Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Out of the cold

Last night was our first meeting at Venue 515 in Manitou Springs. We were originally scheduled to meet in the Manitou Art Center next door, but the 3-D gallery was being used for an art exhibit so the very gracious and helpful Natalie Johnson let us use Spencer Hall inside the main building.

The space was nice and big, and I loved the various artworks on the walls, but the room was very cold and many of the attendees kept their winter coats on for the duration of the meeting. There were also some comments that the room was echoey. But it was nice having coffee and tea available from Mabel's Cafe, at least until 8, when they closed up shop. We haven't always had that luxury (necessity?) in the past.

We had sixteen attendees, including one new actor, the very talented teenager Victoria, who enjoyed our previous two meetings so much that she decided to become an official, card-carrying member.

The very gifted playwright August Mergelman also stopped by (he wrote The Restless Ghost of Emma Crawford, which played at the Iron Springs Chateau in October). He had to leave early, but he enjoyed the discussion very much and hopes to retrun soon with some of his own stuff.

We read five plays. We started the evening with Grant Swenson's 10-minute drama In Time For Tea. The play was intriguing, with an almost Twilight Zone feel, and the final twist took many people by surprise.

By the way, Grant wrote this play as a submission for the Ashley Crockett Women of Vintage Playwriting Contest. That contest was supposed to have ended in August, but considering that no winner was announced, I'm thinking that Ashley is still open to submissions. I'll find out where's she at with this.

We followed this with the beginning of Sue Bachman's drama Out of the Cold, a short drama that she wrote to explore the boredom and staleness that comes between many long-term married couples. Here the wife makes a decision to break it, and the husband's response let to a long discussion about his motives and where the story should go next.

After that, we read a rewrite of the beginning of Tim Phillips' teenage relationship drama Never Said. He has jettisoned the 1980's sitcom characters he used last time as spiritual guides for the main character Seth and replaced them with the figures of Augustine and Eros. Most of the people liked this much better, as it set up an interesting dichotomy between the anti-sex philosophy of the Catholic saint and the more libertine leanings of the Greek God.

Next we read the penultimate section of Jess's romance drama Georgee's On My Mind. This section had a twist that blew everyon away, although Jess was careful to leave clues earlier on. Unfortunately, it's hard to keep those clues in mind when a play is read over several months. I'm sure we're all eager to get back together again next month so we can see how this one wraps up.

We ended the evening with two more scenes from my fractured fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye. Here we got to meet the two wolves (Big Bad and Virginia) as well as Little Red Riding Hood. Most of the jokes found their mark, while several attendees suggested additional gags that I might end up adding. If you steal, make sure you steal from the best.

As I mentioned earlier, our January meeting will be at Springs Ensemble Theatre, 1903 E. Cache La Poudre. After that, we'll vote on where we'd like to meet on a regular basis.

Everybody have a great holiday season and we'll see you in the New Year!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Finding a new home

As you all know, the Drama Lab has amicably parted ways with Black Box Theatre. What's more, Millibo Art Theatre recently informed me that with their move and the planned expansion of classes they'll be offering, they can no longer fit us in to their schedule. In short, we need to find a new home. I have good news. We'll be trying out not one but two new meeting places over the next two months, then vote on which one we'd like to continue meeting at.
Our December meeting is scheduled for Monday, December 9 at the Manitou Art Center in Manitou Springs, 513 Manitou Avenue (just east of Venue 515). We'll be meeting in their one of their galleries which is normally empty but twice a year is used to exhibit 3-D artworks. They're only charging us $20 a night, so if we stay with them, we should be able to drop our dues to $10 per year.
Our January meeting is scheduled for Monday, January 13 at Springs Ensemble Theatre, 1903 E. Cache la Poudre. They're charging us $50 a night, so if we stay with them, we'll need to keep our dues at $25 per year. We can meet in their theater when they're not in rehearsal or building a set. The rest of the time we'll meet in their lobby.
See you Monday!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Moving on

We were unable to meet at the Millibo Art Theatre last night due to the ongoing construction (they're a couple months behind), so we returned one last time to Black Box Theatre.

The meeting was a small one, with just 11 attendees. Several of our actors were missing because they'd just finished a show this weekend and needed the night off.

