Guest Post by playwright Anne Hamilton

Anne Hamilton at GPTC 2012For the past year I have had the pleasure of being involved in Little Black Dress INK’s Female Playwrights ONSTAGE Project.

Now in its fourth year, the competition is the brainchild of Playwright and Educator Tiffany Antone, who currently resides in Texas. This national festival of new work has a different theme each year and utilizes a peer review process to identify semi-finalists, whose short plays or monologues are then read in different cities across the country. Finalists are chosen from those events. They enjoyed a staged reading at the Los Angeles Theatre Center last year, followed by a production in Arizona in January.

In 2014, the theme was Planting the Seed, and my play OFEM, inspired by my experience as a CSA member at Blooming Glen Farm, was a finalist. It was read in Ithaca, NY, and Los Angeles before being given its premiere in Arizona. Indie Theatre Now will publish OFEM and all the finalists in an online volume of 11 plays.

This year’s theme is Outside the Lines, and my two character drama THE SHOEBOX is a semifinalist. This short play reunites two high school classmates to reminisce in a late night phone call after their homeroom teacher, a nun, has passed away. Theater Unbound in Minneapolis gave it a staged reading along with five other pieces in March. The festival is still unfolding in events across the country.

Tiffany summarizes her goals on her website: “Little Black Dress INK is an experiment in support, inspired by recent revelations in numbers on the subject of just how few female playwrights actually get produced. Through outreach, education, and producing opportunities, Little Black Dress INK strives to create more production opportunities for female playwrights while also strengthening the female playwright network.”

I have found this competition to be a highly effective and rewarding way of reaching those goals. It grows every year, and currently involves 35 new plays and over 60 artists in eight cities. 2016 submission guidelines will be posted on www.littleblackdressink.org on October 1, 2015.

Anne Hamilton has 24 years of experience as a dramaturg. She is available for script consultations and career advising through hamiltonlit@hotmail.com. Her play WHO’S ANDY WARHOL? was performed at The Lost Theatre in London in October, 2014. She will teach a playwriting workshop at the Philadelphia Writers Conference in June 12-14, 2015.

This article also published in Anne’s Page & Stage column in the Bucks County Women’s Journal (April/May 2015 issue). www.buckscountywomensjournal.com

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Playwrights Playing Everywhere

Female Playwrights ONSTAGE cropWe have so many awesome and wonderful women working with on our 2015 ONSTAGE Fest this year, that we can hardly stand it (and you can bet your sweet bippy we’ll be singing their praises a plenty as we move forward with all of our awesome semi-finalist readings).

In the meantime, here’s a rundown of where our semi-finalists will be read:


SANTA BARBARA, CA – Producer Kate Bergstrom with Stripped Scripts
An Announcement by Nancy Cooper Frank
Chicken Shoot by Jennie Webb
Edna and Furber by Patricia Mew
If I Were a Man by Mercedes Segesvary
Muse Me by Katherine James
Tweak by Diane Sampson

SEDONA, AZ – Producer Kate Hawkes with Red Earth Theatre
Bottom Line by Melanie Ewbank
Down There by Sharon Goldner
Green Dog by Delia Whitehead
Senor Adria by Anne Dimock
This by Jen Huszcza
Winter Light by Christine Foster

AMES, IA – Producer Charissa Menefee with Iowa State
A Thousand and One by Mary S. Parisoe
Three Lessons In Living  by Amy Schleunes
Running Lines by Jen Huszcza
Ephemera by Beth Kander
My Heart & I  by Jaisey Bates
Nothing in Particular  by Rhea MacCallum

ITHACA, NY – Producers Darcy Martin Rose with Acting Out NY, and Cynthia Henderson with Performing Arts for Social Change
Striae by Denise St. Pierre
Secondhand Gifts by C.J. Ehrlich
Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eugenie Carabatsos
Survival Strategy by Donna Hoke
The Feast by Celine Song
Time Slot by Kay Poiro

AUBURN, AL – Producer Amber Hanel with Sculpted Entertainment
Blue Light by Molly Pease
For Anyone Who Cares by Hannah Baker
Nonsynchronous Reflection   by Susan Goodell
Pythagorian Triplets by Bridgette Dutta Portman
The Exchange by Katherine Koller
With my Eyes Shut by Kira Rockwell

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Producer Anne Bertram with Theatre Unbound
(This reading took place on Tuesday, March 10)
Slut by Nayna Agrawal
The Shoebox by Anne Hamilton
Working Late by Rachael Brogan Flannery
After the Chicken Dance by Jaclyn Grogan
At the Gates of the House of the Mother of Waters by Eli Effinger-Weintraub
Solo Journeys by Kirsten Van Ritzen

 

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Those are my Girls

By Guest Blogger, playwright Jen Huszcza

aw_yeah_by_rizusaur-d516inwTiffany has blogged and talked about the peer review of submissions for the Onstage Project festivals many times. This year, I thought I would add my own two cents as someone who participated.

