Friday, August 31, 2012

Woffer Judith Leora's Top Ten Lessons of the WIndow

10. Eye contact can be a tricky thing.  Some people like it, some people are startled. Imagine the mannequin suddenly locking eyes with you.  It’s a little freaky.
9. It’s very encouraging to watch all the actors, directors and assorted theater peeps trotting in and out of the store with shiny new plays.  Buy plays!!
8. The cashier, Freddie, is good company.
7. Props are good.  You know you have them.  Don’t be afraid to display them proudly. Bears, Big Gulps, Martinis.  Bring it on.
6. Micheline Auger is awesome!!  (She didn’t write this list, so this is not self-promotion in anyway.)  But    her awesomeness must be acknowledged.  Please commence     acknowledgement.
5. The Unknown Comic became a Playwright!  Who knew?  A worthy calling.  I’m so proud of him!!
4. The Drama Book Shop is a supportive and awesome place.  Go buy more plays now.
3. When a ten year old from Buffalo shows up to watch the window because he wants to be a playwright, and gets to sit in the window, THAT IS FREAKIN’ AWESOME.
2. Writing takes a long, long, long, long time.  A long time.  Did I mention it takes a long time?
1. Writers come in all shapes, sizes and varieties.  And they work their tushies off.  And produce stuff that changes the way we think.  And that’s pretty cool.  And once in a while it can be cool in a window.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Woffer Natalie Wilson: Writing and Adrenalin

When I told my best-boyfriend-ever I was participating in Write Out Front, he said something like "that sounds like the most horrific thing ever".  He would hate for anyone to be witness to his creative process when he is composing.  He loves to perform, but to have someone watch while he's trying to create?  Pure torture. I get that -- as a singer, I used to detest for anyone to listen to me practice.  Perform, yes, but to hear me when I'm trying to work things out?  Horrifying.  Surely having people watch me write will be at least as nerve-wracking.

So why am I doing this?

I could give a big-picture reason: I think the project is truly fantastic, creative, and worthwhile, as it  helps give exposure to playwrights and to give the wider world a window into our creative process*.

 Or I could give a practical reason: I love writing under pressure and figure that there is no greater pressure than having people actually watch me write, so I'll be sure to get lots done.

Or a shallow reason: I'm acutely afflicted with "hey look at me" disease (as my boyfriend calls it), and there's nothing like sitting in a store front window on 40th and 7th as a way to get looked at.

But I think the biggest reason is that I have this compulsion - and always have - to do things that scare me.  I'm a different kind of adrenaline junky -- not the bungie jumping/sky-diving/race car driving type, but the kind who constantly pushes myself where I am most vulnerable.  Even as a child and teenager, I competed in as many things as I could from spelling bees to student government to sports to speech and debate to music competitions.

Many of those things I did not succeed at, but I kept doing them anyway.  And when it came time to choose what I was going to be when I grew up, I picked the most difficult thing I could possibly pick, the thing that would force me to constantly put myself out there in the face of rejection and the overwhelming likelihood of failure: becoming an opera singer. 

And boy did I get regular adrenalin fixes with that one: every application, every audition, every performance was another chance to be judged and and to have someone else tell me whether or not I had worth. 

Ah, we artists are such a contradiction that way, such a mix of ego and insecurity. 

Age and experience have helped me gain a bit more control over my addiction, though.  Since giving up my opera career, I've come to recognize the value of contentment in life and now allow myself to devote time to things that don't require someone else's stamp of approval, like cycling, cooking, gardening, and even watching Breaking Bad with my sweetie.

But clearly I still need a hit from time to time.  Which is why I'll be writing in the window on Wednesday.  11am-12:45pm on 40th between 7th and 8th.  Hey, look at me. 

*if you think this project is as awesome as I do, or even just a little bit awesome, consider donating a few bucks to the organizers to help them cover their costs!

Woffer Lynne Elson: Writing at the Audience

It was what I expected and more.  I knew I'd write and nibble on something chocolate with many crumbs ending up in my crotch.  I knew I'd have onlookers while I fished them out of my crotch.  Luckily no one was there as I did that.

I agonized over what to write before I came to the event.  I thought it would be more exciting to watch a new play come to life.  So I wanted to start a new one.  But honestly, I am in the middle of rewrites of a play that is going into production soon and so my heart was in that place.  After planning a whole new play's outline on the train over to NYC (from Princeton Junction) about a girl who is shrinking from all the toxic products she uses and consumes-- I sat down at the Drama Bookshop and took one look at Martha Graham (who is in my play A Blessed Unrest) and went to work on editing the full length. 

Many stopped to look, but it is hard to understand the play, get into the characters, if only looking at a few words in correct format, you know?  So they only looked a few seconds, made a weird face and then moved on.  The only people who really read what I was writing were playwrights involved in the project themselves.  It was fun meeting them and chatting about writing, about process and the rituals Micheline came up with beforehand really added to the fun of sitting down to write.

My favorite part happened close to the end.  I had finished my rewrites and was distracted by a friend who came to visit.  When I told her that no one was really stopping to read, she suggested that I write directly to them.  I thought about that before but I was a little chicken to be so bold.  She got me started and off I ran-- Attached is what I wrote during that time.

I wrote directly to the two guys standing outside the window.  I was trying to write their story, what  I thought they were like.  They were laughing and enjoying it.  I tried to guess their names and soon they were using the backwards letters of the "Drama Bookshop" to help me guess their names, either that or drawing the letter in the air.  It was a little game.  So much fun.
So this play is dedicated to my new friends, Kelsey and Mario.  Thanks for the inspiration for the new play guys.  I'll keep working on it.

