Guest Blogger: 2017 semi-finalist playwright, Katherine James

I read the words “Hot Mess” and I know immediately who needs to come out of my heart and mind and onto the page.


I meet dozens of dozens of people every year in my “other” life as a trial consultant.

Most of those relationships are bright and brief. Intense and temporary. Fearless and fleeting.

Exactly like those I have had in the theatre since I was a kid.

But then every once-in-a-while there is someone who I just can’t let go of.

Whose story and life terrify me.

Trial consultants who do research tell me that there is a psychological principle that when we hear a tale of woe we immediately to figure out how that could never happen to us.

To show you how much this principle not only haunts my work but me I can never remember what it is called.


You’ll tell me what it is again and I will say, “Right, right, that’s it!” and immediately forget it.

I spend so much time trying to figure out how to make the story of the trial case not get overwhelmed by this principle you’d think that alone would sear the name on my memory.

But I know the truth.

That I, too, am afraid.

Afraid that what happened to any given person I meet could happen to me.

Every once in a while I meet someone who simply bowls me over with the terror of waking up to that person’s face being the one that greets me in the mirror when I wake up from a pleasant dream.

That the horror of that person’s life is suddenly my own.

Paul was an is one of those people.

I can’t imagine anything worse than to go from being a smart, accomplished, happy and ambitious person to having a brain that is a “Hot Mess”.

The crazy thing is, I’ve met a lot of people whose brains are now, through no fault of their own, a “Hot Mess”.

But for some reason they are able to accept, adapt, do the best they can with what they’ve got, make a new meaningful life…to blow me away since secretly I always doubt seriously I could ever be one of them.

Maybe that’s what haunts me so about Paul.

Neither can he.

Now the case is won.

The circus tent of the trial has folded its tent and left town.

A teary eyed jury decided to award Paul ever-so-much-but-never-enough-to-make-life-what-it-was dollars from the company that didn’t give a rat’s ass about him when they made his brain a “Hot Mess”.

And so I offer him here to you.

All wrapped up with my greatest fears.

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ONSTAGE 2017 Semi-Finalists!

It’s finally here… the 2017 ONSTAGE Semi-Finalist list!

We had so many great plays and monologues submitted this year, and we want to thank all of the playwrights who submitted work and participated in our peer review – you ladies ROCK!

Our Minneapolis reading already took place, but you will be able to catch readings of them over the next few months in Sedona, AZ; Prescott, AZ; Jacksonville, AL; and Los Angeles, CA!  We’ll be posting more information about each location, along with dates, in the coming weeks.  Meanwhile, feast your eyes on this year’s list of fab female playwrights:

Apocalypse Fatigue, by Jodie Leidecker

Benchwarmer, by Miranda Ray

Bird, by Kira Rockwell

Bodega Pricing, by Reina Hardy

Boxes Are Magic, by Allie Costa

Co-Workers, by CJ Ehrlich

Even Educated Fleas Do It, by Karen Loseff Lothan

Evolution Fast Track, by Micki Shelton

Full Circle, by Mikki Russ

Gel Us, by Paige Zubel

Hijab, by Andrea Fleck Clardy

Hot/Mess, by Jen Huszcza

Interview With An Old Bitch, by Susan C. Forrest

Just Deal, by Robin Brooks

Killing Barbie, by Sharon Goldner

Lesbian Lipstick, by Allison L. Fradkin


Linda, by Diana Burbano

Mel and Mona, by Suzanne Bailie

Mommy Knows Best, by Tiffany Antone

My Pretty Pink Rifle, by Jennifer Walton

Pebbles to Butterflies, by Kate Hawkes

Priorities, byTeresa Peterson

Pusherman, by Kay Phillips

Snakes, by Jen Huszcza

Spark, by Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich

Springful, by Bex Frankeberger

Take Me, by Esther Marcella Hoffmann

The Fruit Salad of Shame, by Ellen Davis Sullivan

The Scorpion and The Songbird, by Marguerite Louise Scott

The Worst of All Evils, by Philana Omorotionmwan

Three Ghosts of Elizabeth Bathory, by Anne Flanagan

What’ll It Be?, by Amber Bosworth

Zero-Six-Two-Eight, by Katherine James



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Today We Speak, Tomorrow We March, and Then…

The We’re Not Playing Initiative is on its feet, and I couldn’t be prouder of the women and men making it happen. In multiple cities today, plays will be read in protest against an incoming administration which aims to further divide and weaken us as a nation through divisive and hateful rhetoric, petty and salacious tweets, and dangerous & reckless policy.

