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Interview with playwright Karen Wurl

Learn more about playwright Karen Wurl, whose play Cemetery Row is part of this year’s Bare Essentials reading series and will be read tomorrow night at 8pm.


About Karen Wurl:  
I was born in Chicago roughly a million years ago (55), and growing up I had an aunt who did theatre with the Playwrights Center at Hull House.  So although I grew up working class in the suburbs, I got to be around theatre and new plays, and I decided at an early age to be a playwright.  By high school, though, I had decided theatre was lame and so I missed out on that whole experience, sadly.  
I moved to Atlanta in 1983, and I raised three daughters here.  I got active in Atlanta theatre around 1987, and started having things produced and staged-read in 1988.  In the ’90s, I also started doing spoken word and slam poetry, but playwriting remains my favorite genre.
So, I lived in the Atlanta area till 2007, when I moved to Michigan to get an MFA in playwriting. I’ve been out of state ever since: 3 years in Kalamazoo, 1 year in Madison, WI, and then I wound up in Lubbock, TX, where I’m working on a PhD in Fine Arts focusing on theatre.  This should be my last year of course work, so I should be able to come back home to GA as soon as next summer, fingers crossed, to work on my dissertation.
 
About Cemetery Row:
I first began writing Cemetery Row in 2008 in Dramaturgy class at Western Michigan University – we were all required to turn in a creative project, either a documentary play, or an adaptation, or something else I forget quite what, but in any case, Cemetery Row is an adaptation of the romantic ballet Giselle, upon which I have been a bit fixated since I was a little girl who wanted to be a ballerina (this was before I settled on playwriting).  Giselle is a ghastly but delicious story about a girl who dies of a broken heart and these spirits, called Wilis, who are the departed souls of rejected and deceived young women who died “before their wedding days.”  It’s set in some kind of generic romantic European village setting; I moved my version to present day Milwaukee.  In that class, I was only required to write the first 15-20 pages of the play (we had many other assignments to do as well), but the play was going so well, I finished it and that first version was developed in the summer of 2009 in WMU’s New Play Project.  It also won best full-length play in our region’s Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, and had a staged reading there.  
I wound up revising the play to be my thesis play, and that version went through another developmental rehearsed reading process at the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre as part of Theatre K, Kalamazoo’s new play initiative.  Kalamazoo is actually quite a good town for playwrights; it has a very active theatre community, 2 colleges doing theatre, and lots of opportunity.  The version that resulted from that thesis/developmental reading process is the version you all are reading.
 
Where did you get the idea for this play? What made you want to write it?
I wanted to write this play because the image of an Ophelia-like young woman, driven mad by a broken heart, is a romanticized one, one I grew up with, and one I consider fairly messed up.  I think we as a culture get some kind of perverse gratification out of this figure.  That said, I don’t think Cemetery Row necessarily breaks any ground in working with this trope – we’ve got the dead girls, my version of the Wilis, who’ve moved from victims to victimizers, which still doesn’t solve anything – but I hope the play entertains at least.
 
What are your thoughts about being a playwright?
Being a playwright?  Don’t quit your day job(s).  Live, and don’t hold your breath.  I do it because there’s nothing else like it, and I’ve gotten really good at poverty.  I don’t expect a PhD is really going to change any of that for me anytime soon. 
 

What are your thoughts on Tuesday’s Bare Essentials reading of Cemetery Row?

Atlanta is my home, officially and emotionally, so it means a lot that this piece will be heard in Atlanta.  I have a happy history with the Essential Theatre because the Essential is doing great work on behalf of Georgia playwrights.  I try to submit a play every year!  

 
What’s next for you?
I have been directing and learning to direct, and I want to do more of that.  I have plans with my kids to work on (writing/pitching/producing) web- and/or TV-miniseries.  I hope to find teaching work in Atlanta next year so that I can support my dissertation habit, so anyone out there who knows where I might find adjunct work teaching Theatre and/or English classes, I’ve got experience with both, please hit me up on facebook…
I’m currently working on my dissertation – two plays and accompanying academic prose.  Both plays involve women and death.  That’s getting to be my signature.  Female-centric ghost plays.  
 
