Part III: Producer Talks With Playwright/Playwright Talks With Producer

Tiffany Antone & Jen Huszcza have a chat (via email)

This is Part III of a three-part conversation playwright Jen Huszcza and I had about Little Black Dress INK’s ONSTAGE Project festival.  I want to thank Jen for conceiving of and initiating this conversation, and for getting it into readable shape!

You can read Part I here and Part II here


As we finish this up, I want to talk about being yourself as a writer. So often we writers hear about finding your voice, or finding your truth, blah, blah, blah. Then, when you’ve written a bunch of stuff, there is an expectation (both from yourself and others) that you will just do your thing. I find myself constantly fighting that. Writing does not get easier. It gets harder as I find ways to stay true to myself and what I want to say. Meanwhile, time keeps moving forward and I keep moving forward in life, so I find I have new things to say and new ways to say it. I’ve reached a point in my life where I have failed at a lot, and I find that interesting.

I can talk about where my plays come from or my influences or the circumstances of the world or my life, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t mean a damn when I sit down to work. When I’m writing (and writing is work, not some fluffy little hobby), I am only focused on what I have in front of me and building from there. Then, when I’ve reached the end, I go back and rewrite again and again and again.

Neal Griffin and Annabelle Veatch star in Kira Rockwell's WITH MY EYES SHUT, directed by Cason Murphy.

Neal Griffin and Annabelle Veatch star in Kira Rockwell’s WITH MY EYES SHUT, directed by Cason Murphy.

I don’t know if this will be helpful to someone submitting to your festival. Sometimes things done with the most helpful intentions explode in unexpected ways, but I’m an American, so I must remain optimistic. And I am curious about what the next theme for the next festival will be.


I love what you said about messy theater.  I adore messy theater.  In fact, I wanted to make this year’s theme HOT MESS – but my husband very wisely reminded me that since we are still just borrowing stages, I probably shouldn’t seek out scripts that would leave our host theaters digging dirt out of their floorboards for days.

With that in mind, I definitely appreciate your compliments about my writing style.  Coming at playwriting from an acting background as I did, I have always felt that plays should be active.  I love plays that have to be seen in order to be heard and felt.  As an actor and as an audience member, those are the pieces I most respond to.  So as a playwright, those are the plays I strive to write.  I mean, we live in an age where we can essentially watch theater anytime, anywhere – so if a theater company is going to ask me to shell out a fistful of my hard earned clams, I want to see something on their stage that I can’t just beam to my television/laptop/iPhone.  And that’s a tricky standard, because Hollywood can do so very much!  But when I see a show that lines up killer story with mesmeric theatricality and emotionally inventive characters, I can’t get enough!  I walk out of the theater feeling alive, invigorated, and feeling as though I’ve been privy to something sacred.

We recently attended HAND TO GOD in NYC.  I loved it.  The play is smart, fierce, and messy as hell – in all the best of ways.  Sure, you could turn it into a (probably very enjoyable) film, but the vibrancy and theatrical power of the story would change.  There’s just something electrifying about seeing a man violently wrestle with a hand puppet (and his demons) in live theater that you can’t recreate on a screen.

So, I guess you could say that as a writer, I’m always trying to tackle whichever mad question about the human condition that’s seized my mind, with a sense of theatricality.  And if that gives way to messiness (as it often-times does), I’m ok with that.  Of course, not everyone shares my enthusiasm for theatre that leaves literal marks on stage, haha.  So the question becomes, “Where are my people?”  As a playwright, where can I find a home amongst like-minded directors, designers, and producers who aren’t afraid of a play that needs a live chicken on stage?  Or a house that collapses in on itself at the end of the show?  Oftentimes, a director or producer reads a fantastical play and goes “Well, it’s great, but it can’t be done!” and I think that in 99% of those cases, they’re wrong.  It’s not that the play itself is impossible – it’s that they’re unable to solve the creative challenges the play represents.  Some of my favorite plays were at one time or another deemed “impossible” – until of course someone accepted the challenge to do it.

Looking for a Miracle by Karen Murphy w/Karen Murphy and Jean Maissen

Looking for a Miracle by Karen Murphy w/Karen Murphy and Jean Maissen

And I think that’s really one of the disappointing things about theater today.  We live in an age where technological advances make nearly everything possible, theatrically speaking, and yet there are still a lot of theatricians revering talky-talk plays above all else.

This all reminds me of discussions I would have when I was producing the Young Playwrights Festival at the PCA.  Every year we’d wind up with some fantastical, crazy, imaginative piece that required cavemen and pirates and space travel or shadow puppets – and someone would say “Well, it’s cute, but it’s not really as good or as smart as this play over here…” with said play being a genuinely well written, but arguably safer, play that follows traditional structure but isn’t particularly challenging.  So I’d go to bat for the wacky, “challenge” plays because I knew we could make them happen!  I could see that with a little extra careful staging, the right costumes, or some well-chosen music, the piece would come to life in the most delightful of ways.  And I was always right!  Those plays that I fought to keep in the line up were most often the pieces that got the biggest laughs, or had people talking the most afterwards because they required some theater magic – people love theater magic!  They may not have won the “best in show” honors, but they were integral to the success of the line-up, and to the creative energy of the festival at large – because it’s only when someone tells us we can’t do something that we start to question our creative instincts.

Now I’m soap-boxing, haha.

But the point I’m trying to make is that I think a lot of playwrights feel like they “can’t” write wild things because no one will produce them.  I think we need to be true to our wild side, because there are other wild things out there who can’t wait to get their wild paws on something meaty, beautiful, and visually mighty.  We need to be responsive, we need to pay attention to the market, and we need to write things that will inspire a team of creatives to put their lives on hold in order to produce our little play-babies, but we also need to be bold and not stifle ourselves due to a fear of (or aversion to) spectacle.

