Friday, January 24, 2014

TheatreWorks to sponsor the Drama Lab

As you all know, the Drama Lab has been trying out different venues to figure out where we'd like to meet on a long-term basis. Over the last couple months, we've met at the Manitou Art Center and Springs Ensemble Theatre, and while both venues were functional, neither one was perfect.

Well, now we have one more venue to consider. And I think it's a no-brainer. TheatreWorks (yes, that TheatreWorks) has agreed to sponsor us, which will provide us with a whole host of benefits.

First, we'll be able to meet in University Hall for free. Our only cost is $30 per month for parking (paid to UCCS, TheatreWorks gets nothing). This is $20 a month less than we paid for rent at the MAT and SET and will allow us to drop our dues to $15 per year.

We won't be able to meet in either the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theatre or the Osbourne Theatre (downstairs) because they're both almost constantly in use. Instead, we'll be meeting in the classrooms, which are quiet, well-lit and warm. Most importantly, the acoustics in the rooms are excellent, so we should have no problem hearing the actors.

Over the last year, we've been growing slowly but steadily. This is a wonderful thing, but it does mean that we'll soon hit a wall in terms of the number of plays we can get through in one night. We've considered several options (lengthen the meeting to 3+ hours, meet twice a month, limit writers to 10 pages per meeting, limit the number of writers to six per month), none of which were acceptable.

The only way to deal with this fairly is to split into two groups which meet in different rooms at the same time. Not only will this guarantee that all writers get their scripts read, but it'll give more actors an opportunity to perform. The great thing about TheatreWorks is that they can get us an extra room or two at no additional cost. This is something no other venue has been able to provide.

And here's the kicker. TheatreWorks will include all Drama Lab members in their Industry Night discount, allowing each of us to buy a ticket to the first Thursday performance of each show for a measly $20. Take advantage of this benefit just once and you'll pay for your annual dues.

Finally, it's just a good thing in general to be associated with one of the two professional theatre companies in the region.

I think this is a fabulous offer and I'm grateful to Drew Martorella and the rest of the TheatreWorks crew for supporting us in this way.

See you at TheatreWorks on Monday, February 10!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Say hello to The Goodbye Project

Drama Lab member Jess Weaver is seeking monologues and 2-3 character plays exploring the idea of "goodbye". She plans to take everything submitted and turn it all into a performance piece. If this is something that gets your creative motor revving, please like her Facebook page, The Goodbye Project.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

New blood

Last night's meeting was our first one of the New Year and our first at Springs Ensemble Theatre. As the theater was being used for rehearsal (Paul Vogel's Desdemona opens there February 6), we met in their lobby. The room has a comfy assortment of sofas and armchairs and was a lot warmer than the space at the Manitou Art Center. But we had so many attendees, there wasn't enough room to arrange the chairs as we normally do (one long line of chairs for the actors facing several rows of chairs for the audience), so I decided to have us read in a circle.

It soon became clear that this posed both advantages and disadvantages. The after-reading discussions were especially lively and high-spirited last night, but the readings themselves seemed less effective. The actors sat far apart from each other, resulting in little interplay. Also, following the dialogue was, in the words of one attendee, like "watching a tennis game". And while the noise from the rehearsal was quieter than I expected, it was still somewhat distracting (I suspect we were even more distracting to them).

After the meeting, I expressed these concerns to SET President Steve Emily and he said said they should be able to get us into the theater next time (if that's how the vote goes) although he can't make any permanent commitment.

I think the average age of our group dropped by about 20 years last night. We had 18 people show up, and that included one new writer, the illustrious August Mergelman, as well as three new actors, each of whom were quite talented and ridiculously young. These included Adam Blancas, Caroline Carr and my daughter Ashley.

We started the evening with Jess Weaver's new 10-minute pet comedy The Addition, which she wrote for Black Box's FIVES contest. It had some cute humor, and the characterizations were especially well-done. Although the various species involved were left unmentioned in the play, it was easily to tell who was what by their behavior and dialogue.

We followed that with a cutting from August's play Isabella and the Duke, a modern adaptation of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. He did a great job updating the language while maintaining Shakespeare's famous wordplay and wit.

After that we read more scenes from Tim Phillip's teenage relationship drama Never Said. His rewriting has paid off as everyone agreed that the narrative flows much better now.

Next we read the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs scene from my full-length comedy Rumpelstiltsking, Private Eye. Most of the gags worked, but I need to tighten some of the dialogue and rethink a couple of my characters, especially Hungry and Nerdy.

We followed that with a rewrite of Sue Bachman's short drama Out of the Cold. Although quite dark , people liked it for its realistic dialogue and unflinching depiction of a disintegrating marriage.

We ended the evening with Grant Swenson's short baseball drama My Life in Right Field. This one was quite unique as it gave us three parallel viewpoints of a key moment in a young boy's life, one from his 20-year old self, one from his middle-aged self and one from his elderly self.

Our next meeting is on Monday, Feburary 10, but the location is up to you. If you haven't emailed me your vote as to where you'd like to meet (Manitou Art Center or Springs Ensemble Theatre), please do so over the next few days. I'll share those results as soon as I hear from everybody (or at least a quorum).

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Black Box launches new playwriting contest

Nancy Holaday has announced a brand new playwriting contest called FIVES. Submissions must be 10-20 minutes with a cast of 5. Deadline is March 5. Five winners will earn $100 and be produced at Black Box Theatre in June. Sounds like a great excuse to start writing!