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Playwrights Local

Cleveland's home for dramatic writers.

Author: PL (page 1 of 4)

3 Questions with Director Dale Heinen

Dale Heinen is a director, dramaturge, and company member at Playwrights Local, whose work has been seen in Cleveland, Chicago, Glasgow, London, New York City, Dublin, Tokyo, and Brazil. For several years she was a dramaturge for Soho Theatre in London’s West End, and prior to that was co-Artistic Director of an equity off-Loop theatre in Chicago. Dale teaches at John Carroll University in Cleveland and has a BA from Northwestern University and an MFA from Middlesex University (London). She co-founded BorderLight: the Festival of International Theatre, Cleveland (www.borderlightcle.org), which will launch in 2019.

Dale will be reuniting with playwright Les Hunter for Down By Contact, which opens on August 17 at Gilmour Academy in Greater Cleveland’s eastern suburbs. In this new, contemporary drama, a down-and-out retired quarterback must decide between his allegiance to his former teammates and his love for his family. Struggling with the debilitating brain disease CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy), he tries to save the last vestige of his glory days: his lavish home. The lives of retired players and their families inspire this site-specific production, which will be presented in Gilmour’s stately Tudor House.

Down By Contact is a co-production of Playwrights Local and Dobama Theatre. It features cast members John Busser, Corin B. Self, Liam Stilson, and Margi Zitelli. Performances run August 17 – September 3 at the special location of the Tudor House at Gilmour Academy. Find more information here, and purchase tickets here.

We’re thrilled to catch up with Dale and get her thoughts on this upcoming show.


What do you think is at the heart of Down By Contact? Who are the main characters and what conflicts do they face? 

This is a four-person play with an interesting set of dynamics. Carson, the main character and a retired quarterback, is in conflict with all of the other characters, who happen to be his nearest and dearest: his son, his wife, and his best friend. Carson is also hugely conflicted within himself, as he faces hard choices that involve trade-offs between love, loyalty, money, truth, and finally, life and death. All of Carson’s perceptions and choices are colored by CTE. As his mind wanes, and he struggles to hang on, the world becomes a much more confusing and frightening place.

 

As a director, what’s exciting about staging this show in a site-specific venue? What might audiences find compelling about this experience?

We were so excited when Tudor House at Gilmour Academy agreed to present Down By Contact. From the moment you pull into the drive and see this imposing manor in its green surrounds, it feels like a privileged and very different place. For the theatergoer, the experience starts there. A venue like that captures the imagination and prepares the audience to enter the world of the play. It helps us see how this family lives, and how they are seen by others. The audience will move up the magnificent staircase and imagine what it’s like to be the person who lives in this space. The feeling people will have is that they are spying on a family in their own home. No amount of set budget can create that experience! And of course, the house plays a pivotal role in the story. It represents Carson’s glory and success, which now hangs in the balance as his fortune dwindles and his mind deteriorates. One can viscerally feel what’s at stake, at least materially, when in this grand house. But of course, Carson and his family stand to lose much more than just their home.

There are technical challenges that go along with producing site-specific work. For example, on a summer evening when the sun goes on after curtain, or during a Sunday matinee, how can we create the illusion that it’s the middle of the night? We don’t have total control of the light in a home like Tudor House, so how do you create a blackout? And, being an old home, it would be easy to overload a circuit with theatre lighting. And more questions: where is the dressing room? How are entrances and exits handled? How are audience sightlines when there are no risers for the seats? And so on. But for me, the challenges are well worth rising to because the surroundings are so evocative, and they help tell the story.

 

How did this second collaboration for you with playwright Les Hunter come together? How were the two of you able to arrange this co-production with Dobama Theatre and Playwrights Local?

Les and I had a great experience working together on another play of his that Playwrights Local produced in 2016, To the Orchard. That worked well for me as a director because Les contributed so much to rehearsals, most of which he attended. His knowledge and insight – everything that went into writing the play – was available to me and the actors. It allowed a full immersion into the characters and the world. Some of that could have been gleaned by research, but having the playwright with us to shed light on the inner workings of his play led to a truly rich process, and a much deeper understanding of the work. Whenever I direct a play’s premiere, I feel a strong sense of responsibility to honor and enhance the writer’s vision. Les and I were lucky to agree on what that play could be and who we wanted our collaborators to be, and we made those decisions together all the way from casting through to the opening. In fact, for Down By Contact, we’re working with the same assistant director and sound and costume designers!