The Bare Essentials series is free and open to the public. Donations graciously accepted. Complimentary wine before and after the show. For more information on all the readings as well as the other plays in the festival, visit www.essentialtheatre.com 


 

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Interview with playwright Theroun Patterson

Interview with playwright Theroun Patterson

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Learn more about actor and playwright Theroun Patterson, winner of the 2011 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award and author of this Wednesday night’s Bare Essential play, That Uganda Play

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therounAbout That Uganda Play: I originally wrote the play in late 2011-early 2012 with a staged reading of the original draft with  Working Title Playwrights and Academy Theatre in January 2012.  The play started as a sort of knee jerk reaction to reading an NPR interview with David Bahati , a Ugandan Member of Parliament that introduced his Anti-Gay Legislation, causing an uproar with Gay Rights groups because the Bill essentially criminalized homosexuality and would have allowed for unprecedented governmental persecution of gays. The article simply made me angry. I started writing to try and understand that type of hatred, to know where it came from, and perhaps to feel better about a my own frustrations about a prejudice that I can’t control; that I can’t stamp out on my own. With the virulent anti-homosexual sentiments and violence in Africa and recently with the legislation signed into law in Russia, this play is timely and a sheds light on a very American involvement with such a controversial figure like Bahati. Not only that, but I wanted to ground the play within two families and show how a global problem works its way down into our most personal relationships. Honestly I hope a theatre with an interest in starting a community dialogue about social issues will produce this play. My hope is that it provokes debate and conversations late into the night long after its over.

About Theroun: I started as an actor, working for eleven years on Atlanta stages. I started seriously writing plays in 2005, producing and directing my own readings with the help of generous peers that donated their time and talents. In 2009, I joined Working Title Playwrights and wrote the first of four plays that year. I’ve written a dozen full lengths since 2006. I’m pleased to be working with Essential again after the production of my play A Thousand Circlets.

On the Bare Essentials Series: The reading series allows me the opportunity to refine the play and find new audiences for it to continue a dialogue generated by art.

What is it like to transition from acting to writing? As an actor, there was always an underlying anxiety about performing, but as a writer I have absolutely no fear. I’m willing to learn in front of others, to continue to grow and experiment with story and structure. Playwriting is the form of expression that fits me best as an artist. Acting is secondary to that.

Next for me, is a production of fugitive:EROS and The Chemicals Between Us with Out of Box Theatre next season, as well as the production of Origin Story with Academy Theatre in their new home. I’m also about to start on a new commission with Pinch N Ouch Theatre as well as Mad Hope Theatre Project.

The Bare Essentials series is free and open to the public. Donations graciously accepted. Complimentary wine before and after the show. For more information on all the readings as well as the other plays in the festival, visit www.essentialtheatre.com

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Power2Give and Connect with Deaf Audiences

“Connecting with Deaf Audiences” is Essential’s initiative to reach out to deaf community members and share with them the same great theatre opportunities we’ve been sharing with the hearing members of our community for the past 25 years. This initiative consists of three main elements:
  1. One performance of each of the three plays that make up our festival will have sign language interpreters provided by StageHands, the premiere sign language interpreting organization for theatre in Atlanta.
  2. Following each signed performance will be a Meet the Playwright talkback which will also have an interpreter, allowing deaf audience members to not only enjoy the performance but also engage with other audience members and the artists involved in the production.
  3. A focus group will be created, consisting of deaf participants in each of the festival’s signed shows and talkbacks. Findings from this focus group will be used to ensure that as we move forward, we develop programming and opportunities that are relevant, accessible and engaging to everyone. In addition to using the research generated by this focus group to improve the accessibility and inclusiveness of our own programming, we hope to share this information with others in the Atlanta theatre community so that the benefits of our research are as widespread as possible.
Initially motivated by our commitment to providing accessible programming, “Connecting with Deaf Audiences” seeks to go beyond accessibility for our deaf patrons and create programming that is inclusive and engaging.

To find out more about this summer’s festival, visit www.essentialtheatre.com or find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/NewPlays or Twitter @ATL_Essential.

To join the CDA focus group or if you’re interested in sponsoring future programming of this nature, contact jennifer@essentialtheatre.com

Thank You

                                                                                        

Donor Benefits                             

  • Our power2give donors will be thanked publicly in our newsletter, social media and website as well as in signage displayed in the lobby for every performance during the festival.
  • Each donor will receive an ASL interpreted thank-you video from founding artistic director Peter Hardy at the time of their donation and a thank you video from the entire company once the project is fully funded.
  • Donors will receive updates on the results of our project this summer, including attendance information relating to the signed performances, a summary of our focus group findings and information about how our programming will develop to reflect these findings in the 2014 festival and beyond.

