I’ve Written a New Show: Finally. “Within Reach”

A colleague in the theatre industry reached out a few months ago about collaborating on a new theatre project. After some discussing back and forth, it was decided that I would write the entire show. It would consist of 10 short plays similarly themed. Today, I finished writing it. My first new full-length theatre show in two and a half years. It’s titled: Within Reach.

Before I outline what the show’s about, I’d like to look back at the other shows of similar format that I’ve written over the years. I was put onto short-form drama about ten years ago, formed a teen drama troupe, and proceeded to write and produce a number of shows over the years. I love this type of show: short plays, light sets, various genres, similar themes, and one cohesive unit. They are super fun and audiences love them. Here’s a list of my previous shows in this format:

2011 The Road Less Traveled (Penang Performing Arts Centre)

2012 Drive All Night (Penang Performing Arts Centre)

2013 Captured in Time & Space (Penang Performing Arts Centre)

2014 For All Generations (Penang Performing Arts Centre; restaged in Jeddah in 2018)

2015 Tales of Wonder (Christmas show) (Penang Performing Arts Centre)

2016 Tales of Wonder II (Penang Performing Arts Centre)

2017 Tales of Christmas (Penang Performing Arts Centre – only one not produced by myself)

2018 Stories, Vol 1 & Stories Vol 2 (Jeddah – Mix of new and older scripts)

2019 Crazy Love (Scheduled to be produced in April 2020 until pandemic cancelled it)

So that brings us to my brand new show: WITHIN REACH.

Here’s a short description about the show: WITHIN REACH is a poignant and challenging look at the past and present. It ponders the possibilities of life, the obstacles that hold us down, the inspiration that moves us forward, and the power of hope and reconciliation that come from unexpected places. WITHIN REACH is a full-length, theatrical production consisting of ten similarly themed short plays meant to empower youth and women, while encouraging everyone to engage in the human stories around them.

I’m super excited about these 10 plays. I had so much fun writing them. They were challenging and meaningful to put together. They include two historical pieces which I love. Several pieces about teen issues and four pieces specifically written with strong female roles. Here’s a quick overview of the individual pieces are about:

Booker T. Sweeps the Floor: A historical piece based on an episode from Booker T. Washington’s autobiography. Booker learns a tough lesson about hard work. But when the ex-slave dreams of going to school, he has a strange entrance exam that he was prepared for: sweeping the floor.

The One True Sport: A young teen boy is petrified when he has to take his shirt off and play a basketball game in front of a girl he likes.

Dark Social: Two teens decide to create a false, malicious video about a girl from school they are upset with. Dark Web helps make it viral, causing untold misery to all involved.

Awake & Unchanged: At the funeral of her unfaithful husband, a woman comes to grip with her life choices as her bitter daughter questions why her mother never left him. 

Four Chairs: A woman examines her life choices and tries to better understand why she made them.

Auditions: Three women show up to audition for a role in a play, only to discover that they are actually auditioning for the roles they currently play in their lives.

Life’s Choreography: Two women dancers are working with a difficult choreographer, who keeps riding one of the women particularly hard.

The Other Side of the Wall: A young couple celebrate the night when they get engaged as their neighbor is going through an emotional breakup. Each one doesn’t know what’s happening on the other side of the wall.

Write Therapy: A creative writing teacher volunteers to mentor youth in a juvenile criminal center. But she targets one intelligent yet jaded detainee for a surprising reason.

America’s Game: Based on the true story of Octavius Catto. In 1871 Philadelphia, teacher and black activist Octavius Catto is meeting with his students when he hears of tension at the local polling place. As he goes to investigate, he is assassinated by merciless Frank Kelly. Both Kelly and Catto are whisked into another dimension to Cosmic Court where Catto chooses a strange form of justice: baseball.

Where and when will WITHIN REACH hit the stage? Well, that’s yet to be determined. Stay tuned.

If anyone is interested in learning more about any of these shows, please feel free to reach out to me.

It’s a good day when a new show has been written. It will only get better once the lights turn on.

Short & Sweet Penang 2016: The Runaway Slave

My play “The Runaway Slave” is at the Short & Sweet Festival Penang starting last night and running through Saturday. Here’s the signage:img_20161115_1854412_rewind

The story is set in 1852 and a teen slave girl runs across an evening meadow on Christmas Eve and stumbles upon a house. Desperate for food, she meets the widow Beatrice who invites her in and shows her love while the sheriff is on her tail. It’s a touching story of protection and shelter in an unfair world.

Here’s the awesome young cast. These are three of my senior actors, Aaron (sheriff), Kimberly (Beatrice) and Lilian (Elly). Of course, there’s me trying desperately to figure out how to take this photo. They gave a terrific performance last night, and I’m so proud of each one of them.

