equity or staged readings are acceptable as “unproduced.”) The deadline for application is June 30, 2013.

• All submissions should be sent to: literary@pdc1.org.

• Electronic submissions only, please, as email attachments, preferably in PDF format. Receipt of submissions will be acknowledged by an email from the PDC Literary Manager. 

• Please include in the body of the email a statement of the specific goals that you would hope to achieve during the Lab – not only for the work itself, but also for yourself as a playwright.

• Though any local playwright may apply for the Lab, only current members of PDC are eligible to participate. If your play is the work of more than one author, all authors must be PDC members. Membership must be valid throughout the full period of the LAB. 

• Walking Fish Theatre, not PDC, makes the final play selections, and will notify the three playwrights directly by September 1st, 2013. 

• Each playwright selected for the Lab must agree to attend all meetings of his or her creative team. In addition, selected playwrights must attend the culminating reading/performance and participate in the post-play discussion during the weekend of December 13th. 

• Once chosen, each playwright agrees to meet in a timely fashion with the assigned director to generate a list of goals for the Lab and to address issues related to casting, schedule, etc. 

• If you have questions about the PDC Lab @ Walking Fish Theatre, or the submission procedure, please contact Quinn D. Eli, PDC Literary Manager, at the following address:literary@pdc1.org.

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PDC President's Blog...where have I been?!?
by Todd Holtsberry
posted: 2013-05-20 18:58:35


Hello PDCers,

I want out by saying how proud I am to be a part of our great community of theater artists! What started out as a writers organization, now affords all of us opportunities to interact with other artists who are involved in the creation and development of new theater...right here in Philly!

We are about a 100 strong, and growing every week. We are working towards our future, while focusing on our present, and honoring our past. We are creating more and more opportunities for us all to play.

The more we come together as a community, the better off we will all be.

I meant to blog a little more frequently than I have, to keep you all informed as to what is happening within the PDC and what your board is doing to keep us the fine organization that we are. It wasn't as easy as I thought it would be, to blog frequently, but I directed a play, have been running a staged reading series, working on new collaborations, strengthening old ones, running the board of the PDC, and working a couple of jobs.

-Writer's Circle is running strong under the leadership of Walt Vail!

- Our Residencies at Plays and Players and Iron Age Theatre are going strong...we are already working on the next year of them both, always looking at how they've been and how they could be better.

- We brought back the Bake-Off and it rocked so much, we will be doing it again next year at Plays and Players, on Sunday, 3/9/14. During the Bake-Off 10 new plays were created and read.

- We have the new PDC LAB @ Walking Fish Theatre starting and you will be hearing more about that as time goes on.

- Philly's Primary Stages is going strong at the CEC!

- We have started a nice collaboration with the Mermaid Inn Theatre, in which different PDC writer's plays will be featured.

- Our Literary Manager, and PDC Board Treasurer, Quinn Eli is doing great work in setting up readings at Spruce Hill Community Association and other locations.

- We have secured an Assistant Literary Manager, Nell Bang Jensen, who has taken a lot of load off Quinn's shoulders and who will also be a real asset to PDC members with a free dramaturgical consultation on any PDC member's play.

Here's what we're working on:

- Even more collaborations with theaters in and near Philadelphia, that will provide opportunities for our writer's plays to be produced...look for those announcements within the next 45 days!

- A totally new website that we are going to have designed, in collaboration with Jon Dorf and the Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights. We will be working with a webdesigner who will essentially design the same website for both organizations, but with each of our own, unique, information for our respective organizations. This will allow us to have a totally redesigned, and updated, website that will be a much greater resource for our members. Our website address will stay the same, just the site itself will change. Look for that to happen by the end of this year.

- We are looking for dedicated PDC members to run for our next board this fall. We will be forming our nominating committee soon. If you are interested on being on that committee, or running for the board, please let me, or any other PDC board member know soon. You can email me at toddzz@hotmail.com. We will be losing a few board members, and need to start working on our next board now. If you're serious about the PDC, serving on our board is a great way to show it!

- We have reopened our search for a new Executive Director for the PDC. We are considering different options, including having two Co-Executive Directors. We may have found some candidates from within our organization, but we are also open to other candidates. Look for news on that, hopefully, by our fall Annual Member meeting and board elections!

- We are looking into another visit from a well known playwright (like our last visitor, Nicky Silver)...look for more news on that by the fall.

- We are looking into another type of writer's circle...one that would be a different format, maybe a coffee shop, or bar, that would appeal to writers that our current Writer's Circle does not. This is NOT meant as a substitute for our existing Writer's Circle, but rather an attempt to serve a wider spectrum of developmental opportunities for our writers and their varying styles and likes.

- We are looking into ways for us to come together more...as a COMMUNITY. We might even start having socials with a name like PDC "Community"...that might be pure socials, or maybe mixing events, where writers can talk to directors, actors, producers, dramaturgs, etc. These are just ideas, but the PDC is a hard working board, and everything starts with ideas.

I hope you are as PDC Proud as I am. We have a great organization and we need to let everybody we know about it and encourage them to join our COMMUNITY. It's as simple as asking "Are you a member of the PDC?" If they say "Yes.", you thank them. If they say "No.", you say "Why not?" Then you tell them about the great things we have happening and how to join...i.e. by going to our website.

If you have any question about the PDC, the work of it's board, or how you can make a difference, please let me, or any board member know.

Thanks for being a member of the PDC...A community of theater artists!

Todd Holtsberry

PDC Board President




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Todd Holtsberry said on 2013-05-29:

Sorry PDCers,

Just realized that most of my blog didn't seem to post...I will re-post soon...



Plays by PDC members tonight!
by Kate McGrath
posted: 2013-04-26 05:11:20

Hi, PDC members!  Come on down tonight (Friday) to the Shubin Theatre to sample some great work by a few of us PDC ladies.  Joy, Robin and I all have work being performed starting at 7 pm.  One night only for these puppies, so if you can, please join us!  The offer below is for half price. Hope to see you tonight!--Kate McGrath 

Tickets 50% off! CODE '2013half'  At the Shubin Theatre Friday Apr 26 7pm FROM A WOMAN'S POINT OF VIEW: Short plays by women: Debra Leigh Scott, Robin Rodriguez, Cat Hasson West, Kate McGrath & Joy Cutler.> www.j.mp/fri26th

 2013 Shubin April Fest 8th to 28th 
All tickets by date> www.j.mp/saf2013TIX
FRI Apr 26, 7PM: FROM A WOMAN'S POINT OF VIEW: Short plays by women: Debra Leigh Scott, Robin Rodriguez, Cat Hasson West, Kate McGrath & Joy Cutler.> www.j.mp/fri26th 
SAT Apr 27, 7PM: The Denise Shubin Night> www.j.mp/sat27th 
SUN Apr 28: Deep Cleaning / home improvement day; everyone pitches in, then PARTY TIME!> www.j.mp/sun28th 

 2013 Shubin April Fest Tickets
Shubin April Fest April 8th to 28th 

Online events with TicketLeap

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Ed Shockley's TENT SHOW this Thursday
by Kate McGrath
posted: 2013-04-09 07:08:19

 Hi, PDC members!  Our illustrious founder Ed Shockley is having a reading this Thursday, that is right, Thursday April 11th so please come on down to the Shubin.  Here is the info.

Come share an evening with playwright Ed Shockley and the Friends of Ed
Shockley Assistance Project for the reading of Ed's TENTSHOW, on Thurs.,
April 11, 2013 at the Shubin Theatre. This play was work-shopped in the
early 90's at NYC Frank Silvera Writers' Workshop and has been compared to
August Wilson's Fences. The reading is directed by Ozzie Jones. Doors open
at 6:30 and the reading starts at 7. Lite refreshments will be served.
Free; donations are welcome. This event is part of the Shubin April Fest.
The Shubin Theatre is located 407 Bainbridge St. For more information -
<http://www.shubintheatre.com/> www.shubintheatre.com, 215 592-0119.

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Spring Ahead by Baking These Ingredients into an Awesome Play
by Kristen Scatton
posted: 2013-03-07 14:33:34

 Dear Friends,

We invite you to "Spring Ahead" by writing an entirely awesome new play this weekend.
Since 2009, Philadelphia Dramatists Center and Plays & Players' "Bake-Off" project has birthed dozens of new plays featuring zombies, chicken salad sandwiches, baseball players, wild farm animals, live sex acts, and the complete transformation of the entire earth and sky.
This year, we have no idea what new plays will come to life, but we know they will be amazing and memorable.
So it is with much enthusiasm that Philadelphia Dramatists Center and Plays & Players invite you to participate in The Spring Ahead Bake-Off: a playwriting event celebrating the joy of writing a play and sharing it.
To celebrate, we want as many Philadelphia-area artists as possible (and of any experience level) to write a totally new play over the next three days.
These new plays must include three common ingredients, provided by New Haven-based playwright Dipika Guha, Chicago-based director Matthew Ozawa, and the Emerging Artists in Residence (EAR) Actors' Residency (see bios at the end of this notice).
The three ingredients are below, and will be also posted Thursday evening, March 7th, at the following locations:
++ Philadelphia Dramatists Center (PDC) website : www.pdc1.org
++ Philadelphia Dramatists Center (PDC) Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/47612630052/?fref=ts 
++  include in your play a scene or moment of "the impossible to stage". 
++ Something made out of dandelions.
++  A frozen tableau lasting 10 seconds inspired by these two images:
1: http://www.reconstructinghistory.com/image_lib/GheeraertsBess1592sm.jpg
2: http://www.texaswisdom.com/assets/images/implant%20xray2.jpgxray01.jpg  
Brave writers, you will have until 2:00 pm on Sunday to bake these ingredients into a totally new, totally amazing play of any length.
We will gather on Sunday, March 10th (Daylight Savings! also Chuck Norris's birthday!), on the mainstage of Plays and Players Theater at 1714 Delancey Place.  From 2:00 - 2:30 we can say hello, mingle, snack, all while enjoying the live music of Hot Breakfast, "Delaware's premier acoustic dork-rock power duo".
From 2:30 pm until 5:30 pm, an adventurous, talented, and diverse ensemble of Philadelphia actors will breathe life into as many of these new plays as possible.
In order to make the best use of our time, resources and experience, we ask that you:
1. Bring enough copies of your play to be read by as many performers as you'll need (including stage directions). 
2. Bring your sense of humor.
3. Bring your most daring play imaginable.
Philadelphia Dramatists Center (PDC) and Plays & Players look forward to this Spring Ahead, and to baking brand-new works of theater with you.
For more information, please contact Spring Ahead organizer Greg Romero at gregoryromero@yahoo.com
Have an awesome day, and happy writing!
Matthew Ozawa has an international directing career including work with Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Houston Grand Opera and Oregon Shakespeare Festival among others. Ozawa has trained with the SITI Company, and has worked with artists such as Meredith Monk, Peter Sellars and Isaac Mizrahi.  He is based out of Chicago, and passionate about interdisciplinary theater. 
Dipika Guha’s plays include THE BETROTHED (Wellfleet Harbour Actors Theatre, Chester Theatre), PASSING (Risk Festival, Cutting Ball Theatre) and THE RULES (Superlab workshop Playwrights Horizons/Clubbed Thumb, Old Vic New Voices workshop). Her plays have been developed at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, WordBRIDGE, Ars Nova and Tobacco Theatre (UK) among others. Residencies include Ucross Foundation, Djerassi, SPACE at Ryder Farm. Fellowships include Dramatists Guild Fellowship and a Time Warner Fellowship at the Women’s Project Playwrights Lab. Dipika graduated from the MFA Playwriting Program at the Yale School of Drama where she studied with Paula Vogel.
The aim of the Emerging Artists in Residence (EAR) Actors' Residency is to develop theater artists’ work towards goals that they have articulated for themselves. The focus of this program is artist development, providing space for experimentation, support and guidance from artistic peers, and feedback from professionals. Amanda Anne Atkinson is a California-born actress who fell in love with Philadelphia.  Most recent roles include: Margaret/Showman and costume designer in iNtuitons Experimental Theatre’s Woyzeck, Cavale in Front Row Theatre’s Cowboy Mouth, and Columbia in The Pennsylvania Players’ The Rocky Horror Show. New to Philadelphia from Central Pennsylvania, some of Marci Chamberlain's favorite roles include Bella in Big Love, Rabbi Chemelwitz in Angels in America, and The Power Animal in Stephanie Skura’s The Corduroy Prayer. Jenna Horton is a Philadelphia-based independent performing artist. Since attending the Headlong Performance Institute in 2009, she has worked as an actor with a number of local companies including The Berserker Residents, Team Sunshine Performance Corporation, Applied Mechanics, IRC, Bright Light Theatre Company, Gas & Electric Arts, and Shakespeare in Clark Park.
Philadelphia Dramatists Center
Plays & Players
Greg Romero

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PDC at Iron Age Residency Blog
by Kate McGrath
posted: 2013-01-14 13:00:25

Last night I did my homework and took myself to Centre Theater to see Bill Hollenbach's smart and moving play CITIZEN PAINE.  This performance was part of the Independent Voices Fest, and also inspirational for me since a fantastic and specific model of a one-actor touring production (it has already toured the country and I was lucky to catch it in Norristown!) similar to what I'm working on/genre of my own current residency.  Wow--it was nothing short of riveting, and gave me such ideas about how historically-based characters can leap off the page, be grounded in moment to moment decision and discovery. Actor  Adam Altman in the role of Thomas Paine, created a Paine that was petulant and passionate, and kept me guessing with (because of Bill's interesting structure) the personal and political juxtaposed and interwoven.  One section, where a young woman is arrested and dragged thru town, tarred and hung and then burned, all before Thomas Paine's eyes, was an unforgettable key to a lifelong passion for economic equality.  The play is full of moments like that, where Bill was able to pinpoint revelations that later found their way into Paine's heartfelt treatises, including Common Sense.  

I also did not know how misunderstood and marginalized Paine was. As I watched Adam perform in Bill's play, I could identify with Paine:he's got the caring of his father the Quaker, the passion of what he has witnessed in an unjust world of constant change and all that was Philadelphia 1770's... But he also alienated a few key players along the way, and was shunted to the side. Paine's words about how we can possibly stand by while children starve in the streets, or immigrants die of typhus before they have even begun to disembark from their passage, have echoes today, ripples into the way we all vote and debate and live our own lives.  Creating "a way in"  to character is one thing I'll need to do for my own play-in-progress about Mother Jones and young, vulnerable immigrant women who chose to strike in the turbulant times one hundred years ago.  Congrats to Bill, Adam, John Doyle and the creative team who helped shape this lasting piece of theatre. Kate McGrath

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Kate McGrath said on 2013-01-15:

Thanks so much, Gordon, I'll be sure to check it out. MJ is one of several narrators I'm using, with an actress transitioning in and out of her, Rose Schneiderman, and victims and witnesses of Triangle Shirtwaist Fire...several dialects, POV and ages of speakers...--k


Gordon Bennett said on 2013-01-15:

I've seen the Paine show a year or two ago and it is excellent. If you're researching Mother Jones you might like to know that Peggy Orner has done her own one-woman show on Mother Jones, quite successfully. FYI her e-mail is mother_jones@hotmail.com


Bill Hllenbach said on 2013-01-14:

Who is this guy, Hollenbach? I'd like to meet him.


Todd Holtsberry said on 2013-01-14:

Thanks Kate!



PDC President's Blog...Happy Holidays!
by Todd Holtsberry
posted: 2012-12-11 20:52:00

Hello PDCers,

It's time for the second installment of my monthly President's Blog to keep you all informed as to what's happening within the PDC and its board.
First of all, Happy Holidays to all, no matter what faith or beliefs you may follow. I hope it's a time of great joy, health, and happiness that you might share with your friends and family.
Now, here's what the PDC board has accomplished recently:
1) Board member Kate McGrath is doing a great job as our point person on what's happening with the "Friends of Ed Shockley Assistance Project" that is designed to help Ed Shockley, and his family, in the aftermath of his having suffered a stroke, with no health care. Kate has attended some meetings with others in the community who are coming together to help Ed. I strongly encourage you to join the Facebook page designed to providing info and allowing you to make an online donation, via PayPal. The link to the Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/#!/EdShockleysFriends?fref=ts .
As somebody that helped start the PDC, and served as our Executive Director for years, Ed is a dear friend to the PDC and somebody that we should help in his time of need.
The board also unanimously voted to add to our donations to Ed by donating an additional $150.00 that was raised at our last Philly's Primary Stages. This brings the total that the PDC, as an organization, has donated to the Shockleys as $500.00. Additionally, several of our members, particularly those in Writer's Circle, have made several private donations to the family. We should all be proud of our show of support for our dear friend, past Executive Director, and one of the founders of our great organization.
Kate will be keeping us aware of events that will be happening around town, by various arts organizations, to support this cause. It is my hope that you all consider participating in them as well. If you have any questions, you can contact Kate by email at kmcgrath06@hotmail.com .
2) We asked you all what you thought about amending our bylaws to allow the members to elect the board and the board to then elect its officers, as has been the fashion over the last five or six years. We felt it was proper to let the members know that we have not been in compliance with this (our bylaws state that both board AND officers should be elected by members at our annual meeting (and wanted your feedback before we voted on this amendment to our bylaws.
Based on the insightful feedback received, we have chosen to NOT amend the bylaws. We will allow the board elected officers to stay in office this year, but at our next board meeting, we will adhere to the bylaws and have members elect the board AND its officers.
Thanks for your feedback on this…it made a difference.
3) New board member Jerry Rudasill has found an accountant to handle our books pro bono…Jerry, Quinn Eli (our Treasurer), and the accountant will work things out to make that transition happen. This will be the first time I can remember us having an actual accountant handle our books in recent years!
 Here’s what the PDC Board is currently working on:
1) We are working on a return of “Readings in Restaurants” – Jerry, Quinn, and perhaps myself, will be meeting with a West Philly restaurant Jerry has made connections with and we hope to see that happen within the next month, or two.
2) Board member Candace Gordon will have rates and paperwork for Premises Liability insurance for board approval at our next meeting. This is insurance that the PDC board has been talking about over the last year, or two, and something that we really should have in order to protect our own and people that might attend our events.
3) I am in discussions with The Painted Bride, and a producer of a really cool, and existing program in Philly to possibly form a three way sponsorship. This is a series that would provide a totally different form of play writing for our members. We had been talking about a totally different collaboration between the PDC, The Painted Bride, and Ed Shockley’s Mosaic Theatre, but with Ed’s recent health situation, we have put that on hold, pending Ed’s recovery.
4) Board Vice-President Melissa McBain, and board member Mickey Leone, are going to work together, along with Quinn, to potentially hold some readings in Chestnut Hill, at the Muse House. This will accommodate some of our members in that area and hopefully give our members from the Center City area a reason to road trip to Chestnut Hill.
5) We are currently looking for a webmaster, preferably one that can offer some pro bono or reduced fees, for a non-profit organization, like us. Richard Kotulski, our former board member, now lives on the West coast and has indicated to us that while he is still willing to work for us for an hourly fee, he is too busy to donate his services. If you know of anybody that the board might be able to talk to, please let me, or another board member, know.
Hopefully you see the good things that are happening at the PDC. Why don’t you blog on the PDC website and tell us what good things are happening in your life, in your pursuit of being part of new play development…right here in the Philly area?
If you need me, please feel to reach me by email, at toddzz@hotmail.com , or by phone at 267-231-8394.
If you want to be more involved in the PDC…just ask. If you know someone who is not a PDC member, and should be…just ask them to join.
Todd Holtsberry,
PDC Board President

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Pat McGeever said on 2012-12-12:

Glad to hear about the search for a Readings in Restaurants site. Hope you can find one with a private, quiet space where we don't have to compete with the usual restaurant noise. Keep up the good work, all!



Two Weeks Available for Rent at Walnut Studio 5
by Ken Kaissar
posted: 2012-12-10 13:57:52

 Dear PDC Family: 

I had rented two weeks in the Walnut Street Studio 5 this summer to put up another one of my plays.  But then got an opportunity to go direct THE SOUND OF MUSIC at the Millbrook Playhouse.  So I'm giving up my weeks.  

But if any of you need a space for a project this summer, let me know.  You can have my weeks.  The rent is really cheap.  $600 a week and you can run Tuesday - Sunday.  The weeks are June 24 - July 7th. 

Very reasonable.  Good opportunity to put up your work and see how it plays in front of an audience. 

If you're interested.  Feel free to email me at kenkaissar@yahoo.com. 

Happy Holidays everyone!!!



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IronAge Residency 2012-13
by Kate McGrath
posted: 2012-12-05 05:41:06

So, um, I hate research.  Which explains why I applied for a residency to write a historically-based social issue play.  Seriously, I am very glad that my recent check-in meeting with John Doyle, Artistic director at IronAge, resulted in great relief (for me) that I am on target, basically, with the topic I spent some time selecting, and  a bunch of background work, and can go full steam ahead into the next phase: hammering out a more complete draft.  John and one of his colleagues at IronAge looked at my "blueprint" for the play, which is right now a one-woman piece about Mother Jones (rabble rouser extraordinaire), the factory worker strikes circa 1900's, and the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.  We discussed things like: balance of the main characters who will be played by one actress with transitions, the use of the key object in the play (a ragdoll that can be used in puppet fashion to play several roles but also be a child, a falling body, a Gibson Girl, a strike sympathizing socialite, etc.) and how I might do further research with someone who has made a film about the infamous fire. John assured me that the key emotional and personal moments I am interested in would be of equal interest to our targeted audience, and since IronAge has several touring plays like this out in the world, he knows wherof he speaks.

So, research is hardly over (really, it has only just begun!), but I am now going back to visit specific moments in history that have to do with child labor law but applied to incidents, or women's sufferage that has to do with character interaction...  No more quotes that just strike my fancy, without dramatic context. That's kind of fun, but not great dramaturgy.  I have my characters, and structure: Glory Hallelulia! In terms of the residency itself,  John gave great comfort when he said things like, "we have people for that" which doesn't mean I don't have to work hard as a playwright, but really gives one that feeling of being on a team, not having to constantly don my dramaturg's hat, and as we move toward involving an actress to really develop what I have so far, I can hardly contain my excitement!

More anon!  Best wishes to all, Kate McGrath

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Frank Burd said on 2013-01-15:

I've done a little research into the Triangle fire, to pass what I can to my children. My great aunt, my father's aunt, was on the 8th floor, the locked floor, when the fire began. She is one of those immigrant teenagers who was working there that day. She survived, jumping from a window, and was one of the lucky ones who landed in a net, though she damaged her uterus in the fall, and was never able to have children.


Bill Hollenbach said on 2012-12-05:

Great to hear you're off to such a good start. Now the real fun begins.


Todd Holtsberry said on 2012-12-05:

Thanks for letting us know how your residency is going Kate. Good stuff and looking forward to hearing more about it as you continue on this journey!


bill rolleri said on 2012-12-05:

Fabulous Launch! Bon voyage!



Here's to a great year ahead for the PDC!
by Todd Holtsberry
posted: 2012-11-13 20:51:24

Hello PDCers,

This will be a first in what I hope to be regular blogging I will do on our website. Don't worry...it won't be daily...I am hoping it will be monthly. I plan on doing this as part of my service as the new PDC Board President and in an effort to keep you all up to date on PDC and PDC Board happenings. Hopefully you will find it informative...that's my goal. 

So...I am proud to say that we have the following great board officers: Melissa McBain, Vice-President; Quinn D. Eli, Treasurer (and Literary Manager); Jody Gross, Secretary; and myself as President (only as great the board as a whole). I am equally proud of our other board members: Candace Gordon, Bill Rolleri, Mickey Leone, Jerry Rudasill, and Kate McGrath. They will serve us well.

Filling Kristen Scatton's shoes, as our President over the last year will be hard...but I'm not dumb. I found a way to keep her around. She is our new staff member as our PDC Communications Manager! Those Sunday night blasts of what's happening both inside the PDC and out will continue to be her primary role. However, we will be trying to trick her into a few other things...please don't tell her I said that. I am happy to say that Kristen is still there if I/we need her.

We had our first meeting of the newly convened board...and it felt good. Having enjoyed serving on the board for the last three years, and this being my fourth newly convened board meeting, I can tell you it can be a time of uncertainty. Sure I knew most of the new board members and I recruited three of them. I didn't really know Mickey though and even though I knew Kate, Jerry, and Jody...people can change when they get on boards...sometimes even get ugly with board politics.

That didn't happen at this meeting. The returning board there were all very pleased with what appears to be another hard working and committed board who will serve the membership well. We established that healthy, respectful discourse is allowed and to be expected...all in the service of the PDC and it's members.

Here are some things we accomplished:

1) We cleaned up some wording in the Bylaws. Nothing drastic, just that our annual meeting happens in October (we had previously had it in September and then the board from about three years ago voted to move it to October so as not to compete with The Philly Live Arts and Fringe Festival), and to clarify Members and  Collaborative Artists Members (There was some repetitive wording and we felt like Collaborative Artist Members deserved voting priviledges too).This was a part of our review of our Bylaws, so that we make sure we follow them and look for items that need ammending. If it is something a little more major, we will always put it before the membership before we officially vote on it. In our review, we also found a section about the election of PDC Board officers that has not been being followed the last four or five years. Look for info on that soon as we will want to know what you think before we either change it to what has been happening the last four or five years or make sure that we begin to follow it as written.

2) We approved the return of The Bake-Off! This will be curated by Greg Romero, with my support. Plays and Players will be our host, but it will be our baby. It looks like this will be happening in March of 2013...look for more info soon.

3) We discussed what we needed to do to transfer everything over from Kristen to the appropriate board members...and what we hope she will continue to do.

4) We talked about the PDC, our mission statement, who we are, and who we serve.

5) We talked about our goals as board members and we discussed things like: micro-grants to members to self-produce; resuming the search for an Executive Director for the PDC; the possible return of Readings in Restaurants, continuing to add new programming; outreach programs with producing organizations; and the proverbial more.

Please don't hesitate to let myself, or any of the new PDC Board know of any questions, concerns, or desires for that you might have. You'll find our contact info on our website...you'll also see mine below. If you have ideas for programming, we'll take those too.

I think the next year is going to be a good year for the PDC and it's members...I hope you do as well!


PDC Board President




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Todd Holtsberry said on 2012-12-03:

Hello Pat, I will continue to do a monthly blog, like this one, that will be designed to let the membership know what is happening within the PDC, and thus it's board meetings. This will give the meat of what is happening while cutting through the fat of the minutes.


Pat McGeever said on 2012-11-14:

Thanks for the update, Todd. Will we also receive minutes of board meetings, including things like who was present, what motions were made, passed, etc.?



Celebration Theatre features PDC playwrights in GIRL TALK
by Kate McGrath
posted: 2012-11-08 10:17:39

Hi--a quick reminder to come out and support this celebration of women playwrights, all of whom are PDC members!  This Friday and Saturday at 7:30 in beautiful Historic Lansdowne, PA.  Only $5!  At Penn Wood High School, which features plenty of parking and is a shrt walk form downtown Lansdowne.  Hope you can join us! Here's the link:  http://celebrationtheater.com/rsvp/





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Bloogging the PDC @ Plays & Players Residency
by Robin Rodriguez
posted: 2012-11-05 19:51:32


For those who don’t know me, I’m one of the three PDC @ Plays & Players Residents for 2012-2013 and over the next eight months I’ll be blogging here now and again.

If anyone has specific questions, let me know; otherwise my goal is less sharing my feelings and more giving information. I know in the past I’ve sometimes wished I had more specific info about the residency program to help me decide things like: should I apply, did I have artistic goals that lined up, what do the residents actually do that I might find helpful, etc.

Not that my path this year will be the definitive one, but hopefully it can serve as one example that might spark ideas in those of you who want to apply down the road.

A short overview:

As most of you know, the program is beginning its third year. Each year has been different, and the goal is for that flexibility to continue in the sense that there won’t ever be a set agenda beyond supporting artistic development. Thus the artists involved, with their individual and collective interests, will guide what happens.

There are, though, a couple of specific things new this year. The program is nine months, not a year. And P&P has added an actor residency (not technically a PDC program but obviously we’ll be working together.) So right now there are three playwrights and three actors. Each group (actors and writers) has two coordinators, with Daniel Student as the overall coordinator. The two playwright coordinators are Quinn Eli and Suzana Berger (a director/writer who at the moment is directing Spring Awakening for The Penn Players.)

And our first project starts tomorrow (Tuesday, Nov 6) at 7 pm, after we have voted but before any election results are in. A twenty-four hour playwriting experience that culminates in three plays presented to the public on Wednesday at 7pm and 9pm. (tix $15, $10 for students.)

I know many of you have done the twenty-four-hour deal; personally I always refused under the excuse that I like sleep too much and don’t write well under short deadlines. But for me this year is all about stretching boundaries and going to uncomfortable places, so I’ll be at P&P for most of Tuesday night through Wednesday evening. We’ll be working with our acting residents plus other great local actors, directors, and even a designer or two. It should be fun and productive.

So if you get a chance, come to Plays & Players Wednesday night, meet the PDC playwrights, if you haven’t already, and check out our plays about “24 Hours Later: A Presidential Survival Guide."


Robin Rodriguez

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Kate McGrath said on 2012-11-14:

Sounds like a lot of fun, and even more collaborative in nature than before...Sorry I did not make it to the performance last Wednesday, hope it was useful. I wish you well, Robin! (And the other PDC Playwrights!)


Todd Holtsberry said on 2012-11-05:

I love it Robin! I hope your residency is a great one and I look forward to seeing and hearing more it in the months to come. Thanks! Todd



Readings bring a play to life
by Bill Hollenbach
posted: 2012-10-31 08:41:33

I hope everybody made it through the storm safely and with as little disruption as possible.  It was pretty crazy in some places, not so bad in others -- kind of like a play sitting in your computer.  There's really no way to know how good or bad a script is until you hear it aloud and watch and listen to a real audience respond.  I guess the mayor of Atlantic City thought he'd made a good decision sheltering people in AC until he heard Governor Christie's response.  Maybe he would do it again.  Who knows?  

I know my play THE PACT has been through several readings which many of you have attended and made great contributions to the way I look at the script, and you have seen many changes based on your feedback.  But all along I have resisted one change that many of you have asked for.  I won't say what it is, because at the rescheduled reading of the play at InterAct on Monday, Nov. 5 at 7:00 PM, I don't want to influence any one's experience of the play as it now is.  Let the reactions flow naturally and honestly.  I think that the current version is right and i'd like to have it in the mail, but your attendance and feedback have the power to bring down my power lines and leave me stranded at my computer waiting for my brain to come back on.  Or you can send me to the post office with a hopeful step and a friendly greeting for the clerk.

Rescheduled reading of THE PACT at InterAct Theatre  on Monday, Nov. 5 at 7:00 PM.

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Celebration Theater to produce plays by PDC women!
by Kate McGrath
posted: 2012-10-19 08:12:27

Save the Date, PDC members!  Celebration Theater in Lansdowne has announced their November production of short plays by local--aka PDC--playwrights!  Congrats to the playwrights who were selected (see below) and thanks to all of the wonderful writers who submitted. Here's hoping this becomes a grand tradition. More info will come later on, but please plan to come out to Lansdowne (easily accessible by train from Center City) and support this celebration of our members' work!--Kate McGrath


GIRL TALK  a Celebration of Women's Voices



produced by Celebration Theater



November 9 & 10, 2012
Performances at 7:30 pm

Penn Wood High School Theater
100 Green Avenue, Lansdowne, PA 19050 

Tickets: $5 each


Heirloom Blue 
by Robin Rodriguez
Directed by Cassy Pressimone Beckowski
featuring Donya Coldwell and Allison Pressimone
by Diana Cavallo
Directed by Clare Hughes
featuring Ginger Fries
How to Fold 
by Kate McGrath
Directed by Terry Baraldi
featuring Delphine Evenchik 
and Clare Hughes
Lost Luggage
by Susan Cain McQuilkin
Directed by Josselyn Byrnes
featuring Cherise Rollins and Matt Slutz

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PDC Annual General Membership Meeting Set for Oct. 21
by Kristen Scatton
posted: 2012-10-02 06:46:39

 PDC's annual general membership meeting will be held on Sunday, October 21, 2012 from 2-4 pm at the Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA. All members are invited to attend. 

Elections for new Board of Directors members will be held at the general meeting. Please check back in the coming weeks for more information about about candidates running for the Board.

The Board of Directors will also report on PDC activities in the past year, and update members on new and upcoming projects that are being worked on for 2012-2013. The general membership meeting is also a great opportunity to visit and reconnect with other members.

Light refreshments will be served. Hope to see you there!

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by Kristen Scatton
posted: 2012-09-05 11:44:19






The Broadway-produced writer of The Lyons, Raised in Captivity, Pterodactyls, The Food Chain and more will be in Philadelphia for a special one-night only event Sunday, September 23, 2012 at Fergie’s Pub. The evening will feature an exclusive Q&A with Silver as well as a Happy Hour, live music, silent auction, complimentary snacks and more. All proceeds benefit the PDC.


WHEN:      Sunday, Sept. 23/Happy Hour at 5 pm, Q&A at 7 pm

WHERE:    Fergie’s Pub, 1214 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA

TICKETS:  In Advance - $25 general public/$20 for PDC members with SECRET discount code. E-mail PDC Board President Kristen Scatton at kmbs129@yahoo.com or PDC Board Vice-President Todd Holtsberry at toddzz@hotmail.com for the discount code.

At the Door - $30 general public/$25 for PDC members

Tickets ON SALE NOW at www.brownpapertickets.com or by calling





Questions? Contact PDC Board Vice-President Todd Holtsberry at 267-231-8394 or toddzz@hotmail.com.

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Celebration Theater to produce plays by women!
by Kate McGrath
posted: 2012-08-29 16:36:38

Aug 29th 2012

 Hi, all! Below is a posting with a real quick turn around, an opportunity to submit for PDC's female playwrights!  Yeah!  This is an enthusiastic group based in Lansdowne, PA with a performance space, an audience, actors, rehearsal space and directors all intact--all they need is great plays by some of our members!  Hope you can all send something in.  Best, PDC member Kate McGrath


GIRL TALK : A Celebration of Women Playwrights

 Celebration Theater of Lansdowne, PA,  proudly announces a call for Philadelphia area playwrights who are of the female persuasion for TEN MINUTE PLAYS or 1-2 PAGE MONOLOGUES to be considered for a local full production November 9th and 10th.   This premiere production of new work by talented local authors will  be the kick- off to Celebration Theater’s  2012-2013 season.

 Plays should be ten pages or less, feature simple scenic and lighting requirements, and be written for small casts (4 actors or less, male or female performers).  Unpublished plays only, previously produced is fine.

 Plays and monologues should be submitted electronically by Wednesday, September 12th,  2012  in PDF or Word (.doc)  format as attachments to a brief cover letter, with “Girl Talk” in the subject line to:  info@celebrationtheater.com.   Two submission limit per playwright.  All themes and subjects are welcome, women’s issues and strong roles for women a plus. 

6-7 selected playwrights will be notified in late September, and directors will cast the plays from a pool of actors, and  rehearse  in Lansdowne, PA September/October.  The production, entitled GIRL TALK: A Celebration of Women Playwrights will consist of  two fully staged evening performances of  these selected original works at Penn Wood High School’s charming proscenium 300 seat theatre. 

 Questions?  Please contact Celebration Theater at info@celebrationtheater.com

 Organization Mission: Celebration Theater's mission is to mount first-rate theatrical productions that challenge and entertain a diverse audience, both from Lansdowne and from a broad range of communities in and around Philadelphia.

 Organization Description: Celebration Theater is a regional theater that is an initiative of the Lansdowne Main Street Program (Phone: 610-745-4013), a project of the Lansdowne Economic Development Corporation (LEDC). Visit the LEDC online at www.LansdownesFuture.org.


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Congratulations to Barrymore-nominated PDC members Walt Vail and Jacqueline Goldfinger!
by Kristen Scatton
posted: 2012-08-20 12:35:23

PDC members Walt Vail and Jacqueline Goldfinger have both received nominations for awards presented through the Theater Alliance of Greater Philadelphia's Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theater.

Goldfinger was nominated for the F. Otto Haas for an Emerging Philadelphia Theater Artist. The only one of its kind in the nation, the F. Otto Haas Award "is intended to support the artist's living expenses so that they can focus on their craft as well as to encourage theatre artists to remain in the Philadelphia community." A $10,000 cash prize is given to the recipient, with $1,000 to each finalist.

Goldfinger's play "Slip/Shot," which was produced this past season by Flashpoint Theater Company, was also nominated for the Independence Foundation Award for Outstanding New Play, and the Brown Martin Philadelphia Award.

Vail's play "Branch," which was produced by the Society Hill Playhouse, was also nominated for the Brown Martin Philadelphia Award, which honors "those plays that best lead audiences to a better understanding of the unique experience of particular segments of our global community through their accurate and insightful representation of perspectives unique to gender, ethnicity, religion, age, and other categories of specialized experience." The price for the Brown Martin Philadelphia Award is $25,000 to the producing organization for a play that "illuminates the meaning of diversity."

The winners of the F. Otta Haas Award and the Brown Martin Philadelphia Award will be announced at a special event called Theater Philadelphia on October 22, 2012 at the Kimmel Center's Perelman Theater. The winners of Barrymore Awards for general categories will be announced later in September.

Congratulations to Walt and Jacqueline, and best of luck!

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Todd Holtsberry said on 2012-08-20:

Congratulations to the both of them. Hear, hear!


Chris Kaiser said on 2012-08-20:

Congratulations to Walt and Jacqueline! All the best!



Call for Submissions: PDC @ Plays & Players Residency
by Kristen Scatton
posted: 2012-07-10 10:50:20

 Dear PDC Members,

Plays & Players and the Philadelphia Dramatists Center (PDC) are pleased to announce the third year of the PDC @ Plays & Players Playwright Residency.  This 9-month residency, which will run from October 2012 to June 2013, is an exclusive opportunity for PDC members to work on artistic development at one of Philadelphia’s oldest and most respected theaters. 
The aim of the PDC @ Plays & Players Playwright Residency is to develop two to three playwrights towards goals that they have articulated for themselves, through the providing of a safe space for experimentation, through support and guidance from artistic peers, through feedback from play development professionals, and through public performance opportunities. The focus of this program is artist development, not the development of an individual work.
-Monthly gatherings in which playwrights will meet with fellow resident artists, dramaturgs, program staff, and guest speakers for development meetings or workshops designed to focus on some topic relevant to the development of the Residents. Examples of guest speakers or workshop leaders include artistic directors, professional directors and other collaborating artists, as well as speakers or workshop leaders from areas of expertise other than theater, including experts in language, visual design, politics, culture, history, or any other subject that either speaks to the specific chemistry of the Residency as it unfolds or that might serve as a catalyst for an assignment.
-Developmental activities of past residencies include a class at the Philadelphia Circus School, a puppet making workshop with Robert Smythe, a discussion with Isaiah Zagar in his private Philadelphia Magic Gardens studio, a tour of Laurel Hill Cemetery, observing a rehearsal from Headlong Dance Theatre, and more.
-Opportunities to experiment in different forms connected to the Plays & Players programming.
-Priority on free space for writing, closed door readings of work, public workshops and readings, etc., as requested.
-Opportunities to present work to other members of the industry and the public generated by the Residency.
-Chances to give back by leading workshops for public and other artists. 
-A "residency day" to share the experience of the residency with playwriting and artistic peers.
Please send the following materials to literary@pdc1.org no later than midnight on AUGUST 15, 2012
1. A playwriting sample of no more than 20 pages in a standard script format. Applicants can choose selections from multiple plays or a single play that they think best exemplifies the breadth of their strength as a writer.
2. A statement of purpose of no more than 2 pages in Times New Roman, Size 12 Font, Single Spaced. The statement of purpose is your opportunity to describe how you will make use of the Residency program in your growth artistically and professionally as a writer.
3. A professional resume detailing theatrical background as well as any other relevant work and educational experience.
It is highly recommended that materials be submitted in .doc or .pdf formats, though .rtf will be accepted. Please indicate APPLICATION FOR PDC @ PLAYS & PLAYERS RESIDENCY in the subject line.
Selected applicants will be invited to interview with a three-person panel including representatives from Plays & Players and PDC and an independent third party between August 29 - September 12. The panel will select and announce the residents by September 19, with the residency beginning on October 91.
Applicants must be members in good standing of the PDC with dues paid in full for the current year.
A small stipend will be offered to playwrights for this opportunity.

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Call for Submissions: PDC @ Iron Age Residency
by Kristen Scatton
posted: 2012-07-02 18:12:11

PDC is seeking submissions for its newest opportunity – a one-year residency at Iron Age Theatre in Norristown focusing on the collaborative development of a new work, culminating in a performance during Centre Theatre’s Independent Voices Festival.

Iron Age is seeking to create a piece that is historically-oriented, technically straightforward, and supports the theatre’s mission of developing work that is “focused on the human condition and social justice and created organically and collaboratively.”

During the residency, the writer will develop the piece through discussions, workshops and staged readings under the guidance of John Doyle, Co-Artistic Director of Iron Age, as well as other theatre artists. Key components of the PDC @ Iron Age Residency are a focus on a collaborative approach to play development; writers must be open to building trust and working with Iron Age’s creative team during the play’s development. Applicants will go through an interview process before a resident is selected to ensure the needs and visions of the playwright are consistent with that of Iron Age.

For more information on Iron Age Theatre, please visit http://www.ironagetheatre.org.  Questions about the residency can be directed to PDC @ Iron Age Residency coordinator Todd Holtsberry at todd.holtsberry@gmail.com.

Application Information & Requirements

Submission materials include a cover letter stating why the individual thinks he or she should be a part of the residency and a 10-page writing sample. Applicants must be PDC members in good standing for submissions to be considered. Submissions should be sent to todd.holtsberry@gmail.com with the subject line “PDC @ Iron Age Residency Submission.”

From the submissions, candidates will be selected and invited to interview with the residency panel, including John Doyle, Todd Holtsberry, and a third outside party, to help determine which candidate is the right fit for the residency, and provide an opportunity for candidates to ask questions about the program and Iron Age Theatre. Following interviews, one finalist will be chosen as the 2012-2013 resident.


Submissions are due Tuesday, July 24, 2012. Interviews will be conducted between August 20-31, with the resident selected and notified by September 17.  The residency will begin in early October, and will conclude in October 2013. The work created during the residency will be presented as part of the 2014 Independent Voices Festival.



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Two Residency Opportunities Available through PDC
by Kristen Scatton
posted: 2012-07-01 20:03:23

 The PDC Board of Directors is pleased to announce its newest opportunity offered exclusively to members, a one-year residency at Iron Age Theatre in Norristown focused on new play development, as well as the third year of its successful residency at Plays & Players Theater in Philadelphia.

