We are thrilled to announce the Playscripts Award & Scholarship as part of Writopia Lab’s Worldwide Plays Festival, an annual theater festival featuring the next generation of playwrights. This year, in addition to a production in New York City, high school juniors and seniors will have the chance to win our $2,500 college scholarship. (If you’re not a junior or senior you can still win a scholarship! David Letterman's production house, Worldwide Pants, is also giving out a $2,500 scholarship to the playwright who writes the funniest play of the 2013 festival.)
- Two plays in each category (elementary, middle, and high school) will be produced as part of Writopia Lab's off-Broadway theater festival in May.
- Playwrights must be in 1st -12th grade (11th or 12th grade to be considered for the Playscripts Award & Scholarship)
- The first 250 submissions will receive a written critique by a professional playwright.
- Maximum 12 pages (in standard format)
- No excerpts, full plays only.
- No more than two collaborators per piece
- 1 to 12 characters (2-12 characters for to be considered for the Playscripts Award & Scholarship)
- No fanfiction
- Musicals are accepted!
- Cover sheet with the following information is required: title, full name of writer, birthday, grade, address, two phone numbers, and email address.
- Hard copy submissions only, postmarked by January 25, 2013 may be sent to:
155 West 81st Street
New York, NY 10024
As part of the ongoing celebration of the 75th anniversary of Our Town, and in recognition of Thornton Wilder’s position as one of the preeminent chroniclers of American life, Playscripts, Inc. and The Wilder Family LLC are proud to announce the Wilder Wilder Everywhere Video Contest.
To enter, create a video that either faithfully dramatizes, or adapts one of Thornton Wilder’s playlets into a short film. Wilder's plays present a universal and timeless vision of American life; your videos are an opportunity to stage his work in your America. We'd love to see videos filmed in unexpected, intriguing or iconic settings all over America- from the top of Mount Rushmore to the bottom of your neighborhood swimming pool. You can read all the playlets here.
During the submission period (January 14th-28th) you may upload your video to our Facebook event page here, and encourage your friends and family to "like" your video on the page.
- Your video must use all the original characters from the selected playlet, but feel free to add characters.
- Your video must contain at least 5 lines of dialogue (one line is defined as at least one sentence long) from the selected playlet. The lines of dialogue do not have to be consecutive.
- Your video must between 90 seconds and 3 minutes.
- The videos with the most "likes" will advance to the finals.
- Please review the full contest rules here.
October 8, 2012 - The contest begins
January 14, 2013 - Submissions open and public voting begins at 12:00 AM EST.
January 28, 2013- Submissions and public voting are closed at 12:00 PM EST. Finalists will be announced later that day.
February 8, 2012- The Winner is announced!
We will be giving a $1000 cash prize to the creator(s) of the winning video!
*Persons under the age of 18 may appear in or collaborate on the video, however, videos featuring minors must be submitted by a person over the age of 18, and a video release form must be signed by the guardians of all minors appearing in the video.
Three disparate events spurred this essay. First, on September 11th, 2012, the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was attacked, leaving four U.S. nationals dead. Later that same week, the September 17th edition of The New Yorker arrived, featuring Salman Rushdie’s description of his life in the years since being subjected to a fatwa, a clerically decreed death sentence.
Then, two days ago, I stumbled into the pages of Granta (Issue 119), and read the memoirs of the Belarus Free Theatre (as introduced by none other than Tom Stoppard). Because of their work, the members of the Belarus Free Theatre have been outlawed by what is sometimes called “Europe’s last dictatorship.”
What do these three events have in common? In each case, people were threatened or killed because of their connection to the arts and, more specifically, the written word.
Innocence of Muslims, the anti-Muslim film that sparked (or gave an excuse for) the insurgency-led unrest in Benghazi, began with a script. Rushdie began with a novel. I do not claim to know enough about Belarus Free Theatre to know if they rely, as a rule, on scripts, but from their remembrances, it seems likely that even if they never entrust a word to paper, they memorize a great deal. And in each case, the consequences of these actions––some intentional, some not––were and are far-reaching.
