Written by Cory Lawson on April 25th, 2015

Hello again!
Patrick I’m glad you asked! I also had a lot of fun at our first YSWP rehearsal! The plays really have grown and it was exciting to see how a little feedback can help shape the work. These playwrights worked so hard between the two reads and it really shows. Next week we are back at it with rehearsals so we will make sure to have an update for everyone then!
We are currently just finishing up with the award ceremony for next years YSWP plays and we will make sure to give you an account of everything happening here soon. For now though I just want to say wow. The amount of talent in these Alabama schools is inspiring. James Bowen has done a phenomenal job working in these class rooms and next years crop of plays promises to be just as exciting and powerful as this years!
Ok updates soon!

Later,
Cory

YSWP Second Drafts!

Written by Patrick Burr on April 23rd, 2015

Hello again! And a special hello to Cory, my mate of both cast and room! (Come see As You Like It to find out whether Cory or I will prevail in a wrestling match!)

The Intern Company sat down together today to read through two fresh drafts for the Young Southern Writers’ Project. The plays:  Letters from Becky by Anna Robertson and There’s Snow Place Like Home by Brian Prichard.   It’s been about a month since the young playwrights came to visit us in Montgomery and heard their plays read aloud for the first time. I’m happy to say both have grown considerably since.  Our initial readings and discussions hopefully planted some of the seeds that made these already exciting plays even better.  In Robertson’s heart-wrenching drama, for example, the addition of dramaturgical specificity vividly elucidated her southern small-town setting, and in Prichard’s sardonic coming-of-age piece, his protagonist’s journey was enhanced by more nuanced relationships with the supporting characters. Advanced stuff, to be sure. My only wish was that these burgeoning Shakespeares could have been with us today to hear how much their stories have evolved! I’m looking forward to returning to Only Half of the Mirror by our second place finalist Sarah Matthews.  It is certainly the most enigmatic and experimental of the three works that will be presented this year.

Crazily enough, this Saturday morning, eight young playwrights will be awarded for their submissions to YSWP.  The top three will have their plays read at the 2016 SWP, and by then, this blog will be in the hands of another intern…and so the world goes round.  At ASF, the week of SWP takes much longer than you might think to make a reality.

Stay tuned for my first interview with one of this years “big kid” SWP playwrights.  Coming soon to a blog near you.  This blog to be exact.

What did you think about today, Cory?

Patrick

Cory’s First Post

Written by Cory Lawson on April 22nd, 2015

Hello everyone in Blog Land!
I’m Cory Lawson and I am an actor this season at The Alabama Shakespeare Festival! If you haven’t read it yet, scroll down and check out my friend Patrick’s first blog post. It’s fun, informative, and as far as his passion for the Southern Writers Project goes, I find he names my very deed of love…only he comes too short!
I am very excited to start work on this project. It’s one of the things I was most looking forward to upon signing my contract with ASF, all the way back in September. I’ll get more into why in a moment, but first a bit of background on me.
I am originally from Roanoke Virginia, which is where I went to school and got my Bachelors of Fine Arts degree from Roanoke College. I then packed up my “small town mountain life” and in 2011 I graduated with my MFA in Acting from The New School University in New York City. Since then I have traveled and performed in theaters around the US and internationally.
I had been wanting to work at ASF for many years but have had to miss the auditions for one reason or another each of the last few seasons. I finally made it out to the auditions last summer and the past year is history! What a year it has been too! It started with playing Jacques and Charles the Wrestler in As You Like it, which has toured on and off all year and can now be seen at ASF in the Octagon theatre! I was also in A Christmas Carol, appeared as The March Hare and The King of Hearts in a SOLD OUT and EXTENDED production of Alice in Wonderland, and currently I can be seen in King Lear which I was also able to consult and build fights for ( By the way if you haven’t seen Lear yet do. It’s good…REALLY good). On top of all this I have taught acting classes, directed a youth production of The Velveteen Rabbit and understudied some amazing roles and actors in every show this season. So when I tell you its been an incredible, busy year I’m not blowing smoke.
With all that said, I mentioned earlier that I was looking forward to The Southern Writers Project, maybe more than anything I’ve done this season. The reason? I LOVE new works! For me, it’s the single most exciting thing we can do as actors. I even chose my grad school because of it’s foundation in developing and and teaching their artists how to work on new plays.
It’s art in it’s purest form. Helping to craft an original piece, that is what the Southern Writers Project is all about! It’s celebrating artistry, creativity and the act of collaboration. Theatre is a communal experience and a group effort. For these playwrights, this will be the first time they have shared their work with actors, and most importantly with an Audience, so they can go back and rewrite and shape the piece to be the best it can be. You want to know the best part about this? YOU CAN BE A PART OF IT!!!! Just come out and watch, laugh, cry, ask questions if you want, comment if you feel like it but COME! Because it’s such a unique and exciting event that ASF puts on, and it deserves to be supported.
So that’s it. That is why I’m thrilled to be a part of this. As the days count down toward SWP Patrick and I will have interviews with participants, important updates and our own personal behind the scenes experiences to be shared. I hope you’ll keep checking back with us, and I hope you’ll come out and support SWP and all the wonderful shows at ASF that are happening right now!

Till next time,
Cory

Patrick’s First Post

Written by Patrick Burr on April 21st, 2015

Hello all!

My name is Patrick Burr and I am one-eighth of the 2014-2015 Intern Acting Company at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.  After graduating from New York University’s Tisch School for the Arts in May of 2014, I began my professional theater career here at ASF in Montgomery. It has been a busy and exciting year! Currently, I am playing Orlando in As You Like It and Oswald in King Lear–both a part of the spring repertory. I have also had the privilege to play The White Rabbit in ASF’s Alice in Wonderland and to do some caroling in this season’s A Christmas Carol.  However, as you may know, ASF season really culminates in the week of the Southern Writers’ Project.  It’s a great time to visit the theater because there is so much going on: the rep season (the aforementioned plays plus the hilarious Importance of Being Earnest) and a multitude of readings of new plays by playwrights young and…experienced.  Myself and the other seven-eighths the intern company have already had the opportunity to sit down with the three talented finalists of the Young Southern Writers’ Project (all high school students) and read their plays.  It was great to watch them experience their plays out-loud for the first time and to discuss their work with them.  I’m looking forward to seeing the next drafts!

In the coming weeks, I will be interviewing some of the artists (playwrights, actors, dramaturgs, stage managers, etc.) that will be joining us for this intensive week of theater and posting what I find out here.  Stay tuned.

Patrick

Characters’ discoveries in “Sorrento” are universal

Written by nrominger on May 16th, 2014

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.

Letters, photos are awe-inspiring connection in “Loss for Words”

Written by nrominger on May 16th, 2014
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.

Killing your darlings to create great art

Written by nrominger on May 15th, 2014

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’

‘Sorrento’ rehearsal

Written by nrominger on May 15th, 2014
'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.’

Rehearsals ‘shine’ on

Written by nrominger on May 15th, 2014

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)

A spectre of comedy in ‘Spiritual Bliss’

Written by nrominger on May 14th, 2014
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.