I would definitely do this again, especially to quickly make the audience into active participants.  That's my kind of theatre!

Thanks for the opportunity!

What Lynne was writing in the window...

What do you think I’m writing right now?  Do you think it is about you?

It could be.


So keep watching.  It could be about how you’re looking at the screen right now.  Waiting to see what comes next. 


So what comes next? 

By Lynne Elson

(A guy walks by wearing a red shirt and carrying an empty water bottle. He takes a break and smokes with his friends.  He takes another puff.)

What’s your name?  Joe?  John?  Joey?  J—no?  K?  Kevin?  Keith? 

Oh! Okay Kelsey, this play is for you:

So guys, what should we do now?

        (His friends shake their heads and shrug their shoulders.)

We’re in Manhattan man,  Let’s do something crazy!

        (His friends nod.)

Okay, okay—what should we do? 

        (He checks his phone and googles—things to do in NYC.)

I got it!  Let’s go into the drama bookshop and get audition monologues and randomly go to some audition and then become super famous and move to LA.  Dudes, I’m serious.

        (His friends shake their heads and start to walk away.)

I’m serious!  Okay, fine.  Let’s go back to work.  Fine, but I still want to be famous!  How ‘bout we go get Starbucks and make a plan.  You know I was a good writer in school.  Let’s make a movie.  I got ideas, son.  Tons of ideas. 

        (Kelsey’s friend named…)

 Mike?  Mark?  -- What?  Oh-- Mario

        (MARIO shakes his head.)

Kelsey, you can’t write.  If you write a movie, I’ll eat this can I’m holding.

You’re on.

Okay.  Right. 

You’re gonna be sorry.  Get read to eat this aluminum can.


I’m serious.

Dude, you never finish anything you do.  What makes me think you’re gonna finish a whole screenplay?

I got skills, yo.  Major skills.  Just been keeping ‘em under lock for now.  You know—waiting for the right moment.  And the moment is now.  I need some paper.  Who’s got paper?  And a pen.

I’m outta here.  You’re never going to be famous.

I need paper!  Oh wait there’s a piece of newspaper on the floor.  I’ll use that. 
        (to lady passing by)
Excuse me, do you have a pen?  I’m going to be famous. 

I got one.  Here.  Let’s see genius.

Okay, okay—how do you start a screenplay?

I don’t know.  Fade in or something.

Fade in:

A street corner in Manhattan, outside the Drama Bookshop.  The streets are getting filled and there’s lots people talking, hanging out.

THEN There is an explosion. 

Wait, wait—you can’t start a movie out with an explosion.

Why not?

Because—you gotta learn about characters and stuff first.  Like you know—the first five minutes is the most important.  I heard that somewheres.


I don’t know.  PBS.  That’s why I hate missing the beginning of movies.  Start with a girl and guy.  A break up or something.

How about there’s this girl standing on the corner looking into the Drama Bookshop and this guy gets thrown out the window, crashes to the ground in front of her feet and it is love at first sight.

Yeah, whatever.  Yeah—write that.  You’re crazy, you know that? 

You’re crazy.

I’m outta here.  You coming?

Nah, I’m gonna sit and write.


See ya! 

        (KELSEY sits on the sidewalk and writes his screenplay.  People bump into him but he is so focused that he doesn’t care.  Lights fade as he smokes and writes.)

                    ***The End***

Woffer Nathan Yungerberg: Writing In and Out of the Comfort Zone

I am sitting here in a coffee shop in Bed Stuy, facing a huge picture window that overlooks the street.  I come here almost every day to write for three hours. By the time I am ready to leave, many of the other tables next to me are filled…but most people choose to sit with their backs to the windows. I guess I can see how it could be distracting, watching the morning life of Bed Stuy unfold along Lewis Ave, but I find it a welcoming reprieve when I come up for air after an intense deep sea dive in the made up world of my plays.

On occasion, I lock eyes with strangers walking by, as we humans often do when the mysterious force of another person’s gaze pulls us in. And sometimes they catch me staring straight ahead, lost in a daze, but  they can’t see me looking out over the saturated blue Atlantic Ocean from a veranda in Salvador Brazil, where my current play is set.

Do the passerbys wonder where I have disappeared to; can they hear the waves crashing and the lyrical sounds of Portuguese dancing in the air?  Then I think about writing in the window at the Drama Book Store and the reality that the people on the street will actually be able to follow my journey is scary and exhilarating at the same time!

What scares me is the most is that I will be sitting in a window revealing a very private act that I have only performed alone in bedrooms and coffee shops around the world. (I know that sounded kinda kinky but bear with me!)  Sharing my writing process in public this way seems somewhat…frightening! But maybe intimate is a better choice of words than frightening…or maybe a combination both: Intimately frightening!

When I first read about Write Out Front, the thought of writing in a store front scared the crap out of me, so I immediately filled out the application to honor a decision I made to consciously put myself in situations that are out of my comfort zone.

I am finding that the theater world is full of situations that are way out of my comfort zone; from the razor sharp daggers that stab my heart every time an actor misinterprets a line, to talk-backs, to the inescapable stack of rejection letters, to painfully harsh criticism.

