Playwright’s intentions defended

Two recent articles spoke of the issue of playwrights defending their intentions in production.

Australia’s Belvoir theatre company based in Sydney has, over the years, faced a number of cases of opposition from playwrights (or their estates/ rights holders) over their re-interpretive productions of plays.  The recent article talks of their cutting of the Requiem scene at the end of Death of a Salesman, and mentions previous run-ins with the estate of Samuel Beckett over the music used during the production of Waiting for Godot and their attempt to de-contextuaralize Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.

On a slightly different note, playwright Bruce Norris recently shut down a planned production of his Pulitzer winning play Clybourne Park in Germany over his objection to their intention to have non-black actors to perform the African American characters in his play, but to have them perform in blackface.  NY Times article here.  This is not unlike another recent incident where playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis objected to the casting of a regional production of one of his plays where the characters were intentionally written to be minorities.

Often, the argument of making changes for a production comes down to a legal issue – by purchasing the rights to produce a work, the producer is contractually obligated to stage the play as written, with no changes to the text and as close to staging it as described as possible.  Many well-established playwrights tend to be sticklers about how true a production must stay to the written text (including staging) – often because the staging (the set, the blocking) are integral to the meaning of the work.  Other writers are welcoming to the idea of making adjustments, and are happy to alter dialogue, allow for casting variations (gender, race, etc), or make other concessions simply because they want to have their play staged in as many venues as possible.

The important factor is that any adjustments that a producer might want to make should always be discussed with the writer and/or the rights holder before putting them in place.  That’s more than a legal obligation, that’s an ethical one.

Religious Art… made by the non-religious

Terry Teachout wrote an interesting article for the Wall Street Journal discussing the ability of non-believers to create some of the most significant religious art – specifically visual art and music (much of the 20th century literature, he noted, came from people of religious conviction).  Lots to consider.

Working relationships

An article/ blog post appeared in the New York Times about the upcoming Broadway production of “Clybourne Park,” a much-anticipated play that most people have assumed would likely be a nominee for this year’s Tony Award for Best Play.  Clybourne Park’s expected April 2012 opening has been put into question after the departure of well-known Broadway and Hollywood producer Scott Rudin from the production team, at an investment loss of over $2 million.  It appears, according to the article, that his departure is likely due to interpersonal difficulties between himself and playwright Bruce Norris after Norris dropped out of another Rudin-produced project.

We often talk about the importance of maintaining good working relationships with one’s collaborators – that being honest, upfront, a good worker, and a good person to be around can positively affect one’s career, often more than one’s level of talent.

We don’t know all of the details of what went on between the two parties, here.  Other producers are likely to jump onto this obviously worthy project, and the producer will certainly continue work with other writers on other projects – it’s unlikely that anyone’s career is at stake here.  But it’s important to note, that the interpersonal things that come between people in educational or community settings do not go away in the professional world.

Evening of One Acts announcement

Congratulations to the playwrights whose work was selected for the 2011 Evening of One Acts, which will be performed November 29 & 30!

…Of My Dreams by Brent Hearn
Director: Ginny Holladay
“They say love has no bounds; even within the realms of your sleeping dreams?”

Treed by Hal Corley
Director: Anna Rebmann
“Three Christmas tree ornaments vie for supremacy, finally rediscovering ‘peace on earth.’”

First Class Failure by Jill Cromwell
Director: Amy Grabow
“AUDIENCE BEWARE: Observing writers are within your vicinity. If you are not careful, you could very well be immortalized in their writings or…one act plays. “

Gummy Bears by Alice Grimwood
Director: Grace Varland
“Three girlfriends face heated discussion of life-long difficulties, each choosing her own method of dealing.”

Opening the Past by Anna Rebmann
Director: Eleanor Baxter
“What it might look like to meet your match at exactly the wrong time.”

Many thanks to all who submitted plays for consideration.  Anyone wishing to submit material for consideration in next year’s Evening of One Acts, mark your calendars for the submission deadline, September 1, 2012.

The loss of a playwright

As many of you are probably already aware, the terrorist attack on the Domodedovo airport near Moscow on Monday, January 24, claimed the lives of 35 and injured more than 100.  Among those who lost their lives that day was an emerging Ukranian playwright by the name of Anna Yablonskaya. While I have no knowledge of Ms. Yablonskaya’s writing, I can’t help but feel the loss of a fellow playwright.  Our prayers and concerns go out to her family and friends, particularly her husband and daughter.

BBC News article

Guardian article

5th Annual One Act Play Festival!

November 30 and December 1 are the performance dates for the 5th Annual Belhaven University One Act Play Festival!

Since 2006, Belhaven has produced a One Act Play Festival at the end of each Fall semester, a culminating collaborative project between the students in the Directing and Production Supervision classes.  In various years, the production of the festival has also included contributions from students in either Lighting or Technical Resources class as well.

The One Act Festival is produced in a ‘dessert theatre’ format, the audience will sit at tables to enjoy a treat during the performances, which will appear on two stages in the theatre (to shorten the transition time between plays).  Admission to the show is free, and all dessert sales go to benefit Iota Upsilon, Belhaven’s chapter of Alpha Psi Omega national theatre honorary society, sponsors of several community service and performance projects.

In past years, the students of the Directing class were on their own to find the material they would produce, which has given us a variety of material, from short plays by well-known, established playwrights, some lesser-known contemporary writers, and at least once each year, a brand-new original play.  This year, we decided to do something a little different.

The plays this year were chosen as the winners of the 2010 Belhaven University One Act Play Contest.  Scripts were submitted from all over the country by the beginning of September, and were read by the students, who each chose a winning play to direct.  This year, we are pleased to be presenting the following original plays:

Lucy Dreaming by Stacey Lane – directed by Becki Haynes
Los Libros Malos by D. Richard Tucker – directed by Deanna Smith
I, Satan, Confess by Moriah Whiteman – directed by Scott Gaines
Positive Thinking by Seth McNeill – directed by Dave Harris
Borders by Mallory Alexa Leonard – directed by Marie Warner
King Thrush Beard by Rosh Raines – directed by Lex Quarterman
Degrees of Repossession by Bret Kenyon – directed by Danielle Davis

4 of these playwrights are graduates of Belhaven, and 3 we are pleased to welcome as new associates to our theatre program!

With the success of this year’s contest, we are excited to see what next year’s contest has in store!  For more information about submission guidelines and deadlines, send an email to  “theatre at” with the subject line 2011 One Act Play Contest.

Paul Patton, guest artist, playwright and lecturer

100_6107Paul Patton, playwright of Lifting the Veil, shared his lecture The God Talk: The Manipulative Use of Religious Language, at our departmental meeting on September 21.  His lecture was a good warning for our students against using, and allowing others to use, the name of God (and the authority that goes with it) for self-serving ends.

Paul was present for the premeire of his play, directed by senior theatre major Jonathan Dixon, and also shared with several of our classes, including a talk with our Scriptwriting class on generating play ideas from one’s personal history, and encouraged our Acting 2 and Directing class towards “Stewarding the Stirrings of your Soul” by committing to memory those things (scriptures, passages of novels or plays) that stand out as being useful or valuable for further consideration.

Paul’s visit was a significant blessing to our students and faculty alike, and we are thankful for his time with us.100_6096