Play Submissions Much Easier after a Few Years of Writing

I am consistently sending my plays out to festivals and theaters with the hope of getting produced. Sometimes I’m successful. Many times not. The competition is fierce, to say the least.

But now that I’ve been writing consistently for the past 7 or 8 years, I have a volume of plays (especially short plays) at my disposal to send to festivals. One minute play festival? No problem. Got it. A play based on the lives of senior citizens? You bet. Just sent one of my favorites, REVENGE OF THE GRANDPARENTS, to just such a festival. Short play with a strong female lead? You betcha. A unique take on Shakespeare? Got it covered.  Typically, in no time, I can have my submission off into the pool of potential. Then I cross my fingers.

Full-length plays are much more difficult. I’ve been pitching my play The Last Bastion the last two years. I’ve received some good feedback, even a recommendation from another festival, but still no bites. Must keep at it. Recently, I’ve started pitching my new full-length play For the Glory of Nat Turner as well. Only time will tell.

I’m fortunate enough that I’m a theatre professional in a school setting so I get to produce a lot of my own plays which is really cool. I love seeing my work come to life. But it’s even cooler when a festival or theatre decides to produce my shows out of their own free will. I hope that will continue in the future. I currently have two of my plays set to be produced around the world.

GRADE SEMANTICS will be part of the Short & Sweet Theatre Festival in Penang, Malaysia in November.

SAFE SPACES will be part of the Conservative Theater Festival in Columbus, Oh in January.

Besides that, I’m producing two of my own shows in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the next few months.  STORIES VOL. 2 will be on October 30 and the world premier of CRAZY LOVE will be in April.

So now you’re up to date. Hope there will be much more on the horizon.

Songs in Your Head: The Unintended Consequence of Producing a Musical

It sounded like a great idea in the abstract. A musical, I said. How fun will that be! A blast!

Let me choose one. Hmmm, I want one which would have cross-divisional appeal at our school. One in which, for example, if I didn’t get a lot of high schoolers auditioning, then I could still cast the roles using younger kids.

Okay, what about Seussical – the Broadway smash from 2000 with catchy tunes and colorful Dr. Seuss characters? Perfect. Let’s do it!

I finished casting the show two weeks ago and last week was our first week of full rehearsals. They’ve gone great, actually. Lots of fun, good excitement among the 20 student actors, and real progress. I have been pleased.

All’s good, right?

Well, I have run into one problem, the unintended, yet very real consequences of producing a musical, and that is this: I CAN’T GET THE BLASTED SONGS OUT OF HEAD! EVER! THEY HAVE TAKEN UP PERMANENT RESIDENCE.

I’m standing in line at the grocery store: “On the fifteen of May in the jungle of Nool …” I’m sorry, say that again. How much do I owe you?

My wife is talking to me about hanging the curtains in the house. “… when Horton the Elephant heard a small noise …”   I’m sorry, dear. How high do you want those hung?

These composer have created a hypnotic group of songs. No matter what I’m doing, where I go, or whom I am talking to, the voice of the Cat in the Hat is not far behind.

And here is the harshest of all harsh realizations: the show isn’t finished until December 13. I have two and half more months.

Now I have a question for you? “Who is the biggest blame fool in the jungle of Nool?”

I am. That would be me.

 

Play Feedback: Drive-By

Play Feedback: Drive-By

I regularly submit my plays to theatres and festivals around the world. Some are chosen for production. Most are not. The competition is fierce. I love receiving feedback which is why I always submit to the Pittsburgh New Works Theatre. They have a fantastic process in which two unnamed judges give detailed feedback about all the pieces submitted.

I recently received feedback about my piece entitled “Drive-by” – a poignant short play about about a young teen losing her sister to a drive-by shooting.  Ultimately, the play wasn’t chosen by the festival. Why? I’m not sure since the feedback was great. It was rewarding to hear that my play resonated with the judges. I’ve put their comments below.

Now I just have one question: Who wants to produce my play?

Judge #5 – score  93/100

A very timely topic, gun violence. The plot development is very interesting. The idea that as the action moves forward on finding out who the person was that shot the little girl, everyone around fines what they need except the sister. Although not new thematically, a strong take on the subject. What is most interesting is the staging possibilities. Having the story being told in past tense, flash backs provides a challenging and most interesting staging possibilities. This play needs to be seen. I am sure a staged read was powerful but an all out performance with strong production qualities would/will make this play shine.

Judge #6 –  score  90/100

Wow…this one hits you right in the solar plexus!
Very concise and well written dialogue…I could feel the emotion pouring from all characters. A real challenge for the director and actors, but one that could, ultimately, produce a very nice piece of theatre!  Easily produced because of the simple set (lighting is crucial though).  Good job!

Wearing a New TECH Hat

My role as drama director has shifted as I now produce my shows in a brand new theatre-style auditorium. In the past, I’ve had a dedicated theatre tech staff, professionally trained in lighting design for dramatic shows. I used to tell those fine professionals what I wanted and they worked their magic.

Well, no more. I’ve had to add lighting tech to my list of responsibilities, and shall I say, I actually love it.  Here’s a photo of me doing design work from the ETC Element console in our auditorium.

Lighting Booth
I designed that setting red sun along with a blue wash for my play “No in Spite of Itself.” I added a starry gobo to it as well though not noticeable in the shot.

 

Lighting design is just the type of creative activity which I love to do. Along the course of my theatre journey, I’ve had to learn graphic design on photoshop, audio editing on Audacity, and now I’m knee deep in the wonderful world of theatre lighting.