Les and I are both members of Playwrights Local. I’m on the staff, and Les is on the board. Because of that, and our joint history of working with Playwrights Local, we were able to enlist Playwrights Local as a producing partner. Les and I presented To the Orchard at both Playwrights Local’s space and Dobama, so we felt comfortable approaching Dobama’s leadership about a co-production of Down By Contact. In addition, Les is part of Dobama’s Playwrights’ GYM. So, there was a nice history of collaboration between these companies already, which is a natural partnership since both theaters produce new work to a high level of quality. Both companies are excited about the play’s topicality and novel location.

3 Questions with Playwright Les Hunter

Les Hunter is a Cleveland-based playwright and the author of Down By Contact, which opens on August 17 at Gilmour Academy. In this new, contemporary drama, a down-and-out retired quarterback must decide between his allegiance to his former teammates and his love for his family. Struggling with the debilitating brain disease CTE, he tries to save the last vestige of his glory days: his lavish home. The lives of retired players and their families inspire this site-specific production, which will be presented in Gilmour Academy’s stately Tudor House.

Down By Contact is a co-production of Playwrights Local and Dobama Theatre. It is directed by Dale Heinen and features John Busser, Corin B. Self, Liam Stilson, and Margi Zitelli. Performances run August 17 – September 3 at the special location of the Tudor House at Gilmour Academy. Find more information here, and purchase tickets here.

As a playwright, Les Hunter has received over 40 productions across the country. He was a finalist for the Jewish Plays Project 2016 international Jewish Playwriting Contest for his play To the Orchard (Playwrights Local). He wrote for all three parts of the Off-Broadway hit, The Jackson Heights Trilogy (Theatre 167), and his play Weimar was commissioned and produced by Baldwin Wallace University in 2018. Playscripts, Indie Theatre, and Brooklyn Publishers have published his plays. He is an assistant professor of English at Baldwin Wallace and holds a PhD from Stony Brook University and an MFA from Boston University. Find his complete bio at http://leslielarshunter.com/.

We’re thrilled to presents Les’ preview of the show in the form of the following 3 Questions.


The impact of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) within the world of football has been the center of much controversy. What drew you to write a play on this topic, and what questions about it are you asking? 

Football, not baseball, is America’s favorite pastime. Nine of the top ten most-watched broadcasts in American television history are football games; the League profits far more than $10 billion a year and was, until 2015, a tax-exempt non-profit. The men that play these games are idolized, but recent events like the controversy around kneeling during the national anthem show that the public often prefers to see players as entertainers, not necessarily as individuals with their own unique humanity and perspective.

I wanted to utilize the epic American imagery of football as a background to focus on human details: to see these men and their families as individuals with all of their aspirations, contradictions, and messiness. CTE was in the news, and I started conducting interviews with former pro football players and coaches, other people who have suffered from traumatic brain injuries, neurologists, and advocates for awareness about brain injuries. I heard about retired players who suffer depression, substance abuse, anger issues, poverty, suicidal tendencies, and dementia due to their trauma.

I realized that the situation seemed like a natural fit for a play where I could draw on the theater genre of expressionism. This genre creates an abstract reality that demonstrates an objective truth. That is, it depicts the real through unreal, perceived truth. I realized I could explore the subjective experience of someone losing their mind, and the influence it has on those around them. As the audience, we see (protagonist) Carson Kaide’s perspective as someone suffering from CTE.

Additionally through my research, my view of professional athletes began to change. I began to see players more like many of them see themselves: as playing cards who are traded back and forth by cynical team owners, until they grow worn around the edges and are discarded. The average NFL player plays three short, brutal years, and after, their bodies beaten, they face uncertain years of declining health. To this day the League does not provide healthcare benefits for most retired players.

These players are national idols yes, but this play is about the price that many of them pay for that idolatry, and their inevitable downfall. For Carson Kaide, that downfall is exacerbated by the pride that keeps him from admitting that something is wrong. In that way, this is Greek tragedy. So there is the epic at play here, but I want to bring this down to scale and connect with the audience. It is my hope that the play will draw attention to the human tragedy of brain injuries, and empower the public to protect athletes at all levels of play.