 The PDC @ Iron Age Residency will give one playwright the opportunity to develop a new play in collaboration with Iron Age Theatre over a one-year period. The play should be historically oriented, technically straightforward, and support Iron Age Theatre’s mission of developing work that is “focused on the human condition and social justice and created organically and collaboratively.”

During the residency, the writer will develop the piece through discussions, workshops and staged readings under the guidance of John Doyle, Co-Artistic Director of Iron Age, with other collaborators. The work developed in the residency will be given a full production by Iron Age during Centre Theatre’s Independent Voices Festival, and may be further developed as a touring production.

Key components of the PDC @ Iron Age Residency are a focus on a collaborative approach to play development; writers must be open to building trust and working with Iron Age’s creative team during the play’s development. Applicants will go through an interview process before a resident is selected to ensure the needs and visions of the playwright are consistent with that of Iron Age.

For more information on Iron Age Theatre, please visit http://www.ironagetheatre.org.  Questions about the residency can be directed to Todd Holtsberry at todd.holtsberry@gmail.com.

 Meanwhile, the PDC @ Plays & Players Residency, which focuses on artistic development rather than the development of an individual work, will enter its third year. The aim of this program is developing three writers towards goals that they have articulated for themselves by providing a safe space for experimentation, support and guidance from artistic peers, feedback from play development professionals, and public performance opportunities.

Development activities in previous residencies included a puppet-making workshop with Robert Smythe, classes at the Philadelphia Circus School, a tour of Laurel Hill Cemetery, and a meeting with artist Isaiah Zeiger at the Magic Gardens studio. Residents also have access to Plays & Players Theater as a private workspace and public venue. A public showcase is held during the residency to demonstrate individual work created as part of the program and/or collaborative work created with other artists at Plays & Players.

Past participants in the PDC @ Plays & Players Residency include Joy Cutler, Quinn D. Eli, Greg Romero, Jeremy Gable, Brian Grace-Duff and Jeff Stanley. For more information about Plays & Players Theater, please visit http://www.playsandplayers.org/. Questions about this residency can be directed to literary@pdc1.org.

More information about application requirements and deadlines will be coming soon. Applicants must be PDC members in good standing to be considered for residency positions.

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Todd Holtsberry said on 2012-07-02:

Please email submissions to me at todd.holtsberry@gmail.com


Todd Holtsberry said on 2012-07-02:

Hello Everybody, I am very excited about these two residencies and hope you all are as well! I just wanted to add a note on submitting to the Iron Age Residency. I you think you would like to pursue it, please email the following to me(at todd.holtsberry@gmail.com): Playwrights would submit a cover letter stating why they think they should be part of the residency along with a 10 page sample of their writing. Please note that the deadline for submitting to this is 7/24/12. Thanks everybody...please email me with any other questions Todd Holtsberry



An Amazing Review!
by Ken Kaissar
posted: 2012-05-15 08:36:33

Dear PDC Friends and Colleagues: 

My play A MODEST SUGGESTION just opened in New York last week at Theatre Row on 42nd Street.  We received this amazing review from Martin Denton at NYTheatre.com.  


If New York is at all accessible to you, I would love it if you came up to see the show.  It runs Tuesday - Sunday now through May 27th.  We are at Theatre Row on 42nd Street between 9th and 10th. 

Shoot me an email at kenkaissar@yahoo.com if you can come.  I'd love to grab a drink with you either before or after. 

Be well and happy May!

Ken Kaissar

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Kristen said on 2012-05-18:

Congratulations, Ken! I won't be able to make it up to NYC before the run ends, but I hope the rest of it goes well!


Wally said on 2012-05-16:

I just saw this last night and enjoyed it a great deal! A fine piece of comic writing, with an edge.


Bill Hollenbach said on 2012-05-15:

Exciting to see such a positive review from a member i don't know. It gives us all something to point towards. Hope your next one is just as well received.



PDC Playwrights are "Discovering SagaCity" Tonight at the Shubin Theatre
by Kristen Scatton
posted: 2012-04-27 07:25:01

Come to the Shubin Theatre tonight at 8 pm for a wonderful evening of plays written by some of Philadelphia's most provocative women playwrights, presented as part of the Shubin April Fest 25th Anniversary Celebration and Fundraiser.. 

"Discovering SagaCity" Six Women Playwrights on the Trials and Truths of Being Female" features work by PDC members Diana Cavallo, Joy Cutler, Kate McGrath, Robin Rodriguez, and Debra Leigh Scott, and will be performed at The Shubin Theatre, 407 Bainbridge Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147. Directors are Malika Oyetimein, Denise Shubin and Debra Leigh Scott. The cast includes Marley Alig, Jean Brooks, Mlé Chester, Chris Davis, Patricia Mayer, LaNeshe Miller, and Denise Shubin. 

Tickets for "Discovering Sagacity" are $20 and can be purchased online at http://shubintheatre.ticketleap.com/shubin-april-fest-2012/dates/Apr-27-2012_at_0800PM. Students can use the code ShubeStude001 to get 50% off ticket price!


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PDC Participating in 54th Annual May Fair - Volunteers Wanted!
by Kristen Scatton
posted: 2012-04-20 12:41:00

On Saturday, May 12, the Spruce Hill Community Association (SHCA) is holding their 54th Annual May Fair in Clark Park in West Philadelphia from 10 am to 4 pm. The SHCA has invited PDC to host a table at the event, where we can talk about and pass out information about PDC to the event's attendees. This is a wonderful opportunity to spread the word about PDC, and reach out to prospective members and supporters.

We are looking for volunteers who would be interested in donating an hour or two to man the table at the event. Your only job would be to pass out information and answer questions about the organization. Full disclosure - it is an outdoor event, and is held rain or shine. I know it's Mother's Day weekend, and also a Writer's Circle day, but if you can stop by for an hour or so, that would be great. (Of course, if you want to come for the whole day, that's great too!) I will be there for the earlier part of the day.

As you may know, PDC has recently begun holding readings at the SHCA location on 45th Street in West Philly. This "PDC Reading Series," which is run by Board member and current head of PDC Literary Quinn Eli, is designed to provide writers the opportunity to hear their full-length works-in-progress read aloud in their entirety by professional actors, and receive feedback from an audience. Only three readings have been held so far, but it's been a solid success, with writers saying how valuable the experience is. It's also the first step in a plan to provide members with more opportunities for both informal and formal staged readings. This wouldn't be possible without the SHCA offering their space to PDC at an extremely modest fee.

**Please note - PDC's participation in the 54th Annual May Fair is in no way a condition of or required by our agreement with the SHCA for the "PDC Reading Series." PDC was invited to participate in the event, and after a discussion, the Board decided to take advantage of the opportunity for membership recruitment and community outreach. Members are not required to volunteer for or attend this event. 

 If you are interested, please e-mail me at kmbs129@yahoo.com by Friday, May 11 at this address. Please indicate if there is a specific time you are available; ideally we can have a schedule to ensure our table is occupied at all times.

As always, your support of and dedication to PDC is appreciated. Thank you.

Kristen M. Scatton

President, PDC Board of Directors


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Shubin April Fest Kicks Off Thursday With "Woodcarver's Band" by Member Ed Shockley
by Kristen Scatton
posted: 2012-04-11 16:56:39

 Tickets are still available for "Woodcarver's Band," an epic performance poem by PDC founding member Ed Shockley, the opening event of Shubin April Fest 2012. This is a one-time performance at 7 pm on Thursday, April 12 at the Shubin Theatre, 407 Bainbridge St., Philadelphia, PA.

It is strongly recommended to purchase tickets in advance, as seating is limited. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online at  http://is.gd/shubin_tix . 

Shubin April Fest 2012 is a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Shubin Theatre, as well as a fundraiser for upgrades and repairs to the space.  The festival, which features theater, dance, music, poetry, improv and more, as well as work by a number of PDC members, runs through Sunday, April 29.

For the complete show listing and ticket/donation information, visit http://www.facebook.com/events/107251592732537/.

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"Best of Philly's Primary Stages...Part Too!" this weekend!
by Kristen Scatton
posted: 2012-04-11 09:26:37

  Hello Everybody,
I just want to update you on the upcoming "The Best of Philly's Primary Stages...Part Too!", happening this Friday and Saturday (4/13 and 4/15) at The Shubin Theatre!
First of all, please come. For the first time ever, tickets are being pre-sold online. Since there are only 40 seats available per show, I would order them online to make sure you get a seat. 
Here is the link to click on to order your tickets:  http://is.gd/Shubin_T...ix

Here is a link to click on for our Facebook event for more info: https://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn#!/events/255436124551441/
Here is a link for more info on other programming going on at the Shubin as part of her 25th anniversary fundraising efforts: 
I also want to give you all on our fundraising efforts prior to even putting up our show. 

As indicated in a solicitation letter we sent out last week to help cover the show's expenses, so that ALL of the ticket sales will go to the Shubin Theatre, we needed to raise about $425-$450. This covers two tech people, the band, food, and drink for all three shows. I should add that everybody is working at a much reduced rate, just enough to cover their gas and maybe parking. 
I have already received matching pledges of $200 from three of our members, with the stipulation that I raise at least $250 from other members. So far, we have received a total of $100 towards that matching grant/pledge. We are so close to making this happen and we can't do it without your help.
Please consider mailing a donation today, or tomorrow...you can still show your support for Philly's Primary Stages and The Shubin Theatre. We wouldn't have this series if it weren't for the PDC and The Shubin.
To make your donation, please read the original solicitation letter below. Thanks, in advance for your anticipated support!
We would like to offer thanks to the following donors: Kristen Scatton, Quinn D. Eli, Candace Gordon, Susan Cain McQuilken, and Anonymous.
Thanks everybody! If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at 267-231-8394, or email me at toddzz@hotmail.com .
Todd Holtsberry
Founding Producer of Philly's Primary Stages

Hello PDCers,
I want to give you all on update on some really great things happening with Philly’s Primary Stages.
First of all, it is once again a full program of the PDC, as it once was, and I am very happy about. This is a slight change from what it has been over the last few years, co-sponsorship with Secret Room Theatre and The Shubin Theatre. However, even though it is a program of the PDC again, we will be continuing to work with Secret Room Theatre and The Shubin Theatre, as part of our mission statement to stimulate creative partnerships.
I know many of you always considered Philly’s Primary Stages to be exclusively a program of the PDC, even when it spent a couple of years as a co-sponsored program…this move back just confirms that belief.
Next up will be “The Best of Primary Stages…Part Too!”, which I am proud to say will be part of a collaboration of many to raise funds for the Shubin Theatre, in support of its 25th anniversary this year. This show will feature the plays of: Robin Rodriguez, Alex Dremann, Josh McIlvain, Greg Romero, Albert Them, Brittany Holdahl, and Krista Knight. This Best of show will be fully produced and will NOT be a script-in-hand reading. Other than that, everything will be the same…great plays, acting, directing, food, libations, and our house band Hot Breakfast. This show will have three performances – 7:00 AND a 10:00pm shows on 4/13 and a 7:00pm show on 4/15. Look for more info soon, including how to purchase tickets in advance! Yes, this show will be different in that there will be advanced ticket sales.
In these tough economic times, even a shoe-string budget like Philly’s Primary Stages can be impacted, and that’s one of the reasons I am reaching out to you today. In the past we were lucky to have an anonymous donor help supply the majority of the food and beverages for our readings. Unfortunately this donor has recently informed me that continued donations are no longer possible. Those donations made it possible for the series to pay for itself when combined with the cash donations received at the door. This show will also not have the benefit of covering its costs, through those donations at the door, as tickets will be sold online, in advance of the show. This is being handled by the producers of the overall programming and those funds will go directly to the Shubin Theatre.

Since Denise Shubin, as the owner and proprietor of the Shubin Theatre, has done so much for Philly’s Primary Stages, I want to do everything I can to make sure that we raise as much funds as possible to help cover improvements that Denise is considering. I have asked my tech people and band to work at a reduced rate (they are the only ones currently receiving compensation) and, as always, I will not be receiving any compensation for my efforts. 
To put things into full perspective, Philly’s Primary Stages uses the Shubin Theatre for three nights, about three times a year. This has been the case for about eight years, without paying one penny of rent…Denise has donated it all! Denise normally rents the theater for $100 a day, or $500 per week. By my calculations, this amounts to about $7,200 in donated space over all of these years.
In terms of the benefits to the PDC and its members, this series has allowed for approximately 300 new 10 minute plays to have been developed, with a majority of them by PDC members. Additionally, it has acted as a recruiting tool when non PDC members work has been developed and they later become member playwrights. Lastly, it helps keep the PDC in a high profile in the Philadelphia theatre community. In short, this is a program that has proven valuable to our members and organization.
Additionally, Denise has indicated to me that she wants nothing more from the PDC, and it’s members, than for us to show up for the fundraising programming that will be happening at the Shubin Theatre in April. In my mind, her asking for nothing makes me want to raise even more money for her theater!
Put Denise's generosity and the benefits to the PDC and its playwrights and hopefully you will see why we, as a community, should support the Shubin Theatre on their 25th anniversary!
This is why I want to raise funds for the Shubin Theatre in addition to covering the expenses of Philly's Primary Stages…but I need your help…please.
My anticipated expenses for this show will be about $425-$450. This includes tech people, the band, food, and beverages.
What I would like to do is raise funds, before the show, that would at least cover our expenses. If we receive more, that would just be more funds that would go to the fundraising efforts of the Shubin, as a donation from the PDC and its members.
I have already received matching pledges of $200 from three of our members, with the stipulation that I raise at least $250 from other members.
Won’t you please consider a generous donation to this effort? It can be ANY amount; EVERY donation will be gratefully appreciated.
To make your donation, please do the following:
1) Send a check, or money order, made payable to the PDC, to Philadelphia Dramatists Center, PO Box 22666, Philadelphia, PA 19110-2666.
2) Include a short note, or use the memo line, indicating that this is earmarked for “The Best of Philly’s Primary Stages…Part Too!”
3) Please mail your donation no later than 4/2/12.
Remember, all donations to the PDC are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law…you will also be doing a great thing for our friend Denise Shubin, the Shubin Theatre, and playwrights who have found the Shubin Theatre to be a great venue for their work.
Thanks, in advance, for your anticipated support of Philly’s Primary Stages and the Shubin Theatre, in its 25th anniversary year.
If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at toddzz@hotmail.com, or by phone at 267-231-8394.
Todd Holtsberry
Founding Producer of Philly’s Primary Stages and PDC Board Vice-President
With full support of the PDC Board 

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Todd Holtsberry said on 2012-04-11:



Todd Holtsberry said on 2012-04-11:

Hello Everyone, Thanks to Krissy for posting this. Pat McGeever pointed out the link for tickets needed to be fixed. The correct link is: http://is.gd/Shubin_Tix Hope to see you all there. Speaking of Pat, thanks to him for his pledge he made today! Todd Holtsberry



by Bill Rolleri
posted: 2012-03-08 17:17:56


Dear Everyone,
I’m working with a couple of other folks doing publicity grunt work to help promote public interest and attendance for the Shubin Theatre 25th Anniversary Festival that is currently in preparation to run April 12th through April 22nd.
No need to tell you how helpful and generous Denise and husband Don have been to the theatre community of Philly, especially to members of the PDC who have performed at the Shubin, produced or directed there.
Now we need your help. Bended knee kinda.
First and foremost, we would love for you to attend as many of the featured shows as possible. The aim is to mount as many different performance presentations as possible in the time period noted, featuring the work of a million or so (give or take) Philadelphia region actors, directors, singers, dancers, playwrights, poets and hand-clappers engaging in a wide variety of entertainment vehicles, some of them legal, moral and ethical.
Second (but not secondarily) we need any help you can offer to reach out to the entertainment media. We’ll be sending out releases to the primary outlets (print, radio, TV), but it would be immensely helpful if any of you have direct contact with members of the press that you would be willing to share (one time only) to help get exposure on a budget of virtually zero. Could be anyone, a friend, a lover, a spouse, a Mom or Dad or kid brother, even an in-law, anyone who may work at a newspaper or station or just knows someone who does. If you can help out with this aspect of the promotion game plan, please contact me at 302-326-1482 or wrolleri@comcast.net.
Did I already say bended knee?
Bill Rolleri

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Joan Segal said on 2012-03-11:

Would like to attend and help, but I'm not driving too much these days. Will do what I can if there's transportation. Joan



PDC LITERARY Looking for Actors for Upcoming Readings
by Kristen Scatton
posted: 2012-03-08 08:24:00

 PDC Literary, which helps members organize table readings, workshops and staged readings of works-in-progress and finished scripts, is looking for actors to lend their talents to upcoming readings. While these are not paid jobs, the time committment is very minimal; the main purpose of these readings is for writers to hear their work out loud, and get feedback.

Actors, or writers with acting experience, who are interested in being contacted to participate in readings should e-mail literary@pdc1.org. Interested parties are invited to send a headshot and resume, although it is not required.

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PDC Board Report - February 2012
by Kristen Scatton
posted: 2012-02-19 14:41:36

 Hello again, PDC members! Time once again to check in with everyone to let you know what the Board is working on, and new and exciting endeavors our members are participating in.

The Board is continuing to research various venues throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding area to find a location for the organization to call home. At an informal meeting with several members on Saturday, February 18 following Writers Circle, the consensus was that PDC needs space for three main purposes - to hold staged readings of completed works with an audience, to conduct table readings/workshops of plays-in-progress, and to have a central office where administrative functions can be handled.

Several options are currently under consideration, including the Community Education Center in West Philadelphia, Summit Presbyterian Church in Mount Airy, Musehouse in Chestnut Hill, and the Painted Bride Art Center, Moonstone Arts Center, and Arts in Sacred Spaces locations in Center City. However, there are many factors to consider when looking at these spaces, including location, parking, accessibility, cost and if the space meets all of PDC's needs, or only some of them.

The Board remains committed to finding an arrangement that will accommodate the three purposes listed above, whether it is in one location or different locations. Members should stay tuned for more updates, and are welcome at any time to ask questions about the process. Furthermore, if any member has suggestions about potential locations or arrangements, the Board is open to hearing them.

The Executive Director Search Committee conducted a second round of interviews with candidates in mid-January. and remains in contact with candidates to find an arrangement that suits both the organization's and the individual's needs, with the hope that a new Executive Director will be selected shortly. 

PDC members have been beating the winter blues by keeping busy - Bill  Hollenbach and Donald Drake recently held staged readings at L2 and the Painted Bride Art Center, respectively, and "Branch" by Walt Vail continues its successful run at the Society Hill Playhouse through February 26. In late January, several PDC members participated in "Next Stop": A MERGE Event at the Annenberg Center, including Quinn Eli, Kristen Scatton, Chris Braak, Jacqueline Goldfinger and David Stratten White. The 24-hour playwriting event was organized by Brian Grace-Duff, one of the current PDC@Plays & Players Playwrights-in-Residence. Fellow resident Jeff Stanley will have a reading of his play "Fishing with Tony and Joe" at Plays & Players' Skinner Studio on Tuesday, February 28 at 4 pm, while resident Jeremy Gable just wrapped up a successful run of "Bachelorette" with Luna Theatre Company at the Skybox at the Adrienne. 

Coming up this week, Philly's Primary Stages, a staged reading series co-sponsored  by PDC, is back with "Heart Attacks!" the anti-Valentine's Day show for all those bitter hearts out there. Performances are Tuesday, February 21 and Wednesday, February 22 at 7:30 pm at the Shubin Theatre, and as always, PDC is well-represented, with several members listed in the credits as writers and directors. This installment of Philly's Primary Stages was subsidized by a generous anonymous donation, to whom producer Todd Holtsberry would like to express his gratitude. Lifetime member Kate McGrath also recently made a generous donation to PDC, and we thank her for that as well.

Donations made to PDC are tax-deductible, as we are a 501(c)3 non-profit, and can be earmarked for a specific program, such as Philly's Primary Stages, rent for the CEC for Writer's Circle, the PDC @ Plays & Players Residence, or can be made to the organization in general. As we continue to expand our offerings, every little bit helps, and is greatly appreciated!

Until next time, best of luck with your projects and endeavors!

Kristen M. Scatton

President, PDC Board

Questions? Comments? Contact me at kmbs129@yahoo.com

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"Bachelorette" Industry Night February 12th at 6:30 p.m.
by Jeremy Gable
posted: 2012-02-06 13:27:57

JUST ANNOUNCED: Industry Night for Leslye Headland's "Bachelorette" at Luna Theater is Sunday, Feb 12th at 6:30 p.m. at the Skybox in the Adrienne.  Online and walk-up tickets for industry folk are only $13 (includes fees).  For tickets, reviews and to view the trailer, go to www.Lunatheater.org  Join the party!!!

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"Microcrisis" at InterAct
by Pat McGeever
posted: 2012-02-06 13:18:54

 I highly recommend PDC members try to see "Microcrisis" at the Interact, now in its last week.  Mike Lew's play brilliantly but entertainingly dissects how the great economic collapse of '08 came about, and Seth Rozin and Interact do a stellar job of staging it.  At the talk-back yesterday, Seth commented that this play has brought more viewers to talk-backs than ever, and for longer periods (ours, with PDC's Tom Tirney, lasted an hour).  That's because the play is highly topical and highly stimulating.  

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Liam Castellan said on 2012-02-06:

I agree with Pat, though I'm biased. I had the privilege of being the assistant director on the production, and it's an extremely funny play. A great example of making an "issue play" entertaining, and a razor-sharp satire with a talented cast. Less than 90 minutes, too.



Submission Fees
by Pat McGeever
posted: 2012-01-18 06:27:15

 The latest newsletter from the Dramatists Guild, edited by Roland Tec, features a diatribe against festivals, theaters, etc., that charge submission fees.  The official position of DG is that it opposes them as an unwarranted and unfair burden on playwrights, many of whom are very low-income.  The DG RESOURCE DIRECTORY, and the newsletters nevertheless list submission opportunities that charge such fees.  Their policy is to leave it to the playwright whether or not to enter and pay the fee.  But Tec would like to see more playwrights writing to theaters to say, "I'd love to enter your contest, but I decline because of your fee."

On the Opportunity Calendar of PDC, which I edit, the same policy prevails.  You will find submission opportunities for which no fee is charged, and others for which one is.  You decide.  (Personally I have submitted to both kinds.)

Of those theaters, etc. that charge fees, some explain how the fee money is used, and some don't.  If you are thinking of submitting but find no explanation for the fee, you might write to the person in charge and request an explanation, and that the explanation be included in the next announcement.  If a lot of writers do that, it might put pressure on such theaters to at least explain themselves.  I noted recently one festival that charged a $20 fee to enter a 10-minute play.  Sounds unreasonable to me.

I recently wrote to the Telluride Festival in Colorado to protest what I find a particularly odious wrinkle in their submissions policy.  I said it was bad enough that they have a submission fee at all, but much worse that they required the fee to be paid through Pay Pal.  Pay Pal is one of those institutions that have been trying to put WikiLeaks, producer of the "Collateral Murder" video, out of business by refusing to forward contributions people make to it.  I suggest that those who value freedom of expression not do business with Pay Pal.  Yet the Tulluride Festival, with some enlightened folks on its board, continue to do this.

What do you think?

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Pat McGeever said on 2012-01-19:

Good comments all around, thanks. Here's a tip on mailing scripts less expensively that a helpful USPS worker gave me recently. If the contents of your envelope are all paper (maybe paper clips, etc.), ask the counter person to mail it "media mail." It's way less expensive, although slower. Often what counts is when it's postmarked rather than when it arrives, in which case you're OK with media mail.


donald drake said on 2012-01-18:

An important question that must be answered before deciding whether to accept submission fees or not is this. Would we have less reading or production opportunities if submission fees were eliminated. My concern is that many theaters, hanging by a thread, would eliminate the festivals or competitions and sharply reduce our opportunities. I've gotten many more productions and readings from theaters that charged fees than those who don't. And I have made slightly more money from winning competitions than I spent in submission fees, which I consider a business expense like postage and copying.


Ken Kaissar said on 2012-01-18:

I think it would be worth us all banding together if only to target the O'Neill. They charge a really steep fee ($35 I believe, geez!). I pay it because it's the O'Neill. It's an important conference, and I can't afford to not to give myself that opportunity. But I'm not gonna lie to you, it hurts every year I submit. You would think that one of the most prestigious opportunities for writers in the country would be more sympathetic to the plight of the artist. But no. They could learn a thing or two from PlayPenn.


Henrik Eger said on 2012-01-18:

Excellent, Pat, and a very fair presentation of the various aspects of this issue. I have heard several people at theatre conferences who told me that one of the reasons for charging playwrights a fee for the "privilege" was to keep kids and students from overloading a theatre's submission desk with non-serious work. Frankly, as a reader (dramaturg, artistic director, script committee member, etc.) I much rather plow through an extra set of scripts than miss out on a good one that could strengthen my theatre. Once more many thanks for a fine article and vielen Dank for all your good work.



PDC Board Report
by Kristen Scatton
posted: 2012-01-08 15:15:20

 Greetings PDCers, and Happy New Year!

Welcome to the PDC Board Report, the first in a regular series of blog posts that will keep members updated on what projects and plans the Board is currently working on.

It remains a priority of the Board to find a permanent place for PDC to call home, a multipurpose space that can be used as an office as well a place to hold readings, rehearsals, meetings and other events. The Board has been researching several possibilities within Philadelphia and the surrounding area, including the Community Education Center (CEC) and Summit Presbyterian Church in Mount Airy. Once enough information has been gathered, a general membership meeting will be called and all options presented to members before a final decision is made. 

The search for the new Executive Director continues, with three candidates being brought back for a second round of interviews on January 7. While Wally Zialcita left some big shoes to fill, we look forward to naming his successor in the coming weeks!

The next Philly's Primary Stages, "Heart Attacks!" will be held February 21 and 22, 2012, at the Shubin Theater. A great showcase for PDC members, whether they are writing, directing or acting, Primary Stages is still accepting submissions for "Heart Attacks!" Full submission guidelines are available in the PDC Weekly Announcements, but hurry! There's only one week left to submit your tale of love gone wrong.

The writers of the PDC @ Plays & Players Residency, Jeremy Gable, Brian Grace-Duff and Jeff Stanley, all report that the residency is going well. The residency, in its second year and under the direction of Daniel Student, focuses on artist development, and gives the residents a chance to learn, explore and meet with other artists and creative thinkers from around the city. Events will be held throughout the residency; keep a lookout in the PDC Weekly Newsletter and Plays & Players web site for announcements about upcoming events.

Finally, the Board is in the early stages of planning a fundraising event to be held this spring. As PDC looks to expand and find a home, fundraising will take on a greater significance for the organization. The Board looks forward to announcing details about this event in the near future.

That's about all for now. The next PDC Board meeting is scheduled for January 21, so check back for a new Board Report following the meeting!

Kristen Scatton

President, PDC Board

Questions? Comments? E-mail me at kmbs129@yahoo.com


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Philly's Primary Stages needs directors now!
by Todd Holtsberry
posted: 2011-11-07 06:09:16


Philly's Primary Stages, the premier staged reading series of 10 minute plays, needs you to DIRECT for our upcoming readings entitled "Family Matters!" 

 This is a script-in-hand series that is entering it's 8th year of blurring the lines between a night of plays being read script-in-hand, and a fully produced night of theater. We rehearse a few times to find the moments that make the plays work. We also use simple lights, sounds, sets (think theater cubes and chairs), props and costumes.

 All this is done in the intimate setting of the Shubin Theatre, in South Philly!

 Since the number one goal of the program is to help writers develop their plays, and in their craft, you will work in collaboration with a writer, actors and the audience.

 Our upcoming readings will happen over two nights, Tuesday and Wednesday, 11/22 or 11/23, with two different sets of plays being performed...i.e. the play you direct, will be read on ONE of those nights. You would also be expected to come to a very short tech on Monday, 11/21.

 This is a non-paid gig but you will be rewarded with a VERY satisfying experience in a VERY cool program that makes staged readings rock so hard we even make it a party with beer, wine, soda, bottled water, chips, dips, vienna sausages, and puddin' packs being served. We even throw in a pre-show set, and live outro music, from our house band, Hot Breakfast!

 In short, this is a great series in which many directors have developed in their craft over the years. Shouldn't you be one of them?

 If interested, please forward your resume and contact info to Todd Holtsberry, Producer, at toddzz@hotmail.com , or call him at 267-231-8394.

 Philly's Primary Stages is Co-Sponsored by the PDC, Secret Room Theatre, and the Shubin Theatre.

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Vote for Wolf!
by Walter Vail
posted: 2011-10-08 21:13:20

With the rent for space at The Wolf Building down from  $800 to $250 per month (Amazing! How?) I am urging those WC attendees who voted against locating there to change their vote to YES.  We have had a great tenure at CEC, but the  future of PDC must take priority.  PDC must be allowed to grow for the sake of our younger members and future member playwrights in Philly.  We need our organization to represent all of us in the Philly Theatre Community if we are to be recognized as serious writers. 

Yes, each playwright is always on his/her own in terms of acquiring skill in the craft--each playwright competes with all others, including thousands of dead playwrights when it comes to finding a theatre and a production--but in unity we gain stature, in unity we learn, in unity we teach each other.  Some playwrights love collaboration, some love to go it alone--all of us need an organization.

I am in the 84th year of my life and am an active playwright.  My plays are being produced, and I continue to write new plays each day, each month, each year.  I hope you all will be as fortunate as I have been in playwriting.  I love to write plays, and I've worked with young playwrights for many, many years.  I look to the future for all of our talented writers, young and older.  The only difference among us is that some like myself have lived through decades of history.  I saw Laurette Taylor play Amanda in the original production of THE GLASS MENAGERIE.  I bought the first printed edition of WAITING FOR GODOT.  I was two years old when the market crashed in 1929, and I starved my way through the Great Depression of the thirties.  I learned most of what I know about playwriting from Arthur Miller's work.  And from Ibsen, O'Neill, Williams, and others.  I acted and sang the role of Mr. Peachum in THREEPENNY OPERA at Society Hill Playhouse in the play's first Philly production.  Etc., etc., etc.

I look to the future of PDC, the growth of PDC--we should vote to make the move to The Wolf Building and hold Writers Circle there and do more of the things we all want to do: table readings, staged readings, talkbacks that help all of us with our work.  Not productions--theatres do productions--playwrights organizations support the growth of playwrights and plays. 

Walt Vail

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Eliana said on 2015-11-19:

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Don Drake said on 2011-10-09:

Once again I have to agree with Walt. If we pass up this opportunity, we might not get another one. For years we have been talking about finding a home and nothing has come from the talk until now. I don’t know if the PDC could afford to make the move if it had to pay for both Wolf and CEC, if we didn’t move Circle. So Circle’s decision on what to do could have far reaching consequences. I think many of the concerns voiced at the last Circle meeting are worrisome, but not enough for us to pass up this opportunity. It’s quite possible that Wolf will become an important performing arts center and if it does it would be a shame not to be part of it. If it doesn’t work out, we can always go back to CEC.


Bill Hollenbach said on 2011-10-09:

This is a great description of what the role of PDC should be in all of our creative lives. We work hard. We have ambitions. Sometimes we get productions, but always we create our work alone. But as all attendees at the Writers Circle know, it is from the collective input of other artists that our work and our creative selves grow. As Walt points out we all have had various degrees of success. We are all of different ages, but we all strive for the same common goal: the creation of theatre pieces that reflect our vision that will come to life for others. A home in the Wolf Building will offer us a chance for greater exposure for our work in its developmental stages. We will have a home for others to hear our work -- at the Writers Circle, at Writers Table, in full readings. Now we usually get the productive feedback of our fellow playwrights in PDC and our friends. With a move to the Wolf we will gain a visibility that may bring in other theatre artists in the city. New voices with new eyes and ears. With luck we may all grow to achieve at least a small amount of the success Walt has seen.



What You Need to Know About Why It’s Important to Attend the Annual PDC General Meeting October 15
by Kristen Scatton
posted: 2011-10-08 12:45:52

 What You Need to Know About Why It’s Important to Attend the Annual PDC General Meeting October 15

Board Urges Membership: YOU Decide on Proposal

to make PDC Home Base at Wolf Underground Arts.


The 2011 General Membership Meeting is coming up Saturday, October 15th.  It will be held at 4 p.m. at the Wolf Underground Arts Building, 1200 Callowhill Street. And should there be a rumor afloat that there will be a special presentation and open discussion about a pending project that can have a pivotal and strategic impact on the PDC, the Board of Directors now hastens to put that rumor to rest…

By acknowledging it’s true.

“This is one General Meeting nobody wants to miss,” says PDC Board Vice-Chair Todd Holtsberry.

The proposal: Make the Wolf facility the new PDC home base.

“It’s a biggie,” says PDC Board Vice Chair Todd Holtsberry. “The potential for creating an operational home base is huge. And with a track record for successful operation at an established base, we’ll be in prime position to apply for grants that can open up a whole new vista of opportunity for PDC members. Grants equate with a broader range of programs to help theatre artists develop their skills and advance their careers.

“This event, if the move is made, means that our organization is on the verge of going to the next level. And along with the new opportunities comes new responsibilities for all of us.”

An initial proposal for the move called for a rent charge of $800 a month. As a kind of “focus-group” effort to test the waters, the Writers Circle was invited by the Board to hold a session at the facility, tour the building and check out the neighborhood.

The proposal got mixed reviews. The vote among WC was close, but the decision was to continue WC sessions at the CEC. A Q&A (shown below) provides some insight into the reasons WC members – even though potential benefits to PDC and its members generally were acknowledged and appreciated – felt that the financial challenge was an issue.

Board members, based on points of critique and comments offered by WC members, reassessed the proposal. Board member Bob Wuss, who is CEO of his own theatre-based company – and who personally invested months of research and negotiation with Wolf Management – reshaped the proposal and announced the specifics to fellow board members at a planning committee meeting on October 6. His new proposal effectively reduces the PDC rent costs to $250 a month.

“This is a dramatic development that brings the new venture into the realm of reality from a fiscal viewpoint,” says Board Secretary Kristen Scatton. “However, it is still a major innovation, and even though the PDC Board has the authority to make this commitment, we feel the ultimate decision belongs to members at large.”

Thus, at the General Meeting, members will receive presentations covering the full range of contract specifics, and they will be asked to participate in a secret ballot straw poll to indicate their level of enthusiasm and support for the project.  

“Board members recognize that there has been, in recent years, some distance between PDC members and members of its board of directors,” says Vice-Chair Todd Holtsberry.

“We want members to know that we consider it a major priority to close that distance, and to make it clear we see ourselves as servants of their interests. As the organization grew in recent years, it became increasingly difficult to keep that close relationship. But we now recognize this is among the highest of priorities.”

 “This is perhaps the most promising venture that has come down the pike for the PDC since I’ve been a member,” reports member Wally Zialcita who nears the end of his seven years’ service as Executive Director.  “It’s going to call for a concerted effort by more than board membership and the dedication of just a few people like Bob Wuss.”

It was Bob who for months locked in on research and negotiation efforts with Wolf Building co-owner Gary Ruben in the effort to forge contract specifics. “Right now,” he says, “We can define the nature of the challenge in terms of tactics, chores and logistics. But we just can’t put a limit on potential benefits to individual member playwrights, directors, actors and techies who want to operate on a bigger stage in Philadelphia’s theatrical culture.”

“We also need to make it very clear that the ultimate success of this project going forward will depend on the ability and willingness of members to step forward and volunteer to serve on the board and in staff positions that will be reporting to the new Executive Director.”

            Ballots will be counted in the presence of the membership and results will be announced on the spot. Election of new board members will then take place as part of the normal procures of the annual General Meeting.

            Below are questions submitted to the board by WC member following their visit to the Wolf facility. Members are encouraged to submit additional questions and comments via the blog spot that will be answered there; thus, the Q&A shown below will grow between now and the October 15th General Meeting.


FINAL NOTE FROM THE BOARD: Please plan to attend this very important General Meeting.  For too long, the PDC Board has been toting the load of too few people making decisions and implementing innovations for growth without the involvement of the membership at large. That is not the ideal operating culture for a community of theatre artists; too many career-oriented opportunities become available to organization leaders that for practical reasons (our thin ranks perhaps the most significant constraint) do not always transfer to the membership, to the individual member who may indeed hone his/her craft in various programs but who leaves the destiny of the PDC in the hands of others. We believe this is the moment for the membership to take hold of its own collective destiny. The Board needs your leadership. So do you.


Below are some of the questions received from the Writers Circle, following their visit to the Wolf facility, regarding the initial proposal; questions that are not relevant to the new proposal have been adjusted or dropped:


Q: I have concerns about the status of our relations with the CEC –- no matter how we resolve the relocation issue. I am concerned that the CEC learn of our plans for departure directly from us in a considerate and respectful way in keeping with our past, and possibly future, relations. That includes not having CEC feel they are the last to know, that, if we relocate, we continue a comradely, supportive relation with CEC, that we leave the door open for return if relocation to the Wolf Building does not work as hoped…that we not burn any bridges…that money be left in reserve beyond the November Wolf Building relocation, so we are not left homeless….You get my drift….

 A: Following the Writers Circle vote on Oct. 1, WC and Board member Pat McGeever discussed with Terri Shockley the opportunity for WC to move to the Wolf Building, letting her know that WC has voted to remain at the CEC for the present time. This was done in a spirit of openness with the goal of maintaining a positive relationship with Terri and the CEC, regardless of whether WC remains at the CEC, or chooses in the future to relocate.  

Q: I am concerned that the Wolf Building presents practical problems for general use, and particularly for use by the disabled. The building itself seems to be a large, complex maze hard to navigate on one’s own. How will this be addressed for general entry? Will there be a guide/information desk available to the public at all times? Certainly this would be necessary when we invite the public for rehearsals and performance…..

 A: Regarding the disabled, there is a lift at the entrance foyer that obviates the need for using any staircase (all other levels of the buidling are avaiable via the elevators). Navigating the hallways does seem a bit confusing right now, but we should be able to place direction signs in hallways once actual operations get underway. And we are confident members will be available to help at the entrance and to provide direction when members of the public attend events.

 Q: Re the handicap-disability issue: The lift to raise one person/one vehicle to the elevator level, in place at present, did not work well at the demonstration session and raises practical problems as a permanent solution. Some people need entry/discharge assistance, so that the one-person limitation may not be sufficient. An on-duty guard to assist may be an alternative to extra room in the lift for a care-taker, or a buzzer call at the entrance, though not ideal, is another possibility. Entry modification with a ramp, or some other more accessible means of entry to the elevators may be necessary.

 A: Undoubtedly, until procedures get set and the dust settles, there will be glitches and inconveniences that can be accommodated on the spot as we did on the occasion of the WC visit. And this issue will be forwarded to Gary Ruben, co-owner of the Wolf Building to see if he has some thoughts on possible improvements.

Q: Will due consideration be given to the fact that the prospective PDC space, in its present incarnation, seems very confined and claustrophobic? It did not feel very inviting, so any entrance and lighting features and the configuration of the office component will be very important in making the space more welcoming and even usable for the multiple purposes we contemplate. While it gives PDC a home base, a potentially permanent “space of its own,” does the available space fulfill our physical needs for good rehearsal/performance/meeting/office space?

A: Since the space is not completely set up at this time (when WC members visited), or cleared of construction debris, it is admittedly uninviting to the eye. Improvements are underway at the moment. The absence of windows cannot be remedied unless the PDC moves to a different space that would come at a higher cost. However, we feel the rehearsal space, without visual access to the outside, provides a kind of privacy that is beneficial to the rehearsal process, so we don't see that as a disadvantage. Folks working in the office area may feel a bit closed in, but they will hopefully adjust to that..

Q: I am concerned about availability issues. For example, at the time of our tour of the premises, an important component of the tour – the large performance space/auditorium -- was in use, and we were unable to see it. Will this kind of overlap be a problem?

A: Scheduling at the time of the WC visit was problematic. Keep in mind that construction and clean-up were, and are, still underway, and nobody stepped into a bucket of paint. But if the majority of members support the proposal, we will, over time, get better at arranging schedules to avoid closed doors and hallway collisions. Keep in mind also, that we very much WANT this to be a communal effort and process so that suggestions for improvement and innovation will be appreciated from all members.

Q: We do not currently have sufficient funding from dues to continue all of the existing programs and also cover the rent charges. Does this mean we must raise dues? If so, by how much?

A: The board has discussed the possibility of asking PDC members to be approving of some hike in the dues, which have not changed since the founding of the organization, and still amount to less than one dollar a week. But you can be assured that no dues hike, if one is necessary, will be more than some modest amount. And even if they go up to as much as $65/year that would still be only $1.25 a week. Alternatively, we should be discussing the possibility of a series of fund-raising events during the course of the year that are mounted by members collectively.

Q: I suppose it all boils down to: are we biting off more than we can chew?

A: The question, a good one, was more relevant to the initial proposal that called for $800 a month for rent; $250 a month is much more manageable. But there remains the necessity get PDC membership more actively involved in the organization itself by filling the open seats on the Board of Directors, playing leadership roles and contributing time and energy to operations. This is why it is so essential for maximum attendance of members at the General Meeting of October 15!


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PDC Annual Membership Meeting October 15, 2011
by Kristen Scatton
posted: 2011-10-03 11:46:13

 MARK YOUR CALENDARS: The annual general membership meeting of the PDC will be held on Saturday, October 15 at 4 pm at the Underground Arts at the Wolf Building, 340 N. 12th Street (12th and Callowhill streets). 

Elections for new Board members will be held at this meeting. Also, the proposal for the PDC to rent space in the Wolf Building for an office/rehearsal room will be discussed, and a straw poll taken to gauge membership support for the project. We will also be recognizing outgoing Executive Director Wally Zialcita for his hard work, service and dedication to PDC. Following the meeting, there will be a reception for mingling and refreshments.

There are several open seats on the Board; anyone who is interested in running is asked to submit a brief (1-2 paragraph) statement of intent outlining your reasons for running for the Board, any goals you would have as a Board member, and what strengths you would bring to the Board, to Board Secretary Kristen Scatton at kmbs129@yahoo.com no later than Thursday, October 6. 

The Wolf Building is located on the corner of 12th and Callowhill streets. There is a lot across the street with free parking on weekends; metered street parking is also available. Members taking public transportation can take the Broad Street subway line to the Race-Vine Station and 1 1/2 blocks north on Broad and 2 blocks east on Callowhill, or take the Market-Frankford line to 13th Street, and walk 5 blocks north on 13th Street, and 1 block east on Callowhill. The 23 and 61 buses also make stops within walking distance. For more information, visit www.septa.org.

Hope to see you there!

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DEADLINE EXTENDED - PDC Seeking New Executive Director
by Kristen Scatton
posted: 2011-10-02 14:22:54

 Following seven years of dedicated service, PDC Executive Director Wally Zialcita has chosen to step down from the position. Therefore, the PDC Board is currently in the process of searching for and selecting a new Executive Director, and would like to extend the opportunity to all PDC members to submit themselves for consideration for this role. The Executive Director is a key member of the organization, and plays a large role in the development and fulfillment of PDC’s mission.