I will assume that ninety percent of those reading this piece live in the United States, and that most of the rest reside in an English-speaking or English-dominant nation. You, then, are among the world’s most fortunate. You live in a society that values (most days) freedom of expression, and this is proven by the fact that I can write this essay, and that you can read it. Nobody of consequence is looking over your shoulder, and nobody (except perhaps your parents, if you are a minor), has the authority to force you to stop. By contrast, the members of the Belarus Free Theatre are not free to return to their home country. If they do, they will be incarcerated indefinitely and likely tortured. So they are free, after a fashion. They are free to wander the globe for as long as they wish, provided they make no attempt to visit family and friends in the place that matters most to them, home.
History is laden with examples of writers repressed, theaters disbanded, performers sent packing. Perhaps we theater folk should feel flattered; certainly, we need look no farther to find proof that the arts matter. To those in charge, art is, all too often, a matter of life and death. But in times of peace, it is so easy to forget!
In my own writing life, no comment was more startling than one I received from an audience member following a performance of one of my plays at the 2009 Y.E.S. Festival, curated by Northern Kentucky University. The comment came during a post-show party, where a man approached me, shook my hand, and said, with absolute sincerity, “That was very brave.”
Though I did my best not to show it, I was taken aback. I had not considered the penning of that particular play, although it dealt directly with environmental activism and en vogue interrogation techniques, to be in any way an act of bravery.
But then again, under a more repressive regime, my particular brand of nonconformity could be sufficient to remove me from the public eye. An outright accusation of sedition would likely cost me my freedom, my job, my family. In some places, my habit of loud-mouthed playwriting might cost me my hands.
Meanwhile, as of September 27th, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the maker of Innocence of Muslims, has been arrested for violating various stipulations of his probation (for an unrelated conviction of bank fraud). Nakoula likely cannot be charged with anything much regarding his distasteful film, again because of the First Amendment. Clearly, however, Nakoula has tested the limits of free expression, and demonstrated beyond doubt that actions have consequences, often unexpected. But is he guilty of more? Is Rushdie? Am I? Certain limits on “free” speech have long been recognized; with good reason, it is not permitted to stand up and yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Using the internet, is this what Nakoula did with his film? Is this what the government of Belarus feels the Free Theatre does when it performs?
My own quandary stands: am I, as a writer, brave? By way of example, is the script for Acts of God, dealing as it does with faith, death, and even immigration, an example of personal courage? The answer is, sadly, no. Not because I’m too weak to take a stand, but because I forgot––for a moment, or a decade––the rarefied conditions in which we live; I forgot how easy it is for anyone and everyone in our society to be critical, to throw stones at glass houses, to ask probing, ultimate questions. I forgot, in short, to respect our inherited, hard-won freedoms.
I will not make that error again. There is too much at stake, in even the most light-weight comedy or the smallest ten-minute diversion (and yes, I write those, too). Plays for adults, plays for youth, plays for the very young––each carries with it the essentials of privilege and responsibility, for we are blessed in that we may craft and stage what we choose, without fear of reprisal, and because of this, we owe it both to ourselves and the wider world beyond to turn our skills to better purposes than those displayed by Mr. Nakoula.
Because writing matters.
What drew you to adapt Master's poems?
To answer this question let me introduce Spoon River Anthology to those not aware of the book. Spoon River Anthology, by Edgar Lee Masters, is a masterpiece of American Literature. Written in 1915, it was compelling reading for its day and immediately popular with the public. It was one of the first pieces of American Literature that dealt truthfully with the lives of the repressed residents who lived in the fictional small town of Spoon River. Spoon River Anthology is a series of 244 “free verse poems”. Each tells the story of one of the residents. The twist is all of the characters are dead and are speaking about their lives, sorrows, secrets, and regrets from their grave. To me, the poems read like monologues.
In theatrical terms, Edgar Lee Masters wrote these extraordinary monologues using no fourth wall. The dead are directly talking to the living. This is one reason they translate so well to a stage performance. The monologues themselves are textured, layered, and rich. They are unflinching in the topics they deal with. Every aspect of the human existence are dealt with. These universal stories are as relevant now as they were in 1915. Sometimes one story is told by several characters. The characters know each other and talk about each other. This creates the feeling of a real community. In order to unravel many of these stories you have to delve into the subtext. What isn’t being said is as important as what is.
Somehow, Mr. Masters had the ability to tell very involved, intricate stories in very short monologues. I always loved the material and I loved working with actors on it.