Don’t get me wrong, I really do love the entire process, even when it makes my heart sink into my big toe! It is the balance of fear and elation that propels me forward!  And there is plenty of elation, like when amazing actors bring your characters to life in an almost eerie way, or when someone approaches you brimming with emotion to tell you that your work moved them in!  But I think the fear stems from the reality of going public, as playwriting is a very private process that must become public if it is to be actualized. So what better way to face this fear and grow as a playwright than writing in the window of the Drama Book Store!!

Nathan Yungerberg is a Brooklyn based playwright. Nathan’s play, The Son of Dawn, had a members reading at the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis in June of 2012. He has also participated in the Classical Theater of Harlem’s Playwright’s Playground and his play Pousada Azul will have a staged reading for the Blackboard Reading Series at the Cell on September 10th and at the Playwrights’ Center on November 20th.  Nathan is also a season 4 playwright for The Fire This Time festival at the Horse Trade Theater.
Pousada Azul-Blackboard Reading Series-Monday September 10th 7:30PM at the Cell- 338 West 23rd Street, New York, NY (Between 8th and 9th)    twitter: @blackboardplays

Pousada Azul is a quaint, modest guest house overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, amidst the saturated colors of Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. One rainy season in 2002, African American Expats Karen Wallace, self-appointed gatekeeper of Bahian culture and Tobias Walker, her fabulous gay husband, intertwine with their sole guest-Benjamin Douglas, a handsome but evasive New Yorker. They are visited by Karen’s best friend Eliciana Santos, a vivacious Baiana who’s carrying her first child, whose birth as foretold could possibly heal Karen.

WOF playwright Diane Exavier on the Transparency of Process

When I was nine, I remember Sister Lynn or Miss Toomey or Mrs. Wilkins—one of those fine ladies—teaching our fourth grade science class at Little Flower School that photosynthesis is the “process by which plants make food.” That’s basically where my knowledge of botany and horticulture ends, but I always think of that definition when it comes to playwriting.

Playwriting is the “process by which wrights make plays.” Something that is really important to me is the transparency of process, because, kind of like photosynthesis (watch me try to build this bridge), it’s almost as if something chemical happens between what I’m writing on all of these crumpled pieces of paper (that are then transcribed to various electronic devices) and what an audience is seeing and hearing in those words. The result is so filling, so necessary, so real.

And maybe I’m really impatient, or maybe I’m super needy, but I do look for that sustenance, which only the interaction with an audience can offer, during different phases of my writing process because I need to make sure I am constantly breathing life into my work; and my lungs are pretty small, so I need all the help I can get. *

This is why I wanted to get on board with Write Out Front: because playwrights make plays like plants make food; and we all need to eat, eat, eat, and breathe, breathe, breathe. So it’s my job to write, write, write.

*I totally have normal-sized lungs.

Woffer Timothy Huang on Why Write Out Front

I write musicals.  I am a “team of one.”  Now, inherent to that moniker is the implication that I should be a team of two: a composer and a lyricist.  While this is definitely the more traditional route for musicals (see Rogers and Hammerstein, Kander and Ebb, Ahrens and Flaherty) it isn’t actually  that uncommon.  (see the Stephens Schwartz and Sondheim.)

What is less common though, and this pertains to why I’m excited about Write Out Front, is being a composer who doesn’t write at the piano.  That is me.  And even less common than that, being a playwright whose finished work just is always musical.  (Also me.)

Why is the latter uncommon?  For my money there’s two kinds of art in this world: the kind that is designed to help you forget (see The Producers) and the kind that is designed to ensure you NEVER forget.  (see Schindler’s List).  When the medium you prefer is primarily known for birthing that first bit, and you’re just better at the second, you tend to stand out. It makes for a steeper climb, but yields a proportional reward.  And honestly, if I had to surrender any one of the three disciplines involved, it would be exactly 33% less fun for me.  And who wants that?

Why is the former uncommon?  It’s as simple as understanding that muscle memory in ones fingers does not make for as effective a musical choice as say, knowing ones characters well and letting them sing inside your head unencumbered.  I mean, I loved Billy Joel growing up, but does every song in my musical have to sound like something from An Innocent Man?  No.  (Actually, that’s probably not the best example.  An Innocent Man is awesome.)  But you get what I’m saying.
So, with as much objectivity as I can muster, and bearing in mind that I geek out at tech, I’d like to submit that watching someone toggle between Finale 2006, their custom script template (made with love from scratch) and is actually pretty fun to watch.   But more than even that, I think the spirit of Write Out Front is the biggest and best reason to do it.

 Hardly anyone “on the outside” truly understands the nature of doing what I do, much less the mechanics of it.  They don’t have the ever-running thought process that flips on when you wake up to do any number of mundane tasks and doesn't flip off until you sleep, but immediately flips back on when you're dreaming... they don’t need two to three uninterrupted hours at a time to write, they don’t pdf sheets, upload them to the cloud, email the links to actors that are good and fast enough to learn and sing it the next day.  They don’t know that the answer to “what do you write first: the music or the words” should always be “the moment.”  They don’t know.  But they should.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Typing Behind Glass - WOF Blogger Roland Tec

Wow. What an eye opening experience I had yesterday! When Micheline Auger approached me about sitting in a storefront window and playwriting for a few hours I must admit I didn’t really think it through before jumping on board. The audacity of the idea eclipsed any questions I might have had about how it would feel to share such a personal process in public. As the day drew closer I found myself worrying about it. Not quite regretting, but fretting over which play I would expose to the world. Should I revise an old gem that I adore? Or should I continue forward on my epic exploration of the rise of Ted Kennedy? In the end I arrived at what felt to me the perfect choice. I awoke Thursday morning inspired and convinced that I should use my 2 hours in the window of Drama Bookshop to create a performance art piece in which I would become the character whose words I was typing.

