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I dig jazz and single-malt scotch.  I write plays; I direct them too. I love STAR WARS more than is healthy. I walk my dogs every day, unless it's raining or terribly cold.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Mask Project: Making Philoktetes

Mask Project

Western theater tradition is marked by the classic Greek period of the 5th century BCE. The creative output, theatrical imagination, and social relevance of the Attic theater aesthetic have had resounding influence on the development of representational European theater. From Shakespeare to Brecht to O’Neill to Ruhl, the work of the Greeks is still with us. While a relative handful of the original plays presented at the Festival of Dionysos have survived intact, far less has been found to illuminate the exact nature of the masked performance; and when one thinks of Greek theater, one thinks of the mask. Why else does every drama club and prestigious theater award still carry the image of the mask? The mask represents the nature of ‘the thing that is and the thing that is not’ coexisting in the same form; an ambiguous relationship that still captivates the viewer and the performer alike. In the classic Greek what was the function of the masked performer and how did a performer function with a mask?

Why a mask?
When we consider the tropes of ancient masked performance we do two things: we look at current uses of masked performance, and we calculate where the use of the masked tradition originated. In the conclusion of his book on Masked Performance, John Emigh combines this forward and backward glance in this statement:

The masked actor … (works) within a “plane of similitude” to create the amalgam of self and other that may be experienced as characters. Intercultural performances—and, it seems, cultures themselves—depend on similar strategies in order to acquire their dynamic form, significance, and vitality. For me, the most successful intercultural performances of the past twenty years has been Suzuki Tadashi’s adaptation of Euripides’ The Trojan Women.

This adaptation of Euripides was set in a field in Japan shortly after the atomic bombs had fallen on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The play was performed in Japanese and used masks from the Noh tradition mixed with kabuki face styles, a powerful combination of Western and Eastern aesthetics causing Emigh to remark, “These conventions are never employed literally, but their resonance across the ‘plane of similitude’ Suzuki and his coworkers have found between Greek and Japanese performative traditions act to reshape the form and action of Euripides’ drama, transforming the Greek masks, characters, and action.” The use of the mask reemerges as re-imagined fare.

While the dominating influence of the Greek theater on modern works is evident, the origin of the form is far murkier. The roots of tragedy are believed to spring from early masked rituals devoted to the god Dionysos. Evidence to support this theory comes from the likely origin of the word “tragedy” originating from the word tragos which means goat, and odi which means song. This links tragedy to the dythyramb because some members of the celebrants dressed as satyrs, or goat-men. Other sources claim that “goat-song” derives from the awarding of a goat play as the prize for the best in the early forms of the festival.

Theatricality, the process by which a stage-presentation is rendered, begins to propagate as the 5th century aesthetic is established and codified. In the essay “The use of the body by actors in tragedy and satyr-play”, Kostas Valakas notes how the Greek dramatists refined their art by utilizing the dramatic effect of simple forms:

In both tragedy and the satyr-play the modification of the performer’s body by a simple mask and a more or less elaborate dress produces a theatrical image which is meant to evoke the anthropomorphic world of myth in an unrealistic, but not wholly unnatural, way. Mask, costume (such as a staff, a bow, or a chariot) used in relation to a specific role, the variable voice of the male actor or dancer, and the words of his role… are the differentiating elements of theatricality; they can represent the gender, mythical status, and perhaps the geographical provenance and some individual characteristics of a tragic or satiric character or chorus.

Masks and props are vehicles for understanding, much as music video artists or advertisers rely on symbolic imagery to convey immediate and (they hope) long-lasting recognition.

In an essay describing the influence of the masks on the actors and the Attic audience attending Oedipus Rex, Claude Calame describes the physical attributes of the actor encased in a mask:

(The mask) ‘shifts’ the voice and gaze of the hero, for the mouth and eyes are the two organs which correspond to the holes in the mask’s surface: they let the voice and the gaze of the actor appear to the spectators, beyond the hero he is miming. The mask creates a confrontation between the dramatic action and the public…while mediating this confrontation.

Calame points out that the intent of the mask was not to obliterate knowledge of the performer inside the mask, but to alter that perception, or as Emigh suggests in the aforementioned passage, creates an ‘amalgam’.

David Wiles takes the relationship between the audience and the masked performer a step further. In Attic tragedy of the 5th c the masks were more neutral and naturally proportioned than the stylized masks of the 4th c or exaggerated masks of Rome:

Masks covered the whole head, requiring the spectator to project emotion on to the face and imagine movement in the few simple features tht the mask rendered visible. The actor brought the mask to life through the configuration of the whole body. Later Greek theatre was able to use subtle densely coded masks because the actors stood in shadow, but in the classical period the actors in Athens stood in the circle of the orchestra with the sun behind them.

Depending on the time day, the effect of the sun’s angle could render the actors as silhouettes to some portions of the audience, leaving the understanding of the relationships of the characters to the interpretation of shapes and configurations.

In general, the classical tragic masks were neutral in expression. Richard Green, in his essay “Towards a reconstruction of performance style” explains why:

‘Proper’ Greeks and the gods they created show calm and control even in the most adverse situations, whereas aliens, the outsiders of society, exhibit their emotions. It is an aspect of the ‘classical Ideal’… We should expect that on stage the figures of serious drama also looked ‘proper’. This is surely an aspect of the decorum expected of tragedy.

