Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Paying the piper

A year ago, when I first approached Jim Jackson and Birgitta De Pree about hosting a playwriting group at the Millibo Art Theatre, they loved the idea and agreed that we could use their venue for free the first six months while we worked to attract new members. After that, they would charge us a nominal fee.

That six months became a year, which was more than generous on their part. But now their board has voted to require a fee of all outside groups.

The fee I negotiated is $300 per year for twelve monthly meetings. That breaks down to $12.50 an hour. If you've ever had to rent a theatre, then you'll know how incredibly cheap that is. When I was running Pikes Peak KidStage, we would often do our shows at District 20 school auditoriums, and they charged $200 an hour.

So I think we can swing this. The challenge is finding a convenient and equitable way to do so.

One thing I don't want to do is a charge a per-meeting fee. That would be a constant headache to collect.

Instead, what I would like to do is charge all writers and actors a $25 annual membership fee. I think we have at least 12 people who would be willing to join, which would meet the $300 fee. If we get more people, the extra money would be used for cookies and other goodies. If we get a lot more people, we could reduce the membership fee.

Spectators would always be able to attend for free. Besides encouraging a large and enthusiastic audience, this would give potential writers and actors an opportunity to check our group out before they commit.

I hope this won't be a financial burden to anyone. Let me know what you think.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Playwrights, start your laptops

Jim Jackson took some time during this month's meeting to let us know about Four Play. This showcase of four short plays is returning in September, and Jim encouraged the writers of the Drama Lab to submit.

This is a wonderful opportunity for local playwrights to get produced. Last year, the MAT received 17 submissions and produced--you got it--four. That might seem like tough odds, but most 10-minute festivals get 300+ submissions and produce only 10. So this contest is well worth the effort.

All sscripts must include the prompts that will be announced at the MAT (1367 Pecan St.) and on their web site at 5pm on Friday, September 14. The deadline is 1pm on Sunday, September 16, giving the playwrights a scant 44 hours to complete their plays. (I talked to one of the winning playwrights from last year, and he told me he cranked out his script in one 6-hour binge on Saturday night.)

Jim did offer one piece of advice to help contestants improve their chances. It's all about producability. You may write the cleverest, most amazing play in the world, but if it's hard to produce, it's not going to be selected. The MAT puts these plays together in just a week, so there can't be any unreasonable technical challenges in terms of sets, costumes or special effects.

There's no strict length limit, but pieces should be around 10 to 20 minutes. And stay away from those casts of thousands. Three to six actors seems to work best.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

When inspiration strikes

With the start of the new school year, a few of our regulars weren't able to make it yesterday, but we had a good meeting with 11 enthusiastic attendees and a record number of cookies.

We started off with the first part of a sci fi drama titled The Outcasts by Tim Phillips. We followed that with a 10-minute relationship comedy titled Kinda, Sorta by David Overbey. After that we read the beginning of the freaky The Infinite Lives of Hernandez Polk by Jeff Keele. And we wrapped it all up with part 3 of my backstage farce Kill the Critic!

David told me that he hadn't planned to write anything this month. But then, just a few days ago, an idea popped into his head and he spent the weekend scrambling to get it down in time for the meeting.

So if you've been tempted to bring something to The Drama Lab but you're not sure if it's ready, there's just one thing to do. Have me add it to next month's slate. There's nothing like a deadline to help you get it done.