But today, we speak.

And we speak not only to let out the pain, frustration, and fear that threatens to overtake us – but to also bring together others in from our communities who share this growing dread as an overwhelmingly ill-prepared egoist takes over leadership of this (already great) nation.

And so today we also listen.

Because our readings, along with other theatrical protest events like The Sanctuary Project and Writers Resist (two much more far reaching events than our humble readings), are not only motivating artists to speak out on social issues, but bringing together (and activating) individuals with a shared civic-mindedness.  This is vital to making any progress as move forward.

Because the fight is just beginning.

So today as artists and audiences join together, our hope is that they gain strength and heart through shared theatrical catharsis for what lies ahead.

And tomorrow millions of women, men, and children will take part in The Women’s March in hundreds of cities across this nation (and globe) in solidarity, with hope for a better future… a future endangered by the Trump administration’s mounting grotesqueness.

This moment didn’t come at us out of the blue.  Many, many citizens have surrendered their voice, content to let others do the thinking for them, blissfully unaware as political players usurped more and more of the American Dream – But it’s time for all of us to wake up, pay attention, and break out our marching shoes, our poster board, and our bullhorns!

It’s time to gather as a community committed to equality, justice.  It’s time to organize.  It’s time to get ready.

Because today we speak, tomorrow we march, and then…

We fight.

You can attend a reading of plays from the We’re Not Playing Initiative at the following:

Read more about our project on

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We’re Not Playing: A poem, an update, and a few more plays…

were-not-playing-headerWelcome to 2017, everybody!  We hope that your holiday season provided you a merry respite from the political distress many of us have been feeling.  It’s January, and that means Inauguration Day, which means artists participating in our We’re Not Playing Initiative are gearing up to ruffle their creative feathers.

Readings are scheduled for Los Angeles, CA; Prescott, AZ; Sedona, AZ; Bainbridge Island, WA; and Galesburg, IL, with a few more still negotiating space/locations (proving it’s not too late to join the Initiative for those of you just now hearing about us!)

In addition to our event there are other artists and arts organizations rallying to show solidarity in the face of an incoming administration deep into divisive and destructive policy: WriteOurDemocracy (Multiple locations, January 15th), The Ghostlight Project (Multiple locations, January 19th) Both of these notable events are nationwide and may be taking place in your area, so check their websites for more info if you’re interested!

Meanwhile, we’re going to wrap up our play-shares with two final piece by Allie Costa (the girl has a voice!) and a poem by Arizona artist, Martha Entin.

If you have a We’re Not Playing reading slated for your community and haven’t yet reached out to tell us, please do!  We’ll help promote your event and cheer you on from afar.  Thanks again to all of our fabulous playwrights who shared such powerful plays with us these past few months, and to our readers/fans/co-creators who continue to support this Initiative!

Here are 2 more powerful plays by Allie Costa

And a beautiful creative close from poet, Martha Entin:

MARTHA ENTIN, poet, teacher, artist, playwright, loves collaborative creation. She has read poetry at Poets‘ Corner, Sedona Art Center and Pump House Prose and Poetry events, and teaches a creative writing class, “Writing Our Way to Happiness” at OLLI. She has co-written plays for 24-Hour Theatre, and had her play “Soul Tattoo” performed in August 2016 with the fabulous cast Nichole Garrison, Linda Damita and Mike Cosentino.

“Writing is a vehicle for freeing our voice to soar on wings of creativity. I write to discover what lies beneath the surface; to bring beauty and transcendence to the ordinary.”

You can read more plays from the Initiative HERE.







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We’re Not Playing: three more (awesome) plays by Allie Costa

Not PlayingRemember how I told you all about how Allie Costa sent us too many awesome plays to choose from?  And that I was just going to share them all because they were each so powerful and fantastic?  Well, here’s the final installment.  We seriously can’t believe how wonderful each play of hers is!  And if you missed the first three, don’t despair – you can find them HERE.