The audience included Jess's new baby Campbell, who, at 10 days old, is easily our youngest attendee ever, although it must be said she did not have a lot to contribute to the discussion.

Despite our low turnout, it was a lively, constructive meeting.

We started the evening reading Tim Phillip's teenage relationship drama Never Said. We followed this with the latest pages from Grant Swenson's twist on The Wizard of Oz titled And Your Little Dog, Too. After that, we read more of Jess Weaver's star-crossed romantic drama Georgee's On My Mind. And we finished up with two scenes from my fractured fairy tale, Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye.

As it turns out, we won't be able to meet at the MAT at all anymore anyway because they're going to need all available space for classes, which they hope to expand this Spring. And Black Box is no longer an option because their Christian-centered mission does not align with our desire for free, uncensored theatre.

I'm currently in dialogue with another theatre company in the hope that we can establish a long-term relationship with them. Attendees offered several other suggestions as well, including the Manitou Art Center (formerly Venue 515) and Kathy Paradise's garage studio. All of these options will be looked into.

See you all at our next meeting on Monday, December 9, wherever it is!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A lot on our plate

With a definite nip in the air, 17 of us gathered last night for our final Drama Lab meeting at Black Box Theatre. The MAT is wrapping up their renovation work this week, and we're looking forward to breaking in their brand new performance space next month.

We read 7 plays--a record!--but we managed to get through them at a healthy clip, winding up the meeting just a few minutes past 9 o'clock. Of course, it helped that one of the plays was a 1-minute play and at least a couple of the others were under 10 pages.

There weren't any new writers, but we did have a dad from Tim, Jeff and Grant's novel-writing group and his daughter try us out as readers. They did a great job, and I hope they come back next month.

We started the evening with Jeff Schmoyer's new play Keeping Up Appearances, a 10-minute comedy about a stoner who takes over Superman's job after the Man of Steel crashes through his window. Jeff did a good job setting up the scene transitions to make them easily producible and the play was extremely funny, especially the dialogue between the stoner and his equally stoned friend. Roy and Charlie were suspiciously realistic as the stoners.

That was followed by Sue Bachman's short play One Bedroom One Bath: A Space Odyssey. Based on a real-life couple she knows, the play is a delightful, heartwarming comedy about a once affluent couple downsizing into a small apartment. Some thought the dialogue was too expository, but everyone agreed that the characters were well-drawn, especially the many eccentic neighbors who keep barging in on the couple.

After that we read a rewrite of Tim Phillip's teenage relationship drama, Never Said. Here he got rid of the mother and threw in Dr. Hux, a kind fatherly figure based on Bill Cosby's character in The Cosby Show. Tim's clever idea was to have Seth turn to several 80's sitcom characters for advice in his relationship with Miranda. There was some discussion whether Seth should call on one or several characters, and whether Miranda should have her own spiritual mentor (Roseanne Barr?).

Then we read the next part of Jess Weaver's full-length drama, Georgie's on my Mind. Nora's struggle to help Hoagy learn to talk was powerful, made even more so by the way it kept slipping back into Hoagy's memories of his mixed-race romance with Georgie. Jess was worried that the dialogue might be too corny, but everyone agreed it was very touching. There was one suggestion that the doctor should be made an antagonist to Nora in order to heighten the tension.

We followed that with scenes 3 and 4 from Grant Swenson's full-length comedy And Your Little Dog Too, a version of The Wizard of Oz told from a blues-loving Toto's point of view. Here we got to meet the Scarecrow's Brain and the Tin Man's Heart. These characters' monologues took us deeper than many expected after the lighthearted humor of the scenes we read last month.

Next we read the beginning of my full-length comedy, Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye. People seemed to like the gags and the hard-boiled dialogue, and there was quite a bit of discussion about where the story should go next. My big challenge is to squeeze in the 30 or so roles that most school groups are looking for. Of course, the real reason I wrote it was to see Buck play Baby Bear.

We wrapped up with Jess's second play of the evening, The Meaning of Life. Or, Why? Or, I May Be a Woman But Don't Underestimate the Size of my Balls. And since it's a 1-minute play, that title is almost as long as the script. These kind of plays really need a big punch at the end, and Jess got it as an erudite couple applauds the unintentionally violent end of a theatre performance, thinking it very "avant garde". Sue did a nice job as the more enthusiastic half of the couple.

