Chapel Street Player’s NEXT’s – George Cope 24-Hour Playwriting Festival.


Joe Pukatsch, Christy Wall, and Susie Moak work out blocking details with members of two different casts

A friend of mine asked me to write a review of playwriting festival, but I can’t.


I can tell you what I saw, heard, felt, and experienced, but a review is out of the question.

You see, I love the George Cope 24-Hour Playwriting Festival and there is no way I could possibly give you an unbiased review of this miraculous event. So, I am not even going to try.

At about 7:30 pm, Saturday night, the clouds opened and proceeded to pour buckets of water, about 100 hearty souls came to the Chapel Street Player’s Theater, in Newark.

As they dripped their way to their seats, having paid a scant $5, Jose Pukatsch, Lyn Anderson, and Alan Harbaugh raced about shaking hands, making notes, and pressing buttons that made the lights work correctly.

Writers and directors took their seats, held their collective breaths, and each in his/her own way, crossed their fingers.

And after 24 straight hours of casting, writing, and rehearsing — It was showtime!

The night’s emcee, Mr. Harbaugh said it best, “24 hours ago none of this existed,” he said.

Mr. Harbaugh told the drying audience that writers started writing Friday night, and handed off their scripts to directors Saturday morning, and the directors worked throughout the day with casts they had never seen before.

Before the first show, Mr. Harbaugh and Mr. Pukatsch paid a tribute to the festival’s namesake – George Cope. The festival, they said, was Mr. Copes brainchild. Mr. Cope died earlier in the year.

The first ten-minute number was “The Connection” by Sean Kelly, directed by Zachary Jackson, starring Mike Barko, and Connie Regan. It told the story of two memories finding each other in the fog, gently coming together, and drifting back to the fog only to reset again (implying the perpetual remembering and forgetting and remembering again).  

“Unbreakable” by Eric Merlino, directed By Judy David, and starring Susan Boudreaux and Angela Teague was up next. It was tricky little number that told the story of a covetous niece visiting her aunt to buy a valuable painting. Both ladies handled their roles with grace and aplomb. There was a surprise ending and I won’t reveal in case it is ever staged again.

The Birdcage by Lance Thompson. Was a bit more straight forward. (Mr. Thompson was also on the committee that brought the whole evening to life). Sean McKeen, veteran of the first 24-hour ply festival, directed this adult comedy about a woman who finds her own way out of oppressive marriage while maintaining her vows. Michelle Opalesky hopped, skipped, and drug one leg across the stage, wreaking revenge on her philandering husband played with despicability by Leslie Blackburn.

The Magic Stone was playwright Joe Redden’s maiden voyage with the festival. This show directed by Aneila Meinhaldt (many may know her from Reedy Point), Vaughan Ellerton, Mr. Harbaugh, and Heather McCarty portrayed a family finding a magic stone and greedily wishing for everything, but world peace. It was a scream. (A special note Heather McCarty was hilarious. Her voice, movement, and pitch were superbly funny).

Next up was “The Key’s the Thing” written by me. Susie Moak, directed Marlene Hummel and Josh Coslar in this upside down story of a crime family matriarch. Marlene’s special tonal quality and ability to make great faces drove the piece with just the right amount of crazy. Mr. Coslar’s performance built on itself until an explosive end.

Then came the night’s most “no holds barred” production of  “Sleigh Bells” a script written by Jacob Hunter, Kevin Meinhaldt (yes, that Kevin Meinhladt), and award winning playwright Brain Smith. This was a Sweeney Todd, meets Rudolph, meets Body Heat kind of story full of hilarious characters and one dead Santa. Like I said, “No holds barred.” Although Lacey Eriksen, Andre Wilkins, and Gina Olkowski were the only three on the stage, it sure seemed like more. They approached their roles with the enthusiasm of a border collie on speed and with the precision a laser surgeon removing a speck from an eyeball. It was wonderful.

Pulling six different plays, with six different directors, six different casts together I am sure was like herding cats. If I ever need lessons on feline wrangling, I’m calling stage manager Christy Wall. She single handedly kept all the trains running on time and in the same direction.  

I guess that’s it.

It was a great night of homegrown theater for the folks who made it through the rain. In a way the rain was kind of fitting. This was the first time Mr. Cope’s name was added to the event title, so it was more of a baptism of a new thing instead of handwave goodbye to friend.