A god, a king, or a hero would be rendered as ‘ideal’ as possible, and this would mean an appearance of calm or neutrality.

How were the classic masks made?
While very little evidence exists of how the masks of the 5th c were constructed , the images that do exist support the claim that they were representational and not exaggerated. Few written descriptions of 5th c theater production are known to exist, the written records come from later Roman sources who were primarily writing about their current theatrical forms and relying on supposition to remark on classic Greek production values. No masks have survived because they were made from lightweight materials like canvas, cork, leather, or carved wood.

To understand the classical masked performer we rely on painted pottery from the same era depicting actors in performance and in relationship to their masks. Richard Green elaborates on some of the frustration scholars have had in discerning what is theatrical style and what is artist rendering:

All too few pictures survive of classical Greek actors acting tragedy. There are good reasons for this, the principal of which is the convention that vase-painters…were governed by the sense of story conveyed by the performance. Thus what is usually depicted on vases is not the process of performance but what the audience was persuaded to see, as it were the ‘real’ Agamemnon of Greek myth—history rather than the actor playing the role.

While this is frustrating for scholars, it does reveal the realistic effect the masked-performance had on its audience. Had the play been perceived as stilted by the presence of the mask, then I believe the masks would be prevalent on the renderings.

The masks were made by assistants working for the director, and were also responsible for the other aspects of costuming. The masks themselves were made from glued rags, and covered with hair either made from human sources, animal sources, or possibly tow. There are a number of marble mask heads that still survive, although not all are the correct size for matching a mask to an adult. A mask made of linen or cloth could be moulded around the marble form in a process like creating papier-mache objects. In this way a series of masks could be created and either be adorned similarly or with varying hair and coloration.

Why this mask?

The mask presented as part of this project portrays Philoktetes, the lame hero at the center of the 5th century tragedy by Sophocles. Produced in 409 BCE, the play was the second-to-last work by the aged playwright, and the last of his work that he would see staged before his death in 406 BCE. It presents the title character Philoktetes as a man who has been alone on an island for nine years, abandoned by Odysseus as the Achaeans made their way to Troy after he had been wounded by a serpent.

I have attempted to render the mask in a neutral style as befits a hero in tragedy. Originally I attempted an experiment with stiffening linen with glue. I formed the wet-glue cloth over a plastic mask of a human face. It proved impossible to get the wet cloth to remain on top of the form. I imagine what would be needed to mould linen in this way is not just the initial face form, but an indented form that could be placed over the linen to hold it in place while it dried. Another issue with the linen experiment was the way the material folds. I imagine that the linen would have to be cut in such a way that it would dry as a smooth surface, rather than one that buckles and wrinkles as the linen accommodates the shape of the nose and brow. I did manage to get a ghostly image of a face, but it looks like a face pressing itself up against a sheet. It did not render a suitable representation of a face.

To make this mask I used techniques I learned from Dan Potter, founder and director of the Mystic Paper Beasts, a mask/puppet performance troupe that has toured around the world. He enjoys using ‘found’ or recycled objects in his work. I used cardboard reinforced with a coating of glue to make it resilient and less likely to become soggy while applying paint. Masking tape was applied to cover edges and smooth out junctions. This also received a coating of glue and water to make it stronger.

Because the character has been living outdoors on an island for nine years, I wanted to give him a slightly harried appearance. The ‘hair’ is made from homespun yarn to help with this effect. Also, I chose a ruddier complexion for the face, to give the appearance of his many hours exposed to the elements seeking provisions.

Using the information gathered about Attic masked performance I have sought to create a neutral mask with subtle character attributes. The masked performance tradition of the classic Greeks is one of the facets of their enduring drama that continues to fascinate. Their stories and their style of performing are still relevant to our theater today. We have altered the look of the mask—the purpose of the mask—but the masking tradition still holds power and in its presence we listen. By making this mask, I have learned a little more about why these traditions endure.

Resource List:
1. Libby Appel, Masked Characterization, An Acting Process, (Illinois, Southern University Press, 1982).
2. John Emigh, Masked Performance: The Play of Self and Other in Ritual and Theatre, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996).
3. Richard Green, Pat Easterling and Edith Hall, ed., Greek and Roman Actors, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).
4. Graham Ley, The Theatricality of Greek Tragedy, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007).
5. Don Nardo, ed., Greek Drama, (San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2000).
6. Stewart Ross, Jill A. Laidlaw, ed., Ancient Greece: Greek Theatre, (Chicago: Wayland Publishers, 1996).
7. M. S. Silk, Tragedy and the Tragic, Greek Theatre and Beyond, (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1996).
8. Sophocles, Sophokles: The Complete Plays, trans. Carl R. Mueller and Anna Krajewska-Wieczorek (Hanover: Smith and Kraus, 2000).
9. Don Nardo, ed., Readings on Sophocles, (San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2000).
10. Kostas Valakas, Pat Easterling and Edith Hall, ed., Greek and Roman Actors, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).
11. David Wiles, Greek Theatre Performance, An Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Special Holiday Offer for YOGA IN THE CAR! order by 12/18/07!

