Exclusive Interview with Chris Holbrook, writer of “Ski Lift”

Chris Holbrook

Chris Holbrook

Inspiration struck on a ski lift. Chris Holbrook discusses his play, Ski Lift, which will be published in the fall issue of Proscenium Journal in early September.

What was your inspiration for this play?

A ski lift, for me, is the perfect place for great theater. You’re stuck with strangers whom you would never talk to otherwise, and there is no escape. Even better, once you arrive at the top of the mountain, you’ll probably never see them again. I love that too. You spend all this time getting to know them and then you’ve got about two seconds to say goodbye.

I started thinking about this play when I was on a ski lift in France. I was skiing alone, and half the time I would ride with total strangers. The lift was long, and we had plenty of time to small talk, or in some cases, talk about things that I’ve never discussed with anyone since. Now I don’t want to suggest that I had deeply profound discussions with these people. But at the same time, it wasn’t small talk either. The other half of the time, I rode up alone, and, surrounded by a beauty that bordered on the dream-like, I had plenty of time to think about these conversations—as well as Life’s Profound Questions that most of us succeed in blocking out during our daily lives. Somewhere in between these lifts, usually on the way down, “Ski Lift” began to percolate.

What was the most challenging part of writing this play?

As is often the case, it’s the cutting and revising, not the writing, that nearly kills you.

What playwrights have inspired you?

Recently, Joe Orton, Neil Labute, Alan Ayckbourn.

Why did you start writing plays?

I got tired of convincing myself not to write them.

What projects are you working on now?

Too many. The question is, how do I get these projects produced?

What kind of theatre excites you?

Almost anything. The one exception is the skeleton-in-the-closet, family-reunion dramas. But even those, if they’re funny, and if the acting is great, I still enjoy.

Watch this blog for our last exclusive interview with David Jacobi and then our September release!

Exclusive Interview with Augusto Frederico Amador, writer of “Kissing Che”

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Augusto Frederico Amador

Augusto Frederico Amador discusses his play, Kissing Che, which will be published in the fall issue of Proscenium Journal in early September.

What was your inspiration for this play?

I’m very obsessed with historical events and the impact on human lives that they exact, whether just or unjust. What caught my attention was that the persecution of homosexuals by the Castro regime was not very well known, at least by most Americans. So through my imagination, I found myself compelled to tell the stories of the persecuted. More obsessed than inspired I guess you could say. And in Kissing Che, one of the perspectives was through Reina, a fictional Cuban female impersonator.

What do you want the audience to come away with?

I want the audience to experience what Reina and Tamika experienced — the guilt, the shame and finally the redemption. As the poet Rilke would say, “To begin is violent.” And that is particularly true of these two.

What was the most challenging part of writing this play?

Well, I’m not gay, nor have I have I ever been a drag queen. So, it was important to allow these people to talk as human beings and not get caught up in perceptions. And once I allowed my imagination to roam — that is let Reina, Tamika, Mirabella and Derek just speak to each other as people — I knew I could start writing their stories.

Why did you start writing plays?

It’s safe to say that one could label me as a loner. Solitude has for the most part come easy to me. And well, writing requires solitude, so it’s been a good fit.

What projects are you working on now?

I just finished a play called the Book of Leonidas which centers around a small time Dominican-American hustler selling loosies on a block in Queens that his deceased and legendary crime lord father used to rule over in the 1970s. It’s a play that asks if it’s possible for a son to escape the sins of the father. And I’ve begun a new play about a young prison caretaker working in a hospice in San Quentin taking care of the dying inmates while struggling to come to terms with his accepting the consequences of his guilt. Redemption ain’t an easy road.

What advice do you have for playwrights starting out?

Love your solitude.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Yes, special thanks to my family, director Victor Maog, the Latino Theater Alliance, the Public Theater and my past mentor Diana Castle. As she says, “The work informs your life.”

A Statement from Damon Chua, writer of “Black Coffee Green Tea”

Damon Chua discusses his play, Black Coffee Green Tea, which will be published in the fall issue of Proscenium Journal in early September.

