Meet the Playwright: Ben Thorpe

Ben Thorpe is the man behind the final Bare Essentials reading in this summer’s festival, Baby Shower for the Anti-Christ, happening this Wednesday August 22 at 7:30pm.

Hi Ben! We’re looking forward to your upcoming reading. Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a local Atlanta actor and playwright, originally from Snellville, GA. I went to Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA and lived in New York City before moving back to Atlanta in 2015. I’ve acted in productions around town including ‘Hand to God’ and ‘Candide (Alliance)’, ‘Titanic’ (Serenbe), ‘Nobody Loves You’ (Horizon), and ‘Big Fish’ (Theatrical Outfit). I’ll be in the Actor’s Express production of Steve Yockey’s ‘Reykjavik’ this fall. I recently wrote the book for ‘Red: A Crayon’s Musical’ with music and lyrics by John Burke (based on the book by Michael Hall) that had its premiere reading at Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival earlier this August.

Can you tell us a little about the play we’ll be seeing on Wednesday?
A small, unstable cult in the suburbs of a southern town is prepping for a celebration of the birth of the Antichrist. When an outsider is invited for the evening, secrets about the past come to light and threaten to ruin everything the group has built.
Where did you get the idea for this play? What made you want to write it?
It was a weird series of ideas that kind of crashed in my head at the right time. I was re-watching ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ at home and had the thought- I wonder what that baby shower would look like? Not a week later, I had a conversation with my best friend, a female actor in NYC, about darkly comedic roles for women in their 20’s. There aren’t a ton. I started writing the opening scene to ‘try it out’, to see where it went. Fast forward to months later and I had the shape of the play. In the years since, it’s been worked and edited and is now more about friendship, trauma, and talking goats. The characters have taken on lives of their own and the relationships between them have been what’s really interested me.
How did you get into playwriting?
I’ve always written in private, and only in the last few years have I let anyone see my stuff. I took a course with local playwright Neeley Gossett in 2015 and have been writing pretty steadily since.
What is the importance of staged readings in your own creative process and the development of your play?
It’s INCREDIBLY important for any new work, but especially this one. It’s a comedy that delves into some pretty dark subject matter. It’s invaluable to get feedback from artists that can view the play with fresh eyes and give honest feedback. I did an informal reading of this play a couple of years ago and got to working on it with new eyes. I’m excited to have the opportunity to do this next reading with Essential.
What do you hope to gain from this Bare Essentials experience?
I’m hoping to learn from what others see in the play. I’m an actor most of the time, and feedback is invaluable in that field. I view writing the same way. It’s a vital part of the journey.
What has your experience with this reading been so far?
Natalie Fox (who’s sooo awesome!) has been working and talking with me about the play, which has been fantastic. We did an informal table read in late July with the cast for this Essential reading and I got some great feedback. The cast of women that will be reading on the 22nd is reason enough to come out- trust me!
Where else can we see your work, either recently, currently or in the coming year(s)?
As of now, ‘Red: A Crayon’s Musical’ is looking at a full production for this upcoming Spring.
How did you find out about Essential and the playwriting contest?
I saw a bunch of shows (while in high school) that were produced by Essential and I loved seeing stuff Essential produced in town. When I moved back to Atlanta, I wanted to try my hand at letting others read my writing and Essential is such a great platform for the incredibly rich talent pool of writers in Georgia.

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Baby Shower for the Anti-Christ will be read at the West End Performing Arts Center this Wednesday night at 7:30pm. Directed by Natalie Fox. All readings are free and open to the public, donations gladly accepted.

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August 23 post-show conversation with Unitarian Universalist Revs. Duncan Teague and Jonathan Rogers, and playwright Avery Sharpe

Join us after the August 23rd performance of Woke for a post-performance talkback featuring Rev. Duncan Teague, Rev. Jonathan Rogers, and playwright Avery Sharpe!

Unitarian Universalists have explicitly committed for over 20 years on a national level to the work of anti-racism. One of the ways Unitarian Universalists honor this commitment is when we heed the voices of non-male, non-white, disabled, poor, and queer leaders within and beyond our faith movement in answering the calls of love and justice.

WOKE by Avery Sharpe is a story that follows two young men who are best friends. Even though one is black and the other is white, they have always lived and loved each other like family. However, after the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille, they both arduously discover how to navigate their different world viewpoints with justice, patience, and love. Through family, romance, and their own friendship, they painstakingly and comically explore what it truly means to be woke.