George Cope 24-Hour ONE Act Play Festival –ACTORS NEEDED (IF YOU’RE A LUNATIC)


George Cope Introduces a staged reading of his full length play

George Cope was our leader.
He died, and we miss him.
But he didn’t leave us alone.
Tomorrow night is the second iteration of his brain child – a 24-hour one act play festival.
“We need crazy people,” he told me one cold winter Saturday in basement of the Chapel Street Players Playhouse. “People who are willing to take a chance and put some shows on in 24 hours.”
He was convinced a group of lunatics could write, cast, and stage quality shows in less than 24 hours. He was right – we proved that last year.
Here’s what’s going to happen.
At about 7 pm Friday night, May 11, 2018, seven writers will convene at the Chapel Street Players Playhouse. They will be assigned a director and pick, a yet to be determined, number of actors from an audition pool. The actors will audition using a prop they brought with them, giving a quick pitch about the prop. When the actors are picked, and director assigned, the writers will head home (or to Starbucks or Denny’s) and begin writing. By about 7:30 a.m. the writers will return to the theater and hand the play to the director and the actors and won’t see it again to Saturday night when the show begins.
With any luck what happened last year, will happen again – fellowship, blooming friendships, and magic.
Each show was magic last year as writers of differing skills pulled elephants through keyholes banging out comedies, mysteries dramas, and sci-fi. It was unbelievable.
So, if you are a crazy lunatic actor with the guts to take chance come join us Friday night and audition for one of the most rewarding nights of theater you’ll ever experience.



First Auditions — Lots of Talent in Delaware City Last Night

The first set of auditions are under our belts and I have to say it was a great night.
We had guys and gals of different ages, backgrounds, and acting experience come out on a freezing January night to audition for parts in the Reedy Point Players One Act Play Festival set for two shows on the 16th and 17th of February.
The actors were wonderful.
The thing with community theater is you never really know what you’re gonna get, so directors and actors need to be able to rapidly adjust. I am directing a play about a Scrabble game gone awry and the script calls for a mother, daughter, and boyfriend. Depending on the rest of the auditions, I may change it around a bit and have a father, daughter, and boyfriend. Or maybe a mother, daughter, and girlfriend. Regardless, you just have to take the great talent you get and make it all fit.
Frankly that is half the fun.
Back to the auditions.
Every person who auditioned last night was great. There were no weak ones. I loved them all. Each brought something different.
There was a young woman who obviously studies performing arts in college. She was superb and at the other end was an older gentleman – a Vietnam veteran – who was also fantastic.
There was a young woman who I believe never acted before who just transformed into any character she read. It was all quite astounding.
Anyway, tomorrow I will tell you all about the Gordian Knot of who wrote what plays and who is directing what plays. It’s pretty cool to think about.


Husband and Wife Team Tackle Directing Someone Else’s Work

It’s just about start.
Actually, it starts tomorrow at about 7 pm. when the directors for the Reedy Point Player One Act Festival have the first round of auditions at the Delaware City Community Center from 1900 to 2100 (okay 7 pm to 9 pm).
It’s going to be pretty cool. I have two shows being staged by two different directors. Each is kind of a fractured story (ala Fractured Fairytales). One is about Veterans unemployment and the other is about suicide (kinda).
That’s not what is causing me anxiety, I am directing a laugh-out-loud riot about a Scrabble Game gone awry.
I am pretty nervous about directing someone else’s work, but t he script is so strong, I might not be able to screw it up. I do have that going for me. I am thinking about casting it a bit differently than the great author Lyn Anderson intended. I’ll have to see how the spirit moves me.
For the next few days I’ll be reading and rereading the script to make sure I know what I need.
Since it is a festival I am thinking the more austere the better for my set. I only have two lighting cues to sort out. I need different parts of the sage dark at different times to pull this off.
More to follow.
I hope people come out.

First Night On Stage

Last night, Thursday 18 April 2017 was the first night the cast of “The Maltese Duck) hit the Reedy Point Players stage in Delaware City, Delaware. I’ll talk more about the actual stage in a different post, but it has a proscenium arch and I love that word.

Kate and I (co-directors) watched as the Sherry Stricko, Brooks Black, and Nicole Pierce took to the boards. Since we are a few weeks from the June 17 “One Stage, Many Stories” event, the stage was empty. We got a bench and a few chairs from a back room and simulated the set.

Kate and I blocked the movement on a white board before coming to rehearsal, but we wanted to run it through without blocking to see what the actors did and see if an “organic” blocking was better.

Glad we did.

The actors surprised us with some imaginative things we had not considered; it was really quite beautiful.

Kate and I gave some initial notes and the blocking changed a tad and the actors used different emphasis on their parts. It all went better the second time around.

Being first time directors, Kate and I were a bit hesitatnt to give notes because we figured the actors knew more than we do. On the way home, we talked awhile and had an epiphany.