I have been an acting teacher in colleges and high schools for 25 years. I started using the monologues in workshops and in the classroom many years ago. I slowly began grouping some of the monologues I liked together. Along the way I began staging it. Being a musician myself, I started adding a song every year or so. They were songs that I thought worked well with the material. I worked this way for more than ten years before I had the idea to create an adaptation. After ten years of tinkering in the classroom, I had created twenty minutes of “something”. I wasn’t sure what it was, but it had a beginning, middle, and an end. It was also very intriguing to watch. It was only then I set out to specifically write a proper adaptation of Spoon River Anthology.
My goal was to create an adaptation worthy of the source material and to create an adaptation that would be possible to be staged in high schools and colleges, as well as professional theatres. I began to work in earnest on The Spoon River Project. It took me three more years of full time work, and four actual, full blown productions to complete the piece.
The play is called "a play with music" not a musical. Can you explain what role music has in the piece?
For the first three years I called it a “A Theatre Piece with Music”. I didn’t even describe it as a play. It’s not a “play” in the tradition sense. It’s a unique piece of theatre.
The music was carefully chosen to enhance the stories. All of the music in the piece is in the public domain. It was all written between 1850 and1915. The music doesn’t so much move the plot forward as songs do in a musical, the music in The Spoon River Project reflects on the story being told. It might reflect on what one of the characters is thinking. Sometimes it sets a mood. Sometimes it weaves in and out of the monologues. Sometimes it sets historical context to the stories. Sometimes it allows the characters to express themselves in ways that are not possible by the text, yet fully believable.
I think the music is beautiful and ties the whole piece together. It is scored for two violins and keyboard.
Any tips for groups producing The Spoon River Project?
Having directed the piece four times and written the adaptation I couldn’t resist listing some suggestions in the script. However, they are just suggestions. I don’t want to impose my interpretation on other directors.
The first seems like an obvious tip. I always suggest the actors follow the punctuation and phrasing as written by Edgar Lee Masters. It is impeccable. I think most playwrights would love to have that advice followed but in this piece it is really important.
I think the fun in directing or acting in the piece is solving the mysteries and answering all the questions about each of the characters…each word, each line has to have meaning. You have to investigate to find the “real story” the character is trying to tell. Edgar Lee Masters makes it obvious sometimes, and sometimes it’s very vague. Each character requires the actor answer many questions.
I also urge the actors to take their time telling the stories. As a director, It took me until the third production to get this one right. The material is so rich that it takes time for the audience to digest what is being said. I have had people see the show two and three times and tell me they got something new from the text each time.
Spoon River Anthology is a very intense book. There are not too many happy characters that cemetery. I urge you to find the humor in the piece. It is there. You will be surprised at how many laughs you will get.
I think I should mention that I have staged The Spoon River Project four times in an actual cemetery at night. It makes for a thrilling evening in the theater to have 150 people seated in the middle of a totally dark cemetery, lit with lanterns and torches, on a summer’s night. I have also seen it produced in a proscenium theater and theatre in the round. It works very well indoors. You have to be a little brave, and a little adventurous to stage it in a cemetery, but it will be worth it. I have an extra section in the script to help people who are staging it in a cemetery.
Again, these are just suggestions, but I hope wise ones. I look forward to seeing what choices other directors and actors make. Anyone producing The Spoon River Project is more than welcome to contact me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you working on anything now?
I wrote a musical many years ago that was produced regionally. I always felt it was never finished. At the very least it needs to be updated. It’s a very silly, funny musical. It’s an environmental piece, somewhat like Tony and Tina’s Wedding. I don’t want to give away too much. It’s very different than The Spoon River Project. I think I am going to dust that off and take a second look at it.
Did you ever act in or write a play in high school?
Of course! I did both. I have a BFA Degree in Musical Theatre so I am a performer at heart. I did many shows when I was in high school. I worked on shows at school and in community theatre. I am very grateful there was so much theatre in the town I grew up in to take part in. I was introduced to some of the most influential and fascinating people in my life through the theatre in those years… Rodgers and Hammerstein, Tennessee Williams, Lerner and Lowe, Harnick and Bock, Jacques Brel, Neil Simon. They wrote plays, songs, and characters that I soaked in like a sponge. Imagine a 16 boy from Jamestown, NY singing Noel Coward songs on his walk to high school.
