Register Now: Fall Playwriting Masterclass with Andrea Stolowitz

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Interested in taking your playwriting craft to the next level? The Salon, with the generous support of Cornish College of the Arts, will be bringing Andrea Stolowitz to Seattle this fall for a weekend full of inspired playwriting. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to create new work under the guidance of a nationally renowned instructor. Andrea is the Lacroute Playwright-in-Residence at Artists Repertory Theater where she has just received a new play commission. She is a member of New Dramatists class of 2024 and a core member at The Playwrights’ Center. Her plays have been developed and presented nationally and internationally at theaters such as The Long Wharf, The Old Globe, The Cherry Lane, and New York Stage and Film. 

Details
Dates: November 8-10, Friday from 6:00-9:00 PM, Saturday from 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM and Sunday from 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM
Register: Registrations may be made via Eventbrite. The class will be capped at eight students—so be sure to register soon to secure your space!
Location: Cornish College of the Arts Theater Department, 1000 Lenora St Seattle, WA 98121
Description: Focused on the creation of new work.
Cost: $300

Reading Opportunities for Local Playwrights: More Things in Heaven and Earth Than Are Dreamt Of, Horacio…

Until Kate Danley, Seattle representative for the Dramatist Guild (DG), brought together a group of six theatre companies/organizations on May 19th for a panel presentation on opportunities to develop our scripts through readings, I bet most of us didn’t have a clue about how many ways there are in the Puget Sound region to get our work in development out of the data bank and into the hands of readers and actors. I didn’t and developmental readings are a main focus of Seattle Playwrights Salon.

Here’s a brief recap of the opportunities available, with a list of more options DG members provided at the May 19th meeting in Theatre Puget Sound’s Studio C.

Seattle Playwrights Salon: Submit scripts any time for consideration for monthly open, staged readings in Georgetown, Seattle, with directors and actors provided and paid a stipend; occasional closed readings with actors and director provided; writers’ groups, and a weekend boot camp coming in November. More classes, intensives, writing events, play bake-offs, and playwrights’ gatherings are in the works.

Matcha Theatre Works: Inquire about new scripts by women for regularly-scheduled staged readings.

Albatross Theatre Laboratory: Playwrights, directors, and other theatre artists can submit scripts, resumes, and proposals to: albatross.theatre.lab@gmail.com

Parley Productions: Open staged readings, preceded by discussion, development, and production for a group of up to 13 playwrights. Inquire about group membership.

Seattle Playwrights Circle: Contact the group and inquire about the next meeting, and then show up at the Driftwood Theatre in Edmonds. Ask first about protocol for readings.

The Umbrella Project: Dramaturg services to get you ready for the next stage of development.

Rain City Projects: From the website: “We ignite solidarity in the Seattle-area playwriting community with lively brunches, salons, readings, writing retreats, and speed dating between writers and directors.” See the site for event information, and attend! Inquire at raincityprojectsinfo@gmail.com.

DG members also mentioned:

Seattle Playwrights Studio, closed readings with playwrights to discuss in Burien Actors Theatre. Meeting when they have a script to read. Contact Steve Feldman to inquire: stephanfeldman@gmail.com

Drunken Owl Theatre, reading mostly short scripts monthly at Parliament Tavern in West Seattle. Inquire at: ksfinns@comcast.net

There may be more! Let us know if we’ve missed anyone, and we’ll add them into the list. Also, there may be more services each of these groups offers to playwrights. Contact them! Don’t forget: you can always create your own kitchen-table reads, bake-offs, and social events for playwrights. Email us at seattleplaywrightssalon@gmail.com to see if we can help.

Fall Playwriting Workshop

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Mark your calendars for November 8-10 for an intensive playwriting workshop! The Salon is thrilled to bring nationally renowned instructor Andrea Stolowitz to Seattle this fall for a weekend full of inspired playwriting. Andrea is the Lacroute Playwright-in-Residence at Artists Repertory Theater where she has just received a new play commission. She is a member of New Dramatists class of 2024 and a core member at The Playwrights’ Center. Her plays have been developed and presented nationally and internationally at theaters such as The Long Wharf, The Old Globe, The Cherry Lane, and New York Stage and Film. Stay tuned for more details about early registration.