Everyone who needed to pay their dues this fall has done so. A big thanks to all of you for making this unpleasant part of my job very painless.

See you at our next meeting on Monday, November 11!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Drying out

After the torrential rains and horrific flooding of the last two weeks, it was nice to get together last night and remind ourselves why we're put on this earth: to make great theatre.

We had a healthy turnout. At least everyone looked pretty fit. There were 21 attendees, including one new writer, two actors who officially joined (a mother and teenage daughter--our youngest member yet!) and two more actors who were just trying us out.

We opened the evening with the beginning of Jess Weaver's new memory play Georgie's on my Mind. The play is about a troubled young woman who befriends an elderly stroke victim. Everyone loved how the transitions back to the past were handled, with the nursing home staff ripping off their scrubs to reveal the spangly costumes of their long-ago soul-singing counterparts underneath.

We followed that with the beginning of our newest writer Grant Swenson's full-length comedy And Your Little Dog Too. It's an adaptation of The Wizard of Oz from Toto's viewpoint, only in this version, Toto is a laid-back beatnik-type. It had a lot of humor, and the bickering between the two munchkins was particularly humorous.

Next up was the 2nd half of Tim Phillips' one-act teenage relationship drama Never Said. The characters were again well-drawn, but the consensus was that the resolution was too ambiguous. It wasn't clear why Seth never pursued the girl he loved or whether he loved her at all.

We wrapped up with a rewrite from the middle section of my cocktail party farce Butterfly Effect. I dump some good stuff to make the story work. Unfortunately, the result was overly talky and unfunny. Ashley Crockett was particularly adamant that she wants to see more frantic behavior and physical comedy throughout.

The renovations at the MAT won't be done in time for our next meeting, so we'll be getting together one last time at Black Box Theatre. We'll be back on our regular schedule, with the meeting falling on Monday, October 14. See you then!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sitting around the campfire

The MAT's new theatre is undergoing renovations, so this month we met at our old stomping grounds on Pecan Street, now occupied by Nancy Holaday's Black Box Theatre. Since she's deep in rehearsals for Kill the Critic!, we had to meet in the backroom, kind of like when we first started out.

I didn't know how many people were coming or how many chairs Nancy had, so I brought over some old camp chairs from my garage. It's a good thing I did, as we ended up using all of them. Too bad I didn't think to bring marshmallows.

We had 16 attendees, including one new actor (Emmy McAllister) and one potential writer (Grant Swenson) who were trying us out. We drafted Grant into a couple of plays as an actor, and even cast his adorable little daughter Zoe in one. I sure hope she had no clue what the plays were about. She certainly didn't seem fazed by all the F-bombs.

We opened the evening with the finale of Jess Weaver's suicide drama A Pact for Stray Cat. We had a particularly meaty discussion about this one. Although the ending was powerful, everyone thought it was less ambiguous than Jess intended. I really liked her continued use of the documentary narrator, which provides a pointed contrast to the action on stage. Also of note was Roy Kieffer's scary performance as the manipulative Doc. I hope we get to see him in a real production some time.

Next up was Sue Bachman's 10-minute play, Torn. This one centers around a dysfunctional family on vacation in Mexico. The mother was nicely drawn, serving as the calm eye of the family storm, but there was some debate over whether the widowed daughter should be so bitter. Other people suggested that the play might work better as a longer piece, maybe even a full length.

After that we read the next part of my cocktail party farce Butterfly Effect. Mary Sprunger-Froese and Roy really got into the spirit of the piece as the increasingly frantic host and hostess. I was concerned that some of the disasters might be difficult to produce, but the audience said I should keep them. A good director will find a way to stage them.

We finished the evening with the first half of Tim Phillip's one-act drama Never Said, about a lovestruck teenage girl and the boy who wants to keep their friendship platonic. This piece has some really nice characterizations. It will be interesting to see how it wraps up.

The renovations at the MAT continue through September so we'll be meeting once more at Black Box. And in order to get the theatre space, I'm moving it to the third Monday of the month, September 16.