 

Down By Contact involves critical moments between an aging quarterback and his wife, son, and former teammate. What conflicts drive these relationships, and how do they connect to CTE and other issues you mention above?

Carson, like many former players who suffer from CTE, has made a series of poor decisions that force him to choose between continuing to lie about his own condition (and betray former teammates like Trypp—to whom Carson feels a debt), and to save his family from financial ruin. At the same time, Trypp’s feelings of abandonment by Carson complicates his own visit. While Kelsey, Carson’s wife, has to decide if she can stand by Carson as he drags them both down. Kelsey and Carson’s estranged son, Tommy, has also recently returned to lay claim to a small piece of their fortune, only to find that things at home are not well. Each character in the play has to decide what they are willing to sacrifice to keep alive the stories they tell themselves about who they are.

 

The term “site-specific” refers to plays that are performed in their natural settings or in specific settings, as opposed to on stages with designed sets. What would you say to the audience about the value of seeing Down By Contact in the specific location of a luxurious house?

For Carson Kaide and his family, their house—an opulent mansion outside of a large Midwestern city—is a sign of their success. It’s the last part of Carson’s identity that hasn’t been taken away, and due to decisions that he’s made as a result of CTE, he might lose it. Keep in mind that the play takes place in 2007, just as the public was finally becoming aware of the dangers of CTE to players, and people were losing fortunes in housing properties due to the financial crisis. Director Dale Heinen and I decided that the play would be most powerful in the Kaide’s own home, one that they are fiercely trying to protect. We have been very lucky to partner with the Gilmour Academy to stage the play inside the Tudor House as if it were Carson Kaide’s own home.

So we invite you, the audience, to former pro quarterback Carson Kaide’s stately home for a private glimpse into the life that he’s desperately trying to hold on to. You’ll meet his former teammate, Trypp, his wife Kelsey, and his son Tommy, who all, in their own way, try to negotiate past struggles to try to find a way forward, and to keep hold of each other as best they can.

3 Questions with Playwright Logan Cutler Smith

Logan Cutler Smith is a Cleveland-based playwright and the author of The Panther Dancer, premiering at Playwrights Local on May 11. A series of inventive vignettes, The Panther Dancer parodies the rise and fall of a familiar pop archetype. Following a life as portrayed  by a frenzied media, the play becomes a playful synthesis of biography and tabloid journalism.

The Panther Dancer is directed by Jimmie Woody and features Andrea Belser, Robert Branch, Corin B. Self, Kim Simbeck, and Anthony Velez. It runs May 11 – 26, with a half-price preview on May 10, at Creative Space at Waterloo Arts. Find more information at http://www.playwrightslocal.org/the-panther-dancer/.

Before earning an MFA in Creative Writing at Cleveland State University, Logan studied Theatre and Sculpture at Marlboro College. His past writing credits include Of Straw Dogs, directed by T. Paul Lowry (Playwrights Local, 2015), and How To Fuck Like a Flower, directed by Geoff Hoffman (Convergence-Continuum, 2015). Logan is currently developing a solo­ performance, a “departure” from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden; or, Life in the Woods.

We’re thrilled to relay Logan’s responses to the following 3 Questions.


The Panther Dancer has a unique form and scene structure. Can you explain what you were going for with that?

At issue for me in writing this piece was pacing, the issue of speed. I was attempting to tell the story of a life: how best to do it without taking a lifetime? In apparent solution, I adopted a strategy of acceleration and compression. Short scenes, almost one per page, so the play moves as if in fast-forward. And rather than writing the story of a life, I found myself writing about these stories. The Panther Dancer ended by being a play composed of mediated images of celebrity, a kind of biography of images. A life told in headlines drawn from the Enquirer, and how they’ve changed over time.

Characters portrayed end up flattened for that reason: they take on all of the dimension of a still image. Both dimensions. E.M. Forster would take one look at them and laugh. But for the purposes of this play, it’s not necessary that actors be able to disappear into their roles. There are some fifty characters, and actors need to be able to move between them with ease.

