January 2008 Archives

Song of the Underground

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Happy Tuesday, folks.  It's Anne here, resting up a bit from the closing weekend of The Inkwell's first Inkubator Festival.  I'm tired, happy, and busting with pride for everything that team did over the past four weeks.  Jessi let me know this weekend that we employed almost 40 people to get this festival off the ground.  I don't know what else to say about that but WOW... and thanks so much to everyone who put their blood, sweat, and tears into this thing (yes, we had some of each).

But I also wanted to add a bit to Cindy Marie Martin's thoughtful blog entry by providing the lyrics to the song that she is talking about, Makin' Time.  It's rather beautiful and deeply moving in the context of the play.

Makin' Time (by Jim McManus as part of his play Underground*)

(Mindy Lee sings)
I been makin time with the miner’s son
don’t tell no one
cause me and Bones been
keepin’ it all hid
 
His name is Bones
cause his mama call him Skin and Bones
say he’d rather smoke them silly Kools
than eat the food she fix
 
and when we lie
by the riverside
our hearts squoze
 
and when we lie
by the riverside
our hearts squoze
 
Bones does one arm push-ups
where the river dips
kiss me on the lips
pick me up, feels like I’m flyin’
he taste like dandelion
 
I ain’t never had nothin’ fit in my whole life
ain’t nothin’ right
but Bones’ hands fit my face
say I’m his place
and he ain’t lyin’
 
and when we lie
by the riverside
our hearts squoze
 
and when we lie
by the riverside
our hearts squoze
 
I been makin’ time with the miner’s son
I been makin’ time with the miner’s son
I been makin’ time with the miner’s son
don’t tell no one
 
(Later in the play, Mindy Lee and Lydia sing the following verses as they await news about the miners trapped in the coal seam)

(Mindy Lee sings)
I been makin time with the miner’s son
don’t tell no one
cause me and Bones been
keepin’ it all hid
 
His name is Bones
cause his mama call him Skin and Bones
say he’d rather smoke them silly Kools
than eat the food she fix
 
and when we lie
by the riverside
our hearts squoze
 
and when we lie
by the riverside
Me and Bones
 
Church been offerin’ prayers
since that whistle whine
fire in the mine
boys they gotta find
and one a them is mine
 
(Lydia sings)
two a them is mine

(Mindy Lee sings)
Bones give me a june bug
in a mustard jar
fore his last shift
always give me little gifts
 
and when we lie
by the riverside
our hearts squoze
 
and when we lie
by the riverside
our hearts squoze
 
I been makin’ time with the miner’s son

(Lydia sings)

I been makin’ time with the miner’s son

(Lydia and Mindy Lee sing together)
I been makin’ time with the miner’s son
don’t tell no one

*This is part of material with a copywright, so all rights are reserved.  No stealin!


Makin' Time...

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It's hard for me to pin down one life lesson impressed on me in the past month while working on Underground, but the title of the song my character, Mindy Lee, sang called Makin' Time, does a good job of summing it up.  Make time for the things and people who are important to you. 

My name's Cindy Marie Martin and I hail from the small town of West Union in North Central West Virginia.  Not a coal mining town, like the town of Mindy Lee, but just as small and just as community driven.  As a very little girl, I grew up with my daddy workin' in Weirton Steel and my mama at home.  Both their families were from good ole' Doddridge County, and when my father retired from the mill, we moved back there.  I was in sixth grade.  I spent the rest of my schooling in West Union... and couldn't wait to leave.  Everyone knows everyone else's business.  And if they don't, they think they do.  Which is just as good and probably more interesting.  It felt suffocating to this young girl. 

But, distance lends perspective, and after five years in Northern Virginia where neighbors don't know your name and the traffic eats up a good quarter of your day, sometimes I miss the slow pace and close knit community of the mountains.  I certainly have a healthy appreciation for it now that I lacked as a teenager. 

And that Appalachian mindset is what I love about West Virginia and why I wanted to do this show so badly.  Folks there never seem to forget to take their time and smell the daisies.  Honestly, they pretty much forget to move fast at all.  And family is always on the top of their list — everything else can wait.  James McManus' script really captures that.  I felt he had a show that honestly portrayed West Virginians and their values, as well as the hard lives of coal miners.  I felt proud of this script and wanted to help put it into the world so others could experience what I knew about West Virginia, instead of the punch line of someone's stereotypical joke. 

And what all went into putting Underground onstage, at least for me?  Makin' time for some intensive training on the guitar from my husband, Lonnie, for one.  I had to play the guitar (at least a little) while I sang Makin' Time.  I took lessons in high school, but I haven't played since then.  So, that was a fun adventure for both he and I.  Thanks are due to fellow actor, Clay Steakley, for the loan of his guitar for the past month.  That was a lifesaver. 

The biggest challenge was just making a decision, making an acting choice and going with it.  The rehearsal process was so fast that there wasn't time to try out many different ideas.  But, ultimately, I think that made for some very strong choices for the whole cast.  There wasn't time to question a bold decision too hard — just go for it.  It was actually liberating to be free of the deeply intellectual process that actors normally go through for a role.  Table work, endless discussion of characters and motivations, and my personal favorite — the analysis of each line and it's subtext.  My script usually looks like a gaggle of children were turned loose on it with highlighters and pencils.  The time constraints of the Inkubator Festival forced us to boil down the process to essentials only.  In the words of Sir Lawrence Olivier to Dustin Hoffman, "Just act, dear boy.  Just act." 

And, we did.

Inhabiting Mindy Lee has been so much fun.  And it's reminded me to make time for what's important.  And maybe the process itself has reminded me to take less time creatively.  Because isn't it sometimes better to go with what feels right over what's analytically the best choice?

The great theatre director Peter Brook called it Rough Theatre.  I call it Punk Rock Theatre.  Theatre produced on a shoestring both in money and time.  Raw theatre, no-apologies theatre that confronts, challenges, mocks, laughs at itself, weeps, and hollers.  All of the work The Inkwell has produced over the past month has been just that — honest and direct with writing that's in your face and action that happens practically in your lap.

Although The Inkwell's primary purpose is to incubate new plays and to give playwrights an opportunity to see and hear their work with hopes toward future revisions and drafts and productions, I've found that this process has also been transformative for the actors involved in bringing this work to light.  I know it has been for me (I'm Clay Steakley and I play Bones in James McManus's Underground, by the way).