Now, that being said, I did not pick HOT MESS as this year’s theme – so don’t send me a bunch of plays that require we hire a cleaning crew when we’re done.   I’m still dealing with some financial limitations that mean I can’t flood the stage with rain or mud or a hoarder’s collapsed house, haha.  And it’s a festival, so we’re aiming for quick changes between shows.  But don’t be afraid to send me plays that take risks, that are adventurous, and that inhabit the theatrical space beyond conversation.  I’m always trying to build a diverse line-up, and that only happens when we receive a wide variety of plays.

That being said… This year’s festival theme is now available HERE!

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Announcing the 2016 ONSTAGE Festival Submission Guidelines!

Little Black Dress INK is creating production opportunities for female playwrights through its Female Playwrights ONSTAGE Project; a short-play festival dedicated to producing peer-selected works by women.  In addition to contributing to the selection of plays, participating playwrights are able to review and revise their work via online-streaming of play readings, and are encouraged to blog about the process along the way.

Submissions are now being accepted from awesome female playwrights for consideration in this year’s festival!  This festival utilizes a peer-review process for evaluating submissions.

yay-happy-dogPlease make sure to read over the following guidelines carefully before submitting.  Incomplete submissions, or submissions that do not meet the following criteria will not be considered:

  • You must be a female playwright to enter the ONSTAGE Festival.
  • This year’s festival theme is Curves Ahead.  Playwrights are invited to submit short plays and/or monologues written on this theme.  In the past we’ve had great success with short scenelets as well (10-minute plays comprised of a couple of scenes, which we can sprinkle throughout the show)
  • LBDI strongly suggests you do not submit plays or monologues longer than ten minutes. Keep in mind that in all instances, shorter truly is better.  Plays running longer than ten minutes stand very little chance of making it into the festival, as we strive to produce as many playwrights as possible.
  • Little Black Dress INK utilizes a peer review process for evaluating plays.  By submitting to this fest, you agree to participate in this unique opportunity to help select plays for production.
  • Once our submission window is closed, you will receive a selection of plays to read and score using the LBDI online eval form.  You MUST read and submit your evaluations by the required date in order for your play to remain in consideration.
  • Submitted works will be read by other participating playwrights and LBDI artistic personnel.  By submitting to the festival, you agree to share your work for review in this process.

Submission materials must be emailed to LBDI by November 15th, 2015 and should include:

  • The following information in the body of your email:
    • Your name
    • The title of your play
    • Your contact information *It is very important that you use a reliable email address as all correspondence will be done via email*
  • A blind PDF of your script – do NOT include your name anywhere on the script!
  • Email materials to

LBDI will be producing readings of the top scoring plays at locations nation-wide.  The top eight to ten scoring plays will also move on to full production in Prescott, AZ.

Our 2014 festival winners are available through at the following LINK.


  • Four time ONSTAGE Playwright, Jen Huszcza, and I talk about the ONSTAGE festival and what I’m looking for in festival submissions HERE
  • I’ve also written a few tips for submitting to short-play festivals HERE and shared some thoughts on how I build our festival line-ups HERE
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Part II: Producer Talks With Playwright/Playwright Talks With Producer

Tiffany Antone & Jen Huszcza have a chat (via email)

This is Part II of a three-part conversation playwright Jen Huszcza and I had about Little Black Dress INK’s ONSTAGE Project festival.  I want to thank Jen for conceiving of and initiating this conversation, and for getting it into readable shape!

You can read Part I here.


Like you, I think visually and physically. When I first started writing plays, I would have long specific stage directions and visuals. I have since found ways to be precise and clear about what the audience sees. It takes a lot of work to be lean and simple.

In the festivals, I have been fortunate to have Cason as a director and collaborator. He embraces the visual too and does not shy away from directness. I was so glad to hear he took on THIS which is a difficult three page monologue.

Don Langford and Jon Bryan in Jen Huszcza's POP. Directed by Cason Murphy

Don Langford and Jon Bryan in Jen Huszcza’s POP. Directed by Cason Murphy

Something I have learned about writing short pieces is to keep the staging and set very simple. It will be part of an evening, and folks will have to change sets around. Couches are heavy. A table and chairs usually requires two or three people to bring it in. I also have done a lot staged readings, and somehow I’m the one who has to go three Goodwill stores to not find that elusive prop. Such treasure hunts stopped being fun for me after awhile.

That said, my first play that you all did, RINSE, had a lot of water flying around the stage, and after it was over, it looked like the whole crew had to get on the stage and wipe it down with towels. The crew got some well-deserved applause. RINSE is a play about water torture, so I think the audience needed something to applaud after the bleakness.

Something I never forget as a playwright is that plays happen on a stage. Where are plays set? On a stage. That stage could be a prison or a garden, but it’s still a stage. A few years ago, I went to the Globe Theatre in London and realized Shakespeare was an extremely practical playwright. Sure, he had the Elizabethan ear for language to play with, but he knew what his stage looked like. He didn’t need a lot to be epic.

So I’m wondering if you could talk about the practicalities of producing short play evenings. You had talked about THREE LESSONS IN LIVING with its multiple settings. How much are you thinking about how many plays need a couch or there will be a lot of popped balloon parts on the stage after this play? Also, casting. Obviously a ten minute play should not have a cast of thousands.


I have to answer this with two contradictory statements:  First, I am always considering production needs because, as you pointed out, they are SO important to consider in a festival.  When you’re producing 10-12 short plays, props/set/costume/furniture needs can make or break your plans to produce multiple pieces.  Then there is the issue of time.  In addition to the “Can we afford to buy/rent a large chicken costume?” type questions, I also have to ask “Can we afford the time it will take to strike/set this beast of a creative play amidst our line-up?”   Sometimes the answer to one contradicts the other… and sometimes we produce the thing anyway – as was the case with your play RINSE, which is a great example because the show itself was super compelling and I just knew we had to produce it!  I also knew the clean up was going to be a bitch, haha.  But obviously, the merit of the play, and the unique and very thrilling nature of the play, along with its theatricality (which I personally am a sucker for), won out against practicality.   What I couldn’t have anticipated however was how the clean-up itself became a performance.  Cason even added in some music – I think it was Rise of the Valkeryries, or something similar – and it just worked!