This is an item from my friend and awesome theater artist/yoga instructor Jen Swain and friends -- It would make an excellent stocking stuffer or gift idea. And this link will take you to the special offer for friends! --Kato


'Tis the season for giving gifts, why not Om your holiday shopping experience? Jen, Gennette and the rest of the Om the Road crew are ever grateful for our friends and family, and know you are for yours, too. For the rest of the month of December, you can buy a copy of our CD Yoga in the Car with Jen Swain: Bumper to Bumper to give as a gift for only $10 (plus the cost of shipping and handling - unless you live in LA and we have the good fortune of seeing you. It fits perfectly as a stocking stuffer, no one will have it, it's great for people who have always wanted to try yoga (but can't quite make it to a studio) it's a nice way to let someone know you are concerned about their stress/road rage level, AND at the very least, you will make them smile.

Simply go to Yoga in the Car Please order by the 18th, you have a good chance of receiving the CD's by the 24th.

You are welcome to forward this on to any of your friends who might be interested in getting this gift for someone as well.


Monday, October 08, 2007

Probley stoopid

So -- the week before school starts all the pieces for a play idea fall into place, right?
So I figure, what if I get as much done as possible before school starts, right?
So it's in my head waiting to be written, right?
So I start it, right?

A couple of weeks ago I managed to button up act one.




I'm crazy crazy busy with school -- and half the play still hammering away on the inside of my head.


Maybe next weekend there'll be time enough for me to get a hunk of act two done.

I hope so.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Send your play out into the world!

Some places on the web that can help you find theaters interested in your work:

Playwright Zoo on Squidoo featuring a weekly column called The Monkey House with random tips and suggestions, plus link lists to theaters that accept plays and/or queries.

Also -- The Playwright Zoo Archive, a companion to the above mentioned Zoo which houses all of the Monkey House Musings and links to the Featured Playwrights' interviews and plays.

One of my favorite listing boards is En Avant Playwrights

Get into The Loop, monthly e-newsletter that has lots of advice and lots of opportunities.

No dramatist's desk is complete without a copy of the latest edition of The Dramatists Sourcebook updated and published every two years by Theatre Communictions Group or TCG.

And -- join the The Dramatists Guild. Besides member benefits you'll receive their monthly magazine loaded with tips, interviews, and advice; a booklet with contact and submission info for theaters, publishers, and agents; and bi-monthly e-mails about upcoming deadlines and member productions.

Friday, August 17, 2007

365 DAYS, 365 PLAYS in New London August 20-26

Hygienic Art is presenting Suzan-Lori Parks' "week 41" of her
year-long cycle of plays in the Hygienic Art Park.

This is a world-wide project to present all 365 plays that Suzan-Lori wrote every day for a year.

Hygienic Art will be presenting all seven plays every night for seven nights.
August 20-26
Curtain is 8:00 PM
in the Hygienic Art Park

All performances are FREE to the public.

365 DAYS, 365 PLAYS
by Suzon-Lori Parks
Week 41
in the Art Park
Monday, August 20 thru Sunday, August 26
79-83 Bank Street
New London, CT 06320

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Community Players

This past Saturday I attended a party at the home of Carol Pratt. She hosts an annual gathering of participants of the Groton Regionl Theatre at her home. I have wated to go to this party for years, and this year I asked a friend of mine if it would be okay if I could go.

"Of course!" -- was the answer.

When I arrived the host was in the pool, but she did hesitate to embrace me and welcome me to the party.

All day long I cozied-up to many of the movers and shakers of the local community theater scene. Some had been in the game for several or more decades. It was fun reconnecting with the local theater makers, hearing the old stories, and saying hello to many people who I have no seen in many years.

It made me rremember how much this community had meant to me as a young theater maker. I had learned a lot from people just like this, people who make theater happen becasue they love doing it.

Much of the foundation of my work as a theater artist was laid by my early work with the groups in my community. Not every experience was golden, but it all held value.

Great thanks to talented, giving, caring people like Carol Pratt and the folks who gathered around her pool last Saturday. They keep theater alive in a personal way that is not possible attain in other theater forums.

Theater belongs in a community.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Playwright Zoo

ANNOUNCING: The Playwright Zoo on Squidoo has arrived!

Check it out.

It includes a links to major regional theaters that accept unsolicited plays, and resource lists for playwrights.

Zoo Musing #1: Get that play read!

Get that play READ!
From Playwright Zoo

You've got a new play? You want to know if it works? There's only one way to discover what you've got, and that's to hear it out loud.

Call some of your actor friends, get them over to your house, and have them read your play to you.

What? No actor friends? In case you weren't paying attention when you started writing your play, these things happen in the theater. How can you not know some actors?

Well -- this does happen sometimes, but it is a situation that must be resolved. Go to some local shows, small non-profit theaters, community theaters, college theaters, to see who's doing what in your area. Next -- volunteer to help with whichever group you liked best.

This sounds like a commitment? It is. You are a playwright that has to become committed to your local theater scene. There's no way around that, so quit stalling and COMMIT ALREADY! Involve yourself. Then start collecting actors' contact info.

Not only will your commitment bring you actors, it will bring you additional knowledge about theatermaking, and this will enrich your playwriting. See the benefits of the cycle?

Now, invite some of thoe actors to your house to read your play out loud to you.

Be sure to have refreshments on hand. Also have some snacks, but I recommend staying away from salty/crunchy for a reading. Try fruit or soft candies. That way people gnoshing won't interupt the sound of your play. Also fruit is good for the vocal cords.