As our director Chris Niebling said to the cast last week, we've done two months of work in three weeks.  That's what Punk Rock Theatre is all about.  Get it up on its feet, don't give it time to get self-indulgent, and throw it in people's faces.  That's just what we've done, getting a complex play about the lives of West Virginia coal miners and those they love up and running, blocked, off-book, lit and designed with minimal opportunities for full runs, dress rehearsals, or the niceties of previews or — God forbid — table work (for those of you less familiar with the rehearsal process, table work is when the actors gather around the table to read and talk through a script moment by moment).   

For an actor, there's something both terrifying and exhilarating about this.  The limited time and the shaky, changeable nature of a new work force you to strip everything down to its essentials.  You can't waste time with narcissistic character exploration.  Instead, strip your character to his or her core attributes.  With my character of Bones, I found that he is honest, innocent, ambitious, and fiercely loyal.  That's enough to begin with — especially since some of these basic attributes have their own inherent conflicts.  Next, you identify the basic actions within the individual beats of scenes.  Bones, for example, defends, deflects, attacks, protects, retreats, and pleads.  Find the simplest, most playable and straightforward impulses and intentions, and trust them.  Trust your fellow actors.  Listen.  Communicate.  Sure, you're not positive just which line comes next, and yeah, you have no idea which scene follows this one.  But, if you relax, trust yourself and your cast mates, let the language do its own work and just go out there and act, listen, and communicate like a human being, all those other pieces fall into place.

In other words, rather than complicating or destabilizing the actor's process, the limitations of the past month's work have served, for me, to distill it to its basic, most honest and direct components.  Honesty is the key.

And having fun.

This, combined with our director and stage manager's shepherding (and cajoling and arguing and exasperation), our designers' brilliant, intuitive work, and, most of all, our playwright's beautiful language and rich characters, have made these plays produced by The Inkwell burst forth into real, gritty glory.  Call it Rough Theatre, Punk Rock Theatre, plain old Theatre or old-fashioned Entertainment — it works.  And, as Peter Brook described it in The Empty Space, it is by its nature, "anti-authoritarian, anti-traditional, anti-pomp, anti-pretence.  This is the theatre of noise, and the theatre of noise is the theatre of applause."
Hey Q. Terah Jackson, actor from The F Word, here.  A couple things came to me after the staged reading today that I wanted to share and perhaps spark a little discussion. 

So for the greater part of a month we have been on this journey exploring fears about body image, and I noticed that as I got dressed today I did something that I have never done for a role before — I made sure all my "fatty" parts were clearly exposed.  I wanted to make sure that I could act with my round, plump belly.  As we performed, I noticed that for me — and I think this is true for some of the other players and audience members — that the play became a kind of celebration of bodies.  I can recall looking at the audience during the talk back after the reading and seeing that people for the most part were sitting more open than I am used to seeing, no longer crossing their legs or covering their stomachs, or even folding their arms.

Listening to the audience, it seemed they had a clarity about the work that was surprising and unexpected.  I think being a performer in the circus you can't see the whole performance. Listening to the audience really brought home how theater is a community experience where the essence of the play is revealed not by one person or a few people but really is owned by all of us.  And in a way that is a metaphor for bodies in general.  We live in our bodies but we never truly ever get to see them.  We obsess over the appearance of something we will never truly see.  We obsess over what other people will think and what "they" think changes based on what "everyone else" thinks.  I think Melissa has truly found something in her exploration of the American obsession with and fear of fat.  Perhaps she's found a window to let all of us breathe a little easier.

So I'm Q. Terah Jackson, one of the actors involved in the development of The F Word, and it's 1:28 a.m.  I have gone over my final review of the play before going to sleep.  And I have to admit I am excited like Christmas — about the staged reading tomorrow and what playwright Melissa Blackwell has accomplished with this script.  I know if you are up late or up early reading this message before the show, you may be making up your mind whether to come to see the show.  Well, for all you independent-minded people sitting on the fence, here is a special gift. 

I have collected all my favorite lines from the play that have been cut and will never be read again; these are the bits and pieces those close to the project who came to the open rehearsals over the last few weeks were privileged enough to hear.  Now you get to read them in the comfort of your living room.

 

page 5: "As my health improved and naturally I gained back some weight, people slowly stopped complimenting me. Silence is approval lost."


page 5: "I admire the will power of anorexics."


page 11: "Excuses are for irresponsible cowards.  Two years ago I was on a tour of an old historic home...I stood in the hallway... The look of my friend's face as she turned to see where I was.. it's a look I'll never forget.  She knew why I wasn't standing next to the group.  She knew I wouldn't fit through the smaller-than-usual door frame."


page 17: "Slow down. Enjoy your food, for Christ's sakes."


page 36: "...make me feel alive."


These are a few of my favorities for they really struck a nerve when I read them.  But by cutting back, Melissa has exposed the truth explored in each scene — the heart of what drives us personally and socially to be dysfunctional about body image.  Patrick's direction breathed life into Melissa's words. He is truly a rare talent who leads with his mind and heart. It has been a pleasure working on this staged reading. 

Now its time to go to bed or pack your bags and come to the staged reading today at noon at H Street PlayhouseSee you at the there!

Hi folks - It's Anne at about 11:30 p.m.  I've just come back from the second performance of OK.  It was even better than Tuesday, and we had another great discussion after the show.

So please join us in the discussion through Inkblog!  If you see the shows, we'd love to have you post your comments.  Here are a few questions that are helpful to all of us, especially the playwrights, in understanding your reactions to and perceptions of the plays (Oh, and please let us know which show you saw):

  • What moments engaged you, moved you, or captured your imagination? Why?
  • Is there a moment, idea, or a theme from the play that you have been reflecting on since leaving the theater?  Why do you think that moment stuck with you?
  • Of the characters, to whom did you relate to the most?  Why?  Who was the most enigmatic to you?
And finally, we'd love to know more about what you think about The Inkwell experience. We're developing what we are calling a "draft aesthetic" for our Inkubator productions of new works by emerging writers.  But we ourselves aren't quite sure what that means.  So helps us figure that out.  After having seen this production, how would you describe an Inkubator production?  Were there any production elements — from lights, costumes, props, set, performance, etc. — that helped build a draft aesthetic for you?

We look forward to hearing from you!

P.S.  If you're having trouble figuring out how to post a comment, shoot me, Anne, an email.  I'll work through it with you.