Every year for the last four years, I have sent scripts to Tiffany for the Onstage Project; then a month or so later, she will send me anonymous scripts by other playwrights to read.

I was unenthusiastic about reading submissions the first year. I had read scripts professionally and burned out on it. However, for these last two festivals, it was interesting to see how other playwrights handled the themes of Planting the Seed and Outside the Lines.

This time, there were two scripts in my pile that I really liked. One was called Slut about a young Indian woman trying to find love away from her traditional and television watching parents. Her characters were living beings, and that’s hard to pull off in short plays. The other play was called Down There and it was about a woman and her talking vagina. She had me at the talking vagina.

Then, I was excited to see both plays were semi-finalists.

Those are my girls! I exclaimed to my computer screen.

Then, I realized it was probably better to say: Those are the plays-written-by-women-which-I-thought-highly-of!

It was also exciting to put a playwright to the play. Slut was written by Naya Agrawal, and Down There was written by Sharon Goldner.

I don’t know these two playwrights personally. We don’t all hang out in the female playwrights cave or go to female playwright bridge nights. Still, it was really fun to meet their girls (I mean, their work).

In my middle age, I no longer gush, so I apologize if I ever meet these two ladies and seem standoffish. But Naya and Sharon, I liked your plays a lot.

As a reader, I can not put what appeals to me as a formula or some specific standard. I will say that I look for creativity. I look for something I have never seen before (I have read a lot, so there is a lot I have seen before). I wasn’t counting pages as I read these plays. Instead, I didn’t want these plays to end. They reached out from the page and grabbed my imagination. I still think about them and smile.

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Meet our Minneapolis Playwrights!

Holy cow, holy cow – we are SO excited about next week’s ONSTAGE reading in Minneapolis that we can hardly stand it!  Anne Bertram with Theatre Unbound is absolutely rocking our world with her dedication to this event.  Huzzah!

So, without further ado, allow us to introduce you to the awesome female playwrights whose work is getting read this Tuesday, March 10th at 7:30 at The People’s Center Theatre (425 20th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55454).  If you’re in the neighborhood, we hope you’ll join Theatre Unbound for a lovely evening of awesome new work by these FABULOUS female playwrights!

Jaclyn Grogan HeadshotJaclyn Grogan (AFTER THE CHICKEN DANCE) is a playwright, a nomad, and an extroverted introvert. Her dark comedies, dream plays, and farcical shorts explore the absurdist themes by which she lives, including the ultimate struggle for control in an illogical universe in which no control is to be had. Ever. Jaclyn’s plays have been performed in cities across the country, including workshops at academic conferences, staged readings, and productions at regional theatres. In May 2015, Jaclyn will receive her MFA in Playwriting from Southern Illinois University. She also received her undergraduate degree in English and Theatre Studies from Wellesley College. Prior to writing plays, Jaclyn served as a college counselor for high school students within the Texas public school system. In her unstructured spare time, Jaclyn lives vicariously through documentary-style crime television. Jaclyn will never drive a vehicle with a personalized license plate should she ever need to run from the law.

Playwright Nayna Agrawal

 

Nayna Agrawal (SLUT) is an MFA in stage and screen writing student at Northwestern University.  Her plays have appeared in Chicago, Ithaca, New Bedford, Seattle and Evanston.  She was a writing intern with HBO last summer and the winner of an Emmy Foundation scholarship.
**This is Nayna’s second time as an ONSTAGE Semi-finalist.  Her play, Purple Eggs, was a 2014 ONSTAGE semi-finalist in our Planting the Seed Festival.

 

Anne Hamilton at GPTC 2012Anne Hamilton (THE SHOEBOX) 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. www.hamiltonlit.com

**This is Anne’s second time as an ONSTAGE Finalist.  Her play, OFEM was a 2014 Finalist in our Planting the Seed Festival.

