PlayGround Announces 20th Season and Writers

At PlayGround’s 20th Season Kick-Off this past Monday, PlayGround Artistic Director Jim Kleinmann introduced the 2013-14 PlayGround Writers, including the 20 Resident Playwrights. Some of the names may look familiar:

PlayGround Resident Playwrights, representing some of PlayGround’s most distinguished alumni and a Who’s-Who of Bay Area writers, include Trevor Allen, Crish Barth, Tim Bauer, Cass Brayton, Erin Bregman, Garret Groenveld, Daniel Heath, Brady Lea, Aaron Loeb, Jonathan Luskin, Katie May, Evelyn Pine, Kenn Rabin, Mandy Hodge Rizvi, Robin Lynn Rodriguez, Diane Sampson, Ken Slattery, Martha Soukup, Tom Swift, and Ignacio Zulueta.

We’re Having Another Literary Event

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As you know, I’m a member of the Portuguese Artists Colony, “a collection of untrustworthy characters who gather regularly to engage in the disreputable act of writing.” We regularly stage performances of poetry, fiction, plays, screenplays, music and uncivil behavior — and July 7 is our next show, with some awesome guests:

  • Elizabeth Bernstein is the founding editor of the literary magazine The Big Ugly Review and teaches short story workshops at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto.
  • Seth Fischer’s writing is in Best Sex Writing 2013, PANK, The Rumpus, Buzzfeed, Guernica, and elsewhere, and he has a notable essay in The Best American Essays 2013.
  • Maw Shein Win was co-founder of Comet and is currently a co-publisher for Stretcher, plus she’s a freelancer at the SF Writers’ Grotto.
  • Heather Yager, of Ladies in Blouses, will provide the tunes.

Sunday, July 7
The Make-Out Room
3225 22nd St., SF
Show at 5:00 pm
Sliding scale $5-10

→ Good Criticism Encourages More | Writers on Writing : Medium

Good Criticism Encourages More

My friend (colleague? fellow PlayGround writer? other local tall playwright dude?) Aaron Loeb outlines a fantastic approach to criticism in his article on Medium, based on the idea of assuming the writer you are a critiquing is a “master.”

He calls is the “assumed master” approach. So instead of pointing out things that just don’t work because you are so much better than the writer, instead you assume she’s an expert in her craft and that there’s something you need to talk out so you can understand. The idea being that when you explain what worked, the master will learn what’s going in her work and be encouraged to do more of that. And when you explain where you couldn’t figure out why the master did something, “well, she may find that helpful too”:

It is vital that anyone creative disabuse themselves of the notion that their “I just didn’t get it,” or “Nope. Didn’t work for me,” are so much richer and more meaningful than anyone else’s utterances of the same shitty things. When someone opens themselves for critique, you have an opportunity to elevate them and yourself, to open a door to incredible possibilities that weren’t there just moments earlier. What could possibly be better than that?

A great approach, and one that’s getting a lot of love on Medium. Check it out.

→ Business Model: The Next Frontier | The Clyde Fitch Report

Business Model: The Next Frontier

Scott Walters (The Prof) on The Clyde Fitch Report:

I did a search on “innovation” and “theatre.” Here is what I found….Three theatre history books and a 1972 design book. And therein lies the problem….Business is obsessed with innovation, with change, with finding the Next Big Thing. Most of the books I listed above are about encouraging creative disruption in your organization, trying new business models to sell your products. Theatre? Not so much.

Reading at the Make-Out Room

In keeping with my latest trend of being asked to write stuff really, really quickly and then immediately present it to an audience – see last post about the Instant Play that I helped create for the Magic Theatre’s gala – on Sunday I was one of the participants in the Portuguese Artists Colony’s live writing challenge.

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For new readers, I’m a member of a literary group called PAC. We are not Portuguese, and we are not a colony, but we do present occasional evenings of art: readings, music, and something called live writing, where four writers are given a prompt and ten minutes to create something that’s immediately presented to the audience.

This show was a special show. First, because we were kicking off our new residency at the Make-Out Room, a fabulous place that has all the things I care about in a space: a bar and a stage. Second, because all the readers were from our sister reading series in Los Angeles: David Rocklin, Zoe Ruiz, Aisha Sloan and Joe Loya. Third, because we had an amazing musician named Jethro Jeremiah. Fourth, because Silvi Alcivar, who normally writes spur-of-the-moment poetry on a typewriter with no chance for revision, got to come back with a finished piece started last show. And fifth, because the live writing was Los Angeles against San Francisco.

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That’s right, we had an epic throwdown between the Portuguese Artists Colony and our Los-Angeles-based sister series, Roar Shack. Daniel Heath and I represented SF; Zoe Ruiz and Julia Ingalls stood up for LA. In the end, Daniel remained undefeated, but all the stuff was extremely good, and I think I may have the beginning of my next short story, about an Eagle Scout who places many, many “Missed Connections” ads on Craigslist.

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We also had a fantastic photographer there to document the whole thing, which is why I’ve included so many of them in this post. I like how the red light makes everything seem kind of seedy and dangerous, like writing should be.

Next show is in July. Follow the PAC blog to know exactly when.

So, I Was The Entertainment…

Thursday ended up being a really fun night: Can you guess who I was in this description?

Artistic Director Loretta Greco and an acclaimed Bay Area playwright are conjuring the ingredients for an Instant Play and cooking up a scheme for party-goers to become playwrights.

Forget the usual pre-dinner cocktail-hour silent auction — you’ll have the chance to cast your vote for the THEME, SETTING and PROPS for a crowd-sourced INSTANT PLAY to be written and performed THIS VERY NIGHT!

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Yup, I was the “acclaimed Bay Area playwright,” whipping up a 10-minute play written in 50 minutes based entirely on suggestions from donors at the Magic Theatre’s fundraising gala. No pressure!

Of course, it ended up being a complete blast, and together with two directors, five actors, two volunteers from the audience and the amazing Christopher Winslow on keyboards, we put together a pretty spectacular film noir-style play — complete with a volunteer playing a sultry Marilyn Monroe and an entire audience bursting into song.

Best of all, it turns out Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz was in the audience, and I got to meet him. He said he couldn’t imagine having to put together a coherent play with such odd bits of dialogue and props and whatnot, but then again, there’s no way I could imagine winning a Pulitzer Prize, so I think we are more than even.