On Tuesday, playwrights Bari Biern, Stephen Spotswood and I took part in a panel discussion on the Life and Work of a Playwright as part of Round House Theatre's Heyday Players' Fall Master Classes.
The Heyday Players senior theatre program is dedicated to enriching the lives of senior citizens by channeling their tremendous spirit, talent, and life experience into theatrical performance. The weekly master classes with D.C. area theatre professional helps participants continue to develop their performance skills. The panel was moderated by Jillian Levine-Sisson, Education & Outreach Program Manager, and Brianna Letourneau, Lead Teaching Artist.
In August, we were given our theme and we have until December 1st to work on the first draft. This year’s theme is Campfire Stories. I'm so excited! I'm going to write about a Girl Scouts Reunion. Just think of the bitter badge wars and crooked cookie sale rivalries; it's going to be great! We'll get notes from Jillian and Brianna, and do rewrites in December. In January, the Heyday Players begin rehearsals.
In May of 2013, the Heyday Players will perform the plays in senior centers, hospitals, and community centers across Montgomery County, and at Round House Theatre's Silver Spring space. Closer to the performance date, I'm going to interview the playwrights and share more about our experience. For now, here are a few words from us about our working with the Heydays and on the panel discussion.
This is my Fourth year writing for the Heyday Players. My
favorite play was the adaptation of "Little Women", although I would have really enjoyed writing a ten-minute version of "Anna Karenina", too!
Being in a classroom setting is completely outside my comfort zone. Last year, when I was invited to to teach a two-part Heyday master class in adapting stories for the theatre, I was terrified. The Heydays aren't fresh-faced eager young kids---they're fresh-faced eager mature adults with a lifetime of knowledge and experience. I got a terrific pep talk from Jerry Whiddon and outstanding support from Jillian and Brianna. Once I got past my own insecurities, I was thrilled to see the Heydays immediately use the tools I shared with them to create--and perform--their own stage adaptations of fables. There's a tremendous amount of talent in this group.
What excited me about this year's Master Class was the new sense of cohesion between the playwrights and the players. It can't help but inform and enhance the future projects we create together. Thanks to teaching artists Jillian and Brianna for facilitating the discussion with their thoughtful and thought-provoking questions. I was surprised and moved by the discussion of death and other sobering topics as possible themes for Heyday scripts. I tend to lean toward comic pieces, but I'm now open to submitting scripts that have a bit more gravitas or poignance.
JACQUELINE E. LAWTON
This is my fourth year writing for the Heyday Players. It would have been five, but I was busy working on The Hampton Years last year and felt that I couldn't give them the time, focus and energy that they deserved. I regretted not being able to work with them. My favorite play is my 10 minute Merchant of Venice entitled The Beauty Shop Supplier of Montgomery County. It's a riotous story of a town divided between those who go to the salon and those who do their own hair! Schuyler gives a very stirring and moving speech in support of her home perm!
The panel discussion really was great! One of the best I've been on in a long time. Jillian and Brianna did an excellent job covering issues that impact theatre artists on a local and national scale, while also addressing our personal experiences and journeys as artists. It was an intimate setting and a lively conversation. The best part was being able to interact with the Heyday Plays. Normally, we only meet with them at the performance in May. I was so surprised and excited by how truly interested they were in the writing process and in our lives as playwrights.
This is my third year writing for the Heyday Players. My favorite play (that I wrote) was THE THIN MAN RETIRES. The prompt that year was Great Works of Literature. I chose Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man, which I'm a great fan of. I got to explore not only that light-hearted mystery genre Hammett created, but the theme of marriage making the hero a better detective.
I'd never gotten an opportunity to interact with the Heyday Player members before participating in the Master Class. It was great to put personalities to the faces and voices I'd seen on stage. How interested they were in the playwriting side of things. They asked very intelligent and incredibly relevant questions. I could put together a college-level study guide out of their questions and comments.
It was a really wonderful day. The two hours flew by and we could have easily spent another hour or so in conversation. It was inspiring to hear about from Bari and Stephen about their life journeys, ambitions and careers. It was thrilling to be a part of the Heyday Players master class and to learn more about what interests them. Please enjoy a few photos from our day together.
To learn more about Master Classes and/or to join the Heyday Players troupe, or book a performance at your location, contact the Education Center at 301.585.1225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!