community theater

#PlaywrightRespect and why it’s important

If you missed the hullabaloo over the weekend regarding the #PlaywrightRespect hashtag on Twitter, here is an overview. Saturday, the talented Donna Hoke posted a call for new, never produced, never published ten-minute plays from a group called Words Players. Donna went into great detail about WHY this call was offensive to playwrights in her blog post (which I linked to in a previous blog) and suggested tweeting about, using Facebook to spread the word, etc, using the hashtag #PlaywrightRespect. If you follow me on Twitter or on Facebook, you saw that I was madly tweeting and retweeting about it. Words Players responded by not allowing anyone to post on their Facebook page and ignoring the tweets and hashtag. When this same issue was presented last year at this time, the management at Words Players responded with,”if you don’t like it, don’t submit”. Which is a response many of us chose to not do last year and this year.

The respected theater producer and blogger Howard Sherman picked up on the issue and blogged about it himself on Sunday. In that blog, a commentator who works with Words Players asked why this was such a big deal.

This is why.

I’m a working playwright, involved primarily in Theater for Young Audiences and community theater. I work with a lot of bright kids, smart talented kids, with aspirations of being theater teachers, dance teachers, English teachers or performers. During a recent rehearsal of a big name Music Theater International (MTI) licensed musical, I noticed the actors were taking minor liberties. Skipping a word here, a line there, rearranging words. To most people, this would not be a big deal, but I wanted to take this opportunity to teach these 16-21 years old (with a few 30 year olds and older thrown in) something. I sat down and opened up MTI’s licensing agreement at the front of the script and read to them and had them read along, the agreement that we are not allowed to change words, etc as written. It was like seeing a light bulb go off. This was something they had never been taught.  As I explained, “even if I wasn’t a writer and this wasn’t a hot button issue with me, I would still be talking to you about this because this is what the license says we have to do.”

The #PlaywrightRespect hashtag was chosen because that is what theaters are not doing when they make blanket changes, lines, gender, etc. without at least consulting the playwright. There is a difference between interpretation and changes to the script. Here’s an example, I recently had a production of my TYA adaption of Alice in Wonderland done by a children’s theater education program in Atlanta. My script says this:

HATTER crosses to the table, sits down and the chair breaks. He sighs and begins to work on it.

What they did was one of the funniest, couple of minutes of physical comedy I’ve seen a young actor do. It wasn’t anything I had imagined, but it was a legit choice that respected what I wrote. However, they respected every written word. They had a chair break and they had the Mad Hatter work on the chair. They said every word of dialogue as written.

We could choose to not send in our plays, and many of us have made that choice. HOWEVER, the reason this is an issue to many of us is because we share the same goals as you and your company do, to educate the next generation of theater and art creators and that starts with teaching respect for the writer’s words. The writer’s who have spent hours, days, weeks, etc into crafting a play that you want to produce. By asking us to write a brand new work, even one that is ten minutes long, without respecting the words and the time it takes to write that, is insulting to us. It’s like asking for a gift and then breaking it because it wasn’t the right color, or whatever. It doesn’t teach children about the collaborative nature of theater but rather encourages a culture of entitlement.

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Upcoming Interview!

Just dropping in a note here to tell you that Tuesday (that would be the 26th of May) I’ll be appearing on Sherri Rabinowitz’s podcast Chatting With Sherri, heard on the BlogTalkRadio network. We’ll be discussing my new play #JohnDoe, the new season of Sherri’s Playhouse, theater, the arts and who knows what else. Sherri and I always have a great conversation and the roads always take us down interesting paths. It’s sure to be a great time. That is this Tuesday at 10:30am PT/12:30pm CT for the live show or tune in anytime to listen in! I also have the past appearances here on my website to listen in on.

Summer Lovin’ (The Theater)

Last summer (2014) I thought was going to be my busy summer theater summer, but it looks like this year is just going to be as busy. Last year, it was acting in Into The Woods for Hays Community Theater, acting in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer for Phillipsburg Community Theater, and acting and directing a show for Sherri’s Playhouse, heard on BlogTalkRadio. I then finished the summer with a stage version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. this year, I’m co-directing Legally Blonde for Hays Community Theater (my home stage), Allie In Wonderland will be performed in Stockton, KS as the inaugural play for Rooks County Community Theater, and I’ll once again be writing, directing, and acting in Sherri’s Playhouse. Plus, I need to do edits on one play and work on some others. I also have a potential commission coming up, so fingers crossed for that. I’m also wanting to make a trip this summer to Hutchinson, KS for Smallville ComicCon and to see the Hutchinson Community Theater production of It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s Superman! (aka The Superman musical) and to Denver for Book of Mormon!

