Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A play with 140 characters

As you're filling out your application to this MFA program, you may be wondering about my pedagogical style. I'll tell you: it's rigorous. People come staggering out going "My God, what a rigorous pedagogical style!"

In keeping with this rigorous (and deeply serious) pedagogical style, I am thinking of requiring all students to submit to the New York Neo-Futurists' weekly challenge to write a Twitter play according to an assigned constraint. A recent assignment posted on their Twitter feed was "write a 1-tweet play that has a MONSTER." Some of the results:
A: Welcome to the neighborhood. B: I’m required to inform you that I’m a registered… A: Sex offender? B: No. Werewolf. A: Oh my.

(Lights on Charlize Theron’s Oscar) HE: What’s this doing h--? (Oscar lunges, bites HE’s face off, disposes body, lies in wait. Bows)

jamse: i’ve got a monster crush on you. Mac Wellman: i’ve got a monster crush on you, jamse. [j wakes up] j: damn [goes back to sleep]

Waiter:Take y’order, sir? Mothman:The Silver Bridge. West Virginia, many die. Bring me bread. Waiter:Right, and to drink?

P.S. for Pittsburghers: I am thrilled to learn that the original (Chicago) Neo-Futurists will be in Pittsburgh to perform at First Night.

Monday, December 27, 2010

write about big things

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  Write all the time. Write about big things. A hundred years from now no one will give a damn about conversations you overheard about the 7 train in New York City. 

Adam Szymokowicz interviews Carnegie Mellon alum James McManus (includes shout-out to 13P member Lucy Thurber) 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Winning things: plays on stages and in boxes

Campus is quiet and covered with snow, but the playwrights of Carnegie Mellon are busy winning things.

Some graduate writing programs require students to refrain from script submission while they're in school. My philosophy is the opposite. The expectation is that you are daily beating your work into shape and sending it out to find collaborators beyond the walls of the School of Drama.

Some of these opportunities come from invitations extended specifically to this program, while others come via our participation in the Playwrights' Center's "New Plays on Campus" membership program.

  • Liz Ellison (MFA '11) will be traveling to Aspen in January with her play Ten Minutes to Boston as part of Theatre Masters, a program dedicated to advancing emerging playwrights at select schools. Theatre Masters will subsequently remount the play in New York. 
  • CMU will be represented by no less than three plays at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival regional festival at Towson University: Quick and in My Arms by Peter J. Roth (MFA '12), The Insect Fear by Liza Birkenmeier (MFA '12), and Shrouds by Julie Tosh (MFA '09).
  • In March, Time Bomb Play by R.N. Healey (MFA '12) will be included in the 32nd Annual Mid-America Theatre Conference in Minneapolis. It was picked from a field of 70 submissions.
  • Dan O'Neil (MFA '11) has been commissioned by the fascinating Articulture program. Inspired by the Community Supported Agriculture movement, where consumers buy a share in the output of a local farm, interested collectors/consumers will receive three "share boxes" of locally-produced artwork at three winter pick-up events.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

To say nothing of the possibility of finding true love

Choosing to be a playwright comes with few perks (oh, you noticed?) — so being accepted for a residency at an artists' colony can be hugely rejuvenating. It's more than an opportunity to run away from your scrappy existence of staying late at work to steal postage from the copy room and get dinner from the vending machine. Suddenly the universe seems to be affirming your identity as an artist: you have a right to be here, having someone bring you your lunch in a basket and leave it quietly outside your door so as not to disturb your work.

Not only do you find a supportive community of other artists, but chances are they will be from disciplines foreign to you. Believe me, nothing can make you feel better about being a playwright than hearing a little about the career struggles of a composer or sculptor.

Cheers to Carolyn Kras (MFA '10), who will be in residence at the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, Illinois in March.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

National New Play Network commissions Peter Sinn Nachtrieb

Peter Sinn Nachtrieb is one of the funniest Americans; wrote one of its most widely-produced plays; and has nabbed the first fruits of a fantastic program from New Dramatists. As if that weren't enough, Peter will be coming in as guest faculty to teach a playwriting workshop at Carnegie Mellon this spring.