Damon Chua, photo by Win Lubin

Damon Chua, photo by Win Lubin

I am a playwright of color and committed to creating opportunities for artists of all color. To that end, all my plays, full-length and the shorter ones, are ethnically diverse or are designed to allow for color-blind casting. Black Coffee Green Tea is no exception. The piece calls for four actors – three Asian and one black. I think it is a combination that is uncommon. I also think it is needed. Through the juxtaposition of different ethnicities on stage, I hope not only to highlight stereotypical views we often harbor of one another, but also to challenge the audience on such thinking.

Of course, I also like to entertain, and Black Coffee Green Tea is clearly a comedy. I believe that if we can laugh about our differences, the more likely we are to see our similarities, and the quicker we will emerge into a post-racial world, where such labels are no longer necessary. I may be considered naïve and too optimistic about this matter, but hope springs eternal. That is why I write.

One of the challenges about writing this play is building up a stereotype and then tearing it down – there is only so much anyone can do in ten minutes, across four characters, while cleaving to a narrative that is compelling from start to finish. However successful I have been on this front, I am proud of this play, for its somewhat subversive transgressions wrapped in an easy-to-swallow candy patina.

I admire plays that are political without being preachy, cutting-edge without being self-conscious. I am currently working on a full-length piece, incidentally titled “Optimism,” on how the social optimism of the 1960s morphed into the capitalistic optimism of the 1980s. Like Black Coffee Green Tea, it is ostensibly funny while dealing with serious issues at its core. I guess that is where I am as a playwright, and truth be told, it is not a bad place to be.

Exclusive Interview with Andrea Lepcio, writer of “Looking for the Pony”

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Andrea Lepcio, photo by Joey Stocks

Over the next week, we will be publishing an interview each day with one of our playwrights. Read this exclusive interview with Andrea Lepcio, and then read her play, Looking for the Pony, in the fall issue of Proscenium Journal, to be published in early September. 

What was your inspiration for this play?

I woke up writing the play in the middle of the night about six months after my sister died. It is a true story and suddenly I felt moved to try to capture the extraordinary experience that was cancer. I wrote a 20-minute play that went on to be done by several festivals and got published. The second director and cast asked me to write a full length version. I said “She’s dead, what do you want from me.” But with their encouragement, I went back to writing. The core of this supportive group was Michelle Hurd, Adrienne Hurd (yes, sisters) and Barbara Gulan. I wrote and tossed out pages. We would get together to hear it. I was resisting much of what the play wanted to be. Finally, my mentor, who is Big Writer in the play, said why don’t you tell the story chronologically. I sat down and it started to feel right — hard and painful — but right. Different notions of the play caused the original group to disperse and I found new colleagues as I moved toward production. That was also sad, but sometimes that can happen as a work finds its life.

What do you want the audience to come away with?

I love sharing my sister with audiences. So first that they have to joy of coming to know this wonderful person. I want them, of course, to have a catharsis, but it is very important to me that they are released by the end of the play. J. Smith Cameron who originated the role of Oisie really helped me with this. It was her idea to bring their familiar mantra in as the closing line of the play. I always loved how she delivered that line because I think she gave audiences what they needed. Release from the pain back to the fullness of life which is, of course, what had to happen for Oisie to be able to go on. And for me.

What was the most challenging part of writing this play?

That I was writing me. I wanted to write my sister. I was less interested in writing me. I found my story much less compelling. I had to dig in to allow myself to write the fullness of our relationship. She was helping me give birth to my new life as she was fighting for her own life.

What playwrights have inspired you?

So many, truly. I had the great joy of studying with Irene Fornes, Tina Howe and Milan Stitt (Big Writer). Beckett is a beacon. Williams is an invitation. Current writers I go to school on include Lisa Kron, Janine Nabers, Kimber Lee, Will Eno, and more. I think we are in a very rich time for playwriting.

Why did you start writing plays?

I wanted to be an actor when I was little, but got derailed by conservative parents. When I came back to acting as an adult, I got involved with a new theater that became the Mint Theater. At the time, they were offering classes and one was playwriting. I took it…for fun. It was like meeting myself. It had never previously occurred to me to be a writer, but that class was life changing. Does that answer the question? Suddenly I had stories I wanted to tell and I fell in love, specifically, with dialogue as a way to tell stories. I got teased a lot as a kid for talking too much, and I guess it is true that I love what people say and that we say things to get what we want, to figure life out, to make connections. I also feel once I discovered writing, I found it to be a great way to think about the world. It allows me to ask questions and ponder all the things about life that I don’t understand. So much! It is a way to reach for….truth.

