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NEOMFA Playwright Festival

January 26th, 2012 No comments

This year’s NEOMFA Playwright festival will be at convergence-continuum‘s Liminis theater.

The 2012 NEOMFA Playwrights Festival features thesis productions of Plant Life by Mike Williams, Directed by Geoffrey Hoffman and Nothing Funny by Jarod Witkowsk, directed by Clyde Simon, at The Liminis. Plant Life will run Thursday, February 2 – Saturday, February 4 and Nothing Funny will run Thursday, February 9 – Saturday, February 11. All shows are at 8:00pm.

“These plays are the culminating experience of three years of intensive study,” says playwright and professor Mike Geither; the plays are co-produced by Convergence Continuum, NEOMFA and Cleveland State University.

The Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (NEOMFA) is a consortium of Cleveland State University, Kent State University, The University of Akron, and Youngstown State University that allows students to take classes on four different campuses and earn a degree from a single unified writing program. Emerging writers may study in four genres – creative non-fiction, fiction, playwriting and poetry – and take advantage of the resources offered on all four campuses. Since its inception in 2005, the NEOMFA has offered small-group workshops, open readings, summer travel fellowships, and high-profile visiting writers, in addition to career-preparing internships, competitive graduate funding, and a diverse Midwestern landscape that tempts the creative eye.

More info can be found at the neomfaplaywright website.

Building the Play: Beginnings

January 4th, 2011 No comments

So, I’m always harping on Clyde at convergence to use the blog that was set-up to provide patrons an inside view of how a play is staged: from the selection, to the dramaturgy, to the actual decisions made leading to production and even a section maintained by the actors who describe their experience. This is a long way about saying that I need to put my money where my mouth is and do the same thing for my own production.

My thesis play, Patterns, is being put up at CPT. It will be staged three times on March 11, 12, and 13. Information available online at CPT. Enough of the commercial plugs. This process is exciting because it supports a vision of playwriting education that moves beyond the classroom and into the “real world”. It is a process that requires a vision to support it and the students in the NEOMFA program are fortunate to have the support of both Mike Geither, at CSU, and Raymond Bobgan, and CPT. Mike has been a strong advocate for playwrights in the NEOMFA program and has strengthened the relationship of the playwright with the local theater community, including my own staged production at convergence-continuum in 2008. I know that Mike envisions even more of these relationships as the program matures and as time goes on and partnerships emerge such as that between CSU, the Cleveland Playhouse, and Playhouse Square.

Patterns is one of three plays in what is being branded as the NEOMFA Playwrights Festival and it will provide a nice closure to my MFA experience. My two fellow playwrights: Michael Parsons and Jennifer Willoh will be staged in succeeding weekends.

During the first group production meeting it was explained that the model for the festival was Big [BOX] +; Big BOX is happening right now at CPT and I strongly encourage people to attend. The plus (+) as explained to me includes the fact that CPT is paying actors, hosting the audition process, and providing the space for rehearsals. Additional resources are being provided regarding production costs but it has been unclear to me what those are at this time.

Patterns is being directed by Brian Zoldessy, who so far has been a great person to work with. I googled Brian and learned about his extensive career on the local theater scene as well as his rather harrowing experience with a kidney transplant a few years back; which makes his contribution and work on this project all the more amazing.

I was hesitant, at first, as I’m sure he was, as it is always difficult to define the playwright/director relationship, especially when you have never worked with a person. My experience has been limited to working with one student director (Drew Kopas) and one professional director (Clyde Simon); so expanding the portfolio of directorial relationships came with reservations and concerns. Again, Brian has been great and demonstrated his commitment to the project when we met at the Phoenix Coffee in Cleveland Heights and he broke out chess pieces, diagrams, and sticky notes to demonstrate how he saw characters moving in the three dimensional space of the stage. Brian discussed configurations of the space, movement of characters within the space, concerns over where characters would be when not active in the space, and so on. Needless to say, it was a productive meeting and gave me confidence that the director was both interested and concerned about the play. It was interesting to listen also to Brian’s interest in teaching the audience to see the play based on certain light cues (which I included in the script) as well as audio cues, which I did not. Other things of interest included subtle things like the color coordination of hair of actors (related characters) in the play, and so forth. That is, Brian had not only become familiar with the play, but was crafting a vision of his own for the play. That is both delightful and challenging, as I must remind myself that theater is a participatory art form in which many people have role and that the director’s vision is just as important as the playwrights.

Soon after that meeting, I went home and examined the actors required for the characters in the play (I have 21 characters distributed across 7 actors) and looked again at the timing of their presence on stage, and set along my character breakdown as well as my description of the play:

What do you author and what authors you? One young woman’s life is explored via the metatheatrical act of play creation. By combining myth, fairy tale, personal history, dress making and play making, layers of conscious reality are laid bare and meaning in one woman’s life is prodded, crucified, drawn and quartered, and reconstructed again and again and again.

I look forward to upcoming meetings and will post more as we move along.

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