Now that you've heard your play it's time to rewrite. Begin by cutting the things that sounded ackward or were redundant. Then start the work of revision. Some plays need only a little tweeking, but more likely your play will need some retooling, rearranging, and new material now that you've lopped off the first half of your play (sometimes that's what happens).

Then you're ready for phase 2: The concert reading... but that will have to wait until another musing.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

TheaterMakers Workshops

The two cold reading workshops that I ran with the TheaterMakers at the O'Neill are now complete. The first one was more succesful than the second, but I had a great time with both and learned a lot about my plays in the process.

The first workshop was held in the basement of the DMT -- and was a more energized space than the second location, which was in the screening room. Also, day 2 was much hotter, the play was more difficult, and the students had just presented their final project the evening before, so they were pretty tired.

The first workshop we put forward WHETHER: A NOAH RIFF. What a blast! The students brought some great work to the table.

The second workshop we worked MINOTAURS. TOREROS. It was unfortunate that the students were not abe to get the text in advance. It is a difficult play to present as a reading, and I'm not sure that the students were able to really understand the play before presnting it. It led to a subdued and careful rendering of the text. Between the heat and the pace, the performance itself dragged. But I thik that the action of working on the play throughout the day was beneficial. I know it was beneficial for me as the playwright.

I was engaged listening to the new sequences, which I think need a little trimming an revision.

I would like to figure out to better communicate cold-reading techniques for future workshops like this. The skills required for cold-reading are invaluble for young actors whoo might wish to make connections with playwrights and theaters. It is a skill to hone, because it can be useful in opening doors.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lloyd Richards tribute @ O'Neill 7/29

The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center will honor the late Lloyd Richards, who led the National Playwrights Conference from 1968-1999, above with actress Angela Bassett at the O'Neill Center in Waterford in July 1999, with a tribute at 2 p.m. Sunday at the center. George C. White, founder of the O'Neill, will emcee, and there will be remembrances from conference alumni and friends, video and tributes.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Wendy Wasserstein Fund for Open Submissions @ O'Neill Theater Center

After the opening play last Thursday at The O'Neill National Playwrights Conference I took a few minutes to thumb through my program. I found a blue slip of paper that announced the Wendy Wasserstein Fund for Open Submissions.

"Wendy Wasserstein was a loyal friend of the O'Neill throughout her distinguished career, from her earliest work as an assistant to Lloyd Richards, and as a mentor to other writers long after her first produced play, Uncommon Women and Others, was developed at the O'Neill in 1977. She was a passionate advocate for the O'Neill's OPEN SUBMISSIONS program and the opportunities it presents for emerging writers who can benefit from the O'Neill's resources at pivotal times in their careers, just as she did."

This fund is an endowment that will ensure the OPEN SUBMISSIONS program in perpetuity. Income from the fund will be used for operational costs of the Open Submissions program.

While I don't have a lot of money to give to this fund myself, I do intend to have a donation can dedicated to collecting donations for this cause whenever one of plays is going up or my production company producess a workshop. I am also going to see if local community groups and theaters will put out donation cans as well.

If you would like to make a contribution, or make a local collection toward this endowment, send it to:

The Wendy Wasserstein Fund for Open Submissions
O'Neill Theater Center
305 Great Neck Road
Waterford, CT 06385

For more information call 860.443.5378
or visit the website http://www.theoneill.org