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Here’s Aaron, showing off in front of the signage.

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This is my fifth festival here I’ve been a part of, and it’s been a lot of fun.

Runs through Saturday at the Penang Performing Arts Centre, starting at 8:30 each night.

This play will also be part of my upcoming show, “RLT Players present: Tales of Wonder 2” on December 1-3 @ penangpac. Hope to see you there!

 

 

My Play in Short & Sweet Kuala Lumpur: This Week!

A brand new short play of mine will be one of the featured plays this week at the Short & Sweet Theatre Festival Kuala Lumpur.

It’s a gritty piece called “Alone in a Bar,” about a desperate man in a bar, who comes in each day and drinks himself into oblivion. He never speaks a word, and he’s always distraught. On this particular day, another man and woman comes into the bar, and there seems to be some sort of abusive relationship going on, which brings some interaction with the silent man in the bar. It’s high tension and drama time!

Director, Vinna Law, decided to go a little different route with the piece and made it into a type of experimental theatre, with the voices pre-recorded, and a sound-scape to set the mood for the choreographed actions. I haven’t seen it yet. You can get a sneak-peek glimpse at a rehearsal video on the Facebook link below.

I’m flying down Friday to be there for evening show, and I can’t wait. It’s the third fifth time one of my plays or musicals have been in Short and Sweet KL, and I’m looking forward to it. Pictures and comments to follow this weekend.

FACEBOOK PAGE

Rejected! But excellent feedback.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been entering plays in one of regional one-act play festivals which happen in the United States. For this particular festival, my works haven’t been selected yet. But what I like about this festival is that each entry (and there were 350 of them this year) is read by judges who give some excellent feedback about the script and end by either recommending or not recommending the piece to be produced.

Last year, both judges recommended my piece “A Writer’s Satire” – giving it high marks – though it still wasn’t chosen for production. That shows you how difficult it is to get in.

This year, my piece also was not chosen, but I still received some excellent feedback from the judges, one who recommended the piece and the other who did not. Both of the comments were positive and constructive. I especially liked the comments from the judge who did not recommend the piece because I agreed with him and his criticism. The judge said that the overall framework of the piece was good, there needed to be more development on the characters. The judge was exactly right. I agree 100%.

So why didn’t I develop the characters further in this play? Simple, I wrote it as a 10-minute play, but this festival accepts plays up to 45 minutes long. I didn’t write this play for this festival, but for another 10-minute festival, but I decided to enter it here just to see what they would say.

I was right. It’s a good 10-minute play. Of that I’m quite confident, especially after one of the judges agreed with me. It would be an even better 20-30 minute play because there would be time to delve deeper into motivations and create a more heightened experience. I simply didn’t have time to re-write it.

Maybe I will re-write it for next year.

Getting feedback on one’s writing is great. It’s not always satisfying, but it is always helpful. It reinforced the idea that I’m on the right track in my play-writing. Just have to keep plugging away.

Now Available: Theatrical Duets

Drama directors, forensic coaches, drama teachers, or any lover of theatre. Here’s a great collection of duets which can be used for a variety of settings. It includes 4 award winning scripts, and 12 other unique, engaging, socially relevant scripts for all different settings. All of these have been theatre-tested in one way or another. I’ve used them in the drama classroom, for award-winning performances in forensics competitions, and as a part of serious theatrical performances.

Versatile, fun, meaningful. Please check it out and pass on the link to the drama folks in your life! Thanks.

Amazon Link HERE!

The Book Depository

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My Script Chosen! Top 10 finalist in Davenport 10-Minute Play Contest!

I was happy to see my brand new script “Safe Spaces” was chosen as one of the Top 10 finalists in the 4th Annual Davenport 10-Minute Play Contest!

And now, you can help! Besides being judged by Broadway insiders, it will also be judged by readers. So the readers’ choice could help make or break a script.

So please, head on over to the contest’s website and read this brand new script. It’s a satire about political correctness on college campuses. I had a lot of fun writing it two weeks ago on April 16. Yes, I wrote it in one day. I do things like that. The contest due date was April 17, so I may have cut it a little close.

But hey, I made the top ten, so that’s cool!

The contest site with all chosen scripts is HERE!

I’d love to here your thoughts on my script! Thanks.

Two New Sketches

I want to highlight some of the new sketches which will be part of our first Christmas show. First up: “Christmas in the Trenches, 1914.”