I have a lot to learn, and I have to learn how to do proper lighting with the limitations of our new theatre.

Drive By
In this shot, spotlight on stage left focused on the mayor’s press conference. A scrim at center stage is lighted by a Source Four ellipsoidal and the cyclorama is lit in blue and red by our Source Four LED par lights.
dress rehearsal
Distant view of the same shot.

 

I was happy with the results of my first lighting design. I can’t wait to do more!  There’s really an unlimited type of creativity offered in this type of work–especially with the high-end LED lights that we have. The color, oh my, is tremendous. Every scene can be shaded differently to help set the tone.  So much fun!

I’m fortunate to be able to run the whole gamut of theatre in my current setting – writing, producing, directing, and now sound & lighting design.

Let’s keep it going! I have three more shows planned for next year.

LED Lights and Theatre

Most of my experience in doing lighting design for theatre was drawing a sketch of what I needed and handing it to a talented technician who actually knew what to do to make it happen.

The systems I worked with were good but old school. You know, strip lights, parcans, colored gels, fresnels, and ellipsoidals. All that stuff did the trick and I was, in conjunction with those talented technicians, able to create some pretty cool lighting landscapes for shows over the years.

I got my first taste of LEDs a few years back in a small venue. I was not impressed. These were obviously cheap LED lights. Some of the lighting nodules stopped working after a while. We had a terrible system for controlling them, and I kept thinking: give me a parcan any day over a LED. At least I can blast the stage with reliable light!

I have now switched my opinion about LED lights in theatre because of the brand new auditorium I’m now working in which installed the Source 4 LED. Wow! And double wow!

Our auditorium is equipped with 20 of the Source 4 Lustre units – 10 of them having the ellipsoidal zoom lens and 10 of the them having the Fresnel adapter. We also have 20 of the Source 4 LED Par lights and four of the magic dot.

Forty-four lights for theatre is not a lot. Probably will need another 20 at some point, BUT what these lights can do is impressive. I’ve been spending all of my free time learning the ETC Element console for controlling these bad boys. It’s a little overwhelming but also really fun.

Here’s what sticks out to me about the Source 4 LED. Brightness. These babies are bright and the zoom lens creates crisp outlines. The Fresnel lens creates beautiful soft light, which when coupled with the barn door attachment, can be directed in a myriad of ways.

Next. COLOR. Oh my goodness. The color that comes out of these LEDs is unparalleled. I wowed my students the other day but doing a color wash of the stage from a deep blue  to a vibrant green to a hot red to every combination in between. All with a click of a mouse. No more changing gels!

This is impressive stuff, and I feel fortunate to be able to work with this system into the future.

Source 4 LEDs give theatre so many new options never before available to lighting designers. Imagination is the limit, so I hope my imagination will take-off and do something really special in this venue.

I know I’m going to enjoy the ride.

A Lot of Learning on the Horizon

The school where I teach drama is on the verge of having a brand-new, state-of-the-art auditorium. I like to call it a theatre, myself.

It’s completely outfitted with Source 4 LED lights which are awesome and so incredibly versatile. It’s got a ETC Element lighting console and a complete professional Bose sound system coming next week. It’s got 10 rigging bars with high capacity motors and a powered curtain. It’s going to be a sweet facility and it will be my domain day in and day out. I can’t wait!

But what hit me, yesterday, as I was being trained on the ETC Element, is that I have a TON of learning to do, and I have to learn fast because the very first show in our theatre is opening on April 24. Now that I know I’ll have the auditorium, it changes everything about the show. Ahhh!

Where to begin? Scrims. I need to make some scrims. Gobos. I need some gobos!

Oh yeah, I need to learn the equipment.

And lighting plan? How’s this? My first rough draft.

P_20190301_155304

Don’t try and decipher it. I can barely understand it, but it’s my first real lighting plan, so that’s exciting!

In the past, I’ve had the privilege of working with professional technicians trained in lighting for theatre. Not any more. I gotta learn, and some of the AV guys at the school gotta learn. Lighting for drama is a BEAST, and we have to tame it!

Anxiety level: high!

Excitement level: even higher!

Here’s a mock-up of the poster for my April show. I can’t wait. No, yes, I can because I have so much work to do until I get there. But it will be a fun ride.

Time to replan the backdrop for the show. Anyone going to be in Jeddah in April?

Stories poster2

Finally – Christmas Drama Collection Coming in 2019

I love writing Christmas plays, and I’ve written thirty of them over the last few years — including a couple Christmas mini-musicals.

Now, finally, I’m going to be pushing hard over the next few months to get them out into the marketplace.

Tales of Wonder is a three-part series of full-length Christmas shows which premiered at the Penang Performing Arts Centre from December 2015 through December 2017.

The collection is a mix of secular and sacred, silly and serious. I had so much fun producing two of these shows. There’s something about the Christmas season which lends itself extremely well to the dramatic arts. There’s no greater time to focus in on family-drama with societal implications.

I love this collection and I’m super excited to finally getting this project off the ground. These shows (or individual sketches) are great for a variety of settings such as community theater, schools (both public and private), and churches.

I’ll keep everyone updated on the project’s progress. Hope to have them out by spring so folks thinking about Christmas shows will have plenty of time to prepare for something truly special.

Oh, and I even have a first-draft mock-up of the book’s cover.  Let me know what you think!

front cover Tales of Wonder