Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Your Input is Essential

We’re about to start rehearsals for this summer’s 2010 Essential Theatre Play Festival, and we’ve got lots of plans for marketing and reaching out to new audiences – but we can always use some new ideas. Here’s a rundown of some of the angles, story elements and subject matter that we’re dealing with this summer, and I’d like to know if anyone has suggestions about ways we might leverage these to reach out to particular groups, organizations or audience segments (with offers for group sales, or cross promotion, or whatever!). We’d also be interested in arranging for talkback sessions, etc.

If you have the chance to look over this material and it gives you any ideas, please E-mail Me! . We’d appreciate it!

Rita Dove’s THE DARKER FACE OF THE EARTH is a poetic tragedy that takes the Greek legend of Oedipus (born under a curse that he will grow up to murder his father and marry his mother) and transposes it to a slave plantation in the American south. The author is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and a former Poet Laureate of the United States. We will be bringing her to Atlanta for the July 8 opening of her play. We hope to reach out to those interested in African-American culture and history, classical literature and contemporary African-American literature, and poetry in general.

My play SALLY AND GLEN AT THE PALACE is about the friendship of two college students working in the lobby of a movie theatre in 1973. It is full of the love of movies from that period, and memories of a time of single-screen movie houses whose atmosphere was very different from the multi-plexes of today. We’d love to reach out to lovers of movies everywhere, as well as those concerned with the issues of date rape and sexual abuse.

Gabriel Dean’s QUALITIES OF STARLIGHT is the world premiere of a play about a noted young astronomer who comes back to his childhood home in the mountains of northern Georgia for the first time in several years, to discover that his parents have become addicted to crystal meth. It’s a dark comedy about serious issues, and we’d like to reach out to groups concerned with drug addiction as well as to astronomers and all those interested in the stars.

Please visit our Wine & Words, An Essential Evening of Georgia Wines, Playwrights and more! website or make a silent auction donation.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Great Things are Happening for Essential Theatre Playwrights

Lots of great things are happening for Essential Theatre playwrights. Our friend Karla Jennings recently won the 2010 John Gassner Award for her play MONSTROUS BEAUTY, a riff on the life and times of the notorious Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. This national prize was initiated in 1967 to recognize outstanding new work by American writers. Her play will receive a cash prize and a staged reading in New York City.

Karla was one of the first Georgia playwrights whose work we produced – back in 2000, when our production of her play IMAGES IN SMOKE was named one of the best 15 shows of the year by Creative Loafing. She’s been going great guns since then, co-founding the Atlanta group Working Title Playwrights in 2001, and that same year seeing a workshop production of her play DISH BABIES at the Two Roads Theater in Los Angeles, where it was nominated for three ADA awards. She was also awarded the Hermann Kesten Fellowship to have her play CLAY’S WAR presented at an international writers’ conference in Germany. THE RUBY VECTOR was chosen for development at the prestigious Lark Theatre in New York City, and won the 2005 Playwrights First Award. An earlier one-act version of this play had originally been commissioned by Georgia Tech’s DramaTech Theatre. More recently, Karla’s play THE SMILES won the Pillars Playwriting Prize and was given a workshop production at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville.

Karla says: “Essential’s faith in playwrights strengthens their faith in themselves, which keeps them writing. Essential Theatre helps Georgia speak for itself.”

Lauren Gunderson won the Essential Theatre Playwriting Award in 2001, for PARTS THEY CALL DEEP, written when she was just 17 – we like to think we discovered her. A few years later she won again, for her play BACKGROUND, but she’s been having a fantastic career all over the U.S.A., with so many productions and commissions we haven’t been able to keep track of them all. Here are some of the recent highlights:

Last summer she was in residence at the Eugene O’Neill Center’s National Playwrights Conference, developing her play FIRE WORK with director Sean Daniels (formerly Artistic Director of Atlanta’s Dad’s Garage Theater). This year she’s been commissioned by the Kennedy Center’s Performances for Young Audiences group to write two new science-themed plays for youth, and she has also become the first-ever Playwright In Residence at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, California. Last year her play EMILIE: LA MARQUISE DU CHATELET DEFENDS HER LIFE TONIGHT was produced at California’s South Coast Repertory, and it’s now being published by Samuel French.