This sketch is based on a real event during WWI when, on Christmas Eve, a spontaneous truce broke out between the Germans and British as a Christmas carol wafted in the air. What I’ve tried to do is to make three British soldiers (their stories fictitious) frail and human, trying to survive in the freezing trench when they hear a song from the other side.

christmas trenches

This next one, “The Spies & Mrs. Claus” couldn’t be more different. This is a pure piece of comedic delight, with clever lines, and a sneaky double meaning. The spies were hired by Santa to find out what Mrs. Claus got her for Christmas, but Mrs. Claus has her own ambitions. It’s a lot of fun. That’s two of 10. I’ll highlight the others at another time. It’s going to be a really fun show.

SpiesMrsClaus

The Difference between a Skit and a Play

One might think that the main difference between a skit and a play is its length – skits being short and plays being long. But I contend that is not the distinction at all. I write short plays all the time, and they can be quite short, even just a few minutes in length. I believe that length is not a good indicator of their difference.

What about subject matter? Are skits silly and funny, while plays are more serious? Perhaps in one sense, which I’ll mention in a minute, yes, but plays can also be silly and funny. And short, as we’ve already established.

In my view, the difference is the context and preparation which separate skits from plays. Let me explain.

Skits are often meant to augment a very specific event or situation. Perhaps a church service in order to illustrate a point. An awards ceremony to roast an honoree. A school assembly to get everyone thinking about a certain topic. Skits are rarely written without a specific purpose in mind. At our school, the honor society prepare skits each year to help introduce the new inductees. They also use them in chapels, at banquets, or for classroom activities. In this way, skits do not translate well into other settings, because they are specific to a certain event. Plays, on the other hand, must stand on their own. Anyone who picks up a play script should be able to understand it and its themes, regardless of where it is performed. Skits typically are not like that.

And that leads us to our second point, preparation. While people in skits do prepare for their roles, the preparation is much less intense than that of a play – even a short play. Skits do not care with character development or even a cohesive plot, they are meant to entertain or make a point. A play, even an extremely short play, must have clear character development, even if its only one character. And while skits may have scripts, often time those scripts are just guidelines. Plays have precise language. The dialogue cannot be ad libbed or changed unless that specifically is the playwrights intention. Even short plays must be memorized completely, and the action, set, tone of the play may be well prescribed by the playwright.

Can all of these items really be addressed in a short play of only 5 minutes? Absolutely!

The next time you see a short performance, ask yourself, did I just witness a mini-play or a skit?  I think you’ll be able to tell the difference.

Opening Night a Big Success

I had a lot of fun taking in the opening night of Short & Sweet Malaysia, which kicked off with a week of theatre in Penang. After that it will be heading to KL for nine weeks of Short & Sweet creativity.

Here was the running order for opening night:

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My play was 6th out of 9th in the running order. Here’s my play info:

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And a couple photos of photos from dress rehearsal.

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In the first photo, Lexi, the mom, is trying to figure out how an atomic bomb was dropped in their backyard. Yzzy, the daughter, is frozen as mom does her monologue.

In the second photo, mom is remembering how cute her little girl was as a newborn.

The girls both gave amazing performances last night. Energetic and engaging. And very tender. Lots of tears in the audience. I’ve seen it so many times and I never fail to choke up when they start reflecting upon what’s important in life.

Three more performances this week!

The rest of the Short & Sweet show was a mixed bag of various diverse genres. I’m pretty sure everyone will find some play that they will like. And that’s the genius of short and sweet, if you don’t like one, it will be over in less than 10 minutes. You just need a little patience.

 

Three Duets, Two Solos needed. That’s it!

The forensics coach at my school approached me today. She said that she only needs three duets and two solo acting scripts for her kids to work on.

No pressure.

Starting last year, the team asked me to write them scripts which they could perform at their forensics competition in February. Last year, one performance of my script won a gold medal and a different performance of a different script won bronze.

No pressure.

So now they want me to write more.

I’m thrilled, actually. I love being able to write for something that has an immediate impact. Writing for a need and a particular performance is one of the more gratifying writing outputs, so I’m happy to help.

But, no pressure.

I have to come up with a bunch of scripts – and fast.

Okay, so I have 10 days to write a bunch of scripts. I’ve had less time before. Last year, I wrote one full script during a couple hour teacher-parent conference. Whenever there was a lull in the meetings, I hit the keyboard and by the end of the session, it was done. (It’s the one that won a bronze.)

So this is very do-able. I just now have to do it.

Actually, I already have a bunch of ideas. Two weeks ago I had one of those epiphany moments and within a matter of 40 minutes or so, I had five or six tangible ideas for short plays or duets. Now I just need to sit down and write them. This blog post could be considered stalling, and it wouldn’t be wrong. I tend to like to wait for the last minute. There’s something freeing about not having time to dilly-dally.

Anyways, I feel fortunate to be in the position to have a creative use for my writing. Not everyone can claim that, so I’m going to push ahead and see what I can create.

I’ll let you know what I come up with.