(And don’t forget to check out all the other fabulous plays in our We’re Not Playing Initiative!)

A few words from Allie:

allie_costa_pink8I am passionate about gender equality, justice, diversity, identity, and autonomy, and I aim to shine the light on these topics in a creative, compassionate, and constructive way. I hope my work encourages people to embrace their potential, and to find strength and hope. I also hope it helps them see to the heart of the matter, and to start a conversation that makes for a more positive and inclusive world, both on stage/on screen and off.


You can read more from Allie HERE.

Find out more about the We’re Not Playing Initiative (and how YOU can get involved) HERE.

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We’re Not Playing: a new play by Micki Shelton

Not PlayingWhen I first moved home to Prescott (after an 11 year Los Angeles sojourn) I was unsure how I was going to find a new creative circle.  Sure, there were many talented artists in Prescott, but were any of them playwrights?  And, if so, how would I find them?  After living so long in LA where I had constant contact with other crazy theatre & film addicts like myself, I had no idea how I would adapt to a more laid-back artist community.  Well, it didn’t take long for me to learn that not only was Prescott full of passionate and dedicated theatre artists, but that there were a few wild and wily playwrights living here as well.  Micki Shelton is one such Prescott playwright, and let me tell you, she’s got her creative ducks in a row!

When Micki first found out about the We’re Not Playing Initiative, she sent me a very appreciative email and expressed interest in writing something.  When she sent me this play, I could see how very deeply our current election had effected her – so it was no surprise that on top of contributing a play, she has committed to producing a reading of plays from the Initiative in Prescott on Inauguration Day.


So if you’re in the Quad-City area, get ready for a really fantastic and powerful afternoon/evening of new play readings from the We’re Not Playing Initiative (they’re having two readings – details to come).  And in the mean time, check out Micki’s play, FIX IT.

More about FIX IT by Micki Shelton:

15byallan-copy1In one way or another, I’ve been an activist for peace and justice certainly since the birth of my son 35 years ago, possibly since I staged my own protest for what I considered an injustice when I was in eighth grade.

One morning before the 2017 election, I awoke with the bones of this piece in mind. Coffee in hand, still in pajamas, taking my laptop to bed while making it clear to my sweetheart that I needed uninterrupted writing before the piece left my heart, I wrote the first draft of Fix It in 90 minutes. After the election, much of it had to change. The inciting incident, however, did not change. What had happened in my own extended family and my inability to fix it led me to question, “If I can’t even fix this, what hope is there to fix bigger problems?”—much bigger problems, that mushroomed after the election. Here is what came out. How relevant this play will be after January 20, 2017, I don’t know. But the bones are still there. The specifics will change. My question remains.

You can read more plays in the We’re Not Playing Initiative HERE.

You can read more about Micki HERE.




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We’re Not Playing: Three new plays by Allie Costa

Not PlayingWell, what can I say?  Sometimes a playwright whom you admire sends you a handful of plays because she writes about current social/political/economic issues all the time and your brain kind of stops in stunned silence at the power of all of her pieces.  What’s left to do but share them ALL?  Because Allie Costa is talented enough to make each of these plays feel necessary and awesome at the same time.  Thank you, Allie, for sharing your words with us – I can’t wait to hear these babies aloud (and I’d love to SEE them as well!)

Because Allie wrote on so many subjects (I’m going to post a few more next week!) I asked her to tell us a little about why she focuses on important and complex social issues – obviously they’re important to her, but I have to admit to writing about issues sometimes, and then writing about existentialist chickens the next, so I can’t take credit for the same kind of work.  Do yourself a favor and read Allie’s beautiful works – you won’t regret it! – then check out the other plays in our We’re Not Playing Initiative.

A few words from Allie:

allie_costa_pink8I am passionate about gender equality, justice, diversity, identity, and autonomy, and I aim to shine the light on these topics in a creative, compassionate, and constructive way. I hope my work encourages people to embrace their potential, and to find strength and hope. I also hope it helps them see to the heart of the matter, and to start a conversation that makes for a more positive and inclusive world, both on stage/on screen and off.


You can read more from Allie HERE.

