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.
Kate and I sat at in the darkened Chapel Street Players Playhouse at about 8 p.m.. The house was mostly full.
When Bethany Miller laid down, wrapped in an old Army olive drab Army blanket my chest tightened a bit. She coughed and next Lacey Eriksen came on stage. And off they went
I held Kate’s hand so tightly, she wriggled it from my grip, shook it and the held mine again.
The actors threw themselves into their roles; the entire theater seemed rapt. I moved and twisted my body with every syllable; like a bowler trying to body English a spare from a 10 – 7 split.
The night before five other playwrights and I were partnered with five directors and the writers eventually picked actors from a group of talented trusting and wonderful people. Then the writers went home and wrote a ten minute play.
I started my writing at about 830 p.m.; not a lot of time to chart things out or meticulously plan anything; barely enough time to start typing. Somewhere around midnight several of the writer text or Facebook IM’d each other.
I took a two-hour nap from 0230 to 0430 and started whacking way at it again. I won’t go into the angst of looking at your page and realizing you were in deep trouble, but it was too late to switch, so you just had to power through.
At about 0700 some of the writers met at the Chapel Street Theater and kevetched; we all made the deadline and six shows were on tab for the night.
I trekked over to Brain Touchette’s –my director – house to give my last thoughts and have coffee. At about 0930 the actors arrived and they did a cold reading. That would have been enough for me – I was bowled over. I left them to do their magic and took a nap.
I later went to the tech rehearsal and the director had specific goals he wanted to achieve. He wanted to restrict the lighting and make the space as enclosed as he could. I watched amazed as they ran through the ten-minute show. I was transfixed.
The rest of the afternoon dragged; I wanted to see the show.
I more than watched; I silently cheered. Every word, every sound, each movement were purposeful. There were no wasted steps. It was graceful in its austerity. It was better than I hoped.
SUBJECT: Process Improvement for Our NEXT Sessions
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.
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.
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.
Much of Saturdays meeting was devoted to CSP NEXT structure, outreach, and meeting design.
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).
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.
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.
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.
That’s it for now. I will be posting more stuff in the next week or two.
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 Lettice123@yahoo.com.
I’m a bit behind on blogs and all things social media. So I’ll try and catch you all up with a series of blogs today.
First things, first I guess.
Last night, at the tail end of a windswept mid-Atlantic day, I hopped in my now infamous red pickup truck and made the 25-minute journey to the Delaware City to hear my newest play “Memento Mori: Why Marely Saved Scrooge” read at a fundraiser for the Reedy Point Players.
It was the first reading of this 19 page one-act.
The Delaware City Community Center, 250 5th St., is where the “Players” make their home and it has all the earmarks of a small Jr. High School; complete with undersized basketball court and raised stage.
It was really very cool and very appropriate.
About 30 people were there to support the Players, whom were raising money to travel to Maryland for the Eastern States Theater Association annual festival, The Delaware City group has a show in the finals (more on that in my next post).
To help raise money, the Players wanted to have readings of locally written plays. My playwriting group was asked, so I sent them my piece. Eventually somebody decided that my piece would do.
And do it did.
Memento Mori, a phrase that is hard to literally translate, but generally means that each of us stands alone on judgment day, sets the tone for this one act which tries to explain why Jacob Marley “procured” reclamation for Ebenezer Scrooge. BTW – it is not a Christmas story.
Anyway, the action takes place between Marley, St. Peter, and Michael the Archangel.
Erin Miller played St. Peter, Ruth Brown played Michael, and Dan Davis played Marley. They were delightful and brought the script to life.
With any public reading of a new script, you have to count your blessings. The audience laughed when they were supposed to and didn’t when they weren’t supposed to. That’s always a good sign. And as always happens in the collaborative world of Community Theater, the actors made choices I didn’t expect and dropped a couple of lines that were probably better left off. Erin chose to use a New York accent while Marley chose to stay with the English and Michael stayed with something closer to home. Great choices all!
When it was done the audience applauded – not out of politeness, but more – I hope and think – from appreciation.
The Reddy Point Players were very kind to read my script and I am totally thankful.
Lyn Anderson, of Newark, DE, has a problem. So does George Cope of nearby Landenberg, PA, and they hope others have it, too.
There are stories locked in their brains – just itching to get out.
And they want to get these stories out of their heads and onto a stage; preferably the stage at the Chapel Street Players theater at 27 North Chapel Street in Newark.
Not only that, but they hope the condition is contagious and other people with stories locked in their heads will join them every third Saturday.
“Absolutely no prior experience is necessary,” said Ms. Anderson.
“That’s right,” said Mr. Cope. “Anybody, who wants to write a play, or thinks they want to write one, is welcome.”
