Tag Archives: playwriting

Interview with Mac Rogers

15 Jan

Mac Rogers is a Brooklyn-based playwright (there are other locale-based playwrights, but they do seem to be particularly thick on the ground in Brooklyn.) I particularly like his observation on the weirdness of theatre blogging, and the advice for new playwrights: the interview is here on Adam Szymkowicz’s website. It’s part of Adam’s regular series of interviews with playwrights– well worth a visit!

Virtual Performance Factory, cont’d.

3 Aug

I am having the best time as a writer I’ve had for ages, figuring out the puzzle-ring that’s my part of the collaborative project, the Virtual Performance Factory. Curated and directed by Joseph Megel as part of the CHAT Festival (Collaborations in Art and Technology) at UNC Chapel Hill, we’re a team of writers creating “rooms” which combine live performance and virtual/ game elements. The game design will be created by Icarus, a Chapel Hill based video game production company.

The brief has challenged me to think about several things:
1. interactivity: how to make the experience something that involves the audience. As individuals? As a group? As fictions within the world of the performance?

2. use of media. My commonest complaint about often-dazzling new media work is the shallowness of content and “illustrative” functions of video, projection etc. So the question for me has been: what world am I making where these virtual elements are integral to the story?
As it turns out— a Limbo between live and virtual selves severed by traumatic memory in a returned veteran’s haunted Underpass.

As well as these wonderful formal challenges, given the sorry trajectory of Development Hell which most of us peon playwrights wade through en route to production, it’s also been a great joy to write something that I KNOW will be designed and produced. I write something and people talk about how to make it happen on screen, in the room… It’s like hearing music aloud again after hours of silently looking at dots on a stave.

Opening the door

19 May

I’ve been thinking for a while of how to find and walk through the other door. The door to doing the creative work on my own terms, actively finding collaborators, writing what comes and what excites me rather than starting with “product” and “market” and the hope that my work will be “picked up”. Continue reading

On Boston

7 May

“And as we know, the pilgrims who founded our country hated the theater, because they hated sex and the irrational. (Have you ever wondered why Boston is not a theater town?)”

I have to say, this made me laugh out loud. I’m quoting Sarah Ruhl, from a longer essay she posted on the fabulous website and writing engine papertheatre.org

I’m quoting without doing justice to the context here; it’s well worth reading Sarah’s full essay, which advises, among other things, not to send your characters to reform school (in the guise of making them “learn something” during their incarceration in your play).


13 Jun

Tadeusz Kantor and circus clowns are the poets of the umbrella. Kantor, who also wrote the wonderful sentence “Today’s theatre is impregnated with conformity,” has much to say about umbrellas. I can’t find my favorite quote right now, which is along the lines that umbrellas shelter an amazing range of human affairs (poverty, loneliness, indifference, poetry). But there’s this:

“The Idea of Journey”
“In my painting THE IDEA OF A JOURNEY has close thematic links to my whole output.
It is an idea of art. As a MENTAL JOURNEY, of the development of ideas, of discovering new areas of exploration.
From 1963 traveling accessories made their appearance in my pictures:
Halczak, Anna. Tadeusz Kantor. Cricoteka. Cricot 2 . Kraków: Cricoteka 2002.

The umbrella is a ghost in this list, I think. . . a fragile, impermanent skeleton that wears its flesh in the rain, that’s only there for temporary shelter between wanderings, or along the way.

Anyway, tonight was the first meeting of my playwriting workshop at the Playwrights Foundation and umbrellas featured. I asked everyone to bring in an umbrella they’d found, begged or borrowed. We wrote scenes based on a “police report” initial encounter with the object, then used those descriptions to build characters based on the properties of each particular umbrella. From there, to a scene five minutes before and five minutes after the encounter with the umbrella.

Later: an argument over an umbrella (prompt for a scene) in which it becomes clear that the argument’s about more than the umbrella.

People wrote lovely and surprising things. I love this exercise because it’s a simple and vivid way to teach subtext, conflict, and scene shape.

Tomorrow we will work with string and found dialogue. I’m planning the whole workshop around objects as writing prompts. And I plan a secret event with the umbrellas (to do with making a space in which to write) but won’t post it til after tomorrow in case some of my students read this!

San Francisco workshops

22 May

To my favorite city in a week! I’ll be working as dramaturge on a project for a week, then teaching a playwriting workshop for the Playwrights’ Foundation.

It’s a chance to return to my long-held fascination with found objects. The workshop’s called Chance, Found Objects and Umbrellas and we’ll be composing new plays
based on these elements, drawing on Tadeusz Kantor’s work with “reality of the
lowest rank” and the “poor object”.

Details of workshop here:

And then summer looms with time and quiet to write a new play… if that sounds ominous, then that’s because it feels that way.