Allie Kate Elliot, Ered Mathew, and Melody Startzell in Kate Hawke’s BABE IN THE WOODS – 2012.

And then there are those times when – in weighing what the play requires against what I can reasonably provide – I have to let the piece go.  This year, we had a very powerful monologue submitted by playwright Anne Dimock, called SEÑOR ADRIA that I would have loved to produce!  The piece didn’t have unreasonable requirements, but it did demand an actress who could dance several different Latin dances – either with her IV stand or the imagined Latin lover she speaks of as she receives chemotherapy onstage.  In addition to an actress who could deliver the piece while dancing, I needed a director who could choreograph the piece… and I just couldn’t find the right team to handle the piece, so I had to let it go… not because it was overly demanding, but because I felt we wouldn’t be able to honor the piece in our production.  That was a hard decision, and one in which I really felt torn, but ultimately I think I made the right choice because I wouldn’t have been serving the playwright to include it without the people in place to bring it to realization.

Casting is also something I consider, but mostly because 10-minute plays with huge casts rarely take us on a complete journey.  And when I say “huge” I mean any cast over 6 for a 10-minute play is pushing it.  Of course, there are always exceptions… sometimes the style or story are perfect for bigger casts.  So, cast size is generally the last thing I worry about. Especially because we’re doing a festival and there are often quite a few actors involved, so I usually have plenty of actors to work with if a piece with a big cast is awesome and we want to produce it.


Jumping back to RINSE for a second: a big part of my theatrical aesthetic has always been the idea of mess. I like making a mess on stage. It can be a physical mess or psychic mess, but the stage is a great place to explore mess. Dionysian excess (and the basis of western dramatic writing is Greek tragedy) leads to mess and destruction, and what comes out of that mess and destruction is fascinating to me. In my life, I like order and neatness (I was one of those kids who didn’t get her white shorts dirty on camping trips), but in the theatre writing, I like to tear it all apart and see what falls out.

When Sara Israel sent me your plays, I saw this in your work as well. You tore your plays apart in such a uniquely visual way that I wanted to read more.

Check back later this week for Part III and an exciting announcement about this year’s fest!

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Producer Talks With Playwright/Playwright Talks With Producer


Jen Huszcza

Tiffany Antone & Jen Huszcza have a chat (via email)

This is Part I of a three-part conversation playwright Jen Huszcza and I had about Little Black Dress INK’s ONSTAGE Project festival.  I want to thank Jen for conceiving of and initiating this conversation, and for getting it into readable shape!


Some months back, Tiffany wrote an interesting blog post on the LAFPI website about how she makes curatorial choices for her festivals. Totally inspired by her post, I asked her if she wanted to collaborate on a blog piece in which she can expand on her ideas and possibly create an exchange between producer/curator and playwright. Because she is a positive force in the universe, she said yes.


Jen Huszcza’s RINSE, featuring Sean Jeralds, Anthony Osvog, and Dino Palazzi as directed by Cason Murphy, 2011

A little about me. I have been an unsuccessful playwright for twenty years. I was shocked when Tiffany wanted to produce my short play RINSE in her festival back in 2011. Then she wanted to produce POP in 2012. Then FLOWERS, then THIS. I continue to be in awe of Tiffany’s courage to produce the strange and the uncomfortable.

The first thing I want to talk about is choosing the themes of your festivals. Every festival has had a theme: DIRTY LAUNDRY, FROM THE MOUTHS OF BABES, PLANTING THE SEED, and OUTSIDE THE LINES. How do you come up with the themes and as a writer yourself, do you think about different ways it can be interpreted?


I actually spend a lot of time thinking about the theme every year.  I want to create something that has flexibility in how it can be interpreted, but still steers writers to create work that will have some connectivity.  The theme is a means of tying the fest together… even loosely.  I also try to find a theme that I think will interest audiences.  Because I’m a visual artist, I tend to think in images – most often when I come up with a theme that sparks my imagination, it comes along with an idea for the poster.  If I don’t think I can make the concept work, I go back to the drawing board.

As to interpreting the theme myself, I have written and entered plays in three of the past four fests, so I not only try to imagine different interpretations of the theme, but am oftentimes inspired by them myself.  But I don’t have any preconceived notions of what the themes will illicit from other writers.  Every year I’m happily surprised by the multitude of directions our writer’s take.

It is interesting though how some themes inspire plays along a similar topic.  Last year’s fest, PLANTING THE SEED, yielded a lot of plays about pregnancy/getting pregnant/making babies… It totally makes sense, but at the end of the selection period, a handful of plays had to be left out because I wasn’t trying to put together a whole festival about pregnancy.  I kept only one pregnancy themed play in the final line-up. Sometimes it’s better to sit and stew on a theme for a while and seek a less expected interpretation.  This year for instance, our theme was OUTSIDE THE LINES.  I had one playwright, Bridgette Dutta Portman, submit a play about an unhappy line-segment in a triangle.  It was SO unusual and also SO on point with the theme that it stood out from the start.  It was also the only play that took the theme so literally… well, except maybe for your piece, RUNNING LINES, which was a semi-finalist.


I was actually surprised that RUNNING LINES was a semi-finalist. It is a mime in four parts in which two guys in party hats run lines (or ropes) through blocks or they have to throw the lines to each other or the lines pull them off stage. I sail boats, so lines are very much in my world. I thought the piece was just a bit of fun that only sailors would get, but it happened in Iowa. I guess someone read it and liked it.

Speaking of reading and liking, I want to next talk about the peer review process you have for the festivals. When I first did it, I did not enjoy it. I was a professional reader for years, and I viewed reading scripts as a chore. However, I have now embraced that aspect of the festival. I found myself cheering for pieces I liked. It brought a feeling of community to the undertaking. I wasn’t just sending plays into a void. I was a part of the process.

Could you talk a bit about the peer review process, how it has evolved, and other things you have noticed from the curatorial point of view?