Short and Sweet: Tips for Newer Playwrights, by Anonymous

An award-winning Seattle playwright whose work has been produced throughout the US, Canada, and the UK (and who prefers to remain anonymous) has some smart leads for newer playwrights. Ready? Take a deep breath and plunge in!

Join the Dramatists Guild, and attend local meetings. The group meets every other month and is having a panel discussion on play readings on May 19. No need to be a member to attend. Four area producers will speak about how play readings work, how to get involved, and how to produce them yourself. The Seattle theater scene is small in comparison to the giants, and the Dramatists Guild meetings are a great place to get hooked in.

If you're on Facebook, there's a group called "The Official Playwrights of Facebook". There's a couple of crazy people, but ignoring them, it is a great resource. And if those short plays you have are ready to go, one of my favorite sites is Play Submission Helper. Once a month, they put out a spreadsheet with all of the theaters who are looking for scripts (it's an $8 a month subscription, but totally worth it). You submit your script to the theaters and if they like it, they produce it. It is how almost all of my plays get done. The general rule of thumb is to avoid opportunities that charge a production fee (the playwright shouldn't pay a producer/theater unless the playwright is self-producing.) Also, a good site for submission opportunities is playwright Aurin Squires’s monthly blog, and the Dramatists Guild’s listings.

Another great resource is the BBC Writers Room. They have a page with all of the writing formats, as well as a ton of helpful writing videos so you can figure out what your script should look like before you send it out. And be sure to check out information on playwrights’ rights and submission best practices.

Seattle doesn't have playwright training programs as such. A class or two will pop up every now and again, such as the weekend intensive offered by the Salon in November. The good news is that the Salon may be offering more classes in 2020. And Salvo, “a tiny studio for dramatic art”, the brainchild of Rebecca Tourino Collingswood, offers classes. But don’t let the paucity of local training programs stop you!

Explore the world of on-line classes at the Dramatists Guild Institute, and occasional writing workshop weekend intensives in cities throughout the country. Attend Dramatists Guild conferences, offered every other year or so in interesting cities, read voraciously (I love Working on a New Play by Edward Cohen), see tons of excellent local theatre (our theatre scene is SO good!), and form or join a playwrights’ group. The Salon has a writer’s group now, and is keeping a waiting list for the next group. Write to the Salon’s Managing Director Ashley Arai at seattleplaywrightssalon@gmail.com, to get on the list.

Got it? Now go for it!

Never Look at a Blank Page and Despair Again: Writing Exercises Shine at Dramatists Guild’s Portland Conference March 30-31

Portland Skyline

Portland Skyline

I thought I’d be writing a straight-forward piece about the effective writing exercises I picked up at the Dramatists Guild Playwriting Intensive in Portland. But I’m not. This is an unabashed fan letter for the Dramatists Guild with the writing exercises tossed in—because it was that good. It was worth the three-hour drive in the early morning from Seattle. It was worth sitting in a classroom for hours on Saturday and Sunday after a full week at the office. And not just for the incandescent teachers, and not just for the innovative writing exercises. Being with my tribe – other playwrights – making connections, seeing great theatre together, honing our skills, sharing our work, and writing together, is the tonic and the balm I need to keep going in this often lonely and often rejection-strewn vocation of mine.

Workshop instructor Francesca Piantadosi, Dramatists Guild representative in Portland, said to each of us at our first session: throw me a name, any name. No explanation. No, “this will help you as you develop your characters.” None of that. I said, Sally. Just that. Twenty-five or so other playwrights threw her some names: Mrs. Henderson, Snark, Ophelia, Buster, Randolph. Francesca wrote them all on the white board, and as she did, considered each name, with Sally being first. What she said about Sally—the name I’d thrown out without thinking—blew open a shut door in my mind and transformed my thinking about writing characters.