More information about the Executive Director position is included below. Interested parties are asked to submit a resume, including all work/volunteer/non-profit experience, and a brief statement of intent, an an e-mail attachment (Word doc or PDF) to Search Committee chair Todd Holtsberry at toddzz@hotmail.com by October 22, 2011. Applicants may also be considered for support staff roles.
Anyone with questions can contact Search Committee members Todd Holtsberry (toddzz@hotmail.com), Wally Zialcita ( dextly3@yahoo.com) or Kristen Scatton (kmbs129@yahoo.com).
Reports to the PDC Board
Since the ED has executive responsibility for all of the areas of organizational management described below, her/his general role is one of supervision over staff members who have hands-on responsibility for these areas. As priorities and/or strategies change (based on the judgment of the Board and communicated by the Board Chair), the ED will decide where his/her hands-on time and energies need to be invested in order to best achieve organizational goals. The ED will have a direct role in deciding how to delineate responsibilities and selecting the support staff she/he will be working with.
PROGRAM/LITERARY MANAGEMENT: Refers to oversight and coordination of PDC programming, including programs currently in existence (Anonymous Theatre, PDC Literary, Theatre Tours, Bake-Off, Writers Circle) and creation of new programs to benefit members and the development of their craft and plays.  
COMMUNICATIONS MANAGEMENT: Handles all internal and external PDC communications, as well as marketing responsibilities for the organization and its programs. 
DEVELOPMENT MANAGEMENT: Addresses PDC fund-raising needs, including researching and applying for grants and sponsorships, and planning fundraising events for the organization.  
OPERATIONS MANAGEMENT: Focuses on the daily administrative tasks related to the proposed PDC space and logistics within the Wolf Building, including marketing and administration of rehearsal rental space; maintenance of a calendar of PDC activities in the facility; execution of all relevant business communications and general office management.

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Interested in Applying for PDC Board of Directors?
by Kristen Scatton
posted: 2011-10-02 14:14:46

 It's that time of year again - PDC is seeking candidates to run for its Board of Directors.

This is an exciting time for the PDC, with several new projects in development, including a potential home base for the organization, and the Board of Directors is looking for active, dedicated members ready to volunteer their time and talents to helping PDC thrive in its mission of supporting playwrights and collaborating artists in the development of new work.
To be considered a candidate for the Board, please submit a brief (1-2 paragraph) statement of intent outlining your reasons for running for the Board, any goals you would have as a Board member, and what strengths you would bring to the Board, to Board Secretary Kristen Scatton at kmbs129@yahoo.com no later than Thursday, October 6. The statement can be sent in the body of the e-mail or in a Word.doc attachment. 
This statement will be distributed to the membership prior to voting at the Annual Meeting on Saturday, October 15, as well as posted on the PDC web site for members to review prior to the meeting. 
Voting for the new Board members will take place by secret ballot at the Annual Meeting; members who cannot attend the Annual Meeting will be able to vote electronically on the PDC web site. The new Board will be announced following the Annual Meeting.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact Kristen at kmbs129@yahoo.com. Thank you!

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PDC Seeking Candidates for New Executive Director
by Kristen Scatton
posted: 2011-09-12 12:43:09

Following seven years of dedicated service, PDC Executive Director Wally Zialcita has chosen to step down from the position. Therefore, the PDC Board is currently in the process of searching for and selecting a new Executive Director, and would like to extend the opportunity to all PDC members to submit themselves for consideration for this role. The Executive Director is a key member of the organization, and plays a large role in the development and fulfillment of PDC’s mission.

More information about the Executive Director position is included below. Interested parties are asked to submit a resume, including all work/volunteer/non-profit experience, and a brief statement of intent, an an e-mail attachment (Word doc or PDF) to Search Committee chair Todd Holtsberry at toddzz@hotmail.com by September 25. Applicants may also be considered for support staff roles.
Anyone with questions can contact Search Committee members Todd Holtsberry (toddzz@hotmail.com), Wally Zialcita ( dextly3@yahoo.com) or Kristen Scatton (kmbs129@yahoo.com).
Reports to the PDC Board
Since the ED has executive responsibility for all of the areas of organizational management described below, her/his general role is one of supervision over staff members who have hands-on responsibility for these areas. As priorities and/or strategies change (based on the judgment of the Board and communicated by the Board Chair), the ED will decide where his/her hands-on time and energies need to be invested in order to best achieve organizational goals. The ED will have a direct role in deciding how to delineate responsibilities and selecting the support staff she/he will be working with.
PROGRAM/LITERARY MANAGEMENT: Refers to oversight and coordination of PDC programming, including programs currently in existence (Anonymous Theatre, PDC Literary, Theatre Tours, Bake-Off, Writers Circle) and creation of new programs to benefit members and the development of their craft and plays.  
COMMUNICATIONS MANAGEMENT: Handles all internal and external PDC communications, as well as marketing responsibilities for the organization and its programs. 
DEVELOPMENT MANAGEMENT: Addresses PDC fund-raising needs, including researching and applying for grants and sponsorships, and planning fundraising events for the organization.  
OPERATIONS MANAGEMENT: Focuses on the daily administrative tasks related to the proposed PDC space and logistics within the Wolf Building, including marketing and administration of rehearsal rental space; maintenance of a calendar of PDC activities in the facility; execution of all relevant business communications and general office management.

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Greg Romero said on 2011-09-12:

As PDC looks for its next Executive Director, I want to first THANK WALLY ZIALCITA for his outstanding leadership and vision. Wally is probably the biggest reason I joined PDC in the first place, because I believed in his originality, creativity, and willingness to listen and try things out in previously untried ways. I think Wally deserves many kudos for establishing and re-establishing many programs and relationships b/w PDC members and Philadelphia-area organizations and artists, and creating so many opportunities for PDC Members. It is my hope that PDC finds a successor equal to Wally's competence, creativity, and commitment, and I'm sure we will. In the meantime, I am excited that this transition may allow Wally to work more closely on his own creative projects, which will undoubtedly contribute to the Philadelphia-area theater community in new and important ways. Congrats to Wally, and looking forward to the next phase of PDC. Sincerely, ROMERO



A Success Story
by Thomas Tirney
posted: 2011-07-15 10:57:28

PDC member (and Philadelphia newcomer) Melissa McBain met director Jane Stojak at our February 2011 Directors/Dramatist social at Quigs Pub.  Lo and behold, five months later they began a partnership to bring one of Melissa's plays to life for the Philadelphia Live-Arts Fringe Festival.  


Says Jane:  "Melissa told me about a script she had written, Altar Call, which intrigued me because it was about 'coming out' and I have a gay son.  A few months later, she sent me the script for Going Back Naked.  She was thinking of producing it for the Fringe and asked if I would read it.  I did and found it to be beautifully written."   


The play follows the Depression era childhood of Melissa's mother, Ann Fountain and her coming of age as a child star from Moorestown, NJ.  Ms. Fountain was a piano prodigy and won several performance competitions including a prestigious Steinway-Julliard event.    


According to Melissa:  "When I met Jane at Plays and Players I was immediately impressed with her respect for playwrights. When she introduced herself to the group she addressed meeting playwrights' intentions and demonstrated a zeal for challenges. With her background as a theater owner and psychologist she clearly knew how to market plays and interact effectively with writers."


After Jane and Melissa agreed to collaborate on Going Back Naked, they raised $2,500 through a www.kickstarter.com campaign and began generating interest with the local-setting of the play.  Melissa moved to Liberty City last year from Moline, IL, "Meeting Jane was a great introduction to the Philadelphia theater scene." 




PDC is hosting another social on July 27 at 7:30PM, again at Quig's Pub (upstairs at Plays & Players).  As is the way of these things, everyone will be introduced quickly with mimimum ceremony and then have 5-8 minutes with each other to talk about projects, work, interests.  We're going to time these interactions and make sure everybody has an opportunity to meet and speak with one another.  Yes, it's speed-dating.  But for the artistic set. 


Afterwards, we can all hang out at the bar or klatch separately.   This is the third such event PDC has put on since last fall.  They've been popular...and successful. 


Furthermore, I will be circulating a bio on everyone beforehand to cut down on exposition.  We don't really like too much exposition in our plays so we can eliminate it here too

We will likely have 20-25 people attending but we don't yet have the full complement of writers.  Please RSVP to tt@pdc1.org with your bio.  We only have a few slots left.  Can you make it?


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Melissa McBain said on 2011-09-16:

Thank you PDC and Plays and Players for hosting the Dramatist/Director Exchange which brought this partnership together. Our show, GOING BACK NAKED, closes tonight at Plays and Players but my collaboration with Jane Stojak will continue. And thanks to Tom for supporting our show while his own show, TEACH YOUR CHILDREN, is up and running.



Dramatists Guild of America, National Conference Day 3
by Thomas Tirney
posted: 2011-07-11 10:06:13

There were three packed Self-Production panels in the morning, one-after-the other from 9AM to noon.  Such demand from the conference led me to several thoughts: 


1.        Writers for the stage have to be involved at some level of production—possibly all--to realize the work on stage since few opportunities t exist for a third-party to put it on for them. 

2.       Writers need to have other skill-sets (and another occupation!) than crafting a decent sentence.  Although many, many, many writers I meet bemoan this necessity, it is a fact of live arts; if you’re not adept at directing, fundraising, publicity, stage management, acting, or other supporting functions, you ought to have a working knowledge of it and not shun the grubby business-aspect of the show. 

3.       If you are self-producing, the writing comprises the easiest part of the process.     


I began writing plays five years ago and came very late to this compared with my peers.  Ever since, I’ve held the notion that the dramatist requires a penchant for showmanship which other kinds of writing do not.  The need for self-promotion, chutzpah, and recruiting others to share your vision may exist more blatantly for the playwright than, say, the novelist.    




Adaptation/Translation  with Marsha Norman, Doug Wright, and Carol Hall


Three playwrights gave their perspectives on the process using their own works as case studies:  Marsha Norman spoke about her experience adapting The Color Purple, Doug Wright with Grey Gardens and The Little Mermaid, and Carol Hall from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.   


What I loved about this talk was that each of the panelists talked about how scrupulous, meticulous, and faithful one must be with the source material.  And then they proceeded to explain, perhaps unwittingly, how they break that directive.


Carol Hall’s inspiration for her beloved musical derived from a Playboy article whom a friend filed about the Chicken Ranch in La Grange, Texas.   The predominating notion Carol tried to keep in mind was respect for characters, even if they turned out to be hypocrites.  “There are degrees of hypocrisy” she said which seemed to imply that everyone is a hypocrite.     


Perhaps it takes a Texan to write a play set in Texas.  I can’t imagine this musical being written today without some preachy political statement or contempt for the small-minded, bigoted Southerners ruining the overall effect. 


Doug Wright kept his comments mainly to Grey Gardens and the Little Mermaid.  His contribution to Grey Gardens is readily apparent when placed side by side with the documentary.  Personally, I was more interested in his work on the Little Mermaid though it seemed a stretch to call this an adaptation.  I couldn't tell what Doug Wright's artistic contribution to this piece was and I saw the show one week after opening.   Did he suggest the in-line skates?  No.  Were there any particular lines that he added that he was proud of?  My notes do not show that.  Did he have any inputs on the tremendously expensive and weird sets (including Ariel's grotto which evoked nothing less than a gigantic, translucent anus)?  He didn't say.  Of course, he did enjoy working with Disney and the unlimited expense account for the show. 


Wright didn't say it...but I'll say it for him:  I believe if he had been given more creative license with this property, it is likely that it wouldn't have been such a commercial flop. 


I loved Marsha Norman's name dropping and anecdotes regarding the adaptation of The Color Purple.  Plenty of Hollywood and New York goss there.  But what struck me in her discussion was the need to find just a few scenes evocative of the entire novel and ascribing one or two lines to lay out the development of a character which took several hundred pages. 


My own view on adaptation takes the extreme view of expediency.  Unless the artist holds out that the story he tells is true, then the artist has every right to bend the material to his wishes.  Every work of art for the stage represents a fiction even if the dialogue is taken directly from a transcript or a recording.    Isn’t it the height of irresponsibility for artists to say their work is true or “actually happened”; it obscures the truth in the art itself.          


With the exception of Carol Hall, I think these playwrights couldn't talk about some considerations of their work because they were ultimately secondary collaborators.  I suspect that there were many choices and paths they disagreed with in working with other artists.  I respect that they cannot talk about those things in a public forum but that would have been damned interesting. 




David Ives is just like his plays:  sharp, funny, unexpected, and adventurous.  After listening to him talk about his work and ideas, it made me want to run out and re-read all of his stuff again.  His attention to the craft of playwriting—constructing a line or architecting a laugh—is acute.  And unfortunately, I had to run out of the interview to make an obligatory appearance at a Dramatists Guild meeting.


On growing as a playwright: 


“Early on, I had been writing these one acts that required some kind of transition at the end of a line.  So, you’d have a couple talking over a dinner and one of them would finish the scene and I wrote in that a bell sounded.  This turned out to be funny to audiences and I incorporated it in a bunch of plays.  By this time, I had met Stephen Sondheim and he become somewhat familiar with my work and he introduced me to some people as ‘Oh, this is David Ives, he writes those plays with bells in them.’  After that, I never wrote a play with a bell in it again.”   


On jokes:


 “Iambic pentameter is too long a line for jokes.  In English, an ideal joke is 8 syllables.” 


On translating Feydeau:


“One has to take steps to make the play readable language and producible.  The language is not the most important thing in an adaptation or translation.  The play is.  You have to find language to support everything underneath the play.  It may not be literal or even close to it.”




Many thanks to the sweet and hardworking staff of the Dramatists Guild of America who made this excellent first effort at a national conference happen.  It was a success.  I hope there will be many more of these and that I shall see more of you there at the next one.


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donald drake said on 2011-07-11:

Tom’s report on the need for self-producing is not surprising but still depressing. All of the needed skills for self-producing -- such as networking, fund-raising, publicity and acting -- are skills that I don’t have and activities that I shy away from. You might even say hate. What is depressing is that Tom is probably right that this is what’s needed to get produced in the current climate. It’s a shame to think that a good P.R. man will be more successful than a talented playwright. What has discouraged me from self-producing other than the high cost and demand for such skills is the conviction that it is impossible to achieve much with a self-production other than the fun of working with other artists and the ego satisfaction of seeing my stuff on stage. It’s almost akin to vanity publishing. One of three things are necessary for a commercially successful production -- an established theater with a large subscription base and big advertising budget, a very well known actor, or a very well-known playwright. A self-production has none of these things. You may be able to fill the seats with family and friends and if you are good at networking with some colleagues but it’s more than likely that the empty seats will be a blow to your ego. I hope there are playwrights in our group who can convince me that I’m wrong and can cite instances of self-production successes or other ways they are rewarding and worth the cost and effort. But I’m not counting on it. Playwriting is a joy for me and all the rest would be an unbearable chore. There’s a reason the file name for my list of submissions is “lottery.” In this environment, the chances of getting a production is about the same as winning the lottery. Though I have gotten productions in the past, the responses from theaters have dropped markedly in the last couple of years. There was a time I cheered when I got an acceptance letter. Then I was happy if I got a rejection that indicated the someone had actually read the play. Now I’m excited if I get a form rejection letter, indicating that someone took the time to rip open the envelope and find out my address. (The only silver lining to this depressing grey cloud is that theaters now want electronic submissions greatly reducing the high cost of submission and rejection.) So like the people who buy lottery tickets every week, I send out my plays with the hope that one will be a winning ticket, but I really doubt it. Still I wake up every morning, eager to get back to the computer and move forward with another play with the same enthusiasm that people buy their lottery tickets.



Luna Theater's Solstice 10-Minute Play Festival Seeking Submissions
by Jeremy Gable
posted: 2011-07-03 08:53:49

Luna Theater Company is accepting submissions for the First Annual Solstice 10-Minute Play Festival. In keeping with our tenth season (which includes the Philadelphia premieres of Fin Kennedy’s “How To Disappear Completely And Never Be Found” and Leslye Headland’s “Bachelorette”), Luna will be presenting a festival of world premiere plays in June 2012, each dealing with the season’s theme of “Identity Crisis”.
We would love it if you could submit...
Plays that fit within the festival’s theme of “Identity Crisis”. More specifically, intimate, intelligent and intense plays that deal with big ideas and explore the human psyche. For more information on the type of pieces we are looking for, we invite you to look at our Production History on the Luna Theater website (lunatheater.org/past_productions)
Plays no longer than 10 minutes
Plays requiring no more than four actors.
Plays for actors between 18 to 30 years old.
Plays that have yet to receive their world premiere production. Staged readings are acceptable
Plays submitted via e-mail (.doc, .docx or .pdf formats only) with the subject line “(Last Name)/Solstice Submission/Date of Submission” (i.e. “Smith/Solstice Submission/Date of Submission”)
One script per playwright. Send us your best work. Or your worst. Up to you
However, we would rather you not send us this:
Plays longer than 10 minutes
Plays that do not meet the cast size and age range requirements.
Plays that have had a previous production
Snail mail submissions
Multiple submissions
Plays that do not meet the requirements will not be considered.
There is no compensation, but your play will receive a full world premiere production.
Deadline for submissions is November 30, 2011. We will e-mail you regarding the status of your submission by December 31, 2011.
Submissions should be sent to:
Jeremy Gable, Literary Manager
Best of luck!

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bill rolleri said on 2011-07-03:

Ditto thanks for the notice. My question: Why discrimate against actors over the age of 30?


Greg Romero said on 2011-07-03:

Jeremy, Thanks so much for posting this. As someone interested in Luna's work, I'm interested as well in sending something for consideration. I just received this post as well through the PNPI list-serve as well, which got me thinking of a question. This particular forum might be a good place to have this conversation: Q: Why is there no compensation offered to the playwrights? Are the other contributing artists to be paid? thank you! my best, ROMERO



Seeking Play Submissions
by Ken Kaissar
posted: 2011-06-27 08:55:43

Jerry Hyman, in actor on the television show BOARDWALK EMPIRE and movies like FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS, is running a ten-minute play reading series in a French restaurant on the Jersey Shore.  He is seeking ten minute plays to be read.

Plays should be "PG".  Language should be family friendly, and sexual content should only be in the form of innuendo and "double entendre".

Please submit ten minute plays to Jerry diretly at jhyman1122@gmail.com.

Also read more about Jerry at www.jerryhyman.com.



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Dramatists Guild of America, National Conference Day 2
by Thomas Tirney
posted: 2011-06-17 09:10:03

 Jesus God, it is hot and humid and jungly down here.  Why did we move the capitol to this accursed, stifling land?  

First seminar today:  Jane Beard on Unblocking Creative Energy and Writers Block.  Unless you've experienced an acute bout of block, it's easy to dismiss many of these meditative techniques as hokey or New Age or plain silly.  Imagine:  an entire class room cradling their heads to create a "magnet"; repeating meaningless mantras for stress relief; engaging in several small and harmless physical movements to break any number of personal preoccupations.  

I watched with bemused bewilderment at first but much of these exercises have a point and most of them work to boot.  I'm a skeptic by nature but nevertheless, when I'm blocked, I will piss on a spark-plug to get going again.  Jane's ways are much less painful.  I'm not a devout believer though I plan to follow up on some of these techniques.  Check Jane out at www.invisiblelight.com


Dramatists on the Web with veteran bloggers Roland Tec, Tim Bauer, Andie Arthur, and Robert Ross Parker.  This was blogging 101 and doesn't need much explanation.  Surprised at how basic the talk was.  Anyway, you all know how blogging works.  I'm still stupified at how many writers know nothing about blogging:  an entire classroom of people, holding themselves out as writers, and ignorant of one of the best tools for promoting work and engaging the wider community.  

Ironically, some of these folks are just in time to participate in a trend rapidly ceding ground to Twitter.  Even Roland Tec mused that long-form blogging was "passe."


Todd London, Keynote Speaker

Inspirational language, poetic and personal words...and yet so gloomy that I can't stop thinking about it.  London's book Outrageous Fortune is essentially a crisis of confidence about the future of playwriting.  Although Mr. London is a hopeless lover of playwrights (even married one) he admits to being an anachronism in a "roomful of anachronisms still manufacturing buggy whips."   

London actively "questions his faith" and the "enterprise itself" even though he finds a great deal of satisfaction in his work and beauty in the art.  He summarized the points in his book about marginalization of theatre, unresponsive institutions, and the impossible economics of writing for stage.  Much of what London talks about is true and can't be refuted.  For a career, "playwriting is not the answer."

Unfortunately, London doesn't have a solution to this nor do I suspect anyone else.  I have to re-read the book and have a big think about it.  My thoughts about this subject have too many cross-currents--London isn't exactly making an argument--his book is reportage more than anything else.  My opinion tends  to focus on the writer.  Not the playwright, not the stage, and certainly not the "theatre.'  

As a writer, do you identify with the theatre or with the writing?  It strikes me that the theatre as an institution has a separate and possibly exclusive set of goals than the writer who writes for it.  One identifies oneself as a playwright by preference but in a wider context, a decent playwright can easily excel in other modalities.  Is this what dramatists should pursue?  And though Todd London never says this, I wonder if the "reality of the landscape"  as he calls it, leads him to this conclusion as well?


A Conversation with Doug Wright

Wonderfully moderated by Faye Sholiton, Wright is as delightful in person as his plays.  Maybe more so.  The author of I Am My Own Wife, Quills, and Grey Gardens is a natural and enthusiastic ranconteur.  We in the audience never stopped laughing.  I'm just going to throw out some of the choicer quotes:  

"Far more than politics and theology, I think art is the most uncompromising moral force we have.  By exposing our foilbles and holding our feet to the fire, art is more instructive in how we should attempt to mark our time on the planet than all of those institutions erected to give us guidance." 

On Grey Gardens:   

"It was Scott Frankel's brainchild who approached me about making a musical on the documentary.  And I said, 'It's impossible!'  He asks, 'Why?'  I said, 'The most thrilling aspect of the film is its verisimilitude.  They are utterly real for the camera in every moment.  Employing all the artifices of the stage will rob it of its authenticity.' And Scott says 'Great.  Let's get together with my lyricist next week and you can expound on why it's a terrible idea.'   And after two years of these lunches, we had a draft."  

On Quills:   

"When I wrote this, I was motivated by the controversy surrounding Robert Mapplethorpe and the condemnation they received from Senator Jesse Helms.  In the culture at large, Helms and Mapplethorpe were painted as adversaries.  The Senator found something to demonize to get re-elected and Mapplethorpe went from obscure photographer to Barnes & Noble coffee table books.  This was working for both of them.  When you look at radical artists, who is the most reliable Muse?  It's always the censor."  

On working on the book for Little Mermaid:  

"There are a lot of things problematic in this movie to women given that this girl sacrifices so much for a fella.  But among transgendered people this story is extremely important because the heroine has to change everything below the waist to find love.  Little Mermaid has more significance than the audience realizes."   







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Another Round Opens Tomorrow
by J. Adam Russell
posted: 2011-06-16 10:34:13

Dear All:

I’m excited to share my work with PDC as well as the Philadelphia community.  If you’re kind enough to attend the show, Another Round, I’ve worked on two offers to reduce the ticket price.  For the first four performances, tickets will be sold at $10.00 on Phillyfunsavers. http://www.phillyfunguide.com/funsaver/print_offer/7460.  You'll need code HSS947V

I will continue to offer PDC members the $12.50 purchase price using the code PDC36 on brown paper tickets.


We were also fortunate to have the cast inteviewed on Rep Radio. http://actingout.repradio.org/

I had the additional fortune of talking to Jack Shaw on Stage Magazine about the play.


If you decide to see the show, please make certain to let me know your thoughts. With my first stint at producing it’s been a thrilling experience, and I’d love to get feedback on your impression on the play, the production, your experience.  I hope you’ll be able to attend.

Thank you for your time.

Best regards,

J. Adam Russell (John)


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marilyn edney said on 2011-06-20:

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Dramatists Guild Conference: Day 1
by Thomas Tirney
posted: 2011-06-14 19:04:45

More of a travel day than anything, the events began late in the afternoon.  Missed the excellent David Faux on his The Artist as CEO.  Faux is the Director of Business Affairs of the Dramatists Guild and he’s a speaker I’d like to invite to Philadelphia for this particular talk.  The first big thang happened at 6:00PM where Christopher Durang was interviewed on stage. 


What a let down. 


But not because of Durang.  I felt the interlocutor simply hadn’t prepared enough.  The author of Marriage of Bette and Boo, Beyond Therapy, Vietnamization of New Jersey, and Sex and Longing spent far too long on the oft-told background to Sister Mary Ignatius Tells It All For You.  


Been there, man. 


Durang can be heard on several podcast interviews (Downstage Center, Theatre Talk, others) revealing this as well.  Honestly, who doesn’t know about this stuff?    There was nothing on his writing habits, his consistency, what he’s working on now, nor much on Why Torture is Wrong and the People Who Love Them playing at the nearby Capitol Hill Arts Workshop.  These are all things that an audience of writers would want to hear and learn. 


I did discover that Durang (along with his colleague Marsha Norman) try out drafts on his students at Julliard.  But that was the only new bit of information.  It’s nice to have a captive focus group attentive to your needs and thoroughly familiar with your work.  We all need that.   


I had hoped to hear more of Durang’s evolutionary thinking since Why Torture premiered in 2009.  Afterall, this is one of his most recent works.  I recall an interview he gave before the play went up and he seemed so angry and indignant, it was uncharacteristic.  Is he just as angry with a different administration in the White House?  Is this political style of writing bearing more fruit in his artistic work.  Is it important to him anymore?  This is all cool, new stuff.    


It’s hard to categorize Durang as an activist-playwright since he doesn’t consider himself one but in an unusual twist, he has gotten angrier with age.  This development in the artists’s life and work is interesting.  Do we have to go back and re-hash so much of Durang’s early successes from the 1970’s?  C’mon.  It was a privilege to have Durang speak live but can’t stop thinking the interview was a missed opportunity.    




 Molly Smith, Artistic Director of Arena Stage keynoted Friday night.  I hate to say that my knowledge of Arena Stage, its extensive programs and generously endowed coffers is scant.  But Arena is hardly a household word or common knowledge…yet.      


Naturally, the subject of her talk was the New Play Institute there.  With a $1.1 million grant from the Mellon Foundation, this program was launched in 2009 to hire playwrights and put them on staff at the Arena for a period of three years.  Moreover, the Institute was created to be a center for research and development, best practices, and effectiveness in new play development.  A  visible thought bubble appeared over the audience with the wish that all theatres could staff and pay writers. 

So far, Arena appears an anomaly—albeit an important one—in that other theatres, even the ones as well funded and successful as Arena haven’t followed suit.  And even Molly admitted the new plays that premier at Arena don’t make money and don’t garner large audiences.  However, just a glimpse at the website overwhelms you with the hive of activity down there in DC.  It is so very impressive I’d recommend a trip to the Capitol just to see Arena's facilities.  Substitute the obligatory granite graveyard tour that is the Mall and tour Arena.             


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Pat McGeever said on 2011-06-15:

Thanks for doing this, Tom. I understand the Kennedy Center is worth touring for its state-of-the-art accessibility to people with hearing or vision handicaps, and to people in wheelchairs.



Our Philadelphia Playwriting Community
by Ken Kaissar
posted: 2011-06-10 13:15:40

Yesterday, I was invited to a Playwrights' Convening at the Lark Play Development Center in New York for playwrights who deal with the Middle East.  My play about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict called THE VICTIMS or WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO ABOUT IT, earned me an invitation.  I spent all day talking with other MIddle East playwrights, including Yussef El Guindi, about how we can go about empowering ourselves to get our work produced rather than waiting around for a theatre company to call. 

It was a given that we were all encouraged to self-produce.  Sigh!

This is not new advice.  We've all heard it a million times.  For the last several years, I've been procrastinating taking such action, hoping like hell for a miracle.

This year, I decided to wait no more.  Over the last six months, I've launched an extensive fundraising campaign, and on June 16, 2011 at 8pm, I am opening the world premiere of my newest play THE MAN STANLEY at the Walnut Street Theatre Studio 5.

I was talking to Tom Tirney a few months ago, and he asked me, what is it that I was hoping to gain from PDC as a member.  I told him my main objective was joining a community of playwrights.  Being surrounded by other writers whose work I could routinely hear and see, and sharing my work as well and getting feedback from a large group of peers.

So on the eve of the opening of my first self-produced show, I have a few hopes and goals.  Clearly, I would like my show to be well attended.  If this proves to be a financially self-sufficient way to get my work out there, I will be encouraged to do it again.  I will probably self-produce my next play, and the one after that, and see all of my plays come to life that way.  If this proves to be a financial disaster, I will probably relegate myself back to postage submission hell.

But I would say that my second most important goal is to introduce myself to you!  Since I've only been in the Philly area since 2009, I have not had the pleasure of meeting the vast majority of you, and I've exchanged writing with virtually none of you.  So I hope that you will take this production as an opportunity to investigate my work.  And not just that, but introduce yourself to me in person, and let's use this as an opportunity to begin a writer's exchange.  Come see the work, form an opinion, share your opinion with me, and invite me to your work so that every show in our careers can be the continuation of a dialogue.  We have a community.  Let's use it more!

So I'm afraid I'm asking you for a little more than just come see my show.  I'm asking you to share your feedback with me.  And feel free to do it publically on this Blog.  I don't mind.   Let's talk about it.  Let's grab drinks and discuss where the show succeeded and where it failed.  And then respond to my writing with an invitation to see one of your shows, and we will begin a wonderful, professional dialogue as colleagues for the remainder of the time that we reside in the Philadelphia area.

I am extending a special PDC discount to all members for all performances of my show.  When you buy tickets just enter the code PDC1 and you will have the opportunity to buy a $15 ticket.

To read more about my show and/or to purchase tickets please visit www.themanstanley.com. 

I hope to see you all at a performance of my show, and I hope to begin a very open and meaningful dialogue with every member of this community.

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Kerri Kochanski said on 2011-06-12:

I really enjoyed your post! I feel a lot of the same things you do. I self-produced my work and the work of fellow playwrights in the past, and really enjoyed it. I also believe in taking matters into my own hands and using the resources I have to make art happen, rather than waiting around for years for someone else to produce it (or maybe not produce it). It is a lot of work, but self-production can be very empowering, and the best thing about it is that your work gets to live on the stage -- and no one can stop it (or you). I also like the idea of a strong local playwriting community that does not look to the national stage, but comes together to make its own corner of the world something to be reckoned with. I am sorta new to Philly, too and I hope to meet you soon. For now, congratulations on your play and your first job as a producer. You did it!


Wally Zialcita said on 2011-06-11:

I've assumed for years that DIY was the best way to go. For me, though, it's about control over the development process. I want it.


Ken Kaissar said on 2011-06-10:

Hi Don: Thanks for the warm welcome. I guess what I'm realizing is that we don't need anyone else the way I always thought. Perhaps its just up to us to put it on ourselves. The way I imagine Shakespeare did it. At any rate the show runs June 16 - July 3 and performs on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm and 7pm. Please visit the website www.themanstanley.com to purchase tickets and to read more about it.


Don Drake said on 2011-06-10:

Hello Ken, Welcome to the PDC and Philadelphia, the most under rated city in the country. Your message, with its subtext of frustration if not desperation, is felt by many of us. The name of my file for play submissions is "lottery." (The chances of getting a production equals the chances of winning the lottery.) If the major leagues found new ballplayers the way theaters select plays, no one would be watching the game. Imagine picking pitchers and fielders on the basis of how well they networked or what graduate baseball school they went to. I suspect you can see a little frustration and desperation in what I have just said. In any case, I'm not clear when your play will be presented. The first and last days are listed. What available dates are there in between?



A National Conference For Playwrights Birthed in D.C.
by Thomas Tirney
posted: 2011-06-07 20:02:02

An exciting experiment will take place this Thursday in Washington D.C.  The Dramatists Guild of America throws its first conference for members and the profession.   Perhaps the only comparable event involves the Theatre Communications Group where the emphasis falls upon non-profit theatres and not the dramatists.  It’s a positive sign that writers for stage now have a national forum to gather, exchange ideas and toot their own horn.     


The three day affair has three tracks of seminars and panels full of giants from the stage.  Christopher Durang kicks it off in a Thursday session followed by a Molly Smith keynote; Edward Albee will be in conversation with Emily Mann on Friday preceded by a Todd London keynote; Stephen Schwarz teaches a musical theatre seminar on Saturday; and more and more and more. 


Below is the full schedule and link: 




I’m looking forward to mixing with dramatists from all over the country and hearing what’s going in this city and that.  In particular, I’m interested in the Los Angeles scene.  The diffuse sprawl there has acute challenges not present in other American cities but it also has the film industry.  SoCal is probably a larger magnet of talent than NYC.   Powered by the dynamism and searchlights of Hollywood,  LA hosts more than a dozen premiers in 2011--happening at the South Coast Rep, Fountain Theatre, and Old Globe just to name three.  My feeling is that LA’s importance to the U.S. theatrical scene will only grow. 


Apart from soaking up the aura of Durang, Smith, Albee, Schwarz, Wright, Norman, etc., I plan to hit the separate talks on copywright, Fair Use, agents, and finally contracts.  More entries to come during and following the conference.       




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Wally Zialcita said on 2011-06-11:

This looks great, the start of something of value to us all. I look forward to hearing how it went.



Get down to the big bad Wolf
by Pat McGeever
posted: 2011-05-20 07:00:51

This weekend or next, try to get to the Wolf Building (12th & Callowhill) for the Shakedown Project's REVOLUTION AND A SANDWICH, for several reasons.  1.  You'll get a look at the large underground performance space, upstairs from which PDC is looking at a possible new home (that part's in destruction mode at present).  2. You'll see, and possibly see yourself in, an experimental format exploration of how to make a revolution.  3. You'll be offered a terrific sandwich! 

Not to be missed! 

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Richard Kotulski said on 2011-05-20:

Hey Pat,

I think your meant currently in "DISCUSSION" mode, not "DESTRUCTION" mode...

At least, I hope so...




Talent Show At Bristol Riverside Theatre
by Ken Kaissar
posted: 2011-05-09 12:07:02

 The Bristol Riverside Theatre is auditioning for its talent show this weekend.  The winner gets $5,000.  A great opportunity.  Tell all your performance friends, and anyone with a special or quirky talent especially encouraged:


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Shakespeare and As You Like It
by Chris Braak
posted: 2011-04-25 08:02:03

So, hey, anyway:  I have some thoughts/questions on Shakespeares dramaturgy in As You Like It, and I thought I would solicit some opinions on the subject. Full article is here.

Short version:  how do you make a romantic comedy likable when one of the lovers is a complete bonehead?

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MEE said on 2011-07-03:

EPIC man! comparing shakespeare to the simpsons besides love is blind...and dumb..and deaf..


Eric B said on 2011-05-20:

Check out any episode of The Simpsons. Homer is an epic bonehead, but he's very likable and the romance between him and Marge is convincing and real.


braak said on 2011-04-25:

Well, then I guess I'm not going to watch a play about you.


Pat McGeever said on 2011-04-25:

Speaking on behalf of boneheads everywhere who marry smart women, I don't see no problem.



Is There Such a Thing as Conservative Theatre?
by Eric Balchunas
posted: 2011-04-14 11:08:55

Hi PDC-ers,

Really interesting article (below) on how one-sided the political viewpoint is in theatre. I saw this in action last Saturday night at a show. I'm middle of the road, but I can't help but notice that in any play you see, it seems like the government is demonized as evil and Christians are characterized as either hypocrites or dumb. When in fact, there are smart, enlightened people in government and there are plenty of Christians that live balanced, healthy lives and give back to society. Seems to me that writing a play about a conservative protagonist who does good work for the government could be the only way to shock the system or be punk these days. 
I find myself concurring with the author's thoughts when he writes:
“I suppose I find this topic fascinating, not because I’m necessarily a “conservative” playwright, but because I find myself innundated with so much blatantly liberal and left-leaning dogma in the theatre that it almost makes me want to write a radically conservative play just as a response! I suppose it’s the contrarian in me.”
If you are interested to read the entire article, check it out here:
With that, I’m going to go start working on my new biopic play about Dick Cheney, called “The Hero’s Journey”  

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Eric Balchunas said on 2011-04-22:

Wow, lots of great comments! I really admire everyone's restraint with such a hot button topic. Many times when it comes to political issues people instantly go into attack mode. I think I agree that in the end the play needs to be good and entertaining, regardless of what political side it's coming from. I will check out some of the pieces you mentioned as well. And, for the record, I'm not writing a positive play about Dick Cheney. Not a fan. However, this got me thinking that a play about a writer trying to get his Dick Cheney play produced is ripe for comedy and point-making at the same time. Hmmm. - Eric


Pat McGeever said on 2011-04-15:

And by the way, it's not the case that conservative plays can't or don't get produced. Jerry Sterner's "Other People's Money" contained paeans of praise for predatory capitalism of the 1980s, and it ran off Broadway for two and a half years, and has been staged and revived all over the country. When I saw it, committed lefty that I am, it gave me temporary pause about some of my convictions. But not for long, and certainly not after witnessing the capitalism-caused meltdown of recent years. So if you want to paint Dick Cheney as a hero, good luck. If you make it as entertaining as Sterner's play was, maybe it'll get produced. Unless theaters are just too broke to try anything new.


Pat McGeever said on 2011-04-15:

Do we need more conservative plays to balance or at least offer an alternative to the many liberal playwrights in the theater today? Depends on who the "we" is. Bear in mind that theater is not a closed world. Most audience members go to a play once in a while, but can if they wish watch Fox News every other night of the month, so they don't need an alternative voice in the theater. In fact, most audience members, esp. at the big-ticket shows, are probably better off financially than most folks, just as the U.S. electorate is. And bear in mind that this comfortable electorate put Ronald Reagan in office, the senior Bush, and then god help us George W.! (OK, not the first time, but the second) More recently, they voted into Congress enough Republicans to break any liberal bones that are still to be found in Obama's body. Do these people need you to write a conservative play? Nope. They're doing just fine without you.


Liam Castellan said on 2011-04-15:

A few small theories that might contribute to this: 1. It's hard to write a good play without empathy for your characters. I would argue that empathy (especially for those worse off than yourself) is easier to see in liberal policies/politics than in conservative politics. 2. The arts community, at its best, embraces everyone and celebrates difference, which is one of the reasons why there's a long tradition of (for example) gays in the arts. When you hear conservatives lament that we've "lost our way" as a country and need to "get back to those family values", Bill Mahr makes the point that most of them are really talking about the 1950s, a great time in America... to be a white Christian male. 3. Good plays/drama frequently come through analyzing and understanding moments of change. Conservatives frequently don't like change (social mobility, acceptance of gays/immigrants, etc.). 4. Once there's a liberal bias (or perception of it), and word gets around, conservative plays are less likely to get written because why bother if it's got such slim chances to get produced? So it self-perpetuates to a degree. I suppose you could write a play about unnecessary environmental regulations crippling someone's livelihood (farmer? logger?) or someone taking on lazy and backward union thugs, but even that would be cherry-picking extreme examples of positions generally seen on the left. Hmm. Just yesterday and today, I read two plays by Tom Gibbons that began his "race trilogy". All three present compelling and equally strong viewpoints on an issue related to race, including some "conservative" viewpoints. They aren't conservative plays because they explore both sides of complex issues fairly evenly, but I mention them as examples of effective/fair presentations of conservative viewpoints on stage. They're marvelous in they way they end in a way that doesn't push one side over the other, and forces the audience to walk out dealing with the questions. Very unsettling. All three are published by Playscripts.com


Chris Braak said on 2011-04-15:

You seriously want to see a play that explores the intricacies of American fiscal policy? "Well, this is a good play, but what it could really use is more feasibility studies..."

How would you even dramatize something like that without grotesquely oversimplifying it? The entire problem that Terry Teachout is ignoring is that you can't even bring a complex political discussion to the table without taking a position on it, because when you're dealing with verifiable phenomena then any honest investigation is going to essentially force you to take a position.

But, well, whatever, man. If you want there to be a play about the dangers of universal healthcare, just write one. There aren't any rules.


Ken Kaissar said on 2011-04-15:

I gotta tell you. I'm all for hearing the conservative viewpoint. There was a time when I would have identified as a conservative. But since the Bush administration, being conservative has become synonymous with being a homophobic, racist, Arab-hating person who hates to read. This is an identity that I just can't get down with, nor am I interested in that point of view. I think the conservative approach has historically offered some interesting ideas in government. Ideas that I think could be good for the government. But these ideas are often not given the time of day by the liberal theatre community, and I fear it's because it's labeled "conservative" or "Republican." So as theatre artists, I would argue that we could afford a little more critical thought, and a little less taking stock in labels. But restricting the civil rights of the gay community, hate mongering, and being racist, is not something I want to be open to in any way. Your biopic of Cheney sounds interesting, but it also makes me nervous. He is the embodiment of everything I hate about what being a conservative has become. I want to see a play that maybe argues that universal healthcare could be a bad thing, or a play that argues for the cutting of the NEA. But I don't need to see some play that argues in favor of being afraid of Muslims. That's the kind of "open mindedness" that I am simply not open to.


Chris Braak said on 2011-04-14:

 Also, if blame is to be laid for the fact that there's no biographical play about Dick Cheney, it should be laid squarely at his own feet for being a bitter, charmless ogre.


Chris Braak said on 2011-04-14:

Oh, what the hell, man? I have to put paragraph spacing in manually?


