Southern Writers' Project Thu, 16 Apr 2015 17:06:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Characters’ discoveries in “Sorrento” are universal Fri, 16 May 2014 15:59:40 +0000 nrominger The Southern Writers’ Project is intense, to say the least. Actors and directors receive only four days to rehearse for the reading, while collecting new textual material every day. As a winner of the Young Southern Writers’ Project, I am most attentive to the work that our playwright, Lucile Lichtblau, puts in after rehearsal; what needed changing in her script, and how she changed it. The Sorrento crew dove into the script from day one – but I am even more impressed with Lucile for the quickness and diligence of her editing work. We consistently receive new scripts between our morning and afternoon rehearsals, often with substantial changes that reflected our discussions after readings.

The opportunity for a writer to edit and receive instant feedback and analysis is an incredible benefit to the editing process that SWP offers. I was amazed to find in our workshop that our discussions uncovered secrets about the characters that even Lucile did not foresee in the very beginning. Every time our cast reads through new edits, I feel the characters becoming more and more alive.

Lucile once referred to the script as an “archaeological dig,” a repository of little pieces of her life and experiences. I have found “Sorrento” to have universal meanings. The play is relatable to anyone who has asked, “Who really are my parents?” and found surprising answers.

- Sara Kachelman

The reading of “Sorrento” is at 4 p.m. Friday (today!), May 16.

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Letters, photos are awe-inspiring connection in “Loss for Words” Fri, 16 May 2014 12:31:46 +0000 nrominger Family letters and photos inspired Carl Palmer's play "A Loss for Words."

Family letters and photos inspired Carl Palmer’s play “A Loss for Words.”

The first rehearsal of “A Loss for Words” did not simply start with introductions before immediately delving into reading dialogue off of freshly-photocopied script pages, as so many first rehearsals usually do. No, Carl Palmer’s one-man show derives from his own life journey, which, to say the least, has been a little out of the ordinary. So it’s only fitting that our first rehearsal swayed from the conventional.

Soon after settling down, Carl ventured to our director, “So Greta [Lambert], I brought the things you asked for.” After a short debate – should we look at them now? Or later? Maybe after break? It was decided that all of our interests were peaked and now was the time.

Out of a large brown box came hundreds of faded photos and letters – the raw materials of Carl’s play. “A Loss for Words” tells the intricate story of Carl’s family, and being adopted, there are many players in this tale. Before us on the rehearsal table lay photos documenting a grandmother shyly walking down the wedding aisle, college friends sprawling on the grassy quad, a father breaking down twenty crawfish on a summer day. Before us lay not just Carl’s life, but the interwoven lives of the many people who have come to form a family.

But it was the letters in that big brown box that blew me away. These intimate letters detail a correspondence that forms the essential framework of “A Loss for Words.” To say more of their content would dilute the play’s powerful impact. But to have those letters physically in front of us as we dove into our first day of work? To see the delicate, yellowing pages with carefully typewritten words expressing every sentiment from the highest ecstasy to the lowest grief? It reminded me that this story comes from flesh and bone people. And at the end of it all, I can’t say anything more than simply – wow.

- Rivka Borek

The reading for “A Loss for Words” by Carl Palmer will be 10 a.m. Saturday, May 17.

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Killing your darlings to create great art Fri, 16 May 2014 03:31:48 +0000 nrominger Early Thursday, someone in our process compared the atmosphere of the rehearsal room this week to that of a maternity ward – that is, a space filled with people who are all trying to assist in the delivery of a new life. One member of our company offered an amendment to that idea: that in this maternity ward, sometimes extra appendages were amputated. This idea may be grotesque, but not necessarily inaccurate.

Art is often referred to as the “creation” of the artist. Playwrights may call the work their “child.” And an important part of development is the sometimes painful act of making cuts. Occasionally a character’s dialogue or a scene feels redundant – the playwright establishes an idea on one page, but is still talking about it three pages later. The great benefit of hearing a play read aloud by a room full of experienced actors is how those redundancies strike the ear in a way they can sometimes hide on the page. It becomes clear how much more is needed to carry an idea through a play, or, alternatively, how much less.

There are times where taking something out of a play feels like a betrayal – especially when a moment is especially poignant or funny. However, for the sake of the narrative and the action, smart cuts are necessary to facilitate a story that is clear, active, and relatable to an audience. Our maternity ward supports cuts in the most productive way – helping a story breathe by paring down the fat, and inciting growth in other areas to help the play into its fullest expression.