Cason Murphy in Jen Huszcza's THIS

(A very blurry) Cason Murphy in Jen Huszcza’s THIS, 2015

I loved RUNNING LINES.  I definitely felt like there was a sailing theme, but the actions and the silent communication between the players was compelling outside the world of sailing too – which I think comes down to your deftness with visual language.  Your text is always lean, and there is strength in the visual platform they inhabit.  For instance, with THIS – Cason got several compliments on his “choice” to do the piece on a bed standing upright on stage.  Everyone was doubly impressed when he said “That was all the playwright!”

As to the Peer Review process, your progression from disliking it to coming at it from a more rooted place is exactly what I hoped would happen.  So often we playwrights send our work out into the world without any idea what its hopeful trek to stage will look like.  We wonder “Who’s going to read it?  What will they think?  What do the winning plays have that mine didn’t?  Who are these people judging my work?” And nowhere along that process do we get to learn anything that can be applied “next time” because it all happens behind a wall.  Additionally, there’s no community in that process – it’s a dichotomous power structure that’s designed (not maliciously, of course) to keep playwrights out.

Our Peer Review process, on the other hand, aims to do the exact opposite of standard submission practices.  I’m not designing the festival with a panel of mysterious co-producers – I’m designing it hand in hand with the playwrights themselves.  And along the way I try really hard to empower the playwrights to connect with one another.  I LOVE that so many participants in this year’s fest felt invested in one another’s work, rooting on the pieces they believed in!  Rather than creating a competitive field where everyone’s out for themselves, I hope I’m creating an environment where female playwrights are meeting and becoming advocates for other female playwrights.

As to the process, each playwright reads and evaluates around 10-15 plays.   When I first started the fest, I thought I could get away with having each playwright read and evaluate only 5-6 pieces, but it turns out that was just enough to render the scores too similar: two people would love it, one would be indifferent, and the other two would dislike it.  The scores were all too similar except in very rare cases.  With each play getting read 10-15 times (and we can do that because the pieces are short) you see the scores fall very clearly along “These plays are really working for people” and “These plays aren’t”.  After all the scores are aggregated, I usually wind up reading the top 60% to gauge scores against material and to get a handle thematically on where we’re at.  I also keep an eye out for plays that received widely disparate scores, because if half the readers gave it a top score, and the other half hated it, I know I’ve got an interesting piece on my hands that I need to read and make a final decision on.

Something else I’d like to mention is that our festival process allows for some more creative choices than would be possible without our semi-finalist readings.  Take for instance Amy Schleunes’ play THREE LESSONS IN LIVING.  The play’s scores were totally uneven, and when I read it I understood why – talk about wild!  It reminded me of HAMLETMACHINE – it was only 6 pages, but it could probably be a full-length play!  The play calls for a forest, bedroom, and kitchen set, and there’s a clown with a friggin’ chainsaw in the show!  Haha, I loved it – but I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to produce it, unless I wanted to devote at least half the festival to this one show.  And yet, it scored high enough and was interesting and unique enough that I decided to include it in the semi-finalist line-up.

Then there are the shows that score really high that, when I read them, leave me scratching my head.  I read the piece, re-read the piece, and go “What am I not seeing here?” and then when we get to the semi-finalist stage or finalist stage, I get to see what the other playwright saw.  Every year I’ve included at least one of these types of pieces that didn’t originally strike me, but spoke to our playwrights during the peer review.  And you know what?  That’s what the festival, curated by our playwrights, is all about!  I love when they teach me something, and I love when I hear them say that they’re rooting their peers on – that’s what it’s all about!


I agree about the community aspect to the Onstage Festival. I came up with this dialogue/collaborative blog because I wanted to help other writers who are out there writing and submitting to this Festival. I have learned from sailing that I get better when people share what they know with me. I think for playwrights there is a lot of not sharing, but now we can share everything.

Read Part II here.

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For Kendra and all the other Playwright-Producers in the Room:

A few weeks ago I had just hopped over from teaching/directing a teen workshop production of THE TEMPEST into full-scale rehearsals and promotion for the OUTSIDE THE LINES fest.  (Yes, I scheduled the fest to open only 1 week after the closing of what had been an awesome but exhausting 3-week Shakespeare workshop with teens.  This was obviously wishful thinking on Past-Tiffany’s part and something I will remember next time scheduling comes into play.)  As we went into tech, I was pretty much spent – and yet, there was so much more to do, so much more to give, so much more to wrangle…


At the end of our fest, I’d gone about 16 days straight in the theater without a day “off” and was tired, grumpy, and demanding a lot of caffeine. But I was also incredibly grateful.  Because both events, while wildly different, had been successful – YAY! – so my fatigue was well earned and well-rewarded with the satisfaction of having led both events to fruitful completion.

But I couldn’t have done any of it without the awesome team of co-directors, actors, and playwrights I was working with.

A few days after the festival closed, I got a Tweet from a playwright named Kendra Augustin (aka QuietGirlRiot) who told me that after reading about how I created my own festival for female playwrights, she had decided to do the same.  How cool is that?!  Another intrepid woman taking charge and making things happen?!  I was stoked!  She asked me for helpful producing advice, and I promised her a post as soon as I got caught on up sleeping and eating… and then I turned off my computer while I recovered… and then I turned my computer back on but had to spend all 0f my precious e-hours prepping for class this semester.


Well, I’m finally all caught up on sleep, thoughts, and class-prep (not true – I still have one more syllabus to polish, but I can do that this afternoon!), so I’m finally finishing my little love note to Kendra.

(Kendra, I hope this helps!)

The first time I donned my producer hat, I was a struggling actor wrangling a bunch of other struggling actors.  We had decided we would take LA by storm and self-produce our own actor showcase.  We hired a director, we picked our scenes, we locked in a location, and we plunked our money down.

And then I began to pull out my hair, ever so slowly, strand by strand, day by day, as these actors who had invested their own money into our venture cancelled rehearsals we had already paid for, failed to mail invitations, and generally made me question why I had agreed to manage any of it.

Even though the stress along the way was monumental, the showcase wound up going really well, but I walked away from the experience vowing to never again “produce” anything because HOLY HELL, the anxiety, stress, and frustration were unbearable!