Part of our job is not only to create a production in line with our vision, but the actors are counting on us to make sure they have a safe place to apply their craft.

Part of making the safe place is to see things they can’t because they are right in the middle of what they are doing and don’t have an outside perspective.

Lucky for me, I chose great actors so my life is easy, but that idea of keeping the stage a safe place is pretty important stuff.

First Rehearsal With Actors

The green room at the Reedy Point Players Theater isn’t green. It’s more of a storage area really. There are chairs, couches, and other assorted furniture from shows gone by. It’s not green that’s for sure.

Even so, three actors, an assistant director, and I jammed our way in, moved some furniture and started doing some warmups to get things started.

“Bend over and touch your toes,” one of use said. “And slowly straighten you back so you can feel every muscle.”

Stretches tongue twisters were the order of the day.

“Red leather yellow leather; red leather yellow leather; red leather yellow leather. And on it went for about 10 minutes.

“Let’s read this through once without any characterization,” I said. “And then go through it again, this time acting.”

Sherry Stricko, playing Jennifer, and Brooks Black playing the role of Justine, started the reading and were soon joined by Nicole Peirce as Moon Dog.

They hopscotched over the main problem of the play being written for two men and a woman, instead of the three women. They brought the roles to life. The second time they added characterization.

“It’s funny,” I remember thinking. “That as soon as you ask the actors to act, how much more smoothly the readings go. Unfamiliar words seem to dissolve and emphasis is put in places you’d never consider.”

After the second read through, the actors discussed back stories for each character and developed scenarios that were quite marvelous.

The one thing I can’t make up my mind is how to have Nicole play Moon Dog. She can go either crazy like Richard Widmark in Kiss of Death or Like Sean Penn in Fast Times at Rigdemont High.


NEXT Playwrighting Memo

It's me talking to you. It has nothing to do with the memo
It’s me talking to you. It has nothing to do with the memo

CSP NEXT!                                                                                                    October 19, 2015

Memorandum for: CSP Next Group

SUBJECT: Process Improvement for Our NEXT Sessions

  1. This memo reviews the notes from our Saturday October 17, 2015 meeting and includes some initiatives that we hop will improve our experiences, increase technical playwriting competence, increase fun, and result in more people participating in NEXT.
  2. Since no one had a reading for Saturday, we decided to conduct some long-overdue house cleaning and establish some goals for the next 12 to 18 months.
  3. We decided we would pursue a project and present it to the Chapel Street Players leadership. Although we didn’t settle on a specific project, George Cope said he would review his notes for a weekend playwriting festival. Regardless, we intend to champion a project of some kind to get something we’ve worked on onstage. We thought this might be a better approach than trying for a full-blown production and navigating the inherent hurdles with that endeavor.
  4. Much of Saturdays meeting was devoted to CSP NEXT structure, outreach, and meeting design.
  5. Structure. We talked about the actual structure of CSP NEXT and decided that we should develop a charter that outlines the rules, roles, and responsibilities inherent in our group. We said we didn’t want to make it too strict or formal, but a charter or some bylaws might go a long way to making things run smoother. I said I would take the first crack at writing a draft charter and would have that for the group for our November meeting. I also said I would try to develop some Standing Operating Procedures (SOP) stuff for between meetings (E.G) Agendas, Phone Trees).
  6. Outreach. This has long been a bugaboo for NEXT. Alan Harbaugh said he would take a whack at developing some ideas we can use to increase exposure of NEXT. Alan used the phrase inclusivity to describe NEXT’s role within the theater community generally and CSP specifically. He will report out next meeting. It is important to note, that the group has become a resource as we have had two new playwrights present to the group, and have been asked on two other occasions if we had One Acts for use – once by the Reedy Point Players and another time by the Emerging Artist Showcase in Elkton.
  7. Meeting Design. Our discussion focused on ensuring everyone’s time is well spent and that writers, actors, and directors had a vibrant experience. We generally believed (at least is sounded that way to me) that we can do a much better job of designing our meetings. Lance Going to take a swing at designing our meetings. He will report out next meeting.
  8. Learning. We were in general agreement that since we were all self-taught, we should include some kind of writing education into our meetings. This could be anything from exercises involving actors to a discussion of dramatic structure. Regardless, since neither Brooks nor Lyn were there, we elected either or both of them for this assignment. I hope that’s okay.
  9. That’s it for now. I will be posting more stuff in the next week or two.
  10. Please pay attention to our Facebook page for announcements and I will soon be using direct emails. I am the point of contact for this memo at 302-242-4743 or

Bill Potter

High Exalted Mystic Ruler