Let me digress a bit. I have for a very long time been a bit obsessed with the question of monologue writing in plays. It has been my observation that many a playwright confuses storytelling with monologue. A few of my favorite writers seem to appreciate the distinction. For me it boils down to one essential difference. In a monologue, a character is speaking to someone else with a specific intent. Even if that someone else is the audience, there still must be intention. If a student of mine responds to this challenge that “my character’s intent is to tell his story” I will usually call him lazy. (In a kind way, of course.) So that’s my bias. I’m upfront about it.

And so, I set about creating an extended and improvisatory monologue. In order to do this, I needed to know who my character was. I generally like to start with the specific details and expand out. So I took a mental look at the situation Micheline had put me in: A guy sitting in a storefront window. And he’s typing. And because of the glass, he can’t hear anybody outside but they can “hear” him in a sense by reading everything he types.

I forgot to mention. Part of the Write Out Front experiment includes a huge flat screen TV which is hooked up to my laptop so that everything I type can be read on the sidewalk. The most surprising thing to me was that the among the many passersby – some acquaintances, most strangers, some friends and colleagues—two of my closest friends turned out to be my worst audience. Why? They couldn’t go with the conceit that I was not Roland. As I said I had a whole character worked out with an extended backstory. My closest friends wouldn’t stop until they got me to acknowledge our relationship, either by eye contact, a smile or in one instance by actually typing his name on screen.

 With people who had no idea who I was it was somewhat easier to rope them in to the journey of my character. I would toss them a provocative line like: “It’s funny that they call me ‘Yellowshirt’ since as you can see, my shirt is blue. Well almost, blue…” or: “They assure me I can leave whenever I like. And I believe them. Really. I do.” And then when one woman’s face clouded over after reading that last part, I spontaneously typed: “Why? Do you know something I don’t?” Some people gathered in clumps and enjoyed the fun of interacting with the guy behind the glass. We were actually in dialogue. And, see, that’s something that I believe fervently about monologue too. The best monologue is always really dialogue. In many instances they responded to me with facial expressions, gestures, laughter or in a few instances with something approaching tears. It was odd being in constant dialogue with a tiny audience like that for nearly two hours. One of my friends—himself, a playwright—kept scolding me as though I was breaking the rules. “Write a play,” he exclaimed a few times. To my mind, that’s exactly what I was doing.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

WOF Day 1: Man on the Street Interview

Day One of Write Out Front: A Playwright Happening started off with a bang with Jeffrey James Keyes writing his new play in the window while people stopped and read his spontaneously unfolding work. Then beautiful Cusi Cram came and wrote and had a couple visitors. Some people she knew, some she didn't. One actress who came to the book store just sat down next to her and started talking to her about the work. While she was writing, we came upon Steven Carl McCasland watching and decided to film him and see what he thought.

Write Out Front: Man on the Street Interview Day One from Micheline Auger on Vimeo.

 PS. After Cusi was the equally beautiful Dana McCoy who kicked some writing arse and then Richard Vetere ended the day taking no prisoners. It was gorgeous. (Oh and then the opening party!...more on that to come!) Playwrights rule. And so do you.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Voices Inside/Out Prison Program Teaches More Than Playwriting

    "It enabled me to help these good people with a noble heart and a clear mind."
- Inmate and emerging playwright
Northpoint Medium Security Prison

10% of all WOF Indiegogo campaign contributions will go towards supporting the Voices Inside/Out program.
What is Voices Inside/Out?

Voices Inside/Out is a theatrical exchange program in prison. Essentially, Voices Inside/Out sends a professional playwright to Northpoint Training Center, a medium security male population prison in Burgin, Kentucky, for a very unique residency. The playwright teaches master playwriting classes to a group of Northpoint inmates, and has the opportunity in his or her down time to work on his/her own writing. The 2011 Voices Inside/Out playwright Mac Rogers, in fact, revised the second play in his lauded Honeycomb Trilogy – Blast Radius – while in Kentucky last year.

The second part of the exchange is presenting the inmate authored plays in New York in both informal gatherings and a big benefit gala in the spring. Our aim is to bridge the inside and outside worlds of prison – to stimulate creativity on both sides of the barbed wire.

How did it come about?

Pioneer Playhouse, a stock theater company in Danville, Kentucky, began a prison playwriting program at Northpoint in 2010. The program was founded by Pioneer Playhouse Managing Director Robby Henson, playwright Elizabeth Orndorff and Shakespeare Behind Bars Founder/Artistic Director Curt Tofteland.  A production of Liz Orndorff’s play The Dillinger Dilemma – yes, a play about a criminal! – was presented to the general population, and after the performance, Robby asked if any of the inmates would like to learn how to write plays. 12 men signed up, and the program was up and running.
An inmate with Mac Rogers

A few months later, the men had written a number of plays about prison life, fishing with a brother, and President Obama, and, they had a number of female characters in the plays. Synge Maher, the terrific New York-based actor and director, was performing in plays at Pioneer Playhouse that summer, and she was asked to come to Northpoint to read one of the female roles.