- Lea McKenna-Garcia, Production Assistant for ‘Spiritual Bliss’

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‘Sorrento’ rehearsal Thu, 15 May 2014 14:53:38 +0000 nrominger 'Sorrento' rehearsal. Photo by Tom Rodman

‘Sorrento’ rehearsal. Photo by Tom Rodman

As a first time participant in the Southern Writers Project, I anticipated a through line of hectic energy careening throughout the four rehearsal spaces, zapping each artist with a sense of urgency and inevitably; a source of unwanted tension. Each and every rehearsal process I have witnessed in the past (and initial) decade of my career has been at least three weeks in length. While I understood that the works produced at SWP were not going to be full productions, only four days of rehearsal seemed immensely sparse for a professional workshop.

The first day of rehearsal for “Sorrento” by Lucile Lichtblau debunked my preconceived notions regarding both the time necessary to fulfill the mission statement of the project and the mood of the ensemble. As we dove into the first read-through, the actors immediately began navigating the text with both ease and specificity. It became instantly clear that the performers had spent hours digesting and analyzing the text. They had already made an abundance of choices about the new world they were living in. Unspoken question such as: What is my character’s emotional state? How does my character go after what he/she needs? What tempo is my character most comfortable speaking within? They were all answered days before we stepped into the room. Because of this, the play began to lift off from minute one of our first day. Everyone in the room had clearly expected this, because a negative sense of energy and/or tension was absent at the outset.

- Written by Dan Solomon, the Reader and Production Assistant for “Sorrento” by Lucile Lichtblau

In the photograph, the cast, director and writer – Lucile Lichtblau – read through the play “Sorrento” on the main stage at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. The director is Nancy Rominger; Dramaturg is Marlon Bailey, Lighting Designer is Tom Rodman, Stage Manager is Hannah-Jean Farris, and the Production Assistant is Sara Jane Kachelman. The cast is Michelle Shupe as Cecily, Bjorn Tjorstad as James, and Jonathan Kaplan as Nicky. The Reader is played by Daniel Solomon.

The reading for “Sorrento” at SWP will be 4 p.m. Friday, May 16. Single tickets to readings are $15 (general) or $10 for students. For prices on full weekend packages, click here.

Click here for the blog post on Lucile Lichtblau and ‘Sorrento.’

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Rehearsals ‘shine’ on Thu, 15 May 2014 12:54:40 +0000 nrominger Wow! Tuesday was a very exciting start for the yet-to-be-titled “Moonshine Project” by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder. “Moonshine Project”  follows Avery (played by Seth Andrew Bridges), a 20-year-old ne’re-do-well who makes his living running Moonshine to Atlanta. Avery’s skills at driving and outrunning the police lead him to racing cars professionally. His love of racing, as well as his love of the 19-year-old Dixie (played by Christina King) lead him into a world of fame and money that he never anticipated.

The cast is rounded out by John Manfredi and Larry Tobias who play Hank and Mutt respectively. Hank is a big-time local moonshine seller who takes Avery under his wing – but not necessarily for altruistic purposes.  Mutt is Hank’s business partner; Mutt is a curmudgeonly, quasi-genius mechanic who single-handedly changes Avery’s hunk-of-tin car into a racing machine.

Our director, Oz Scott, known for “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf” as well as dozens of other TV and film directing credits, had a very difficult journey into Montgomery. He was delayed and rerouted several times by the airlines and eventually ended up driving the hour and a half to Montgomery from Birmingham. He arrived triumphantly a few hours late and immediately jumped right into rehearsal.

As soon as Oz settled in, we began reading through the most recent version of the play. All of the actors received the new scripts right before the reading. In my opinion, this gave the first reading a very fresh feeling. Everyone in the room was truly discovering the play for the first time. Any ideas about “plot” or “character” that the actors had in their heads before rehearsal were completely open to change. I am very hesitant to divulge any more. The upcoming week will definitely be an exciting one for everyone involved in the “Moonshine Project.”

Who knows? We might even come up with the title…

-Morgan Auld (Production Assistant)

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A spectre of comedy in ‘Spiritual Bliss’ Wed, 14 May 2014 22:49:23 +0000 nrominger Stephen Cooper’s "Spiritual Bliss" will be at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, May 14.

Stephen Cooper’s “Spiritual Bliss” will be at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, May 14.

Check your crystals and watch comedy from the beyond at the reading of Stephen Cooper’s “Spiritual Bliss” at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, May 18.