More from The F Word

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Hello, guest blogger Lisa Hill-Corley here. I'm Voluptuous. Well.....the character anyway, for Melissa Blackall's play The F Word. I was involved with the show at The Kennedy Center's Page to Stage Festival and I've loved watching all of the changes, from whole scenes gone to speeches being reassigned to two words chopped off of a line right in the middle of rehearsal. The version of the script we performed at Page to Stage was much more abstract, with the characters ("bodies") representing types as the play commented on the bizarre relationship our society has with body image.

The F Word Pile-up.jpgThis time Lean, Voluptuous, Toothpick, Blimp, Belly, Stout, and Huge are individuals. They are still described as "bodies" in the script, but I'm not sure if that label is accurate now. I think people who saw the earlier version and come on Saturday will see a real arc for each character, and how they cope (or don't cope) in particular. So to me, it's less about the topic of fat and body image itself and more about how these seven people deal with it. I guess that's ultimately what it has to be, it's always a little dangerous to start with a "concept" rather than a story about well-defined characters and plus, it seemed to me that the two casts and audiences responded the most to those personal moments and were more confused by the sort of grand abstract things. But I hope it doesn't lose all of the abstractness (is that a word?), because that's what made the earlier version of script felt so universal. I think I would be a little sad if I went to see the full production and it was about this pudgy guy Bill and his slightly plump wife Linda and their too skinny daughter Tara, etc....rather than body types standing in for all of us.

We're getting very spoiled having the playwright right there to ask about what things mean. However, there are some things I actually don't want to know because I'd rather just make a decision and see if something I said or did ends up in the next version. Really, how cool is that?  At any rate, the experience will make me much more understanding when my next show has that inevitable moment where we'll have to go from being in the main character's living room to Disney World with only one line of text for a massive costume change for both leads, and we're all at the production meeting going, "Seriously? What the hell?"

As for Saturday, half the time I forget it's a reading we've been rehearsing for because Patrick Torres has had us moving around in scenes and letting us really play with moments. I think people are going to forget we have scripts in our hands during some of those group scenes we've fleshed out. I like those parts the best; it's just too much of a physical, lively play to sit there and just read. We don't even start by filing in and sitting down behind our little music stands, but in a big pile on the floor. It's a very lovely pile though, you'll see. Saturday will be lots of fun; we'll have the energy of a performance. And any mistakes? Well...they'll just be "new discoveries we made in the text Melissa!" Yeah....that's it...

And don't call me Sweetie. (You'll understand what that means if you see the staged reading on Saturday at noon at the H Street Playhouse).

In the photo above, we see the pile of bodies that Lisa describes in her posting.  And the woman at the bottom of the image is Lisa as Voluptuous. (photo by Melissa Blackall)

Our first evening UNDERGROUND...

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Hello, folks, how are y'all?  It's Anne here on this fine Thursday to tell you a little bit about the opening night for The Inkwell's second Inkubator production, Underground by Jim McManus.  The play takes us to a small West Virginia mining town and into the lives of those who spend most of their waking hours in and around the coal seams.

Mindy Lee sings in Underground.jpgWe have another outstanding group of actors breathing life into this script — Clay Steakley, Andrew Price, Cindy Marie Martin, Steve Beall, Frank Mancino, Ben Shovlin, and Charlotte Akin.  As one audience members pointed out at the post-play discussion, this is a world that many of us urban folk don't see too often.  Jim's harshly poetic language, as well as the contradiction between each character's dreams and the seemingly mundane details of their lives (church, sweet tea with gin, poison ivy found in unusual places, pails of blueberries, dirty fingernails), quickly draw us into the rituals of small town life.  But we're also pulled into the mine itself, thanks to clever thinking by the design team.  It was a reminder to me about how theater can create magic with very simple effects.  I felt the darkness and cold around me just watching the actors in nothing but the light from their mining helmets.

What I've enjoyed most about witnessing the process of bringing Underground on its feet is the way in which the actors have worked with changes in the script that have put their characters on new and surprising courses.  Many of the actors were involved in the Page to Stage reading at The Kennedy Center this past September, and they were startled and a little uncomfortable with the revisions that Jim made over the past several months.  Steve in particular — who plays Tracks, the father of two young boys trying to get out of this town — has had to struggle with some dramatic changes to his character, including a drinking problem that surfaces halfway through the play.  It's been fascinating to see how these actors absorb these twists and turns and to see how it deepens the stories interwoven into the play.  Bravo, guys.

Unfortunately, Jim has not been able to come down to be a part of the rehearsal process, but he'll be here this weekend to see the show.  If you come on by on Saturday, you might get a chance to ask him a question or two about the play and where it's going.  It's so cool to see this play at this particular moment in time; it's likely to be entirely different after Jim sees it and continues his revisions.

And please, don't be shy about sharing your thoughts and impressions with us about these plays.  In the next posting, I'm going to throw some questions out there that you might want to think about before, during, or after the performances.  Please post your thoughts here at Inkblog!  You are a part of the play-making process.

Here's a shot of Cindy Marie Martin as Mindy Lee, a girl in love with a miner but with big dreams of heading to Nashville to start a singing career.  We learn a bit more about her struggles in this revision of Jim McManus' play than we did in earlier drafts. (photo by Melissa Blackall)
Hey folks - It's Anne once again, energized and excited after opening night of OKWow.  I just have to say that Jessi Burgess and the team of actress who devoted so much time and energy to the play — Fiona Blackshaw, Suzanne Edgar, Andrea Gaspar, Hilary Kacser, Helen Pafumi, and Casie Platt — have done a remarkable job in putting this piece up on its feet, especially when faced with day after day of rewrites.  And with such a crackerjack design and production team — Amy Kellet, Matt Soule, Jarett Pisani, Suzen Mason, Diana Khoury, Adam Magazine, James Hesla, and Lee Liebeskind — this bare bones production couldn't be more beautiful.  It's worth it to just come and hear the "gunfight." (Could that be more of a teaser?)  I couldn't be more grateful or more humbled. 

There was a rich post-play discussion as well, where we talked about the structure of the play (which has changed significantly since it's reading at The Kennedy Center in September), as well as some of the questions and themes I'm trying to explore around guns, girls, history, and legend.  I need a little time to absorb all that's happened to the play, but I'll share with you all my thoughts in the coming weeks.

But there's more good news for The InkwellThe DCist, the premiere blog about all the comings and goings in the District, has written a long feature about us and the Inkubator FestivalTake a look at the article and learn more about what Jessi envisions for the company.  And find out a lot more about Jim McManus and his play Underground, the Inkubator production that premieres this evening, 8:00 p.m. sharp at H Street Playhouse.