See you then!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Cooler climes

It was a near unanimous vote. Given the choice between the non-air-conditioned theatre in the Millibo Art Theatre's new building, or the cluttered but naturally cool basement, nearly everyone opted for comfort.

And the space worked great. The sound was good, and we got to break in the MAT's newly-delivered folding chairs.

The meeting went amazingly well. We had 19 attendees, including two new actors and one new writer. The actors included Berry Huffman, who played the sorely-abused critic in my recent production of Kill the Critic!, and Sallie Walker, who I'm sure everyone already knows from her appearances with the MAT and Springs Ensemble Theatre.

The new writer was the gifted Hannah Rockey, who has participated before as an actor. It was great to see what she could do with a pen.

It was also great to have Craig Engle back after his long sojourn to the Sunshine State.

We read four plays. We opened with the finale of Tim Phillips' girl-band drama The Decibelles. Ashley Crockett got fully into the spirit of the play, sprawling drunkenly on the floor to open these last scenes. Tim was concerned that the ending of the play may have wrapped things up too neatly. The consensus was that punk music itself is raw and messy, so any story about that world should leave its threads dangling.

We followed that with the latest scenes from Jess Weaver's family drama A Pact for a Stray Cat. Here we saw a new conflict erupt between the teenage Cat and her mother, and Roy Kieffer held the audience spellbound with an incredibly moving monologue in which his character Doc told the story of his abusive childhood.

After that came Hannah Rockey's family drama Ma. Hannah admitted she broke just about every rule of playwriting in this short, 3-scene play, but it worked. From its comical opening on a jetliner to its explosive resolution several years later in a living room, the play gave an insightful peek into the troubled relationship between a woman and her aging mother, who may or may not be suffering from dementia.

We wrapped it all up with the final two pieces in my driver's ed comedy You're Driving Me Crazy. They featured a smart alecky girl commenting on her ex-boyfriend's driving skills and a girl who couldn't put her smartphone down long enough to start the car. The humor seemed to work well, but a couple of spots were confusing to people. I'll be sure to fix those up.

Nancy announced that she'd like to produce an evening of short plays similar to the show Craft Production Resources (formerly Craft Theatre) is putting on next month. She'll be keeping an eye out for promising pieces, so if you'd like to have something considered, either bring it to the Drama Lab to be read by our talented actors or give Nancy a hardcopy to read on her own. She's thinking the production will probably take place in December.

Next month, the MAT will be closed for renovations. There's a ton of work to be done, including the installation of a brand spanking new A/C system. Fortunately, Nancy Holaday has graciously offered the use of her Black Box Theatre, which just happens to be the old MAT space. So you'd better not get lost on the way there.

That meeting will be postponed one week to Monday, August 19--a whopping six weeks after our July meeting. I hope all of you will survive the long dry spell.

See you next month!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

New digs

Last night was our first meeting at the Millibo Art Theatre's new theatre on S. Tejon and, even though they still have a lot of work to do, I love it already.

The space is much more open and airier, parking is a dream and I really like the quicker pulse of the neighborhood.

There was one drawback, however. Traffic is a lot busier there, and with the windows open, passing trucks and motorcycles often made it difficult to hear the actors. But that should be fixed when the MAT installs the A/C later this summer, which will allow us to close the windows.

The attendance last night was a record-breaking 27, including one new writer and five new actors. I was especially glad to have Debby Brewer join as a regular card-carrying member. She's been attending as an audience member for over a year, but last night she finally decided to come up on stage. She did a great job too, playing quirky parts in a couple of plays. It was also nice to have two younger people join us as actors.

We read six plays. We started out with the finale of Charlie Ammen's redneck comedy Beyond A Doubt. The ambiguous ending felt unsatisfying to some people, but the characters remained charming throughout. Kudos to Roy and Mary for bringing them to hilarious life.

We then enjoyed a special treat as we read Jeff Schmoyer's short play, Snow White - Alternate Ending. This bawdy comedy set the record for the largest cast of any Drama Lab play to date with something like 12 people on stage--and it got a boatload of laughs to boot. Always one of our more insightful audience members, Jeff definitely needs to bring his writing more often.

Next we read the beginning of Jess Weaver's unique drama A Pact for a Stray Cat. Jess said she loves tying media into theatre, and she showed that love last night with her clever use of voiceover. Here a 50's-style educational film narrator seemed to be instructing us on how to approach a stray cat while really commenting on the life of a suicidal teenage girl. Very powerful.

