The Salon's 2019 Season Announced!

 Fireworks by Adam Carter

Fireworks by Adam Carter

We are thrilled to announce the first eight shows of our 2019 season! Join us at The Palace Theatre and Art Bar on the fourth Thursday of each month and support vibrant local art.

January 24 - The Lost Virginity Tour by Cricket Daniel
Happy Trails Senior Resort Living in Surprise, AZ is where the ladies of the Happy Trails Baking Club meet weekly, swapping desserts and recipes. But when these four friends start swapping stories about their “first time”, one of them bakes up an idea: to take a road trip across the country, revisiting each location where they lost their virginities. Tears, laughter, memories and secrets are all revealed as each lady shares the details about their first time.

February 28 - Weather the Storm by Anna McAlpine
The Caribbean, 1720. When Anne Bonny and Mary Read meet aboard the ship of Captain Jack Rackham, they find themselves inexplicably drawn together. But the world of the black flag is violent and unforgiving, and pirates are hunted and executed throughout the Caribbean. Soon, Anne, Mary and the crew are forced to question the very essence of who they are and what they are willing to sacrifice in the name of survival.

March 28 - The Future's So Bright by Michael Mendiola
MARTI is trapped in an Off-Off-Broadway theater and is certain that solving the equation for predicting prime numbers is the key to his freedom. That, and to understanding random events. All random events. Unfortunately, solving this equation requires help from his like-minded companions—an agoraphobic theater tech and a secluded mathematician—both of whom are in danger of succumbing to the most random event of all: falling in love.

April 25 - Florence Fane in San Francisco by Brianna Barrett
A Civil War Era romantic comedy about the San Francisco publishing industry starring a cast of literary titans including Frances Fuller Victor, Bret Harte, Mark Twain, and all their pals. The history of the west is forever changed when a peculiar young woman enters the Lick House Hotel Saloon, headquarters of the city's most popular weekly newspaper: The Golden Era...

May 25 - One Thing by Scott Stolnack
Three estranged siblings return to their childhood home in Chicago to bury their father, settle old scores, and confront old ghosts. Sally wants to do the right thing, but her view on “the right thing” changes after discovering the adoption papers from the child she gave birth to when she was 17. Tony, charismatic and movie-star handsome, needs money to finance his political ambitions. Bobby is just along for the ride while Trisha, Bobby’s girlfriend, is a little mesmerized by Tony. And the Old Man is still very much a presence in their lives. The play asks the question, “Can we escape our family karma?”

June 27 - A Collection of Shorts (TBA)

July 25 - Fur Pajamas the musical by John Allman and David Ceci
Nigel is an aging British rocker whose music career peaked in the ‘80s with his New Wave one-hit wonder band, Fur Pajamas. For a number of reasons, Nigel is desperate to regain fame and fortune. Along the way, he runs into several people from his past – Peter, a resentful ex- band mate; Eva Jean, an ex-wife who has moved on; and Claudia, an ex-girlfriend who hasn’t. Working together with Andi, his young and inexperienced agent, will Nigel be able to reconcile with his past as he tries to ‘make it big again?’

August 22 - Some Come, Some Go by Norbert Sorg
Two women who were best childhood friends reconnect after thirty years and struggle with the differences in their personal histories.

We want to thank everyone that took the time to share their work--we were pleasantly overwhelmed with the magnitude of talent we saw in the submissions. The remaining shows of the season will be announced soon, so stay tuned!

Playwrights Binge!

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Patrick Gabridge, a prolific, award-winning, and much produced Boston playwright, founded the online Playwrights’ Submission Binge, and is the co-founder and coordinator of the New England New Play Alliance, the Dramatists’ Guild New England Regional Representative, and the producing artistic director of Plays in Place. The Salon’s Artistic Director, Margaret O’Donnell, interviewed Patrick to learn more about the Binge.

Salon: What is the Binge?

Patrick Gabridge (PG): The Binge is an online community focused on marketing for playwrights. It started small, but it's grown to almost 1,100 members.

Salon: Why did you develop it? And when?

PG: I wanted a way to make my marketing chores more fun. So back in 2003, I set up a group with about a dozen fellow playwrights. The idea was to take the challenge of sending out a play a day, every day, for 30 days. Each person was to report back to the group what they sent, where, and why. It was a way to make a game out of it, and to build in a sense of accountability. It ended up working great, so we did it again. Now we do it twice a year, every March and September. It's a great way to share information and to build positive habits for yourself. It's also an incredibly supportive on-line community for playwrights.