Chris Braak said on 2011-04-14:

Well, this is a whole muddy thing, not the least of which because of the Conservative/conservative/Republican/republican and Liberal/liberal/Democrat/democratic conflation. I mean--and first, let me say, I generally don't have a lot of respect for Terry Teachout; I think he's kind of an idiot, and a boring man with boring opinions in the best case. I can't fault him for sometimes being boring, though, because he's got to write that damn column. Anyway, you can see him be boring: look how he closes his article up, dismissing three thousand years of theater, much of which was purposefully politically and philosophically assertive, by defining it wholly in terms of a playwright who's got barely a hundred years on him. Good Terry, right, thanks. Let's all be more like Chekhov. But let's say for the sake of argument that there is at least one general means to an end that's an acceptable position for a piece of art to take, and it's not "put a piece of the world onstage" (because how ridiculous a person would you have to be, as a playwright, to imagine that you'd successfully created something that was devoid of your own perspective? At best, maybe you're putting several conflicting perspectives onstage, but the world is still a long way off). Let's say, and we can disagree with this if you want, let's say that one essential quality of art is that it kindles in us a recognition of our shared humanity. So, let's take a divisive, conservative/liberal issue, something like, say: gay marriage. If we treat an issue like this with the basic sense of human compassion and decency that our art demands, we're basically left with the conclusion that it's pretty reasonable for a gay person to say, "You need to recognize our shared humanity by calling what I do with my life partner by the same name that you call what you do with your life partner; that is, when we pledge our fortunes and our futures together, that is marriage." And the argument that a religious fundamentalist might make, that "You need to recognize my humanity by letting me systematically refuse you the right to call yourself by the same terms that I use for myself" is specious, disingenuous, and frankly, kind of shameless. How, then, would you recognize the difference between good art -- which perforce demands we recognize gay people as human beings, too -- and liberal ideology, which includes the idea that gay people are human beings? So, the data is skewed a little bit in the first place, right? But worse than that, we've got to accept that sometimes, certain positions are just wrong. The idea that a "balance" of information, on subjects like, for instance "global warming", implies that information has validity by virtue of its existence, which it doesn't. Only good information is valid, and therefore the presentation of bad information simply because it exists in contrast to good information is specious. Which means there are certain subjects where one side or the other is just going to be flat-out wrong, and any honest examination of the subject is going to yield that as an inevitable conclusion. Of course, there are some Liberal/Conservative differences that are muddier just by virtue of their complexity, and it's true that you don't see a lot of plays about Conservative tax policy, but you don't see a lot of plays about Liberal tax policy, either, and that's because who the hell wants to see a play about tax policy? All that said, I was just looking around at the plays that are up onstage in Philadelphia now -- and I know Colin Mitchell wrote his piece a couple years ago -- and I'm not seeing any inundation of Liberal or Democrat ideology. Maybe the one about the nuns can qualify as liberal, but I'm suspicious. And for the same reason that I'm suspicious about the idea of Doubt qualifying as a conservative (or Conservative?) play. What's conservative about it? It's wildly, WILDLY fallacious to suggest that anything that ends up being about or in support of organized religion is Conservative. In America, anyway, most Liberals are also Christian (and while many of the irreligious are Liberal, many others are Conservative [not conservative], what with irreligion being a central tenet of Objectivism), and there's nothing about the Liberal platform that in any way opposes it to organized religion -- friction comes wholly from the fact that the Liberal ideology on social issues coincidentally puts it at odds with some religious institutions. This is not, however, to say that Liberals oppose religion, rather Liberals oppose many of the things that certain religions want. All of which is to say: good plays are often going to look liberal, and sometimes honest plays will look Liberal, and finally, a lot of the things that we think of as being Liberal/Conservative conflicts aren't really that at all. And all that said, if someone wants to write a radical Conservative play, they should just do it. This is life, you can do whatever you want. You'll have a hard time casting it, and finding an audience, but that's just the Free Market at work, and who am I to argue with the Free Market?


Colin Mitchell said on 2011-04-14:

Hey thanks for the link. I was wondering why this two year old article of mine was suddenly getting so much traffic. It's an interesting topic to me, some, not so much. Check out the latest comment back at our site. Anyway, appreciate it. Keep checking in and comment any time. Colin



Plays & Players Celebrates 100 Years
by Thomas Tirney
posted: 2011-04-07 13:08:01

Plays & Players Theatre celebrated its 100th year anniversary on March 20th and it was a touching event.  The staff presented ten decades of history for patrons marvel at in the form of scrapbooks, playbills, photographs, and old poster boards.  These displays only hinted at the accomplishments of the theatre as well as the innumerable participants that kept it going through lean years and flush.  From beginning to end, the event was suffused with the child-like wonder of having come so far. 


As is the way of these things, the party also looked to the future.  Plays & Players--which owns and produces at the 1714 Delancy Place theatre-- has always been a pillar to its community and the event showcased a staff in the process of revitalizing a Philadelphia institution.  While the front office continues to produce crowd-pleasers every season to satisfy its incredibly loyal following, it also has underwritten world premieres by local playwrights (e.g. Nick Wardigo’s Concrete Dinosaur and P. Seth Bauer Early in the Mourning) and even controversial material such as Richard Greenberg’s Take Me Out.  All three of these plays were featured in the 2009-2010 season.


Beyond that, P&P established a Playwrights Residency with PDC last year and has thrown open its doors to artists of all stripes.  P&P remains remarkably accessible for artists to hone their craft, use the space, and network with collaborators.  The Skinner Studio on the third floor is a hotbed of artistic ferment and the adjacent bar at Quig’s Pub supports much of this activity as a place for artists to meet, talk, hang, argue, and drink. 


That’s community. 


Indeed, when thinking about the future of theatre and stagecraft in this country, I envision the survivors and thrivers of the next ten decades to be institutions such as Plays & Players—not because it is well funded or underwrites expensive productions.  On the contrary, one could argue that P&P is neither well funded nor has the capacity for high production values.  It is precisely because the entity engages artists and gives them a stake in the theatre.  Compared to the gleaming taxpayer funded gems on Broad Street, Plays & Players is a rambling, rickety piece of real estate outmoded for the demands placed upon it.  However, if you have ever been involved in any of P&P’s productions or have used the facilities as an artist, the immediate contrast is this:  a direct and tangible connection to an artistic community in constant motion.  That’s exhilarating.  And there aren’t many places like it in the city. 


These accomplishments are in no small part due to the Homeric efforts of Bill Egan who first became involved with P&P as an actor at the age of 18 (he turns 40 April 22nd so put it on your calendar).  Since then, Bill has directed and produced for the P&P stage as well as served on its Board and managed the front office. 


Over time, Bill has become as instrumental as anyone at P&P for its programming choices and fiscal health.  In the course of his acting career and free-lance work, he met a young director Daniel Student, who became heavily involved in the theatre in 2008; artistically and as a member of the Board.  Dan spearheaded a 5-year strategic plan to change the management model from a Board-run community theatre to a staff-run professional organization.  



When Bill became Board President three years ago, it was Bill's vision to bring in a younger group of managers and artists, including a first-ever Producing Artistic Director for P&P; a position to which Dan was appointed in January 2011. 




The party ended with a peroration by long-time Board Member John Cannon who became involved in P&P during the late 1960’s when a manager pitched him thusways:  “We produce plays that aren’t very good but the plays are something you might like.”  In spite of the lakcluster sales job, John dove in with rare dedication and shepherded the theatre through two harrowing decades of financial strain and scarcity. 


Before finishing his speech, John directed his appreciation to the audience, to the artists, and to the folks that make P&P run.  Then he took out a crumpled piece of paper and read from a list of twenty-five names-- now ghosts of the theatre—as a gesture of thanks to all those unacknowledged people that made P&P what it is. 


And right there was a reminder that the theatre is really a community of souls—not a building or an abstract corporate entity--whom the living commemorate in their performances and memories. 


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How we function
by Bill Hollenbach
posted: 2011-03-31 08:59:27

 We struggle.  We sit alone at our keyboard.  We drink coffee by the urnfull.  We birth a vision that is ours.  Sometimes it is still born and as much as we shake it and will it to breathe, no theatre picks it up.  And so we pick ourselves up and move on to a new idea, a new project a new play.  But once  in a while the play we've conceived comes alive. Some literary manager/midwife declares: "It's a play! ... and we'll do it." What next?  They snatch our baby away and give it to a father figure: the director.  Sometimes this director welcomes our input.  Other times not.  Our play has become his/hers.

Here's a great reflection -- posted on HowlRound --on how the playwright might function in a new relationship.  I think it's great reading.

Playwrights: Collaborators or Contractors? by Jayne Benjulian


Jayne Benjulian Bio Page

I spend most of my time thinking about playwrights: discovering them, reading their work, talking to them, working with them on their scripts, asking them what they think about and why they’ve made certain choices. I have often wondered about the permissions and prohibitions we give playwrights, both spoken and unspoken, when we’re working on their plays. There is no manual that could possibly prepare them for what they will encounter. Each time they enter a theater, they enter a culture with new rules. For the most part, this culture is a director’s culture; we teach playwrights the rules of behavior and not the other way around.

I was therefore moved by a response to Lisa D’Amour’s articlein HowlRound by a commenter who said, “the whole company (small or large) has to respond to the playwright as a leader. It can be dangerously easy for a company to think that it’s going to produce ‘for’ the playwright, or even to assume that the playwright doesn’t know how to produce,” and by another who mentioned “the playwright as leader.”

Many of the theaters I admire call themselves “playwright-centered,” but that is not the same as playwright-led. In a playwright-centered theater, the artistic team looks for scripts that ignite the imagination of the theater-makers so that they might come together, envision a play on stage and make that script live. The works starts with a brilliant script.

Playwright-led is something else altogether. There are dozens of small companies around the country, some, like 13P, successful at driving production for the work they’ve written. What, however, would a theater where playwrights are equal collaborative partners in production look like? How would that be different from most of the theater environments in the US today?

Nearly all of the theaters I know are director-driven. The Artistic Director (a director, actor, or dramaturg turned director) articulates and embodies the theater’s vision. Whether the artistic team introduces playwrights to the artistic director and/or playwrights are cultivated over the long-term by artistic directors themselves, playwrights are chosen for a season because the Artistic Director: (1) falls in love with a play; (2) thinks the play will make money; (3) is loyal to the playwright; (4) sees that the play is a perfect match for a director with whom she wants to work; (5) believes directing the play will present a new creative challenge that will elevate her skills; and (6) any combination of the former.

What happens when the playwright and director arrive at the theater has as many outcomes as there are artistic directors. Maybe the right director for the project has been chosen, maybe not. Maybe the playwright is a pain in the ass, maybe not. In one common model, the playwright is a contractor, perhaps a supremely happy one, but, although never referred to as such, she is a contractor offering a service and product nonetheless. To whom is the playwright a contractor in principle? Contractually, to the theater and therefore the artistic director; in practical terms, she reports to the director. Even in theaters that are nominally dedicated to the playwright, the director remains the authority in the rehearsal room and in all matters of the play.

On the other hand, there are playwrights who demand to be equal partners with their directors. These playwrights are known as “difficult.” Now that I have met several of these writers and know their work, I challenge that assumption. “Difficult” in this context means a playwright questions the authority of the director about specific choices. Here is what playwright Bill Cain would call “the cognitive dissonance of theater”: On the one hand, the playwright is told that theater is uniquely a writer’s medium; on the other, he is told to sit in the back and shut up because the actors may be confused by conversation with both the playwright and the director. Theresa Rebeck reminds us in her book Fire Free Zone, “in the rehearsal hall, the playwright is often asked not to speak directly to the actors because that could ‘confuse’ them—in other words, it might undermine the director’s authority.” That caution rests on a supposition, Cain says, that actors should not be confused. Might confusion serve as a productive force early in rehearsals? Might actors be more engaged in the process of the play’s meaning? Typically, the playwright makes comments in sanctioned moments during rehearsals or to the director during breaks or over drinks at night, and then, the playwright goes back to his hotel to rewrite, sends fresh scenes in the early hours of the morning (and for fast, overnight rewrites, the playwright receives kudos), and so on and so forth with infinite variations on the process.

How has this come about? It is a result of the economies of power: she who wields the money—and in a world where there is little money, exposure is currency—holds the power. Artistic directors, who are mostly directors, distribute the currency. “The anthropology of modern theater is a divine right monarchy,” says Cain. The problem is, even genius directors are maybe geniuses every other show. Add to this reality the fact that many directors do five shows a year, and you can see why it might make compelling sense for a playwright to work as a full partner in the collaboration about his own play.

I am surprised how seldom they do. While I am not advocating a television model—that is, after all, a completely different economic model—it is presumptuous to think we have nothing to learn from TV, most especially now, when so many talented playwrights write television scripts for shows to which so many of us are addicted. All of these playwrights working in TV are now experienced in different ways of collaborating, including as writer-producers; they demonstrate it is possible, and not unusual, for writers to run things—and to wield power.

True collaboration might take as many forms as there are writer/director teams. Accomplished playwrights in mid-career or at the apogee of their careers—writers with a track record or whose economic power entitles them to authority with theaters may want—and have the skill—to function as equal collaborators. In a theater in which playwrights are full collaborators, it is conceivable that a writer would function more as executive producer of her own work, to use a television model, than as contractor. In practical terms, perhaps the director and playwright both give notes to the actors in the presence of the other: “There is no pretense of being invisible and working through the sock puppet of the director. I come in with a yellow pad.” So says Bill Cain, who worked with Bill Rauch in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival production ofEquivocation and Kent Nicholson in the Marin Theatre Company production of 9 Circles. “Everyone reports to the play; everyone is fully engaged. The aesthetic of the play is a shared one.” Cain will publish a book about his collaboration with each director on five different productions of the same play: Shakespeare, Equivocation and a Writer’s Year in the American Theater: One Year, One Play, Five Productions, Five Directors, Five Casts.

Polly Carl’s comment in this journal about titles in theater questions our working proposition about making plays: titles are indications of the artistic silos we have built. Some of us are just fine with our silos, and some of us would like to experiment with stepping out and inviting other people in. Could a writer serve as an artistic director of a theater? Why not—as long as that writer understands enough about production and direction to make strong choices in those hires. Why aren’t more playwrights artistic directors? The two most important things an artistic director does are plan the season and hire brilliant artists; a playwright with enough practical experience in theater might be a fine choice. Would boards of directors consider a playwright as an artistic director? If not, is that because boards, too, have inherited the “divine right monarchy” model of theater?

Producing collaborative art that is a collaboration of equals is not the same as producing collaborative art that is the vision of one person orchestrated by other artists—the symphony conductor model, if you will.  “Wait!” some theater directors will say, “Wait, I’m collaborative. Playwrights love me.” Maybe so. Here’s the litmus test: What do you do if a playwright disagrees with you on the effectiveness of the staging of certain scenes? May your playwrights speak to the actors during rehearsal? Which playwrights will you not invite back to your theater? Why?

No one will hand power to writers. Can theaters make space for playwrights with a full voice in the rehearsal room? Can we shift the economy of power in theater?

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Ed Shockley said on 2011-04-03:

I, unfortunately, have had both experiences. The talented directors and actors have analyzed my works, brought them to life and often discovered things that have inspired revisions or exceed my vision of the play or film. Others have arrived with the dreaded word, "concept", and altered the entire meaning of a piece by placing empahsis on moments thorugh stsge business that misdirects the attention of the audience. An example is in a production of ROLL OF THUNDER HEAR MY CRY a director had the character of Mr. Morrison bow his head and cowtow throughout the play. This painted a completely different image of a man who was willing to die rather than accept indignity. his one onstage confrontation then seemed like a moment of madness rather than the expression of his character. Similarly I allowed a quite talented director to experiment on one of the developmental productions of my award winning play, BOBOS, and he presented a Bob Fosse approach to the work. Watching drug dealers gyrate was a nightmare but worth seeing so that he and I could be on the same page for the equity premiere. A year later though it required my first and only expletive laden production meeting explosion to make the produce and director honor my vision of the script. (Afterward two key cast members thanked me. I learned that they had been miserable and embarrased by the Las Vegas approach of the earlier experiment). I have had more good experiences than bad but still too often encounter incompence of arrogance in directors.


Walt Vail said on 2011-03-31:

I guess I've been lucky. As a playwright, I've never had a problem with a director in a professional theatre. In amateur theatres, its a different story--anything can happen where amateur egos are at stake. Of course, I've been an actor, and a few times, a director--but I don't like directing because I'm not really good at it. In New York, at the Open Eye Theatre, my play and I were treated with great respect. In Philadelphia, at The Festival Theatre for New Plays--again a wonderful director who fully involved me in all rehearsals and who treated my play like a precious gem. In Greensboro, NC--recently--a terrifically talented director who brought my play fully to life. At Vagabond Acting Troupe, a truly gifted and professional theatre, my plays were beautifully produced and directed. So wherever I encounter professional directors, I don't see the "problems" that "playwrights" are complaining about. I guess I've been lucky--but then, most of the revising I usually do in rehearsal are minor changes--my plays usually work pretty well by the time I consider them ready for production. Walt Vail



Secret Room Theatre seeks short plays for "Lickety Skits"
by Alex Dremann
posted: 2011-03-25 12:35:05

 Calling all playwrights!  Secret Room Theatre is looking for short plays for "Lickety Skits" to be produced the Philadelphia Fringe Festival September 2011.  The past two years, with the hugely successful "4Play" and "Dirty Laundry" we concentrated on longer plays, but this year for "Lickety Skits," we're we are only looking for short-short plays under 5 minutes.  No other themes or restrictions-- anything goes as long as it runs under 5 minutes.  Keep it short and tight- you don't need to use all 5 minutes!  For more info about "Lickety Skits" and Secret Room, go to www.secretroomtheatre.com.



Plays must run five minutes or less.  

Electronic submissions only (.pdf, .doc, or .rtf).  

Please help our record keeping by naming your electronic file in the format "Author Name (Play Title)"  

For example: "William Shakespeare (3 Minute Hamlet).pdf"

Make sure full author contact info with email, snail mail address, and phone number appear on the title page of the script.

Feel free to submit plays with previous productions, but plays must be royalty-free.

Limit 3 submissions per playwright.

Our website: www.secretroomtheatre.com

Email scripts to: alex@secretroomtheatre.com

Deadline:  5/1/2011

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Funding New Plays
by Ken Kaissar
posted: 2011-03-15 07:09:14

Funding Our Work!!!

By Ken Kaissar

As we find ourselves in the midst of this horrible economic climate, playwrights continue wondering two things:  how do we get our work produced, and what can we do to counter the fact that opportunities for playwrights are disappearing every day?

According to Obama's latest budget proposal, the NEA is about to be no more!  Theatre companies are losing more and more of their funding as foundations are cutting back and as their finances remain in the toilet. 

The Cherry Lane in New York has recently closed its doors.  The Virtual Theatre Project is gone.  Who's next?

It's time that we, as playwrights, get real.  Gone are the days when can merely mail off our scripts and hope we get picked up.  That reality is becoming more and more of a pipe dream.

And we all know that seeing our work on its feet is not just healthy for our careers.  It is vital to our craft.  We cannot hone our craft without an opportunity to see how what we write is playing in front of an audience.  To write a play without ever seeing it performed is like a baseball player constantly confined to a batting cage.  We can only truly know what our work is doing, when we watch an audience interact with our play.

It's clear that our response to the economic climate as playwrights has to be a more proactive approach in which we get involved and put our work up ourselves.

To that end, my friend and colleague, John Russell, and I have launched an experiment to see if we can break ground on new methods of fundraising to produce our own work.   We have launched what we call the Ultimate Apple iPad Raffle.  Here's how it works.   We sell $20 raffle tickets which enters the buyer into 3 separate raffle drawings:  one for an Apple iPod Nano, one for an Apple iPod Touch and the big Kahuna prize:  an Apple iPad!!!

Along with the three drawings, the raffle ticket entitles each buyer to one free ticket to the show.  So in effect, the raffle is not the biggest draw.  We are actually raising money for the play by preselling the tickets.  The raffle becomes a fringe benefit.  Just icing on the cake to help motivate the sale sooner rather than later.

So far this system has been wildly successful.  We have collectively sold over 200 raffle tickets, which will pay for the raffle itself and cover our space rental.  But we are not done yet.  We have a long way to go.

Our next priority is to pay all of the artists involved!  The future of quality American theatre will only be viable if actors, designers, directors and stage managers can be compensated for what they do.  Therefore, our budgets put artist salaries above production values.  I would rather see a naked stage with a few pieces of furniture and very simple costumes if it means my collaborators are all being paid as close to a living wage as we can afford. 

Therefore, at this point, our fundraising campaign marches on in order to raise money to pay our collaborators.

So why am I sharing this with all of you?  As I said before, this entire enterprise is an experiment, and one that happens to be working for the time being.  But if we can pull this off and actually produce two successful shows by preselling tickets via a raffle, it will mean new things for independent playwrights in Philadelphia.  If we succeed, I know I will be empowered to produce my own shows whenever I feel I need to see them on their feet.  I will still submit my plays to theatre companies, and still apply for grants.  But in the few years in which I am not finding any luck or success, I know I don't just have to remain in my office by myself waiting for the phone to ring.  I can "take up arms against a sea of troubles" and produce my own work.  I don't have thousands of dollars of my own money to throw at these productions.  But what I do have is a pretty good model for raising money from my supporters.

We hope that if we succeed, that you will be empowered as well.  If our shows go well, we hope that you will be inspired to give this model a shot.  That's why we believe that our success this June could be your success as well.

For that reason, I am encouraging all of our PDC colleagues to support our experiment by buying a ticket.  Enter the raffle to win an iPad, which will be drawn on April 12, or an Apple iPod Nano, which will be drawn on May 26.  And with each ticket you buy, you will receive a free ticket to see either ANOTHER ROUND by John Russell, or THE MAN STANLEY by Ken Kaissar. 

To support John Russell's play visit www.jadamrussell.com.  To support Ken Kaissar visit www.twoguysmakingtheatre.com.  To support both of us, visit both sites, and then call me at 917-386-3870 and I will buy you a drink!!!

We're all in this together, fellow playwrights.  If ever there was a time when play producing in America needed a revolution, that time is now.  Help us succeed, and let's prove together that all we really need to get our work up is just a group of friends who are willing to support us.  We can't wait to share our work with you, and we can't wait to see your work as well!!




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MM Wittle said on 2011-03-15:

Thank you for posting this. It is true a playwright needs to hear his or her play. Seeing it on the page is only half the process. I hope those who can support this cause will. I went to a talkback with Theresa Rebeck and someone in the audience asked her what advise she had for new playwrights. The person asked if one should grab some friends and rent a barn to have the play produced. She said that is exactly what should be done because it is so important for a playwright to hear what an actor can bring to his or her work. Best wishes always.



Philly's Primary Stages...Marches On! NEXT WEEK!
by Todd Holtsberry
posted: 2011-03-09 19:12:04

Philly's Primary Stages is back and as usual, it marches on in it's effort to develop new plays right here in Philadelphia, with it's next installment, aptly entitled, "Marches On!", this upcoming Tuesday and Wednesday nights, 3/15, and 3/16, at The Shubin Theatre!

Philly's Primary Stages primary goal is to help writers develop their plays, and in their craft, through a collaboration between a writer, director, and actors. In tha...t collaboration, we like to think that the directors and actors develop as well.

This script-in-hand 10 minute play reading series is like no other that you've attended. It's a down and dirty series in which we just don't do a boring cold read of a play...that's your father's play reading series...if he had one!

We rehearse the plays a few times, getting up on our feet, finding the moments that make the play breath and incorporate simple sets, props, costumes, lights and sound. In short, we blur the line between a script-in-hand play reading series, and a fully produced night of theater!

The audience becomes the 4th wheel of this collaboration as the play is read and the writers get a sense of how they play is working with a live audience.

In order to make the night a fun one for all, and to ply the audience into coming, we feature the best house band of ANY staged reading series...Olive Juice...Philly's hottest ukulele and stand-up bass combo! They rock out the covers, and originals before, during intermission, and they even play live outro music for each play after it is read. What other staged reading series does that?!?!? Don't answer that, it's rhetorical...NOBODY! As a matter of fact, we think our house band could kick your house band's ass! That's easy to say because no other staged reading series in Philly has one!!!!!

As usual, each night...once again Tuesday, 3/15, and Wednesday, 3/16, starting at 7:30pm...will be a totally different line-up of plays.

This edition of "Philly's Primary Stages...Marches On!" will feature the following line-ups of plays, writers, directors and actors:

Tuesday, 3/15: **

- "Crazy, Crazy on You", by Karuna Lynne Elson, directed by Ilana Vine, and featuring Nick Troy and Rachel O'Hanlon Rodriguez.
- "Up, Up, and Now Way!", by Sharon B. Kling, directed by John D'Alonzo, and featuring Theresa Leahy and Chris Davis.
- "Entitled", by Michael Schwartz, directed by Ray King Reese, and featuring actors that the director will tell us about eventually.
- "Something is Something", by Leyla A. Eraslan, directed by Darin Dunston, and featuring Andrew Tardif, Rory Donovan, and David Stanger.
- "Once Upon a Time", by Sebastian Cummings, directed by Todd Holtsberry, and featuring Sebastian Cummings, Justin Torres, Angela Harmon, and a few others that the director will tell us about eventually.
- "David Austin", by Pat McGeever, directed by Georgie Keveson, featuring actors the director will tell us about eventually.

Wednesday, 3/16: **

- "Family Tradition", by Josh McIlvain, directed by Rebecca Balauger, and featuring Carolina Millard and Zachary Chiero.
- "The Clearing", by Josh McIlvain, directed by Lise Raven, and featuring Frank Brückner, John D'Alonzo, and Gregory Wolmart.
- "Three Wishes" by Susan Cain McQuilkin, directed by Joe Nevin, and featuring Brittany Holdahl and Nick Troy.
- "String Enough Memories", Robin Rodriguez, directed by Chris Davis, and featuring Kate Black Regan and
- "Some Place", by Ken Kaissar, directed by Mike Durkin, and featuring Kevin Chick, Tyler Hoffman, and Leeanna Rubin.
- "Bye", by Chris Davis, directed by Abby Whacker, and featuring Michael Stimson, and Denise Shubin.

Both nights feature the awesome Stage Managing ad board operating talents of Ms. Molly Edelman too!

**Please note - these are the nights the plays will be read, not the exact order of the nights.

Twelve great new plays, by 11 playwrights, featuring the work of 12 directors, a whole lot of great directors, and one kickass house band aren't all you get in these great night...

We even put out what we like to call the Philly's Primary Stages Buffet, with beer, wine, soda pop, bottled water, an ocassional bottle of liquor, chips, dips, Vienna sausages and puddin' packs!

You get ALL this...all for just a small suggested donation of $5...that's ONLY FIVE AMERICAN DOLLARS people!!!!

So come on down with $5 (or more, we won't hate you for being overly generous) in hand, to the beautiful Shubin Theatre, next Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30pm and be ready to have a great time and support new play development in Philadelphia!

Philly's Primary Stages is co-sponsored by the PDC, Secret Room Theatre, and The Shubin Theatre, and would not be possible without their generous support! The producers are Todd Holtsberry, Bill Rolleri, and Adam Rothstein who work hard towards keeping this series alive for the last 7 years. Molly Edelman just rocks and if you try to take her, we'd be giving you a good what for and a punch in the nose to boot!

So come on out and be prepared to be blown away!


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The Internet and Writing Opportunities
by Thomas Tirney
posted: 2011-02-12 14:35:20

Last week I accompanied my girlfriend to a blog event hosted by TravelZoo for travel-foodies writing on ’dem Internets.   She took me along as her “opener”;  Dana can’t stand confabs and schmoozing so I stood in to start the small-talk, build her up, and then bring her in after the conversation is good and going. 


A tiny minority of bloggers attending sustained themselves from their websites but most were simply running their sites for the joy and pleasure of it, hoping at some point to break-even on expenses.  As it goes with these events, the participants all had a passion for their niche:  there was a blogress devoted to eco-Manhattan eateries,  a site providing nutritional information regarding high-end restaurants, and others too esoteric to mention.    


When we talked about the business of blogging, a common theme developed among these entrepreneurs—writing is difficult; creating an interesting piece day after day is doubly so.  The most common problem among them was how much time and effort it takes to do primary research in order to provide information not readily available to readers. 


No, duh. 


But that is exactly required not only to maintain a successful blog, but it’s just as important for any good writing.  And guess what?  It’s labor intensive.  By the same token, here is another opportunity for writers scraping by.  It may be too much for writers to create their own blog and gather a following to pay bills.  However, bloggers who do run commercially-driven sites have scarce resources to keep the blogrolls fresh.  Why not ghostblog?  Why can't this be an opportunity for my pecunious playwright pals.  Or any writer. 


Writing for various outlets on the Internet—e/magazines, blogs, theatre reviews, criticism, essays, reportage, commentary, etc.—helps build a portfolio, provides credibility, and gives a writer instant references for their work.  It may not be a living wage...but it can add to one.


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PDC Residency @ Plays & Players
by Valdemar Zialcita
posted: 2011-02-02 15:53:37

 It has been a good start for this pilot program.  

We kicked off with a reception to introduce our Residents--Joy Cutler, Quinn Eli, and Greg Romero--to members of the theatre community who might want take an interest in the work generated by the Residency.  Afterwards, Dan Student, representing Plays & Players, and I sat down with the playwrights to discuss their goals and interests.  Since then the focus of our work has been on meeting with a variety of people intended to help move our Residents outside of their respective artistic boxes.  We've met with Robert Smythe, who introduced the Residents to a conceptual framework surrounding the creating of work for puppets, as well as leading the writers through some puppet-making techniques.  We met with Alan Turner, a landscape architect who presented an alternative paradigm for how an artist might see his relationship to his working conditions, his audience/clientele, and his work.  And we have met with Isaiah Zagar, the mad genius behind the Magic Gardens and other outsider artwork around town.  We also took the opportunity to present a private reading of a play by Joy Cutler, something she had been working on during the Residency.

Later this month you will have an opportunity to speak directly to the Residents about their experiences.  Stay tuned to your mailing list notices!  An announcement if in the offing.  In the meantime, here are the Residents in their own words, acronym-style ....

The acronym is RESIDENCY.

Greg Romero:


Joy Cutler:



Quinn Eli:

Narrative &

Greg Romero:




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Todd Holtsberry said on 2011-02-02:

Sounds like good things are happening with the program. Please continue to report the great happenings and experiences of the residents and the residency program. I want to see cool programs like this thrive in the PDC and think it would be a shame not to toot our collective horn about the great work and resources of the PDC, as well of those of our writers and other members. Here's hoping to more informative reports like this about this exciting new residency done in collaboration with Plays and Players and a fine group of writers!



The Broad Street Review Celebrates Its 5th Year This Thursday
by Thomas Tirney
posted: 2011-01-30 17:48:55

The Broad Street Review celebrates its 5th anniversary as Philadelphia’s virtual salon for the cultural cognoscenti  this Thursday, Feburary 3rd.  The party starts at 5:30PM at the Franklin Inn Club.  Space is limited so book as soon as you can.  Tickets can be had at the following link: 




 The founder and editor of the BSR, Dan Rottenberg has created a highly accessible and acutely local commentariat on issues involving the arts.  The website provides criticism, essays, and opinions on music, theater, opera, dance, and cinema; almost all of the contributions come from Philadelphians and/or regional writers.  And of course, any scribbler can contribute.     


A unique feature of the BSR is simply the existence of the editor.  Too many “open-source content” websites--even the ones considered massive successes such as Huffington Post-- frequently contain vacuous opinionating or invective masquerading as thought.  While all are encouraged to write for the BSR, what guarantees the posting is good writing, intelligent commentary or incisive opinions.  The random screeds and the back-and-forth free-for alls don’t exist here.  Thank God.              


Nonetheless, the BSR is one of these websites that has endless potential but hasn’t quite hit its stride yet.   It’s not the quality of writing—Toby Zinman contributing NYC theatre reviews, Dan Coren writing on classical music, and the erudite Prof. Robert Zaller opining about everything—nor the editorial selection; Dan Rottenberg does an admirable job of ensuring intelligent and thought-provoking posts.  It simply needs more content…in this it shares a deficiency that the PDC has with its own website.  It leads me to a question I’ve been asking ever since interviewing Dan Rottenberg for the In Conversation series:  why aren’t we seeing a proliferation of writers sending material to Dan?  Do playwrights or screenwriters think criticism is beneath them?  Is writing about art and culture too difficult?


I don’t know the answers.  But I do know dozens of writers who hold themselves out to be artists who aren’t writing on a daily basis but could be doing many, many things to hone their talent.  BSR is just one outlet.  I’ve always thought PDC members could provide a charge to the Philadelphia cultural conversation missing from established outlets such as the Inquirer, Daily News, or City Paper.  Certainly, the BSR is one way to do it.                   


Rottenberg has ambitions for the site to be much larger; he’d like to add books and architecture as categories.  Ultimately, he sees the website growing into a broader version of the New York Review of Books, where the subject in question (a book, a play, an exhibition) becomes a jumping off point to talk about a wider concept.  Good to see such big thinking still happening in Philly.


See you at the party. 


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Philly's Primary Stages - MARCHING ON! is seeking new 10 minute plays now!
by Todd Holtsberry
posted: 2011-01-25 08:01:41

Hello PDCers, I am getting this out with only 3 weeks deadline, so wanted to get it out to you in different forms to make sure you all saw this call for entries...sorry if you got it twice...please read below.



Since we are about to enter February, Philadelphia’s New Play Month…Philly's Primary Stages is back and wants your plays!!! 
Philly's Primary Stages is a down and dirty, script-in-hand 10 minute staged reading series, in which we blur the lines between a script-in-hand staged reading and a fully produced night of theater. We rehearse, so that we may find the moments, and bring these readings to life. We get up and move and use simple lights, sounds, costumes, sets, and props...we even act!!!

This is a series that is collaborative in nature with the primary goal being to help writers develop their plays. Writers work closely with directors and actors and, at times, make revisions to their plays, even prior to the readings. The final stage of collaboration is bringing in an audience to see how they respond to the plays. While the primary goal is to help writers develop their plays, we find that directors and actors develop as well as they work collaboratively with the writers, as well.

This Philly's Primary Stages is intended to explore the theme of "March"...whatever that means to the writer.

It could be a noun, a verb, the month, the military act, March Madness, a German name, the Eids of March, St Patty’s Day, spring, rebirth, marching to a different drummer…whatever “March" might be to you...let your mind MARCH you wherever that suggestion leads... 
We want to know!

Here are the guidelines for submissions:

1) Plays must be submitted electronically, via e-mail to toddzz@hotmail.com. Subject line should read "Philly's Primary Stages Play Submission - March".

2) Plays should be approximately 10 minutes in length...please don't send 3 or 30 minute plays...read "10 minutes approximately".

3) Plays can deal with all subject matters, themes, styles, orientations, experimental theater is fine, and desirable, so is the more conventional and absurd. In short...we like to mix it up...we aren't just doing sketch and like to mix the serious and dark with the funny and light...anything will be considered...we are pushing boundaries here...

4) Playwrights must be ok with collaborative efforts and the process of developing their plays as such...that is one of the main goals of Philly's Primary Stages.

5) Plays should be newer in nature and must not have been fully produced somewhere else. Staged readings, writer's circles, and the like, are acceptable though.

6) These staged readings will take place at the Shubin Theatre, on either Tuesday, 3/15, or Wednesday, 3/16. Please understand that we will set what plays will be read on what night a little closer to the readings and that we ask for your flexibilty.

7) The deadline for all submissions will be Tuesday, February 15th, 2011. It's only 3 weeks away so start writing and e-mailing those scripts to us now!

8) Once the scripts are received, they will be electronically distributed to directors that will make the final decisions on play selection. We like doing this, so that they feel a connection to the play and will have more of a commitment to helping in its development.
9) There is a 3 script submission, maximum, per playwright.

We are looking forward to seeing, and MARCHing to help you develop your great play submissions, through the collaborative efforts of writers, directors, and actors working together to prove just how great of a new theater town Philadelphia truly is!

So go ahead and MARCH to "Philly's Primary Stages – MARCHING ON!", the script-in-hand staged reading series that loves you back...

Any questions, please email me at email address above, or call me (Todd) at 267-231-8394.

Happy writing!

Todd Holtsberry
Denise Shubin, Alex Dremann, Bill Rolleri, Molly Edelman, and Adam Rothstein,
Co-Producers of Philly's Primary Stages
Co-Sponsored by the PDC, Secret Room Theatre, and the Shubin Theatre


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Todd Holtsberry said on 2011-01-26:

Hello PDCers,

A concerned member of the PDC contacted me regarding the call for entries I posted for “Philly’s Primary Stages – MARCHING ON!”.

The concern was that the title and theme of this upcoming Philly’s Primary Stages…MARCHING ON!...would potentially lead one to believe that Philly’s Primary Stages, it’s Producers, and Co-Sponsors  (The PDC, Secret Room Theatre, and The Shubin Theatre) are left leaning politically, and that the title “MARCHING ON!” might be too provocative and suggesting some connection with a similarly named organization….

I want you to know that the call for entry was meant only to solicit new play submissions with some connection to the theme of “March” and whatever that meant to the writer…and that for SEVEN years now Philly’s Primary Stages has been MARCHING ON in the development of new theater, right here in Philadelphia!!!

We are thinking of calling the next Philly’s Primary Stages “A Basket of Kittens” to avoid any further controversy… although being controversial is kind of fun…

Please see the call for entries above.

Todd Holtsberry

Co-Producer of Philly’s Primary Stages

Co- Sponsored by The PDC, Secret Room Theatre, and The Shubin



The 17th Edition of the DGA's Resource Directory is Now AVAILABLE
by Thomas Tirney
posted: 2011-01-22 16:27:02

Two weeks ago, the Dramatists Guild of America (DGA) mailed the 17th printed edition of its Resource Directory to members.  The DGA provides many services, but this treasure trove of information is worth the dues alone.[1]   Naturally, significant parts of the book are already available online (such as the Dramatists Bill of Rights as well as play contests via The Loop), but having a comprehensive listing of grants, foundations, theatres, deadlines, and helpful advice at one’s finger tips is invaluable. 

Remember the Yellow Pages? 

If you do, this is better than that.    

The Guild has also added significantly to new-ish categories such as 10-minute play contests, volunteer posts, and LGBT opportunities.  These entries hadn’t existed five years ago in the Resource Directory and their appearance demonstrates how the theatrical world has evolved in such a short period of time.

The implicit thrust of the book is to be your own advocate.  Indeed, the entire book lays out as a self-help guide not only for the budding stage artist but also the seasoned, career-minded playwright.   Gary Garrison’s chapter on agents is sage advice for learned hands and novices alike.  Roland Tec’s chapter on Synopsis Writing contains insights from professional writers, literary managers, and artistic directors.  The bibliography, Books on Writing for the Stage, contains real heavyweight (and useful) tomes.  And the summary of contest deadlines may be the biggest reason why this book is so coveted.  I ripped those pages out and put the entire calendar on my bulletin board.     

Lastly, I’d like to highlight the Dramatists Bill of Rights, a unique feature promulgated by the DGA to remind playwrights about the special privileges afforded to them for a stage manuscript.  These rights are not always self-evident when working with theatres and collaborators.  For example, the section on Ownership of Incidental Contributions is particularly enlighteningTo wit, that  “neither dramaturgs nor directors (nor any other contributors) may be considered a co-author of a play, unless (i) they’ve collaborated with you from the play’s inception, (ii) they’ve made a copyrightable contribution to the play, and (iii) you have agreed in writing that they are the co-author.”   This especially comforting to a playwright considering the proliferation of workshops and the sheer number of dramaturgs paired with writers to develop a stage-worthy play. 

At some point in the near future, the DGA will save the money and blast this out electronically.  But I imagine the folks at DGA will likely provide a more in-depth resource with the addition of hyperlinks and digital annotations. 

Maybe next year.

In the meantime, get your hands on it.      


[1] Annual dues are as follows:  Member $130, Associate $90, Student $45.



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Pat McGeever said on 2011-01-24:

BTW, the "Act for Charity" Short Play Festival at the Shubin, with a deadline of 2/15 on the Submissions Calendar, has now announced its charity for this year: H.O.M.E., an organization that does outreach to homeless people.


Pat McGeever said on 2011-01-24:

I wanted to second Tom's suggestion on the value of the DG Resource Directory. For the PDC Submissions Calendar elsewhere on this site, that is mainly what I use in posting opportunities. Liam, the main difference is that DG is annual and Dramatists Sourcebook is biennial. Things do change year to year. Everybody, before you submit, call them to make sure the info is still accurate. Sometimes the dates change or the event gets cancelled.


Liam Castellan said on 2011-01-22:

Is there much difference in the content/value between this and TCG's "Dramatists Sourcebook"?



PDC Happy Hour at Play's and Players' Quig's Pub on Monday, 2/28/11
by Todd Holtsberry
posted: 2011-01-11 14:37:15

Come one, come all, to the first ever PDC Happy Hour at Quig's Pub!!!

Featuring Special Guest Bartenders from the PDC Family, including Todd Holtsberry and a second TBA...


February 28th, 2011


Quig's Pub at Plays and Players...3rd floor

1714 Delancey St, Phila., PA

Looking for further announcements on other fun activities that will be happening at this PDC Happy Hour...all designed to get as much of your money as possible...

...all to benefit the PDC and it's many programs!!


For more info, contact Todd Holtsberry, PDC Board Vice-Chair

by phone: 267-231-8394

by email: toddzz@hotmail.com



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Todd Holtsberry said on 2011-01-12:

We are looking for items or services to be raffled or secret auctioned off at this event...all to help raise money for the PDC! Do you have any items, or services that you might donate for this event? Do you know somebody, like a friend or family member, that might be able to donate...maybe a gift certificate to a restaurant, a massage, acting lessons...whatever! Also, do you know a well known Philly writer that we might be able to get to do a shift, anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours? Please contact Todd Holtsberry at 267-231-8394, or by email at toddzz@hotmail.com if you can donate something. Thanks!



Submission Opportunities
by Pat McGeever
posted: 2011-01-07 16:45:25

I'll be filling a small part of the lacuna left by Richard Kotulski's departure, by managing the "Submission Opportunities" calendar.  So far I've posted the ones I could find and which seemed relevant to at least some of our members, for the remainder of January.  As the items say, be sure to visit the website or contact the administrator before you submit--these were listed in the DG Resource Directory, 2010, and changes may have been made.

In the future, I hope to expand my sources.   If you happen across a submission opportunity you'd like to share with your fellow members, please funnel the info to me and I'll update the calendar once or twice a month.

Thanks, and best of luck!

Pat McGeever



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Worth seeing: A Small Fire by Adam Bock
by Richard Kotulski
posted: 2011-01-07 13:14:48

Just a few days ago I had the fortune to see Adam Bock's new play, A Small Fire, at Playwrights Horizons. I've followed Adam's work for a number of years now--and several years back I had a chance to work on The Thugs while it was in development at Portland Center Stage--and I've much admired both his ear for dialogue and his ability to create charming characters in usually unusual circumstances. His latest effort follows in the same vein, but I think drives deeper into the heart of the character's humanity than many of his previous efforts.

Spoiler Alert!

Don't read any further if you don't want to have the play's events revealed...

The story revolves around Emily Bridges--a powerful and in-charge woman who runs her own contracting business. She's somebody who has always been in control of her and her family's life. She brash, loud, and a little overbearing. In the first couple of scenes she's abrasive to the point of unpleasantness. But her life is in for a dramatic change as she loses first her sense of smell, then her sense of taste, her sight, and finally her hearing.

Suddenly this in charge woman is thrown into a world she has no control over. People have to take care of her, have to help her, and it's a heartbreaking and humbling experience for her.

She struggles with whether or not she can actually continue to live through each day--she feels broken. Ultimately, she and her husband develop a connection between one another that they haven't ever felt before--and a genuine love is kindled between them.

It ends on a beautiful note--and ultimately it's a play that speaks to the resilience of each of us--even those of us who fall quite a long ways.

It's definitely worth seeing if you have the chance: visit the Playwrights Horizons website to learn more.