I wrote a play in High School with two other friends called Plunge. It was a comedy that took place at a plumbers convention. One of the plumbers is in the bathroom of the hotel where the convention is being held. He is practicing the speech he is about to give. He hears one of the toilets running. Being a plumber he can’t stop himself from fixing it. He goes into the stall and is kneeling on the seat fixing the toilet tank. The door to the stall closes. The stall looks empty because he is kneeling on the seat. In come two men who are plotting a crime. They think they are alone. They leave not knowing the plumber has heard them. Lots of people become suspects. It’s kind of a screwball comedy as the plumber tries to stop the crime by finding the guys he heard but did not see.
We went door to door to find the funding. We sold space in the program to local businesses. We produced it ourselves in a college theatre. It was a big accomplishment for three young guys.
-- Tom Andolora
Tom Andolora was born and raised in Jamestown, NY and lives in NYC. He holds a BFA in Musical Theatre. Aside from being a writer, he is a composer, teacher, pianist, performer, and musical director. He has worked extensively in cabarets in New York City and on the entire East Coast. He is director and owner of The Dickens Victorian Carollers. He has been invited to sing, with his group, at the White House for four administrations: including the Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and just last Christmas 2009 at President and Mrs. Obama's first Christmas in the White House. He was Musical Director of the original production of Hiroshima (music by Yoko Ono) which won the Kennedy Center Award for Best American Play 1997. He is a founding member and has been on the board of directors of The Oxford Shakespeare Theatre. He is happy to have been musical director and teacher for the National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped for three years. Tom is currently on the staff at Brooklyn College in its Preparatory Center, where he teaches classes in Musical Theatre, Cabaret Performance, Acting, and has a private voice studio. He is a member of The Dramatists Guild and the NY State Singing Teachers Association. You can find out more about him at www.tomandolora.com.
In the days when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, a play could be performed on Broadway and then make its way to the high schools of the world pretty quickly. And it would stay on that list forever. Think You Can’t Take it With You or The Crucible or Noises Off. Broadway used to do plays with large casts that everyone could enjoy.
Glancing at the current roster of Broadway shows, you get some idea of the challenge facing high school directors. There’s nothing there you could do in high school. Are you going to do a play with four characters in it? For your entire school? If you have a big, healthy program, that means turning down thirty to forty kids who might audition. Those kids will then swear revenge – can you imagine a theatre program with thirty phantoms of the opera lurking in the catacombs beneath your auditorium? Not a pretty sight.
There’s also the problem of subject matter. A lot of Broadway, and “professional theatre” is pretty racy and almost always contains language that would get most teachers fired. Even someone as seemingly innocuous as Neil Simon could get you in hot water.
So that’s the problem. We’re left with an aging roster of classics that we do again and again – Shakespeare (although there’s nothing wrong with Shakespeare), Arthur Miller, Kaufman and Hart, maybe the occasional Twelve Angry Men or Alice in Wonderland. Fifty years ago doing All my Sons or the Crucible was cutting edge. Not really that way anymore.
We have great theatre for little kids. If you ever go to a performance at a children’s theatre, it’s amazing. The audience is screaming, laughing, crying out with fear – live theatre is unmatched in its ability to connect with an audience.
And then, when the kids turn about eleven or twelve, we forget about them. Sure, adventurous parents will take them to modern, professional plays, but for the most part the new shows are inappropriate for whatever reason. And there’s an even smaller chance that their middle school is going to attempt Angels in America or the latest Pulitzer-winner.
Why is this a big deal? Because most teenagers think theatre is old, and it’s not for them. They’re right, in a sense, theatre is old – but not quite as old as music, and they’re all over that. The problem is that shows written in the fifites are great, but they don’t exactly give the impression that theatre is a living, breathing, changing art form. And they certainly don’t convey a sense that theatre could impact them directly, be about them, or for them.
So there’s the problem: Lots of new plays for kids, lots of new plays for adults, very little in-between. Our potential audience concludes that theatre is dead, and as a result the people actually paying money to go to the professional theatre get older and older and older. When those people in their seventies were teenagers, they got hooked. Now, we’re killing our audience.
That’s where I come in. To single-handedly save America. Okay, well, not so much. And, I admit, a lot of the plays I write for teenagers are very, very silly, but there’s a place for that too. I write plays for young people that they can perform, that they can find entertaining, and in some measure can be about their world.
I want to make one last point. There’s a difference between a one-act and a full-length play. One-acts, thanks in some part to Playscripts, have become much fresher, and give schools a chance to do something new. There are a lot of reasons for this: Mainly, you don’t see a lot of one-acts making it to Broadway or being performed all over the country (except for David Ives – yay David!) so there’s not that much traditional material to look at. One-acts are also used in competitions or student-directed plays, so there’s a lot more freedom to pick something unknown.