After that we read Sue Bachman's short play The Fractured Tale of Waffle-Ella. This breakfast-themed version of Cinderella set in Fiji was loaded with puns and goofy fun.

We followed that with a section from Tim Phillip's 80's girl band drama The Decibelles. This was actually a rewrite of something he shared earlier, and many people agreed that it reads much tighter and stronger now.

And we wound up with my short play You're Driving Me Crazy. This is actually the second of four high school plays centered on hellish driving experiences. In this one, a doting family insists on tagging along for a teenage girl's first behind-the-wheel class. People seemd to enjoy the characters and the mounting ridiculousness of the situation.

See you all at our next meeting on Monday, July 8!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A night of laughs

We had a great meeting last night with some of the funniest comedies ever read by our group.

We had 17 attendees, including one new actor, Tim's friend John Elwick. Two writers also sat it on the meeting, and promise to come back again with their own stuff next time. These included John Pansini and a recent transplant from Alabama, Jess Weaver.

Sadly, the great Phil Ginsburg was unable to make it, but for a very good reason. He was in rehearsal for Star Bar's production of A Streetcar Named Desire, which opens May 24. I guess we'll let it slide this time. For reservations, email the theatre company at or visit their EventBrite page.

We opened with Sue's rewrite of her original fairy tale, The Great Fire Serpent Tulikaarme. The story is a lot tighter and funnier now, and everyone loved Ashley Crockett's over-the-top portrayal of the crotchety old dragon.

Next we read a guest script with an intriguing backstory. Sue's nephew is in prison in Wisconsin, and he has a friend there named Sean White who's writing a play titled The Meaning of Life, and wants to know if he's on the right track. The work was quite raw, focusing on a physically abusive father and his relationship with his teenage son, but everyone agrees it shows a lot of promise. We recommended that the Sean keep going with it.

After that, we read the newest scene from my cocktail party farce, Butterfly Effect. It didn't get as many laughs as previous scenes, but I was happy with the flow as my protagonist is now taking more control in combating the chain of events threatening to ruin his carefully planned party. There was some disagreement over whether its 90-minute single-act format would work for audiences.

We followed that with the latest scenes from Charlie Ammen's redneck comedy, Beyond a Shadow. His characters are both charming and hilarious, playing against type in the way they genuinely love each other despite their economic challenges. Roy Kieffer and Mary Sprunger-Froese had some wonderful chemistry together. The section ended with the stunning revelation that Roy's character may be the schoolhouse stalker the whole town has been talking about.

Last up was Tim Phillips, who took a break from The Decibelles to bring us his submission to last year's FourPlay contest at the MAT, Kill Disco. The contest required each play to include a waffle iron or coconut and have a theme of "survival of the fittest". Tim's play was a hoot, featuring three dumb punkers out to steal a disco ball. Our newest actor John Elwick proved his comedy chops as one of the punkers.

This was our last meeting at the old MAT location. Next month, we'll be meeting at their new location at 1626 S. Tejon, right across from the Blue Star Restaurant (and, more importantly, Bristol Brewing). The space will be under construction for much of the summer, but Jim and Birgitta promise they'll find room for us. I can't wait to check it out.

And I thanks to Sue and Mary for bringing some delicious homemade cookies.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Drama Lab writers win Rough Writers Play Festival

Yesterday, the Fine Arts Center announced the winners of their first-ever Rough Writers Play Festival, and I take great pride in pointing out that both winners are members of the Drama Lab.

Marisa Hebert's biting family drama Pieces of Him was named the full-length winner and Sue Bachman's tender comedy Disposing of Grandma was the short-play winner. Both works will get a full production at the FAC next year. Read all about it on the FAC blog.

Congratulations, Marisa and Sue! I can't wait to see your works on stage.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Going punk

We had a great meeting last night with 18 attendees, including 1 new actor. Our newbie is Teri McClintock, who runs a children's theatre company in Woodland Park and is looking to get more involved with the local acting community. Teri currently appears in the Six Women Play Festival, which is running at the MAT through April 28. And don't forget to read my review of the show in tomorrow's Indy.