“Sally. A big first letter, that S. Takes up a lot of space. Then the small, compact a. Now two very tall letters, and a low-to-the-floor, dipping below the surface y. Interesting.” That’s all she had to say. I immediately knew that Sally, whoever she is, is going to be one contradictory character. Maybe both blustery and sneaky, showy and hidden, and definitely hard to predict. Wow! She had similarly unexpected things to say about each of the names our group gave her. I was on fire to write about this Sally. Francesca asked us to write for ten minutes, using our new character and adding another, and starting with what she calls the best first line ever: ‘No, I disagree!’ Or a version thereof. And we were off.

I loved it! Re-reading my scribbled page featuring Sally and Dan just now, I’m intrigued enough to develop a ten-minute play from this start, thanks to Francesca. And she did so much more during her one and a half hour session. She showed us what a loving, compassionate and passionate, skilled and experienced teacher can do to illuminate the one small thing in which the whole world is revealed. What’s in a name? Everything! (A side note about Francesca. See when she is teaching again. She will light you on fire with her passion for teaching playwriting in prison, and inspire you to go out into the world to share your own gifts with the underserved.)

Gary Garrison, the Dramatists Guild Institute’s Director, followed Francesca’s session with a two-hour, completely absorbing, mind-opening session on, of all things, stage directions. What? They don’t have to be passive and colorless? This is my third time in one of Gary’s classes. Each class, like Francesca’s, focuses on a seemingly tiny particular that opens up a landslide of possibilities. He began with “Don’t ever write ‘lights up, lights down’ again.” And continued, in paraphrase, “Write light as active. It splinters, it creeps, it is heavy and hot or expanding or ghostly or merciless.” And then there’s sound. “Sound pulls you into the play with no work.” And, “write your stage directions as fully as your imagination knows the play should look and sound. You, the playwright, are creating the world of the play. We are in control of that world. Write everything you want and the play needs, then describe what is second-best, what you’d be okay with, in case the director has more limited resources.”

For character descriptions, get specific. Gary pulled “ten random plays that I love from my shelves, really without thinking about it” and printed out stage directions from each for us. Included was Outside Mullingar by John Patrick Shanley: “Tony (father) is 75 or so and his eyes are sly. Anthony (son) is 42, and his eyes are those of an intense dreamer.” Gary: “Those descriptions tell you all you need to know about how to cast this play. This describes the central tension of the play.”

Gary asked us to set the scene, all the way up to the first line of dialogue, with this prompt: ‘Old southern mansion moments after a hurricane hits. Two people who don’t know each other.’ I wrote directions alive with sound and light for the first time ever. I began, before describing the scene: “It’s creepily silent, but for the sound of dripping water. Sunlight seeps into the dark room from the porch, rosy and timid, and slowly and unforgivingly reveals the shattered dining room. Off stage, someone explosively wrenches a door open. A 30ish woman in a torn and dirty, formerly white nightgown lurches into the room, sobbing.” Thanks to Gary, I made great strides from “lights up”.

Chisa Hutchinson did a fine job teaching us short and long form synopsis writing, and play-specific and career-embracing artistic statements, and set us writing them for our current and past plays. As we read aloud our short-forms, Chisa helped us hone. See her useful handout here. E.M. Lewis set us writing with permission and encouragement to use magic in our plays, with these prompts: ‘Write a monologue by a monster, by a monster hunter, by a ghost, by someone who is haunted. And then she asked us to start a new play with magic, starting with describing the weather.’ Yes, it stretched me and intrigued me, to see what lay buried in the depths of my mind. That’s the glory of free writing with smart prompts. It will shake you up and get that page covered faster than you can think.

I’m a huge fan of the Dramatists Guild conferences (La Jolla 2015 and NYC 2018) and now an even bigger fan of the Dramatists Guild Institute’s Regional Conferences. I have a fresh new take on synopsis writing, magical theatre, character names, and amazingly, stage directions! All delivered with wit and style, with tips about getting our work out, working with directors and theatre artists, and how sharing our talents with underserved populations gives back far more than we ever imagined.