I hope you'll read the article in full, but I just have to share with you all this quote given by Actor Steve Beall — he's amazing as a West Virginia miner who's seen his fair share of tragedy in Underground.  In describing The Inkwell, he says:

“If actors or anybody else with an interest in theater aren’t involved with things like this, then they need to stop bemoaning the state of theater in America.”
How we love you, Steve.

Come on by and see Underground, OK, and The F Word this week.
Hey folks - It's Anne again... The Inkwell has just made it through two straight days of tech - where we light the lights, throw the actors on stage with their costumes and props, and figure out where sound cues go in the two Inkubator productions that open this week at H Street Playhouse.  At the same time, Patrick Torres, Melissa Blackall, and the cast of The F Word continue to work through the script for the upcoming staged reading of the play to be held this coming Saturday.

Here are few photos from the weekend to show you what we've been up to and whet your appetite for these last events of The Inkwell's inaugural Inkubator Festival. (All these fantastic photos are by Melissa Blackall.)

OK by Anne M. McCaw (yours truly)
(opening on Tuesday, January 22nd at 8:00 p.m. and running through Sunday, January 27th)

Hovering over the bathtub.jpgStage Manager Amy Kellet (right), Director Jessi Burgess (middle), and Properties Designer Suzen Mazon (middle right) create bubbles out of cotton batting in a bathtub for actress Suzanne Edgar (far right), who plays Josie, Wyatt Earp's lover, in OK.

Stick 'em up.jpgActress Casie Platt struts in her spurs as the Cowpoke in OK.

Mattie and Vida.jpgActress Fiona Blackshaw (bottom) plays Mattie, Wyatt Earp's dejected wife, who pours out her troubles to a mysterious stranger Vida, played by Actress Hilary Kacser (top).

UNDERGROUND by Jim McManus
(opening on Wednesday, January 23rd at 8:00 p.m. and running through Sunday, January 27th)

Chris Niebling directs Underground.jpgDirector Chris Niebling (left) gives some instructions as Actor Frank Mancino (left) looks on during the tech for Underground.

Waiting for Rescue.jpgActors Frank Mancino (left) and Steve Beall (right) play Bucky and Tracks, two long-time miners taking a break in the coal seam.

The women bond in Underground.jpgActresses Charlotte Akins (left) and Cindy Marie Martin (right) play the miner's wives, Lydia and Mindy Lee, sharing a cup of sweet tea with a little kick.

Tech of Underground.jpgCast and the technical crew work through a scene during the tech of Underground.

THE F WORD by Melissa Blackall
(staged reading on Saturday, January 26th at noon)


More from the F Word rehearsal.jpg

Another rehearsal for The F Word.jpg
Actors Q. Terah Jackson, Shelby Sour, Lee Liebeskind, Wendy Nogales, Meghan Tolmie, Lisa Hill-Corley, and Aaron Eckman work through scenes from The F Word at open rehearsals.
Here's Anne once again, to share with you the opinions and thoughts of another important group of people engaged in the new play development process:  designers.  Last Monday, January 14th, costume designer and Inkwellian Deb Sevigny brought together a panel of noted designers in Washington, DC to talk about their experience of working with new texts.  Lighting designer Dan Covey, costume designer Kathleen Geldard, and lighting designer Colin Bills all welcomed the challenge of imagining the world of a new play, but also spoke at length about the challenges and pitfalls.

Designer Panel.jpgThere was a lengthy discussion about the ideal team of collaborators that comes together to produce a world premiere production.  While all recognized the director as the "benevolent monarch," the one who ultimately makes decisions about the visual elements of the play, these designers are all eager to be in the room with the playwright, to work together to "find the poetical response" to the text, as stated by Colin.

They all mentioned instances where such collaborations broke down.  Kathleen Geldard described a production where she and the director made a very bold choice in costuming one of the characters.  The playwright saw a dress rehearsal and lost his mind.  But in that moment of crisis, everyone discovered more about the character — the director, the designers, the playwright, and the actress.

These folks also put in their two cents about stage directions, the critical information that the playwright provides in the script about the visual world of the play.  All agreed that stage directions that are too detailed, that spell out every piece of furniture or every object in the room, aren't all that helpful.  They want to get a sense or feeling of the world that they as visual people can respond to.  Adjectives that evoke an emotional or physical response are the most helpful.

And these designers welcome the impossible.  In fact, they don't think anything is impossible to put on stage.  As Kathleen put it, "I get mad at myself when I can't solve" what the playwright demands in the play.

This was the last of the panels that The Inkwell sponsored for this festival.  We're all now in production mode, working with the designers to to light and dress the actors and put them in the world of the two plays we are producing - OK and Underground.  Come see what our designers have cooked up next week at H Street Playhouse!

In the photo above, Deb Sevigny (left), throws out some questions to lighting designer Dan Covey (next to Deb), costume designer Kathleen Geldard (middle), and lighting designer Colin Bills (far right).  Photo by Anne M. McCaw, who is clearly an amateur photographer

Bodies progress

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Second open rehearsal of The F Word.jpg








Here's another window into the development process of The F Word written by Melissa Blackall.  This photograph was taken at the second open rehearsal the play held last Sunday (January 12th) at 3:00 p.m.  As you can see, Director Patrick Torres is putting the bodies on stage to explore the themes of the play... body image, connection, identity.  There's one more open rehearsal tomorrow at noon, leading up to a staged reading on Saturday, January 26 at noon.  Melissa has told me (Anne that is) that she's getting so much from the process of working with Patrick and seeing the actors move.  She will be holing herself up in her apartment this weekend to furiously rewrite the play.  Who knows what we'll see a week from tomorrow? (The photograph is by the playwright herself.  She's a talented lady!)

Folks, it's Anne here on this snowy/rainy Thursday letting you know that the event hosted by The Inkwell and eXtreme eXchange made a real impression on Peter Marks, one of the theater critics for The Washington PostRead his article and his thoughtful take on what eXtreme eXchange is bringing to Washington, DC's theater — and political — ecosystem.  Here's an excerpt from the article:

"Extreme Exchange was formed, in the group's own words, 'to tackle national issues that are on our minds but not our stages.' As such, the company is a wholly welcome experiment for a city that's too often resistant to the types of theater that critique its preoccupations, its peculiar ways and means.

It's certainly true that a lot of what passes for topical theater in this country is shallow, and designed to capitalize on audiences' ingrained partisan leanings more than to provoke deeper thinking. And maybe anything smacking of overt agitprop can be inordinately offensive in a town that likes to think of itself as forever engaged in a policy discourse on a more nuanced plane.