Rev. Jonathan Rogers is an accomplice to the work of dismantling white supremacy. He has been a Unitarian Universalist for 26 years, and completed 8 years of ministerial service, and he is currently Interim Minister at Northwest UU Congregation in Sandy Springs. Jonathan grew up in New England and graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 2012. www.NWUUC.org

Rev. Duncan Teague enjoyed a career in HIV/AIDS education, advocacy, and research coordination when he accepted this specific call to lead the establishment of Abundant LUUv Congregation. Teague is certain that at this time The West End community of Atlanta is ready for and has been waiting on the Abundant Love Unitarian Universalist (UU) Congregation. www.ALUUV.org

 

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Meet the Playwright: Courtney Earl

Courtney Earl wrote tonight’s Bare Essentials reading, Aposteriori. Read on to learn a little more about tonight’s playwright and play!

Hi Courtney! Can you tell us a little about yourself, both personally and professionally?
I got hooked on playwrighting in college when I entered Kennesaw State University’s “Ten Minute Play Festival.” I have been submitting my work to festivals at professional theatres ever since then. I graduated with a BA in Philosophy and a BA in theatre. I got the philosophy degree to improve my writing, and through the marriage of these two degrees I have tried to produce meaningful work. When I am not writing plays, I’m working as a scenic painter, puppeteer, puppet designer and chef.

In your own words, can you tell us a little about the play we’ll be seeing?
Aposteriori is a term to describe knowledge that can only be understood through experience. This play uses Plato’s Allegory of the Cave as a device to frame the process of learning about the existence of rape culture. The process of escaping the hypothetical cave of ignorance is described as excruciating, but once a prisoner learns the truth, they can never go back to living in the cave of ignorance. Rape culture is often not understood without Aposteriori knowledge. Once someone gains that knowledge, as painful as it is, it is impossible to go back to denying it exists. This play follows a group of college students (the age group most likely to experience rape. 1in 4 women experience rape. Among college students, it is 1 in 2) who discover that there is a serial rapist on campus. In their efforts to discover who the rapist is and stop him, they also discover how rape culture has allowed for these crimes to go unpunished for as long as they have.

Where did you get the idea for this play? What made you want to write it?
My own experiences with rape culture inspired it. I had hoped some good would come out of putting this play on. I wanted people to see that there is very little justice for victims, and in addition realize that victims aren’t usually in a mentally stable enough place, post-incident, to seek what little justice could be available for them. Which is why they need strong allies who understand what it is they are going through enough to help them.

How did you get into playwriting?
I entered a play in the Ten Minute Play Festival at Kennesaw State University. I’ve been hooked ever since.

What is the importance of staged readings in your own creative process and the development of your play?
I need to see where the play doesn’t flow, where details don’t add up, and how to make the play impactful without traumatizing my audience.
What do you hope to gain from this Bare Essentials experience?
I hope I can gain the insight I need to make the final revisions on this play.
Where else can we see your work, either recently, currently or in the coming year(s)?
I’m in the process of writing a few new plays now. If all goes well, I will be submitting my work to festivals in Wisconsin and Atlanta.

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Aposteriori will be read at the West End Performing Arts Center tonight at 7:30pm. Directed by Kati Grace Brown. All readings are free and open to the public, donations gladly accepted.

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Suryana Cuisine + Essential Theatre July 27

This Friday,  July 27,  join Essential Theatre as we kick off opening weekend of the 20th Essential Theatre Play Festival right, with a special preshow reception provided by Suryana Cuisine.

Join us at 6:00 for a half-hour presentation and update about the Syrian Refugee Theatre Project we started this past spring thanks to a grant from Turner Voices, and use promo code TEN to stay and see the opening night performance of Built to Float for just $10! Enjoy great food and conversation; hear about this exciting new project Essential has under way; and help us get the 20th Annual Essential Theatre Play Festival off to the start it deserves.

It will be an incredible evening of fun, food, and fellowship celebrating all the richness, talent and diversity that Georgia has to offer.  We’ll see you at the theatre!

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What: 20th Festival Opening Night:  Preshow Reception at 6, catered by Suryana Cuisine*, followed by opening night of the World Premiere of Built to Float by Rachel Graf Evans at 8.
Where: West End Performing Arts Center, 945 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd, Atlanta, GA
When: Friday, July 27, 2018, 6-8pm
*Reception is free, no RSVP required. Purchase tickets for the show at http://www.essentialtheatre.com/buy-tickets-now/

program supported in part by

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What’s Essential in July 2018?