What projects are you working on now?

I am kind of insane. I write multiple projects at once. The lead project of the moment is a climate change play specifically about the ozone agreement (Montreal Protocol) and the contrast between the success of that agreement and the failure to date of the climate agreement (Kyoto Protocol). It is a big fat research dependent play about extraordinary people doing the good work. I’ve got a new rock musical with Ariel Aparicio called Lf&Tms. And I’ll be doing a workshop this fall with a dance theater piece Me You Us Them with director Jo Cattell.

What kind of theatre excites you?

I like theater that is intimate with the audience (as opposed to distancing). I like wild and theatrical. I like to see things I’ve never seen before. I have to have diverse casts. All white theater bores me.

What advice do you have for playwrights starting out?

Write every day. Tina Howe told me to do that about 15 years ago. She said that way I can write poorly for… And she paused. I thought she would say a day or at most a week. She said for four months. That struck fear in my heart. She said, I can write poorly for four months because I know I’m going to write every day and eventually I will start writing better again. I’ve written every day ever since.

Andrea Lepcio is best known for Looking for the Pony, finalist for the Dramatists Guild Hull-Warriner Award and for the NEA Outstanding New American Play Award. It was presented in a “Rolling World Premiere” Off-Broadway at Vital Theatre Company in New York and Synchronicity Performance Group in Atlanta and had several subsequent productions. Plays and musicals under development include World Avoided, Strait of Gibraltar, Central Avenue Breakdown, Room 16 and Lf&Tms. Andrea is the Dramatists Guild Fellows Program Director. M.F.A. Dramatic Writing, Carnegie Mellon University. B.A. Human Ecology, College of the Atlantic. Andrea lives in Harlem, New York and Seal Cove, Maine.

Watch this blog for more exclusive interviews from Proscenium‘s four other playwrights!

Announcing Final Play for Fall Issue!

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David Jacobi, photo by Patrick Weishampel

We are delighted to announce our final play, Mai Dang Lao, written by the exceptionally talented David Jacobi! Portlanders may recognize this play from the 2013 JAW Festival at Portland Center Stage. This play was also a Great Plains Theatre Conference MainStage Selection and a 2013 O’Neill National Playwrights Conference Semifinalist. David Jacobi’s plays have been performed in theaters throughout the U.S. and in China, including the PeterJay Sharp Theater, FringeNYC, Penghao Theatre, and 798 Dashanzi Art District. His work has been developed at Cutting Ball Theater’s RISK IS THIS (Ex Machina), WordBRIDGE (The Monster Below, prev. SDO), the Kennedy Center’s MFA Playwright’s Workshop (Widower), and The Flea (Battlecruiser Aristotle). He is a winner of the Holland New Voices Award and has been nominated for the Weissburger Award. He received a BFA in Dramatic Writing from Purchase College and is currently enrolled in UC San Diego’s MFA Playwriting program under the tutelage of Naomi Iizuka. David is co-founder of the Monster Down! Theatre Company, a collaborative theatre group operating out of NYC and Beijing. Congratulations, David!

Watch this blog for exclusive interviews with our playwrights and the release of our fall issue in early September! 

Announcing Fourth Play for Fall Issue!

 

Headshot_Chris_HolbrookWe are thrilled to announce our fourth play, Ski Lift, by the talented Chris Holbrook! Ski Lift was the Grand Prize Winner of Theatre Oxford’s National 10-minute play competition and the winner of Longwood University’s 0 to 60 ten-minute play contest, among others. Chris has written two full-length plays, “Les Fantômes” and “Doorman,” and a number of other short plays. He also produces and directs documentaries, and is the director of Rough Cuts, an organization in San Francisco that supports and develops the work of documentary filmmakers. Congratulations, Chris!

We will be announcing our final play tomorrow — stay tuned! 