Yet judging from the articulate responses Saturday night in a talk-back session after the show at H Street Playhouse, you got the feeling there is an appetite in Washington for more theater with an agenda."

And here's another interesting snippet, which captures something of The Inkwell's aesthetic, and the energy around a raw, newly formed piece of theater:

"Tautly rolled out in just over an hour at H Street for a capacity crowd, the playlets, in all their rawness, managed to feel like something authentically of this particular time -- and place. The intriguing question arises of whether the process and material could be developed further -- or whether it best remains entirely of the instant."
Hat's off to eXtreme eXchange — for bringing all of us this fun, provocative angle on political discourse and for bringing a new audience into the DC theater scene.

eXtreme eXchange movement piece.jpgHere's Patrick Bussink, Hannah Hessel, Gwen Grastorf, and Jonathon Church in the movement piece "Untitled," performed at the eXtreme eXchange/Inkwell event last Saturday.  This photo was taken by The Inkwell's own Melissa Blackall and was published in The Washington Post with the article by Peter Marks.  Congratulations Melissa!

Here's Anne again, checking in to let you know that The Inkwell has gotten it's first piece of press!  In the Backstage column in the Style section of The Washington Post, there's a great article on what we are up to with the Inkubator Festival and our up-coming Inkubator productions that open on January 22nd at H Street Playhouse.

Go ahead and read the article at The Washington Post website
, and in addition to keeping up with our festival, you can learn more about Scott Bakula (of Enterprise and Quantum Leap fame) and his singing career.  Sadly, he is not joining us on stage next week... but our Inkubator productions will be exciting nonetheless.

Or you can read all about it below....

FRESH INK
By Jane Horwitz
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, January 16, 2008; Page C05


The Inkwell, a fledgling organization dedicated to nurturing and producing new plays, is in the midst of a mini-festival at H Street Playhouse through Jan. 28. (Go to http://www.inkwelltheatre.org for the schedule.)

Born last September, when it presented pieces at the Kennedy Center's Page to Stage festival, the Inkwell is a descendant of the Hatchery, a new-play incubator that presented works in 2005 and 2006. Jessica Burgess, a carryover from the Hatchery, is artistic director.

For "suggested donations" of $10 or so, the public can attend open rehearsals and bare-bones "Inkubator" productions of two plays -- Anne McCaw's "OK," about the women behind the men who fought the gunfight at the OK Corral, and "Underground" by James McManus, about a West Virginia mining accident. A third new work, "The F Word" -- as in fat -- by Melissa Blackall, will have a staged reading.

Burgess, who directs around town and was in charge of finding new works for Catalyst Theater, will stage "OK" and was deeply involved in choosing all three plays, which are "about what it means to be American here, now."

She also liked the way they sounded in her head.

" 'OK' has beautiful cowboy poetry and 'Underground' has this earthy West Virginia accent [that] brings out the poetry in that community," while "The F Word" is "surprisingly funny," poking fun at "the American obsession with its gut."

Aside from McManus, a winner of the Princess Grace Award for playwriting, whose work came to Burgess's attention while she was at Catalyst, the playwrights are friends and Inkwell members. Next year, she says, they'll seek full-length plays in an open submission process "from anywhere and everywhere."

The Inkwell offers something playwrights don't get at other Washington theaters, Burgess maintains. Others may workshop plays and stage world premiere productions -- a goal of any development process -- but "what we're doing is the step before that production," says the director. She wants theatergoers to think of an Inkwell showcase as "the final draft" of a play -- "designed and fully staged, because designers ask good questions about a text" -- but not the final product.

Putting playwrights, designers and audiences together early to see what percolates is an Inkwell mission.

Burgess cites a stage direction in "OK" that calls for a character to put a drop of honey on a wilted sunflower, which blooms again onstage. "I loved the challenge of that stage direction," she says. "We want to just engage the playwrights' imaginations in creating the impossible onstage." Even on a tiny budget, "there are different ways to make that moment seem like it's happening," she explains, with lighting, other effects and just plain acting.

"The complicity between audience and actor is incredible. The audience will always go the extra mile in their imagination. That's why they go to the theater. They want theater magic."

Another peek into collaboration

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Another look at collaboration only smaller.jpgHere's another photo from the Director/Playwright collaboration workshop, a two-day intensive facilitated by director Wendy McClellan and award-winning playwright Liz Duffy Adams.  Here we are looking over one of the collaboration projects created at the workshop.  A director was teamed with a playwright and they were tasked with creating a visual piece based on some shared beliefs, images, and concepts.  Cool, huh?  Photo by Melissa Blackall.

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Hello again.  Andy Wassenich here once more to weigh in on our collaboration with eXtreme eXchange this past Saturday evening. 

Wow.  It was a really great night for us.  The H Street Playhouse was packed.  We had 80-90 people in the house.  Very, very exciting for us.  And with only a suggested donation to get in the door, we ended up doing quite well for ourselves!

eXtreme eXchange performance.jpg

A little bit about our friends at eXtreme eXchange and what they do and why we asked them to be a part of the Inkubator Festival. . .

eXtreme eXchange is a group of D.C. actors, directors and writers who have banded together to fill what many of us in the theatre community in D.C. feel is a major hole here in our Nation's Capitol -- a lack political theatre.  But not political theatre for the sake of political theatre.  The idea isn't to be didactic, or to shove opinions down the audience's throat.  In a town where the majority of people live and breath issues and politics, it's not about taking one side or the other.  This town has enough of that.  The idea is to foster a discussion, a dialogue.  And that dialogue includes asking and exploring the question, just what exactly is political theatre?

Every few months, eXtreme eXchange presents an evening of short plays written and performed by local artists that explore the topical issues and events of the day.  The writers are encouraged to throw caution to the wind and not censor themselves.  They're encouraged to just sort of riff on whatever subject it is that they want to tackle.  Just put it out there.  And so the result is an eclectic evening of theatre.  Much of it absurd.  Much of it ridiculous.  Which, if you think about it, is a clear reflection of the times we live in. 

This is one of the major reasons we wanted to partner with eXtreme eXchange.  We at The Inkwell want to encourage the writers we work with to throw caution to the wind.  To not censor themselves.  To write without fear; without consideration of what might be "economically feasible" or technically practical.  To simply write the plays they want to write.  And in so doing, our hope is to develop an incredibly diverse body of work in the plays we foster.  And I think that diversity is already more than apparent in the three pieces we are developing and presenting during this Inkubator Festival.  You would be hard pressed to find three plays so completely different from each other than The F Word, Underground, and OK (the DC Theatre Scene blog just posted a nice description of each play and the festival.  Check it out!). 