The 2018 Essential Theatre Play Festival opens THIS MONTH!

The twentieth annual Essential Theatre Play Festival is almost here! Festival passes and individual tickets are now on sale. Get yours today!


Essential Artists Onstage

Are you an Essential artist? Would you like us to feature your work in our email newsletter? Let us know! Email info@essentialtheatre.com with details about projects you’d like us to share.

In Atlanta:

The latest scripted show at Dad’s Garage, Black Nerd opens Friday July 13 and runs through August 4. Featuring 2018 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award (co)winner Avery Sharp in the title role. “When race and geekdom collide you get a Black Nerd.”

 

 

Opening August 10 at Out of Box.
A hit with Essential audiences when it premiered as part of the 2012 Festival, BatHamlet is back in town! Brought to you this time around by Out of Box Theatre.

 

 

And Beyond:

The Georgia Theatre Conference, the official theatre organization for the state of Georgia, is pleased to announce that playwright and screenwriter Topher Payne will be inducted into the Georgia Theatre Hall of Fame at the 54th Annual Georgia Theatre Conference in Savannah hosted by Georgia Southern University Armstrong Campus. The GA Hall of Fame recognizes working professionals and educators who have made a significant impact to theatre and or/theatre education in Georgia and the US, and who have ties to the state of Georgia.

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A Message for Mother’s Day, from Essential’s Artistic Director Peter Hardy: 

My mother, Martha Nell Hardy, was an actress, educator and producer, with a lifelong passion for the theatre. For twenty years now I’ve been producing the annual Essential Theatre Festival, and that’s one of the ways in which I’ve tried to honor her memory.

Last year the Martha Nell Hardy Memorial Fund was established by an anonymous donor, with a gift of $10,000, to honor my mother and to provide financial stability and resources to the Essential Festival, a project that she supported and deeply believed in.

If you have a love of theatre and believe in our mission to develop and produce new plays by Georgia writers, I hope you will consider honoring your own mother by making a contribution to the Martha Nell Hardy Memorial Fund

Thank you,
Peter

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Syrian Refugee Theatre Project

Join Essential Theatre at 7pm on Thursday, April 12, 2018 in Angora Hall at the Clarkston Community Center

if you’re interested in finding out more about this project, networking, and exploring opportunities to get involved.

RSVP here.

About the Project:
Essential Theatre is beginning Phase 1 of a project on the subject of Syrian refugees, and we are looking for team members!
Thanks to support from Turner Voices, over the next three months we will be building relationships with and gathering the stories, insights and perspectives of Syrian refugees and their families from around metro-Atlanta through one-on-one interviews, story circles and community activities. We are interested in meeting any and all Syrian refugees, including those who came to Georgia by way of other countries first, those who have been here for years, and relatively new arrivals.
This phase of our larger Syrian Refugee Theatre Project will culminate in a multi-day intensive workshop retreat and a public presentation during the week of June 20 (World Refugee Day)

About Us:
Essential Theatre is the only theatre company exclusively dedicated to producing work by Georgia playwrights. We’ve been around for decades and are most well known for our annual play festival: this summer will be our 20th, in fact!
As for the “we” referenced in the project description: Essential is the umbrella organization,  Jennifer Kimball is the project coordinator, and we are in the process of collecting team members for this project right now. That’s why we’re reaching out to you, in fact: we will need people willing to share their stories, of course, but we are also looking for story collectors/interviewers, story sorters, translators and artists and writers willing to put together the public performance at the end. Training and support will be provided each step of the way, but we want to make sure we have all the project’s stakeholders represented in our creative team, not just Essential Theatre.

Our Ask(s):

  • Join us this Thursday, April 12, from 7-8:00pm at the Clarkston Community Center in Angora Hall to find out more about the project, network, and explore opportunities for involvement.
  • We are looking for guest speakers for a knowledge/context sharing speaker series in April and May. This speaker series will be free, accessible and open to the public. If you’re interested in attending the series or being a guest speaker, contact jennifer@essentialtheatre.com!
  • We will need story sharers, story collectors, translators, musicians and other artists in the coming months. If you are interested in any of these roles, we hope you’ll join us on Thursday evening or contact jennifer@essentialtheatre.com to start a conversation.
  • If you are a refugee or refugee service community member, we are interested in finding ways we can work together deeply and meaningfully, and not just create a theatre project. If there’s a way that our project can forward your goals, we are interested in finding out.

Thanks for reading!
We look forward to meeting you on Thursday!

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