While there, she was immeasurably touched by the experience – the supportive and creative environment that the program boasts as well as the heartfelt plays written by the lads. She called one of our mutual friends Montserrat Mendez, and told him her life had just changed. And, she wondered what to do. He blurted out, “call Lanie.” Luckily Synge took his advice.

A couple months later, a small group of actors, Monterrat, and I sat around Synge’s living room to read the plays, and we decided to present a reading of them in New York. But, somehow, that didn’t feel like enough. We wanted a way to make an impact in Kentucky too. And, we came up with the idea of a playwright residency. We’ve just finished our second one. And, I could not be prouder of the work of this year’s playwright resident Holly Hepp-Galván. The inmates’ writing grew exponentially while she was there.
Playwright resident Holly Hepp-Galvan
How does teaching playwriting to prisoners help?

Being creative helps you to be in better touch with yourself, understanding what makes you tick. Playwriting, in particular, can offer solace and inspiration in a myriad of ways. Working in the playwriting group – the circle as we call it – offers a really encouraging environment. So encouraging that when one of the veteran members of the playwriting program was given the chance to transfer to a minimum security prison this summer, he opted to serve the last two years of his long term at Northpoint, a medium security facility, just to remain a part of the circle.

Playwriting and the arts humanize us, connect us, and help us see how we are part of a larger world. They also give us a voice, a way to express ourselves, no matter what is going on in our lives. Last summer, two of the prisoner-playwrights were dealing with some serious issues right before their short plays were to be presented to the general inmate population.

Tim’s parole had just been denied; he found out he would probably spend another five years behind bars. Gerald learned that his mother was dying, and would most likely pass away before he would be paroled eight months later. Tim and Gerald were both really dejected, but each of them went to extreme measures to ensure that their visions for their short plays were realized. In fact, working on the short plays offered a chance for them to take their minds off of the other issues they were dealing with.

Is there a story you could share from how it changed a prisoners (and playwrights) life?

There are so many stories! As I mentioned earlier, Mac Rogers, last year’s playwright in residence, worked diligently on his ambitious Honeycomb Trilogy while in Kentucky last summer. And the trilogy’s director Jordana Williams mentioned that after his work at Northpoint, she felt that his writing was refreshed in some way. It had a palpable urgency. Holly has just returned from Kentucky, and is still processing the experience. I’m sure in a few weeks time, she will have a lot to say about how the program changed her life.
Inmates acting out a new play
One of the most incredible stories, though, happened last year. One of the inmates, in the playwriting program, whom I will call Dan, was working with another inmate in an isolated part of the prison. Dan had some sort of administrative duty. He and the second inmate heard bloodcurdling screams from two female prison guards coming from down the hall. The two of them rushed to the women’s aid. The female prison guards were being attacked by a third inmate, a very large and enraged man. Dan and the second inmate battled the third inmate, and after a long time were able to subdue him. The female prison guards acknowledged that if Dan and the other inmate had not come to their rescue, they would have been killed that day.  What’s really amazing about the story – besides the sheer heroism – is what Dan wrote to Robby, the playwriting program founder, about the incident:
“My hand is fractured and I broke a middle finger trying to subdue the enraged inmate. Though I have been incarcerated for many years I have never seen anything like this. My hand is in a splint. I wanted to tell you personally that even though I feel I would have gone to their aid eventually, the fact is because of the writing program that you guys brought to this facility, it enabled me to help these good people with a noble heart and a clear mind. You tell us constantly to 'speak the truth.' Many, many times our actions speak for us. Thank you again.”
What is your vision for the next year and the future?

We are currently working on our five-year plan. We had an idea and made it happen. Now, we see that programs like the one at Northpoint have the power of transformation, and want to figure out a way to grow this program to other prisons across the country. Our ultimate goal would be to create a network of playwriting programs throughout the nation, sending playwrights to work with inmates in as many states as possible and in women’s prisons as well.

The next year will be a busy one.  The Northpoint prisoner-playwrights have written some “message plays” – those that speak directly to prison issues – and these plays will be toured to the other correctional facilities throughout Kentucky. The plays will be performed by professional actors. And, the program is going international thanks to Liz Orndorff, who regularly works with the program in Kentucky. She is going to Ireland on an artistic exchange program in October. While there, she will visit a local prison, and will bring some of the plays written by the men at Northpoint with her. We’re thrilled about the Irish prisoners reading and performing these plays. And finally, we are gearing up for the 2013 playwright residency, scheduled for June 2013.

Lanie Zipoy is the producing director of Voices Inside/Out, a theater program and playwriting residency in a male population medium security prison in Kentucky. 

She also co-founded Works by Women, an organization that advocates on behalf of female theater artists by supporting work written, directed and designed by women.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

WOF Writer Ruben Carbajal on the Real Sexiness of Playwriting

Why do I want to Write Out Front?

Because when I write, I am a sight to behold.

Blue curls of cigarette smoke encircle my intense, square-jawed face. A wide-brimmed hat rests slightly askew on my lovely skull. My loosely-knotted tie points arrow-like towards the keys of a trusty manual Smith-Corona. I'm pounding the hell out of those keys and that beautiful sound bounces off the walls of a smoky, dimly-lit garret. The room is mostly empty, save a few pieces of worn leather luggage, and some empty bottles of gin.

Um….after re-reading that and looking around my apartment-- I need to make some adjustments.