“Spiritual Bliss” follows Broadway director Sylvie Sullivan as she begins rehearsal for a revival of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit. Sylvie decides to research the play by holding a séance with a famed Russian medium, which leads to a series of wacky misadventures including the loss of her leading actor, the ghostly appearance of her first husband and interference from meddlesome but well-meaning investors. Will Sylvie triumph against the odds in this merry romp of a comedy, and manage to bring a successful revival to Broadway?

Stephen Cooper began acting in 1984 and has appeared in “Lend Me a Tenor” (Saunders), “The Dresser” (Elder Knight)), “Six Degrees of Separation” (Dr. Fine), “Moon over Buffalo” (Richard Maynard), “Blithe Spirit” (Dr. Bradman), “Working” (Joe), two productions of “Arsenic and Old Lace” (Dr. Harper and Dr Witherspoon – a double role in one and Dr. Einstein in another).

When not acting or writing, Cooper was a Professor at the University of Michigan Medical School. Cooper has had plays produced in Australia, New York, Korea and Sarasota. “Confessions à deux” was the First Prize winner in the Theatre Odyssey (West Coast of Florida) 2012 Short Play Festival. “Honest Abe Mazulu” was a first place winner in the Brevard (NC) Little Theatre short play festival. “Swine Before Pearls” was produced by the Shepparton Theatre Arts Group in Australia. “Honest Abe Mazulu” has been produced in New York, Australia, Korea, and most recently in Colorado. Cooper is a member of the Dramatists Guild, Inc. and the Sarasota Area Playwrights Society.

Grab your ouija board and come to the reading of “Spiritual Bliss” on Sunday, May 18 at 10:30 a.m.

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Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder will ‘Shine’ at SWP Wed, 14 May 2014 16:41:12 +0000 nrominger Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder's play 'Shine will be read on Saturday, May 17 at 4 p.m.

Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder’s play ‘Shine will be read on Saturday, May 17 at 4 p.m.

Moonshine has become all the rage, lately – even being sold in package stores. But did you ever wonder about its link it has to car racing?

Southern Writers’ Project favorite (and current Tennessee Williams Playwright-in-Residence at Sewanee) Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder looks at the origins of NASCAR with her new play ‘Shine at 4 p.m. Saturday, May 17.

On the red dirt roads of the American South where moonshining was a family tradition passed down through generations, ‘Shine, tells the story of Avery McAllister, the best trip boy in the county. Driving a car that is the envy of his competitors, Avery soon draws the attention of a rival moonshiner and race coordinator. But his chance to make a name for himself on the racing circuit is threatened when he meets Chester Pike, the revenuer out to shut him down.

Wilder’s plays include Gee’s Bend, which was commissioned by the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and published by Samuel French. The play was the recipient of the Osborn Award given by the American Theatre Critics Association and has been produced at ASF, Denver Center, Cleveland Play House, KC Rep, Northlight, the Arden and Hartford Stage, among others. Her play, The Furniture of Home, which deals with the Gulf Coast recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina premiered at the Alabama Shakespeare

Festival in 2009. The Flag Maker of Market Street followed at ASF in 2011. The Bone Orchard was commissioned by the Denver Center Theatre and workshopped at the Perry Mansfield New Works Festival.

Other plays include Fresh Kills (Royal Court/London) directed by Tony nominee, Wilson Milam, The First Day of Hunting Season (Ensemble Studio Theatre), Provenance (ASF, Southern Writers’ Project), A Requiem for August Moon (Sewanee Arts Festival) and The Spirit of Ecstasy.

Elyzabeth is a graduate of the dramatic writing program at New York University, where she was a Tisch Dramatic Writing Fellow. She also worked as a staff writer on the CBS show, Love Monkey.

Not only can you see a reading of ‘Shine on Saturday, May 17 at 4 p.m., but you can taste some, too. A moonshine tasting event will be 3 p.m. that same day. Stay tuned for more details.

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Finding family in ‘A Loss for Words’ Wed, 14 May 2014 02:34:56 +0000 nrominger Carl Palmer's play 'A Loss for Words' will be read 10 a.m. Saturday, May 17.

Carl Palmer’s play ‘A Loss for Words’ will be read 10 a.m. Saturday, May 17.

Catch the reading of the autobiographical play “A Loss for Words” by Carl Palmer on Saturday, May 17 at 10 a.m.

Recently seen at Alabama Shakespeare Festival in the world premiere of “Twenty Seven,” actor Carl Palmer presents a funny and poignant autobiographical take on growing up adopted in a small factory town outside of New Orleans and his eventual search for his birth family in “A Loss for Words.” Carl’s journey is intertwined with the story of his birth parents’ romance as told through the actual letters they wrote to each other before and after his birth.

