Playwrights Local

Cleveland's home for dramatic writers.

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Interview with Playwright Arwen Mitchell

wagner_headshot - CopyArwen Mitchell is a Teaching Artist with Playwrights Local. Her latest play, The Bicentennial Project, is currently running at Kent State University at Stark Theatre. Show dates are February 26 -February 27 & March 4-5 at 8 p.m, and February 28 & March 6 (ASL interpreted) at 2:30 p.m. Find out more at https://www.kent.edu/stark/bicentennial-project

Playwrights Local: Arwen, how did you become interested in theatre at all, and in playwriting in particular?

Arwen Mitchell: Religious ideas gone awry. But that’s okay – they led me to theatre, which led me to just having a hell of a lot of fun, which I really just needed, as a young religious person. I am secretly a song-and-dance person, so theatre and playwriting give me kind of an outlet for that. Not because I commit song and dance, but I get to be manic and flamboyant and obnoxious and extreme and truthful without (many) negative repercussions. Oh: I got into playwriting because I wrote a play that I thought sucked, but it went over well, and then I was under the impression that I was “called” to do it. Do you detect a theme? But – I’m not knocking where I’m from. It just amuses me, a little – where I’m from.

PL: Tell us about your last project.

AM: I wrote a commission play for Kent State Stark’s regular theatre season, in conjunction with The Canton Repository, for its bicentennial. I wanted to call it Canton-O-Rama but that was not the ultimate choice. I’m just kidding – I mean, I joked about that title, but I did “suggest” it. But I bring it up because I think it gives a tiny little sense of how much I enjoyed the project: ENORMOUSLY. Who woulda thunk that I would become a lifelong, highly-enamored Canton fan? I’ve accepted Canton into my heart. I think the play does it justice – it’s a “tapestry” play with a lot of movement and projections, that covers 200 years of Canton history.

PL: Your play Snake Oil was recently produced by the Ohio City Theatre Project. How did you come to be involved with them?

AM: I happened across them when I moved here [to Cleveland], and struck up an excellent friendship with one of the artistic directors, Sarah Greywitt. She got me involved as a dramaturg, and then they asked me to join as a company member. As I love everyone involved, and believe in their mission and artistry, it was an easy decision. Then they produced my play Snake Oil at the Canopy Collective in Ohio City.

PL: How do you begin a new work? What are your first steps?

AM: Depends on the project. I usually “develop” it, big-time. I use a lot of strategies I picked up from screenwriting, but also some key playwriting texts that I love. So – I kind of outline it, kind of write a treatment, kind of do character studies, research whatever needs to be researched (though this is an everlasting process), work on the plot. And eventually write it in a frenzy. It’s really important to me that I’m paying attention to dramatic craft. I always go back to it, no matter what kind of shape the play is taking.

PL: Who are your theatrical heroes?

AM: Thornton Wilder. Sheila Callaghan. Young Jean Lee. Sarah DeLappe. Tom Stoppard. Melissa James Gibson. Eugene O’Neill. And on. So many. And I haven’t read nearly as many plays as I should. Some plays are more my heroes than their playwrights, only because some playwright’s plays aren’t my thing.

PL: Why do you think people go to the theatre?

AM: A lot of less-than-epic reasons, but I hope, on some level, because they hope to have a few hours that they will never forgot, for good reasons.

PL: What direction do you see theatre moving in? Can you identify any “trends” in new writing?

AM: Hmmmm. More focus on women, I think. I’m a little out of the loop right now. Trends… hm. Well, I don’t really know enough to speak to that. But I do hope comedy becomes more trendy.

PL: What kind of theatre excites you?

AM: The kind that makes me forget I’m a fidgety, OCD person with a low threshold for boredom and an unfortunate tendency to crabbiness and couch-potato-ery. I LOVE comedy. Weird comedy. And forms that mess with… form. I adore absurdism. I like stories of people who don’t often get stories told about them.

PL: What play do you wish you’d written?

AM: The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe.

PL: What play would you most like to see staged (other than your own)?

AM: Stupid Ghost, I forget the playwright’s name… so, so good. [Savannah Reich]

PL: If you could change one thing about theatre, what would it be?

AM: To realize that theatre and performance art are not the same, and to pay more attention to storytelling.

PL: I am a closet __________.

AM: I am a closet makeup gnome.

Arwen Mitchell is a Midwest-based writer, dramaturg, and historian with over a decade of experience in playwriting, dramaturgy, and theatre history. Her work focuses on American history, women’s studies, pop culture, and humanism. She is the recipient of the second Nord Playwriting Fellowship at Cleveland Public Theatre. Arwen holds an MS in Theatre History & Criticism from Illinois State University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University.

Playwriting Workshop with Dale Heinen

Dale crop 1Playwrights Local proudly presents its first playwriting workshop with Literary Cleveland! Registration is open for this four-session course beginning Thursday, March 3rd at Pilgrim Congregational Church in Tremont.