We had a special treat this week as Tim Phillips opened the meeting with some classic punk tunes courtesy of his laptop. In previous readings of his girl band drama The Decibelles, some of the actors said that they didn't know what the music was supposed to sound like, and we were all brought up to speed as the lilting strains of the Ramones, Blondie and the Runaways filled the cozy confines of the theater.

We then launched into the next part of his script, a particularly dramatic scene in which the troubled Natasha pulls a gun on Edie. Tim has been reading a lot of biographies of the punk pioneers and much of the script is based on real-life incidents from their lives.

After that, we read Sue Bachman's delightful short folktale The Great Fire Serpent Tulikaarme, inspired by the imaginative walks she would take with her grandson in the Ivywild neighborhood. Her tale showed a lot of imagination of its own, and more than one person suggested it could be padded out to make a long one-act for youth audiences.

Next up was Phil Ginsburg's play, St. Clair of Corona. This short comedy centered on a cleaning woman who impulsively picks up the phone at a crisis center after the therapists have disappeared. It had some great lines, and seeing how the cleaning woman was able to help everyone was a lot of fun.

We followed that with the first scene of Charlie Ammen's comedy Beyond a Shadow. He originally wrote it with Donna Vessey as a screenplay and is now converting it to a stage play scene-by-scene. Everyone fell in love with the characters, a couple of trailer-dwelling rednecks who, despite their poverty, truly love and support each other.

And we finished up with the next part of my full-length farce Butterfly Effect. In this installment, the titular phenomenon was just beginning to wreak havoc as the snobbish Pembertons tear away from the party only to smash into a tree after Henry is distracted by a wayward canape. I don't know where it's going from here, but I'm having a lot of fun writing it.

Be sure to catch the readings of Sue Bachman's and Marisa Hebert's plays at the Rough Writers play festival this weekend and next. For the complete schedule, visit the FAC web site.

Also Buck Buchanan will be appearing in Forestgate Community Theatre's production of Fiddler on the Roof the next two weekends. He says it's selling out fast, so get your tickets soon.

By the way, Nancy and I lost our critic in our upcoming production of Kill the Critic!, so if you knows anyone who would like to take the title role in a world premiere comedy, send him our way. We promise we won't abuse him too badly.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Ashley Crockett "Women of Vintage" Playwriting Contest

We all know that meaty roles for older women can be hard to find. Well, Ashley Crockett wants to do something about it. At Monday's Drama Lab meeting, this veteran actress of countless local productions announced that she's launching her own playwriting contest.

Plays can be any length, but the role must provide challenging, meaningful roles for older women--the more, the better. Ashley wants roles that go right to the edge, that are new and different and not at all predictable.

Two classic roles that represent what Ashley is looking for are Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire.

The winner will get their Drama Lab dues paid for one year (a $25 value). The deadline is August 31.

If you're interested in submitting something, bring a hardcopy to one of our Drama Lab meetings. Or email it to me and I'll see that Ashley gets it.

Good luck!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bachman and Summerville are back!

Drama Lab members Sue Bachman and Barbara Summerville will be performing Woman 6.Oh Rebooted!, an evening of one-woman shows, on April 5-7 at First United Methodist Church, 420  N. Nevada.

These are original works based on characters they've been developing for years. I'm sure you'll love their funny and emotionally moving stories.

Please come out and support these two talented actresses/writers!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Marching on

I don't how much longer we can keep outdoing ourselves, but we certainly did it again last night. It was just a fabulous, fabulous meeting, with hilarity and heartache and every emotion in between.

Although it ran close to three hours, no one wanted to leave when it was finally over and several of us hung around for quite a while to chatter on about the amazing plays and performances we'd just witnessed.

We had a total of five plays and eighteen attendees, with three new actors joining our happy clan. Welcome aboard, Ashley, Marisa and Hannah! We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future.

This also means we now have eighteen dues-paying members--six more than I originally aimed for when we started collecting dues last September. All of the money raised through dues goes to the Millibo Art Theatre so we can take satisfaction in knowing that we're helping to support their wonderful work as well.

I'll be teaching a class on playwriting at this year's Pikes Peak Writers Conference (April 18-21). I plan to promote our group there, so prepare for a new influx of writers in May, That is, if I don't scare them away from playwriting in the first place.