I'm half-dressed: the T-shirt I wore the night before and a pair of boxer briefs (sorry for that image). I'm sitting on the very edge of a large, ugly 'ergonomic' office chair my wife insisted would save our postures. Nice thought, but Indy, my yorkie, also insists on sitting behind me when I write, and he's not so good with sharing. Before long, I have about one ass-cheek on the chair.

Notes from my wife's make-up/beauty blog surround the desk I write on. We share a computer right now, because I keep putting off creating my own workspace. There's usually a cup of coffee nearby, and a bowl of my routine breakfast: oat bran, nuts and berries.  Not very punk rock, I’m afraid. I haven't smoked in so long, I don't even miss it anymore. If I have more than a beer, I suffer terrible hangovers. 

I pretty much do write in a garret, but it's not smoky, dark or Parisian. It's in Jersey City. I'd say that obliterates any remaining romance, if there was any.

It's not pretty. Boy, it's not pretty.

So why do I want to Write Out Front? Let me try again.

I used to act. It was my singular passion, but as I started to dabble in writing, I developed a debilitating case of stage fright. I would get on stage and just freeze up, full on deer-in-headlights. 

That was it for acting.

Writing has become my thing, and I love it, but I still miss the incredible feeling of performing live. The experience is really like no other. Imagine the best drug you've ever had times ten*. But right now, even the thought of writing in public (no lines, no public speaking) is making me a little queasy. 

It's good to do things that scare you. 

I'm a freelance writer. Hey, I'm not a soldier or a policeman, but as far as jobs go, it's not a life for the faint of heart. 

Truth is, it's been a while since I've done something that really knocks me off-balance. I hope this will shake things up and get me into the habit of applying that to other parts of my life. Maybe after this, I'll take that improv class I've been thinking about.

And maybe I'll have Super Sugar Crisp instead of oat bran. You never know what it'll lead to.
Now excuse me while I pull this yorkie out of my ass.

*In my case, it was the half of a xanax I had in 2004, which was far and away the most fit, relaxed and wonderful feeling I'd ever experienced in my entire life. This was so uncomfortable and unsettling to me, I was compelled to give the rest away.

Ruben Carbajal writes for fun and for profit. The fun is nearly constant. The profit, less so, but looking up. He will be writing in the window on September 1st from 3:00 - 5. He will also be at the Opening Party on August 13th at the Drama Book Shop from 7pm - 8pm. Come by and say hi!

Plays include THE GIFTED PROGRAM (Published by Dramatists Play Service), SUBDIVISION (Gorilla Tango Theatre), CAR & CARRIAGE COLLIDE (Pipeline Theatre) and THE LAST READER OF BOOKS (Hobo Junction). His one-acts PORTLAND and HOLD were consecutive winners of the Coastal Empire
One-Act Festival. His work can be found in The Best Men's Monologues of 2005, More Scenes and Monologues from the Best New Plays and in Outstanding Men's Monologues Volume 2.

As a freelancer, he's written commercial and live entertainment scripts for the NBA, several specials for Fuse TV, and a kids-centered comedy pilot for EA Sports.

He lives in the mouth of the Holland Tunnel with his wife and furry son, Indiana Bones.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Director Julie Kline on the Dirty Little Past that is Magdalen - NYFringe

Director Julie Kline
 "...the idea was that they could 'cleanse the sins from their souls' by washing dirty linen..."
-Julie Kline
How did you become involved in directing the play Magdalen?

Through a connection thru both Daniel Talbott and Zack Calhoon, Erin contacted me looking for a director for her solo show.  She had been developing it for a year or so on her own and had just secured a workshop performance opportunity at Ryan Repertory in Brooklyn, and was looking for a partner to shepherd the show through the workshop.  From her very first email about the Magdalen Laundries, I was hooked.  I was shocked by their existence and more shocked still that I had never heard of them before.  My lack of knowledge about these institutions is sadly very common - this particular story of oppression is very little known here, and in Ireland is still one that hasn't gotten the recognition, nor prompted the deserved apologies that other Irish Catholic "scandals" have.

What is Magdalen about?

MAGDALEN follows the stories of four different women who find themselves at a Laundry through a variety of "offenses" - one had a child out of wedlock, one is developmentally disabled, one is a prostitute, one was sexually abused.  The Laundries were in one sense havens for girls who would have been completely ostracized from Irish society for these things - the idea was that they could "cleanse the sins from their souls" by washing dirty linen; in another sense, they were a place to hide away girls who were breaking Catholic norms and to punish them severely.  And of course, the Laundries were also commercial businesses for the convents who ran them and the girls never paid.
Besides the girls, the play also presents the nuns and a priest who ran the place, as well as a modern-day Irish man who now owns the property where a Laundry once stood.  We're attempting to show as many different viewpoints on these institutions as possible and reveal the reach of their effect, not only on the girls but on Irish society as a whole.  I think the solo show format is particular powerful for this story because it emphasizes the fact that despite the horrors of these places, all the players were of course human and doing the best they could in their own view - and in our play all of the characters come through one human body.  In under one hour, Erin represents all the different faces of the Laundries.

Do you approach directing a solo show differently than an ensemble piece?

It's been so fascinating to explore the solo show as its own theatrical animal.  I tried creating one for myself a few years back and found it to be an incredibly challenging art form, especially with regards to trusting your collaborators.  You're up there on stage - all by yourself - and so it's impossible to get your own outside viewpoint on the work.  That's where a director is so vital and I hope I have earned that trust from Erin to be the outside eyes she can't have.  Without other actors to play with on stage, I feel like I am both Erin's director and also in a way her scene partner - a mirror, a wall to bounce ideas upon, and hopefully a source of energy in the way a scene partner can be.  It's an intimate relationship and I think one that has been very fruitful in this case.