Salon: Does it fill a gap in submission how-to for playwrights? If so, what?

PG: Because people are sharing a lot of information, it's a great way to stay informed about what opportunities are out there. And it's free. It's also a good place to turn if you have marketing related questions.

Salon: How do playwrights use it?

PG: They just join the Yahoo group. (The platform may change in the near future, to make it even easier to join.) Once they're on, they'll receive e-mails from the list. In the Binge months (March and September), they can take up the challenge and participate in the marketing frenzy. Or not. Lots of people are lurkers, and just kind of observe from a distance. It's low pressure. The site is at: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/playwrightbinge/info

Salon: What are your best tips for benefiting from the Binge?

PG: Try to meet the challenge. Send out a script a day every day for 30 days in March and September. If you do, you'll have made 60 submissions for the year. The odds are low for any submission to succeed, so numbers matter. If you don't submit your work, it's hard for it to get produced, especially if you're not already well-connected.

Salon: Have there been unexpected consequences of the Binge? Serendipitous coincidences and connections?

PG: I think sometimes theatres are surprised when they get a sudden wave of submissions after they've been mentioned by someone on the list. Many friendships have developed on the group, and we had a great in-person gathering at the Dramatists Guild National Conference in July. I've certainly gotten lots of opportunities from submissions I've sent, and relationships I've formed on the Binge. I've made two trips to South Korea for productions of my work directly due to Binge friends recommending me for an opportunity. It really does work.

Salon: How has the Binge evolved since you first developed it?

PG: There are a lot more people involved, that's for sure. It's a little more active year-round, and I think people are even more generous than when we began about sharing opportunities. There's so much information available online now, as compared to 15 years ago, and our members are great about gathering that info and sharing it with the group.

Salon: What are your plans for the Binge? Are others involved?

PG: I'm hoping we'll shift to a more user-friendly platform, in early 2019. I just need to find a window of time to do it. This is something that can run simply and cheaply, so it's really just me handling the operations of the group. But it's everyone working together that makes it an actual active and supportive community--that's all due to the generosity and passion and energy of our member playwrights. Their spirit has made the Binge a very special community.

 Binge group at 2018 Dramatist’s Guild conference

Binge group at 2018 Dramatist’s Guild conference

2018 Year of Parity at Seattle Playwrights Salon: Lessons Learned

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In a bit, I’ll tell you how many scripts the Salon received in the first fifteen months of operation that were written by women and female-identifying playwrights. But first, some context.  Playwrights Kate Danley and Margaret O’Donnell started up the Salon in October 2016 to give new and emerging playwrights script development opportunities. After doing table reads and closed readings, seeing your work performed in front of a public audience is a critical next step. The Salon presents staged readings on the fourth Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at the marvelously atmospheric Palace Theatre and Art Bar in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. We invite the public, provide well-rehearsed actors and an excellent director, and conduct a talk back, all with the goal of giving playwrights what they need to move forward with their work in development.

From August 2016 through December 2017, we invited any playwright in the state to submit to us full-length scripts or enough short plays to make up an evening. Ready for the number of plays written by women and female-identifying playwrights? Zero. That’s how many sent in their scripts based on our widely distributed submission calls. That doesn’t mean we didn’t produce plays by women in our first fifteen months. We did. But we had to reach out individually to each one of those women, and encourage them to submit. We heard from women about their fears of not being ready, not being good enough, not knowing how to work with a director, and not knowing what to do if the audience doesn’t like the play. 

The women’s scripts were every bit as good on average as those submitted by men. Our experience in those first fifteen months brought home what we knew only anecdotally before: that many women submit their scripts only when they believe they are perfect. But we weren’t prepared for zero submissions from women. So, to see if more encouragement and outreach would bring us the good scripts we know are out there, we launched our Year of Parity for the 2018 season, and began specifically soliciting scripts from women and female-identifying playwrights.