Umm, fast forward a decade, and I’ve not only made producing somewhat of a habit, I actually march into an annual new play festival with a smile on my face.

So what changed?

Well… I did.

I became a playwright.  I worked with some fantastic theater companies in LA as literary manager where I learned how to organize events, rally playwrights, and excite actors.  I absorbed as much as I could from my experience at those companies – paying attention to how they operate, how they produce, how they make the magic happen… and my skill set expanded as a result.

Then I moved out of LA, to a town where there were tons of hungry and passionate actors and directors who were doing theater because they loved it.  I started working up with a community theater that was excited to partner with me on the ONSTAGE Project.  These two HUGE pieces of the puzzle are directly responsible for making ONSTAGE possible.

Because producing is a lot of work.  You have not be passionate enough about your project that you can convince all the other necessary players to be passionate about your project – and sometimes that passion is the only thing you can pay your artists and co-conspirators with.

You have to be patient, because not everything is going to go well the first, second, or third time you don your producer’s hat.  Hell, there’s probably going to be some kind of “major” SNAFU pissing you off at some point during every production.  It’s only once you push past it, get free of it, and look at it in the rearview that you’ll be able to tell if it was really major or just super duper annoying.  (And if it was major, that’s when you toast yourself and that rear-view mirror with a tasty adult beverage.)

You have to be creative.  And I don’t just mean in an artistic sense, I mean in every sense.  You are now a marketer, director, logician, box-office manager, actor-therapist, and playwright-liaison.  Even if you have amazing partners handling some or (lucky you) most of these other areas, you will find yourself needing to make important decisions about each of these areas at some point or another – and creativity, patience (yes again) and ingenuity will be your friends.


You will need to manage the people helping you with respect and care.  This is SO important that I’m going to say it again- treat the people helping you with respect and care.  And appreciation!  Appreciate the hell out of them – because without them, none of it would be possible.  You’re only one person – these artists are the means by which the whole dream comes true.  They are amazing – even when they are a pain in the ass :-)  Remember that sometimes you’re the pain in the ass in their books… smile a lot, laugh often, and make sure everyone knows how valuable they are to you.  You can handle feeling the pinch – that’s you’re job now.  You’re there to make their lives easier so that they walk away from your event feeling awesome and hungry to do it all again next time you get a crazy hair up your creative butt.

Make friends with local businesses and other arts companies.  Sometimes our readings take place in galleries or bars because, hey, space is hard to find!  Some of these events have been our most successful because the audience is getting a broader experience:  new plays and art?  Score!  New plays and beer?  Double score! Even if you have a reading space, is there a way to partner with other businesses to host a reception, or cross-promotion?  Don’t underestimate the community these businesses have cultivated – their community might also be yours.


Don’t let obstacles overwhelm you.  Try to tackle them with an entrepreneurial spirit.  Sure, it’s hard and tiring and sometimes you will want to throw in the towel and drown your sorrows in a tall bottle of pinot noir… but put that problem-solving, pinot-noir-swilling playwright mind of yours to the task and ask it to help you create some real-world solutions!  Ask your co-pinot-noir-swilling friends to help your tired, somewhat tipsy brain out when it gets stuck.  Invite conversation, invite innovation, and never be afraid to think outside the lines (see what I did there?)

And at the end of the day, remember that theater is messy.  Your first fest isn’t going to be perfect.  Oh, who am I kidding… none of them will ever be “Perfect”.  Perfection and theater are opposites.  This is why theater is so vibrant, so intoxicating, so wonderously fullfilling (and frustrating!); it’s alive, just like us.  And, just like us weird little humans, it’s a miracle it even exists!  So when things get hiccup-ish (which they inevitably will do), accept that this is part of the process (and the ride).

Sometimes, all the craziness of producing still makes me want to pull out my hair.  I’ve wrangled several new play fests other than ONSTAGE, and there’s always at least one day in the middle of things where I ask myself “What is wrong with me?  Why do I keep doing this?!”


But then I see one of the plays I’ve been rooting for come to life in such an honest and moving way that all my anxiety melts away.  Sometimes an actor comes up to me after a fest and thanks me for trusting them with a new play, and I am so rewarded to see how exhilarated they are to have been a part of our unique event.  Or a playwright sends me a note with so much exuberant appreciation to all of our artists for bringing their play to life in so many cities, and I feel the deepest satisfaction and contentment in knowing that I was part of – in fact, the crazy person who made happen! – this happy playwriting moment.

So, Kendra (and all you other new or aspiring playwright-producers out there), I hope my soap-boxing is helpful for you.  You are going to have so many adventures, and they won’t all be easy, but they will be rewarding. I hope your project goes beautifully, and that you are afforded the sweet, sweet satisfaction of success at the festival’s close!  I hope that, like me, you walk away from the experience tired (because of course you will be) but grateful, thrilled by what you and your cohorts have accomplished, and with a skip in your step and a to-do list in your head as you begin planning for the next one.

More articles by Tiffany about self-producing and fests:

Self-Producing and Investing in Others
On the Fallacy of Space
Creating an Awesome Festival Line-up
A Few Tips for Submitting to 10-minute Play Festivals



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OUTSIDE THE LINES takes the stage at the Prescott Center for the Arts THIS WEEKEND!

Allie Kate Elliot and Austin Olson star in Nancy Cooper Frank's AN ANNOUNCEMENT, directed by Frank Malle.

Allie Kate Elliot and Austin Olson star in Nancy Cooper Frank’s AN ANNOUNCEMENT, directed by Frank Malle.

It’s here, it’s here!  Our 12 exciting, short, wacky, and wonderful new plays by female playwrights are about to take the stage at the Prescott Center for the Arts and we’re so excited we almost can’t stay within the lines ourselves!  We’ve got over 20 artists working together to bring the plays to life, and when you add that to the over 70 artists who’ve contributed to the festival’s development this year, that’s a lot of creative energy coursing through this beautiful baby!

Our Outside the Lines festival is the fourth installment of the Female Playwrights ONSTAGE Project.  Previous ONSTAGE festivals that have performed in Prescott include 2014’s Planting the Seed, 2013’s From the Mouths of Babes, and 2012’s Dirty Laundry.