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martha said on 2011-01-07:

I have tickets for next week. I have heard wonderful things about this play already. I kinda fell for Pawk when I saw her for the first time in the still-being-reworked-and-now-retitled Sondheim musical "Bounce". She shines. I look forward. I'm seeing a great deal, often 3-4 shows a week -- this weekend it's two more entries in the "Under the Radar" festival (saw "Ameriville and "Diciembre" this week already, and then "Gruesome Playground Injuries" at Second Stage. Just to let you know that your old Resident Dramaturg is seeing stuff. Pawk and Birney together work the price? Yeah, I expect so ...


Sidney T Rifkin said on 2011-01-07:

$70 tickets, though... ouch... Is it really worth it?



Introducing the PDC Literary Staff
by Thomas Tirney
posted: 2010-12-31 07:35:37

The Dramatists Center is presently replacing most of its older programs for members with a process to shepherd the playwright and his text to the most appropriate setting and venue.   We discovered over the years that PDC had no capability of workshopping  plays or matching playwrights with collaborators for non-public readings.  Aside from Writers Table (a weekly program for short form work or scenes), our most consistent and well-regarded program for members was Readings in Restaurants.  RinR was designed for full length plays to be heard in a public setting.  Unfortunately, PDC had nothing on offer for the in-between stuff.   We had no programs for developing unfinished full-lengths, one-acts, or sketches beyond 10-15 pages.   And this is what the Literary Staff proposes to do for our members.     


Because the Literary Staff consists of several volunteers (members and officers), it should spread the workload across more shoulders and improve its effectiveness and responsiveness.  Furthermore, it should allow a greater variety of ways to develop new work.   


The staff makes the writer’s intention the guiding principle; it isn’t there to judge or reject a text.  Obviously an unfinished play of thirty pages won’t serve the writer or the text with a full scale rehearsed reading.  A clutch of alternatives exist for sketches to one acts; from half a play to a full length rough draft.  In fact, it is rare for PDC to conduct a full length reading that requires a staged reading.  The staff helps set up the most appropriate venue for the play (fragment, sketch, dialogue, etc.) submitted. 


Let me give you an example of how this works.  I have a full length play recently finished and it requires a heavy integration of projection.  How the projection is done remains to be decided.  Do we use front projection, rear projection, or a large flat-panel for the readings?  We don’t know. 


Furthermore, I have a public reading coming up in January so the timing of the projection and the dialogue requires rehearsals and workshopping.  Frankly, I don’t even know if this play will “work.”  Lastly, the play will require one stage manager and three actors--one to read stage directions and the other two to play all nine characters.  The casting may be problematic as well.  The main female character is a seventeen year old girl and the main male character is a 44 year old man.  There are also two more seventeen year old characters, three more mid-forties characters and one in her mid-twenties.  Finding the right and versatile actors could be an issue at this stage.          


This is where the Literary Staff shines.  Having a partner to work on these issues with you not only is a relief but helps you learn more about your piece as you go along.  I sent my piece in to the Literary Staff via Wally Zialcita and heard back shortly from Brian-Grace Duff who volunteered to help me execute Teach Your Children.  Simultaneously anxious and excited, I’m moving forward on this with confidence because I’m working with a skilled and sympathetic person from the Literary Staff.         


The success of the Literary Staff depends upon two things:  the zeal of our volunteers and the volume of work they need to process.  The volunteers are doing their part.  I ask members to examine their portfolio of writing and choose pieces that need work; a play or a piece of dialogue long abandoned because it was too difficult to finish.  Select a finished text that needs polish.  These are exactly the kind of problems the Literary Staff can help resolve. 


Please send your piece to the Executive Director, Wally Zialcita (literary@pdc1.org) and one of the following volunteers will contact you about establishing a time, date, place, and collaborators for the piece to be heard: 


    Quinn Eli

                Brian Grace-Duff

                Michael Schwartz

                Wally Zialcita

                Jeff Von Staley

                Krissy Scatton

                Robert Castle

                Bill D’Agostino  

                Tom Tirney

                Felicia Rivers


 We are also on Facebook under “PDC Literary Staff.” 


Happy new year. 


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Richard W. Kotulski said on 2011-01-03:

I think this is a great direction to start moving in.



"Sister Sex" this Thursday
by Pat McGeever
posted: 2010-12-26 09:29:09

Come to a table reading of "Sister Sex," a sitcom about the only sex therapist in the nation who is also a Catholic nun.

Thursday, Dec. 30, 8:00 PM, Plays & Players, 1740 Delancey, 3d floor, by Quig's Pub

After the blizz.

Info: Pat McGeever, patplay.mcg@gmail.com


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The Perfect Reading: Two Artistic Directors Talk About Readings and New Play Development
by Thomas Tirney
posted: 2010-12-12 08:56:11

It may take years for an artist to acclimatize hearing his own work but the reading is a necessity in advancing a newly created play.  And after you’ve done the writing, the editing, and the re-writing; you’ve got to book a space, find a director, cast it, and then have the reading itself.  And all these activities ought to be done with an acute detachment to recognize where the play succeeds and where it fails. 


In many respects, a finished manuscript for a stage play is only a starting point.  The solo effort of the writer ends and the actions of third parties begin to inform the potentialities of the script.  The development process involving actors, dramaturgs, directors, and others establishes a feedback mechanism for the writer to polish and hone the piece until it’s truly complete.  A few elite writers don’t need this…but for the rest of us, it’s the best way to perfect one’s writing.                  


This is not an easy process.   Doing this stuff consistently on your own takes rare fortitude.  It helps to have help.  Two Philadelphia-based artistic directors-- both dedicated to staging and developing new work--agreed to talk about their approach to conducting readings of new work. 





Seth Rozin, Artistic Director for InterAct Theatre

Co-founded InterAct in 1988, and has since directed over 35 productions, including Israel Horovitz's Lebensraum, Gibbons’ Permanent Collection, and It’s All True. Seth has also directed for the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles, Blue Heron Theatre and the 45th Street Theatre in New York, as well as regionally with Act II Playhouse, Venture Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Philadelphia Young Playwrights Festival, and the University of Pennsylvania.    



Paul Meshejian,  Artistic Director for PlayPenn

Paul Meshejian is the Founding Artistic Director of PlayPenn.  Since 1989 he has been a company member at People’s Light and Theatre (PLT) where he has both acted and directed.  In the 1980’s he was the founding artistic director of Stage One: Collaboration, a professional theatre in Minneapolis/St. Paul devoted to new and rarely produced works.  Paul is on the Acting Faculty at University of the Arts in Philadelphia. 



On the Utility of Public Readings

Seth Rozin

“I’ve come on a long journey on this in my time developing new work.   I don’t find public readings very useful.   They could be useful as programming i.e. another offering from a theatre aside from a full production but the public reading tends to be overvalued to playwrights in general. 


If your thrust is value to the playwright, I find a public reading more dangerous than helpful: 


A)     If the audience responds positively, the playwright often takes that for validation for a full production.  The impulse is to proceed much sooner to that end and the writer may simply have mistook the response for generosity of spirit from the audience.

B)      If the audience responds positively, the playwright may conclude that the piece needs no further work or refinement. 


No matter how much you tell the audience the play is a work in progress, they will generally conclude it’s a finished work and judge it accordingly.  Therefore, if the audience gives it a negative response, it can be demoralizing for the playwright.  Wholesale changes may be made that don’t need to be made wherein the reading may not have had the right actors or there was not enough rehearsal time. 


Way too many readings will be judged using the audience as a barometer and that probably does not serve the playwright.  I’ve seen playwrights give up with a bad response and seen them give up for other reasons with a good response. ” 


Paul Meshejian

“You know, there is more than one kind of reading.  You have readings for subscribers or members (programming) and there are development readings.  With the latter, we don’t know what we have so we need an audience to find out.  The audience makes the best teacher and in my opinion, it’s the primary collaborator. 


If you were making any product and bringing it to market, you would test it before putting it on sale.  I don’t fully subscribe to this but you get the picture. 


Most playwrights don’t want to hear from an audience.  I’ve developed 45 plays at PlayPenn and only one playwright asked to have an audience feedback session.  I think the audience question and answer can be useful but playwrights will learn what they need to learn by watching the audience during the reading. 


Furthermore, things are tough to control with audience feedback.  It requires a skilled individual to field these questions and ensure they’re appropriate and not confrontational. “



On Developing New Plays

Seth Rozin: 

“I disagree with theatres that think play development is readings.  In my mind, play development connotes close collaboration between a writer, director, actors and others working on the same thing together…privately.  In a private reading, you can bring together people and try out things and there is nothing at stake.  That’s how progress is made.” 


Paul Meshejian

“When I created PlayPenn, I thought of ways to best serve the writer.  At the same time, I’m a pragmatist and want to advance the idea of new play production in Philadelphia. 


I give playwrights as much involvement as they want when it comes to the process.  It’s in their hands really.  I’m a deep believer in the artist as grown up.  When we have development hell, some artists abdicate responsibility to other people.  Responsibility means making decisions but that’s hard.  This includes the space, the director, the actors, the time—it’s an organization job.  It could take a week to pull together.  Or a month.”  


What Makes a Successful Reading?

Seth Rozin

“Actors and directors want to make good art.  If they are good at what they do, they can mask the flaws in the play.  This is not necessarily the in the interest of writers.  In a best case scenario, the reading allows the strengths to shine through as well as bare the weaknesses.  Takes a real lack of ego (for the part of the dir and actors) to let that happen.  You’ve got to be helpful to the writer.”



What’s the Most Important Thing When Conducting a Reading?

Seth Rozin

 “The single most important thing (for any reading) is getting good actors:  moreso than having a decent director.  Why?  Even with no prep time, good actors can simply wing it.  It’s especially useful if you’re doing a cold reading.” 


Paul Meshejian

“The reading needs to have a purpose aside from just having an audience hear it.  If you’re having a reading to learn from the audience about what’s working and not working, the public reading is a useful tool but it’s just a tool.  The writer needs to get more out of it than just an audience reaction particularly if it’s not a finished work.”


On Staged Readings

Seth Rozin

“A fully staged reading isn’t so useful.  You can’t do in a reading what you can do in the production.  There is no way to really evoke the physical world of the play in the reading.  And this is particularly true of comedy.  Why go a quarter of the way in the reading?  You’re better off with a concert-style reading than that.” 


Final Remarks

Seth Rozin

“Every playwright wants readings but that’s not exactly helpful to have one for every script.  I think the optimal process means collaboration and fine tuning.  You want exposure with a reading when it’s needed and then you keep at it until its ready for production.”


Paul Meshejian

“In a reading you want to do service to the playwright but give artistic directors a chance to hear something that might otherwise pass on it if they read it on the page. 


Sometimes I wonder at the whole idea of readings.  They are everywhere.  I wonder if they are as purposeful as they might be.  I try to organize something that satisfies the first purpose (playwright/process) and secondarily on getting it produced; giving those decision makers who see it enough of an impression to make a decision."      


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MM Wittle said on 2010-12-12:

I just want to thank you for this blog post. I am currently in the process of writing my thesis for grad school which is a full length play and reading this blog helped clarify things for me. Again, thanks.



New York Magazine's Grand Suck-Up to Tony Kushner
by Thomas Tirney
posted: 2010-10-31 16:09:27

The Signature Theatre in Manhattan devoted its Fall 2010 season to the works of Tony Kushner and kicked it off with Angels in America.  The event occasioned an article in the October 25 issue of New York magazine entitled The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Himself.  And just in case the reader wasn’t sure how to think, the subtitle reads: 


Tony Kushner is one of the last public intellectuals left standing in the theater—or America.  Heavy is the head that wears the crown.   


I should have stopped there but kept on hoping the reporter, Jesse Green, could give me a tour of Kushner’s public intellectualism or provide something other than a frivolous puff-piece about one of our most important playwrights.


I urge you to read the story if only to understand how vapid high-brow reportage of the arts has become.  If Mr. Green represents what we get when we pay for print, then my advice is to keep trolling the net for interesting blogs.  Sometimes I think publishers deserve their fate.  And journalists by all means. 



If the suck-uppedness of the writing wasn’t apparent in the first two paragraphs( Tony is smart!  His current reading list includes Oxford Book of Death, Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks, The Theory of Revolution in Young Marx, and Dionysus the Pseudo-Arepagite…OMG), it’s apparent when Green refers to our “greatest living playwright” as “St. Tony.”  There must be a word for two hyperboles in one sentence.   And just in case you didn’t get it the first time, Green states later that "Kushner really is a saint.”     




Albeit, forgiveable drivel.   To have an exalted if un-nuanced opinion of Kushner’s work is no crime.  I think he's great, too. 


What’s especially bothersome for those of us interested in Kushner and his opinions (not flattering him into bed as Green does) is that the article routinely dismisses Kushner’s more provocative statements with no elaboration or analysis.   When Tony Kushner says the following: 


“The primary thing I should do apart from being a good husband, brother, son, and friend is to be a citizen activist.” 




What the hell does that mean?  What about the writing?  Is progressive political activism more important to Tony than contributing to the stage?  Kushner after all is only 54.  Does he mean advocating certain political issues that are near-and-dear to him or does it encompass a more comprehensive approach to politics?  Would he ever run for office? 


We want to know!  Ahh, but we’ll never know.  Mr. Green chooses to leave such pregnant statements unexplored.  Instead, a large part of the article is devoted to the fact that Kushner is gay.   Wait, didn’t you know that? 


Since homosexuality is ever present in Kushner’s work (and ever present in this article), the enormous influence that Kushner has had on the topic (in arts, in politics, in general attitudes) is summarized with the statement that Tony Kushner is still loyal to “gay themes” and that "gay fantasia on national themes" merited a reference in The Simpsons.


This country is in a very different place now than when Angels in America debuted.  All to the good …but what’s next?  I mean, what is different about his “gay themes” now in 2010 with the soon-to-be produced Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Marxism with a Key to the Scriptures?  Has nothing changed since 1990?  That “gay themes” at times saturate the theatre can be directly linked to Kushner’s influence; that “gay themes” dominate certain political debates (i.e. marriage) can also be tied to his work’s popularity and incessant activism—doesn’t Tony Kushner, the public intellectual have anything to say about where we’ve been, what’s happening now and where we’re going on this particular subject?   I'm sure he does; just not in this 5,500 word hackery.       


What's unfortunate about Green's composite is that he undermines the whole "public intellectual" bent of the piece.  Allowing Kushner to contort himself into a strange and inscrutable defense of President Obama—and by extension, the Democrats—makes him look like an unsophisticated and even unthinking partisan.  Try this one on: 


“There are lies, and those should not be tolerated.  But there’s a degree of rhetorical finesse that’s required to maneuver through very treacherous waters.”


So I guess lying is OK and should be tolerated?  Kushner struggles to clarify: 


“Do I think [Obama] should have lost the election for the chance to say he supported same-sex marriage?  No.  Given that we would have had John McCain and Sarah Palin, I would have said, ‘Say anything you need to.’ 


Now I’ve got it.  Lying is OK! 


“St. Tony”? 




I personally disagree with him.  Obama most certainly would have gotten elected either wholeheartedly endorsing same-sex marriage or supporting it with vague statements of letting the courts, the legislatures, or referendums decide the matter.  At any rate, President Obama and the Democratic Party have clearly let Kushner down:   


“We’ve [the LGBT community] been asked to eat oceans of shit by the Democratic Party; we’ve been 75% loyal for decades without a wobble and without a whole lot of help from these people.”


And yet, the support is still there.  What’s the reason for that?  Again...silence.    


Kushner loathes the other end of the political spectrum (the “counterrevolution") and calls it “anarchism-libertarianism that meshed perfectly with Ayn Rand and all that nonsensical malevolent crap.”   But undoubtedly he and the LGBT community can learn from it.


The Tea Party, for instance, has had enormous influence on entirely compromised (in their view) Republicans such as Arlen Specter, Bob Bennett, and Mike Castle.  In other words, the movement succeeded in kicking them out and getting their own guys in.  And they've taken a big risk in substituting Pat Toomey, Mike Lee, and Christine O’Donnell for those experienced incumbents who make their constituents eat oceans of shit. 


Yet, they’ve done it anyway.   Surely this ought to be reason for encouragement to Kushner’s stifled aspirations for political change.  It seems to me that he ought to trust the grass-roots  support for the very community he helped strengthen so much.         


In spite of Kushner’s serious commitment to progressive politics and gay rights, it’s rather sad to see the weighty brow of this creative titan conform to a childish “my side right or wrong” when it comes to activism.  It won’t persuade anyone who hasn’t already made up their mind—which is the point of being a public intellectual.  Such is the mantle on the shoulders below the heavy head that wears the crown these days.    


But I did learn that a SUPER successful playwright can have “a business manager, a lawyer, a personal assistant, and three agents.”  Thanks Jesse Green for your bloated brown-nosing.  I'm sure it will help your career and I learned a lot.  (Three agents!)

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Revolution and a Sandwich; making the sandwich
by Bob Wuss
posted: 2010-10-18 14:16:06

Over the last year the PDC has brought numerous opportunities and inspring projects into my life. As a recent college graduate in this wonderful city, I am constantly looking for something to make me feel alive and involved, while challenging everything about myself. I am currently the Artistic Director of a new West Philly production company called The Shakedown Project, which is well underway on a new show written by PDC member Jeremy Gable. Artists like Jeremy dive into organizations like the PDC looking for the next big undertaking, a revolution within and a fight to be had with the world. I am honored to collaborate with such a talented writter and owe alot to the PDC, as I met Jeremy in his Reading In Restaurants version of his play "Bad Monster". I also owe all my graditude to members like Wally and Tom for their constant support of new works and young talent.

With the annual PDC meeting coming up next week I would like to place my name in the hat for PDC Board. I believe that as artists we constantly need to face our fears and throw ourselves completley into what we are working on. I know that I am young and have much to learn about survival in this industry but I feel that there is really something special about the environment that PDC creates and the energy involved. I recently saw Greg Romero's collaboration at Upenns Campus for "Material v. Memory" and was completley stunned at the number of collaborators and companies invovled. I believe that this sort of networking and collaboration is something the PDC does very well and I would like to continue this legacy by continuing to reach out to young aspiring artists and colleges. I know I could keep momentum moving and would be honored on behalf of the PDC to database and network those who inspire us.

In this post I would also like to add some shameless self promotion;

My company is hosting a major fundraiser on October 27th at MIll Creek Tavern on 42nd and Chester in West Philadelphia. We are hosting 5 bands, monster face paint, and a dance party atmosphere to get people excited about being in Philadelphia for such an exciting time.

Monster Mash!

Who: Abstract Verses, Caboder, Wild Rompit, Taco, Kevin and The Shapes, DJ Treal
What: Monster Mash!
Where: The Mill Creek Tavern, 42nd and Chester Ave., Philadelphia PA 19104

When: October 27, 2010, 8 pm

Cover: $7 (21+)



I would be thrilled to see some PDC members  at our fundraiser helping to keep the momentum going!


We are also announcing auditions on November 6th and 7th for Jeremy's play "Revolution and a Sandwich"

Anyone and everyone is welcome to come out to the Mandell Theater green room between 32nd and 33rd on Chestnut St. between 10:00 AM and 12:00 PM both dates.  Those auditioning need not bring anything but an open mind and be prepared to do some cold reading.


I am honored to be involved with such a creative and inspiring organization and look forward to being completely immersed with you all.


Bob Wuss


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The Importance of Being Networked
by Thomas Tirney
posted: 2010-10-13 13:46:23

On Tuesday the 12th, I attended a Directors/Dramatist Exchange hosted by the Dramatists Guild of America at Plays and Players on 17th and Delancey.  This event matches a number of directors to an equivalent number of dramatists and gets them to talk about their ideas and aspirations.  It’s like speed dating for the theatre set. 


This is the second event I’ve attended of this nature.  I can’t fathom why it’s not done more often.  And we could use a little bit of it ourselves. 


 The dirty rotten secret of theatre arts is that plays get produced on the merits of a writer’s networking skills just as often as the writer’s ability to write.  Your theatrical collaborators—be they directors, producers, or dramaturgs—want to know what kind of person you are apart from the kind of art you’d like to create.  After all, if collaborators like your work, they want to know ahead of time with whom they will be working.  And don’t we all want to work with people we like? 


Networking is a significant aspect to the success of a dramatist.  Theatre classes, texts, and guidebooks never pay enough attention to this vital activity in a playwright’s life.  Unless you are willing to underwrite and produce your own work all the time, you better get to know local directors and those who can help champion your stuff. 


There are many reasons why playwrights have difficulty selling themselves but it stems from this fundamental truth:  it’s work.  It isn’t fun and games.  It takes time and effort.  The question is…are you prepared? 


1.       Have you summarized each one of your plays in four sentences or less?   

2.       Can you succinctly state what you like to write about it and what kind of writer you are?  Again, it helps to do this with extreme brevity. 

3.       What is most important to you when working with a director?  Are you a collaborator or a tyrant? 

4.       Do you have ready-made samples of your work to send to interested parties?  


Writers must be their own activists, advocates, and agents.   The more folks you know in theatre, the more opportunities you will have for your writing.  Last night, I met three directors in Philadelphia with whom to explore possibilities for my newest pieces.  It’s going to be fun.    




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Make a Difference, Run for the Board
by Thomas Tirney
posted: 2010-10-10 10:47:12

The PDC Annual Meeting and Board election will take place this month on October 25 with a location yet to be announced.  And I urge member writers to attend as well as get involved.  All-volunteer organizations, such as ours, rely heavily on member participation to for its programming; the Board’s burden of responsibility looms larger than for a typical non-profit.  Board members not only provide the obligatory oversight but also become personally responsible for executing programs, starting new initiatives, and raising funds. 


For fiscal 2010, the Board numbered ten people and included three of our officers.  Everyone worked hard and contributed generously of their time.  This Board has done a great deal with scarce resources but before we grow into a more professional organization—which assumes a working staff and a physical home—PDC will need more volunteers and more Board members.  The PDC By-Laws allow up to 21  members on the Board.  We have far more capacity for volunteers than we currently carry.     


While more money is always great to have, we could accomplish much more with additional manpower.  Indeed, I’m very encouraged for PDC’s future based upon this experience.  Happily, the PDC relies more upon the energy, dynamism, and creativity of its members than capital.  And the money we do put to work is used judiciously and for maximum effect.  If anything, this year’s Board has demonstrated how far PDC can stretch a dollar and bodes well for any future fundraising or grants that come our way.


Lately, I’ve heard some fantastic ideas coming from our artists regarding what PDC can do.  For instance, a healthy minority of our writers do film work or multi-media mixed with live art.  Is there any reason why we can’t bring our writers together with Philadelphia’s healthy indie film scene?  Why can’t we have events or programs that bridge the gap between film and live art?  Another idea that has been kicking around concerns our relationship with the regions high schools and colleges—it is non-existent.  We can certainly augment outreach to students whose institutions aren’t equipped to give them a conduit to the theatrical community or programs designed to nurture individual work. 


If these or other ideas animate you, please volunteer.  Come to the Annual Meeting.  Run for the Board.  We could use you.      





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Melissa McBain said on 2010-10-27:

 Who Wants the New Kid on the Block?

Congratulations to the newly-elected board members.  I have been following PDC on Twitter for the past few months in anticipation of my return to Philly after a decades long absence. (My first teaching jobs were at Simon Gratz and Radnor Jr. High.) Now I am back and eager to answer Tom's call for volunteer service to PDC and the larger theatre community. ( In my former life I was a college professor of theatre and education at  Augustana College in Illinois. I also  founded and produced the Quad City Playwrights Festival for ten years while acting in and directing numerous contemporary, original, and classical plays. ) With four produced plays to my credit I am now a full-time playwright.  Where can I be of service to PDC?  Perhaps I could participate in the docent program.  Although I am not offering myself up to the first bidder I do want to explore how my skills, experience, and passion might dovetail with the needs of PDC.  


Katie Clark Gray said on 2010-10-11:

As a board member for 2009-10, I highly recommend the experience. You gain a much greater understanding and appreciation of what PDC is and how it can serve its membership. Better yet, you can have a hand in shaping what it will be in the future.



Resurrecting Writers Table
by Bill Hollenbach
posted: 2010-09-24 06:02:05

In Tom Tierney’s excellent blog on the recent accomplishments and future plans of PDC, he referred to Writers Table as being dormant, and Pat McGeever lamented that dormancy.  However, to be vital again all Writers Table needs is a playwright who wants one, a date, a space, readers and publicity on the PDC website.

Historically, the goal of Writers Table has been to get a group of actors and/or interested playwrights around a table to read a new script that was completed in the sense that it had a beginning, a middle, and an end, but which other than that was a script the playwright recognized may have had a long way to go before truly being ready for the public.  These informal, cold readings offered the playwright the opportunity to listen, get feedback, and make that evaluation.     We used to meet primarily at Abraccio before it became unavailable, but always it has been the activity, not the place which defined the Writers Table.  I have attended Writers Table’s which have been held in the playwrights home.  Anywhere will do.

Don Drake when he was coordinating Readings in Restaurants at Abraccio used to schedule the Writers Tables at Abraccio.  The playwright merely had to notify Don of the desired date and time, and Don booked Abraccio.  The onus was and remains on the playwright to get actors or other playwrights to read and provide feedback.  These Tables are extremely informal. 

Abraccio is no longer available, but we can have Writers Tables anytime we like. 

If Pat would like I offer my house and the purchase of a couple of pizzas and some beer for a Writers Table reading of his “Sister Sex”.  I’ll post the date on the much improved and active PDC website, and any and all will be welcome. 

I can be contacted directly at 610-446-4438.




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The PDC: Looking Back, Looking Ahead
by Thomas Tirney
posted: 2010-09-21 11:39:45

The Philadelphia Dramatists Center turns 17 in 2011 and like a gawky teenager, the organization still struggles now and then to get its bearings.  Nonetheless, the PDC is at the cusp of maturity. 


Since I joined in September 2008, PDC has undergone a revitalization led by Executive Director Wally Zialcita and former Board Chair Richard Kotulski.  I’d be remiss not to mention Donald Drake, Walter Vail, Katie Clark-Gray, Jacqueline Goldfinger, John Russell, and Bob Castle who have maintained, improved, and introduced important programs for our writer-members.    


In two years time, the organization has accomplished the following: 


·         Grown paid membership from less than 28 to over 80

·         Implemented a policy to pay actors and directors for our readings programs

·         Established grants for self-producing playwrights showing work at the Fringe Festival

·         Sponsored Theatre Tours where a docent guides participants through a season of plays

·         Introduced a re-designed website, expanded its content and improved applicability



And there are other achievements.  PDC has been active in supporting events in addition to our core programming; theatre opportunities that give our members a chance to hear their work or create something new.  This includes a renewed alliance with Primary Stages, one-of-a-kind happenings such as The Preservation Project, the Producers’ Panel, and underwriting a winning entry from our membership at the SPARK Showcase. 


Furthermore, we’ve improved our relations with local theatres and advocacy groups.  Last year, we hosted or co-sponsored events with Theatre Alliance of Philadelphia, Plays & Players Theatre, PlayPenn, and the Dramatists Guild of America.  We should be proud that our all-volunteer PDC can hold its own and gain the respect of these long-standing, professional organizations. 


That isn’t to say that everything we did last year rocked.  We learned a few things concerning programs that fell short of our goals.  We experimented with one program called The Lab; an 8 week development process which paired three of our member playwrights with directors and actors for an intensive workshop.  Certainly the Lab was successful for those selected playwrights—Quin Eli, Anne Belc, and Jacqueline Goldfinger—but the expectation of having the works staged or holding a public reading was never realized.    


Two of our core programs, The Gym and Writers’ Table remain dormant and it’s unclear if we will be able to resurrect them this year.  Another staple, the Play Reading Marathon didn’t take place last year either. 


These are just a few of the issues the officers will be working on next year.  But more importantly, I believe the Board is ready to take up two challenges PDC has talked about for years:  improving our fundraising capabilities and finding a home. 


Membership dues provide the bulk of our income and Anonymous Theatre contributes between 25% and 33% of revenues.  The organization has grown to the point where we can and should augment our income with grants, donations, and a dedicated fundraiser.  We are targeting 2011 as a year to begin applying for grants and matches as well as brainstorming another event that compliments Anonymous Theatre and plays to our strengths as a creative organization.  Ideas are welcome. 


Just as important, PDC needs a modest amount of space where our officers can work, members can gather, and writers can write.  We envision smallish office space somewhere accessible in Center City with a few cubicles and a conference room for readings, meetings, and other small-scale events.  I believe this goal can support a lot of our programming efforts and help keep PDC relevant for its members trying to make a career as writers. 


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Pat McGeever said on 2010-09-21:

I'm very disappointed to learn that Writer's Table, which must have virtually no dollar cost, has gone dormant. It's been most valuable in the past, and I've been working for a year to have my latest play, "Sister Sex," ready for just this opportunity.



"Meg and Rob Show" - PHIT's Side of Sketch 8pm
by Eric Balchunas
posted: 2010-09-19 05:13:58

Before the Meg and Rob Show even started I was already into it. Why? Because the price was cheap at $10, the temperature in the theatre was comfortable, and the running time was 60 minutes. I love it when shows are around an hour long. For me, unless it’s mind-blowing theatre, 60 minutes is right at the point where I become antsy and look at my watch and start debating what flavor ice cream to get on the way home, or which college football game I might catch the end of. Maybe I’m weak-minded, but it’s the truth.

Meg and Rob, veterans of the Philly Sketch scene, know how to put on a funny and fast show. Surprisingly, there were only a handful of people in the audience at 8pm on a Saturday night, but that didn’t stop the performers from giving their all and getting plenty of laughs. While not every single bit hit for me, most did. Plus, each bit was so fast, I simply didn’t have time to get bored. I got the feeling they edited a lot out and left only the meat, which I truly appreciated as an audience member.
One of the highlights for me was a sketch about two floosies standing outside a Stephen Starr restaurant wearing next to nothing in the dead of winter trying to get attention of guys. Another highlight was a sketch where a guy was trying, but failing, to guess what is different about a friend he hasn’t seen in two months. Also, a video with Meg talking to the camera about being born in a bathroom/toilet was charming and funny. Meg is just so damn likable, I get the feeling she could trip an old lady carrying groceries and I would still root for her.
The only piece(s) that didn’t really excite me were the Jesus as a teenager stuff. Not only has that been done a million times, but culturally speaking, people just aren’t as knowledgeable or interested in the Bible as they were say 20-30 years ago. Although, I do give them credit trying to thread together this storyline throughout the show.
I was amazed at how seamlessly Meg and Rob fused video into their show. Not only did they have 3-4 short, well-edited videos in between sketches, but they used the projection to give backdrops to each sketch and sometimes they would use it like a corporate PowerPoint presentation, having bullet points enhance what was being said. I have been producing my own comedy shows for years now and I can tell you, it’s not that easy to edit and incorporate video. It’s very time-consuming and risky. But, the payoff can be great. Meg and Rob make it look easy.
I would definitely recommend this show to anyone. It was worth the money and time.

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Inside look into Olive Prince Dance
by Bob Wuss
posted: 2010-09-17 14:29:59

Over the past few months I’ve had the opportunity of working on Olive Prince Dance's I DESIRE which premiered as part of Live Arts eight/ eight new choreographed works. Led by Artistic Director, Olive Prince, I DESIRE takes a look at our deepest desires and current needs.  The performance, which took place in the Live Arts Studio space, delivered an explosive piece where time seemed to melt from moment to moment as bodies clung to their individual spaces. My task during performances; hang up a tree structure composed of ropes and stitched brown fabric onto a beam clamp in the air. 

Months ago Olive had approached me and asked if I wanted to take the challenge of  helping her with administrative tasks as well as consulting on future creative projects.  At first I was hesitant because I’ve never been a part of a dance company before, but after a few meetings I found Olive to be as strong willed as the dance she creates.  I was then challenged to create a marketing campaign using post cards to gather information of people’s greatest desires. I found myself in neighborhoods such as Old City and Northern Liberties, even Clark Park , approaching strangers to simply write on the cards. Olive had asked friends to do the same as well as her students at Drexel University.  I then took those cards and created a stop motion animation of the cards constructing themselves into a tree encased in chicken wire and interesting shapes, while Olive constructed a dance inspired by the content on the cards.

The video http://vimeo.com/14344786

then was available via the Live Arts Blog a few weeks ago. It is still there if you want to look for yourself.  My video was inspired by Michel Gondry style animation and Wes Anderson’s sincerity.

Olive’s I DESIRE featured 4 dancers( including herself), composer Chris Farrell, and many other collaborators who found themselves spiraling  gracefully into the festival. Rehearsals were long but I was always interested in what in the dance would be repeated the next day. My observation in the creation of Olive’s piece is that  it has a very living and organic nature to it, as movements evolve (or are eventually cut). Every rehearsal had it’s own unique grasp of  theme and motive. It’s almost like a kinetic musical riff. Some dancers rest in the pocket like a fat funky snare beat, while others create ornate saxophone melodies. In my opinion Olive drives the tempo with her snare beat, as Maria Brown lays down a punchy bass line with Nora Gibson on a jazz grand piano,Lindsay Browning wailing her sax.  (packed image) Coltrane style.

The insight provided by everyone on the project has definitely given a lasting impact; Every day with everything we do, will always bring something new. Only ourselves can stop our desires from coming true.


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"Iron" - Theatre Exile
by Jeremy Gable
posted: 2010-09-12 20:58:15

There are many reasons why we go to the theatre, and the Fringe manages to have a show that features pretty much every single one.  However, with Theatre Exile’s Iron, which I saw on Sunday, one of the oldest theatrical delights is represented: Watching two amazing actors face off against each other.
The interplay between Catharine Slusar and Kim Carson is theatrical gold.  As a jailed murderer and her daughter, respectively, Slusar and Carson expand Theatre Exile’s small, austere studio space into a garden of memories and regrets.
The audience is seated on either side of a raised trough made of concrete and tile, a bed on one end, a stairway at the other.  The set represents a modern day Scottish prison, and as Carson’s Josie asks for recollections from her childhood from Slusar’s Fay, it also seems to represent our narrow understandings of those around us.  The preconceived notions the characters have with each other are all put to the test before the play’s end.
If there is one complaint with the production, it is that when Slusar and Carson are not on stage together, the play loses a bit of its luster.  Rona Munro’s script is perhaps more full than it needs to be, almost as if she is chewing more than she has bitten off.  With a two-and-a-half hour running time, there are moments where material already covered is reiterated, or where a development takes too long to develop.  However, Deborah Block’s insightful direction makes these moments less of a distraction than they would be on the page.
Iron is definitely a must-see at the Fringe, if only to witness two amazing actresses sitting across from each other, fighting an unusual battle where memories and obligations are the weapons.

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"Between Trains" - Gas & Electric Arts
by Jeremy Gable
posted: 2010-09-11 22:40:53

I wanted to love Gas & Electric Arts' Between Trains, which I saw on Saturday night.  After all, the cast was fantastic, the staging was consistently engaging, and its premise had a great amount of promise.  However, when the 90-minute piece ended, I felt that neither my brain nor my heart had been reached.

As we enter the train station set (the audience sits amongst the action), the actors roam around, wordlessly interacting with each other in various ways.  Then the lights dim, a suitcase is unzipped, and a naked woman with no recollection of her past slinks out.  She finds a minimum of clothing and a clue to her identity (the name Wendell).  What follows is a series of interactions with a number of personalities, some directly involved in her dilemma, some just passing characters.
The program contains extensive notes from the director (Lisa Jo Epstein) and the playwright (Juanita Rockwell) about the transitory feel of train stations and the Buddhist concept of samsara, or six realms of existence dictated by emotion.  While the ambiance of the train station is almost dead-on, the themes brought up in the program notes do not come through in the presentation, leaving the text to become a muddle of words.  The best pieces of avant-garde theatre - from the later Sarah Kane plays to the works of Robert Wilson - manage to bypass our logical instincts and hit that hidden part of our brain that deals in pure emotion.  And while Rockwell’s hyper-intelligent script is rife with songs, dream imagery and amusing stories, it lacks the painful emotional truths needed to connect with its audience.
Which is a shame since there is much to love in this production.  Every design element is top notch, from the haunting lighting, to the wonderful use of sound and music, to the suitcase-packed train station set.  Epstein’s direction was endlessly inventive and unpredictable.  Mary Tuomanen’s Wendell was a fantastic creation, navigating both the physical and thematic demands of the script with a natural ease (as well as playing enough unusual instruments to qualify her for a spot in Arcade Fire), and Nick Troy was a complete joy to watch as he thrust himself into a variety of characters, often while risking extreme bodily harm.
And yet, I found myself often distracted, wanting the consistently beautiful imagery in front of me to land with some sort of emotional impact.  The best theatre forms a bond between performer and audience, and while I was literally in the middle of the action, I never really felt like I was a part of Wendell’s transient journey.

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"The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade" and "The Madwoman of Chaillot"
by Valdemar Zialcita
posted: 2010-09-11 13:49:07


 I want to say amen to Greg Romero, writing to playwrights about dance.  In the same spirit, I celebrate Philadelphia's two companies dedicated entirely to the Modern tradition: The Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium and Egopo.  I see the works of both companies as often as I possibly can.  The 20th Century, it seems, still pushes me out of my complacency.

These productions are opportunities to think about what can be wrought.

Jean Giraudoux's Madwoman, still sharp and timely in its themes, invites playwrights to crowd a stage--in this case the intimate stage of Walnut Street 5.  Crowd. Cram. Close enough to sit on your lap, and yet close in an entirely different way.  Because the fullness of the thing on stage is not simply about the body count (17 actors playing 25 characters, by the way).  It's about ideas.  Sometimes, when you write about the thing you know best, you find yourself writing from a point of view, not from the edge of a kitchen sink.  Let a Madwoman show you how it can be done, and damn the financiers.  Damn the subtext, too.

Marat/Sade damns much the same things, bless its heart, with the added reminder, in bold, that a play happens in space, texture, and motion, just as dance does, and not simply within a picture frame, as seems to be the case for the overwhelming majority of productions in Philadelphia.  This may not be your father's Marat/Sade (since theatre is not strictly a playwright's medium), but it's big and splendid (thanks to an echo-y Rotunda, played like giant toy piano by director Brenna Geffers), as we should all aspire in our heads to be.


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TAKES/Nichole Canuso Dance Company
by Greg Romero
posted: 2010-09-11 12:32:08

In addition to TAKES continuing to spark some of the questions ignited from my experience of SANCTUARY,  this multi-dimensional, multi-media collaboration between choreographer Nichole Canuso, media designer Lars Jan, sound designer Mike Kiley and performers Canuso and Dito Van Reigersberg brought out a series of new questions as well.

As with Sanctuary, Takes is performed in an open warehouse space (the same building, in fact).  Takes has transformed the space, however, by placing a polygonal performance area (perhaps 12-15 feet by 12-15 feet?)  in the center of the warehouse, with sheer curtains that hang suspended above each side of the playing area, opaquely enclosing the dancers in a sort of living box while simultaneously projecting both real-time and recorded images of the dancers on all four sides of the screening.

Surrounding/encircling the performance area an almost continuous single-row of folding chairs for the audience.

As the audience enters, we're confronted with choices-- where do we look?  Where do we sit?  I began to think about the question-- what do people do when given an open space?

In fact, just before the performance begins (but as the recorded music and recorded images have been playing on a continuous loop) a disembodied voice tells us to turn off our phones, but that we are allowed during the performance to walk the space.  We are given the freedom to witness the performance from all different sides of the space. 

At that time I wondered if the audience would take the creators up on their offer (they did) and what relationship the movement of the audience would create with the performance (I am still unsure, but interested in continuing to think about it).

Other big thoughts popped for me during this performance:

** How does performance change space and time?  I found myself many times during TAKES to come in and out of different levels of awareness.  I'm not sure if it was due to the repitition of some of the movement, or music, or the overload of images and information (and realities?) that made my brain sort of skip a beat.

** What effect does a naked body have on an audience?

** What does the performance achieve by offering the gift of participation and/or intimacy to the audience?

And a big question about the creation of dance as compare to the creation of a performance of a script--

** How does the learning process effect the work?  Meaning-- most times in dance, the choreography is learned through an oral and muscular process.  Dancers/movers learn and work from the process of storing information in their bodies and the body becomes the place to access memory.  This is different than a script, which is an object, outside of self, that can be referred to and is more fixed.  How different is it to learn and re-learn through communication with the body/self versus through a document?  And how do these different approaches effect the people looking for discovery?


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Wawapalooza 4: Damaged Goods at Society Hill Playhouse
by Thomas Tirney
posted: 2010-09-11 07:34:55

It’s hard not to love an evening of satire that begins with a Philadelphia sports fan giving a press conference apologizing for all the horrible things he has done in the name of team spirit.  Flanked by men in white to keep him on point, the fan labors mightily to project a penitence he will never have…especially for the pretty housewife he slapped at Dicks Sporting Goods for donning a Cowboys Tony Romo jersey.  Clearly, the man requires extended therapy.  Apologizing for egregious behavior by recalling slights from years past (a fan cheering on Jerry Rice at an Eagles game?), his minders finally take him off-stage with Tasers for more treatment.   


And thus, the fourth installment of Eric Balchunas’s Wawapalooza, a sketch comedy show that takes aim at all things local and all things ridiculous, is underway.  There is no narrative thread; the local angle only loosely informs the evening.  Each sketch contains it’s own little world.  Wawa moves swiftly and the laughter doesn’t stop until the curtains go down.  Only the last sketch—a highly scatological pub dinner where the patrons spout about the “supreme pleasures of life”—fell flat for me.    


Eric mixes up the evening with live sketches and filmed shorts.  My favorite live sketch consisted of two vegan couples striving to out-green each other with extreme reductions in their carbon footprint and eating habits. 


The strongest pieces are the filmed shorts which can be compared favorably to any professionally filmed comedy appearing on the Internet.  Or TV.  Eric himself takes a star turn as a citizen-reporter talking good-naturedly about his grandmother being a better environmental role model than Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Thom Yorke.  It’s witty without being snarky.  One can imagine Green-Nazis such as Carol Browner and even Al Gore himself chuckling.        


Much of the art seen in the Fringe blooms for a short time and is then gone forever.  It’s rare to see productions repeat.  For four years in a row Balchunas, aided by his wife Trang, have been staging a brand new show every year.  They take their comedy seriously; conducting focus groups and vetting material through a tight circle of friends.  I’ve seen their shows from previous years and can see an improvement in the pacing as well as the choice of material.  By now, Eric and Trang knows what works and doesn’t work.  And the payoff is there for the audience. 


What’s rarer still for Fringe shows are those that break-out of the festival altogether.  Certainly, Eric and Trang and their ensemble have the talent to go pro.  There is no reason why something like Wawapalooza couldn’t have its own (successful) run outside of the festival and it certainly calls to mind the work of 1812 Productions.  I can only think of a handful of shows out of dozens in the Fringe where I can make the same statement.       