Obviously, as I have about thirty one-acts for teenagers, I don’t want to disparage the form. As a teacher I found them indispensible. But if we’re talking about the full-length after school play that hopefully the entire school is going to come and see, traditional, old plays still rule the day.
A lot of my full-lengths are wild, silly fun – (and there is a place for wild silly fun! That’s what got the kids excited in the first place), but in most of them I’m trying to make a comment on the modern world. I’m trying to say something about how we live, or how we cope, or what new insanity is being unleashed upon us. I’m trying to do it in the most entertaining manner I can, but shows like The Craving or The Election or A Tiny Miracle with a Fiberoptic Unicorn are digging at something deeper
We need plays like that. Our kids need plays like that.
-- Don Zolidis
I’ve always believed that friendship should be regulated. I’ve also always believed that if we regulated friendship, it would be insane. The fact that I believe both sides of this paradox with equal passion and intensity means that I needed to write this play. What To Do When You Hate All Your Friends – An Anti-Social Comedy centers around a secret society of friends who all rank each other and are governed by very specific rules of conduct. If you’ve ever seen a play before, or if you know anything about human nature, you’ve probably already guessed that this utopian attempt at regulatory friendship does not end well. But I was inspired by how important friendship is in real life, and yet how, unlike in romantic relationships, we seem incapable of defining friendship beyond its surface.
Whether we’re in a deep friendship or a casual one, there are, of course, standards and expectations for our friendships, but we tend to lack, in our society, a proper vocabulary and grammar for friendship. There’s no equivalent to couple’s counseling for friendships, but I think that there’s a kind of heartbreak that happens in friendship that is just as powerful as romantic heartbreak, and yet we never talk about it. Each friendship is different and every friendship kind of creates its own rules as it develops (or degenerates.) This is, of course, part of what makes friendship so beautiful. We kind of create our own universe with each of our own friends. But it can also be maddening. I’ve always been as passionate about my closest friendships as I’ve been with my romantic relationships, and perhaps because of this, I’ve had a lot of platonic break-ups. I blame society. I’ve thought about writing my congressperson about it, but instead I wrote this play.
Some critics thought What To Do When You Hate All Your Friends was a metaphor for Facebook, can you confirm or deny?
What To Do had its world premiere at Theatre Row in the summer of 2008. It had an AMAZING cast: Todd D’Amour, Amy Staats, Josh Lefkowitz, Carrie Keranen, and Susan Louise O’Connor. Because of the fancy, hugely talented, and incredibly attractive cast, the show had buzz. And, like most plays, it had its ardent champions, and some detractors; the detractors were fortunately less passionate in their views, and smaller in number, but the fact is that the play divided people a bit (and there’s a lot of purposeful ambiguity in the play, so I guess I was doing my job, even though all I want from an audience is boundless and unwavering love.) But everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, critic and audience member alike, talked about how the play was clearly a metaphor for Facebook.
The ultimate irony here is that I was virulently Luddite at the time (no cell phone, no social media. People referred to me then as The Impossible Man. They still do, but for different reasons now.) Back then I had never used or even seen Facebook. Since then, because I run Purple Rep, an independent theatre company, I’m a bit of a marketing whore, and so I’ve swallowed the Kool-Aid and now have about three-thousand Facebook friends. And I get the connection now! The constant postings about what only you and your friends could only ever possibly be interested in! The whole " ''so-and-so likes this' thing!" The groups! The way in which this technology is supposed to bring us closer together, and yet, it makes us all feel empty inside. And so, as the author of this play, I now officially acknowledge that What To Do When You Hate All Your Friends is an unintentional metaphor for Facebook. I wasn’t exactly ahead of my time when I wrote it, but I was ahead of my own life. And that’s some kind of accomplishment, right?
The official Metaphor that I purposefully put into the play is about the way we were living during the Bush years. The first draft of What To Do was from as far back as the Clinton era, but when I did a major rewrite in 2006, the feelings of isolation that the characters feel, and the way that everyone in the play denies what’s really going on, and how, once everyone gets on the same page about what’s wrong with their way of life they still remain incapable of doing anything about it… all of this seems like a time capsule type of reference to that era. But no one wants to think about this kind of metaphor! I tried explaining it to the cast at our first rehearsal and I could see the regret for having signed on to this project on their faces the whole time. (Fortunately, I stopped talking about it, and that look on their faces went away, too.) It’s a comedy about friendship. And it reminds people of Facebook, since that’s how we stay in touch with our friends these days. If there are political metaphors in place, maybe it’s nice to talk about that stuff in an interview, but maybe that’s as far as it goes.