NNPN proudly announces the selection of playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb (Boom, Hunter Gatherers, BOB) for the first of five Full Stage USA commissions sponsored by New York's New Dramatists.  This aggressive commission-through-development-to-production grant provides $25,000 to the selected playwright, travel and development resources at New Dramatists, and $40,000 in subsidies for eventual production.

Funded by a gift from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Full Stage USA will provide a total of five grants over the next several years.  New Dramatists playwrights selected NNPN and four other producing partners for the program over the summer; New Dramatists will announce the other four producing partners in the next few months.  In each case, a New Dramatists playwright will be selected to receive a commission award of $25,000, and the partner will receive a subsidy of up to $50,000 upon commitment to production.

Nachtrieb's proposal for a play about lying in contemporary America was evaluated alongside fourteen others submitted by New Dramatists writers.  NNPN's 26 member theaters voted on the projects and ultimately selected Nachtrieb, a writer familiar to many of them through previous work developing scripts.  The playwright has developed or premiered scripts with NNPN member theaters Marin Theatre Company and Woolly Mammoth.  NNPN's Full Stage project aims to ultimately produce the commission via the Continued Life of New Plays Fund, which creates Rolling World Premieres across a minimum of three theaters within a single year.

"I am honored and excited to receive this opportunity from NNPN and New Dramatists," said Nachtrieb.  "I love how this commission not only offers substantial financial support, but also provides abundant resources for the development, collaboration and production of the play. I think it's going to help me create something really awesome."

"The thought of Peter Sinn Nachtrieb collaborating on a new play with the 26 NNPN theaters, who are together remapping the American theatre, is terrifically exciting," said New Dramatists Artistic Director Todd London.  "Because Peter is a national member of New Dramatists (from San Francisco), we're also delighted to offer him, through Full Stage USA, two years of enhanced developmental time while he's readying the play for production.  We can't wait to see which three of the NNPN theaters step forward to produce his work once he's written it."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What happens on Mondays

17 months after leaving New York, the list of things I miss about living there is not terribly long. It does include being there on Monday night once a month for Little Theatre @ Dixon Place, which is like going to church if your church is downtown theatre. Let's see what the reverend has prepared for this week:

Little Theatre, Vol XI, No. 4 - December, 2010

created by Jenny Seastone Stern
performed by Brett Beyer and C. Star.

The piece is a myth.  It is a dance and has some words.

written and directed by Trish Harnetiaux
with Emily Davis, Matt Korahias, Richard Toth, Greg Zuccolo

A short mysterious play wherein Cassiopeia has swallowed a triangle and only 911 can help.  Or can he..

by Lizzie Olesker

a new excerpt from inside an old suitcase

lyrics by Sonya Sobieski, music by Frederick Alden Terry

followed almost immediately by:

HAPPY HOUR (a short musical about cheap drinks)
book & lyrics by Sonya Sobieski, music by Jana Zielonka
directed by Danny Erdberg
performed by Jessica Howell, Sarah Levine, Donovan Sanders, and Jim Stanek
with musical accompaniment by Jay Mack and Jana Zielonka

(an excerpt from) THE LOCK AND DOOR
written and directed by Ariel Stess
with Lucy Kaminsky and Christopher Baker
a waiting for a first love play

Monday, December 13, 2010 — 7:30 pm @ the new Dixon Place
161A Chrystie btw. Delancey & Rivington (F/V 2nd Ave; 6 Bleecker; JMZ Bowery)
Tickets $15.00 @ the door or online — but just $12.00 with a printout of this message

Tickets and info here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The saddest music in the world

Alec Duffy writes plays, directs, acts, sings, composes, runs a theatre company, and I'm probably forgetting something but in any case you should go see Three Pianos, which the creators describe as "Schubert's Wintereisse exploded." The mad band of collaborators on this piece includes Rachel Chavkin, one of our most important directors.

Alec directed the Lincoln Center Director's Lab workshop of my errant comedy Green Zone, and has been known to play Paul, a sensitive rock star (all sensitive rock stars are named Paul), in A Maze. But I'm primarily just a fan of his. All great artists are obsessives, as we know, and Three Pianos is at least Alec's third Schubert-related play.

He has created works of surprising stillness, like Dysphoria and The Less We Talk, but this stillness may be deceptive. To be Zen also means to be inquiring, and it might turn out that he is not so much this era's John Cage as its Kurt Vonnegut.