Writing The Panther Dancer, I wasn’t trying for well-seen studies of individual psychologies. And I don’t think I’m in any danger of having succeeded. I wanted to stage social pressure, fame, fanfare, social forces, that sort of thing. Not as spectacle but information, at the level of language. Which is why nothing would please me more than for audiences to say in one voice that I’ve authored a superficial play. What you see in the play are surface effects. It all takes place on the surface, is pure surface.


What do you think the audience is in for with this play?

Tonally this play asks difficult things of its audience. There’s a great deal of humor in the play, but it’s a [dark] humor. You find yourself laughing – if you’re laughing – at that which is not happy. To keep from crying? I hope not. I hope you’ll cry, too. And that’s the difficult thing. Though a great many distancing devices are deployed, the subject of this play is a human life, in the end a very fragile thing. And you watch while it becomes so much wreckage.

 

The Panther Dancer traces the rise and fall of an archetypal figure. What was your motivation or intent with that?

There are very few people you can point to who have elevated what it means to be a celebrity. It’s a short list. Charlie Chaplin’s name might be on it. This [character] is someone raised in entertainment, who was shaped by limelight. Their life was coeval with their career. There is something so public about even their private life that its episodes and incidents are known to us, a common language. This gives him something of the character of a myth, but a highly specialized myth, a mass-market paperback. How do you do justice to the man in writing that life? Or, if you can’t, how do you commit an appropriate injustice? That’s the task I set myself in writing The Panther Dancer.

3 Questions with Actress Agnes Herrmann

Agnes Herrmann is the featured performer in Stranded, the latest release in Playwrights Local’s PodPlay Series. A graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, Agnes has appeared in various summer stock and Off-Off Broadway theaters, and worked steadily as a voice actress in New York. Since moving to Cleveland, she has performed at Ensemble Theater, Public Theater, and Dobama, and has been active in films in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Agnes has written many 10-minute plays and a full-length play, Makin’ Sawce, and is currently working on a full-length musical entitled The Curious Cabinet.

Stranded features Agnes along with direction/narration by Tim Tavcar and sound design by Angie Hayes. It’s available as a free download on the PL website and SoundCloud.

We’re thrilled to share Agnes’ reactions to the following 3 Questions.


Stranded concerns a key moment in the life of your character, Vickie Schultz. Can you talk about what Vickie is going through, and also how you approached that as an actor?

Vickie is facing a professional crisis, as well as a personal one. She’s been downsized from her job as a reporter at a Cincinnati newspaper, and she’s broken up with her fiancé. When she arrives at her new job at a New Jersey newspaper, she’s dealing with a move from another state, a new editor, and trying to move on from her ex, who took up with her best friend. She’s anxious to succeed, and like all good reporters she yearns for a good story. She thought she had one, but was reassigned to cover a beached whale on the Jersey shore. She is overwhelmed physically, emotionally and professionally, something most of us have experienced at one time or another. I reached back into my own experiences to recall what I was thinking and feeling, and how I ultimately got through it.

 

You’ve worked with playwright Edward J. Walsh and director Tim Tavcar before. What kind of relationship do the three of you have and what was your experience like in producing this play?

My working relationship with Ed and Tim is an extremely comfortable one, since I’ve performed in several of Ed’s plays in public readings or workshops, and I am a member of Tim’s company, WordStage, which performs public readings usin

g works by or about historical events, famous authors, artists and musicians, often paired with music. Since we’re all familiar 

with each other and our working process, it’s easy to ask questions and suggest things without judgment. The art of theater, whether on-camera or off, is always a collaborative effort.

 

Stranded is the first of a series of “podplays” (or whatever you want to call them) produced by Playwrights Local. Can you talk about your own experience with voiceover work and radio plays and how that applied in this project?

My experience in V.O. work runs the gamut from commercials to educational, sales, and training films. However, doing this podcast is most closely related to my work in audio books and radio drama. Interestingly for me, I have found that my experience in the recording studios has helped me in my work on stage and on-camera. When I approach any role now, the first thing I do is try to find the character’s voice. I’m not necessarily referring to a regionalism/dialect or a quirk, but the organic way in which the character comes alive vocally. Some actors find getting into costume and make-up helps deepen their understanding of a character. I’ve always found that finding “their voice” is my key to creating the character.