What To Do When You Hate All Your Friends is a play about friendship, not romance, was that a conscious choice?
There is a romance in the play, but even that romance is more about how the couple in question balances their friendship in and out of love. Yes, placing the accent on friendship as the relationship that involves courtship, flirtation, infatuation, betrayal, loss, grief, etc., rather than the boyfriends and/or girlfriends thing was, indeed, intentional. There’s lots of boy-meets-girl-boy-loses-girl stories, but rarely any guy-who-hates-all-his-
We heard you’re gonna be writing in a window. What's that all about?
I will be sitting in the storefront window of Drama Book Shop in midtown Manhattan later this month, writing a play in real time. I wish I could take credit for this idea, but it was the brainchild of Micheline Auger, who runs a site called Theaterspeak. Micheline’s interviewed me a couple of times on her site (to help promote productions of my plays), and I’m as proud of those interviews as nearly any I’ve ever given. (Except for this one, which is clearly a standout.) Theaterspeak is sponsoring over 70 playwrights, all taking turns, writing in the window, for an event called Write Out Front.
Part of the reason why I wish this were my idea is because I’ve become a little obsessed with the conceptual artist Marina Abramovic after seeing the documentary about her life and work, The Artist Is Present. I want to present plays the way Marina Abramovic presents conceptual art. I also want to marry Marina Abramovic. Actually, I meant to just think that last bit, and not write it down for all to see, but the damage has been done. She has such a direct connection to her audience that I deeply admire and envy. One of her older pieces involved her setting up a space within a museum exactly like her own living quarters, and for a period of time, as part of the performance, she actually lived her private life in public, eating, sleeping, showering, pooping, etc. I think that there’s something political about taking what a playwright does in private and making it public. Everyone working in this industry has a rough time of it, but I think we playwrights too often get marginalized, since our most important contributions take place well before the play ever goes into production, so we’re expected to stay out of sight. So I’m very excited about this. I also offered to sleep, eat, shower, and poop in Drama Book Shop’s window, but for some reason they want me to just stick to writing. Philistines!
Did you ever act in or write a play in high school?
My greatest achievement as an actor was in a biblical play in the third grade. I went to a yeshiva (kind of like catholic school for Jews), so the Bible was a big deal. I played Hagar, the mother of Abraham’s first child who gets sent out into the wilderness to die, but God hears her cries and prayers and saves her. I wore a wig and a dress and my scene of despair left nary a dry eye in the house. I think people were crying from laughter. I’ve tried to do as little acting as possible since then (although sometimes I wear women’s clothes for political reasons), but I am writing a cycle of biblical plays called The Genesis Tapestries, so my formal education was good for something. Maybe two things.
Larry Kunofsky is a New York-based playwright whose play, The Un-Marrying Project, about a protest movement devoted to legalizing same-sex marriage in New York City, was produced in New York City in April 2011 (Purple Rep), before same-sex marriage was made legal in New York State. He makes absolutely no claim whatsoever towards helping this social movement move forward, but is delighted that his play has now become a “period piece.” He hopes to tour that show, so look for it in other states around the country… at some point. His other plays include My Therapist, The Cat Person, Oh, Magic Bag…, So Retarded - A Play For Idiots, bender/gender/straight/&neutered, Vicky Victim, Social Work (a nightmare), The Worst Person In The Whole Entire World Of All Time Ever. His most recent New York productions are The Myths We Need - Or- How To Begin produced by Purple Rep, and Your Boyfriend May Be Imaginary produced by The Management Theater Company. He has been a three-time winner of the John Golden Award for Drama, a resident at the Edward Albee Foundation, and is a member of The Dramatists Guild. His work has been excerpted in The Best Men's Monologues (2009), Best Woman's Stage Monologues and Scenes (2009), and the forthcoming 2013 edition of Best Woman's Stage Monologues and Scenes. Larry is the Artistic Director of Purple Rep, a small, independent theatre company, which will ultimately become a floating repertory/collective of playwrights, empowering stage-writers to control the means of production.