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The 36

36 Assumptions About Writing Plays

by Jose Rivera

Over the years, I've had the good fortune to teach writing in a number of schools from second-grade to graduate school. I usually just wing it. But lately, I've decided to think about the assumptions I've been working under and to write them down. The following is an unscientific, gut-level survey of the assumptions I have about writing plays, in no particular order of importance.
  1. Good playwriting is a collaboration between your many selves. The more multiple your personalities, the further, wider, deeper you will be able to go.
  2. Theatre is closer to poetry and music than it is to the novel.
  3. There's no time limit to writing plays. Think of playwriting as a life-long apprenticeship. Imagine you may have your best ideas on your deathbed.
  4. Write plays in order to organize despair and chaos. To live vicariously. To play God. To project an idealized version of the world. To destroy things you hate in the world and in yourself. To remember and to forget. To lie to yourself. To play. To dance with language. To beautify the landscape. To fight loneliness. To inspire others. To imitate your heroes. To bring back the past and raise the dead. To achieve transcendence of yourself. To fight the powers that be. To sound alarms. To provoke conversation. To engage in the conversation started by great writers in the past. To further evolve the artform. To lose yourself in your fictive world. To make money.
  5. Write because you want to show something. To show that the world is shit. To show how fleeting love and happiness are. To show the inner workings of your ego. To show that democracy is in danger. To show how interconnected we are. (Each "to show" is active and must be personal, deeply held, true to you.)
  6. Each line of dialogue is like a piece of DNA; potentially containing the entire play and its thesis; potentially telling us the beginning, middle, and end of the play.
  7. Be prepared to risk your entire reputation every time you write, otherwise it's not worth your audience's time.
  8. Embrace your writer's block. It's nature's way of saving trees and your reputation. Listen to it and try to understand its source. Often, writer's block happens to you because somewhere in your work you've lied to yourself and your subconscious won't let you go any further until you've gone back, erased the lie, stated the truth and started over.
  9. Language is a form of entertainment. Beautiful language can be like beautiful music: it can amuse, inspire, mystify, enlighten.
  10. Rhythm is key. Use as many sounds and cadences as possible. Think of dialogue as a form of percussive music. You can vary the speed of the language, the number of beats per line, volume, density. You can use silences, fragments, elongated sentences, interruptions, overlapping conversation, physical activity, monologues, nonsense, non-sequiturs, foreign languages.
  11. Vary your tone as much as possible. Juxtapose high seriousness with raunchy language with lyrical beauty with violence with dark comedy with awe with eroticism.
  12. Action doesn't have to be overt. It can be the steady deepening of the dramatic situation or your character's steady emotional movements from one emotional/psychological condition to another: ignorance to enlightenment, weakness to strength, illness to wholeness.
  13. Invest something truly personal in each of your characters, even if it's something of your worst self.
  14. If realism is as artificial as any genre, strive to create your own realism. If theatre is a handicraft in which you make one of a kind pieces, then you're in complete control of your fictive universe. What are its physical laws? What's gravity like? What does time do? What are the rules of cause and effect? How do your characters behave in this altered universe?
  15. Write from your organs. Write from your eyes, your heart, your liver, your ass -- write from your brain last of all.
  16. Write from all of your senses. Be prepared to design on the page: tell yourself exactly what you see, feel, hear, touch and taste in this world. Never leave design to chance, that includes the design of the cast.
  17. Find your tribe. Educate your collaborators. Stick to your people and be faithful to them. Seek aesthetic and emotional compatability with those your work with. Understand your director's world view because it will color his/her approach to your work.
  18. Strive to be your own genre. Great plays represent the genres created around the author's voice. A Checkhov genre. A Caryl Churchill genre.
  19. Strive to create roles that actors you respect will kill to perform.
  20. Form follows function. Strive to reflect the content of the play in the form of the play.
  21. Use the literalization of metaphor to discuss the inner emotional state of your characters.
  22. Don't be afraid to attempt great themes: death, war, sexuality, identity, fate, God, existence, politics, love.
  23. Theatre is the explanation of life to the living. Try to tease apart the conflicting noises of living, and make some kind of pattern and order. It's not so much and explanation of life as much as it is a recipe for understanding, a blueprint for navigation, a confidante with some answers, enough to guide you and encourage you, but not to dictate to you.
  24. Push emotional extremes. Don't be a puritan. Be sexy. Be violent. Be irrational. Be sloppy. Be frightening. Be loud. Be stupid. Be colorful.
  25. Ideas may be deeply embedded in the interactions and reactions of your character; they may be in the music and poetry of your form. You have thoughts and you generate ideas constantly. A play ought to embody those thoughts and those thoughts can serve as a unifying energy in your play.
  26. A play must be organized. This is another word for structure. You organize a meal, your closet, your time -- why not your play?
  27. Strive to be mysterious, not confusing.
  28. Think of information in a play like an IV drip -- dispense just enough to keep the body alive, but not too much too soon.
  29. Think of writing as a constant battle against the natural inertia of language.
  30. Write in layers. Have as many things happening in a play in any one moment as possible.
  31. Faulkner said the greatest drama is the heart in conflict with itself.
  32. Keep your chops up with constant questioning of your own work. React against your work. Be hypercritical. Do in the next work what you aimed for but failed to do in the last one.
  33. Listen only to those people who have a vested interest in your future.
  34. Character is the embodiment of obsession. A character must be stupendously hungry. There is no rest for those characters until they've satisfied their needs.
  35. In all your plays be sure to write at least one impossible thing. And don't let your director talk you out of it.
  36. A writer cannot live without an authentic voice -- the place where you are the most honest, most lyrical, most complete, most creative and new. That's what you're striving to find. But the authentic voice doesn't know how to write, any more than gasoline knows how to drive. But driving is impossible without fuel and writing is impossible without the heat and strength of your authentic voice. Learning to write well is the stuff of workshops. Learning good habits and practicing hard. But finding your authentic voice as a writer is your business, your journey -- a private, lonely, inexact, painful, slow and frustrating voyage. Teachers and mentors can only bring you closer to that voice. With luck and time, you'll get there on your own.
(c) 2003 Theatre Communications Group -- Jose Rivera

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

TheaterMakers Workshop @ O'Neill

This week (and maybe some of next) I'll be working with the TheaterMakers at the O'Neill Theater Center. We'll be workshopping a play or two of mine with the college-age group that is in-house during the National Playwrights Conference. It's in the throes of radical transformation after a lackluster innagural summer a year ago.

The two guys who are running it this year were participants last year and decided to restructure the project to make it more interesting and valuable to a recent college grad interested in making theater.

Their focus is quite strong -- to make a introductory experience to real-world theater making that bridges the college experience and the professional world. It is timed to make use of the in-house NPC and its creative staff.

Students shadow writer/director meetings, rehearsals, and help with the readings being presented throughout the month-long conference in Waterford, CT.

I'm excited to be working with the group and looking forward to hearing my plays.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Merchant's merchant

Unconventional Director Sets Shakespeare Play In Time, Place Shakespeare Intended

MORRISTOWN, NJ—In an innovative, tradition-defying rethinking of one of the greatest comedies in the English language, Morristown Community Players director Kevin Hiles announced Monday his bold intention to set his theater's production of William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice in...

Read it all

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Alice: nil

I have not come up with anything to contribute to the Alice Wonders project at the Dragon's Egg next week. Alas. If something squeaks out of head, cool. If not -- I'll be the sound person that day and take some good pictures.