Free Direct Download:  MP3 (38MB)

Free Streaming & Download at SoundCloud

3 Questions with Playwright Edward J. Walsh

Edward J. Walsh is the author of Stranded, the latest release in Playwrights Local’s PodPlay Series. The Cleveland-based playwright has had his work performed at Dobama Theatre, Ensemble Theatre, Cuyahoga Community College, and Chagrin Valley Little Theatre here in Northeast Ohio, along with several productions Off-Off- Broadway.

Stranded features Agnes Herrmann along with direction narration by Tim Tavcar and sound design by Angie Hayes. It’s available as a free download on the PL website and SoundCloud.

We’re thrilled to share Ed’s reactions to the following 3 Questions.


Where did the idea for Stranded come from, and what were you hoping to achieve with the play?

When growing up, like any kid, I had some obsessions. One of these was to someday see an honest-to-God whale. A really big one. But a vast body of fresh water like Lake Erie, near where I lived, couldn’t provide whale-watching. So it was years before I saw my first whale, off the coast of New England. That whale was a humpback. From that moment on, anytime I came within sniffing distance of salt water, I tried to go whale-watching. And, of course, I began to learn how we had decimated whale populations. Worse, how we are still doing so. Efforts to ban the hunting of whales are simply ignored by some nations for crackpot reasons. Even greater depredations occur because we are turning our oceans into virtual garbage dumps. It is enough to get a person pissed off — even to write a play about the plight of these colossal creatures. So I decided I wanted to do just that.

 

The character in this one-person play, Vickie Schultz, finds herself at important turning points in her career and life. What do you think is compelling about her story?

What I hope is compelling is that Vickie comes to understand the value of the life that has been lived — and is now about to end — by one of the most magnificent mammals in the world. Vickie is dealing with her own life of trials and tribulations. The whale initially adds to these. As she sees it, Moby Dick is just another pain in the ass. But in time, Vickie sees the whale not as a burden, but as a living, breathing, perhaps sentient creature she admires and wants to help. Her transformation is a gift, almost, that makes her want to fully live the life that she has, while she has it.

 

Environmentalism is a recurring theme in the play. Can you explain where that comes from for you and how it connects to Vickie’s story?

I probably addressed a lot of that in answering the first question. But consider a few facts about our oceans. Reliable sources tell us that the ocean is already filled with 165 million tons of plastic. Massive “garbage patches,” consisting of untold numbers of microplastics, are continually swept across all levels of our oceans by swirling currents. And ponder this prediction:  The World Economic Forum estimates that by mid-century, plastics in the ocean will outweigh all the fish in the ocean. And Vickie is a witness to what the appalling mess we’ve made of things can do to one of the mightiest of this planet’s creatures.


Free Direct Download:  MP3 (38MB)

Free Streaming & Download at SoundCloud

2017 Awards & Recognitions!

The Cleveland-area 2017 theater awards are in, and Playwrights Local is proud to be featured among them.
Our deepest thanks to the critics for recognizing our work!
Congrats to all of our amazing collaborators on these projects!

The Cleveland Critics Circle 2017 Theater Awards
Awards Committee: Bob Abelman, Roy Berko, Kerry Clawson, Howard Gollop, Mark Horning, Christine Howey, and Andrea Simakis

Best Full-Production Premiere of a Script by a Local Writer

Superior Achievement: Things as They Are by David Todd

Best Projection Design

T. Paul Lowry, Things as They Are


The Best of Cleveland Theater in 2017
Christine Howey, Scene Magazine

Best Risks: Because It’s Vital for Risks to be Taken in Theater

Things As They Are

This is NOT About My Dead Dog

Best Portrayal of Real-Life Geniuses

Robert Hawkes, Things as They Are


2017 Broadway World-Cleveland Regional Professional Theater Tributes
Roy Berko

Outstanding Electronic Media in a Non-musical or Musical (Projection Design)

T. Paul Lowry, Things as They Are 


10 Most Memorable Moments in Cleveland Theater, 2017 Edition
Bob Abelman, Cleveland Jewish News

This Is NOT About My Dead Dog by Amy Schwabauer

“brave…brilliant…brazen”!