EliEffinger-WeintraubEli Effinger-Weintraub (AT THE GATES OF THE HOUSE OF THE MOTHER OF WATERS) is a playwright and prosaist celebrating the magical in the mundane​. Gadfly Theatre Productions premiered her play Girl Gumshoe & Detective Dad in October 2014; she is a many-time writer for Theatre Unbound’s 24:00:00 Xtreme Theatre Smackdown; and her short plays have appeared in festivals around the country. Her prose publications, both fiction and nonfiction, run the gamut from Steampunk Tales and Electric Velocipede to Alyson Books, Seal Press, and Llewellyn Worldwide. Eli is honored to be part of the writing team for Theatre Unbound’s collaborative Title IX project about women in sports, which begins touring in September 2015. Eli lives in Minneapolis with her wife and frequent inspiration, visual and fiber artist Leora Effinger-Weintraub.

Kirsten_Van_Ritzen (2)Kirsten Van Ritzen (SOLO JOURNEYS) is a professional actor and comedienne who has received acclaim across Canada for her performances in theatre, comedy, TV, film and radio; she has also performed in Orlando, Chicago and L.A. Kirsten has written and performed several solo plays including ALL MY DAY JOBS published in the anthology ONE FOR THE ROAD: NEW PLAYS FOR ONE ACTOR (Signature Editions). She is the author of THE COMEDY DIVA DIARIES (iUniverse) a humour novel about a female comic trying to make it in Hollywood. A member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada, Kirsten has two full-length plays in development THE TRIPLEX and MAD LADY PEEL.  Wishing success and inspiration to my colleagues on all your creative journeys!  www.kirstenvanritzen.com www.comedydivadiaries.com @mscomedydiva

Rachael Brogan Flanery Color HeadshotRachael Brogan Flanery (WORKING LATE) is an actress and writer in the Twin Cities. She has her MFA in playwriting from UCLA and BA in theater from the University of Iowa. Her plays have been produced in Aspen, CO., Iowa City, IA., Los Angeles, CA., Minneapolis, MN., Prescott, AZ., and New York, NY. She is currently performing her one woman show “Shades of Ginger” as part of Theatre Unbound’s 2015 Girl Shorts. She is co-founder of Twin Cities’ theater company: Table Salt Productions and has performed in many of their shows since 2009. She is thrilled to be involved in LBDI Female Playwrights Onstage for the second time. In her spare time she is a wife, mother, and teacher.

Outside the Lines_UNBOUND poster_web

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ONSTAGE at Theatre Unbound!

2014logoI met Anne Bertram at the 2014 Great Plains Theatre Conference.  Her play, The Good Fight, was so AWESOME, I knew I had to get to know this playwright!  My hope at the time was that maybe she would want to write something for our 2015 ONSTAGE Festival, but lo and behold, she decided to come on board as a Partner Producer instead – she is just that awesome!

Anne is the Executive Director at Theatre Unbound, a Minneapolis based theatre company devoted to delivering thought-provoking live theatre conceived and created by women, and providing audiences with engaging, rarely-seen perspectives on issues that are relevant and universal.

We absolutely can’t wait to work with Theatre Unbound this month – they’re going to be reading our first group of Semi-Finalist plays on March 10th at The People’s Center Theatre (425 20th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55454)

While Theatre Unbound gets busy casting an rehearsing and doing all the wonderful things they do, we thought it would be fun to share a few interview Q & A’s with you!

LBDI:  What motivated you to become a part of the ONSTAGE Project?

ANNE: We want to get to know more playwrights!

(YAY!  We love that answer!)

LBDI:  Why do you love female playwrights?

ANNE: Well, let’s see, here’s the mission statement: “Theatre Unbound delivers thought-provoking live theatre conceived and created by women, providing audiences with engaging, rarely-seen perspectives on issues that are relevant and universal.” We exist to champion women theatre artists.

LBDI: Which theatre-makers inspire you and why?

ANNE: Anne Bogart, because she has evolved a beautiful and useful framework for developing theatre.  Katherine Hepburn, because when she wasn’t getting parts offered to her, she backed the stage production of and acquired the film rights to “The Philadelphia Story” – she made her own opportunities. Izumo no Okuni, because she invented kabuki.

LBDI: What is your spirit-animal?

ANNE: It’s either the snowy owl or Homo sapiens (the company vote was divided)

LBDI: Paper or Plastic?

ANNE: BYOB! Canvas shopping bag.

We can’t wait for our playwrights to be heard in Minneapolis!  We’ll be posting a little more information about them this week, so check back soon to read their bios and find out a little more about each playwright’s piece.

Until then…

Outside the Lines_UNBOUND poster_web

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Our 2015 ONSTAGE Semi-Finalists

Outside the Lines poster_webIt’s been an awesome couple of weeks over here at Little Black Dress INK— full of fantastic new plays and incredible peer-reviews—and we are feeling oh-so grateful to everyone who shared their work, time, and talents with us!