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"Thom Pain" and "Superheroes Who Are Super!"
by Jeremy Gable
posted: 2010-09-10 22:55:00

On Friday night, I witnessed two shows that used minimal staging to conjure up entire worlds, one through a fantastic performance and the other through sheer energy and abandon.

The evening production was Luna Theater Company’s Philadelphia premiere of Will Eno’s one-man play Thom Pain (based on nothing).  Eno’s Pulitzer-finalist script is a feast of humor, anger, irony, bitterness and painful honesty.  One thing is does not contain, however, is an easy synopsis.  The title character stands alone on a stage, a life-size cardboard cutout standing behind him.  And he talks to us in a series of unfinished stories, misfired jokes and half-assed audience participation.  By the end of the play, Thom Pain has not accomplished any of his immediate goals, but the whole of his presentation proves to be greater than the sum of its parts.  
Not an easy sell, by any means.  However, this production is a brief but wonderful show, with a performance I am not soon going to forget.
Having only read the script, I felt going in that Thom Pain was about fear, what happens when a person is thrust into a situation where they can only try to do the best they can.  Thom is obviously uncomfortable being in front of a crowd, and his unusual wordplay is the result of a lifetime of timidity, angst and yearning reaching its tipping point in front of the crowd.
The first few minutes of the production made me apprehensive, with its Johnny Carson-style opening and Christopher Bohan’s exaggerated delivery.  This seemed completely wrong.  Thom tries so desperately to connect to his audience, whereas most stand-up comedians simply attempt to entertain.  How can I connect to a man who simply wants to make me laugh?  And indeed this style did gloss over some of the more honest revelations in the show.
However, Bohan’s performance, as well as Gregory Scott Campbell’s simple but effective direction, turned the meaning of the play (at least for me) from the conquering of fear to the dangers of desperation.  Bohan’s mesmerizing and thoroughly unique Thom Pain is all smiles and goofy expressions, which serve as a thin surface to the cauldron of self-loathing that lies not too far underneath.  
His jokes are awful, even to him.  The aforementioned painful truths cannot be delivered without some dopey artifice.  When an audience member walks out, he admits that we would be smart to do likewise.  He asks us not to tell others that this show was “someone being clever, watching some smart-mouthed nobody work himself into a dumb-ass frenzy”, but that instead it was “someone who was trying”.  In this interpretation, there was no way that I could connect to Thom Pain, because how can you root for someone who cannot root for himself?  So instead, I sat back and observed a man slowly drowning.
Throughout the show, I was reminded of Lenny Bruce reading court documents, Andy Kaufman wrestling women, Michael Richards’ racist tirade, and many other moments where the comedian in front of us crashed and burned.  When the smile became too fake, and suddenly we were no longer in on the joke.  And as I began to realize that the bare stage that Thom Pain stands on perhaps represents his everyday life, I also began to realize that the audience may have more in common with him than I previously thought.
The late-night performance was the latest installment of Save The Day Productions’ Superheroes Who Are Super!, which is currently running at Plays & Players.  The show is light and simple, but actually served as a great pick-me-up to Eno’s existential masterpiece.  The series, which is a regular feature at Plays & Players, consists of staged readings of comic books.  It is not complex, but it does make for a unique and entertaining hour.
The comic book performed on the night I attended was the 1994 cross-over oddity, Archie Meets the Punisher.  The story is as it sounds, with one of Marvel’s most violent heroes traveling to the quaint suburb of Riverdale to track down a drug dealer who looks suspiciously like Archie.
The show does not amount to much (nor does it try to), but it is fast and entertaining, with a wonderfully frenetic energy.  The cast easily covered for some of the common traps of staged readings (missed lines, turning pages, etc.), enacted a staging that was all the more remarkable given the lack of stage space, and managed to play a variety of interchanging characters at a moment’s notice (especially notable were Tim Urian’s transformations and Liz So’s rotating gallery of accents).
If there was one thing I did miss from the show, it was the sense of fanfare that one expects from the comic books.  I was perhaps hoping for some underscoring, for some grand announcements, for a sense of prestige to a style of writing that has long been revered for its melodramatic silliness.  Without that, the show felt more like a workshop than a performance.  But as something to take the edge off more serious Fringe fare, it certainly did the trick.

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Playwriting Rules in the Fringe--Romeo & Juliet
by Robin Rodriguez
posted: 2010-09-10 13:47:41

Writing good dialogue supposedly means leaving out the extraneous crap that people actually say. Yet The Nature Theater of Oklahoma has successfully made shows solely from recorded phone conversations. They so faithfully recreate the speech of their friends and relatives that the actors hear the recordings through earpieces and follow the pacing of the original, including all repetitions, side-trips, “umms” and awkward pauses.

Why does it work?

For one thing, they’ve not abrogated the responsibility of shaping their work even if it’s not classic structure. Most conversations didn’t make it in. Their show “No Dice”, seen at the 2007 Philly Fringe, was four hours condensed from a mind-boggling one hundred hours of recorded speech.

Also, as mentioned in a talkback for this year’s “Romeo & Juliet”, there’s the reality-show aspect of it. We know the conceit going in. We can identify with, and laugh at, people just like us screwing up as they try to remember Shakespeare’s play. Or in the case of the previously-seen “No Dice”, as they try to tell a story of any sort and end up rambling on about the silly details of daily life.

And the actors are wonderful. Anne Gridley, who plays Juliet, can stretch her face in ways that are often laugh-out-loud funny.

Mostly though, I think it’s contrast. For R&J it’s, as Tom Tirney said in another blog entry, “the juxtaposition of antiquated theatrical histrionics and contemporary vocabulary.” In general with this company, gestures and grimaces are overdone. Words get stretched out, sounds played with, sincere ideas intoned with wide-eyed incredulity or disbelieving sneers, absurd things uttered with huge sincerity. The familiar is made strange without completely losing its familiarity. Primarily actor-driven here, but there are many ways to create bizarre juxtapositions in a script.

 Of course contrast is a known how-to of humor, just like conciseness is a standard decree of dialogue. So is this simply a case of one rule being implemented so perfectly it trumps another?

Or maybe the thing to take away from theater that technically shouldn’t work is: if you’re going to break a rule, don’t just chip off a corner or two, smash the whole, damned thing to bits.

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by Greg Romero
posted: 2010-09-10 09:00:12

In my journey towards becoming a playwright, it is my experience with modern dance that has guided me as much as anything. 

This became clear to me when collaborating with choreographer Ray Eliot Schwarz seven years ago while creating a project called The Book of Remembrance and Forgetting, in which we created a 25-minute performance piece in collaboration with an electronic music composer (Mike Vernusky) and five really talented dancers. 

My job, as the playwright, had me writing no spoken dialogue (even though Schwarz asked me to).  I only wrote actions, images, fragments, secrets, that Schwarz and the dancers would then translate and explode into movement, giving my writing full dimensionality for the first time ever.   

The performance I witnessed of Brian Sanders’ SANCTUARY brings me back to that place of original revelation, in which these truths offer themselves to me again, even more naked this time:


1.      ** Live performance is about action


2.      ** There are very few things more majestic than the human body expressing itself to its full imaginative possibilities—witnessing the body pressed to its limits and beyond is enlarging and transformational


3.      ** There are many forms of expression that are both beyond and more expressive than words


4.     ** The creative use of space opens up worlds, over and over again, that were never here before


5.     ** Artists don’t need to be enslaved by the chains of narrative


In my own observation, these points are at the heart of what is indigenously theatrical.  And the tragedy for me is that these truths are ones that many (most?) playwrights either aren’t aware of, or choose to ignore.  And the result is that most plays I see don’t capture my imagination at all.  It makes me ask big questions about how and why this has come to be.  I am working on discovering my own answers, but in the meantime I know that I almost always feel more alive while watching dance and listening to live music than I do while watching plays.

It makes me wonder how other writers feel about their own experiences with the live event.  Are we all just pretending—creating a shadow of something that is less expressive, more obedient, than other performance forms?


A few thoughts specific to SANCTUARY:

** Upon entering the space (which is a converted warehouse with a performance area sectioned off by a long, narrow river-like trough of water bordering it and the temporary risers), there are signs posted on the first two rows of seats which read:

“Audiences seated in the front row will have best view of SANCTUARY, however may experience a momentary sprinkling of water during the performance”.

If you take in this performance (which is what I wish for you) I encourage you to sit on the front row as you will experience the joy of feeling the performance—you will become part of the communitas.

** The human body itself becomes a glorious work of art

**  Finding how best to express/capture sex is a work of art as well

In short, SANCTUARY offered me a return voyage to some important discoveries I have made but too often forget.  And it made me want to live more deeply connected to my own body, and then write a new (old?) kind of play (ritual?)—the kind of play/ritual that demands bodies, space, and offers the gift of transformation.

Or it makes me want to quit writing plays and begin dancing again.



ps: I cut and pasted from a Word.doc, so please forgive any possible formatting eyesores (perhaps the document is dancing).

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Romeo & Juliet at Plays & Players Mainstage
by Thomas Tirney
posted: 2010-09-10 08:56:14

This isn't Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet but a derivative.  An actor and actress deliver a series of spoken transcripts.  The monologues are from the cast's coterie of friends describing the play R&J.  All of this is  delivered in 19th century stentorian stage diction.  This mostly hilarious 100 minute piece from the Nature Theater of Oklahoma looks to be one of the standout productions of this year's fest. 


While a knowledge of the story helps, it isn't necessary to have read or seen Shakespeare to enjoy this show.  Conceived and directed by Pavol Liska and Kelly Copper, each recollection of the play takes the audience back to an oral tradition of storytelling but in a modern guise.  Much of the humor derives from the juxtaposition of antiquated theatrical histrionics and contemporary vocabulary; as well as the universal neurotic tendency to self-edit. 


Every re-telling reflects the individual voice but also takes the audience deeper into the familiar themes of the play itself:  young love, true love, individual will vs. society (or the family), the consequences of violence, and reconciliation.  And rather surprisingly, a few current  themes are foisted on Shakespeare that have nothing to do with the play itself:  pop culture, 9/11, and sexual obsession.       

The remaining shows are Friday 9/10 at 8PM and Saturday 9/11 at 8PM.  Keep your eye on Nature Theater of Oklahoma (based in NYC)...this play will likely be touring. 


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NPL's FREEDOM CLUB. Freedom... Freedom... Freedom..
by Bob Wuss
posted: 2010-09-10 07:56:27

As the nature of live productions becomes more demanding by the audience, the true power of collaboration keeps breeding sensations that are waiting to be discovered.

Darlings of the experimental theater scene in Philadelphia, New Paradise Laboratories , Artistic Director Whit MacLaughlin, has teamed up with Princeton’s The Riot Group lead by Artistic Director Adriano Shapin, in the creation of a dark and mystic FREEDOM CLUB. The show features 3 founding members of New Paradise and 4 members of The Riot Group, as the plot forms itself into a central aesthetic of the show. The teaser exclaims “America! You need an actor to save you”, as Wilkes Booth’s vision of revolution unfolds around the dark and depressed Lincoln. The second act mirrors tails of revolution as the actors find themselves in 2015 Virginia (post assassination of Barack Obama).

What makes this production so special is that NPL and Riot Group have found a very inspiring relationship, feeding off of Whit’s knowledge of spatial directing and Adriano’s weight of words. Over the last few years NPL has worked with college and high school students searching for an identity as founding members have dissipated to other experiences.  It’s not that FATEBOOK or PROM fell short without the founding members, on the contrary these shows truly showed the producing power of such an extraordinary company. I have had the pleasure of working on numerous NPL shows these past years and am always amazed on their ability to acknowledge that the worlds they create are governed by laws they have discovered in process.  Whit has always talked about the meteorology system that stems from creating a specific world. Space reacts to the actors like droplets of rain on a windshield. Space is created by not only what the audience see’s but what they hear and can practically taste.  FREEDOM CLUB took the traditional acting form of The Riot Group and expanded on Suzuki acting technique, as physical gesture becomes part of intensity present in the air.  The set, just a square line of white gaff tape and a movie screen acting as a cyc, seemed to always be changing as actors positioned themselves against the backdrop. Silhouettes became part of an alternate reality, governed by rules created in the rehearsal process. Each moment is filled with texture, intent, and an overwhelming visual aesthetic.

Most companies enter tech with a clear set agenda. NPL usually takes a complete different view, as tech becomes more of a workshop of discovery for everyone involved. Each moment is ripped apart and reassembled, as this becomes the perfect time to understand the connections between actors, space, and character.  All elements need to be present in order for the story to react to the mysteries of the space (world they are creating, like a dream). Tech for most companies usually goes from two 10 hour days, but in  NPL’s case months of tech workshops full of questions and of course the best answers. Over many different tech periods, each workshop yields new continents of emotion and exploration.

As Designers of theater I believe it is very important be constantly reminded that we are indeed constantly creating an alternate world. A world that breathes and grows. It has color and smell. It listens to us as we listen to it. A world can come in any shape (even a simple square) and when cared for with action and intent the world becomes alive and gains consciousness. Even though we think we have all the responsibility to nurture our Frankenstein monster, we must remember that we have a family (collaborators, audience members, friends) who are there to help shape and build our worlds. A toast to them and the bonds we make in the journey. 




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M@& Improv Comedy at the Adrienne Mainstage
by Thomas Tirney
posted: 2010-09-09 13:51:39

The immediacy of improvisation makes it difficult to critique.  A live, unscripted performance will change every single night.  In this show, comedian Matt Holmes pulls a random audience member to construct a 45-minute comedic interaction.  The show not only depends upon the intelligence and personality of the comedian but also upon the willingness of the participant to make fun and be made fun of.

Although Mr. Holmes was handicapped by a small audience--comedy works much better as the volume of laughter increases--he made a game of it with a tall, good-looking, Philly girl.  This young lady had a great attitude and played a series of personas chosen by Mr. Holmes. 

The first sketch saw them both try on horrific Mexican accents so that Mr. Holmes could take her to task for writing a crap thesis on the Chupacabra phenomenon.  This segued into a conversation where Mr. Holmes played a bitchy schoolmarm to his audience member's recalcitrant Catholic schoolgirl (who retained a penchant for channeling her inner Mexican now and then).  Then they switched to a tween-girl banter.   And on and on. 

I must say that Matt Holmes can do an excellent American tween girl.  Probably better than the real thing.

Pacing could improve a bit but it was fun and I will undoubtedly look for more of Holmes's stuff in the future.  M@& is only one of seven shows sponsored by the Philly Improv Theater (PHIT) this year at the Fringe.   As explained to me before curtain, PHIT is the only long-form improv troupe in Philadelphia.  Founded in 2005, the organization is influenced by Chicago's Second City and New York's Upright Citizens Brigade.     PHIT has a weeklong residency at The Shubin Theatre each month and offers classes year round.

M@& plays Sep 8 at 10PM, Sep 11 at 7PM, Sep 12 at 7PM, and Sep 16 at 8:30PM.  Other PHIT shows include King Friday, Activity Book, Fletcher, PHIT's Improv Tasting, PHIT's Side of Sketch, and The Improvised Soap Opera.        


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7 Sins in 60 Minutes at the Adrienne's Playground
by Thomas Tirney
posted: 2010-09-09 06:49:56

The audience couldn't help but be disappointed when the director of this show stood up and declared that the entire cast had been replaced at the last minute due to sickness and conflicts.  But this is Fringe and these things happen where one's suspension of disbelief is tasked with Homeric challenges. 


The title of the production describes the well-worn conceit.  Also, each scene that depicts a sin was penned by a different female author.  Thus, the show has seven voices for the seven mortal sins of Catholic doctrine.  Lastly, each writer must use the same characters. 


To review, the sins are as follows: 


1.  Sloth

2.  Greed

3.  Lust

4.  Gluttony

5.  Anger

6.  Envy

7.  Pride  


There are four characters in the show or two couples:  Amadea and Mike, Dante and Willow.  While it was easy to follow the scenes and the sins each one explores, it was much more difficult to discern a narrative thread or understand what the artists and the director (the show was conceived by the director Melanie Sutherland of AAI Productions) wanted to say about each them. 


For instance, in the first scene, Mike's "sloth" results in his decision to become a homeless beggar after quitting his teaching job--to the apparent shock of his erstwhile girlfriend, Amadea.  He spouts a kind of street wisdom about freedom that smacks of Jainism.  The third scene describing Lust, is a black out where the Dante and Willow characters have noisy, unprotected, life-affirming sex.  The climax after the climax has Willow opining that she must be ovulating. 


Are the sins supposed to lead the characters to wisdom?  Do the characters flirt with the deadlies and overcome them through their own relationships?  Ultimately, I couldn't tell if the characters were the same or fundamentally changed as they tracked the course of the sins.  


Part of the problem may lie with a lack of understanding of what the sins are or why the church doctors promulgated them in the first place.  The Deadly Sins are so classified because they were seen as destroying life or one's ability to attain grace.  Any sin in excess had the power to send a soul to hell.  The play's characters merely flirt with the sins so we can believe at heart that they aren't bad, just wayward.  This does not save them from damnation of a kind:  indifference from the audience. 


There are some truly funny scenes in this play--greed and lust, in particular--and in the end, the writers and the director keeps things light.  One wishes for more coherence with characterization and plotting although that doesn't seem to be the point.


Remaining shows are Friday at 8:30PM, Satuday at 2:30PM, and Sunday at 5:30PM.  The venue is the Playground Theatre at the Adrienne.  Expect a moderately rehearsed reading.  Stage directions are read.   


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Welcome to the PDC Fringe Blog
by Thomas Tirney
posted: 2010-09-08 07:07:33

Welcome to the Philadelphia Dramatists Center’s Fringe blog. 


From September 3-18, Philadelphia plays host to the 14th Live Arts and Philly Fringe; which includes over 150 performances of (mostly) new and experimental work.  The Philadelphia Dramatists Center will be chronicling this year’s festival on these pages with entries contributed by our member writers, officers, and dramaturgs.    


It’s hard to know where to start.  By the time you read this, a number of shows will already have premiered and closed.  The sheer number of productions coupled with the extremely limited running times means that finding shows to recommend is nothing more than a trial and error process.  The 2010 festival has 17 shows participating as Live-Arts partners and roughly 150 productions in Fringe.  While there are slightly more Live-Arts shows in 2010, the number of Fringe participants tracks to a similar number from the prior year. 


Let’s begin with our own members.  This year, three of our members are self-producing at the Fringe.  There is Wally Zialcita’s Zacherle, Eric Balchunas’s Wawapalooza 4:  Damaged Goods, and Alex Drehmann’s company, Secret Room Theatre is producing a number of shorts including one of his pieces called “X”



Wawapalooza 4:  Damaged Goods--$15/tkt, remaining shows@8pm 9/9, 8pm 9/10, 6pm & 8pm 9/11



Eric Balchunas exuberantly skewers everything local in a production that features short films, live sketches, music, and artwork.   Taking satirical aim at environmentalists, mustaches, Taser victims, sex, vegans, Wawa Food Market, and sports-mad Philadelphians, this 65 minute show was dubbed "terrifically abnormal" by the City Paper.  


I saw Wawapalooza 3:  The Dark Roast last year and commend Eric's commitment to a high production values (particularly his short films) and his "I'm just an average Joe" approach to the weirdness of the tri-state area.  As Eric puts it, “I want to write a show that is like a postcard to someone who doesn’t live here.”


Each of his Wawapalooza shows is designed like an album with eleven "tracks" which average about 5 minutes each.  This year's Wawa looks like this: 


1.  Straight to DVD (stand-up)

2.  Torturing the Audience (play)

3.  A Clockwork Green (play)

4.  Suburban Scorpians (play)

5.  environMENTAL (play)

6.  The Accidental Environmentalist (short film)

7.  The Fear of Intimacy (play)

8.  Birdwatchers (play)

9.  Too Much Cheese in the Mousetrap (play)

10.  The List (short film)

12.  Shitheads (play)


The show runs to 70 minutes and is at the Society Hill Playhouse.   Wawa will sell out at the door in spite of the large theater.    



Dirty Laundry--$15/tkt, remaining shows@8pm 9/9, 6pm 9/10, 6pm & 2pm 9/12


Playwright Alex Dremann has assembled five short comedic plays, mostly from our member writers but all from Philadelphia playwrights.  This 75 minute production is taking place at the 3rd floor of Plays & Players.   Every  play runs  approximately 10-15 minutes although Alex's is 20 minutes long and the theme of each one is laundry. 


Alex's Sally Sock was featured at the Spark Festival at Plays & Players in July 2010. 


I saw it.  Funny and strange. 


The other shorts and playwrights are as follows: 


Chris Braak, Mamet: on Mamet

Katharine Clark Gray, Mr. Squeaky

Quin Eli, Running Amok

Elle McComsey, 100% Cotton    


The show's promotional material succinctly sums up the evening:  "We’ve got sock puppets, passive aggressive t-shirts, a laundromat musical, and much more in our laundry basket.  Come clean.  Leave dirty."


Word has gotten around.  While the space can seat up to 60 people, Dirty Laundry turned away twenty or so patrons on Monday.  The upstairs at Plays & Players is also a fun hangout; the adjacent room to the stage is the fully stocked bar, Quig's Pub. 



Zahcherle--$15/tkt,  7pm  9/12, 7pm 9/14, 7pm & 10pm 9/15, 10pm 9/15, 10pm 9/16, 1pm & 4pm 9/18


Wally Zialcita's Zacherle has yet to open and will premiere Upstairs at the Adrienne.   The play is inspired by Gothic  horror as well as old horror movies...though Wally says it's not a horror play.  The figure of John Zacherle was a TV host for "shock" theater and creepshows in the late 50's.  Wally calls his play an experiment in combining scripted drama and long form improv. 


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9 Plays x 9 Days = $290.00
by Thomas Tirney
posted: 2010-09-07 13:11:18


Back in May, the former Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Vaclev Havel was interviewed at the Wilma Theatre.  Here was a Communist dissident and Cold War icon; the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the Czech Republic (and the last), a key player in post-Soviet Eastern bloc reconstruction and an internationally renowned playwright talking to a packed house about his life and art. 


For free. 


For theatre lovers, does it get much better?


One quibble:  I was disappointed my friend Richard Kotulski (Wilma’s Casting Director) wouldn’t sneak me into the after party which included the representatives of the Czech mission to the UN as well as Madeline Albright.  The Czechs are famous for resisting tyranny and drinking.  And I’ve seen Madame Albright at “Janet Reno’s Dance Party” on SNL—that broad can kick it.  The fest went on until 3AM so I’m told.   


In any case, the talk was an outstanding event; the only thing I lost was time.  Subsequently, two things came to mind. 


First, I had to support the Wilma and purchase a subscription. 


Second, I wondered about the economics of seeing all the theatre there was to see.  Surely it would break the bank.  I began to study ways to mitigate the hit to the pocket book while seeing more shows.        


As theatre artists, we should all have a discount at the box office as a perquisite.  To my shock and chagrin, this is not the case.  There is no such thing as an industry rate in this town.  Which is unfortunate.  Happily, we have other resources for saving our dollars.       


Below was my itinerary for nine days in May and June 2010:  


                                     Troupe or                                   Other Expenses:

Title                              Venue          Discount   Price    Booze, M&M’s, Etc.  

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom PTC                        Rush             $25        $15 for wine, M&M’s

516                                         Studio5                 PDC*             $15        $  3 for M&M’s

Leaving                                   Wilma                  None             $40        $12 for beer and M&M’s  

The Screwtape Letters         Lantern                 None             $20         $  0, brought my own M&M’s

Nightshift (reading)             Time                      N/A               Free        $21 for absinthe

Sunday Park George            Arden                    PDC*             $15        $  3 for Peanut M&M’s

The Gravedigger                   B. Someday          None             $12        $  0

Black Pearl Sings!                Adrienne              None             $27        $  0

Carousel                                Plays&Players    Fun Guide    $15        $15 for beer, $12 parking

Improv Comedy                    The N Crowd        None             $15        $25 for wine, beer, whiskey, M&M’s


*Philadelphia Dramatists Center Theatre Tours program


Total Costs  = $290                                                                          


I wouldn’t recommend squeezing all this theater into such a short time unless you see it as a kind of cultural purgative.  It’s hard work.  But the above list proves you can definitely see as much theater as you want in Philly even if you don’t necessarily want to see that much.  In any event, the truly useful information gleaned from my manic experiment concerned saving money.  Let me share five observations with you:  


1.        Use the Philly Fun Guide 

This ought to be your first stop when hunting for tickets and shows:  www.phillyfunguide.com.    The best way to find theatre discounts is to sign up for Funsavers which is half-price ticketing via email.  Every Thursday, an email goes out to subscribers regarding up to 35 arts events offered at 50% off the regular admission price.  Not all of it is theatre—Funsavers also includes music, museums, lectures and other cultural events. 


According to Anthony Tanzi, the Electronic Marketing Assistant at the website, the majority of theatre companies in Philadelphia participate in Funsavers.


2.        Join the Philadelphia Dramatists Center or the Theatre Alliance… or Both

The PDC’s Theatre Tours program has arranged for participants to see 4 different shows this coming Fall season for $14 each.  This year’s schedule includes Macbeth at the Wilma Theatre, The Early Bird at Inis Nua, That Pretty Pretty at Theatre Exile, and Run Mourner Run at Flashpoint.  More information here:  http://www.pdc1.org/page.php?p=12


Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia also has a membership discount program to thirteen participating theatres in town:  http://www.theatrealliance.org/member-discounts


Individual memberships to the PDC and the Theatre Alliance are $55 and $50, respectively.     


3.       Buy a Subscription to a Theatre You Like 

When you subscribe to a season with one theatre company, you receive discounted tickets anywhere from 25%-50% the listed price.  The discounts are higher if you are a senior citizen, student, or educator.  In any case, the percentages vary from venue to venue.  For instance, the Wilma Theatre offers seven different kinds of subscriptions and each one of these subscriptions has between two and four discount schedules.  The Arden has a combination of 27 subscriber packages as well as a similar number of discount schedules.  If you care about your cash, it helps to pay attention to the myriad  subscription levels and the ticket policies.  Believe me, theatres do accommodate the audience with respect to prices and choices. 


4.       Go at the Last Minute 

If your schedule permits, taking advantage of rush tickets before a show could mean up to 50% off the box office price.  It’s hard to obtain statistics on this, but in my observations, few shows at any Philadelphia theatre sell out on weekdays and for Sunday matinees.  These are exactly the times when you want to inquire about rush tickets.  Rush tickets are generally available for purchase 30 minutes prior to curtain.  You have to be present at the theatre and buy them in person at the box office and many theatres only make them available in limited quantities.    


5.       Enroll in a Class

Student ticket pricing is by far the best way to keep your expenses low at the box office.  Unfortunately, I’m not a student anymore but I plan on becoming one very soon.  Student price levels are often 35%-60% off the listed ticket price.  Furthermore, as a student you can score rush tickets that go for 80% off the list price!


If all else fails you can ask for an industry discount and the box office may take pity on you. 


But I wouldn’t bank on it.    


As a theatre artist (and PDC Board Chair) I don’t see it as my job to promote local theatre.  That may be a by-product of what I do, but it isn’t my goal.  My objective is to see more of you have your names attached to the productions I’m seeing. 


And so, on your way to a fully-staged production, you ought to be patronizing the theater. 




It’s R&D for your creative P&L.  You can’t know what is going on among your contemporaries without seeing or hearing writing in 3-D.  It inspires, enhances, and hones your writing.  Live theatre serves as a feedback mechanism for your own ideas on stage.  Aside from filling up blank pages with ink (and then cutting it down to a pointy point), what else will keep you sharp?


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Paula Diehl said on 2010-09-21:

Since I live at least 45 minutes from the city, this is the kind of information I like to have stored in my mind for future reference, especially since some good venues in music and drama do not include the cost of a ticket or the means to get that information. I'd like to add that the writing style almost demanded that I read the blog. Perhaps some one will also post the reason I had to ". . . Verify the Text . . . ' It seems to be an important concern to some of the drama groups.


Robin Rodriguez said on 2010-09-10:

I would add signing up for TAGP’s (The Theater Alliance of Greater Philadelphia) free email listserve. You’ll receive, among other mostly-theater things, information about industry nights and specific-show discounts. Choosing the Daily Digest can lessen the many emails. Subscribe at theatrealliance-subscribe@yahoogroups.com


And for the math impaired, Tom actually saw 9 plays plus 1 reading, so 10 total, with the theater cost at $184. The $106 spent on food/alcohol is obviously optional.



Payment For Playwrights
by Walter Vail
posted: 2010-07-11 05:43:25

There's no doubt in my mind that anyone who writes a producible script for the stage deserves to be paid something, when that script is chosen for production by a theatre company.  The playwright deserves to be paid as much as any theatre personnel, be it actor, director, or technician.  However, my mind is the mind of a playwright--that's what I am now, although in the past, I have been an actor,  director, and a theatre technician.  But let's think about this: In today's  theatre, at all levels, a mindset has developed that doesn't believe that the playwright deserves to be paid.  Is that because of "play development?"  Is the new, unproven playwright seen as one who must be trained by people of the theatre?  It's true in many cases, not true in others--and I think the reason might be that no one, in or out of the  theatre, can read a script and predict whether or not it will work onstage.  It might be the powerful, funny thing one thinks it is, or it might not. 

Think  about casting actors.  If one doesn't know the work of an actor, having never seen it, the actor is also an unknown quantity--but seeing the actor audition often gives the director or producer a feeling that the actor should be hired, cast, and paid--even when the theatre company is small and can afford only a token payment.  The actor who is cast will spend three weeks rehearsing, and a week or more performing, so just in terms of time, that worker deserves payment.  (The playwright has also spent much time working on the script, but the playwright chose to do that on his own.)  The actor also has a resume', containing training and theatre experience; the beginning playwright has one, too--with training and previous readings, etc.--but is not represented by any audition process--unless the theatre company has staged a reading and an interview.  So actors, technicians, and directors tend to be seen as deserving to be paid, but playwrights--well, they are in a different category.

Is it a matter of supply and demand?  Today there are many, many persons writing plays, whether trained to do so or not.  There are many, many scripts floating around in space from theatre to theatre--and there are many less production slots for these scripts to fill.  So the beginning playwright is certainly lucky to find a production--is that why a theatre company feels that the playwright doesn't need to be paid?  Does the company feel that the beginning playwright is being given experience as pay?  That certainly could be true--the experience can be valuable, if the experience is a good one.  It could also be destructive of a playwrights reputation, if the experience is a bad one.

Of course, many theatre companies work with the playwright on the basis of a written contract--today, usually a contract that offers payment, but demands payment back on future productions.  Having chosen a script expected to be  successful, a production is seen as adding value to the script--although if the play fails for any reason, (Bad acting, bad staging, bad directing?)  the production might detract value from the script--the process is like giving payment with one hand, and taking it away with the other.

Then, too, there's the business of maing the playwright an employee of the theatre company--so that the whole effort is "collaborative," and the playwright "works with actors and director to create the script."  This, of course, makes the playwright no longer an independent entrepreneur, no longer a writer who owns the copyright of the play, but a writer "for hire."  And the copyright law says that writing "for hire" makes the script the property of the person or entity who "hires."  This is the Hollywood model, and it results in a loss of ownership for playwrights for which we fought desperately in the past.  Go back into the history of American Theatre, and discover how plays were sold outright for a pittance.

So, what do you think?  If a beginning playwright writes a good, producible playscript that is chosen for production, should the playwright be paid a royalty on par with payment to theatre personnel?  Even without a contract?  Please, whatever you think, tell us why you think so!  Walt Vail

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Felicia Rivers said on 2010-07-12:

In this capitalistic society, we must all understand that all products have a price. Those who buy will pursue the lowest price, and those who produce, the highest. If we, as playwrights, allow theaters and producers to float the argument that we should provide our work for free or at a lower cost or against future earnings because we lack a track record or our work is unproven (specious arguments to be sure) we certainly cannot blame the producers. They are doing their job. The question is: how do we do ours? How do we gain satisfactory compensation for our work when we are the seller and have fewer resources (and less clout)than the buyer?


One playwright - especially the neophyte mentioned in your post - has little leverage. But an organization of playwrights like PDC or the Dramatists Guild of America has a great deal more. Recently, the DG persuaded the NY Musical Theater Festival to stop seeking subsidiary rights (only one problem in that contract, but one foot in front of the other). The DG also provides sample contracts and advocates for playwrights. It is in our best interest to support the organizations (power in numbers, etc.).


We also must decide what we want. Do we find writing for a pittance a romantic circumstance of theater? Unlike screenwriters who sign away their work and earn more, we retain our rights and earn much, much less (and even less when we sign away future earnings). Are we OK with that? If not, what to do about it?


One thing is certain: we must look out for ourselves and each other. Those who buy our work will seek the smallest outlay and largest income possible. That is their job. No matter how supportive of playwrights and new plays theaters and producers are, it is not their job to protect our interests. It is ours.



Farewell and Thanks for the Memories
by Martha Steketee
posted: 2010-06-29 17:37:17

When Wally and I first discussed in summer 2009 the possibility of working with PDC as its first Resident Dramaturg, I was intrigued.  I was a new arrival from Chicago where I had an actively engaged theatre life.  I was a production dramaturg, member of the Joseph Jefferson Award Committee, member of several professional boards, reader for several of the largest theatre literary departments (Steppenwolf, Goodman, and Northlight among them), critical writing mentor in a program at the Goodman, and occasional theatre critic and writer.  

Yeah, it was hard to leave Chicago.  And Wally was not wrong -- the experience of working with the staff and members of PDC has been challenging and rewarding.  I read and provided feedback on member plays; I conducted post show discussions; I participated as the PDC representative on the play selection committee; I obtained "ingredients" for the 2nd annual PDC "bake-off" event from two Chicago playwright pals; I dramaturged two member's plays in reading/development adventures; I blogged here as I blog elsewhere (more on that to follow); I helped structure questions, lead conversations, and write up the first four "In Conversation" interviews with Philadelphia critics; and I led conversations with six early members and leaders of PDC for the current PDC History Project.

This organization has a role in Philadelphia.  The energy that drives it is palpable and strong. 

Where there are playwrights seeking a place of support and nourishment, they will find a place like Philadelphia Dramatists Center.  I have been honored to work with you for almost a year.

I leave with my husband at the end of July for the next phase of my life, based for the first time on the island of Manhattan.  I expect to follow the development of PDC from near and far.  And I invite you, those of you who are interested, to follow my adventures on my own blog called "Urban Excavations" at http://msteketee.wordpress.com.

Thank you all for the privilege of working with you.

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Poendi said on 2015-11-14:

Just to say how pleased we are with the work that you guys did on our gderan trees both front and back.It is amazing how much light is now let into our lounge after the hedge and tree has been cut at the front and the same for the back gderan, so much lighter!The 2 guys that came along were very polite, very efficient, on time and tidied up after themselves really well, they also checked thoroughly what we wanted to have carried out before chopping anything down!a0 I had visions of me picking up leaves, twigs and branches for the next few days but they cleared everything up completely!We would definitely recommend you if we know of anyone that needs any work done and when we need any work done again we will definitely contact you.


Valdemar Zialcita said on 2010-09-04:

 I'm personally grateful for all that you did for us, Martha.  I'm excited for you for all the opportunities that lie ahead, and I wish you all the best in New York.


Richard Kotulski said on 2010-06-30:

It's been great to have you around, Martha. Thanks for all your hard work over the past year.

Break a leg in NYC!



Shakedown Project Seeks Playwright
by Bob Wuss
posted: 2010-06-24 10:32:17

 This past year a brand new West Philadelphia theater called The Shakedown Project was founded to create innovative, thought  provoking, experimental theater which blurs the disciplinary lines of entertainment, combining movement and dialogue with music, dance, and visual art.  TSP focuses on shaking off the established theatrical conventions, integrating mediums of technological entertainment with live performance and diminishing the boundaries between audience and performers.  Above all, TSP strives to bring new audiences to the theater by staging contemporary performances with appeal to an artistically confluent generation, while documenting results for the greater good of the artistic community. 

We premiered our first production in April at the Rotunda called JONATHAN. JONATHAN had dramaturgical help from PDC members Greg Romero, Wally Ziacita, and Thom Tirney. It turned out to be a great success as the show was a multi media space that focused on blurring the lines between the performer and audience, as audience was literally trapped with the main character in his own comatose mind. 

The Shakedown Project is now looking for a new adventure, which  begins with finding a playwright who may be interested in premiering a new piece or reworking an old with multi disciplinary design. Our new production has goals of continued investment in spatial design that explores how audiences react to our work, as well as live music design with live video. We hope to create a light hearted expressionist piece that allows for comedy while evoking emotions found in certain moments. 

If you are interested or now of anyone who may be please contact me at robertwuss@gmail.com 

Commission negotiable 

We have plans to open the project next spring with a workshop presentation in the winter. 


Come join the fun!

Bob Wuss

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Bob Wuss said on 2010-06-24:





Arena puts playwrights on payroll
by Jacqueline Goldfinger
posted: 2010-06-21 08:25:16

Check it out:





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"Criticism is a habit of mind, a discipline of writing, a way of life"
by Martha Steketee
posted: 2010-04-01 08:11:50

 A.O. Scott has crafted a bittersweet and reflective piece on the state of arts criticism in America, posted on the New York Times on line, and to be published Sunday in print form.  (if i read the dates and details correctly).

The piece seems to have been inspired for him by recent speaking engagements on the future of criticism, the same Variety dismissal I blogged about a week or so ago, and other "currents" in the cultural ether including the recent decision to pull the plug on the television show with film criticism, "At The Movies", originated by Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.  (Just a short aside: I do so miss Chicago.  Sigh.  There. Now I am able to continue.)  Scott and Michael Phillips have been at the helm of "At The Movies" for a time.  They recently were told that this season will be the show's last.  August 2010 will end the venerable run.

What is stunning about this New York Times piece and Scott's response is that he takes these events as a time of reflection.  Articulate reflection.  A sample:

  • "How can you do a movie justice in 60 seconds?  You can't of course -- or in 800 words of print or in a blog post -- but you can start a conversation, advance or rebut an argument, and give people who share your interest something to talk about.  And that kind of provocation, that spur to further discourse, is all criticism has ever been.  It is not a profession and does not stand or fall with any particular business model.  Criticism is a habit of mind, a discipline of writing, a way of life -- a commitment to the independent, open-ended exploration of works of art in relation to one another and the world around them.  As such, it is always apt to be misunderstood, undervalued, and at odds with itself.  Artists will complain, fans will tune out, but the arguments will never end."

I don't know about you, but this inspires me.

For the full article, see: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/04/movies/04scott.html

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Drake said on 2010-11-17:

Thank you for posting this. It's interesting to consider the critic's important role: while many artists complain about them, they do perform the important function of furthering discussion about works of art.



Important changes to how playwrights are paid
by Jacqueline Goldfinger
posted: 2010-03-29 09:21:01

Check out the NYTimes article:


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David Ian Rabey's Liberations from the Literal
by Richard Kotulski
posted: 2010-03-26 08:17:10

Thanks to Thomas Cott's week-daily email an interesting manifesto was brought to my attention. David Ian Rabey is a professor of theatre at Aberystwyth University in Wales--who is one of the foremost collaborators of the playwright Howard Barker--and Professor Rabey had this to say about his own plays and his approach to theatre...

(the article is reproduced in its entirety below... the original can be found here.)



Liberations from the Literal

by David Ian Rabey

I write plays in which the stuffed corpse of King Lear starts walking about, witches fall in love, two people in a tunnel find their emotions reflected and questioned by disembodied music, and dead lovers are revived as zombies. Plays in which the imagination, inflamed by desire and spite, is expressed through magic, so that normal relations of time and space can be leapfrogged. I write dark comic strip stories for live performance. And I'll tell you why. It's what theatre does best.

'I enjoyed that, but I didn't fully understand it' is a frequent audience response to my work, just about outnumbering the response 'I didn't enjoy that, I didn't fully understand it'. I usually say, that's all right, I don't fully understand it either: a comment that people find flippant, strange or even offensive. I don't intend it to be any of those things: I'm saying that my work (like the world) continues to interest me whilst it can still surprise me: still prove itself to be not entirely and definitively fathomed, explored, exhausted, reduced to terms other than those which belong primarily to the theatre. When it suggests that so called "real life" is a confidence trick, a pre-rewritten scenario which can't afford to acknowledge its own performative nature, a loser's pact with the devils of self limitation.

Unrealistic claims for a smallscale, old-fashioned, low attendance, ephemeral art form? Sure. But let's check who's defining the terms of "realism", and why. The problem here is in the derogatory associations which those descriptions of this artform implicitly carry. Dominant assumptions (both inside and outside theatre management and funding bodies) expect theatre to validate itself in terms other than its own: primarily, commercial terms in which the artistic experience is a consumer experience (so you buy into an experience that has been safely predetermined); or municipal terms in which a selection of shared meanings is publicly proclaimed and endorsed (so that you celebrate what you know about the present and immediate social situation).

As Aleks Sierz has pointed out, the discussion of art has been debased to the terms of invested: 'Productions are now "product", audiences "consumers" and the main cultural aim "value for money". where once subsidy was defended in terms of traditional values, it is now defended in economic terms (good for local businesses) or social terms (aids inner cities)'

Not that Sierz or I can place any more faith in the 'traditional values', the confident moral superiority of institutionalized provision, than in the confident neo-utilitarian superiority of market populism; they are both ultimately totalitarian ideologies, seeking to include and account for everything, but only on the terms which are serviceable to the perpetuation of those ideologies.

Rationalism is a key component and assumption in both of these divergent ideologies: in their different ways, they both presume that there is a way that things are, a way that things should be in order to move in harmony with this, and that all contingencies should be foreseeable, calculable and easily communicable in order to facilitate this and thereby be taken seriously. This presumption has developed into the modern demand for, and cult of, 'the accessible' in which everything can (and therefore should) be reduced to information which one need only be able to afford the technology in order to enjoy.

A digression: Note how information has passed from the status of the informative (providing us with contexts and predictions in relation to which we might seek to modify our choices of actions) to the enjoyable (an option into which one buys, a provision of gratification through deferment of sustained choice, a mesmerized window-shopping through possibilities of selection rather than of action. Whilst maverick interventions in the provision are fortunately possible, the overwhelming goal of the system is towards predetermination through neo-accesibbility). Rather than a democratic accessibility (as for example one might ideally hope to enjoy regarding the nuances of creation, interpretation and implementation of law but never does), the fetishistic insistence on information reflects the truly decadent elephantiasis of much modern scrutiny through bureaucracy, the ubiquitous "rendering accountable", maintenance of an identifiable terminology which permits economic and expressive control by insisting that the individual be answerable to externally imposed, rather than personally developed, terms.