One nice surprise last night was that we had a special guest. Charlie Ammen brought his sister, Sharon Ammen, who happens to be head of the theatre department at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College in Indiana. Her insightful, constructive comments were a highlight of the evening, and she even asked some of the playwrights to send her their scripts, saying that she might be able to get them to "people".

Can we take up a collection to fly her out here every month?

We started with Phil Ginsburg's short comedy, People on the Page. This is a very clever piece in which a struggling playwright's plot and dialogue became personified and battled with each other and the characters over which direction the play should go. Lots of fresh, original humor here.

We followed that with the next part of Tim Phillips' 80's girl band drama, The Decibelles. These scenes uncovered new conflicts in the now middle-aged women's lives and Tim ended the section with an original song that was quite touching in its honesty.

After that we read Sue Bachman's hilarious Fantasy Reunion, a short comedy about three women going back to their high school reunion to pick up guys. Here, Sue once again showed her flair for creating unique, well-drawn characters.

Next up was Katherine Gee Perrone's Selkie, a full-length musical based on the Scottish folktale of the Seal Wife. We didn't quite get to the end, which is a tragedy as this was Katherine's last meeting with us, but I know we all enjoyed the lyricism and the beautiful heartache contained within the scenes we did read.

We'll miss Katherine, but we wish her well and are confident she'll find a new playwriting group soon. After all, she was told Seattle has as many playwrights as coffee beans.

We finished up the evening with the next section of my cocktail party farce, Butterfly Effect. I'd reworked some of the action (I traded Roddy's gangster costumer for a Nazi costume) and I was really pleased with the results. People responded really well to the humor and I'm confident now that the play is headed in the right direction.

One reminder: next month's meeting is pushed back a week because of the rehearsals for the Six Women Playwriting Festival. We'll meet on Monday, April 15, same MAT time, same MAT channel.

See you then!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Where are the guys?

It was a long meeting last night--almost three hours--but you wouldn't have known it from the energy and enthusiasm that was evident as we wrapped up our meeting. Okay, maybe people couldn't wait to get home, but I like to think everyone was still riding high on the excellent writing.

Seriously, all of the veteran writers have really stepped it up lately. And I know everyone was impressed with the two short plays that our newest writer Sue Bachman brought.

The only problem? Not enough guy actors! Buck Buchanan was the only one there, and with most of our plays requiring 2 or 3 males, we had to pull in some reluctant writers to read, including Phil Ginsburg, Jeff Schmoyer and myself.

So while we're open to all actors regardless of age, gender, experience level, etc., I'd really like to encourage any male actors out there to join our merry band. I can guarantee you'll get lots of opportunities to perform.

We started the night with a few scenes from Phil Ginsburg's full-length Women of the Book. The monologues by Rahab, Mary Magdalene and two other women from the Bible were well-drawn.

Next up were the latest pages from Tim Phillips' girl band drama The Decibelles. It was fun to get our first look at the girls' teenage selves.

After that we read the first of two short plays by Sue Bachman, Window of the Soul. This one was about an optometrist who's approached by a mysterious patient. The twist ending was quite clever and I'm sure it surprised everyone.

Next up came the end of David Overbey's internet drama 00:00. This play covers a lot of ground in its tale of a digital media professor who gets involved with a prostitute, especially in its discussion of the internet and how it has permanently changed the nature of relationships. I encouraged him to expand this 40-minute piece into a full-length play.

That was followed by the first part of my new full-length comedy, Butterfly Effect. The feedback was very useful in helping me delineate the personalities of the uptight protagonist and the boorish co-worker who threatens to ruin his meticulously planned cocktail party.

We finished up with Sue's second play, Fasten Your Seatbelts, a heartwarming comedy about an old married Jewish couple on a place who believe they're going to crash.

And I'd like to give a big welcome to our newest actors, Hannah Rockey and Tracy Hunziker.

More on the move. Jim Jackson told me that the MAT will be out of the Pecan Street building on June 1. That means our June 10 meeting will be our first at the new location in the former Ivywild Community Church, 1626 S. Tejon St. Jim cautioned that there will be quite a bit of construction for a while so we may need to get creative with our readings for the first couple months.