How do you collaborate with the playwright, Erin Layton?

Our process has been generally very intuitive with short bursts of intensely logical structural work.  We have definitely been learning as we go - for Erin, as this is her first full-length play, she's been exploring the craft of play-writing in this process, and I've never directed a solo show before so have been in a constant state of discovery.

We created a ton of material at the beginning of the process and have since been finding the structure wherein the characters and moments we love can live.  This subject matter is vast and it's been easy for me to get stuck in the thing(s) I might "want to say" about the Laundries or an intellectual analysis of them or some such.  But it's when we root ourselves back into the lives of these girls - who just like any girls have hopes and dreams, and are continuing to actively hope and dream despite their surroundings - that the play truly comes to life.

How did you get involved in the theater?

I've been acting since I was 10 - first in the Bay Area where I grew up and then at acting school at DePaul University in Chicago before coming here to New York City.  I like to tell the story of my first acting experience at Alameda Children's Musical Theater as Becky Thatcher's under-study in "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer".  It's a quintessential example of what I love about the theatre - everybody hugged each other at the beginning and end of every rehearsal.  That's what hooked me.  So my obsession with the theatre really started as an obsession for that sense of ensemble that every play creates - that playroom you get to be a part of for the duration of making a show together.  I've tried to make that feeling extend by cultivating various theatre families - Rising Phoenix Rep, Rattlestick, Roots&Branches Theater.  With Erin in MAGDALEN rehearsals, I get to feel that same connection with our incredible team.

What's coming up next? 

I'm very excited to be appearing in, associating directing, AND co-producing the fall run of Roots&Branches Theater company's new play, LET'S EAT! at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in November. R&B is a company very dear to my heart - we create intergenerational plays with our ensemble of actors ranging in age from 25 to 89.  This one is an intergenerational look at FOOD and features talking cookie dough, Yiddish-speaking ghosts, and a massive food fight at an old folk's home.  It's a great time, and I think we can boast one of the most unique ensembles in town!  Also, the Rattlestick season will be opening with Adam Rapp's new play in September and RPR has lots of adventures on its docket, including co-producing a new play by the incredible Marty Moran!

MAGDALEN is at the New York International Fringe Festival. The five show dates are
Sunday, August 12th at 9:30 pm
Saturday, August 18 at 1:45 pm
Tuesday, August 21 at 8:00 pm
Wednesday, August 22nd at 4:15 pm
Friday, August 24th at 9:00 pm

Tickets are $15 - $18. To purchase in advance, visit

Performances are at The Gene Frankel Theatre (24 Bond Street between Lafayette & Bowery; Subway: 6 to Bleecker or N/R to 8th Street).

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

WOFFER Jeffrey James Keyes on His New Play End Of Days Premiering in the NYFringe This Month

"Everyone has their own process and it's vital for you to do whatever you can to respect that process and find a way to generate more work."
-Jeffrey James Keyes

Do you or did you believe that the End of Days is coming?

You know, I'm not sure what to think.  I've always been interested in apocalypse stories and speculation about the End of the Mayan Calendar.  I grew up Roman Catholic and went to Catholic schools from kindergarten through college and became fascinated with the Book of Revelation at an early age.  The ideas and themes illustrated in this text and complimentary documents have all led me to believe that the idea of "The End of Days" as discussed in the pop culture and the media is an over exaggerated conceit. 

I personally feel that the End of the Mayan Calendar, whether it's in December 21st, 2012 or sometime much later is an important topic for societal discussion.  They Mayans were brilliantly intuitive; I personally interpret all of this as more of a shift.  The world is already changing in a variety of ways: continental drift, geomagnetic reversal, earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions. 

I'm blown away by the insight contemporary scientists and geologists like Adam Maloof of Princeton University and Galen Halverson from Toulouse, France who are shining light on the pole shift theory, a hypothesis that the North and South poles have been moving and the Earth is moving on a different axis.  These geologists have revealed the north pole has shifted over 50 degrees in the past 20 million years.

I believe geographical and environmental shifts can stimulate and depress communities depending on the magnitude and circumstance of the event.  Subtle planetary movement and shifts certainly can rile up both individuals and communities and create instability and chaos.  The Mayans were brilliant astronomers and scientists, could they have possibly predicted a catastrophic event like a major earthquake or volcanic eruption?  It's possible but who really knows.

I am interested in this discussion, of how all of these concepts affect our relationships and plays a part in our everyday lives.  I was thinking about all of this late at night while I was staying at the Hotel d'Angleterre in Copenhagen on a work trip.  I jotted some quick dialogue between two characters, "Nina" and "Kitt" on the back of a postcard and mailed it to playwright Jason Gray Platt, who was one of my classmates at Columbia.  I spent the rest of that night writing the first section of The End of Days. 

Briefly, since you described it nicely in Adam Szymkowicz's kick-ass blog, can you tell us what your play End of Days about?

Kitt, a world-renowned photographer, has spent his days globetrotting and on a quest to capture the perfect image. But in his years on the road, he has never been able to escape a haunting desire for his original muse, Nina. Back on location in New York City, with the urgency of the end of the world, Kitt seeks Nina out and shows up at her door. Deeply moving, funny and timely, The End of Days invites you to imagine what steps you might retrace if you only had this one last chance.