Theatre, on the other hand, is all about action, and the essential human freedom of playing with terms. It defies predetermination by making present what isn't there, and dissolving the boundaries of conventional, habitual, literal perception (and thereby possibility). It creates manifestations which have an appealing and troubling immediacy, through the very particular physical presences of the performers, which can upset or transform what things usually 'stand for'. For example, if a performer strips naked as part of a theatre performance, s/he is demonstrating an intimate commitment to the possibilities of power of that particular moment in that particular performance space in that particular town with this particular audience: a commitment which calls into question all notions of what s/he and the audience might have invested in this occasion of performance, and, by implication, in other situations of their lives (for one thing, it demonstrates wider senses of the the notion of 'investment' than financial logic will allow). The witnessing of the specific occasion of the actor's imaginative and physical risk, offered to you and your strangely semi-anonymous neighbours in the specific location of this place on this day, is a matter of presence arid action on terms which no prerecorded and projected cinematic images or broadcast televisual signals can compete. The final solution to the problem of theatre is to assess it on terms of cinematic closure and televisual neo-realism, and to dismiss it as incomprehensible when it chooses not to justify itself through reference to either: not to reduce itself to the manageable. When critics, directors, and cultural legislators insist that things be made "more accessible" (or "less difficult") for audiences. They are almost invariably appealing to aesthetic (and therefore political) terms and signifiers which would accommodate (reduce) the theatrical experience to mediation by generic associations which reflect those of film, television or both. Theatre is a site not of information but of transformation. As I have written elsewhere on the plays of Greg Cullen:

The magical, or spiritual, realism of drama lies in its demonstration that anything can happen that the imagination permits Marlovve's Dr Faustus is a good example, in the ways it harnesses the energies of the medieval and Elizabethan popular theatrical forms, and imbues them with a spirit of enquiry which problematizes the absolutes of its age. Marlowe's play invites its audience to consider the possibility and appeal of limitless power, and then to dissociate themselves from Faustus because of the limitations and fundamental mediocrity of his ultimately conventional imagination. For in the theatre, imagination becomes the medium of magic, to manifest the invisible and to realize the impossible, as by depicting God; to demonstrate the simultaneity to alternatives, as when the Good and Bad Angels speak; and to explore the entirety of a person, such as Faustus, on-stage, not only in his physical presence, but in his imaginative life and significant past, challenging and rewriting the habitual effects of time. Marlowe permits the audience to enjoy such imaginative range, that any fixed position of orthodoxy is revealed as the limitation of possibility which it fundamentally is.

I would assert that any theatre dramatist worth the name follows Marlowe's example, to distinguish theatre from its more literal sibling media. For, whilst it is certainly possible to depict deities and angels and create magical effects on films and television, these depictions and creations amount to demonstrations of a physical and temporal non-immediacy the shooting can be stopped, restarted with an ingredient relocated, then played through in a fictional continuity, sometimes demonstrating a financial and technological extravagance in the process whereas the theatre has to create its magic in an imminent and continuous present, often with startlingly nonliteral directness (I exclude the technological exhibitionism of megamusicals which subscribe to a fundamentally cinematic ethos of predeterminism dwarfing their audience with their literal extravagance). I would also have to acknowledge that theatre has frequently played into the hands of certain critics, directors, cultural legislators and other careerists by seeking to curry favour and make itself predigestible on these external terms. Sierz suggests 'perhaps what's needed is a new myth about theatre which avoids the cretinism of value for money as well as the outmoded classical values of high culture... If we are to get out of the malaise which emphasizes the discourse of decline, the culture of complaint and chronic victimhood, perhaps a new myth needs to be created. After all, creating myths is what the arts are good at' . Ed Thomas has valuably attempted to demonstrate this, and been patronizingly criticized for 'self indulgence' and 'whimsicality' and more directly, for ambition, ambiguity and faith in language by London critics reviewing his recent play Gas Station Angel, which artfully deployed the imagery of the supernatural. Another Welsh dramatist, Simon Harris, has presented his view and experience of the supposed "problem" which is ascribed to emergent writers in Wales: emphasis on the aesthetics of language and character rather than action:

This seems to me to be out of touch and old-fashioned. In one sense, language is action. It is, among other things, the arena wherein power is contended, reverberating between the characters involved and affecting their physical environment. But it is also... a space where a culture of defeat can transform itself into one of self-assertion ... Writers, like myself, wishing to speculate on a fragile sense of identity at the end of the twentieth century find a ready audience in this generation, who are all too aware of the provisional and fluid nature of their experience In life, as in storytelling, there are no givens or universals, nor should there be. All that matters is what works. Sadly, the modern market-driven obsession with presentation and packaging neatness and tidiness has spilled over from America into the arts here, mitigating against distinctiveness and the unorthodox, in favour of other forms of baked goods.

Fortunately for the art form, there seem to be a number of indications that theatre writers are less willing to restrict the terms of their stylistic invention to the Procrustean bed of traditional criteria by which critics, directors and cultural legislators continue to assess them. Unfortunately for the writers, the boldness of their imagination may lead to their being marginalized, dismissed or neglected for being too unruly in their demands (as is the dramatist Gregory Motton). Nevertheless, there might be a confidence, awakening out of creative impatience, that dramatists not just critics, directors and cultural legislators can and should make their own demands . Theatre is a demanding art, for all involved in it. But it is not legislative. A number of critics and audiences persist in the presumption that theatre should "reflect life" depict it in readily recognizable terms ("readily recognizable" usually meaning upper middle-class, white, heterosexual, careerist) and proceed to some rational diagnosis of social contradiction (as in Ibsen) or else affirm the poignancy of inevitable decline of aspiration and inevitable waste of passion's possibilities (as in Chekhov). It's worth pointing out that these formulaic presumptions do Ibsen a disservice, as he was also the author of the wild, supernatural, associatively freewheeling and remorselessly unsentimental anatomy of the modern soul that is Peer Gynt, a marvelously unruly modern myth which Michael Billington conveniently forgets when he regularly yearns for a more 'Ibsenite' British theatre. Theatre is not instruction how to live, because if it were its presumption of a moral infancy in its audience would be offensively authoritarian. Theatre is speculation on possibilities of life, and should therefore be amoral in its explorations, which are ultimately fictional, never purporting or obeying realism: it provides the imaginative space in which such investigations can occur, in order to interrogate and refresh habitual perceptions and conventional assumptions. The laws of gravity need not apply. By analogy, neither need the depressive solemnities nor the dismissive flippancies of "real life".

Beyond Peer Gynt, there are many further examples of the sort of harrowingly poetic, searchingly fantastic drama to kick over the monochrome statues of literalism. I find them most of all in the work of Shakespeare. How ever, it is a sign of cultural decrepitude that this most restless of dramatists has been diminished to a distant icon of literary (rather than theatrical) culture on the one hand, and a pretext for dutiful but artless theatrical repetition and pedagogical instruction on the other. When I write plays, it is the boldness and agility of Shakespeare's work, the mixture of self-proclamation and undercutting, the temporal and geographical leaps, the gradual but ultimately ferocious momentum of the five act structure, which most license my imagination. He is too good an example not to learn from (as Graham Parker commented when compared to Van Morrison and Bob Dylan, 'If you're not influenced by genius, you're wasting your time').

Significantly, when my programme notes to my recent play The Battle of the Crows identified my own homage to Shakespeare, a newspaper reviewer evidently unfamiliar with the term presumed an assertion of equivalence, and sought to upbraid my distasteful lack of intimidation (as 'pretentious'). Evidently I shall have to go further and identify myself, humbly but with technical accuracy in terms of my formal models, as something of a Shakespearean dramatist, just for the hell of it. And hope that many more emerge, soon. Alexander Leggatt has noted how Renaissance drama explores 'a world in which old, shared values are collapsing and yet the individual, however compelling he may be, cannot quite emerge as the final reality' and often features 'The solitary hero, poised between excitement and absurdity, who insists on defining the universe in his own terms' . This seems to catch the flavour of our own times, and of significant appropriate responses to them.

Leggatt's words lead me to the other consciously formative influence on my work, which similarly leads me beyond the ideological presumptions of both "high" and "low culture", traditional values and market populism: the existential deconstruction and defiant reconstruction of the modern of which can be discovered in the best work in the field of graphic novels, or, if you prefer, comics: particularly, the work of Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Bryan Talbot and (the most self-consciously Shakespearean) Neil Gaiman. I have written before on how these artists' 'responses to imminent social catastrophe' involve deliberately disturbing reworkings of familiar generic motifs and conventional moral categories, in narratives in which renegade protagonists place themselves, through their actions, beyond normality or ideology.

In overt defiance of the trivialising effect of media reportage, the mature comic book's world of 'the conceivable made concrete and the casually miraculous' (Alan Moore) demonstrates salutary imaginative nerve in depicting characters who are compulsive in their essential moral ambivalence, permanently surprising in their painful contradictions, with the effect of erasing the expected overview of a prescribed, preformulated response'. The best of the comic genre from Denny O'Neil's Green Lantern/Green Arrow ' (the Look Back in Anger of comics) in the 1970s to Miller's The Dark Knight Returns in the 80's and Caiman's Sandman in the 90s depict characters shot through by both crippling self consciousness and spectacular defiance, burdened with power but rejecting obedience, strategizing their pain through their willful construction of a superself which simultaneously enhances their capabilities whilst compounding their isolation. I have always found such riven, dialogic selves profoundly moving and intrinsically theatrical. More sophisticated commentators may be embarrassed by such essentially illegitimate energies and prefer to dismiss my work as 'theatrical comic books'; I don't plan to let it stop me. By way of summarizing much of the above, to the contemporary dramatist who has been a major influence on Thomas, Harris and myself, Howard Barker, and the near conclusion of his dramatic poem, Don't Exaggerate:

Art brings chaos into order
The actor must destroy
The writer must demolish
All previously held notions of performance
All previously held notions of reality
All clamour for comfort
The accusation of the cultivated philistine
That the work gave them nothing
It is like love you have to want

A miasma of critics, directors and cultural legislators who only want their own prejudices confirmed might give rise to an audience with similarly repressive restricted appetites. Thankfully, that hasn't yet happened, entirely. I recently heard a comment from an audience member after one of my plays. She said the performance 'released her from literalism'. That'll do, for today.

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Roger Ebert, Variety, and a Four-Letter Word
by Martha Steketee
posted: 2010-03-09 15:06:34

Theatre and film criticism is much on my mind today.  I've been mulling news of layoffs of major reviewers at major papers and news outlets, and PDC's own "In Conversation" series and its current focus on some of the city's theatre critics.  I recently transcribed several of the wonderful conversations Tom and I held several months ago, so my sense of the articulate and intelligent set of critical voices Philly's theatre arts community has been refreshed.  What makes them tick, where they came from, why they love criticism, why they love theatre.  Why they do what they do.

So news of recent layoffs at Variety and elsewhere that hit the blogosphere today led me, through clickable links, to some thoughts that seem worth sharing.  These thoughts offer some insight perahps on why the trained critical mind is important, and what we all gain from the products of that mind.

Robert Ebert in his blog from some time ago wrote a post "Critic is a four-letter word" (September 18, 2008).  These words were directed at movie criticism, yet apply to all arts criticism in my mind.  [for full blog entry see: http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2008/09/critic_is_a_fourletter_word.html]

  • "I believe a good critic is a teacher.  He doesn't have the answers, but he can be an example of the process of finding your own answers.  H can notice things, explain them, place them in any number of contexts, ponder why some "work" and others never could.  He can urge you toward older movies to expand your context for newer ones.  He can examine how movies touch upon individual lives, and can be healing, or damaging.  He can defend them, and regard them as important in the face of those who are "jsut looking for a good time."  He can argue that you will have a better time at a better movie.  We are all allotted an unknown but finite number of hours of consciousness.  Maybe a critic can help you spend them more meaningfully."

Ebert in his March 9, 2010 blog post ("Variety: This thumb's for you") offered his thoughts on the firing of Variety's chief film critic Todd McCarthy and chief theatre critic David Rooney. [for full blog entry see: http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2010/03/variety_this_thumbs_for_you.html]  Ebert's discussion is personal (he has known the film critic McCarthy for many years) and professional and reflects on the state of the profession.

  • "Todd McCarthy is not a man Variety should have lightly dismissed.  He is the longest-serving and best-known member of the paper's staff, and if they made such a drastic decision, we are invited to wonder if Variety itself will long survive."  He goes on, "Variety used to cover everything. ... Well, those days are over with.  The glory days of the famous Variety critics are finished.... About Todd McCarthy I am not very worried.  He's one of a kind.  I can think of no better candidate as the director of a major film festival.  Or as a professor, or of course as a film critic.  What I lament is the carelessness with which his 31 years of dedication were discarded.  Oh, the paper cites its reasons.  'It's economic reality,' Variety President Neil Stiles said of the move.  Some 'downsizing' is necessary cost-cutting.  Some symbolizes the abandonment of a mission.  If Variety no longer requires its chief film critic, it no longer requires me as a reader."

Arts criticism is in a quandary and if nothing else it will serve this current transformation for all of us to watch carefully, ask many questions, and vote with our subscription dollars.  I have not yet dropped a print subscription based on staffing decisions but this too may come.


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Jaimie said on 2010-10-22:

The critic's role as a teacher is an interesting topic. Critics provide a refreshing sense of objectivity and can question films or plays without considering the feelings of those involved or how much work went into a project. The film industry may be feeling the economic squeeze (see this article at http://news.cnet.com/8301-31001_3-10378654-261.html), but as more cuts are made, including the fate of critics, the art form will continue to decline in quality.



Call for actors
by Aaron Van Gossen
posted: 2010-03-07 13:34:23

Hello all-

I'm not sure where to post this so hopefully someone can help me out. I'm writing a play for my thesis project at St. Joseph's University. I would like to do a staged reading as the completion of my project and I need actors. I will need 4 men and 2 women. 3 of the men and 1 of the women in their early to mid 30's, 1 woman in her late 20's and 1 man in his 60's. I can't promise pay but I will feed you during rehearsal. On that note I need people who can commit to at least one rehearsal in late April and the reading will be in early May, dates TBD.

Anyone who's interested or knows someone who might be interested please e-mail me at visigoth71@hotmail.com

Thanks so much.

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Richard Kotulski said on 2010-03-07:


This would have gone out as an email notification to a large portion of the PDC Email Club--anybody who is signed up to receive notices of new blog posts...

In the future, however, you should probably use the Email Club directly to send this out since there's a list specificially of actors who are interested in working with PDC playwrights. From the Member area click on Communicate and then click on Send PDCmail. From there you can choose which Email Club list you want to send the info to--including the actor list.

Break a leg!



“Serendipitous Acts of Fate and Community”: A report of an event, a publication, a state of the state, and a call to action.
by Martha Steketee
posted: 2010-03-01 09:22:52

On Tuesday, February 16, 2010, in the historic Plays & Players main stage theatre space, the Philadelphia New Play Initiative and Philadelphia playwrights and other theatre professionals welcomed Todd London, one of the authors of the December 2009 TDF publication Outrageous Fortune: The Life and Times of the New American Play.  These initial reflections are offered as a starting point for my own synthesis of this event and this report.  My own professional perspective is as a reader for several literary departments in large theatres in several American cities, and as dramaturg on productions, readings, and informal arrangements with playwrights and their new works.  My love for new work is personal and deep. From the report and the presentation I wanted truth and I wanted some hope.  And I believe I received a bit of both.

This multi-year study report has now engendered pages of press on theatre websites including those dedicated to playwrights, dramaturgs, new play development, and theatre criticism generally. Whether this initial splash of attention will yield an enduring interest, debate, analysis remains to be seen.  This snowy Philadelphia evening the themes and findings were front and center at Plays & Players. London appeared in Philadelphia as part of a multi-month whistle stop tour of similar theatre community conversations about the report. The study presents and analyzes survey and interview and focus group results/findings/themes from the perspectives of established playwrights and from the theatre institutions that produce and that don’t produce their work.  In London’s words in Philadelphia: this study on new play development “wanted to find out where the blockage was”.

I will let the report speak for itself with some quotations.  In general these comments are the words of others, the study participants, who responded to surveys and participated in interviews and group discussions.  Hopefully these snippets will lure you into reading the report as a whole.

[reflections on producing and the profession] On the trend toward packaging product with stars from movies and television:  “crack cocaine for audiences” and being like “MGM in the studio days of movies” (p. 38)

[on playwrights and income] “Play writing is a profession without an economic base.” (p. 50)

[on the “emerging playwright” label] “Emerging is a catch phrase.  I’m considered emerging because theatres didn’t fish me out of the pond.  I’ve been slowly trying to emerge and I’m drowning.” (p. 76) 

[on the need to see a play on its feet .. not a finding really an evocative statement of the playwright's need to support development ] “The thing, at the end of the day, has to be sensual and three-dimensional and dynamic.  It has to move, it has to have rhythmic quality.  I don’t know how to find that out when it’s just me and the computer.” (p. 90) 

[on production’s changing role in the evolution of a new play] “In the last 50 years of American playwriting, production has moved from the single means of new play development to its last call.” (p. 95) 

[on getting through the season planning decision making process] “Most productions come through serendipitous acts of fate and community.” (p. 107)

I purchased the book as soon as press began appearing in theater blogs and discussion lists and Facebook status updates, and have been consuming it in bits and pieces since.  When I compared notes with several folks at the Philly event, they reported the same slow wade into the work.  London noted this attribute of the report’s content and structure -- report is intended to acknowledge the dense reality, this perspective divide, these institutional barriers.  The report is intended also to agitate and to provoke conversations about the experience of new play development for theatres, for playwrights, for literary managers and artistic directors. The writing is clear and inviting – it’s the content that challenges.  It gives voice to our individual concerns and calls us out on our biases and misconceptions of process and fellow professionals.  The findings of the report can be boiled down to simple long understood lessons such as organizations (and theatre literary departments and artistic directors)  and individuals (playwrights) have different perspectives and needs. And the findings of the report can be as complex as the nature of art itself and its essential social role.

It took me a cross country plane flight to dig into this publication in earnest.  My advice is to take an hour, close off other distractions, get yourself a nice beverage of your choice, and dig in.  The findings are timely, the conversation is important, and the lessons are essential to what we all care about: the life and times of the new American play.  Jump in.


For TDF’s own press release with summary findings: http://www.tdf.org/TDF_NewsDetailsPage.aspx?id=88

For information on how to order the published report http://www.tdf.org/tdf_servicepage.aspx?id=3&%20do



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Richard Kotulski said on 2010-03-01:

I particularly liked the comment about "Emerging" playwrights...

Seriously, though, I think this book is an incredibly important thing for all the playwright members of PDC to be talking about, and especially for the leadership of PDC to be talking about.

The problems that are talked about in this book aren't just going to magically go away on their own. It's going to take serious thought and dedicated action to circumvent these problems or to find solutions.

We need to be a part of that. And we need to be devious and creative in our thinking to do it.



Call for scripts: Secret Room Theatre's Dirty Laundry
by Alex Dremann
posted: 2010-02-28 17:39:18

 Dear Philadelphia Area Playwrights-

On the heels of the wildly successful "4Play", Secret Room Theatre is looking for four more 10 minute plays to complete our 2010 Fringe show "Dirty Laundry".  Plays can be any topic, genre or style but should somehow tie in, at least loosely, with whatever "dirty laundry" might mean to you.  Musicals are encouraged!   

8-12 minutes (about 10 pages in standard play format)

Electronic submissions only (.pdf, .doc, or .rtf)
Make sure full author contact info with email, snail mail address, and phone number appear on the title page of the script.

Playwrights should currently reside in the greater Philadelphia tri-state area.
Minimal set and production requirements.
Due to sight-lines, plays that need to be staged low to the ground will have a disadvantage. 
Limit 2 submissions per playwright.

Feel free to submit plays with previous productions.



This is your opportunity to have your work showcased in the Philly Fringe Festival with a collaborative theatre group that specializes in the development of new theater in Philadelphia. "4Play" is being produced for Secret Room Theatre by John D'Alonzo (Lure, Mad Cow the Musical, 13 Lemonade Ave), Todd Holtsberry (4X4, Lure, Run Zola Run, Full Frontal), Alex Dremann (SKITSoid, 13 Lemonade Ave) and Elle McComsey (SKITSoid, Flip the Script).

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Reactions To Terry Teachout's "America's Favorite Plays"
by Thomas Tirney
posted: 2010-02-28 17:38:31

I have several reactions to Terry Teachout’s illuminating piece “America’s Favorite Plays”  (Wall Street Journal, 01/09/10).  My first is how it blasts conventional wisdom among theater cognoscenti; namely that American theaters nationwide are rather conservative in putting on new work.  Although, I hear that complaint less in Philadelphia than in other cities, the view that our theaters consistently ignore new playwrights is a notion that passes for thought among “theater people.”


Speaking as a playwright, I can only say “Huzzah!”  This really is an encouraging thing to hear and makes one think that the odds aren’t so long, after all.


Second, Teachout’s list of the 11 most-performed-plays in the last decade contains mostly quality writing which says a great deal about the intelligence and the sophistication of our general theater audience.  Americans ain’t afraid of subtle, difficult, or challenging material—they simply want it to be good.  Compared to movies and other forms of entertainment, theater cannot offer the soporific of over-the-top-special effects or a perpetual bombardment of stimuli.  The stage can only offer a story.  And if the players tell it well then isn’t it reassuring t that such a medium can still compete with movies, television, the Internet, and hand-held games?


I’m not so sanguine about other observations made from Teachout’s article.  Two items come to mind:  a) heavily produced plays have limited casts and b) the dearth of black and Latino authors in the 76 most frequently staged plays.


As Mr. Teachout writes,


 The lesson is clear: If you want to write a smart, serious play that has a halfway decent chance

of getting produced, keep the cast as small as possible.”


 One might rephrase the sentence thusly:  “…keep the cost as small as possible.”  Cast impacts cost and often in a way that precludes a production from making money or reaching break-even.  Theaters have to watch the bottom line as much as publicly traded companies.  But I wonder…how much does cast size impact a show’s profitability?  Is it the prime determinant?  Is there a cut-off and if so, what is it?  Are there ways to ameliorate this?  These questions are worthy of pursuit.  I’m sure our members would like to know.   


Lastly, one can only look at the number of minority writers in Teachout’s list with dismay.  While it bears mentioning that a full third of the 76 most frequently performed plays in the prior 10 years were penned by women, the lack of representation by black and Latino writers remains a concern.  That raises a number of questions too—most significantly…why?  And then…what can be done about it? 


For my own part, I would like to see more diversity in PDC’s membership.  I’m acutely galled that the PDC cannot attract more black authors in a city whose population is 43% African-American.  Speaking as the Center's Board Chair, there is work to do there…           


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Richard Kotulski said on 2010-02-13:

You're absolutely right when you talk about keeping costs low. Sometimes theatres that would absolutely love to do a show are prevented from producing it because the cast is too large. Paying actors is incredibly expensive. The average LORT regional theatre pays about $10,000 for each actor it hires. If your cast size is 3, that's $30,000. If you cast size is 12 then it's $120,000--and that's just the cost of paying actors. Once you factor in training all those cats for your show, the gallons of blood, and the rotating, expanding set that's required to fulfill the vision of your show and you're looking at production costs of half a million dollars. There are very few theatres out there that do not care about these costs.

This is one of the big reasons that small cast plays are so popular. The most produced show last year was Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's Boom. It was a three character play.

Food for thought....



Writing Anonymous Theatre
by Valdemar Zialcita
posted: 2010-02-28 17:22:38

Below is an overview.  Comments and suggestions are welcome, especially from the writers who had been involved this year, along with any audience members.  We aim to revise our approach to this concept, then create another brand-new play for Anonymous Theatre again next year.


As many of you know, this year was the first in which we staged an original play for Anonymous Theatre, a play written, appropriately enough, anonymously.  That is to say that the play was first drafted by a group of playwrights, each contributing a section of the play, each working with the full draft of the play up to the point where they were to pick up the story thread and continue writing, and each writing without knopwledge of the identities of their fellow writers.  Thanks to Greg Romero for suggesting that we take on this experiment, as well as to Richard Kotulski, the Godfather of AT, for seconding and encouraging the idea.

I served as the dramaturg.  Once it was agreed that we, the playwrights of PDC, would create this year's play, it was I who suggested we adopt Tennessee Williams as our model and muse.  I suggested Williams because I figured that he offered us such a distinctive voice that it would be easier for a diverse range of playwrights to adapt to that style, and thereby harmonize with each other.

It was also I who chose and approached individual playwrights to seek their contributions to the work.  Four considerations, beyond the reciprocated interest of the writers I approached, directed my recruitment efforts:

.  1) I personally enjoyed the writing of the playwright in question.

.  2) I believed the writer had sufficient knowledge of the work of Tennessee Williams that they could somehow adapt to his style and spirit.

.  3) I believed the writer would be comfortable working within the unusual boundaries and challenges of this experiment.

.  4) I wanted to recruit from both longstanding members and those who had joined PDC more recently.

The writing process actually began last winter, after the new year.  I believed that, under ideal circumstances, four months should have been enough time to create a first draft, allow time for one or two rewrites, then deliver a sufficiently polished script to a director for casting purposes, even allowing time to tweak the script after casting had been completed.  The aim was to be able to begin "rehearsal" of the play no later than June 1st, aiming for a performance date that had not yet been determined, but that could take place at any time in July.

Individual playwrights were instructed to write within a flexible envelope: around ten pages, more if they felt so inspired, fewer if that was their inclination, writing within a timeframe of about a week, longer if they needed, shorter if they could manage.  Writers were informed that they should follow the style and/or spirit of Tennessee Williams.  They were asked to contribute anywhere from one to four new characters within the section they were writing, in the interest of distributing actor entrances throughout the eventual performance.  Finally, writers were asked not to reveal their participation in AT, leaving that revelation to the end of the performance.


Now that Anonymous Theatre 2009 is behind us, I can tell you that we've learned a great deal about what to anticipate for the future.  Without going into great detail, I can cite several lessons learned.

=>  Four months proved to be a tight timeframe for creating a script this way.

=>  It was more difficult than anticipated for the writers, working within these constraints, to create a first draft that could conceivably hold together as if it was one work.

=>  Although we felt comfortable in principle with the notion that the play didn't need to be good as long as it was fun, we ultimately couldn't help worrying about the overall quality of the script.

The script went through three rewrites instead of the anticipated one or two, with the final version showing significant changes compared to the first draft.  Serious cuts were made, perfectly good lines and characters were rewritten or eliminated, and the writing process extended through the month of June almost to July.  Fortunately, this year's director, Dan Student, good-naturedly rose to the added challenge of the time crunch we placed on him.

The feedback we've received from audience members has been mostly positive, and we did raise funds that will support PDC programming in many important ways.  That said, if anyone reading this overview can offer constructive feedback, either as a comment here or in an e-mail to me or to Richard, it would be much appreciated.  Any questions are welcome as well.

Wally Zialcita

executive director, PDC

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Do I speak Shakespeare?
by Bill Hollenbach
posted: 2010-01-13 18:12:01

Do I speak Shakespeare?  That is the question?  Well, yeah, I do.  Of course, I'm one of the geeks that McWhorter assumes can decipher the bard on several fronts.  But I'm not alone.  And it doesn't matter.  The high school student who opens herself up to the sound, the feel, the experience of Hamlet, et al doesn't need to parse every word.  Indeed shouldn't try to.  Nevertheless, the language isn't nearly as impenetrable as McWhorter makes out..  Poloniius' advice to Laertes is plain enough IF we don't struggle with it from his academic "I gotta know it all" perspective.  The point about good acting and directing isn't that each word becomes immediately clear, but that the gist of the dramatic moment is felt -- intuited -- by us.  That deep penetration through the beauty of Shakepseare's language is what makes it work.  

McWhorter misses the real problem with Shakespeare.   Like the world, the bard is too much  with us.  At least ten of those plays should never see the inside of a theatre.  What is good can be brilliant.  Or very good.  Or just good.  But what is bad is very, very bad.  I assure you.  I saw a production of Pericles at the New Globe in London a couple of years ago  -- brilliantly staged, but so abysmal as a drama -- that it made one long for the fruit vendors outside the gates of the original Globe.  And the fault was Shakespeare's.  If I were John Webster, I'd have been pissed.  Isn't she Duchess of Malfi still?

Perform the good plays.  Perform them well.  We will come.  And enjoy them. 

And Richard,  which side of the coin has your image stamped on it?

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Do You Speak Shakespeare?
by Richard Kotulski
posted: 2010-01-13 12:34:25

I'm posting this for comment... I have some rather strong feelings about it, which I'll post later...




The Real Shakespearean Tragedy

It's been 400-plus years. Is it time to translate the Bard into understandable English?

By John McWhorter

It's a Thursday evening and you've gotten home early to eat a quick dinner with your spouse before driving downtown for a night of theatre. A friend has given you tickets for King Lear. Freshly showered and nicely dressed, you slip on your coats, have a nice twilight drive, park, glide into the theatre and take your seats. The lights dim, the audience quiets down, you squeeze your partner's hand, and up goes the curtain.

The actors playing the Earls of Kent and Gloucester and Gloucester's son Edmund stride on in vigorous conversation, and you savor the finery of the costumes, the rich voices of the performers, the beauty of the set. And ah, the language, the language. We churls bumble around butchering the language with our Billy and mes and hopefullys and Who did I see?s, but here at last is the language at its most sublime. We have to remember to thank Maria for the tickets.

What a difference 20 minutes can make. Lear has made his first appearance and exited, and now his three daughters are discussing him.

Goneril advises that:
The best and soundest of his time hath been but rash; then must we look to receive from his age, not alone the imperfections of long-engraffed condition, but therewithal the unruly waywardness that infirm and choleric years bring with them.

Regan replies:
Such unconstant starts are we like to have from him as this of Kent's banishment.

Goneril continues:
There is further compliment of leave-taking between France and him. Pray you, let's hit together.

Isn't it great to be here at the theatre enjoying some of the mightiest drama civilization has to offer? Yet it has been a long day. It's going to take some concentration to follow this, well, to be sure, gorgeous and profound, but, if we may, rather dense language. It seems like we get thrown little curveballs every second line. What does engraffed mean? How about therewithal? Well, forget it—the line has passed. "Starts are we like to have from him as this of Kent's banishment"? Oh, she means "starts" like shocks, with the banishment being an example, I guess. "There is further compliment of leave-taking"? What compliment? What are they all going to "hit" together? And this is only three ordinary lines. Shakespeare!

We all esteem Shakespeare, but how many of us actually dig him? In 1955,  Alfred Harbage beautifully captured the mood of most audiences at Shakespeare performances as "reverently unreceptive," "gratified that they have come, and gratified that they now may go." One is not supposed to say such things in polite company, but it is an open secret in America that frankly, for most people Shakespeare is boring. I, for one, as an avid theatre fan, will openly admit that while I have enjoyed the occasional Shakespeare performance and film, most of them have been among the dreariest, most exhausting evenings of my life.

It may be an overstatement to say that every member of a Shakespearean audience is wishing they had brought a magazine. But most of the people who truly get the same spontaneous pleasure and stimulation from Shakespeare that they would from a performance of a play by Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams or David Mamet are members of certain small subsets of the general population: people of letters (literature professors, English teachers, writers and Shakespeare buffs) and "theatre people" (actors, directors, producers, dramaturgs and playwrights). For the rest, the language of Shakespeare remains lovely in snippets, but downright tiresome as the vehicle of an evening-length presentation.

In response to this, many argue that Shakespeare's language merely requires well-honed acting technique.

While it is true that inflection and gesture can clarify some of the blurry points in a Shakespearean passage, what emphasis, flick of the head or swoop of the arm could indicate to us what Goneril's "further compliment of leave-taking" means? No amount of raised eyebrows, bell-jingling or trained pigeons could coax, for instance, "The cod-piece that will house / Before the head has any, / The head and he shall louse; / So beggars marry many" any further from the Hungarian that it is to us today, and I have graciously giggled along with many an audience in utter bafflement at such witticisms from Shakespearean Fools.

It is true that Shakespeare's comedies are in general somewhat less of a chore than the tragedies. This, however, is in spite of the language, not because of it. Because comedy lends itself to boffo physical pratfalls, outrageous costumes, funny voices and stock situations, an evening of Twelfth Night or The Comedy of Errors is usually easier on the derrière than one at Julius Caesar or Henry V. However, a great deal of the language remains equally distant to us, and even the comedies would be infinitely richer experiences if we had more than a vague understanding of what the characters were actually saying while climbing all over each other and popping out from behind doors.

The common consensus seems to be that what makes Shakespearean language so challenging is that the language is highly "literary" or "poetic," and that understanding the plays is simply a matter of putting forth a certain "effort." Shakespearean language is indeed poetry, but it is not this which bars us from more than a surface comprehension of so much of the dialogue in any Shakespearean play. Many of our best playwrights, such as Eugene O'Neill, David Mamet, Tony Kushner and August Wilson, put prose poetry in the mouths of their characters, and yet we do not leave performances of Long Day's Journey into Night, Glengarry Glen Ross or Joe Turner's Come and Gone glassy-eyed and exhausted.

Some might be uncomfortable with an implication that the most challenge that should be expected of an audience is the language of the aforementioned playwrights, since after all, Shakespeare presents us with the extra processing load of unfamiliar vocabulary and sentence structure. But stage poetry can challenge us without being as dimly meaningful as Shakespearean language so often is to us. A fine example is David Hirson's La Bête (see American Theatre, June '91), set in 17th-century France and composed entirely in elegant, overeducated verse. Two-and-a-half hours of this certainly requires a close attention which Neil Simon does not—there is a challenge to be risen to here. Yet it is utterly delightful because the effort pays off in complete comprehension.

No, froufrou words and syntax, and the artificiality of meter, are not in themselves what makes Shakespeare such an approximate experience for most of us. The problem with Shakespeare for modern audiences is that English since Shakespeare's time has changed not only in terms of a few exotic vocabulary items, but in the very meaning of thousands of basic words and in scores of fundamental sentence structures. For this reason, we are faced with a language which, while clearly recognizable as the English we speak, is different to an extent which makes partial comprehension a challenge, and anything approaching full comprehension utterly impossible for even the educated theatregoer who doesn't happen to be a trained expert in Shakespearean language.

No one today would assign their students Beowulf in Old English—it is hopelessly obvious that Old English is a different language to us. On the other hand, the English of William Congreve's comedy The Way of the World in 1700 presents us no serious challenge, and is easily enjoyable even full of food after a long day. The English of the late 1500s, on the other hand, lies at a point between Beowulf and Congreve, which presents us with a tricky question. Language change is a gradual process with no discrete boundaries—there are no trumpet fanfares or ending credits in the sky as Old English passes into Middle English, as Middle English passes into Shakespeare's English, or as Shakespeare's English passes into ours. Thus our question is: How far back on a language's timeline can we consider the language to be the one modern audiences speak? At what point do we concede that substantial comprehension across the centuries has become too much of a
 challenge to expect of anyone but specialists?

Many readers may feel I am exaggerating the difficulty of Shakespearean language. However, I respectfully submit that Shakespeare lovers of all kinds, including actors and those supposing that Shakespeare simply requires a bit of extra concentration, miss much, much more of Shakespeare's very basic meanings than they have ever suspected, far beyond the most obvious head-scratchers.

In October 1898, Mark H. Liddell's essay "Botching Shakespeare" made a similar point similar to mine—that English has changed so deeply since Shakespeare's time that today we are incapable of catching much more than the basic gist of a great deal of his writing, although the similarity of the forms of the words to ours tricks us into thinking otherwise.

Liddell took as an example Polonius's farewell to Laertes in Hamlet, which begins:
And these few precepts in thy memory
Look thou character.

 We might take this as, "And as for these few precepts in thy memory, look, you rascal you!", conveying a gruff paternal affection for Laertes. Actually, however, look used to be an interjection roughly equivalent to "see that you do it well." And character—if he isn't telling Laertes that he's full of the dickens, then what other definition of character might he mean? We might guess that this means something like "to assess the worth of" or "to evaluate." But this isn't even close—to Shakespeare, character here meant "to write"! This meaning has long fallen by the wayside, just as thousands of other English words' earlier meanings have. Thus "And these few precepts in thy memory / Look thou character" means "See that you write these things in your memory." Good acting might convey that look is an interjection, but no matter how charismatic and fine-tuned the performance, thou character is beyond comprehension to any but the two or three people who
 happen to have recently read an annotated edition of the play (and bothered to make their way through the notes).

Polonius tells his son to "Beware of entrance to a quarrel; but being in / Bear't, that the opposed may beware of thee." We assume he is saying "Avoid getting into arguments, but once you're in one, endure it." In fact, bear't meant "make sure that"—in other words, Polonius is not giving the rather oblique advice that the best thing to do in a argument is to "cope," but to make sure to do it well.

"Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgement." Turn the other cheek? No—to take a man's censure meant "to evaluate." Polonius is advising his son to view people with insight but refrain from moralizing.

"The French are of a most select and generous chief"? Another blob we have to let go by with a guess. Chief here is a fossilized remnant of sheaf, a case of arrows—which doesn't really help us unless we are told in footnotes that sheaf was used idiomatically to mean "quality" or "rank," as in "gentlemen of the best sheaf."

And finally we get to the famous line, "Neither a borrower or a lender be." Have you ever wondered why the following line is less famous—the reasons why one shouldn't borrow or lend? "For loan oft loses both itself and friend / And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry." So the reason one shouldn't borrow is because it interferes with the raising of livestock? Actually, husbandry meant "thrift" at the time. It does not anymore, because the language is always changing.

 Polonius's speech is by no means extraordinary in terms of pitfalls like these. Indeed, almost any page of Shakespeare is as far from our modern language as this one. So shouldn't one simply read a Shakespeare play beforehand in order to prepare oneself to take in the language spoken? The fact is that one cannot simply "read" this speech without constant reference to annotations. How realistic or even charitable is it to expect that anyone but specialists, theatre folk and buffs will have the patience to read more than a prescribed dose of Shakespeare under these conditions? And ultimately a play is written to be performed, not read, and certainly not deciphered. A play that cannot communicate effectively to the listener in spoken form is no longer a play, and thus no longer lives.

The tragedy of this is that the foremost writer in the English language, the most precious legacy of the English-speaking world, is little more than a symbol in our actual thinking lives, for the simple reason that we cannot understand what the man is saying. Shakespeare is not a drag because we are lazy, because we are poorly educated, or because he wrote in poetic language. Shakespeare is a drag because he wrote in a language which, as a natural consequence of the mighty eternal process of language change, 500 years later we effectively no longer speak.

Is there anything we might do about this? I submit that here as we enter the Shakespearean canon's sixth century in existence, Shakespeare begin to be performed in translations into modern English readily comprehensible to the modern spectator. Make no mistake—I do not mean the utilitarian running translations which younger students are (blissfully) often provided in textbooks. The translations ought to be richly considered, executed by artists of the highest caliber well-steeped in the language of Shakespeare's era, thus equipped to channel the Bard to the modern listener with the passion, respect and care which is his due. (Kent Richmond, a professor at California State University—Long Beach, has been quietly doing just this with his Shakespeare Translation Project.)

"But translated Shakespeare wouldn't be Shakespeare!" one might object. To which the answer is, to an extent, yes. However, we would never complain a translation of Beowulf "isn't Beowulf"—of course it isn't, in the strict sense, but we know that without translation, we would not have access to Beowulf at all.

 I predict that if theatre companies began presenting Shakespeare in elegant modern translations, a great many people would at first scorn such productions on the grounds that Shakespeare had been "cheapened" or "defiled," and that it was a symptom of the cultural backwardness of our society and our declining educational standards. However, especially if they were included in season ticket packages, audiences would begin to attend performances of Shakespeare in translation. Younger critics would gradually join the bandwagon.

Pretty soon the almighty dollar would determine the flow of events—Shakespeare in the original would play to critical huzzahs but half-empty houses, while people would be lining up around the block to see Shakespeare in English the way Russians do to see an Uncle Vanya.

Then would come the critical juncture: A whole generation would grow up having only experienced Shakespeare in the English they speak, and what a generation they would be! This generation would be the vanguard of an American public who truly loved Shakespeare, who cherished Lear and Olivia and Polonius and Falstaff and Lady Macbeth and Cassius and Richard III as living, breathing icons like Henry Higgins, Blanche DuBois, Big Daddy, George and Martha and Willy Loman, rather than as hallowed but waxen figurines like the signers of the Constitution frozen in a gloomy painting.

No longer would producers have to trick Shakespeare up in increasingly desperate, semi-motivated changes of setting to attract audiences—A Midsummer Night's Dream in colonial Brazil, Romeo and Juliet shouted over rock music in a 90-minute MTV video, Two Gentlemen of Verona on motorcycles, Twelfth Night at a 7-Eleven. Producers do this to "make Shakespeare relevant to modern audiences," but the very assumption here that the public needs to be reminded of this relevance is telling, especially since the assumption is so sadly accurate. A more effective way to make Shakespeare relevant to us is simply to present it in the English we speak.

Indeed, the irony today is that the Russians, the French and other people in foreign countries possess Shakespeare to a much greater extent than we do, for the simple reason that unlike us, they get to enjoy Shakespeare in the language they speak. Shakespeare is translated into rich, poetic varieties of these languages, to be sure, but since it is the rich, poetic modern varieties of the languages, the typical spectator in Paris, Moscow or Berlin can attend a production of Hamlet and enjoy a play rather than an exercise. In Japan, new editions of Shakespeare in Japanese are regularly best-sellers—utterly unimaginable here, since, like the Japanese, we prefer to experience literature in the language we speak, and a new edition of original Shakespeare no longer fits this definition. In an illuminating twist on this, one friend of mine—and a very cultured, literate one at that—has told me that the first time they truly understood more than the gist of
 what was going on in a Shakespeare play was when they saw one in French!

The glory of Shakespeare's original language is manifest. We must preserve it for posterity. However, we must not err in equating the preservation of the language with the preservation of the art. Perhaps such an equation would be the ideal—Shakespeare through the ages in his exact words. In a universe where language never changed, such an equation would be unobjectionable. In the world we live in, however, this equation is allowing blind faith to deprive the public of a monumental treasure.

We must reject the polite relationship the English-speaking public now has with Shakespeare in favor of more intimate, charged one which both the public and the plays deserve. To ask a population to rise to the challenge of taking literature to heart in a language they do not speak is as unreasonable as it is futile. The challenge we must rise to is to shed our fear of language change and give Shakespeare his due—restoration to the English-speaking world.

John McWhorter is a linguist and a senior fellow at the  Manhattan Institute. His books include Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue and Word on the Street, from which this piece is excerpted.

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Dialogue drills on Twitter
by Liam Castellan
posted: 2009-09-16 14:29:20

Hello, all.  Collaborative Artist (and past member) Liam here.  My playwriting professor when I attended Northwestern is twittering dialogue exercises.  I enjoyed her classes very much, and I thought I'd repost her Facebook note here in case you were interested in following her on Twitter or checking out her book:


"My book TALK THE TALK: A DIALOGUE WORKSHOP FOR SCRIPTWRITERS will be published next March by Michael Wiese Productions. As a promotional project for the book, I've started doing ten-line dialogue drills on twitter. Here are some examples of recent tweets:

- A vampire at the dentist. Write 10 lines.