That’s kind of the mantra for the group calling themselves CSP NEXT — No experience required, just tell a story. As anyone can guess, CSP stands Chapel Street Players; NEXT, on the other hand, is not an acronym – just a word in all CAPS.
“It just means the next play, the next idea,” Mr. cope said.
NEXT fluctuates in members on any given Saturday; as few as four and as many as 10 or so have attended.
And it is not just writers.
Local actors from CSP lend their immense skills to give the new works some life.
Every month the writers bring their work and the actors read the pieces. Hearing someone else read the scripts helps the fledgling playwrights make corrections and improvements.
It is also a win-win for actors, said long time actor Brooks Black.
“I like any chance I can find to act and work on my craft,” she said. “NEXT is a laid back atmosphere.
“I enjoy the other people who attend. I like being a part of creative pursuits. The privilege of influencing someone’s work is rather cool.”
Getting NEXT off the ground needed the support of the community theater’s board of directors and Judy David, CSP’s vice president of programing became the liaison.
NEXT definitely has a place in the theater’s activities, she said.
“We are Newark’s official community theater and we take that seriously,” Ms. David said. “And theater starts with the playwright.
“Not to get too sappy, but it’s kind of magical to take the written word and breathe life into it, taking the play out of the playwright’s head and making it something bigger and more complex through this collaborative art form.”
The board of directors agreed with Ms. David and NEXT uses the theater for two hours once a month.
“Anything we get done, or create is partially the board’s doing,” said Ms. Anderson.
But there is a challenge.
For NEXT to get better, they would like to get more people involved.
“This is a safe wonderful environment,” Ms. Anderson said. “Anyone with an idea is welcome.
Mr. Cope agrees, saying the smallest incident can spark a play.
“It’s all about starting with nothing or nearly nothing,” he said. “It could be a personal experience, a casual comment by a friend, a line from a poem or a book – and then surrounding that germ of an idea with imaginary characters and encouraging their story to grow.
“To finish a play, and then look back on how it all started is to experience the improbable at its best. Always gets a hoot out of me!”
So as NEXT grows and more people afflicted with stories to tell, find about it, CSP might have a ready supply of homegrown talent.
And that’s okay with Ms. David.
“CSP has done a lot of original works over the years and there is something special about being the first to do a play,” she said.
The basement of the Chapel Street Players playhouse Saturday was warm against the cool the weather outside.
Snuggly in fact.
Maybe it wasn’t the temperature that induced all the snuggliness, but rather it the was five of us in the basement reading George Cope’s most recent update to his new play “Wisdom.”
Although a blood oath of super-secrecy precludes the exposition of any details about the wonderful work, I feel confident saying it was engaging, eye opening, and frankly fun.
If there was any shortcoming to the reading it is that two of the four people reading the script weren’t actors and though they threw themselves into it, it was like watching a DIY amateur trying to hang a new back door – yeah it kind of works, but it sure is drafty.
Even so they trooped onward from glorious act, to hidden punchlines, to twisting plot point.
In the end, George got what he needed to make some final adjustments to his script, remembering all the while that free advice is often worth what you pay for it.
It’s Just after 0500 and I’m sitting down in front of my computer to do some rewriting, but as a dear friend of mine once said, “Hey, man I just ain’t feeling it today.” Sage words for sure.
I just ain’t feeling it today.
My beautiful dogs are lying at me feet. One is a double dapple Dacshund and the other a white American Eskimo kinda mutt with pointed ears and omnipresent snarl. He snarls when he is happy, sad, lonely, and thrilled to see you.
The only time he doesn’t snarl is when he is asleep – he isn’t snarling at the moment.
They are very patient with me. They think work is poor use of my time. I keep explaining we need it to keep the lights on. They are unimpressed by my arguments.
I tend to write shorter paragraphs than I probably should. They are probably grammatically incorrect because of where I break them. The thing is, I do it more by feel than I do by any rule. I think long paragraphs intimidate readers.
I have in recent years discovered the beauty of the semi-colon. What a tidy little piece of punctuation. I think it was developed for the sarcastic; you can turn a sentence on its head. Next to the dash it’s probably my favorite.
Here is the thing. I’m working on a new one act play and I’ve almost written myself into a corner and I’m stalling before I go in there to write myself out of it. I won’t go into any great detail because scripts generally sound weird when you describe them out of the context of the stage, but I think I set up the dramatic arc too quickly.
I usually attack a play with a vague notion of what I want to accomplish and let the characters guide me along; letting them build the tension and the dialogue. Anyway they guided me to the climax of the conflict far too quickly because there is more story I want to tell. That’s where I am.
So that’s why I’m stalling.
Okay so with confession out of the way, I best get back to it; or bed.