Yes I’m crazy like that, but I’m also the same guy that flew to Atlanta on a Thursday and back to Kansas on a Friday to see PageOne Studios there do Allie In Wonderland. You may have noticed there’s some pictures from that show on my website. I’ve also updated my webpage to include FREE SCRIPTS! PDF copies of some of my monologues, one-minute plays, and duets are available for download, perusal, and performance. I just ask that I’m informed of the performances. Right now you’ll find 13 original works up there. Why 13? Well 13 is my lucky number, that’s why.

I’ll try to blog as often as I can, but with a summer this busy…

Same Look, New Content

So the past couple of days, I’ve been doing some minor tweeking here and there to Emergency Room Productions website. If you haven’t poked around lately, I encourage you to do so. The look remains the same, but new content has been added.

It’s been an exciting couple of months for me, as yo can tell by some of the new content. The first thing I want to point out is that I’ve modified the right side of the page so you can see my tweets easier and join me on Goodreads. If you’re not my fan there or you don’t follow me on Twitter or like me on Facebook, why not?

Then I want to direct your attention to is a new video on my video page. It’s the second reading of my short play Sunday Dinner, this time presented by Spokane Stage Left in Spokane, WA. I’m toying with putting this up as a script sample as well, if that is something that might be of interest, let me know in the comments!

Next, I want to direct you to my News page, where you can listen to my entire interveiw with Sherri Ribbonwitz on the BlogTalkRadio show “Chatting With Sherri”. This was a fun 30 minute interview I did on December 24, 2013.

Finally, if you make your way to my Rights page, you will see that I’ve added a new script that can be purchased. Black Box Theater Publishing has published a collection of four of my short scripts, titled “Based On The…”. This script is available for purchase from Amazon.com, so help me out and put a little money in my pocket by picking up a copy today.

Thanks for sticking with me over here on my tiny atom (or would that be pixel?) of the web as we continue to grow Emergency Room Productions.

West Coast Invasion

While I was doing my “other life”, my life outside of my writing and my acting and my theater stuff, last night (in other words my other job), I got an email from Sarah at the Stage Left Theater in Spokane, WA. It was simply titled “Congratulations”. It was a good thing I looked at the sender because I have a habit of deleting any emails that looks suspicious and usually those suspicious ones are titled “congratulations” or “The stamps you ordered” or something similar.  But Dionysus has been good to me these final weeks of 2013, so I decided to look a little closer. (Side note, I don’t worship Dionysus, but as the Greek god of the theater, I thought I’d give him a shout-out here. However, I’ve been truly blessed by the Lord above.)

So glad I didn’t delete that email. My “microplay”, Sunday Dinner, was selected by the Spokane based theater for their upcoming, two-night festival “Fast & Furious”. The Fast & Furious festival is a showcase of 1-minute plays from over 50 different writers from across the United States.

Sunday Dinner, was originally written for and performed by Mind The Gap Theater in New York City for World Theater Day 2015 and they did an awesome job with it, but I’m excited to see it performed from a different cast of actors AND I’m excited as it marks my first piece performed on the West Coast. So no, I’m not personally heading west (unless some generous patron wants to fly me there), but my work is and that, to me anyways, is more important then me personally being there.

In other Everett news, I will have some new works published by Black Box Theater Publishing, coming in the new year. Four of my short plays (each around the ten minute mark) will be published individually as well as part of a collection titled “Based On The…” . I haven’t talked a lot about this because I was still in the editing process, but I’m happy to share that with you as we prepare to step into 2014. These works will be available on a number of platforms (ebook, print copy) and for purchase on Amazon. More information when it becomes available.

Finally, late in the evening of December 24/early Christmas morning, I got an email from Rebecca at Heartland Play Publishers. Someone requested the royalties to my play THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE STORY OF TOM SAWYER AS TOLD BY BECKY THATCHER. No details on that yet, but I’m excited for whoever is putting it on, as that show has a lot of personal feelings for me and means a lot to me.

I’m going to try and squeeze in another blog post before the new year is on us, but if I don’t, Happy New Year and thank you for being a part of my journey