We worked harder than we ever thought to find women to submit their scripts, even more than our first fifteen months worth of experience predicted. We had excellent scripts for our first five months – we produced staged readings of four full-length plays, and staged seven 10-minute plays for our April Shorts competition. Of these, at least two have gone on to world-premiere productions. But a June script was hard to find, and our July Shorts competition had so few submissions that we had to cancel the event. We came up dry and short. With grace and style, Parley, a Seattle playwrights’ collective, stepped up to produce staged readings at the Palace Theatre and Art Bar in July and August. 

We spent the summer re-thinking and planning the Salon’s future, and decided to accept scripts from any playwright for our 2019 season. We also opened up our submission process to any northwestern United States and British Columbia playwright. We are thrilled with the quality of plays we received—more than half of which written by women and female-identifying playwrights.

We won’t give up encouraging women and female-identifying playwrights to submit their work to the Salon. We’re working on plans to bring more resources and classes to playwrights, and help make connections among us, in addition to producing staged readings. Our central aim is to give playwrights the resources we need to shine! 

— Margaret O’Donnell, Artistic Director

Octavio Solis: An Accidental Playwright of Unconstrained Imagination

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The Salon’s Margaret O’Donnell interviewed Octavio Solis in advance of his visit to Seattle on Tuesday, December 4th at 7:30 p.m. to speak at Seattle’s Town Hall Arts and Culture Series. The Salon will give free event tickets to the first two playwrights who request it, courtesy of Town Hall. Contact us at seattleplaywrightssalon@gmail.com, with the subject line ‘Octavio Solis Event’.

From Mr. Solis’s artistic statement on the New Play Exchange:

Federico García Lorca said, “A play is a poem standing up.” As a poet turned playwright that quote resonates deeply with me. My poetics are very present in my playwriting: imagery, repetition, symbols and attention to lyricism—all coalesce into a theatrical experience that aspires to engage the audience on multiple levels.

I’m an accidental playwright. Originally a poet, I transitioned to theatre and playwriting because I was looking for ways to explore social justice issues that impact the Latino community. I was drawn to theatre because of its ability to inspire empathy and invoke a sense of wonder through the use of narrative and vivid imagery.

I am an imagist. Using striking images as integral narrative elements, my plays are theatrical experiences marrying images with the lyricism of words.

I aspire to write plays of unconstrained imagination, where often the emotional world of the play impacts the physical world on the stage. I write plays featuring a range of Latino characters from recent immigrants to third generation American citizens in an attempt to demonstrate the breadth and dimension of my cultural community. And I often write plays with women at the center of the narrative as empowered protagonists.

I believe in the alchemy of live performance. In suspending disbelief. In breaking hearts and leaving them strewn across the stage. In seeing our shared humanity in one another. That the stories we tell are just as important, if not more so, as the official histories we keep as a society.

Salon: You’ve been writing plays for nearly 30 years, and have had at least 25 of your plays produced. How have you changed as a playwright in these years?

Octavio Solis (OS): Oh, I have more unproduced plays in my folders. Theatres may commission works from a writer, but they’re under no obligation to produce them. Sometimes, they don’t like the work, sometimes the work is just not right for the time or their audiences. These works languish away in neglect, but sometimes they get cannibalized by other newer works. I think my writing has changed quite a bit over time, but it’s because I’ve changed. We all must or else we become stagnant individuals stuck in some idealized time. Some things, however still hold true. I still cling to the notions of theatricality, that is, the use of all the elements of live theatre to make the story vivid: lights, music and song, direct address, heightened language. I don’t really like kitchen sink plays very much; they seem to adhere to the situation comedy format. I like works that dance across time and space, that bend these dimensions at will in the way Shakespeare did. And yet at the same time, I think I’ve settled a bit. I like to focus more on people, I’m more inclined to slow the page down to let them talk. Too much effort is directed at moving the action forward, and not enough on moving the action inward. Each character is a kind of maze, and I am drawn to the language that acts as a kind of string that leads us into and out of the maze.

Salon: Are the themes that interest you different than they were 30 years ago?

OS: Yes, I think I have absorbed some new themes into my oeuvre. For as long as I’ve been a playwright of note, I have devoted myself to defining the American Experience for Latinos in this country. The complexities, conflicts and ironies of being an immigrant in America. The love for and struggle against the temptations of our consumer culture. The Mexican culture as it evolves into a new hybrid American society. What it means to live on the hyphen.

