Guest Blogger: 2017 Semi-Finalist Allie Costa

In my play BOXES ARE MAGIC, Yasmine and Cali have very different views of the world. Most of what Cali sees, she sees from the window; she never leaves the house. What will happen when the outside world comes crashing in?

BOXES ARE MAGIC was inspired by a prompt for PlayGround-LA’s Planet Earth Arts New Play Festival, which encouraged playwrights to write 10-minute plays exploring issues of planetary sustainability and caring for the natural world as well as caring for others.

Anyone who has ever cared for a pet knows the joy and frustration that comes with that responsibility, as well as the yearning to protect your pets from the outside world, to keep them safe, always. On December 4th, 2015, Quebec approved a bill officially recognizing animals as sentient beings with biological needs. According to Barbara Cartwright, the CEO of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, “Until this law was passed, there was no distinction between a car and a cat in terms of legal rights. Anyone who has ever lived with a pet knows that animals experience emotions and feel both physical and psychological pain, but this is the first time in North America that these basic truths have been entrenched in law.”

BOXES ARE MAGIC takes a global issue and brings it home: We meet Yasmine and Cali at a tumultuous point in their lives, as their relationship is tested by something neither of them could have anticipated. What begins as a comedy is revealed to be more than meets the eye, and it ties into this year’s LBDI theme “hot mess” in a creative and compassionate way.

Global warming has significantly increased the number and size of wildfires on the planet. In August 2016, over 82,000 Southern California residents were forced to evacuate when an uncontrollable fire engulfed an area larger than the size of San Francisco. The National Wildlife Federation estimates that the overall area burned in the western United States will double by late this century. Experts predict that 25%-37% of Earth’s species will be headed for extinction by 2050 if the warming trend continues at its current rate.

We have to care for each other. We have to care for our planet. We should use our energy in a positive way, and fuel our actions with compassion and kindness.

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Guest Blogger: 2017 semi-finalist Jen Huszcza

Where is the mess?

Recently, a local theatre group did a reading of Act One of Sam Shepard’s Buried Child at the local library. After the reading, the actors led an audience discussion.

An older lady sitting behind me asked about Shepard’s acting career and whether it had any impact on his writing. Naturally, the actors were all about how acting makes for better playwriting. Naturally, Jen’s brain started shouting NO! NO! NO!

Then, Jen raised her hand.

Then Jen’s steamroller of a brain flattened them all with words like writer’s voice and physicality and American Myth and novelists and James Joyce and on and on. I felt like Hamlet’s whore unpacking my heart with words. When I finally stopped talking, the room was awkwardly silent for a few seconds. Oooops!

I tell you this story because recently Tiffany and I were emailing back and forth about the state of playwriting and the Hot Mess script submissions. I lamented the lack of mess and immediacy in the plays I read, and Tiffany asked me to write a blog.

As I sat at my keyboard with my notes next to me, I realized I had a whole new opportunity to once again steamroll over the current theatre, but I didn’t want to be a blogging blabbermouth. What did I know anyway? I’m not successful by American standards. I’m awkward in large groups.

I was sailing a boat when I heard that this year’s Onstage theme was Hot Mess. Adding the word hot to my mess gave my playwright brain a lot of dynamite. Hot mess made me think of Satan, snakes, beer, and dead bodies being dug up, and I sent in a bunch of short pieces.

Because I submitted more than one piece, I received a big bundle of exquisite short plays and monologues to peer-review. At this point, I was back on land and excited to see what the other hot messes were.

I read some gems, but I also noticed two things about the less gemmy.

First, time. In the less gemmy, there was a lot of talk of the past. So much talk of the past that I found myself waiting for the play to start six pages in. Yes, I understand that exposition is a bitch. When I have ten minutes, I don’t have time for secrets. I don’t have time to be coy. I need to get to the point and beyond it.

There is also a big difference between saying, I was mean to I am mean. There’s more energy in present tense. It leads to a future which is uncertain. If something is in past tense, it only leads to now, and I’m looking at now right now.

Second, mess. Where is the mess? Mess doesn’t have to visual. It could be psychological or emotional. A character could be a mess. A situation in its awkwardness or strangeness could be a mess.

I have learned that actual mess is difficult for short play festivals because transitions between plays happen quickly. At the first Onstage Festival back in 2011, I watched the stage crew towel down the stage because I had water splash in my play. The towels got a round of applause.

So, given the theme Hot Mess, how do you create mess? When I write plays, I don’t have to be nice or neat. I can make a mess and not worry about cleaning it up. When I write plays, I can let the steamroller go and unpack the heart with words.

To quote Ms Imbrie in The Philadelphia Story: it’s all right Tracy, we go haywire at times and if we don’t, maybe we ought to.

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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.

Paul.

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.

Yep.

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

LIKE LOVE WOW ANGRY SAD, by Laura Neill

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

Something Wicked, by Elizabeth Coplan

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 HowlRound.com

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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.

Awesome!

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 www.WellnessWithKate.com

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

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