At least I can help out on some level...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Part of my course of study at Brown includes cognitive science. Why is a playwright studying cog-sci? To prove scientifically why theater is an essential part of a growing human brain.

An active theater has been a component of all great societal movements.

I intend to prove why -- with dazzling science.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Theatre in schools is an elitist expense

It's about time someone put a stop to the notion that theatre programs are essential. They are, in fact, a detriment to the social framework of an academic curriculum, and a drain on the morals of our children.

Children should spend more time learning essentials like reading, writing, and pertinent job skills like television repair or creating smarter computers, rather than useless artsy blather. Plays are only writen to seduce our young people into thinking they are better than everyone else, and this is just plain hooey.



Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Baldwin New Play Fest (Elvis will be in the building April 28)

New Play Staged Reading – In Search of a Better Life with Elvis
By Kato McNickle
Directed by TBA
157 Galbraith Theatre

April 28 Saturday Morning 10 am

Baldwin New Play Festival at UCSD (bnpf)

The Baldwin New Play Festival at UCSD (bnpf) produced annually by the UCSD Theatre and Dance Department in late April, focuses the resources and creative energies of the entire department on premiering three or more full-length and one-act plays written by students in the UCSD MFA Playwriting Program.

This season’s bnpf ‘07 includes three fully staged full-length plays, one one-act play, and a possible reading of a new play with an African-American theme chosen from nation-wide submissions. For additional information on the Baldwin New Play Festival and a Ticket Order Form click on this link:
bnpf'07 schedule and Ticket Order Forms

Alice Wonders seeks collaborating artists for June 07

Photos from The Orpheus Project in 2006

Alice Wonders

June 16, 2007 @ 4 PM
@ The Dragons Egg

Ledyard, Connecticut

The 4th annual Midsummer Narrative Assemblage Event will be derived from Alice in Wonderland. Participants will gather @ 10 AM on June 16th to assemble the material and run-thru the staging.

Each artist creates their own piece, with or without others. On the performance day itself, we see what we see! The Egg may be available for rehearsal beforehand (please contact Marya for more info).

Past summers have explored text themes from Dante's Inferno, Faust, and the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. Expressions have taken the form of sculpture, theatre, dance, belly dancing, dramatic reading, a labyrinth, a walk through a dark woods, dramatic movement, poetry, music, puppetry, amazing work, using all parts of the Egg and its environs.

This summer the theme will be - in an odd sort of keeping with the Underworld theme that has emerged these past few years: Alice in Wonderland. As you may recall, you use the text as your source of inspiration in the creation of a piece, be it dance, music, theatre, puppetry, sculpture, poetry, other.

Each piece, no matter the number of artists involved in it, is limited to 5 minutes! Be in touch with me about your ideas, and I shall try to link you to others who might like to collaborate in some way, if you like - in past years there have been a number of sections that involved artists who did not know each other beforehand, and the resulting work was wonderful, rich, delightful, challenging.

Contact Marya

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

2 new anthologies feature cool plays and scribes

Two brand-new play anthologies from Playscripts, Inc.. You can read excerpts of all plays online for free.

Special offer: Save 10% off any book in our catalogue when you order online before April 15 -- simply use coupon code SPRINGTIME when prompted.

Humana Festival 2006: The Complete Plays (30th Anniversary Edition)

"If you have any doubt that regional theatre in America is vital and thriving, then you missed this year's Humana Festival of New American Plays."

Humana 2006: The Complete Plays collects all ten plays produced at Actors Theatre of Louisville during the 30th anniversary season of the Humana Festival of New American Plays. The seven full-length plays and three ten-minute plays in this anthology encompass many of the most eclectic and exciting new voices in theater today.

Three Guys and a Brenda by Adam Bock
Natural Selection by Eric Coble
Low by Rha Goddess
Act A Lady by Jordan Harrison
Sovereignty by Rolin Jones
Listeners by Jane Martin
Hotel Cassiopeia by Charles L. Mee
The Scene by Theresa Rebeck
Six Years by Sharr White
Neon Mirage by Liz Duffy Adams, Dan Dietz, Rick Hip-Flores, Julie Jensen, Lisa Kron, Tracey Scott Wilson, and Chay Yew

Funny, Strange, Provocative: Seven Plays from Clubbed Thumb

"This anthology represents the jazziest, most edgy writers in contemporary American drama today." --Paula Vogel

Funny, Strange, Provocative includes seven plays produced by Clubbed Thumb, the Obie Award-winning downtown New York City theater company that burst onto the new play scene in 1996. Edgy and thought-provoking, each play is funny, strange, and provocative in surprising, widely varying ways -- including an apartment that both adores and despises its inhabitants in Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake), a metropolitan housewife who senses that something is watching her in 16 Spells to Charm the Beast, and a group of traveling freak show performers who reveal a deep humanity underneath their crowd-drawing deformities in Freakshow, with other inventive stories.

The Typographer's Dream by Adam Bock
Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake) by Sheila Callaghan
Demon Baby by Erin Courtney
16 Spells to Charm the Beast by Lisa D'Amour
Inky by Rinne Groff
Dearest Eugenia Haggis by Anne Marie Healy
Freakshow by Carson Kreitzer

Thursday, March 15, 2007


This is a bit from a press release for a play of mine that will be honored as part of the bnpf at the end of April. --Kato

SAN DIEGO: Kato McNickle is the winner of this year’s African American Playwriting Contest awarded by the University of California San Diego. Her play, IN SEARCH OF A BETTER LIFE WITH ELVIS, will be presented as a staged reading at the end of April as part of the Baldwin New Play Festival at UCSD.

