Calling All Playwrights & Aspiring Playwrights
By Mark Boyer
I am excited to join the esteemed team of presenters for the 14th annual Lake Chapala Writers Conference on March 6-8, 2019. The focus of this conference is on Storytelling, and I have been invited to present a session on playwriting. Since playwriting is a huge lifelong topic, this session will focus on two areas that have potential sustainability beyond the conference: 1) writing the 10-minute play and 2) the option of participating in a Lake Chapala playwriting group.
Why 10-Minute Plays?
The 10-minute play is a legitimate play form. The 10-minute play first emerged from the Actors Theatre of Louisville (USA) when producing director Jon Jory was looking for ways to build relationships with prominent writers, provide opportunities for new writers, find acting roles for an apprentice company, and to build special projects into an annual festival. “Holidays” was a theme for their first year in 1978 of 10-minute plays that featured work by playwrights such as John Guare, Marsha Norman, Israel Horovitz, Douglas Turner Ward, Megan Terry, and Lanford Wilson.
What followed from there in 1979-80 was the America Project, featuring commissioned 10-minute plays from non-USA playwrights about America. The result of these creative efforts with a new theatrical form was that The Actors Theatre of Louisville became recognized as a leading professional regional theatre in the United States and many excellent playwrights emerged from this experience.
There are now 10-minute play festivals in theatres around the world and there are several publishers for 10-minute plays. Typically 6-10 plays are performed for an evening of diverse entertainment, which extends opportunities to several playwrights, actors, directors, and production teams. The hallmark of a 10-minute play is that it cuts through exposition and quickly gets to the conflict and moment(s) when characters are forced to confront something that will change them or not, and yet does this in a way that is coherent and not contrived. These are not sketches or skits, but rather are succinctly developed plays that utilize all of the recognized theatrical elements. The writer’s challenge is how to show (not tell) a good story that is interesting, thought-provoking, and compelling in only 10 minutes.
Ray Domenech of Domenech Restaurant in west Ajijic has offered to host “cafe theatre readings” at his restaurant of selected 10-minute plays that emerge from the playwriting session at the Lake Chapala Writers Conference in March of 2019 or from a new group of Lake Chapala Playwrights. Jayme Littlejohn, artistic director of Bravo Theatre, has offered to help with the selection of plays and with the coordination of the readings. Amaranta Santos (actress and singer), Ray Domenech, and I will also support the selection of 10-minute plays to be read at Domenech Restaurant. It is our interest that these cafe theatre readings can grow into 10-minute play performances in theatres locally and elsewhere.
Why a Playwriting Group?
A new Lake Chapala Playwrights group will provide an additional option for writers who would like to further develop their skills within this genre and explore various options for theatre readings and performances. Participation in this group is not contingent on attendance at the Lake Chapala Writers Conference, but is encouraged.
A playwriting group offers support, feedback, and networking for people who write or aspire to write for the theatre. Playwriting is a great way for writers in all genres to develop their writing skills. It can be like cross-training for athletes in that development of skills in one area tends to enhance skills in others.
Good playwriting is always about good storytelling, and includes elements of plot, character, theme, language, rhythm, and spectacle. Whether a person is writing a novel or a memoir, these elements are commonly present in quality writing. The added plus to playwriting is the experience of having one’s work read or performed to better sense what most powerfully connects with an audience.
While writers may first be attracted to the idea of playwriting, many people who have been involved in various capacities of performance or production (e.g., acting, directing, media, advertising, music, dance) may be surprised to find that their sensibilities are already sharpened for creating interesting theatrical experiences. Others who may be ready for playwriting are people who have been avid audiences of the arts or who are simply motivated to write for the theatre.
The beauty of theatre is that it is a highly innovative art form. While some theatres tend to be relatively mainstream, there are also theatres that encourage experimental types of expression. In short, whatever you can imagine has the potential of being shaped into an intriguing theatrical experience.
The desired participants for this playwriting group will be:
1) mix of Spanish and English writers who have written for theatre or who aspire to write for theatre
2) writers who are interested in mutual development of writing skills
3) people who enjoy the arts as participants and/or as audiences
4) year-round residents of Lake Chapala
The logistics of how the playwriting group functions and grows will be determined by the members of the group. Since it is helpful to start with a common focus, the initial work of writers in the group will be on writing 10-minute plays with potential opportunities for public readings and performances.
Theatre Bio for Mark Boyer:
M.F.A. Director at Yale University’s School of Drama; Theatre instructor at University of Illinois, Actors Lab Arizona, Scottsdale Community College, Central-Hower Magnet Performing Arts School; Theatre Consultant for Ohio Department of Education; Artistic Director for Chrysalis Repertory Theatre Company (sponsored by University of Illinois where half of productions were company-created plays); Playwright of 11 plays produced by university, children’s, and professional theatres; Play script reader of original plays for university and professional theatres; Coach for playwrights; Actor & Director of 100+ plays, which frequently involved collaborations with playwrights; Served in various professional theatre capacities for The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Lenox Arts Center, John Houseman’s The Acting Company, Yale Repertory Theatre, Scottsdale Conservatory Theatre; Executive Director for Arizona Film, Theatre & Television.