That said, our 2015 ONSTAGE Project is underway with the Outside the Lines new play festival, and we are absolutely THRILLED to announce this year’s ONSTAGE Semi-Finalists:

A Thousand and One by Mary S. Parisoe
After the Chicken Dance by Jaclyn Grogan
An Announcement by Nancy Cooper Frank
At the Gates of the House of the Mother of Waters by Eli Effinger-Weintraub
Blue Light by Molly Pease
Bottom Line by Melanie Ewbank
Chicken Shoot by Jennie Webb
Down There by Sharon Goldner
Edna and Furber by Patricia Mew
Ephemera by Beth Kander
For Anyone Who Cares by Hannah Baker
Green Dog by Delia Whitehead
If I Were a Man by Mercedes Segesvary
Muse Me by Katherine James
Non-synchronous Reflection by Susan Goodell
Pythagorian Triplets by Bridgette Dutta Portman
My Heart and I by Jaisey Bates
Nothing in Particular by Rhea MacCallum
Running Lines by Jen Huszcza
Secondhand Gifts by C.J. Ehrlich
Senor Adria by Anne Dimock
Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eugenie Carabatsos
Slut by Nayna Agrawal
Solo Journeys by Kirsten Van Ritzen
Striae by Denise St. Pierre
Survival Strategy by Donna Hoke
The Exchange by Katherine Koller
The Feast by Celine Song
The Shoebox by Anne Hamilton
Three Lessons In Living by Amy Schleunes
This by Jen Huszcza
Time Slot by Kay Poiro
Tweak by Diane Sampson
Winter Light by Christine Foster
With my Eyes Shut by Kira Rockwell
Working Late by Rachael Brogan Flannery

Each of our playwrights will receive at least one reading with one of our partner producers in either Santa Barbara, CA; Sedona, AZ; Auburn, AL; Ames, IA, Minneapolis, MN, or Waco, TX before moving on to our live-stream reading in LA, and final production in Prescott, AZ.

Welcome to the party, ladies!  #FemalePlaywrightsROCK!

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A Few Tips for Submitting to 10-minute Play Festivals

Lightbulb bright ideaWho watches The Voice?  I can’t get enough of it.  It might be my inner karaoke fanatic, but there’s something about watching these performers sing their hearts out in the hopes of grabbing hold of their dreams that gives me all the feels.

It’s also a really great demonstration in just how many nearly-intangible things go into “making it” in as an artist, because—as we can all see—it’s not just about how talented a person is.  Charisma, sincerity, energy, passion, control, experience, timing, and choice of material are all factors in whether or not a Voice contestant gets selected by one of the celebrity judges.

It oftentime feels like, as a writer, there’s just no way to tell what’s going to grab a reader, and what isn’t – and this is partially true.  But, after working as a literary manager and now as the producer of our ONSTAGE Project, I’ve read a LOT of plays and I’ve overseen a lot of LBDI peer-reviews, and I think I can offer up a few tips for playwrights interested in submitting to play fests.

  • Show off Your Unique Voice:  Remember that readers are looking at piles and piles of plays and it’s the unique, the unusual, the “Wow, I’ve never read a play like this/about this subject/with characters like these before” plays that immediately stand out.  Sometimes these plays aren’t even the “best” written, but their rough-around-the-edges feel still feel more exciting because the voice of the writer (as evidenced in the action, the dialogue, the characters, the concept) is fresh.
  • Complete story:  Look, 10-minute plays are actually tough to write.  You have to come up with a compelling story with a beginning, middle, and end in 10 pages or less?!  That’s ridiculous, right?  Which is probably why a lot of writers skip that very important last part when the truth is, they’d do a lot better skipping the beginning instead.  You only have 10 minutes – so jump into the play at the middle and deliver a kick-ass end to leave us breathless.  There are always several plays submitted to our ONSTAGE Project that start out with so much promise, have really interesting characters/great dialogue, but then drop off without any feeling of completion, or they try to tie things up with a very rushed, improbable and unbelievable final bit of dialogue or action because they spent too much time setting up the world and didn’t think the story all the way through to the close.  Audiences hate a tease… so put a killer button on the end of your play and leave us satisfied!
  • Reasonable production needs: I am a sucker for spectacle.  I love to include fantastical “You can’t see THIS on your television screen!” elements into my plays, and I love to see these kinds of plays on stage.  BUT, most ten-minute play festivals rely on easy-to-produce pieces because those hefty set-up times between plays bore audiences and eat up valuable production time.  Additionally, 10-minute fests are usually working on a low budget… so although a balls-to-the-wall spaghetti diner food-fight between flying Godzillas sounds AMAZING, it’s probably not produce-able on most festival budgets.
  • Choice of Material: Sometimes you send in the wrong play for the right fest, and there’s just nothing you can do about that except learn, get to better know what kind of work the theater or company is drawn to, and try to choose better next time. Last year’s theme, Planting the Seed, lent itself to two very common interpretations: Gardening and Pregnancy.  We received SO many plays on both of those subjects that we could have produced a whole evening of plays on either topic.  With that many plays coming in on the same subject, it becomes harder for your play to stand out, whereas someone who writes a piece that stands out on its own -genre/style/subject matter-wise, etc— has less competition.
  • That said, you never know when someone is going to read your spaghetti-throwing Godzilla piece without an ending, and decide that they just HAVE to produce it!  Different things jump out to different people.  The best thing you can do as a writer is to write the story you want to see on stage… to put your voice into it, to put your love of storytelling into it, and to make sure that—no matter the result—you’re creating work you believe in.  Because odds are good that there is someone out there who is just dying to produce your weird and wonderful thought-baby, they just don’t know it yet because you haven’t gotten it into their hot little hands.