For the second installment of Tech for Theater Makers we chatted with Christopher Ashworth founder of Tixato, an online ticketing system built with theater makers in mind. (He also gave us a sneak peek at new features and enhancements coming soon. Screen shots below!)
What is Tixato?
Tixato is a fast, friendly way to run your box office and sell tickets.
For patrons, Tixato is the easiest and most pleasant way to buy a ticket to see a show. There are no surprise fees, and the checkout process is quick and painless. Tixato doesn't make people sign up for an account just to buy a ticket. It doesn't make them click through ten pages of ugly and confusing forms. It's just simple and fast.
For theaters, Tixato is the best way to manage your box office. It pulls everything into a single, elegant tool which doesn't take weeks of training to use. We've included online ticket sales, season subscriptions and memberships, coupon codes, a sophisticated box office interface, ticket collection, patron CRM, and reporting tools. We've left out all the nasty stuff like long-term contracts, high fees, or a difficult signup process. You can literally sign up and start selling tickets in a few minutes, and there is no cost to use it until or unless you are processing credit cards.
How did you come up with the idea for Tixato?
We got the idea simply from going to shows and talking to our friends. There are several dozen products out there for selling tickets online, and they're almost all terrible. I'd sit there wanting to buy a single ticket to my friend's show, and it would take me 15 minutes to do it. It's just a horrible experience to force people to go through every time they want to see your show.
When I started talking to my friends who manage theaters, they told me that the management side of these products is even worse than the patron side. Getting basic information about your patrons, running basic reports, is often difficult or impossible. Or the ticket sales database is not integrated with the patron database, which is just insane. Beyond the software, theaters are often forced to sign up for multi-year contracts, and often receive very poor support.
We know we can do better. This stuff should not be something you dread using. Frankly, I think it should be fun. People have learned to fear it because the tools are so bad. We're changing that.
Any success stories from theater makers using Tixato?
Tixato is a young product, but we've been really encouraged by the reports we've heard back so far. Last week one of our venues told us, "We had a guest last night say that the online purchase interface was the easiest way I have bought tickets to ANY theater show all year."
That made us feel great, and that we're on the right track.
Any plans for enhancements or new features?
Many plans! As I said, Tixato is still a young product. Every day we're pushing it forward, taking feedback from our venues about what needs to be improved, and working very hard to improve it.
We'll often release several enhancements in a week, because we deploy small updates quickly and regularly.
In the long term, we've had many requests to support seating charts. Right now we only support general admission style venues, but many venues have said they're ready to use it as soon as we add assigned seating. So that's definitely on the radar.
And for fun, have you ever been in or involved with a production?
Not yet, but most of the theaters in Baltimore are either using it now or moving to use it soon, so there's a chance.
It took me about five years to get involved with a production using QLab, so I'm in no rush.
SNEAK PEEK below! (These enhancements will be coming to Tixato soon.)
When I was starting out, I spent a lot of time at the post office. It made me feel pretty good. I’d go through my dog-eared copy of Dramatists Sourcebook, searching for theatres to send my plays to. I carefully wrote out my query letters, printed my ten page samples, polished my resume, and then it was off to the post office to send out the carefully pressed envelopes of hope.
I had a policy that kept me going: “Make sure that there’s never a day when something amazing couldn’t arrive in the mail.” I spent a lot of days staring at the mailbox, hoping to get good news.
It took theatres an eternity to respond, if they ever did, so every few months I’d send out another round of letters. On occasion I would receive a reply from a theatre. Almost always it was something along the lines of, “Your play does not seem like a good fit for our theatre at this time.” Which I accurately translated as “get lost.” Rarely, someone would say that they liked the sample and would like to see the full script, in which case I would race to print it and mail it off only to wait for the inevitable, “Your play does not seem like a good fit for our theatre at this time.”
Last month, flush with success from a couple of well-reviewed shows, I mailed out another round. This time I could quote newspapers, cite production dates, include pictures of the plays –- I thought I had a pretty airtight case to make that these important theatres should at least read the plays I sent.
My response? Crickets. Nothing.
When I was a freshman in college, I met a guy who would later become a very good friend of mine, Rick. Rick was in theatre and had seized my college’s liberal attitude towards directing shows to direct a play in the winter of our freshman year. I believe the play was Other People’s Money. Anyway, Rick auditioned the show, rehearsed it, and built the set himself.