The good news is that the new venue is right across from the street from Bristol Brewing. So you know what that means.

That's right. A monthly post-meeting meeting to drink beer and talk theatre.

I can't wait.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Out in the cold

When I arrived at the Millibo Art Theatre for our monthly meeting last night, a dreaded feeling settled over me. The theater was completely dark.

Had I gotten the date wrong? Apparently not, because there, in front of the theater, were several intrepid writers and actors huddled in their cars.

No, good ol' Jim had forgotten about us (first time too!). Fortunately, I was able to get him on the phone and he zipped over from his home to open the door for us. Good thing too, because the temperature was in the single digits.

Things quickly turned cozy once we got inside though. I laid out the buttery cookies I brought from Boonzaaijer's (you really gotta try this place) and Jim promptly had a hot pot of coffee brewing. Better yet, we had 15 warm bodies to fill the place.

The meeting went fantastically well. We were delighted to welcome one new writer--the great Phil Ginsburg--who I've been trying to reel in for over a year, and one new reader, the equally great Ashley Crockett.

We started with Jeff Schmoyer's suicide piece, Back From the Dead. He was worried it would be too somber, but it got some of the biggest laughs of the evening. Jeff did a great job balancing the dark stuff with the light stuff. I know I can't wait to see more of his writing in the future.

Next we read a brief scene from Tim Phillips' edgy girl band drama The Decibelles. The characters are really starting to show some depth here, and the dialogue is taking on a fun, sassy tone. We even got a bit of a song. I can't wait to see the road this takes.

After that we read Crypto-Spam, a really innovative piece by Phil. In it, a family argues over an inheritance while speaking only in sentences Phil collected from email spam. There were lot of laughs here too.

We turned a little darker with a new section from Katherine Gee's full-length play Selkie, which is based on the Orkney myth of the seal-wife. Everyone found it quite beautiful and haunting.

Sadly, Katherine announced that she and her husband will be moving to Seattle in a couple months, but at least we'll get to hear the end of her piece before she leaves.

We wrapped up the evening with my 10-minute comedy, How Not to Behave at the Theatre. I wrote it as a fun way to communicate the "turn off your cell phones and pagers" warning at the start of a play. It turns out the play needs a lot of tightening, both in the length and the number of characters.

I also had a big announcement. I'm going to be producing a full-blown production of my backstage farce, Kill the Critic! We read it last summer and people really seemed to like it. It's got a lot of physical comedy, however, so it'll be quite a feat to pull off.

Fortunately, I can count on the very capable assistance of Drama Lab member Nancy Holaday, who has agreed to direct it. Believe it or not, she has cast a professional stuntman as the critic. The poor guy is also a trained fight choreographer, which will come in handy when we work through all the physical comedy.

Oh, and I can't forget the eminently talented Karann Goettsch, who'll play the cougarish diva Sylvia.

The show runs June 28-29 at the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts in Palmer Lake. For more info, click here.

I also brought up one issue for discussion. We've been steadily growing over the last year, which is a truly wonderful thing. Unfortunately, it also presents a challenge: how do we fit an increasingly number of plays into our one-evening-a-month format?

I originally had seven writers scheduled for this month's meeting, but two had to drop out at the last minute. Still, it's only a matter of time before we have to come up with some solution.

I thought of four:

1) Meet twice a month. This gives everyone a chance to get read, but would be a lot to ask of Jim and may require us to cough up more rent.

2) Cut back to 10 pages per playwright per meeting. This was roundly rejected by the attendees as it would take forever to get through a full-length play, which more and more of our writers are tackling. It would also make it harders for audience members to follow the flow of the play.

3) Run the meeting as long as it takes. This also met with some resistance. Two and a half hours seems to be the limit for people's attention, and there just won't be any useful response to feedback after that point.

4) Limit each meeting to five or six plays. This seemed to be the most popular option, although it means that some people won't get read at a particular meeting. I would have to work out how to decide who gets in and who doesn't. First come, first served is the obvious answer, but then where would I fit in the mix (after all, I'm the first to let me know what play I'll be bringing!)?

Anyway, we can discuss this some more at future meetings. If you have any additional comments or alternate suggestions (please!), you can always email me.

See you all next month. And let's hope it's a whole lot warmer!