Personally, I’ve been quite impressed with the quality and variety of work submitted to this year’s ONSTAGE Fest.  As a rule, I strive to create the most diverse and engaging festival line up I can – but I can tell that boiling our semi-finalist list down to a final 2015 line up is going to be a major challenge this year… and that makes me super happy!

Seriously, #FemalePlaywrightsROCK!

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We’re Getting Published!

We’re pretty excited over here because the 2014 ONSTAGE Finalists whose works made up our Planting the Seed fest are GETTING PUBLISHED with Indie Theater Now!

That’s right—it’s party time!

We couldn’t be happier for our playwrights, and for this exciting new phase for our ONSTAGE Festivals.  Not only will other theater companies and independent producers be able to read our winning plays, but they’ll be able to look at producing the whole Planting the Seed line-up, which is really exciting considering ten-minute plays can be a tough sell outside the festival circuit.

So let us send out a super heart-felt THANK YOU to Indie Theater Now for supporting Little Black Dress INK and our fantastic female playwrights, along with a super heartfelt CONGRATULATIONS to our 2014 playwrights:

Denise St. Pierre – THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO GARDENING
Brigitte Viellieu-Davis – FLY GIRL FLY
Anne Hamilton – OFEM
Katherine James – THE OLD SALT
Jessica Abrams – HAPPY RETURNS
Sharon Goldner – LITTLE SWIMMERS
Jennie Webb – REBECCA ON THE BUS
Marla Dean – THE ENVIRONMENTALISTS
Tiffany Antone – FANCY TOMATOES
Kay Poiro – SEEDS OF REBELLION
Jen Huszcza – FLOWERS

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Up to our Eyeballs!

Sheep-silly-eyeWhat an absolutely outstanding start to the new year!   We are up to our eyeballs in ONSTAGE submissions and peer evaluations over here, and we couldn’t be happier about it.

I’ve got to admit, wrapping up our 2014 festival the same weekend as our 2015 submission deadline was a bit ambitious – I was fielding emails about show tickets at the same time I was replying to playwrights eager to make our deadline.  While the collision of the two did lend a “full circle” feel to the first week of January, it was also a bit dizzying and I’ve only now begun to feel like I’m catching up on both!

We had 116 plays/monologues submitted this year, with playwrights sending in work from across the country.  We also had playwrights submit work from Canada, Australia, and Germany as well!  How exciting!

We’ve got some new and exciting updates about the ONSTAGE Project to share with you… but not yet.  Suffice to say this month has yielded a WONDERFUL surprise that has us hopping up and down with excitement, but we want to announce it properly – not in a catch-up post like this one, so keep your eyes peeled for an announcement soon.

In the meantime, we’d like to give a nice big shout out to all of our 2015 playwrights.  We’ve received some truly incredible work, and we love how much time and energy they are putting into our peer review process!  We can’t wait to compile everyone’s evaluations and start announcing our semi-finalists.

#FemalePlaywrightsROCK!

 

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Our Final Planting the Seed Poster!

I’m so excited to share our final poster for the Planting the Seed fest going up in Prescott, AZ Jan 2nd and 3rd!  YAY!

Planting the Seed Fest Poster
Directors in Prescott include Linda Miller, Don Langford, Frank Malle, Karen Murphy, Jon Meyer, Cason Murphy, Mary Timpany, and Tiffany Antone.

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