Neal Griffin and Annabelle Veatch star in Kira Rockwell's WITH MY EYES SHUT, directed by Cason Murphy.

Neal Griffin and Annabelle Veatch star in Kira Rockwell’s WITH MY EYES SHUT, directed by Cason Murphy.

This year’s festival featured readings of 36 plays in seven different locations––including Ithaca, NY, Ames, IA, Santa Barbara, CA, Sedona, AZ, Auburn, AL––with the final line-up of 12 plays receiving readings in Waco, TX, and Los Angeles, CA, and the production in Prescott.

As fans of LBDI know, we’re continually trying to expand our reach and break through barriers, which is why we selected Outside the Lines as this year’s festival theme.  There is just something exhilarating about coloring outside the lines as writers and getting a chance to see our work have an effect on audiences.  Considering the fact that women comprise less than 20% of produced playwrights nationally, this year’s theme is particularly on point.

Read Prescott playwright, Delia Whitehead's interview HERE.

Read Prescott playwright, Delia Whitehead’s interview HERE.

Outside the Lines features work by local playwright and actress, Delia Whitehead, inaddition to playwrights from Los Angeles, New York, Maryland, Texas, and San Francisco. The Prescott production will feature the talents of several local directors including Frank Malle, Cason Murphy, Julie Chavez Harrington, Mary Timpany, and Tiffany Antone, not to mention a team of incredibly talented actors in the 12 shows, promising lots of laughs and maybe even a few tears.

And I think that’s the most exciting about our ONSTAGE festivals – the delightfully broad range of genres we’re able to feature! Each play is under ten-minutes, so you really get to experience an eclectic range of work. There are also a lot of comedies this year, which makes the deeper pieces all the more powerful. There really is something for everyone in this year’s line-up.

The Outside the Lines Festival performs August 6 and 8 at 7:30, with a 2:00 matinee on August 8 and 9 (NOTE: There will not be a performance on August 7). Performances will be at the Prescott Center for the Arts located at 208 North Marina Street in Prescott.

Tickets are $15 and can purchased at the door or online at

Be advised: Some plays do contain mature subject matter and language.

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Introducing: 2015 ONSTAGE Playwright Anne Hamilton

Learn more about our fabulous playwrights, and then join us at the Prescott Center for the Arts in Prescott, AZ this Thurs, Sat and Sunday (Aug 6, 8, 9) for the OUTSIDE THE LINES Festival!  Tickets Available HERE

Anne Hamilton at GPTC 2012Anne Hamilton is a playwright and dramaturg who sent us a delightful monologue last year called OFEM that just rocked the whole audience with laughter.  This year, she sent us a delightful short play called THE SHOEBOX about two women who haven’t been in touch in years, reconnecting unexpectedly over ice cream, potato chips, and some bad Catholic School memories.  The play is funny yet touching, and sure to move our audiences and I can’t wait to see it come to life!  THE SHOEBOX is directed by Julie Chavez Harrington, and stars Linda Fine and Elaine Woods.

LBDI:  Why did you decide to submit your work to this year’s ONSTAGE Project?

ANNE:  I had a wonderful experience last year when my comedy OFEM was chosen as a finalist. I enjoy participating in Little Black Dress’ peer evaluation process. Also, Tiffany Antone provided me with the opportunity to have my brand new play read on both coasts. I like the immediacy of this competition. I can write a play, submit it, and have it read in different locations, and also produced – all within a year of submitting.

LBDI:  Describe your writing space…

ANNE:  I move my writing space around the house. Currently I sit in a large, cushy pink armchair in the living room and place my computer on a glass table I inherited from a favorite aunt.

LBDI:  If you could be any literary character, who would you be?

ANNE:  I don’t think I would like to be a literary character unless I could write my own story.

LBDI:  What was your first play titled/about?

ANNE:  My first play was entitled ANOTHER WHITE SHIRT. It’s about how grief moves through the body and features four couples. One person has died from each couple, and the play features an Angel Ghost (female). Only the women speak in the play. The male (ghosts) dance, or have their lines appear as projections. I feel that grief is such a non-linear process that I needed to write in many methods of expressing it, including dance, puppets, projections, and music. When the audience enters the space, I want them to be surrounded by impressions, sound and changing light.

LBDI:  Which theatricians do you admire and what about them inspires you?

ANNE:  I admire Kathleen Chalfant for her fierce intelligence, humility and work ethic. I also admire Meryl Streep because I can watch her on film and somehow perceive what she’s thinking in certain scenes. Also – Michael Mayer, Anne Bogart, Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins, and Tony Kushner.

LBDI:  Why do you write for theatre?  (as opposed to other written mediums…)

ANNE:  I love the stage. I was a singer and actress for many years, and I love the behind-the-scenes process. I can be as imaginative as I want when writing plays, and I love to experiment with breaking form and audience-performer boundaries.

LBDI:  What message would you put in a fortune cookie?

ANNE:  “More life” – Tony Kushner

LBDI:  Morning, Noon, or Night?

ANNE:  Night.

More about Anne:

Anne Hamilton is a NYC-based freelance dramaturg and the Founder of Hamilton Dramaturgy, an international consultancy. She holds an MFA from Columbia University School of the Arts, and has worked with Andrei Serban, Michael Mayer, Lynn Nottage, NYMF, Niegel Smith, and Classic Stage Company. She created Hamilton Dramaturgy’s TheatreNow!, and her specialties include new play development, production dramaturgy, new musicals, career advising, advocacy, and oral histories. She was a Bogliasco Foundation Fellow.

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Introducing: 2015 ONSTAGE Playwright Hannah K. Baker

Learn more about our fabulous playwrights, and then join us at the Prescott Center for the Arts in Prescott, AZ this Thurs, Sat and Sunday (Aug 6, 8, 9) for the OUTSIDE THE LINES Festival!  Tickets Available HERE

HannahKBaker_ProfileHannah K. Baker’s short play FOR ANYONE WHO CARES will speak to anyone who has ever struggled to create something meaningful… and wound up instead staring at a blank page/canvas/computer screen for hours without a single worthwhile thought to show for it.  It’s a whimsical play about creativity, our desire to be heard/seen/remembered, and how futile the whole fight can be.  I can’t wait to see it come to life this weekend with Mary Timpany directing and Amber Bosworth and Janelle Devin in the starring roles!