But now I am drawn to environmental issues. I think moving to the country, raising goats and chickens, living off our green garden; these new aspects of our rural life have awakened my environmental heart. Even before this move, I have been a regular contributor to Elephant and Wolf preservation funds. But now as I see so much of our forests charred by wildfires, I am struck by how much of it is due to climate change. We’re at a tipping point. We have to respond to the dire circumstances in our planet, even if we’re only the Cassandras and canaries in the coal mine.

Salon: Has the way in which you get inspiration for your work changed over the years? How?

OS: Many companies have concerns they’d like me to address, so some commissions come with issues attached. Still, I have to find what matters to me. I have to be inspired to give them the play that they’re looking for. So often I ask, what is my way in? What about the issue or topic is personal to me? I have to care deeply or else I won’t care at all. What I look for is the element that will change me in the writing. I can’t be expected to change peoples’ perspective if I am not willing to be changed by the writing myself. So it’s always an education, always a discovery, which means there’s always a risk. By this, I mean that I have to be ready to have my beliefs upended by the work I do. I have to be ready to let the play talk to me directly and indirectly about things I have not considered about myself.

Salon: Have your writing habits changed over the years? What works best for you now?

OS: I used to write with a fervor every day, every chance I could. I used to stand by my writing with a ferocity that permitted no challenges. I was young. There was still so much room to grow. Over the years, especially since writing is all I do, or at least the only occupation I have full-time, I used to demand that I write every day, all day, and when I was wasn’t I punished myself grievously by not going out and enjoying myself. Now, I know that was wrong. I have learned that when I’m not writing, I am still writing. I am thinking and processing and engaging with my stories in my sleep, in my idle moments, when I’m driving my car; even when I am doing a repetitive physical task, I am writing. It’s the process before applying fingertips to keys or pen to paper. The dreamtime. The digestion of the idea.

Consequently, I have parsed out my energies more wisely. I don’t write every day, but when I finally do sit down to write, I sit for six to eight hours and hammer out what needs to be written. Raw and unvarnished, ugly and badly worded. That’s what a first draft should be anyway.

This process has become harder to maintain as I get older. On-line social media has cut into that dramatically. That’s why I insist that my posts remain terse and pithy. I don’t want to waste my good writing time and energy on Facebook and Twitter and e-mail. (I am making an exception here.)

Salon: What part of your time do you devote to writing, and what part to getting your plays produced? Do you find that your production time/other life duties keep you away more from writing?

OS: That varies with every work. Some plays call for the night. And some are daytime plays. As long as I have time cleared and I can sit in peace and quiet for an extended time, it’s all fine by me.

Salon: For new playwrights, do you sometimes recommend getting an MFA? How has having studied playwriting academically helped you? What is your best advice for new playwrights?

OS: I never studied to be a playwright. I studied to be an actor. If I took playwriting courses, (and I often did, under the tutelage of some remarkable instructors) it was so that I might know how a playwright thinks, how he builds his/her characters. Anything to give me an edge over my other colleagues.

But the situation actually worked in reverse. All the acting and theatre courses I took were invaluable to me as a playwright. It’s vital to know what an actor needs, how an actor thinks, how to give an actor the best grounding for his role in the piece. Same thing with directors and designers. I am conscious of their needs all the way through. Even when I’m not thinking about them, they are present in the work. I fully recommend that every playwright act in someone else’s work. Their horizons will broaden in astonishing ways.

Yes, an MFA will serve the aspiring playwright, especially if the courses are taught by exemplary writers who are not solely instructors. It’s vital to have someone who knows what the professional world is like for the contemporary playwright. Especially now when the world is radically changing. But a solid playwriting program will also expose the budding writer to the works of others. And also, hopefully, to the world of literature at large, which is even more important. I watch plays. I attend readings of plays. But I seldom read plays anymore. I read novels and poetry and fiction. Not just for the lessons they offer to me as a playwright, but for the general edification of my soul. We should all do that. We should all build coalitions between writers of books and writers for the stage.

Salon: What are you working on now?

OS: I’m working on getting the word out on Retablos, my new collection of memoir stories by doing readings and book-signings. I am working on a screenplay. I am doing the final touches on the rehearsal script of "Mother Road" which goes in rehearsal at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this January for its premiere in March 2019. I am revising a work I had produced earlier this summer in Los Angeles. I am winterizing my farm in preparation for the first big freeze of the season.