Saturday's show was something of the very best of eXtreme eXchange.  All the pieces had been written for prior eXtreme eXchange events (you can check out the list of plays on the eXtreme eXchange blog).  Unfortunately, as I was in one of the plays (Patrick Bussink's Ceasefire Chow Mein) I didn't get to watch.  But judging from listening from backstage to the audience's response to the plays and then seeing the large percentage of people who stayed for the discussion afterwards, I can say that it was a great night of theatre. 

eXtreme eXchange discussion.jpg

The spirited and lengthy discussion afterwards was the best part of the evening. This is another, and maybe the biggest reason why we wanted eXtreme eXchange to join us in our festival.  One of The Inkwell's major goals is to foster a dialogue with the audience about the artistic and writing processes; and to encourage the audience to become participants in the process.  To contribute to the process.  To be partners in the process.   

So come on over to H Street Playhouse and participate with us in the remainder of our Inkubator Festival.  We have more open rehearsals, and of course the Inkubator productions of Underground and OK still to come.  Come on over and tell us what you think.


Top Photo: Marietta Hedges and Frank Britton in "A Political Menagerie" by Llewelyn Hinkes

Bottom Photo: The Inkwell's Artistic Director Jessica Burgess and eXtreme eXchange co-producer Rachel Grossman lead the audience in a post-show discussion at H Street Playhouse. (photos by Melissa Blackall)

The school of specifics

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Dan Ennis here. I'm a dramaturg and playwright with The Inkwell.  I, along with nine other D.C. artists, attended a two-day class this weekend focusing on director-playwright collaboration, taught by director Wendy McClellan and playwright Liz Duffy Adams.

Wendy and the Collaboration.jpg

A little background on me:  I'm a journalist in my other life, so when Wendy and Liz said that the main point of this two-day drill was clearer communication, I felt like the knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who thought the drawbridge guard was merely going to ask him his favorite color.  “That’s EASY!” I’m in communications.  I get a B just for showing up, right?

Then it dawned on me:  If it’s so EASY, why are people being paid to teach classes on it?  Because it’s EASY for your fellow collaborators to misunderstand you.

Directors:  Have you ever asked a playwright what he or she wants to get from a workshop, only for the playwright to say, “It would be good for me to hear it”?  Have you ever told a playwright, “It would be good for you to hear it”?  The point of this workshop is to know when to ask, “What, specifically, are you listening for?”  (This can also help in the dreaded audience talk back, when folks respond right after a performance to a play in progress... often a terrifying experience for the playwright.)  Be specific with the needs of your process.

Playwrights:  When pitching your work for a potential workshop, keep the talk positive.  There are numerous ways to say, “I’m open to rewrites.”  For example, “I’m not married to the text” might not only be construed as dismissive. It could also invite an inexperienced director to royally mess with your play.  Perhaps say your play is “in process.”  Remember, directors are taught to have visions and concepts.  Have a fluid discussion about your boundaries.  Hopefully, a healthy, specific discussion will help both sides expand those boundaries to commonality.
 
Another point of this class is to become a better, more active listener.  If you’re engaged in a conversation with a collaborator and you hear anything vague, ask him or her to clarify.  A lot of miscommunication pitfalls can be avoided through specifics.

Another Liz Duffy Adams.jpgPlaywrights:  Want to make sure the director “gets it”? Ask him or her to tell you the story of the play.

Directors:  Want to know if your vision for the play is right?  Read the play again after coming up with your concept.  A collaboration is about neither the director nor the playwright.  It’s about the play.

Finally, come out of your initial meeting with specific goals.  When are you meeting again?  What is each collaborator bringing to the next meeting?  If there’s a task involving more than one person, define “we.”  Who’s doing what?

Playwrights:  Don’t be tempted to take a passive role.  Know your role and own it.

Directors:  This play is just a draft.  If part of it doesn’t work, you don’t have to “solve” it.  The playwright should hear if it doesn’t work.

Clear communication won’t make every collaboration perfect, but it should help all involved get more of what they want out of the process.

As for me, this class was a nudge to better articulate my goals and pay closer attention to how I express them.

The first photo shows director Wendy McClellan sharing her wisdom at the workshop.  The second photo shows playwright Liz Adam Duffy speaking as our illustrious Artistic Director Jessi Burgess listens.  Photos by Melissa Blackall



It's Anne again, Inkwellian and writer, checking in with you all and sharing my thoughts on the Inkubator Festival as we hit the halfway point. 

We've done a lot so far... panel discussions with dramaturgs and designers (I'll be writing a bit more about that panel later), many rehearsals and an incredible intensive workshop with Director Wendy McClellan and Liz Duffy Adams (our dramaturg, Dan Ennis, will be telling you a bit more about that).  It's been a whirlwind and more than a little exhausting.  I for one have been on a bit of a wild ride... through jitters and turtle shells, bullets and paper bags.  I thought I might tell you all a little more about it.

I'm one of the three playwrights who has been given the privilege to see my play get on its feet and in front of the audience.  A week from tomorrow, my play entitled OK will receive its first performance ever.  So much has happened in ten days, and so much more will happen over the next week.

OK Open Rehearsal.jpgThe seed of the idea for the play dropped into my head nearly ten years ago now.  I was watching a movie at home while exercising.  It was meant to be a distraction to get me up on my ancient exercise bike.  As I peddled away, I watched the tail end of the 1957 classic Gunfight at the OK Corral with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas.  And it occurred to me that there was another story to tell about the gunfight... the one about the women who had been dragged to this place in the middle of nowhere Arizona to watch their men fight it out on the streets, to watch their men jerk their guns and make a legend.

Four years ago, I finished the first draft and lured a group of actresses into my apartment with promises of food to read the play.  Three years ago I rewrote it.  Two years ago, I rewrote it again.  Last summer, I sent it on to Jessi Burgess, the artistic director of The Inkwell, who was planning a new plays festival.  And last fall, she decided to produce it as an Inkubator production at this festival.

So after ten years, in the early part of January, I'm in a room with a director and actresses and they are pulling apart the play.  THEY ARE PULLING APART MY PLAY, a little seed I have nurtured and sweat over for years.  And I've got the jitters like you wouldn't believe.  Does this thing even work?  What was I thinking writing a play about the legend of two great men and the play doesn't have a single man in it?  We should just give up this enterprise and I should get a job as a bank teller.  I hear they make good money.