As evidenced by his recent appearance as Buckworth and three other characters in this season’s “Twenty Seven” on the ASF stage, Carl is primarily an actor. In fact, this is Carl’s second go-round in SWP. His first time was three years ago – as an actor – in the reading of “Twenty Seven.” As a playwright, his previously-produced plays are “The Nature of a Fool” at Theatre Babylon in Seattle and Off-Off Broadway at the Theatre at Holy Cross. His 10-minute play, “La De Da,” was produced at the Strawberry Ten-Minute Play Festival, also in New York. An acting veteran of nearly sixty Off-Broadway and major regional theater productions, Carl’s Off-Broadway credits include “The Skin Game” and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (Mint), and “Our Town” (Transport Group).

Previous ASF credits: Bob Ewell in “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “The Trojan Women.” Recent regional credits: Jim Taylor in “Lombardi” (Le Petit in New Orleans), “Merry Wives of Windsor” (Tulane Shakespeare), “Richard III” – directed by Michael Kahn (Shakespeare Theatre), Polonius in “Hamlet” (Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum), and Caliban in “The Tempest” (Rubicon).

Recent TV and film credits include “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Treme,” “99 Homes,” “The Sopranos,” “Ghost Shark,” and as Coach Slaughter in “The Hot Flashes.”

A reading for “A Loss for Words” by Carl Palmer will be Saturday, May 17 at 10 a.m.

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Lucile Lichtblau’s family drama ‘Sorrento’ Tue, 13 May 2014 18:57:30 +0000 nrominger Lucile Lichtblau’s play, “Sorrento,” explores family dynamics.

Lucile Lichtblau’s play, “Sorrento,” explores family dynamics.

Be the first to hear this deliciously layered family drama by Lucile Lichtblau – “Sorrento,” 4 p.m. Friday, May 16 at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival!

“Sorrento” explores family dynamics and perceptions as a brother and sister pack up the detritus of their deceased parents. Siblings James and Dorrie meet at their Oscar-winning mother’s upper West Side apartment in New York City to sift through the memories of the parents they didn’t much like, but discover mysteries to be solved that reveal more about their parents and themselves than they ever knew

Lucile’s play “The English Bride,” had rolling world premieres at 59E59th Street Theaters, NYC, Centenary Stage, Hackettstown, NJ and Theatre Exile, Philadelphia, PA. It was nominated for the ATCA/Steinberg Award and the Susan Smith Blackburn Award and was the winner of the Susan Glaspell Prize and the Israel Baran Award.

Her play “Car Talk,” had its world premier at Stageworks, Hudson, NY and its regional premiere at And Toto Too Theatre, Denver, CO.”The Hemings Diary” was developed at The Alabama Shakespeare Festival where it had a reading, followed by readings at Luna Stage, NJ, Capital Stage, CA and Penguin Rep, NY. It is a finalist at the Inkwell/Woolly Mammoth competition and was nominated for the Weissberger Award. She has had numerous short plays produced at theaters such as Stageworks, The Vital Theatre, The Manhattan Theatre Source, the Turnip Theater and other venues.

She is a four time winner of PATV’s annual new play competition, Great Neck, NY. Lucile is a member of AEA and the Dramatists Guild. She is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and the first recipient of their MCA Fellowship in Playwriting. She is delighted to return to ASF to develop her new play, “Sorrento.”

The reading for “Sorrento” at SWP will be 4 p.m. Friday, May 16. Single tickets to readings are $15 (general) or $10 for students. For prices on full weekend packages, click here.

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Opening Off-Broadway Wed, 23 Oct 2013 16:36:22 +0000 nrominger Michael Gabriel Goodfriend as Ali Said

Michael Gabriel Goodfriend as Ali Said

Kudos to SWP playwright Lucile Lichtblau (Hemings Diary).  Her “intimate portrait of passion, betrayal and international espionage,” The English Bride, opens this evening for its New York premiere at 59E59 Theatres.  The English Bride was inspired by a real-life, failed bombing attempt on an El Al fight out of London in 1986.  Lucile has managed to craft a compelling mystery centered around an interrogation of an Englishwoman and the Arab man with whom she has fallen in love.

If you live in NYC or are traveling there, you won’t want to miss this premiere.  For more information about The English Bride go to .  The Southern Writers’ Project wishes the best to this gifted playwright.

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