This hands-on workshop will be led by Playwright Local Director in Residence Dale Heinen, who’s previously taught playwriting at universities and theatres in London and Brazil. Dale’s work in new-play development includes multiple years as staff dramaturg and associate at Soho Theatre, a premiere new writing theater in London’s West End. In addition, Dale’s teaching is informed by extensive experience as a director in Chicago, Cleveland, New York, London and Glasgow.

Entitled “Finding the Spark,” this workshop is equally appropriate for those who have written a play and for those new to playwriting. Each week will delve into a different element of the craft: language, theatricality, character, and story. Every session will give you the chance to produce new work through in-class writing prompts, and offer you opportunities to receive feedback on new or old work. By the end of the four session workshop you will have gained a wide range of entry points for generating a play, enhanced your craft, and attained a clearer view of the theatrical and personal points of view that inform your work as a playwright.

Registration is $60 ($50 for Lit Cleveland members). Find out more and sign up at: http://www.litcleveland.org/finding-the-spark-a-playwriting-workshop.html

"Flame Puppy" Posted (Listen Here!)

Cleveland Playwrights Festival (13) (2)Mike Geither’s Flame Puppy was among the highlights of our inaugural Cleveland Playwrights Festival in November 2015. Check out a professional audio recording of this “podcast play”–courtesy of the technicians at The Cleveland Radio Players–under our Media tab. Find a synopsis and full cast information there too. Click to listen!

Live from the Cleveland Playwrights Festival

The Cleveland Playwrights Festival featured readings, classes, discussions, and a live recording of a podcast play. Held on November 6 & 7 at Waterloo Arts in Collinwood, it was Playwrights Local’s first-ever event. We considered it a great success in terms of getting the word out about about our organization and what we have in store. We also thought it was an excellent showcase for local playwrights including Amy Schwabauer, Katie Walker, Logan Smith,  and Michael Laurenty.

Thanks to everyone who attended! If you weren’t able to make it, please sign up for our mailing list, and we’ll see you next time!

Check out photos from the Festival below.

CPF Blog 1

A staged reading of Les Hunter’s “Notes Towards a Dialectical Theater”

CPF Blog 2

A live recording of Mike Geither’s podcast play, “Flame Puppy”

CPF Blog 3

An Introduction to Playwrights Local

New Playwrights’ Center for Northeast Ohio

Logo_TransparentInaugural festival to be held November 6-7, 2015, at Waterloo Arts

(Cleveland, OH; October 7, 2015) — Playwrights Local announces its debut as Northeast Ohio’s first playwrights’ development and production center, marking its launch with a free festival on November 6 & 7, 2015. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Playwrights Local presents new plays written exclusively by area dramatists. It also offers classes and engages the community through site-specific projects. Playwrights Local is a home for novice and experienced dramatic writers to learn, create, and share their work.

“This type of organization has already succeeded in Chicago, Minneapolis, Atlanta, and Cincinnati,” said David Todd, Artistic Director of Playwrights Local. “We see this as a way of putting our under-recognized playwrights on the map, and of making their plays a bigger part of the arts conversation.”

Literary Manager Arwen Mitchell seconds the need for a space in Greater Cleveland dedicated to dramatic writing. “Other theaters support local playwrights to the extent that they can, but there’s no place focused on them exclusively,” Mitchell said. “Having an outlet like Playwrights Local is both amazing and essential.”

Playwrights Local welcomes the Northeast Ohio community to its inaugural Cleveland Playwrights Festival on November 6 & 7, 2015. All sessions in this event are free. (Online registration is recommended.) Dramatic writers of all skill levels can participate in workshops and discussions. Fans of live theater can attend staged readings of local works and take part in a recording of Mike Geither’s podcast play, Flame Puppy. Other offerings include a luncheon and post-show reception. The festival will be held at Waterloo Arts in Collinwood (15605 Waterloo Road, Cleveland, OH 44110).

Information on festival sessions and registration is available at www.playwrightslocal.org. Tax-deductible donations in support of this new, locally focused arts organization also may be made at the site.

Partnership with Waterloo Arts

Waterloo Arts Building

Waterloo Arts Performance Space

Playwrights Local is pleased to announce that it will be partnering in its first year with Waterloo Arts in the Collinwood neighborhood of Cleveland. Waterloo Arts has generously allowed us use of their performance space for the majority of our events in 2015-2016. We’re thrilled to become a part of this burgeoning arts district.

Our thanks to Amy Callahan and Andrea Whitaker of WA, and also Cindy Barber of the Beachland Ballroom, for making this happen.

Waterloo Arts is located at 15605 Waterloo Road in Cleveland. Find info on their gallery, Music for Miles series, and other programs at http://waterlooarts.org/

Playwrights Local at the Inkubator

Tom Hayes at recent Inkubator unConference

Tom Hayes at recent Inkubator unConference

Playwrights Local attended its first event, the Cleveland Inkubator, on Saturday, August 1st. Held at the main branch of the Cleveland Public Library, this literary “unconference” featured writing workshops, literary readings, tables promoting local organizations, and more. It was an impressive gathering that got the new Literary Cleveland organization off to a promising start.

Thanks to Lee Chilcote and his collaborators for making this conference happen, and to Darlene Montonaro for making Playwrights Local a part of it.

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