LBDI:  Why did you decide to submit your work to this year’s ONSTAGE Project?

HANNAH:  I like challenging myself to try new things and to step outside of my comfort zone. This competition afforded me the opportunity to do both of those things, so I committed to creating a piece to submit.

LBDI:  Describe your writing space…

HANNAH:  It changes. Sometimes I need to be in a smaller room so my ideas stay more contained and are easier to manage, and other times I need larger spaces with really high ceilings so my ideas can be bigger and have more room to move around.

LBDI:  If you could be any literary character, who would you be?

HANNAH:  I don’t know if I have a definitive answer, but Robin Hood seems like a good choice. I’d get to be a charming rapscallion who has a great time challenging “the man”, is a beloved philanthropist, and is extremely skillful with a bow and arrow.

LBDI:  What was your first play titled/about?

HANNAH:  My first play was written for and performed in my AP U.S. History class in high school. It was a short comedy titled The Scary Cherry (I don’t remember why) and it marked the norms and changes occurring in America in the 50’s. The Scary Cherry covering all topics from the rise of teenage culture, to the woes of house-wife life, to McCarthyism. In the final act, McCarthy had gone so crazy with hunting communists that he started accusing high-ups in the army and thus lost the favor of the court. In the very dramatic ending, McCarthy, having a nervous breakdown, sees himself in a mirror, thinks he is seeing another communist, and shoots himself with a water gun.

LBDI:  Which theatricians do you admire and what about them inspires you?

HANNAH:  I very much admire Mike Nichols’ directing career. I am developing as a writer/director for feature films and to see how Nichols adapted his craft for theatre and film, and how each one translated to and inspired the other, is fascinating and awesome. Neil Simon’s vast portfolio of works as a writer for both theatre and film is something I greatly revere. His ability to translate characters and comedy across mediums proves how well he commanded his craft. His comedies accessed all types of humor — a skill I hope to harness and hone myself. Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead was a direct inspiration for the tone and tempo of my short stage play. I love the playful volley of words between the two characters, who are seemingly oblivious of themselves, and who discuss hefty existential thoughts. He is a master of this smart, dry, quick humor and it is definitely something I want to emulate. Finally, I’ll mention Elaina Kate, a dear friend of mine who moved to New York to pursue her writing career. Her dedication, determination, and confidence in her craft are all so inspiring to me. She is a writer in the truest sense of the word and writes for theatre among many other mediums. Seeing everything she has accomplished for herself thus far pushes me to cross my own perceived boundaries and to believe that I can.

LBDI:  Why do you write for theatre? (as opposed to other written mediums…)

HANNAH:  As much as I love the theatre, I don’t have much practice writing for it. So, I’d have to say I write for theatre for the challenge of trying something new, for the change in style and focus, and for yet another perspective of storytelling.

LBDI:  What message would you put in a fortune cookie?

HANNAH:  If you want to, you can find meaning in anything.

LBDI:  Morning, Noon, or Night?

HANNAH:  I surprise myself. I don’t know if it’s the weather or what, but where I would have assumed I would say Night, I have to go with Morning.

More about Hannah:

Hannah K. Baker is an alumnus of Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts where she earned a BFA in Film Production with an emphasis in directing. She continues producing creative content such as working on John Legend’s music video “You and I” and the indie feature THE SUBMARINE KID, co-written and starring Finn Wittrock. She is a member of the Coronet Writers Lab, which has fostered such talent as Mickey Fisher, the creator of the network TV show EXTANT.

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Introducing: 2015 ONSTAGE Playwright Delia Whitehead

Learn more about our fabulous playwrights, and then join us at the Prescott Center for the Arts in Prescott, AZ this Thurs, Sat and Sunday (Aug 6, 8, 9) for the OUTSIDE THE LINES Festival!  Tickets Available HERE

DeliaWhiteheadONSTAGE Playwright Delia Whitehead lives in my hometown of Prescott, AZ, which makes me very happy!  The ONSTAGE Fest began there, with the first year’s playwrights consisting of fabulous female playwrights I knew in LA and Prescott – it was an experiment in support, and I wasn’t sure if it would take flight (thank goodness it has!) and so I can’t help but feel a little thrill at knowing that another Prescott playwright is playing a part in making this year’s festival the best it can be :-)  Delia’s play, GREEN DOG, creatively tells  the story of a woman who tries a little too hard to do everything right and in the process, loses out of much of her own happiness.  I can’t wait to see it this weekend!  GREEN DOG is directed by Cason Murphy and stars Julie Chavez Harrington and Raina Yoss.

LBDI:  Why did you decide to submit your work to this year’s ONSTAGE Project?

DELIA:  I love what this festival offers for writers, actors, directors, and the audience.  It’s an all-around cool thing.

LBDI:  Describe your writing space…

DELIA:  Mostly inside my head (cluttered).  I spend a lot of time there before I get to the computer.  My office is on the north side of my home, with yellow walls and a beautiful view of the northern Arizona forest.  I confess to a chronically messy desk.

LBDI:  If you could be any literary character, who would you be?

DELIA:  I’ve thought about this a lot, for days in fact.  No one character jumped out as someone I wanted to be, so I suppose it’s good news that, in the end, I don’t want to be anybody but me. The characters I auditioned ranged from Howard Roark, Sherlock Holmes, Gandolf, Merlin, and the Chink, to Karen Blixen (who is not really fictional), Nancy Drew, and Charlotte, from Charlotte’s Web, because she was one of the wisest, most compassionate characters I remember.  I also wanted to be Ruby, or at least sail like she does, from Jim Lynch’s upcoming novel, Before the Wind, but that’s not out yet, so in order to meet Ruby, you’ll have to look for it in April, 2016.

