Wednesday, December 31, 2008

9 Assumptions about Writing Plays

To end the year 2008, I'm posting an in-class assignment I gave myself and my UArts students. In response to Jose Rivera's "36 Assumptions about Writing Plays", each of us came up with nine of our own. I offer mine (and would love to know yours):

1. The play must be impossible to exist in any other form.

2. The play must make us all experience pain in some kind of satisfying, delightful, intense and memorable way.

3. It should have an elephant in it.

4. People who see it should revisit the play in their dreams.

5. If it creates anything less than a riot (internally or externally) the play is a failure.

6. Every play should risk everything.

7. It should be written free of embarrassment, but instead, a proclaiming of everything the writer is ashamed of loving deeply.

8. It is not a play if there is no death or birth.

9. The form of the play follows the content, which obeys the characters-- a chambered nautilus, ever expansive, working itself from the inside out.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Thank You to UArts

I have decided not to return to The University of the Arts for the spring 2009 semester.

I have already told my current students the news, which was a difficult moment. By and large, the University of the Arts students are bright, creative, talented, hard-working, sincere, and highly fun young people. Affectionately called "The Space Cadets", I have loved my students dearly and will miss them like crazy. It is because of them more than anything that I almost talked myself out of this decision numerous times.

I've also continually been impressed with the level of talent among the faculty, and sincerely believe in the school's president, Sean Buffington. The University of the Arts is a quality institution and I am grateful for the opportunity I had to teach there. I regret that there wasn't more opportunity for me within the university.

Thank you to Gene Terruso for hiring me, and thank you to Charlie Gilbert for keeping me aboard once he took over as Director of the School of Theater. I appreciate the risk each took on such a young teacher.

My experience as UArts has undoubtedly made me a better teacher and a better artist. I appreciate the opportunity and space that UArts gave me to explore teaching as a creative activity, and to apply my own ideas of art and live performance into the classroom. On a good day, the classroom felt more like a playground, which continued to be a fun discovery.

A moment in "Survey of Theater Arts", December 2008

I thank all of my students for making the experience fun, for answering the challenges we gave each other, for continuing to surprise me with their creativity, for their energy, for the willingness to learn, for their trust, and for a number of truly purposeful moments that I will always remember. It was a privilege to work with them and learn from them.

It is my hope to continue friendships with the people I've met through The University of the Arts because UArts is a place full of talented, engaging people. I feel fortunate to have participated and contributed to such a vital, energetic, educational atmosphere.

Thank you.



Monday, December 15, 2008

THE TRAVEL PLAYS Journey to The Kelly Writers House

In the season of gift-giving, it is a fitting time to announce that my project, The Travel Plays, will be presented in January 2009, at The Kelly Writers House.


In the spring of 2008, I was raising money to travel to Dallas, Texas for the production of my play, The Most Beautiful Lullaby You've Ever Heard (produced by Audacity Theater Lab). I approached a number of friends and told them if they donated money, I would re-pay their gift by writing a play just for them.

31 generous friends responded, giving me the task of writing 31 custom-made plays.

And because I wanted to honor the theme of traveling, I figured out a process by which these plays themselves could travel through the country. I did the math, figuring out how much money I needed to get to Dallas, and then calculated how many miles a dollar could earn (one dollar equaled five miles). Then I mapped out gifts chronologically by receipt date, and figured out which cities these gifts landed on. I determined I would write a play for that particular donor about the particular place their gift traveled me to.

For example, the first gifts I got were two single dollar bills in an envelope, a dollar each from Philadelphia theater artists Sarah Bowden and Christiana Molldrem. Mapping out the first five miles from my house got me to the Walt Whitman Bridge, which became the setting for Sarah's play. Five miles beyond that, Christiana's gift traveled me to The George C. Platt Memorial Bridge.

And so on.

At the time of this blog, I've written 16 of the 31 plays, and have had an extraordinarily fun time with them. It has my pleasure to create these theatrical gifts for friends, and I am thrilled that they will be presented to the public (which is another gift-exchange).

It is my hope that we have a full audience, and I hope the audience is full of as many of the 31 folks for whom this project is inspired by.

I am collaborating with two organizations on this project-- The Kelly Writers House, and Philadelphia Dramatists Center, who will act as co-producers.

The plays, as a collection, have become a really fun journey through place and time and American history.

The project will be as much of an exploration as it will be a presentation (we have no idea what form some of these plays will take), and is being directed by Wally Zialcita.

Wally and I are currently putting together an ensemble of brave actors to play roles such as Walt Whitman, An Oriole, A Faceless Man, Robert E. Lee, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Ulysses Grant, Ted DiBiase, Willlie Nelson, Martha Washington, Hercules, Jimmie Rodgers, Howlin' Wolf, Alexander Pope, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Bjork, and a Giant Elephant.

We are performing at the following time and place:

Thursday, January 22nd. 7:30 pm
The Kelly Writers House
3805 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, 19104

The event is FREE and there will be snacks!!

Big thank yous again to all of the gift-givers:

Sarah Bowden, Megan Breen, Ilana Brownstein, Kristy Chouiniere, Stephen Collela, Joy Cutler, Ruth Engel, Tim Errickson, Tim Fawkes, Shelby, Jessica and J.P. Goggin, Jamie and Brian Grace-Duff, Richard Kotulski, Kristin Leahey, Tim Long, Larry McGonigal, Jess McMichael, Andy Merkel, Christiana Molldrem, Nancy Mouton, Gigi Naglak, Lee Pucklis, Marshall "Spaz" Richard, Cherie A. Roberts, Robin Rodriguez, Genevieve Saenz, Jason Tremblay, Eve Tulbert, Timothy Verret, Leah Walton, Jeff Williams, and Wally Zialcita.

And thank you to The Kelly Writers House for their continued support of my work.

rock on,


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

TWO BUBBLES Tops the Century

This week my ten-minute play, TWO BUBBLES, went over the century-mark for sales through Playscripts, Inc.

Brendan Ahearn, Tiffany Feng, Brad McEntire, Laurie Farris, Jeff Hernandez, and Shannon Marie in Two Bubbles, Audacity Productions / Rover Dramawerks, Plano, Texas (2002). Photo: Carol Rice.


I have no idea if this is a high figure or not, but the 104 copies have be sold beginning August 12th when the anthology, Great Short Comedies: Volume 3, went on the market.

If you buy a copy, you'll be giving at least ELEVEN holiday gifts all at once (you, me, and the other nine writers of the anthology).

So do it!

And Happy Holidays!

rock on,