Coming up soon, Lauren’s play (EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEAR) will be featured in the Playwright’s Foundation Rough Readings Series in San Francisco, and right here in Atlanta on May 25 as part of Synchronicity Theatre’s SheWRITES Play Reading Festival. Also in Atlanta, her play DENISE² will be workshopped at Actor’s Express as part of the TURNER IN THE WORKS Series, on June 7.

Lauren writes: “The professionalism with which the Essential Theatre handled my work and delivered a beautiful performance allowed me entrance into the world of playwriting. It was an honor to work with them and a huge boost for my work to have won the Playwriting prize.”

And hey, how about Gabriel Dead, winner of this year’s Essential Award for his play QUALITIES OF STARLIGHT? Gabriel has such a big summer coming up that he won’t even be able to be here for the opening night of our production of his play – he’ll be working on another script of his, THE FREEMAN ELEGIES, in a residency at the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, New York. Then he’ll be attending a week-long residency at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Connecticut. Plus, his short play PIGSKIN will be performed as part of the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Festival this summer!

Friday, May 7, 2010

New Honors for Playwright Gabriel Jason Dean

I thought you guys would appreciate knowing this. One of my short plays, PigSkin, was accepted to the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Festival this summer in July. YAY! The week before QOS opens.

Then, as if that wasn't enough good news, I got offered a residency at the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca NY to work on my new play The Freeman Elegies. Then, I'm going to the O'Neill for a week long residency.

I'm feeling pretty darn good today!


~Gabriel Jason Dean

Essential Theatre Play Development

One of the Essential Theatre’s most important goals has always been the production and encouragement of new plays by Georgia writers. Ever since our first annual Festival in 1999, we’ve been committed to the production of at least one World Premiere a year by a Georgia playwright, which led us to institute the annual Essential Theatre Playwriting Award, the only such competition exclusively dedicated to new works by writers from this state.

Along with producing fourteen World Premieres since then, we’ve done some work developing new plays, holding private and public readings and offering consultation to playwrights. Although production remains our primary goal, we hope to put more time into development work in the future.

Earlier this week we had a private reading and discussion of BLEACH, a dark comedy by playwright James Beck. The readers included some of the top acting talent in Atlanta: Robin Bloodworth, Kathleen Wattis, Bart Hansard, Jill Hames and Christie Vozniak. I always feel that the best way to help a playwright is to let them hear their script read by a talented group of well-cast actors. Playwright Beck says: “In organizing a reading of my play BLEACH, Peter pulled together a terrific group of actors who gave a great reading. Then Peter led the group in a constructive feedback session that allowed me as the playwright to experience my play, to question it and to gather new creative energy to apply in crafting the work. Peter did a great job of understanding that the playwright has to solve the riddle of the play but offered, through open discussion, and some really great reflection about the piece."

A few weeks back we had another private reading, this time of a play that we’ve had a longer history with. Playwright Glen Slattery has been working with us for several years on a dark comic fantasia about some of the members of Hitler’s inner circle, in a script that has gone through a number of titles (“The Foreign Minister,” “Hitler’s Parrot,” “The Last-Love Nazi” and “Von Who?”). This was the third time we’ve had a reading/discussion of the play, which has really been coming along. This time around our excellent readers were Bill Murphey, Michael Strauss, Yolanda Asher, Robin Bloodworth, Jill Hames, Theo Harness and James Baskin.

Glen says that: "Essential Theatre provided a setting for several readings of the play that were crucial to its development. Gifted actors brought the roles to life, while feedback from Artistic Director Peter Hardy was invaluable in sharpening the dramatic focus. I'm very grateful for the opportunity to work with such a fine organization."

Coming up next fall, Glen’s play will receive the benefits of a week-long Ethel Woolson Lab development workshop provided by our friends at Working Title, Atlanta’s foremost playwrights’ organization. We look forward to seeing its next incarnation.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Essential Theatre Seeks Festival Ushers

If you are interested in being an usher for our festival, we are seeking two ushers for each performance. Please visit our online Festival Usher Calendar to determine performance dates and availability. Click HERE to volunteer.