Find out more about the We’re Not Playing Initiative HERE.



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We’re Not Playing: a new play by Kate Hawkes

Not PlayingKate Hawkes has participated in all 5 of our ONSTAGE festivals either as a playwright, director, actress, or producer, so she’s kind of one of our favorite people ever!  She’s just an absolute force of creative energy with a kick ass growing theatre company of her own in Sedona, AZ – Red Earth Theatre.  Two weeks ago, she sent me her play, PEBBLES TO BUTTERFLIES, and it took my breath away.  The play focuses on the futility of language – particularly when engulfed in so many feeelings as to feel exhausted just from naming them.  It’s truly a lovely play about an important issue many of us are facing – how do we process all that is weighing us down during such a trying time?

A few words on PEBBLES TO BUTTERFLIES from Kate:

bigkate(1)‘Pebbles to Butterflies’ is really (I think) a scene in a full length play that has been rattling about in my head. I had spent some time researching butterflies in myth and legend and found themes of new life, transformation and souls. I have also been thinking about the danger? temptation? to return the energy coming at us, use language about the ‘other’ than in fact makes us the ‘other’.  Plus I have a friend who is mired in his feelings of fear, grief and anger and hopes to find a way out soon. So, I gave him a butterfly.

You can read more about Kate at

Read more plays in the We’re Not Playing Initiative HERE.

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We’re Not Playing: a new play by C.J. Ehrlich

Not PlayingC.J. Ehrlich wowed last year’s ONSTAGE playwrights and audiences with her hilariously sweet play, THE LILAC TICKET.  It sailed through the peer review process with incredible scores, and then touched our audiences’ hearts in a way that was really wonderful.  So when she said “Hey, I wrote this piece in reaction to the election…” I got really excited – and then I read it and was like “Whoa, C.J. is totally my kind of ornery!” 

The play is out there in the best possible way – because in absurd but tragic situations (like the one our country is now in), absurd theatre can drive points home in a way that is at once entertaining and galvanizing.  Check out C.J.’s play below and I think you’ll agree that this is a piece worth seeing on its feet (so why not join us in taking theatrical action?  Check out how you can participate HERE)


CJ ELike many, I was stunned when a bully, of such low character, so transparently self-serving, was somehow able to lie his way into winning a national election. I still can’t accept that this shell of a man may have the power to essentially strip our country naked and tie it to a wild horse. (But let me tell you how I really feel.) Prior to the election I’d attended an EMT training on Radiation Emergencies. Then I heard some Philip Glass. The rest wrote itself.


Check out our 2016 interview with C.J. HERE.

You can read more plays from the We’re Not Playing Initiative (and join the fight!) HERE.


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We’re Not Playing: a new play by Beth Kander-Dauphin

Not PlayingI had the joy of directing Beth Kander-Dauphin’s play, EPHEMERA, in our 2015 ONSTAGE Festival.  I loved the play’s characters, the underlying meaning in their conversation, and the way the audience reacted to the play’s final image.  Beth also recently had an ADORABLE baby girl, so she’s been busy with parenting duties, but I was thrilled when she sent me a one-minute play to share with the We’re Not Playing Initiative.  One-minute plays are funny creatures.  On the one hand, they’re so brief that they leave you feeling a bit stunned.  On the other, their brutal economy forces the writer to do away with artifice and just get to the heart of the heart of the story!  I think Beth’s play speaks for itself, and it left me with questions about my own complacency in the ineffectiveness of social media activism.

More about ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER from the playwright, Beth Kander-Dauphin

Beth KanderI originally wrote this play for the 2016 One Minute Play Festival (1MPF) in Chicago. I have written one minute plays a handful of other times, and usually aim for comedy; if I only have my audience for 60 seconds, I want to leave them smiling. But this time I aimed elsewhere. There is a glimmer of humor, but this a serious statement about how our daily distractions enable horrific things to happen in our own backyard. When no one is looking – and no one is talking – bad things happen, especially to women and marginalized populations. So hopefully these 60 seconds, instead of leaving an audience smiling, will leave them startled into paying more attention.

Check out our 2015 interview with Beth Kander-Dauphin  HERE.

Check out more plays from the We’re Not Playing Initiative HERE.


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