And I find myself withdrawing into my turtle shell as Jessi (a terrific director with a strong sense of storytelling) dives in with the actors, suggesting changes, making decisions about space and time, ignoring my stage directions to try something new.  And she's giving me tons of great advice on how to restructure the first act and all sorts of questions on what the heck happens in the second act.  And I go home at 11:45 p.m. each night and panic.  Then I get up the next morning and write (a luxury for many playwrights.  I now have a free-lance fundraising business that allows me to schedule my own time).  And I bring in new pages and there's a whole new set of questions that Jessi and the actresses and I must puzzle through.

And by the fourth rehearsal, I didn't know which way to turn.  I didn't know what to do.  I felt paralyzed, exhausted, frightened, vulnerable, and out of control.  I thought my turtle shell was probably the best place to stay and let all these other people figure out what to do next.

Ready, set, collaborate!.jpgThen Jessi urged me to join in on the intensive workshop on collaboration facilitated by Wendy and Liz.  And it was as if a bullet shot through me (forgive the analogy, but there's a lot of pistol fire in my play), shaking all the fear and anxiety and turtleness away.  They led us through a series of exercises and discussions, culminating in a collaborative exercise where each playwright paired up with a director to make a collage or sculpture.  Lee Liebeskind and I created a brown paper bag which exploded with a fairy tale chock full of punk rock images.

In the first twenty minutes of the workshop, I realized I needed to restructure my collaboration with Jessi, and I think she felt the same.  Jessi turned to me at one point and said she felt like we were going through marriage counseling.  So after the workshop on Sunday, we closed up shop at the H Street Playhouse, dropped off Wendy and Liz downtown to catch their bus, and headed down the street to The Argonaut Tavern for a drink. 

And we talked.  Then we took out scraps of papers and mapped out what was happening at the end of the first act.  And we mapped out what we thought happened in the second act.  We argued a teeny bit.  And we came up with a really exciting strategy for figuring out how to revise and stage the "gunfight" that's at the center of the play.

I just sent her new pages this afternoon, and we're going to talk them over tomorrow.  We're going to get in the room with the actresses and tear it apart.  THEY ARE GOING TO TEAR APART MY PLAY.  And now I can't wait.

So there's my journey so far. We've got three more rehearsals before we go into the technical part of the process... when the actresses must navigate the set, figure out how they can move in their costumes, when they get shoved around to find their spotlight.  And then we go into dress rehearsal.  Then we open the show.

My part is almost over for now.  Just a few more pages, a few more thoughts thrown in Jessi's ear, a few more questions that I hope to answer for the actresses.  I'm going to have a different play, and I don't know yet how I feel about that.  I think it's better, maybe even good, but I'll know so much more when I see it all put back together again.

Come by and see what we are up to.  There's an open rehearsal for OK this coming Thursday, January 17th at H Street Playhouse.  And come see the Inkubator Productions of OK and Underground by Jim McManus the week of January 21st.  You'll see what comes from jitters and turtle shells, bullets and paper bags.

That's me in that hat in the first photo above, fielding questions from the actresses and listening to their comments as we talk about the second act of OK.  This was during the open rehearsal held Tuesday, January 8th.  The second is of me, Lee Liebeskind, and the rest of us collaborators pouring over images in the last exercise of the workshop. Photos by Melissa Blackall.

The Essence of the Body

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Hello!  My name is Patrick Torres, and I am currently directing The F Word by Melissa Blackall.  This is my first time working with The Inkwell, and I feel honored to be a part of the team and the development of this great play. 

The play focuses on our obsession with fat.  It's comprised of monologues and vignettes that explore how we find ways to connect with ourselves and others when our bodies often get in the way.

When I first read the script I connected to it immediately.  I have never been comfortable in my own body and the journey of play resonated with me deeply.  There are so many lines that ring true for me because I have uttered them many times.  I was also struck by Melissa's use of physical metaphor in the script because I so often think movement pieces require the trim physique of a dancer.  But what could be more vulnerable and beautiful than a diversity of bodies in space.  The metaphors and imagery of the play are haunting and stirring.  I hope we can capture some of that in the staged reading.

Approaching the first rehearsal was interesting.  The Inkwell has open rehearsals, and I have never experienced that before for a first gathering unless people just sat in on a reading of the play.  However, I knew that one primary goal of the first rehearsal (and all the rehearsals) was to examine the play with a mind toward revision.  I have to say Melissa is much more brave than me.  As a writer I think it would be very difficult for me to open myself up to public criticism.  Developing a play is an intimate act, but I think this open format actually served this play.  The vulnerability of working on a play for the first time with people looking on worked to put us all in the place of the characters.

Going into the rehearsal, I knew Melissa was primarily interested in pointing a critical eye to the journey of each character.  So, we started with a standard read through.  I asked the company and the audience to note moments when they identified with the characters during the read.  After the actors finished reading, I asked everyone in the  theatre to participate in the next exercise called Rasaboxes, developed by Richard Schechner, based on Indian theories of rasaesthetics.  Rasa is a Sanskrit word that means  essence, juice, flavor.  The practitioners of rasaesthetics, defined nine essential rasas based on human  emotions.  They are:

  • sringara - love, the erotic
  • raudra - rage
  • karuna -  grief, but  also pity and compassion
  • bhayanaka - fear
  • bibhasta -  disgust
  • vira -  courage, virility
  • hasya -  laughter
  • adbhuta -  wonderment, surprise
  • santa - peace

Larger Photo of Rasaesthetics.jpg
Before rehearsal, I taped out nine boxes on the floor and placed a piece of piece of poster board in each box.  I asked everyone who had heard the reading to enter each box one by one, breath the rasa and write down a moment s/he remembered from the play that  sparked that emotion.  Rasaesthetics contends that every idea, movement and action on stage must somehow be embodied physically, even if it is at the basic level of breath. Because breath is what sustains our bodies, I thought this would be the perfect exercise to initiate our dialogue about the play. After everyone visited each box, I had the actors stand in the box that best represented the breath of his/her character.  They breathed in the emotion, then allowed that breath to affect them physically, and delivered a line from the script.  The characters really began to come to life in these moments.  Finally, I wanted us to hear the journey of each character in the play based on the rasaboxes.  The play begins and ends with each character stating her/his birth weight.  I asked the cast to stand together in the box labeled santa (peace).  When they felt compelled, they were to move to adbhuta (wonderment, surprise) and state their birth weight.  Next they were to move to the box they felt best represented his/her breath at the end of the play and restate the birth weight.  This was telling as it demonstrated the arcs of these characters.  I left the exercise with a better understanding of the movement of the play.