Announcing Third Play for Fall Issue!

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“Kissing Che” cover art by Ryan Murphy

We are excited to announce our third play, Kissing Che, written by the remarkable Augusto Frederico Amador! Kissing Che was initially developed with the Emerging Writers Group at NYC’s Public Theater, received a workshop production at the Celebration Theatre in LA, was a finalist for the prestigious Terrence Mcnally Award in 2013, and was listed in HowlRound’s “101 Plays by The New Americans, or on Latinidad.” Augusto was a playwriting fellow with the 2010/2011 Emerging Writers Group at the esteemed Public Theater in New York. In addition to the Public Theater’s Spotlight Series, his plays have also been presented at The Lark Play Development Center, Terra Nova Collective’s Groundbreaking Series, Repertorio Espanol, Red Room, Queens Theater in The Park, INTAR Theatre, the Celebration Theatre, Audrey-Skirball Kenis Theater Projects, Playwrights Arena, The Blank Theater, Ricardo Montalban Theater, Imagined Life Theater, John Anson Ford Theatre, the Inkubator new play reading series at the Skylight Theater, and participated in a playwright residency at the Arkansas Repertory Theater in Little Rock, Ark. His plays have been finalists or semi-finalists for the Eugene O’Neill Conference, Sundance Theater Lab, INTAR Playwright’s Lab, The Metlife National Latino Playwriting Award, Bay Area Playwrights Foundation, Kitchen Dog Theater and the Hormel New Play Festival at the Phoenix Theater. Recently, Augusto was named a finalist for the 2013 Clifford Odets Ensemble New Play Commission from the Lee Strasberg Theater & Film Institute and was named one of eight playwrights for the 2014 Latino Theater Alliance’s New Work Writers Circle. Congratulations, Augusto!

Watch this blog for two more play announcements! 

Announcing Second Play for Fall Issue!

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Damon Chua, photo by Win Lubin

We are delighted to announce our second play, Black Coffee Green Tea, written by the exceptionally talented Damon Chua! Black Coffee Green Tea was produced by A­-Squared Theatre Workshop in Chicago in 2013, in a production the Chicago Beat called “hilarious.” Damon won an Ovation Award for his noir drama Film Chinois, which was published by Samuel French. His short play Stuffed Grape Leaves was picked as one of the Best 10-Minute Plays of 2009 and was published by Smith & Kraus. He is a current member of The Public Theater Emerging Writers Group. Congratulations, Damon!

Stay tuned — we will be announcing three more exciting plays soon! 

Announcing First Play for Fall Issue!

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Andrea Lepcio, photo by Joey Stocks

Over the next week, we’ll be announcing each of the plays we’re publishing in our fall issue. We’re delighted to share our first: 

Proscenium Journal is thrilled to announce that Looking for the Pony, written by Andrea Lepcio, will be the first play published in our fall issue! Looking for the Pony was a finalist for the National Endowment for the Arts Outstanding New American Play Award and the Dramatists Guild Hull­-Warriner Award. It was presented in a “Rolling World Premiere” Off­-Broadway at Vital Theatre Company in New York and Synchronicity Performance Group in Atlanta and had several subsequent productions. Andrea Lepcio is the Dramatists Guild Fellows Program Director. She holds an M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing from Carnegie Mellon University and B.A. in Human Ecology from the College of the Atlantic. Congratulations, Andrea!

Watch here for more exciting announcements! 

Proscenium Chooses Plays for Fall Issue — Stay Tuned!

imagesWe had a lot of scripts to sort through… (211 in total)

The submissions committee at Proscenium Journal has just finished reviewing 211 plays from all over the globe, and we have begun contacting the playwrights who will be published in our fall issue! It was a very difficult decision; we were greatly impressed with the quality of the submissions. We are thrilled with the plays we have selected — they come from incredibly exciting contemporary playwrights and represent some of the greatest new work being produced around the globe. We are excited to share these plays with you! Keep watching our website for updates — we will be announcing the plays and the playwrights very soon!

Missed the August 1st deadline? That’s okay! We will be accepting submissions for our winter issue until December 5th! For submission guidelines, go to: https://prosceniumjournal.com/submit/