- At a salon: a snobbish hairdresser and an anxious client. The haircut isn't going well. Write 10 lines.

- What is the strangest object in your home? Two characters discover it. Write 10 lines.

This is the "drop and give me 10" method of writing exercises. If you're a screenwriter or playwright, you can have these quick, easy dialogue drills sent at random times so that you can practice your craft anywhere any time. Tweets are broadcast under the user name takthetalk10.


Please pass this on to anyone who might enjoy the challenge of spontaneous dialogue drills. And if you want more info on the book, you can check out the web page at


It's also available for pre-order on amazon.com.


Thanks! Happy writing!

- Penny Penniston"

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What Playwrights Do Wrong
by Richard Kotulski
posted: 2009-08-27 08:32:06

I've received a few submissions from playwrights in the last couple of days that have prompted me to really want to broadcast some of the things that playwrights do wrong in the submission process.

There's a lot to cover.

First of all, always always always, ask yourself this simple question: is the work that this theatre produces like the work that I write?

If the answer is NO or I DON'T KNOW then you shouldn't submit. Look at a theatre's production history. Do you know all the plays that they've done in the last three years? If not, you should find them and read them before submitting to the theatre. If the theatre is a local theatre for you you should go and see plays at that theatre.

You should never say in your query letter, "I don't know if this play is right for you guys or not" or "I looked at what you guys do and I'm not sure if this play is right for you or not." That's essentially saying to whomever works at the theatre: I'm not going to bother to find out if this play is right for you because that would take too much of MY TIME, but I'm happy to waste your time. This is very disrespectful.

Secondly, if a theatre has a submission policy you should follow it. If you don't follow it then it's a pretty clear demonstration that you haven't done your homework and that you really don't know what you're doing. Again, this tells the theatre's literary office that you're not interested in doing any of the work yourself but you're happy to waste their time.

Thirdly, be patient. Most literary offices have to read between 300 and 600 plays per year in addition to queries. If the average length of each play is 100 pages then this is between 30,000 and 60,000 pages of material a year. This is on top of whatever else the theatre has them doing. Sometimes its grantwriting. Sometimes its casting. Somestimes it's serving as a production dramaturg. The bottom line is that these are busy people who have to do a lot or work. You should be patient and respectful.

Fourth, and this is related to patience, don't harass the literary office. Some playwrights call every couple of months to check up on whether you've read their play or not. This is maybe okay. Some playwrights call once a week. The squeaky wheel does not necessarily get the grease, sometimes it just pisses people off.

Fifth, if you really want to understand how plays get chosen to be produced then work in a literary office. Volunteer to be a reader for a local theatre. Literary Managers and Dramaturgs aren't the enemy. They've gotten into this business because they love theatre and they love working with playwrights. Walk a mile in their shoes for a bit and see if you're still willing to complain about them.

Sixth, if somebody sends you an explanation for why they don't think your play is right for the theatre DO NOT WRITE THEM BACK ACCUSING THEM OF BEING RUDE OR ARROGANT. Even if they are rude and arrogant it doesn't matter--and some literary managers are both. They have the power, you don't. If you do this and they were intending to be rude or arrogant then they're probably just going to tell you to FUCK OFF--which is what you deserve--or they're not going to respond to you at all. Or you'll go on their list of PEOPLE WHOSE CAREERS THEY WILL TRY TO RUIN AT ALL COSTS. Maybe you might even ask yourself the question, is there a reason this person is behaving this way toward me? Did I listen to suggestions 1-5 above? This may take a level of introspection you aren't comfortable with, and perhaps you should consult a mental health professional to help with that. The bottom line is don't do this.

Seventh, many plays that get produced everywhere happen because of a personal connection between the playwright and the staff of the theatre. Have you ever actually met the literary staff of the theatre you are submitting to? If not, offer to take them out for coffee. Some people will be too busy, but others will make the time and you can learn about the theatre that way and begin to grow your personal connections to the theatre.

Those are the main things. Some of these may seem totally obvious.

Maybe I'm coming across as RUDE and ARROGANT--which I am.

But listening to these simple things is going to get you more respect from the gatekeepers to production.



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Jonathan Dorf said on 2009-08-27:

This is dead on, Richard.  I'm constantly amazed by how many playwrights simply don't understand the business and hurt their own careers, either by committing many of the sins you've mentioned in your blog or by not taking advantage of opportunities to promote their work.  It's not enough enough to write a good play.

By the way, another great strategy for getting into a theatre is through a director who has worked there and already has a relationship with their artistic staff.




Casting call for "The Invisible Play"
by Alex Dremann
posted: 2009-07-31 14:54:59


Philadelphia Theatre Workshop is producing my play "The Invisible Play" this fall and auditions are coming up.  It's a romantic comedy that takes place in a publishing company and will be directed by Bill Felty.  The show is Barrymore eligible and runs from November 21st to December 13th in the Walnut Street Studio 5.  Right now auditions are scheduled for August 23 & 24.  Here's what we're looking for:

RAMONA:  Arboriculturist.  30's.  Blunt but weak.  Skinny-frumpy with stringy hair and glasses.  Wears ill-fitting unfashionable jeans and no make-up.
FRAN:  Assistant editor.  31.  Pretty but disheveled.  Not body perfect.  Annoyingly smart.
CARMEN:  Assistant editor.  Late 20's/early 30's.  Sassy, neurotic.  8 months pregnant but gives no indication she even notices the fact.
NANCY:  VP of Editorial Department.  41.  Callous but fair.  Lanky, beautiful and nattily dressed.
CASS*:  Assistant editor.  62.  Crotchety.  Never seen.
KITTY*:  Romance book author.  60's.  Loopy but serious about it.
* CASS & KITTY are played by the same actress.

COLIN:  Assistant editor.  34.  Rumpled.  Nondescript.  Never leaves his cubicle.
TIM:  Assistant editor.  26.  Extremely handsome and overconfident.
LAWRENCE:  I.T.  30's.  Voice only.  Meek and unconfident.

Here's the official casting call from Philadelphia Theatre Workshop:
We are seeking headshots and resumes for our first production of the 2009-2010 season:  "The :nv:s:ble Play".  Rehearsals begin October 18th, Opening is November 21st, Closing is December 13th.  Need 5 women (20s-60s) and 3 men (20s-30s).  PLEASE MAIL A HARD COPY of your headshot/resume to:  Philadelphia Theatre Workshop, P.O. Box 17590, Philadelphia, PA  19105.  DO NOT send your materials electronically.  Auditions will occur in late August.  We will call you for an individual audition slot before then.  Primarily seeking non-equity actors but can employ AEA actors under Special Appearance Contract.  Read more about the play and our company on this site.  Thanks for your interest in working with us.

For more info:  www.philadelphiatheatreworkshop.org

Please feel free to forward this email to your acting friends!

-Alex Dremann

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Call for 10 minute plays from Secret Room Theatre
by Alex Dremann
posted: 2009-03-23 21:15:40

 Dear Philadelphia Area Playwrights-

Secret Room Theatre is looking for two more plays to complete our fringe show "4Play".

Plays can be any topic or genre but should somehow tie in (at least loosely) with whatever "4Play" or "foreplay" might mean to you.

Up to 15 minutes (approximately 10-15 pages standard play format).

Playwrights should currently reside in the greater Philadelphia area.
Plays should not have any previous productions in the Philadelphia area.


Electronic submissions only (.pdf, .doc, or .rtf)
Make sure full author contact info with (including email and phone #) appear on the title page of the script.


This is your opportunity to have your work showcased in the Philly Fringe Festival with a collaborative group of theater professionals who specialize in the development of new theater in Philadelphia.

"4Play" is being produced for Secret Room Theatre by John D'Alonzo (Lure, Mad Cow, 13 Lemonade Ave), Todd Holtsberry (4X4, Lure, Run Zola Run, Full Frontal), Robin Rodriguez (4X4) and Alex Dremann (SKITSoid, 13 Lemonade Ave).

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Call for 10 minute plays from Secret Room Theatre
by Alex Dremann
posted: 2009-03-23 21:14:24

 Dear Philadelphia Area Playwrights-

Secret Room Theatre is looking for two more plays to complete our fringe show "4Play".

Plays can be any topic or genre but should somehow tie in (at least loosely) with whatever "4Play" or "foreplay" might mean to you.

Up to 15 minutes (approximately 10-15 pages standard play format).

Playwrights should currently reside in the greater Philadelphia area.
Plays should not have any previous productions in the Philadelphia area.


Electronic submissions only (.pdf, .doc, or .rtf)
Make sure full author contact info with (including email and phone #) appear on the title page of the script.


This is your opportunity to have your work showcased in the Philly Fringe Festival with a collaborative group of theater professionals who specialize in the development of new theater in Philadelphia.

"4Play" is being produced for Secret Room Theatre by John D'Alonzo (Lure, Mad Cow, 13 Lemonade Ave), Todd Holtsberry (4X4, Lure, Run Zola Run, Full Frontal), Robin Rodriguez (4X4) and Alex Dremann (SKITSoid, 13 Lemonade Ave).

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Make Sure Your Voice Is Heard
by Jacqueline Goldfinger
posted: 2009-03-20 08:18:10

NPI is interested in hearing what you have to say before creating classes and new programs. Complete this short three question survey by Tuesday to make sure your voice is heard. (Thanks to the ten writers who have already completed the survey!) While I know everyone is busy, if we don't show that there is an interest in classes then they won't be created. We need to let NPI know what we need, so they can support us.

Please forward your answers to the following three questions to my email account (jacquelinegoldfinger@yahoo.com). I’ll compile and forward the results to NPI to help inform their decisions.

Also, please forward this survey to local playwright friends.

(1) Which of these classes are you interested in?

A. Creating Ensemble Generated Work
B. Writing Solo Plays
C. Writing Plays Based on Newspaper/Real Life Stories
D. Writing Memoir Plays
E. Writing Adaptations
F. Text Analysis (reading and discussing plays, and why they work)
G. Writing Short Plays
H. Other: ________________

(2) How much would you pay for a class?

A. $1-$25
B. $1-$50
C. $1-$75
D. $1-$100
E. $1-$125
F. $1-$150
G. $1-$200
H. Other: ________________

(3) What's your preferred length for a class?

A. 1 day (weekend)
B. 2 days (weekend)
C. 3 days (long weekend)
D. Once a week for a month
E. Once a week for 6 weeks
F. Once a week for 8 weeks
G. Twice a week for a month
H. Twice a week for 6 weeks
I. Twice a week for 8 weeks
J. Once a month for 6 months
K. Other: ________________

Thank you for your time!



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Make Sure Your Voice Is Heard
by Jacqueline Goldfinger
posted: 2009-03-20 08:16:39

NPI is interested in hearing what you have to say before creating classes and new programs. Complete this short three question survey by Tuesday to make sure your voice is heard. (Thanks to the ten writers who have already completed the survey!) While I know everyone is busy, if we don't show that there is an interest in classes then they won't be created. We need to let NPI know what we need, so they can support us.

Please forward your answers to the following three questions to my email account (jacquelinegoldfinger@yahoo.com). I’ll compile and forward the results to NPI to help inform their decisions.

Also, please forward this survey to local playwright friends.

(1) Which of these classes are you interested in?

A. Creating Ensemble Generated Work
B. Writing Solo Plays
C. Writing Plays Based on Newspaper/Real Life Stories
D. Writing Memoir Plays
E. Writing Adaptations
F. Text Analysis (reading and discussing plays, and why they work)
G. Writing Short Plays
H. Other: ________________

(2) How much would you pay for a class?

A. $1-$25
B. $1-$50
C. $1-$75
D. $1-$100
E. $1-$125
F. $1-$150
G. $1-$200
H. Other: ________________

(3) What's your preferred length for a class?

A. 1 day (weekend)
B. 2 days (weekend)
C. 3 days (long weekend)
D. Once a week for a month
E. Once a week for 6 weeks
F. Once a week for 8 weeks
G. Twice a week for a month
H. Twice a week for 6 weeks
I. Twice a week for 8 weeks
J. Once a month for 6 months
K. Other: ________________

Thank you for your time!



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What classes do YOU want to take?
by Jacqueline Goldfinger
posted: 2009-03-17 14:36:02

Hello Fabulous Philly Playwrights!

At the New Play Initiative weekend in February we discussed the possibility of creating classes focused on specific topics.

If you're interested in classes, please forward your answers to the following three questions to my email account (jacquelinegoldfinger@yahoo.com). I’ll compile and forward the results to NPI.

(1) Which of these classes are you interested in?

A. Creating Ensemble Generated Work
B. Writing Solo Plays
C. Writing Plays Based on Newspaper/Real Life Stories
D. Writing Memoir Plays
E. Writing Adaptations
F. Text Analysis (reading and discussing plays, and why they work)
G. Writing Short Plays
H. Other: ________________

(2) How much would you pay for a class?

A. $1-$25
B. $1-$50
C. $1-$75
D. $1-$100
E. $1-$125
F. $1-$150
G. $1-$200
H. Other: ________________

(3) What's your preferred length for a class?

A. 1 day (weekend)
B. 2 days (weekend)
C. 3 days (long weekend)
D. Once a week for a month
E. Once a week for 6 weeks
F. Once a week for 8 weeks
G. Twice a week for a month
H. Twice a week for 6 weeks
I. Twice a week for 8 weeks
J. Once a month for 6 months
K. Other: ________________

Thank you for your time!



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Politics In Playwrighting
by Thomas Tirney
posted: 2009-02-19 19:27:32

I am responding to two comments made by two titans in contemporary theater.  The first was made by Eve Ensler in a Downstage Center interview conducted by the American Theater Wing in October 2006.  The second was made by Paula Vogel last weekend during a far-ranging conversation involving her work and her views.  Here are the statements:   

"I am very, very, very concerned about the state of the world; and I want people to wake up; and I want people to be informed; and I want people to take part in transforming the political landscape...if more people don't stand up and speak out and examine what people are doing, I don't think we're going to be hear much longer.  I think there is a real luxury in doing just cultural work."  --Eve Ensler

"I don't think theater is too liberal.  Somebody said there are no conservative plays but I think theater in the last 20 or 30 years has een very conservative.  Is it just me?"  --Paula Vogel

Both of these declarations pre-suppose not only a given ideology on the part of the playwright but also an imposition of that ideology onto their art.  Undoubtedly in the case of these playwrights, political expression has aided their success.  But I wonder about the utility of a decided political bent in one's art as well as the notion of ideology subordinating a theatrical narrative.

In its broadest form, politics can be indistinguishable from philosophy:  the rights of man, justice, power, war.  As one narrows the application of politics to such items as abortion, the Bush pinata, or liberalism vs. conservatism,  the evocation of politics can come across as didactic (at best) and preachy (at worst).  It's hard to believe that a wonky piece featuring health care policy as a central theme can be relevant past its debut.  Although to be fair, the world may need a serious and entertaining work about people who can't afford health insurance in America.  Maybe...  

What I am really getting at--and what bothered me about Vogel's and Ensler's comments--is this: 

1.  Why do playwrights think the audience is unfamiliar about the issues they care about or political issues in general?

2.  How does a play transcend the genre of agitprop if one of the goals of the play is to persuade? 

To be sure, I don't care what a playwright's politics are or even what the play's evident politics are.  I do care deeply about a playwright's respect for the audience and the engagement of that audience through the art.  It seems contemptuous that an audience needs to "wake up" or "stand up"--as if they're helpless, hopeless, or plain lazy.  It speaks volumes about how manifestly more informed and enlightened the artist is and how ignorant the huddling masses are in the plush theater seats.   

And Paula Vogel's assumption that a vastly liberal industry has been performing conservative stuff for decades (against their own wishes?) seems particularly inept; a misreading of her peers and an entire generation of theater.  It seems to me these highly talented and successful women are talking to themselves.  Or simply to those likeminded enough not to harsh on their views.  The voices they hear reverberating around their art are their own, amplified by the perfect acoustics of that bubble.  There is no dialogue there.

For my own part, I do love a good play.  And I find a play that just happens to have politics in it vastly superior to a play about politics. 

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Walter Vail said on 2009-02-24:

I liked what Paula said, and I felt she was referring to choices of material made by most established (regional?) theatres--they seem to choose a lot of plays that have been done many times and are familiar to audiences.  Whether these plays are political, radical, or conservative --and they seem to be some of each--they are attractive to ticket buyers.  Being established material, established by frequent production, the plays chosen become conservative choices--so Tartuffe was radical for Moliere in his day, but today Tartuffe is a conservative choice.  But maybe Moliere had a special aversion for religious hypocrites like Tartuffe.  Maybe it's all about the playwright and personal experience.  On that point--I liked what was said during the panel on development--that development wasn't so much about the play as about the playwright.  I think Paul said that--something like--"It's all  about YOU, the writer."  That's the way I heard it, anyway--I could be mis-quoting.  I believe it is all about the playwright--that the play comes from some deep well of individual experience.  If it resonates with an audience, its because they have had the same or the very similar experience.  Fugard experienced apartheid--so did his characters and his original audience.  American audiences, because of our long history of racism, also identify deeply with the South African experience--so we might call Fugard's plays political--but really, they are deeply personal on Fugard's part--so it is all about the writer.  Walt Vail


Richard Kotulski said on 2009-02-20:


Thanks for getting this conversation started. I think it's an important one.

For me the two questions that you ask are tied together in a very important way.

Playwriting, and theatre generally, is collective storytelling. It is a community experience. With theatre a group of people get together and agree to become a part of a collective story for however long it takes to tell that story.

As long as that story is compelling, as long as the characters hold my interest and I invest something in their struggle, then the playwright is doing their job. Whatever the playwright's message it must be told in this manner or it will not be effective storytelling.

There are plays out there with strong political messages. Whether or not they transcend agitprop or not depends greatly on whether or not they hold to this principle or not.

You gave the specific example of health-care policy. I can think of a play that comments on just such an issue--Margaret Edson's play Wit.

Right now The WIlma is about to produce a play called Scorched. It is the powerful story of two children trying to unravel the mystery of their mother's life. It is also a meditation on war and violence.

Do I think that an audience doesn't necessarily know there are problems with health care or war and violence? No. I think pretty much anybody who has CNN can figure out that the world is plagued by these problems. But especially in an age when the images or death and violence flood us or the problems with our societies seem too monstrous for any one of us to tackle there is something to be said for walking into a theatre and agreeing to be part of a community that listens to a story together. If that story provokes us to "wake up" and re-examine how we think about the world around us or to "stand up" and do something because we have been deeply touched by that story then the playwright has succeeded in accomplishing both of the tasks that you questioned.

After all, isn't that the reason that the Greeks began theatre? Wasn't each and every one of their plays a meditation on the politics of how we get along together as a group? Didn't Chekhov say that it was the job of theatre--not to answer the questions--but to ask them?

For me, every play that forces me to leave asking questions has succeeded and it can only do that if it is first a very good story.



Valdemar Zialcita said on 2009-02-20:

Thanks for that post, Tom.

I don't know that I would read that quote from Eve Ensler the way that you did, but I didn't hear it in its larger context.  I also read Paula Vogel's statement a bit differently, so perhaps I should simply respond directly to the questions you raise.

1. If I am speaking of "the audience" in an ideal sense of the word -- the way, for example, I might speak of "We the People" -- then I don't see any need to determine in advance to what degree that Audience is unfamiliar with the issues that move me.  My job, both as a playwright and as a citizen, is to tell and show the truth as I know it, to make my case with all due urgency and diligence, and to do so using my art in whatever uniquely wonderful way I can muster.  My job presupposes that what I need to say needs to be heard, and every time I speak out, I am being a good citizen.

2. I see plays making political points all the time.  One need not stop at Vogel's How I Learned to Drive, or Ensler's The Vagina Monologues (neither of which I would call agitprop, in any case), or the current InterAct offering, The Rant.  Political persuasion is happening on American stages everywhere, all the time, so you have many models from which to choose.  Do you have an open slot among your political muses?  F*ing fill it!  Choose Shakespeare!  Choose a good zombie play (zombies, it turns out, are political).  Choose the model that persuades you.

I do see a problem, and this is where my own feelings may converge with those of Paula Vogel, not to mention Bertolt Brecht.  For all the good, politically persuasive plays that one can find out there, are they actually making much of a difference?  If not, why not?  If not, what are we going to do about it?



Droznin Movement Workshop in New York
by Cherie Roberts
posted: 2009-01-19 12:07:16

Dear PDC Members,

I wanted to take the opportunity to let you know about the continuation of my endeavor to start a movement school based on the training I received in Moscow.  If you or anyone you know may be interested, please see the information below.  We're very excited about the development of this training method, and hope to see y'all there!


After the overwhelmingly positive response from our last workshop in November, my partner Vern and I have decided to continue the Droznin movement workshops on a regular basis – and the next one is coming up!! The next workshop will take place on February 21st and February 22nd at Ripley-Grier Studios in New York City. The cost is $65 prior to February 12th, and $75 thereafter for the two-day intensive. We require a $35 deposit when you register, and the balance by the day of the workshop. We also have a brand new website at www.drozninmovementschool.com, where you can register and pay via paypal, and also check out more information, photos, etc. To register, please fill out the registration form on the website and return it to the payment address on the form with your deposit/payment.

Please mark your calendars and make reservations now, as space is limited! We hope to see you there.

I hope you are all having a fantastic new year!


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In Response to Richard's Post
by Katharine Gray
posted: 2009-01-15 14:17:33

Hey y'all: Katie G here.  This is my first time bloggin' on the website, hooray!

I got all fired up and wrote this to the Broad Street Review in response to Richard K's recent message about the intersection of free speech and professional courtesy (not to mention creativity).  Anyone who missed the deal, here's the link:


I'd encourage everyone to communicate their own response to the BSR, even if they land on the opposite side of the issue.  But for anyone who's interested, this is what I sent 'em: 

As both a playwright and a music critic, my first thought is that if Mr. Rutter was, as Mr. Rottenberg suggests, unaware of the "in-progress" nature of this event, he simply didn't do his job. A critic is a representative of his publication, and as such is responsible for the same due diligence as any reporter. And any reporter with even a cursory understanding of the play development process should have understood that readings are NOT for review unless explicitly advertised as a ticketed concert event. I find it implausible that the evening unfolded without a single moderator uttering the words "work in progress"? But even pretending that no one, not a soul, mentioned "W.I.P.", is it not made obvious by the actors carrying their scripts in hand? By the solicitation of feedback at the conclusion? When have these conventions *not* equaled "This Isn't Done Yet"? A review suggests that what you are evaluating has been declared ready for public consumption by the creator. If I was a baker trying out a new recipe for my shop, I might well seek the opinion of a Craig LaBan or an Adam Erace-- might give them a sample from the experimental batch and ask, "What do you think?" But I would NOT expect them to turn around and write a public review of that beta-test cookie. Such a review would not only be highly unfair, but pure misrepresentation. Inviting feedback from an audience, in person, is NOT the same as asking said audience to put that feedback in an international data bank, accessible to anyone with a browser. Any critic with even modest aspirations of legitimacy should know the difference. Perhaps Mr. Rutter is just an old head who isn't quite used to this "online" jazz yet, but the instant you publish something on an unencrypted web page, it's a matter of public record. That's tantamount to publishing in newsprint with a byline, which I think is more clearly understood as a no-no for readings. Toby Zinman might have been at that reading, but I'll bet you $100 she didn't put a review in the Inquirer. Thank you for removing the post, Mr. Rottenberg. I only hope you come to understand that the crux of the issue is *NOT* simply whether or not reviewing a W.I.P. is a "pointless exercise". Rather, it is a matter of proper representation, professional courtesy and respect.

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In Response to Richard's Post
by Katharine Gray
posted: 2009-01-15 14:14:10

Hey y'all: Katie G here.  This is my first time bloggin' on the website, hooray!

I got all fired up and wrote this to the Broad Street Review in response to Richard K's recent message about the intersection of free speech and professional courtesy (not to mention creativity).  Anyone who missed the deal, here's the link:


I'd encourage everyone to communicate their own response to the BSR, even if they land on the opposite side of the issue.  But for anyone who's interested, this is what I sent 'em: 

As both a playwright and a music critic, my first thought is that if Mr. Rutter was, as Mr. Rottenberg suggests, unaware of the "in-progress" nature of this event, he simply didn't do his job. A critic is a representative of his publication, and as such is responsible for the same due diligence as any reporter. And any reporter with even a cursory understanding of the play development process should have understood that readings are NOT for review unless explicitly advertised as a ticketed concert event. I find it implausible that the evening unfolded without a single moderator uttering the words "work in progress"? But even pretending that no one, not a soul, mentioned "W.I.P.", is it not made obvious by the actors carrying their scripts in hand? By the solicitation of feedback at the conclusion? When have these conventions *not* equaled "This Isn't Done Yet"? A review suggests that what you are evaluating has been declared ready for public consumption by the creator. If I was a baker trying out a new recipe for my shop, I might well seek the opinion of a Craig LaBan or an Adam Erace-- might give them a sample from the experimental batch and ask, "What do you think?" But I would NOT expect them to turn around and write a public review of that beta-test cookie. Such a review would not only be highly unfair, but pure misrepresentation. Inviting feedback from an audience, in person, is NOT the same as asking said audience to put that feedback in an international data bank, accessible to anyone with a browser. Any critic with even modest aspirations of legitimacy should know the difference. Perhaps Mr. Rutter is just an old head who isn't quite used to this "online" jazz yet, but the instant you publish something on an unencrypted web page, it's a matter of public record. That's tantamount to publishing in newsprint with a byline, which I think is more clearly understood as a no-no for readings. Toby Zinman might have been at that reading, but I'll bet you $100 she didn't put a review in the Inquirer. Thank you for removing the post, Mr. Rottenberg. I only hope you come to understand that the crux of the issue is *NOT* simply whether or not reviewing a W.I.P. is a "pointless exercise". Rather, it is a matter of proper representation, professional courtesy and respect.

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9 principles of play writing used by Paula Diehl
by paula diehl
posted: 2009-01-09 12:43:17

At present, these principles apply to my own play writing. 

          A play must be based in reality .

          The basics of this reality are what actually happens or is said; this may not be truth as each of us understands it.

          One such reality shapes a character in his home environment.

          That reality may swallow him or deny him normal access to the world outside his home.

          Some things better left unsaid in a home reality should be made visible in the stage space.

          A reality like the one in a home will certainly exist away from  home;  this may confuse temporarily.

          A character torn between these two realities may have to deny one of them.

         Traumas originating in the home can resolve there or outside.

         A character can return in the end to a difficult home reality, one which may itself have changed; the character himself may 

         have changed.                     



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Walter Vail said on 2009-01-16:

I think there's often a hidden reality behind a playwright's choice of material.  Possibly the choice of story is what T.S. Eliot called the "objective correlative."  The challenge is to discover WHY a playwright chooses to write--I wrote HATTIE'S DRESS when I saw a newspaper story about a college boy who drowned trying to save an Amish woman from being pulled out to sea by an undertow at the New Jersey seashore--he rescued the woman, was lost in the attempt, and she died of exposure a day later.  "Greater love hath no person than to lay down life for a stranger."  That idea crossed my mind.  But in the process of writing, I discovered that I, myself was in mourning--that this terribly sad story had triggered my own emotions on an entirely different, personal matter.  My emotional state was the reality--but that is very difficult to deal with in writing directly--so, find a story that you must tell, and "show" it in a play.  I agree with Paula, of course--she's absolutely right that a reality must be the foundation of a play--the problem for me is how to discover that reality.  Walt Vail



Prinderella & the Since
by Pat McGeever
posted: 2009-01-07 13:11:55

My "Prinderella and the Since," a Spoonerized version of the old classic, will play at the Epilogue Theatre in Indianapolis this weekend and next.

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9 Assumptions about Writing Plays
by Greg Romero
posted: 2009-01-01 17:33:28

Dear PDC Colleagues,

I posted the following up on my personal blog and it's received a wonderful response from fellow artists.  I figured I'd share with you as well.  I've re-posted the information below, but feel free to view the original.

Rock on:



To end the year 2008, I'm posting an in-class assignment I gave myself and my UArts students. In response to Jose Rivera's "36 Assumptions about Writing Plays", each of us came up with nine of our own. I offer mine (and would love to know yours):

1. The play must be impossible to exist in any other form.

2. The play must make us all experience pain in some kind of satisfying, delightful, intense and memorable way.

3. It should have an elephant in it.

4. People who see it should revisit the play in their dreams.

5. If it creates anything less than a riot (internally or externally) the play is a failure.

6. Every play should risk everything.

7. It should be written free of embarrassment, but instead, a proclaiming of everything the writer is ashamed of loving deeply.

8. It is not a play if there is no death or birth.

9. The form of the play follows the content, which obeys the characters-- a chambered nautilus, ever expansive, working itself from the inside out.



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Donald Drake said on 2009-01-03:

Greg’s and Brian’s “assumptions about playwriting” are interesting checklists, but they are best used after the first draft of the play has been written  -- to see if your play is achieving all that it should. Thinking about these criteria  during the writing or worst yet, during conception, can lead to terminal writer’s block.

The checklist I use is far less specific and intimidating to me.

You must create characters the audience will care about. The audience doesn’t have to like all of them, but it can’t  be indifferent to what happens to them.
The play must be a compelling yarn that leads to a satisfying or disturbing climax. I know plays with beginnings, middles and ends are currently  out of favor,  but I am convinced that good story telling will once again be revived as it has been so many times in the past.
Ideally the play should engage the audience both emotionally and intellectually so that people leave the theater with new insight about the people and the world about them. They should leave the theater talking about the play, not bitching about the high price of tickets or the long wait to get their car.


Brian Grace-Duff said on 2009-01-01:

- What is written is only a blueprint. What is rehearsed are only materials. The actual play is built live in the audience's mind from these things.

- There is one True form to every play, discover it or walk away.

- The process is self-guided but must contain unimaginable discovery, otherwise it is only an exercise in being clever.

- Economy of language is everything.

- Style is dictated by the story, and must enfold the language used into every aspect of the script.

- Everything is a clue.

- Something dear must be sacrificed to give a script life.

- Discomfort is a sign of growth.

- Comedy cannot be planned, it can only be discovered in the moment.



In Philadelphia, Grants Nurture New Theater
by Valdemar Zialcita
posted: 2008-11-11 18:21:08

From the New York Times

Published: November 10, 2008

WHEN a local theater company asked the Independence Foundation for more operating money, the foundation’s president, Susan Sherman, responded with a provocation: “Let’s talk about what you really want to do — what are you dreaming?”

In fact, the founders of the Arden Theater Company did have a dream: to create a developmental pipeline for new work. The company had long produced world premieres but had fine-tuned them out of town, without Philadelphia artists and audiences.

Ms. Sherman changed that with $240,000 in grants over the last nine years, enabling the Independence Foundation New Play Showcase to pay for local workshops, readings and extra rehearsal time for 17 works.

The showcase “created a community around the creation of new work,” said Terrence J. Nolen, the Arden’s producing artistic director. In recent years, grants from the Independence Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts and other foundations have helped make Philadelphia increasingly receptive to new plays and emerging artists.


more at:


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Charging Bias by Theaters, Female Playwrights to Hold Meeting
by Valdemar Zialcita
posted: 2008-10-25 05:19:23

See the New York Times, 10/24/08:


"Frustrated by what they describe as difficulty in getting their work produced, enough female playwrights to make a standing-room-only crowd are planning to attend a town hall meeting on Monday night to air their grievances with representatives of New York’s leading Off Broadway and nonprofit theaters."

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Mellon Foundation Gives Millions to Help Playwrights
by Valdemar Zialcita
posted: 2008-10-21 09:40:32

See the New York Times, 10/20/08:


"[T]he Andrew W. Mellon Foundation recently awarded nearly $10 million to playwriting organizations and theaters in the hopes of getting more fresh voices before an audience. Although Mellon has regularly contributed to theaters around the country for years, the recent grants are a result of a three-year study into the particular problems new plays encounter, said Diane E. Ragsdale, the foundation’s program officer for theater and dance. It turns out that developing plays is not the problem. Producing them is."

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"the terrible girls" in Azuka's Spotlight Series
by Jacqueline Goldfinger
posted: 2008-10-10 14:29:37

Azuka Theatre is producing a staged reading of my one-act play, the terrible girls, for their Spotlight Series. It is directed by Allison Heishman and features Kristy Chouiniere, Mandy Schoonover, and Zura Young. We are using this reading as developmental tool to help expand the play into a full-length piece. We hope you'll join us and offer your thoughts.


Tuesday, October 14
Free, No RSVP Required
Plays and Players, Third Floor
1714 Delancey Street
(between Spruce and Pine and 17th and 18th)
Philadelphia, PA


the terrible girls
is a wicked dark comedy of friendship, obsession, and Southern sensibilities. Two women battle for the love of one man, while the third guards his terrible secret. “It’s a wild mix of fearless comedy and Southern Gothic horror,” says Kristina Meeks, Founder, San Diego Playwrights Collective.

It premiered at the 2007 New York International Fringe Festival:

"Three Stars." -Time Out, NY

"All the smokiness of a Southern Gothic Drama." -Backstage

"Suspenseful and provocative...a refreshing new story admirably written...What makes this play different than a mundane portrait of the modern South is its mythic quality. the terrible girls forces us to reflect on the duality of human nature and witness how deceit, desire, and obsession can lead to transgression." -NYTheatre.com


Visit me online:

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A new Board of Directors
by Valdemar Zialcita
posted: 2008-09-30 12:11:55

As was announced late on Sunday night, PDC now has a new Board of Directors.  With twenty members and collaborative artists in attendance and 18 people casting votes, the membership elected the following persons to the Board.  Congratulations!:

  • Pauline Borkon
  • Donald Drake
  • Deena Gerson
  • Brian Grace-Duff
  • Richard Kotulski
  • Greg Romero
  • Tom Tirney
  • Walt Vail

In addition to the election of a new Board, Sunday's meeting provided the members with an unplanned opportunity for longtime and new members to engage in a candid dialogue with and about each other, feeling out the differences among us as well as our common ground.  Hopefully that discussion will simply be the first of many as we move forward into an important year, one in which we will be creating, through the efforts of our Board, a Strategic Plan.

So here we are, two days out from the Annual Meeting.  Any thoughts?  Any questions?  Any grievances?  Air them here, in PDC's blog, a communications tool that may serve us better in the months to come ....


Director of PDC and Collaborative Artist

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Azuka Theatre's Kid Simple
by Richard Kotulski
posted: 2008-09-04 22:36:56

I wanted to give a strong plug for Azuka Theatre's production of Jordan Harrison's play Kid Simple.

It is an extremely imaginative play by a very talented young playwright who has just started to burst out on the national scene in the last couple of years.

Billed as "a radio play in the flesh" this play experiments with a combination of different kinds of theatrical styles in very intriguing and effective ways. Seeing it was inspiring, and I highly recommend it.

You can learn more at: www.azukatheatre.org/


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Valdemar Zialcita said on 2008-09-06:

This sounds great.  I should find a way, somehow, to see it.



Come se PDC Presents "4X4"!
by Todd Holtsberry
posted: 2008-09-03 21:01:10

Hello PDCers,

Don't forget to see "4X4"...opening this Sunday (9/7/08) at 3:30 pm!

See you there...


P.S. I know this wasn't really a "true" blog entry...

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Angel said on 2015-11-14:

I sent out a request for logs for our scohol to use as seating for a project. Andrew gave me a ring a day later to say The Tree Clinic were working in our area and could bring us some logs that day. We could even specify what size we wanted them.Andrew kindly delivered the logs to our door later that morning and they are now taking pride of place in our playground.We are very grateful to Andrew and The Tree Clinic for their amazing donation.


Valdemar Zialcita said on 2008-09-06:

Wish I could attend your opening!  But I'll catch you later in the week.



I'd like to begin a discussion on collaboration...
by Todd Holtsberry
posted: 2008-08-06 21:50:40

I'd like to begin a discussion on what we feel about collaborations in our artistic endeavors. I'd like to see postings from writers, actors, directors, producers, techies, costumers, whoever...I'd like to hear things from your perspective. I'll start...

For the last 4 years, I've been putting up shows in the Philly Fringe. For my first show, "Full Frontal Nudity!...The Best of Primary Stages", I did almost everything myself, I picked the plays, did marketing, casting, fundraising, directing, producing, co-ordinated multi-media, acted, and did a million other things. I had a tech person, she was helpful, but that was only during show time, not all of the months of stuff that lead up to the show.

By the end of the run, I was satisfied, but very exhausted. All of my actors and writers received $35. My tech person received $70, and I, as the big cheese, received $39. Hey! That made me the second highest paid person involved with the show...

The second year, I began to realize the importance of collaboration when my good friend, John D'Alonzo, approached me about an idea he had for a show. He had a notebook full of tiny notes, with repeating themes and concepts. He needed a writer to help him bring his ideas to the stage. He had spoken to Alex Dremann about writing it, I suggested that we ask another PDC writer, Bob Kangas, to meet with us to discuss coming on board to help in the writing of this show as well. We met with him, he had an interest and some great ideas and said he'd like to co-write the shwo with Alex. Thus began the collaboration of this show...John and I as co-producers and co-directors, and Bob and Alex as co-writers.

The collaboration didn't end there...as things went on, we began assembling a team of actors, a band, a choreographer, lighting and sound designers, and Deb Seif as a sort of Dramaturg.

What happened, was a really cool developmental process that included a series of public readings, with feedback from PDC writers and others, discussions and discoveries during rehearsals, and a real unfolding of the show. All of this served to help Alex and Bob in their revisions. In the end, the play, and show turned out to be things that we were all very proud of.

I believe this is how collaboration should be...

What do you think?

What about your experiences and views on collaboration?


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Walter Vail said on 2008-09-22:

Personally, I find that I have to be alone to write.  In order to show a story, I must find within me the personal connection with my characters, language, form, and meaning--without that expression of my own experience, knowledge, and emotion--without being fully involved in my writing, no play of mine will ever come to life.  Yes, I have sat in playwriting workshops, and written stuff that came out well, but during those moments of writing, I am oblivious to the people around me.  I don't have to be alone to be  alone.  Writing for me taps the depths of my being.  But collaboration begins for me when I first need to hear my written words translated into spoken language by others.  Circle or class begins to  tell me where I am and where my work is going--it helps me identify the strenghts and weaknesses of my initial expression, my early drafts.  Revision ALWAYS follows, ALWAYS.  Then a rehearsed reading, in which actors and director go at least part way into the journey I have already taken--tells me more, helps me learn more of what I am expressing--and more revision always follows.  When I feel sure of my material, then I look for the chance for a cast and director to fully explore the journey of my play.  That is collaboration for me.  There are other ways for other writers  to collaborate, of course.  To each his own.  If sitting around and talking out an idea works for some people, great--do it!  Just give me and playwrights like me credit for doing playwriting my way, and don't try to put your method on me.  They tell me comedy writers love to work in groups--and they do write some very funny and insightful stuff.  Walt Vail


Richard Wakefield Kotulski said on 2008-08-13:

In response to Pat's comment- it is certainly true that the actual movements on the stage are limited to a very small area and that this has the potential to decrease the audience's ability to focus on the piece...

So, doesn't it then become the duty of the playwright to challenge his or her self to tell a story that can be engaging to an audience in such a small space?

Isn't that sort of the point of this kind of constraint?

It would seem to me that being forced to think about the stage space differently and to fit something into this constraint would in fact force the playwright to consider aspects of production that they otherwise might not...

Food for thought...


Pat McGeever said on 2008-08-03:

Hi Todd, Best luck with 4x4 at Philly Fringe. I do have one observation about the format that occurred to me as an audience member rather than as a writer. It is that there is virtually no stage movement during a piece, and that this makes it more difficult for audience members to stay focussed on the piece. All the best, Pat


Nathan Vogel said on 2008-08-06:

Collaboration is a beautiful tool for theater. And the contention that arises when artists have different concepts of how a piece should look can be just as beautiful. With many minds crafting a project, a work emerges that surprises even the creators. Relationships, elements and contrasting themes appear that no one planned on. In any show, that's inevitable, but works that are collaborative are structured to make the most of that emergent effect. (That seems like a good metaphor for good governance, too. Structure that empowers conflict and collaboration alike to be productive.)


David Usner said on 2008-08-07:

As you may know I sit on the board of the Playwrights Foundation in San Francisco and we have run the Bay Area Playwrights Festival for 31 years. (500 scripts were submitted last year from around the country and six were chosen for the festival.) The Playwrights Foundation's purpose is to facilitate the development of playwrights. Last year we called our fundraiser 'Connecting the Dots' and this term has really been a source for me to speak about what we do. Playwrights typically write alone. The actual act is solitary. On the other end is being fully produced which has all the production elements that we have learned to expect in a performance. However there is a path or series of dots that could be in between. (I say 'could be' because a very well know playwright once said to me after I asked him about development of his Broadway play, "Development? I write and they perform it.") But ofter there is that series of dots and it requires other people... collaborators. That is what the Playwrights Foundation provides... the resource of those people (directors, dramaturges, actors, designer, etc.) American Heritage defines collaboration: "To work together, especially in a joint intellectual effort." I found the word 'intellectual' to be very telling. We are not talking about showing up to operate a screw gun or to sit quietly until told what to do as an actor or to wait in silence for your next instruction. This says that there is an intellectual stake for the collaborators. Next, I think that my most enjoyment comes from being a part of a team of people in a creative process. It is one of the things that is distinct about theater. Thanks.



Staged Reading in Center City Philadelphia Tonight
by Jacqueline Goldfinger
posted: 2008-08-03 07:51:14

 The Cardboard Box Collaborative presents a staged reading of a new Southern Gothic play, "Slip/Shot," by PDC playwright Jackie Goldfinger on Sunday, August 3, 7p.m. at the Philadelphia Ethical Society (1906 Rittenhouse Sq, Philadelphia, PA 19103). Free - No RSVP Required. Join us afterwards at The Cafe at 2011 Walnut. For more information go to: http://www.cbctheatre.org/1.html or http://www.jacquelinegoldfinger.com.

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What's up with 4X4?
by Todd Holtsberry
posted: 2008-08-02 13:36:29

So what the hell is up with 4X4 and the Philly Fringe? What's that guy Todd doing this year with his band of Merry Men (and Women)?

I'm here to tell you that things are going well. As you know, the show encompasses 4 new plays, written by 4 PDC writers, directed by 4 directors, all staged within different 4 foot by 4 foot spaces, none of them a true stage.

The writers for this are Brian-Grace Duff (The Opposite of Moths/Light Design), Greg Romero (Shovel), Robin Rodriguez (Crumbled Worlds), and Sam Toll (The Last Dance