Unfortunately, as this was the first show Rick had ever directed, he had somehow missed the day in technical theatre where they explained that you build sets with screws, not nails. (For those who’ve never built a set before, that’s because you want to be able to take the thing apart at the end and re-use the wood for something else.) Rick used nails. And the set he constructed in our tiny theatre was massive.
We did amazing things in our student-directed theatre, which was a tiny 99-seat space in the basement of one of the dorms. Unfortunately, since there was a new play every week, you could only begin building your set on Sunday of production week. And when you’re using nails, and no one is helping you, and you’re planning on building something massive, that means you hook up an IV drip of Diet Coke into your veins and never go back to your dorm room. Rick slept in the theatre for about an hour or two when he would pass out at seven in the morning. I’m sure the residents of our dorm could hear him at night, like some ghost, hammering away at three, four, five in the morning.
My friend Colin found him one morning, staring in exhausted horror at his hands, which were covered in blisters. Colin got some bandages and helped tape up his hands. Rick said, “Make sure you tape them so I can still hold the hammer.”
So, with his hands wrapped in tape like a mummy, Rick finished his stupidly constructed set in time for the show.
I think about Rick’s hands when I’m sending out my scripts. I’m doing this the wrong way, I’m sure. I’m using a hammer and nails when I ought to be using screws. I keep pounding away and it hurts, but I don’t know any other way to do it.
I take solace from the fact that Rick did manage to complete that set though, with a working donut machine, in time for opening night. So – even though you’re doing things wrong, stupid, dogged determination may yet win the day.
And I still check the mailbox every day.
Visit Don's website: http://www.donzolidis.com/
Playscripts playwright Elizabeth Meriwether is busy writing and producing New Girl, but hasn't forgotten her playwriting roots.
Are you working on any plays at the moment?
I'm not! I'm currently writing and producing Season Two of the TV show that I created, New Girl. I'd love to work on a new play in the future.
What are the differences among writing for TV, theater and film?
In my experience, writing for TV and film means putting more emphasis on the plot. In the theater, dialogue can be the story-- the way that characters talk to each other can be an event in the theater. In TV and film, more things have to "happen". You can feel it if the plot slows down or stops moving forward on screen.
Who helped you along the way, as far as your playwriting career?
Many many people. Toni Dorfman was my professor at college who inspired me to write plays. The director Shira Milikowsky directed my first play in New York. The director Alex Timbers asked me to write a play for his theater company that became Heddatron. Kim Rosenstock, who was working at Ars Nova, got me my first public reading. (She now writes on my TV show!) Evan Cabnet directed two of my plays in New York. Jenny Gersten produced my first professional production and got me to write television as well. Marsha Norman and Chris Durang taught me at Juilliard. I also had internships at Playwrights Horizons and New Dramatists that really introduced me to a lot of people and taught me a lot about the New York theater world.
Any tips for aspiring cross medium dramatists?
Every writer should try to write cross medium-- you don't know what you can do until you try it. If you've never written TV and film before, try to get your hands on some scripts-- read as many screenplays and teleplays as you can. They're fascinating and also much less intimidating than watching the finished product. Seeing it on the page you might be surprised by how familiar it feels-- I could never watch a movie and think: I can do that, but I felt like I could get my mind around writing a screenplay once I saw it on the page.
Did you ever act in or write a play in high school?
Yes, but what happens in high school should stay in high school...
-- Elizabeth Meriwether
Other Elizabeth Meriwether plays published by Playscripts, Inc. include Heddatron, Poor Bob, Particle Board, Nicky Goes Goth, and Oliver Parker! Playscripts, Inc. is also proud to publish Elizabeth Meriwether: Collected Short Plays.
Because of the overwhelming number of excellent submissions, the Playscripts, Inc literary department has decided to publish two finalists in addition to the winning play. Those finalists are Lovers, Lunatics, and Poets by Kelly McAllister, based on a pitch he wrote, and Sadie And The Package by Ben Kingsland, based on a pitch by Emilio Rodriguez.
Through the contest, we hoped to facilitate collaborations between theatre teachers, artists and fans who might be miles apart (both in space and style). We were thrilled with the smart, engaging, surprising new plays these virtual partnerships delivered.
Thank you to all the playwrights, pitchers and voters who participated in the contest. Be on the lookout for all three plays in the next few months!