The Baldwin New Play Festival at UCSD (bnpf) produced annually by the UCSD Theatre and Dance Department in late April, focuses the resources and creative energies of the entire department on premiering three or more full-length and one-act plays written by students in the UCSD MFA Playwriting Program.
This season’s bnpf ‘07 includes three fully staged full-length plays, one one-act play, and a reading of a new play with an African-American theme chosen from nation-wide submissions. Invited literary agents, playwrights and artistic managers from New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Louisville, Minneapolis, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and San Francisco fly in each year to be among the first to get a sneak peak at the literary giants of tomorrow.

In Search of a Better Life with Elvis is a four-character play that finds a nineteen-year-old young woman on a mission to make peace with her father, a deceased Elvis impersonator who forgot he wasn’t really Elvis. Jezzy has heard an ancient voice calling “Memphis”, so she took off to Tennessee with her father’s ashes, and a plan to give him the gift of his favorite Elvis song. The problem is the voice really meant Egypt, and Jezzy doesn’t know a soul in Memphis. Off-track from the get-go, Jezzy is intent on laying her father to rest, even if it means stealing her mother’s car, trading it for a guitar, and ignoring the lady in the moon calling to her.

Monday, March 12, 2007

ELVIS won a prize

My play IN SEARCH OF A BETTER LIFE WITH ELVIS has been selected as the 2007 winner of the African American Playwriting Award and will be presented as a reading at the end of April as part of the Balwin New Play Festival at the University of California in San Diego.

Pretty cool, huh?

It means I'll have to miss the last day classes at Brown, but I'll figure all of that out.

The photo is from a workshop of the play a coupla years ago at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

OUR TOWN @ Tinity Rep feels like home

Fred Sullivan, Jr. as Doctor Gibbs and Phyllis Kay as Mrs. Gibbs in Our Town by Thornton Wilder directed by Brian McEleney at Trinity Rep.

Trinity Repertory Company

Pictured L to R: Susannah Flood as Emily Webb, Barbara Meek as Stage Manager and Eric Murdoch as George Gibbs in Our Town by Thornton Wilder directed by Brian McEleney at Trinity Rep.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Brown Playwrights Premiere Work at Annual New Plays Fest

New Plays Festival 25.1

Brown Playwrights Premiere Work at Annual New Plays Festival

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Original works by three graduate student playwrights will be showcased during the first installment of the 25th annual New Plays Festival, presented by the Brown University Literary Arts Program and the Brown/Trinity Repertory Consortium. “New Plays Festival 25.1” runs Wednesday, Feb. 7, through Sunday, Feb. 11, 2007, in the McCormack Family Theatre, 70 Brown St. All performances are free and seating is first-come, first-served.

New voices, New Plays
The first installment of the New Plays Festival will feature premières from three new playwrights, from top: Enrique Urueta (Forever Never Comes), Ann Marie Healy (Common Decency), and Gregory Moss (House of Gold).

The festival’s first installment includes Forever Never Comes by Enrique Urueta, Common Decency by Ann Marie Healy, and House of Gold by Gregory Moss. Each of the three productions will be presented twice. Schedule information is listed below.

Having served as a forum for the early work of renowned playwrights such as Sarah Ruhl (finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in Drama for The Clean House and recipient of a 2006 MacArthur Fellowship) and Nilo Cruz (recipient of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in Drama for Anna in the Tropics), the New Plays Festival has proven instrumental in bringing the work of America’s most talented young playwrights to the stage.

The student playwrights have been working under the guidance of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel with graduate students in the Brown/Trinity Consortium and professional artists from around New England to collaborate on this innovative and stimulating week of theatre.

Featured Works

Forever Never Comes by Enrique Urueta
directed by Donya K. Washington
8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 7, and 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10

A young man returns home to rural Virginia on his way to start a new life in San Francisco. A young Latina struggling to leave is the only one who sees what’s really going on around her. You can always go home again ... just don’t expect to leave.

Common Decency by Ann Marie Healy
directed by Holly Derr
8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11

Ladies everywhere are doing all sorts of strange things: taking and being taken, passing on and being passed up, falling in love and falling apart. The people of Calumet have never seen such indecency! What begins as a rollicking winter season of wild abandonment and free expression ends with a chilling blood wedding as the tiny town of Calumet converges and kills in its cry for common decency.

House of Gold by Gregory Moss
directed by Makaela Pollock
8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9, and 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10

Part Alice in Wonderland, part tabloid headline, House of Gold is the story of a Very Famous Dead Little Girl brought back to life by the desires of a chorus of desperate characters. As she negotiates the dangers of the suburban house that is her entire world, she seeks to reclaim her internal organs, find a snack, and finally divide herself from the dreams of the living.

The festival is led by Artistic Director Bonnie Metzgar, who is currently producing Suzan Lori-Parks’s epic “365 Days/365 Plays” National Festival, an event that marks the largest collaborative effort in American theatrical history. Metzgar also serves as associate artistic director of The Curious Theater in Denver, and was formerly the associate producer at the Public Theatre/NYSF in New York. Other artistic staff includes scenic designer Tristan Jeffers, technical director Bill McLoughlin, lighting designer Jennifer Rock, costume designer Jessie Darrell, sound designer Katy Buechner, properties master Eric Reynolds, and producer Rick Dildine.