We followed this exercise with an open dialogue about the play.  Melissa left with some very concrete ideas about how to move forward with the play and clear up the play structurally. So...a great play will get even better.  I look forward to working on the play again this weekend.

P.S.  This was my first BLOG ever.  I am sorry if it was too rambling and long...when given the opportunity, I can go on forever.  One more thing...The Inkwell is awesome and I hope to see you all this weekend!

In the photo above, Patrick Torres leads the Rasaboxes exercise with the actors.  Photo by Melissa Blackall.



Our very own dramaturg...

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Dan Ennis.jpg
Here's a photo of The Inkubator Festival's chief dramaturg, Dan Ennis, at the Art of New Play Dramaturgy panel held on January 6th.  He'll be sharing his thoughts about the festival, his own playwriting, and the process of dramaturgy over the next couple of weeks.  This photo was taken by Melissa Blackall

Funny Dramaturgs?

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Founding Inkwellian, Andy Wassenich here. Weighing in with a little post about The Inkwell's panel this past Sunday morning, "The Art of New Play Dramaturgy." 

Who knew that a panel of dramaturgs could be so fun(ny), especially at 10:30 on a Sunday morning?  The panel was composed of three talented and widely experienced dramaturgs/literary managers: former Woolly Mammoth Literary Manager and current Active Cultures Artistic Director, Mary Riesing; Centerstage's lead dramaturg, Gavin Witt, came down from Baltimore; and freelance dramaturg extraordinaire, Otis Ramsey-Zoe, whose recent credits include The Women of Brewster Place at Arena Stage.

The result was a lively and well-attended discussion of a dramaturg's role in the play development process. 

And what exactly is a dramaturg, you might ask?  'Tis a question frequently asked.  And a slippery one at that. . .

After minutes of scouring the Internet for a proper definition of dramaturg(e)(y), I give you the following:

"Dramaturgy is the art of dramatic composition and the representation of the main elements of drama on the stage. "

"Dramaturgy can also be defined, more broadly, as shaping a story or like elements into a form that can be acted. Dramaturgy gives the work or the performance a structure."
 

Even these are not satisfactory.  And they are definitions of dramaturgy, not of dramaturg.

Personally, I like to think of a dramaturg as something akin to a theatrical midwife.  In the case of a historical or period play or an established or "finished" contemporary play, a dramaturg might help give birth to a director's vision by providing assistance and a foundation in researching and knowing a play's history, setting, or subject matter and sharing that knowledge with cast and crew.  In the case of a new, developing play, I think the midwife term really applies.  The dramaturg aids the playwright in giving birth to the play, and then makes sure that the play lives and breathes once out of the womb.  A dramaturg helps guide a new play into existence.  And then also does all the historical and informational research, depending on the needs of the new play.

Back to Sunday's discussion. The role of a dramaturg in the play development process?    What, pray tell, might that be? 

The answer may be nearly as elusive as the definition of dramaturg, as the initial response to most of the questions posed to the panel was, "Well, that depends."  Depends on the playwright, the director, the point of development, the theater, the designers, the actors, the process, etc.  But each panelist did say that first and foremost a good dramaturg is a good listener -- listening to the writer and director and everyone involved -- but most importantly listening to the play. 

What does the play want?  What does the play need?  Where does the play want or need to go?  The play is the thing, more so than even the playwright.  Serve the play above all else.  And for a dramaturg working on a new play, it's all about the right questions to be asked, the notes and encouragement that can be given, the eyes that see, and the ears that listen.  The ears that listen to the play, and then give it voice so that it might be heard.

The discussion on Sunday was very exciting for us here at The Inkwell.  We had a great turnout of theater professionals (writers, directors and dramaturgs) and theaterphiles.  There was great energy and enthusiasm in the room.  And we were talking about what The Inkwell is truly all about — developing new plays and how we can best go about doing so, in an inclusive and transparent manner. 

There is good stuff happening over at H Street Playhouse this month.  Please be sure to stop on by.


F Word Open Rehearsal.jpg




























Here's Patrick Torres, director of The F Word by Melissa Blackall, leading the first open rehearsal for the play, and the first event of the Inkubator Festival hosted by The Inkwell.  Folks were invited to watch and participate as Patrick introduced the play to the actors.  Patrick will soon be blogging to tell you more about his approach to the play.  This fabulous photo is brought to you by Melissa Blackall.



Ready, Set, Playmaking!

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Happy New Year...and let me offer a hearty welcome to Inkblog!

A bunch of theater folks here in DC are starting 2008 out with a bang (more like a series of bangs) as we launch The Inkwell theater company and its first Inkubator Festival.  If you're reading this, the very first Inkblog posting, you've learned a little bit about us and are excited about what we are doing.  But let me fill in a few more details to get you even more revved up.

The Inkwell
is the brainchild of Jessi Burgess — director, dramaturg, and all around theater conspirator with a vision for Washington, DC.  Why shouldn't our Nation's Capitol be more than the seat of power here in the United States, but also be a wellspring for new plays? There's an amazing array of interesting theater in this town… but there's no one resource devoted solely to cultivating playwrights — to inspire, incite and challenge them to create bold plays that put the impossible on stage.

So she brought together a motley crew of playmakers — directors, actors, designers, and aspiring playwrights — to scheme and plan.  And we all realized that we not only wanted to create new plays, but we wanted to share our excitement and sense of adventure with anyone who was interested.  We wanted to create an entirely open and inclusive process that recognized the essential contribution that theater artists and audience members alike make in developing a new play.

And so, the first Inkubator Festival was born.  Throughout the month of January (January 5th through January 28th, to be exact), we are holing up at the H Street Playhouse in Northeast DC to develop three new works — The F Word by Melissa Blackall, Underground by Jim McManus, and OK by yours truly, culminating in staged readings and two bare bones productions.  We're also hosting workshops and panel discussions to explore the process of playmaking (Check out the calendar of events, if you haven't already).

And we're launching Inkblog to chronicle the festival.  Here you'll find the thoughts, opinions, and musings of many of us involved in The Inkubator Festival.  We hope that this pushes the stage curtain further aside to give you additional insight into all that goes into playmaking.

And please, by all means, post your own thoughts and comments about the festival and The Inkwell approach to new play development.  Join us in playmaking in whatever way you can.

Anne M. McCaw
writer and founding member of The Inkwell

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