In Between Shows: Playwrights Foundation

Edit: This was private for some time, and now it’s back!

Playwrights Foundation hosted a young theatre makers meet and greet during their last festival. There was a little bit of wine and coffee, and Kevin Becarra led us on a nice conversation through people’s experiences working, different degrees, people’s special disciplines, and what we could make theatre look like when current 19-year olds run the theatre universe. It was held in The Thick House theatre in Portero Hill, so I stopped by the next night to go to Playwrights Festival staged reading of Tea Party. It was fabulously run and directed. As a student, my experience of staged reading had been spotty and half-heartedly executed. This was a stunner in comparison, it was all a new playwright could ask. Great talent, thoughtful design, and excellently spoken to an understanding audience. These were my people. My new work people. A door was opened up for me.

As soon as I heard they would host unpaid labor I was there. It was my second time working for a professional theatre in the Bay, but the longest stint and the most regular. I was joined by a group of incredibly talented interns, who added our efforts to the Artistic Director Amy Mueller (who I later heard described as the “queen of new work”), Erin Merrit (who had offered her help in the office and then was suddenly producing the festival) and the bubbly and chic Megan (marketer extraordinare). Each of us was going to be a production assistant on one of the six shows in that summer’s festival.

Regina Fields, Sowmya Asshokumar, Hilary Bray, Me, David Oehler, Nicho Yeung

Regina Fields, Sowmya Ashokkumar, Hilary Bray, Me, David Oehler, Nicho Yeung

So while I was there I sat in on casting calls, wrote many carefully worded emails very slowly, managed some scheduling, got some contacts, did a bit of flyering and donation handling, lifted some heavy things, sat in on two different shows in rehearsal, was invited to speak the stage directions for one, took obsessive blocking notes on the other, and saw some talented people work. So it wasn’t all glory and gold, but I got some tools and contacts out of it, and that’s what I was after.

Definitely the best experience was the one I almost missed. Each summer Playwrights Foundation hosts a retreat.  The attendees are: staff (that’s me!), directors, dramaturgs, designers and playwrights. This year we hosted it at a Buddhist retreat center in the middle of the Shasta mountains, cafeteria style vegetarian food and camp fires every night. During the day, each playwright read their own plays.

I mentioned that I was the production assistant for one show and read the stage directions for the other. That put me in rehearsal every single night, with a two-fer on Saturdays. I was lucky enough to read the directions for Hannah and the Dread Gazebo. Whose director totally took me under his wing. I was also was the PA for FSM,  a new musical by Mime Troupe veteran Joan Holden. The difference between listening to the two playwrights and directors work could fill another huge post.

Parity: between the actors, directors, dramaturgs, technicians, and staff, Playwrights Foundation had more than gender parity, with women in the lead by about five. In a performing art industry where writers and directors are still mostly men writing men, this was a great atmosphere to work in and a great sign for the future.  Just thought I should mention.

The festival itself went wonderfully. The company ended up making some money. There were six or seven glorious events filled with other artists, and four or five nights in a silly drunken stupor, high on cocktails and acting. It wasn’t all gold and glory, but it was pretty damn close.

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Brady Morales-Woolery and Remi Sandry in FSM

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Lily Tung-Crystal in Hannah and the Dread Gazebo

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Erin Merrit, Marissa Keltie, Pat Bernstien, Remi Sandri et al in FSM

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Graham Smith, Nicho Yiu Ku Yeung, Jihae Park and Joy Brooke Fairfeild. Director, PA, playwright and dramaturg of Hannah and the Dread Gazebo

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Graham, Nicho and I in rehearsal for Hannah

Anyway, that’s just what I did for the months of May-June. I’m back in school now, it’s October and Michigan is putting on it’s brightest show for people in sweaters. I’m not directing a project until February, but I’m by no means idle. Check back to the blog again for another post on my goings-on.

Mickey’s back in action!

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