The New Plays Festival is made possible through support from an endowed fund for the Adele Kellenberg Seaver ’49 Professorship in Literary Arts. A second installment of the festival, with three more premières, is scheduled for April 18–22, 2007.

For ticket reservations, e-mail NPFtix@gmail.com with your name, telephone number and number of tickets requested.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Record response time

Just over a week ago I sent a query letter to a theater on the opposite side of America from me. I got a response already. They'd like to read the whole play. Whoa. Can you believe it? Two letters, crossing a continent, and a response in just about a week? Whoa. They play? Minotaurs. Toreros. The theater? A very good one. Keep your fingers crossed for the play, okay?

Monday, January 15, 2007


Erin Sousa-Stanley as Saint Margaret with Kate Downie as Joan in Joan's Voices @ The Spirit of Broadway Theater.

Watched edisode two of YOU'RE THE ONE THAT I WANT last night. It was exciting because this was New York, and I knew my friend Erin Sousa-Stanley was going to be on -- somewhere -- who knows how much or when...?

As it turns out, not much at all.

We didn't even get a chance to see her sing, which is too bad, because she sings really well. I know that she got into the second round. I even know that a film crew came to her house and shot some footage. All for naught. The producers chose to focus more on the losers from NYC rather than the talented.

Oh well.

She did get a little face time at the very beginning, a brief voice clip about "The dream," and we saw her get a stage door hug.

She also got a really nice write-up in Saturday's New London Day newspaper, a well-deserved "The Buzz" feature. Erin's been doing a lot of work in theater all over Southeastern Connecticut. She keeps living the dream.

Got a letter

In the labyrinth of play production, there are occassional bright spots. One such ray of light came in the mail on Saturday. I got a letter telling me that my play Minotaurs. Toreros. has made it to the semi-final round of selection for a national play development project.

I'll keep my fingers crossed, but won't hold my breath.

Still, I am excited.

You keep your fingers crossed too, okay?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Dublin Carol at Trinity Rep

William Petersen in Dublin Carol by Conor McPherson, directed by Amy Morton at Trinity Rep

This is a little late. The show just ended its run. It was sold out way in advance anyway. I saw it last month. Wow.

First, when I called Trinity Rep in November to change the night of my tickets for December (a good friend of mine was hosting a fun event) I learned that the show was alreay sold out, so exchanging would be a problem. On top of that, I had good seats. Really good seats. I decided to stick with what I had in hand and send my friend a good luck e-mail.

I'm glad I saw the show.

Being in Southeastern Connecticut, I have not often had the chance to see the work of Conor McPherson, so I was happy to see his name on the line-up at Trinity this season. Aso, I respect William Petersen as an actor and was eager to see what he could do in a theater. I was not dissapointed.

The set was eloquent and spare. I was sad to see the colored lights get rolled up and put away as the action of the play dictates. As promised by the title, there are three visitations. All of them reveal a little more about a life missed, or misled.

The thing that knocked my socks-off and has stayed with me was the monlogue delivered by John (Petersen) about managing a three-day bender, which is prefaced by a story about a woman who buys him drinks whom he calls a "whiskey angel" sent by God. The following monologue about how to keep the drunken state while minimizing the pain of a swollen and disabled liver was mesmorizing. McPherson proved that he is willing to reach into his own experience and turn it into something compelling that serves the world of his play.

The weakest component of the production was the preformance turned in by Rachael Warren, who seemed too old for the role, and whom many patrons near me had great trouble hearing. A number of people in the audience were dependent on having her mumblings reiterated by their respective spouses.

Danny Mefford, a member of the Brown/Trinity Consortium, turned in a fine performance, holding his own with the veteren Petersen, while trusting his character enough to let the language do the work. I look forward to seeing his work again.

I also look forward to becoming better acquainted with the work of Conor McPherson. He's a guy to sit down with, I think.

You're the One That I Want premiere ep last night

This was actually a pretty good show.

I liked that the 3 people running the audition, the producer, the director, and the surviving writer, were not trying to be all American Idol in how they spoke to the candidtaes. These guys sounded like people casting a show. In fact, I thought they showed more patience and retsraint than some regular auditioning panels Ive observed. Had this not bee for television I think that some of the people would have been dismissed before even opening their mouths (like that 55 year-old crazy-cat-lady who couldn't make eye contact.)

I was glad to see them give the dancing cup-cake a shot. You never know... three years from now that director may need just what that young woman has... and she'll know who to call.

I was surprised at how slim the talent pickings were in Chicago. Maybe it's just not a musical-theater town. Except for the ancient Danny guy (Dominique, I think) I dont think they had a man sent on to Grease-Boot-Camp or whatever it's called.

The one bright side is that the lack of Chicagoians means more room for New Yorkers.

Can't wait to see the NYC auditions next Sunday!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The American Theatre Wing

The American Theatre Wing

I am continually impressed by what the ATW Site has to offer, including podcasts of people working in all aspects of New York Theater, as well as scholarship information for students in NYC, and other theater-based resources. Check it out.

What you want?

You're the One That I Want

This could be interesting...

Premieres Sunday, January 7