Announcing Playwrights Welcome Membership

Playwrights Local is proud to be the first theater in Ohio to join the national Playwrights Welcome program, serving members of the Dramatists Guild of America. This initiative provides free access to theater for working playwrights, composers, and lyricists around the country. In short, members of the Dramatists Guild may receive unsold tickets on the day of a performance, free of charge.

Playwrights Welcome is a national ticketing initiative created by Samuel French along with Dramatists Play Service, Dramatic Publishing, Music Theatre International, Playscripts, and Rodgers and Hammerstein. It has been adopted by theaters in New York City including the Atlantic Theater Company, Roundabout Theatre Company, and Urban Stages; in California by Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Geffen Playhouse, and La Jolla Playhouse; in Chicago by the Goodman Theater, Paramount Theatre, and Victory Gardens Theater; and by many more companies throughout the U.S.

Playwrights: Take advantage of this offer, contact playwrightslocal@gmail.com on the day of a performance and ask if tickets are available. If they are, arrive at the show with your Dramatists Guild membership card as well as your ID. (Click here to learn more about becoming a Dramatists Guild member.) Note that this program is for Dramatists Guild members only, and does not cover a plus-one or any additional attendees.

Information on the program is available at: https://www.samuelfrench.com/playwrightswelcome

Coverage of the program in The New York Times can be found at: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/17/theater/free-theater-tickets-for-playwrights.html?smid=tw-nytimesarts&smtyp=cur&_r=0

Playwrights Local is thrilled to be a part of this great resource for practicing dramatists!

Staged Reading: “Adulteryhood” by Greg A. Smith

Playwrights Local Presents

A Staged Reading of

 

ADULTERYHOOD

A new play by Greg A. Smith
Directed by Anne McEvoy

 

Monday, July 24, 2017 at 7:00 pm

Creative Space at Waterloo Arts

397 E. 156th Street, Cleveland, OH 44110

 

FREE!

 

SYNOPSIS

“I like kissing you. You don’t taste bitter and resentful.”

Megan is married to Louis. Louis is having an affair with Gemma. Gemma is married to Hugh. Hugh is having an affair with Megan. And they’re all celebrating New Year’s together.

Adulteryhood is a new work-in-progress comedy about love, happiness, and that nagging itch that maybe, just maybe, there’s something better out there.

 

FEATURING

Tania Benites

Nicholas Chokan

James Rankin

Tiffany Trapnell

The Paul M. Angell Family Foundation – Grant

Playwrights Local is pleased to announce that it has received an operating support grant from the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation.

This generous grant from the the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation  will allow Playwrights Local to continue to develop and offer support for dramatic writers in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. Playwrights Local is the only theater in Cleveland that uses 100% of its funds to support the development and production of Northeast Ohio playwrights.

The mission of the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation is to advance society through the performing arts, conservation of the world’s oceans, and alleviation of poverty. The foundation was created in 2011 to honor Paul M. Angell, and strives to embody the legacy of his compassion, ingenuity and industriousness.

Learn more about the Foundation at http://pmangellfamfound.org/.

“Things as They Are” Livestream May 26

A live performance of our new play Things as They Are will be simulcast online via HowlRound TV at 7:30 pm on Friday, May 26.

Direct access to the livestream will be available at http://howlround.com/tv. Following the performance, an archival video of the show will be posted at http://howlround.com/livestreaming-things-as-they-are-by-playwrights-local-in-cleveland-fri-may-26.

HowlRound TV is a global, open source livestreaming network & commons for arts & culture. Stewarded . For more information, call Vijay Mathew at +(1) 917.686.3185 or email tv@howlround.com. HowlRound TV is a component of HowlRound, an online knowledge commons by and for the theatre community. Much thanks to Vijay, Thea Rodgers, and everyone else on their staff!

Things as They Are is a meditation on American poet Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), combining dramatic scenes, original compositions, and licensed works by Stevens himself with movement, commedia dell’arte, and projections. It was written by David Todd with music by Ben Chasny and direction by Anjanette Hall. For more info on the cast and creative team, see our show page at http://www.playwrightslocal.org/things-as-they-are/.

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