Saturday, June 2, 2007

Summer is here!

Last night Lisa and I went to see the Quickies Festival at LiveGirls! Theatre, a great evening of short new works, all by women playwrights. I wrote about it for The Dramatist, which will run next month (See below for the full column). I'm always encouraged and inspiried when I see an evening of brand spanking new plays. Even if the plays aren't brilliant or particularly spectacular, its always good to see playwrights at work. And these plays were of a consistent quality--some more than others--and it also helps that the acting and the directing were top-notch. I'll be looking forward to seeing more shows there this season.


Below is what will run in The Dramatist magazine next month:

I’ve lived here just long enough to know that when the sun pokes its shiny head out of the clouds even for a nanosecond, Seattleites don shorts and sandals and head to Green Lake or Gasworks Park for some fun in the sun. So when summer days get longer and warmer and the sunlight gets so soft it’s reminiscent of the Mediterranean, everyone rushes outside to enjoy it.

Well, not everyone.

We have no shortage of theatre-loving fools who willingly stay indoors to do theatre.

What we do have a shortage of in the summer is play festivals. Unlike New York City, which seems to have a new summer play festival pop up every year, in Seattle they’re few and far between. With much dismay, the Seattle Fringe Festival closed up shop a few years ago and has yet to be revived, despite a lot of talk and desire to see it running again. But some wounds may need to heal first (and from what I hear, some people still need to get paid). Theatre Schmeater valiantly tried to mount Open Stage as a slimmed-down version of the festival, hoping to attract those companies already going to the Vancouver Fringe Festival, but unfortunately they received only half the applications they needed to make it happen.

There are those who feel it’s best to just let the Fringe Festival rest in peace, claiming that it was rife with shoddy productions. But even though the quality of the festival may have been inconsistent, we lost a critical venue for dramatists. It was a wonderful sandbox to play in, to develop new works, experiment with new forms, take some risks, and most importantly, an opportunity to interact with the theatrical community. I was excited to hear about the festival when moving here, only to become disappointed when I looked up the website to find it nonexistent. I’ll gladly buy a round of drinks for the theatre company that revives it. I know it’s not much of an incentive, but I hope somebody takes me up on it.

Just because the Fringe Festival isn’t around anymore doesn’t mean theatres are completely empty. There’s one festival that’s still going strong after eight years, the Quickies festival at LiveGirls! Dedicated to producing and developing new work by women since 1999, LiveGirls! premieres plays by national and local playwrights and continues to create workshops and readings to support script development. Meghan Arnette, Artistic Director of LiveGirls! calls the “short and sassy” festival an excellent and exciting showcase for short plays from dramatists not just in the Pacific Northwest but all over the country. It’s a yearly trademark for the Ballard-based theatre company and kicks off their season.

Aside from festivals, there are a few world premieres from the big houses this summer. It’s a busy year for Craig Lucas. Not only did he adapt Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya for Intiman, but that theater will also premiere his new play Prayer for My Enemy, directed by Bartlett Sher (their third-time collaboration). No doubt the next stop will be Broadway. And you can get your dose of prime poetry in action with the premiere of First Class at ACT—A Contemporary Theatre. This one person show about the legendary poet (and UW professor) Theodore Roethke is written by renowned local poet David Wagoner and stars Seattle actor John Aylward.

When you run out of Saturday BBQs, venture down to the Jewel Box theatre nestled in the Rendezvous Bar in Belltown for the Seattle Dramatists Open Box. The first six playwrights that sign up get ten minutes of material read by professional actors. The time limit doesn’t deter commitment to longer works; Kelleen Conway Blanchard wrote Small Town by bringing in each scene, ten minutes at a time. The real bonus is you can grab a microbrew from the bar and soak in some drama instead of sunshine.

Speaking of brews, I hope next summer I’ll be giving a toast to the saviors of the Seattle Fringe Festival.

Cheers!

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