LBDI:  What was your first play titled/about?

DELIA:  To be honest, I don’t remember my first play.  It was probably silly and self-indulgent, with sexual undertones.  The first play I wrote that I actually remember was called The Light Way Way, about a woman trying to convince a couple (the wife was gung-ho, the husband was freaked out) to join a network marketing company that sold enlightenment – by using their spray product, one became Enlightened and Blissfully One With It All.

LBDI:  Which theatricians do you admire and what about them inspires you?

DELIA:  I admire anyone with the courage to work hard to make something good, then keep working to make it better, and then get up in front of people and be vulnerable and willing to look silly in the interest of stirring the emotional pot of a society often out of touch with their feelings.  I particularly admire the work that goes on in Ashland, Oregon at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, especially in the days when Libby Appel was artistic director.

LBDI:  Why do you write for theatre?  (as opposed to other written mediums…)

DELIA:  It’s challenging to write well for theater, but I like the 3-D nature of it; I like watching my work pop up into live characters.  I also enjoy the collaborative, team-work nature of theater.

LBDI:  What message would you put in a fortune cookie?

DELIA:  Well, the fortune cookies I’ve seen lately are hardly fortunes, they’re merely lame sayings.


Is that too esoteric?  Do you get that I mean time is short so be here now, do it now, love it NOW?  I’m not sure it’s clear.  But that’s what I mean.  Tick-tock.

LBDI:  Morning, Noon, or Night?

DELIA:  It depends on the phase of my moon.  Sometimes morning, sometimes night.  Never noon.

More about Delia:

Delia Whitehead has been an actor, director, and writer for over twenty years. She’s had the great good fortune to play many plum roles in many venues in Prescott, Arizona, and at Canyon Moon Theater in Sedona, Arizona.  Her plays have been produced in Prescott, and include Undercurrents, The Key, and an adaptation of O’Henry’s Ransom of Red Chief.   She took some time away from the stage and her pen to give full attention to her private practice doing Brain Integration Technique. Now she has finally come to her senses and realized that she’s not fully human unless she’s creating.

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Introducing: 2015 ONSTAGE Playwright Sharon Goldner

Learn more about our fabulous playwrights, and then join us at the Prescott Center for the Arts in Prescott, AZ this Thurs, Sat and Sunday (Aug 6, 8, 9) for the OUTSIDE THE LINES Festival!  Tickets Available HERE

Sharon GoldnerLast year Sharon Goldner sent us a hilarious short play about sperm. This year, we’re producing her hilarious play about a woman and her vagina.  To say that Sharon has tuned in to what is apparently my personal preference for “body” humor is an understatement.  Of course, she writes lots of other things too – her short play The Costume was also a semi-finalist this year.  Basically, people should know about this enthusiastic and talented writer who continues to make us laugh and think and cheer!  DOWN THERE is directed by Tiffany Antone and stars Angela Bryan and Amber Bosworth.

LBDI:  Why did you decide to submit your work to this year’s ONSTAGE Project?

SHARON:  I submitted to this year’s Onstage Project because I am a repeat customer; that is, my play Little Swimmers, was in last year’s line-up.  Little Black Dress INK loves & appreciates its playwrights. It is a class act all the way.

LBDI:  Describe your writing space…

SHARON:  My writing space … hmm. I mull a lot. Ideas are all over the place in my brain. At some point my brain tells me that this mulling thing I’ve got going is suspiciously crossing the line into procrastination, & I know it is time to go to my favorite couch, wrap myself in my favorite blanket (Baltimore Ravens blanket; sorry fans of other teams), take pen & paper in hand, and let my brain I.V. drip every line of dialogue down to my arm and through my pen in hand, and onto the paper. Miraculously, a first draft is born!

LBDI:  If you could be any literary character, who would you be?

SHARON:  If I could be any literary character I would have to be Scout, from To Kill A Mockingbird; Curious George on days when I don’t shave my legs.

LBDI:  What was your first play titled/about?

SHARON:  I wrote my first play when I was maybe nine or ten years old, and it was an adaptation of a Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale. I do not remember which one. I hand-wrote it on looseleaf paper, and bound it with yarn. This process was repeated until I had enough scripts to give out to the kids in the neighborhood. It turned out that everyone had a part (I was such an altruistic child!) so there was no one left to be in the audience.

LBDI:  Which theatricians do you admire and what about them inspires you?

SHARON:  The theatrician I most admire is Tiffany Antone. Seriously. She is just about the coolest theater chick in the universe, & I am proud to be the founding member, and president, of her fan club. I have never met a theater professional as giving, caring, &
beautiful as this incredibly talented lady.

LBDI:  Why do you write for theatre? (as opposed to other written mediums…)

SHARON:  I write for theater because I enjoy putting words in other people’s mouths. And, I think it is the purest medium around. And hearing the audience’s laughter fulfills me so.

LBDI:  What message would you put in a fortune cookie?

SHARON:  The message I would put in a fortune cookie would be: Help! They are making me work in a fortune cookie factory & my fingers are numb from sticking tiny slips of paper into tiny slits in cookies.

LBDI:  Morning, Noon, or Night?

SHARON:  Why, night is the best time, of course. That’s when all the monsters come out to play.

More about Sharon:

Sharon Goldner is in love with the alphabet.  She learned early on that she has a knack for manipulating the alphabet into doing whatever she wants, like making phrases, sentences, and dialogue.  This made no sense to a variety of gym teachers  Sharon had through the years;  all they wanted her to do was climb a rope. The funny thing?  Upon graduating college, no prospective employers ever asked if she could climb a rope.  Anyway, Sharon took her love for manipulating the alphabet and turned it into plays.  Nineteen theaters from Off Broadway to California (and all in-between) have proven to Sharon that the whole rope climbing business doesn’t matter because thus far, there have been 28 productions of her work;  publications of her plays; awards; and one fellowship in Canada, where Sharon was one of only three playwrights chosen for the honor, world-wide. So right about now Sharon wants to say, “Take that, gym teachers!”  But she’s too nice to say it, so she’ll just think it.

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