I know you were reluctant at first about participating in the Fringe, what changed your mind?

My apprehension about participating in the New York International Fringe Festival wasn't about the Fringe itself, it was about self-producing.  I was over the moon when I found out The End of Days was accepted into this year's festival.

Over the past few years I've presented dozens of readings, workshops, and one-act festivals but this is the first time a full-length play of mine will be performed.  When I started going through the paperwork for the festival I became overwhelmed by the cost of self-producing.  I drew up a quick budget and my head started spinning so much that I threw up my arms and became defeated.  I went from a place of being excited and thrilled to anger and indifference and decided to not do the festival. 

I stayed in this place for a good week until something happened, Maribeth Fox called and asked if I would grab a quick lunch with her.  As I was getting ready to head downtown my boyfriend told me she was going to tell me something important and that I better listen.  Maribeth told me she wanted me to do the festival and with the help of both of our significant others, Jonah (her two-year-old son), and our community of family and friends we could lay the groundwork and produce The End of Days.  

How has your experience been so far?

My experience with the Fringe has been nothing but wonderful.  We will be presenting The End of Days in the historic Soho Playhouse, where Edward Albee, Sam Shepard, and Lanford Wilson premiered some of their first works. I'm blown away by how many of my friends and family have reached out and volunteered to help out.  Elena K. Holy, the Producing Artistic Director who has overseen FringeNYC since it's inception, has welcomed our company with open arms and has been nothing but professional and accommodating.

FringeNYC is the largest multi-arts festival in North America, with more than 200 companies from all over the world performing for sixteen days in over twenty venues.  This year is the 16th Anniversary of the festival.  The other day I went over to FringeCentral at 1 East 8th Street to drop off a bottle of vodka for the festival's organizers and volunteers and was blown away by how many people were down there working so hard to put on this year's festival.  It's really an exciting program to be a part of. 

One of your producers is two years old. Can you share some of his wisdom with us?

Jonah is the sweetest little man.  He likes swings, beets, and the color red.  Jonah is kind, fair, and encouraging.  His parents want to teach him the importance of service, helping others, and how important it is to be well-rounded.  There is an adorable Q&A with him on NYTheater and he made a fun video for our RocketHub campaign.  Meet Jonah here.

How did you find your actors and director and have you worked with them before?

Terry Berliner has become a dear friend over the years, she worked with my boyfriend on the Broadway productions of The Sound of Music and The Tale of the Allergist's Wife as well as several projects with Manhattan Theatre Club.  We teamed up artistically when she directed my short play, Room 407, at 59E59 a few summers ago.  Casting Director Maribeth Fox took the lead with introducing us to a bevy of extraordinary actors.  We ultimately went with Adam David Thompson and Libby Winters because they incredible actors and perfect to play Kitt and Nina. 

You got your MFA from Columbia. What was that experience like and do you recommend it for young playwrights?

I graduated from Columbia University's MFA Playwriting Program and couldn't recommend it more.  Charles L. Mee, Jr. and Kelly Stuart facilitate a dynamic and invigorating program that takes a pragmatic approach, stressing the process and development of a writer's skills, with the understanding there isn't just one way to write a play.  Chuck and Kelly's playwriting workshops took us on an exploratory journey through our own individual writing process with continual references to relevant and complimentary art and literature.  In the first two years of workshops I was able to study under some of my favorite writers: Deborah Brevoort, Sheila Callaghan, David Grimm, Jamal Joseph, Malia Scotch-Marmo, Frank Pugliese, and Lucy Thurber.

 I took six classes each semester, was president of the Arts Student Council for the whole School of the Arts, and had a handful of on and off campus jobs to make ends meet.  In my final year of graduate school, I did two internships and worked on writing The End of Days under the mentorship of playwright David Lindsay-Abaire.  I made a choice to go back to school because I wanted to focus on taking the time to dig deeper into my own process and investigating how I could find more efficient ways to tell my stories.  Everyone has their own process and it's vital for you to do whatever you can to respect that process and find a way to generate more work.  My experiences in and out of the classroom while I was at Columbia propelled me to generate a significant amount of work so I'm extremely happy with my decision to go. 

Chocolate or strawberry? 

Both, with vanilla and whipped cream.

How do you keep sane? (be honest)

I have an amazing family and the best friends imaginable.  I put a lot of love out into the universe and try to surround myself with people that have good energy. Chris Eleftheraides, our lead producer, is also my significant other. If it wasn't for him, I don't know how I would get through everything.

How do you keep insane? (lie)

I plead the fifth.

Any thing you want to add? (plus show details)

Tickets for The End of Days, opening on August 15 at the Soho Playhouse, are now available through the FringeNYC or by calling 866.486.7619. Advance ticket prices start at $15.  We have five performances from August 15-25.  I hope you will all come check it out, I will be there for every performance so please say hi and introduce yourself.  Please visit our facebook page and follow us on twitter @endofdays2. 

In addition to The End of Days, I am also participating in two amazing playwright happenings this month.  I'm one of over 415 playwrights who will be writing a short play every day in the month of August in 31 Days, 31 Plays.  I'm always up for a challenge like this.  I'm additionally teaming up with Theaterspeak for the Write Out Front: A Playwright Happening from August 13-September 1, creating awareness to the time, space, resources, and support that playwrights need to work and grow.