Project Detail | power2give

 

“Connecting with Deaf Audiences” is Essential’s initiative to reach out to deaf community members and share with them the same great theatre opportunities we’ve been sharing with the hearing members of our community for the past 25 years. This initiative consists of three main elements:
  1. One performance of each of the three plays that make up our festival will have sign language interpreters provided by StageHands, the premiere sign language interpreting organization for theatre in Atlanta.
  2. Following each signed performance will be a Meet the Playwright talkback which will also have an interpreter, allowing deaf audience members to not only enjoy the performance but also engage with other audience members and the artists involved in the production.
  3. A focus group will be created, consisting of deaf participants in each of the festival’s signed shows and talkbacks. Findings from this focus group will be used to ensure that as we move forward, we develop programming and opportunities that are relevant, accessible and engaging to everyone. In addition to using the research generated by this focus group to improve the accessibility and inclusiveness of our own programming, we hope to share this information with others in the Atlanta theatre community so that the benefits of our research are as widespread as possible.
Initially motivated by our commitment to providing accessible programming, “Connecting with Deaf Audiences” seeks to go beyond accessibility for our deaf patrons and create programming that is inclusive and engaging.

To find out more about this summer’s festival, visit www.essentialtheatre.com or find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/NewPlays or Twitter @ATL_Essential.

To join the CDA focus group or if you’re interested in sponsoring future programming of this nature, contact jennifer@essentialtheatre.com

Thank you!

                                                                                                                                                             

Donor Benefits                             

  • Our power2give donors will be thanked publicly in our newsletter, social media and website as well as in signage displayed in the lobby for every performance during the festival.
  • Each donor will receive an ASL interpreted thank-you video from founding artistic director Peter Hardy at the time of their donation and a thank you video from the entire company once the project is fully funded.
  • Donors will receive updates on the results of our project this summer, including attendance information relating to the signed performances, a summary of our focus group findings and information about how our programming will develop to reflect these findings in the 2014 festival and beyond.

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Essential Theatre Announces Literary Internship

Essential Theatre is seeking a select few interns for the fall semester. If interested, please
submit a resume and cover letter to the email indicated in the internship description below. To
learn more about Essential Theatre’s mission and work, check out our website
and look for us on Facebook. Class credit is available for all internships.
 

Literary Intern
We are looking for up to two literary interns to work with our artistic director to review
submissions to the 2013 Essential Theatre Playwrighting Competition.


We receive over 50 submissions each year, but only one will be awarded the cash prize and be produced in next summer’s festival. Learn about all the elements that go into the play selection process while significantly contributing to the shape of the next Essential Theatre Festival! We are hoping to reach a decision on the award by the end of October, so the majority of this internship will take place during September and October.


Interns will read and review plays and submit a brief report on each to Mr. Hardy for discussion.
Reports should include a brief synopsis, a list of merits and challenges that each play would
present if it were to be produced, and a brief statement expressing why the play should or
should not be chosen as the award winner. Reports may be submitted via email. Interns and Mr.
Hardy will meet periodically throughout the semester, via phone or in person, to discuss the
plays that have been reviewed. The number of plays each intern reviews will depend on the
number of credit hours sought for this internship.


To apply for this internship, please submit a resume and letter of interest to Peter Hardy at
pmhardy@aol.com
. Be sure to include “LITERARY INTERNSHIP” in the subject of your email!

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Essential Theatre Development Internships

We are looking for up to three interns to assist with grant writing and fundraising development during the fall semester. Gain valuable experience finding funding sources and creating grant applications.

Interns will join 
 the Fundraising Committee’s biweekly meetings and will assist with the tasks that are developed from these meetings. Tasks will primarily consist of researching fundraising opportunities, ensuring that application requirements are met before applications are submitted, identifying new non-grant-based fundraising opportunities and developing and implementing other fundraising ideas. Interns will complete three webinars through the Foundation Center during the semester as well and submit a one-page review of each that includes how the webinar relates to their work with Essential. The webinars are free, and archived webinars can be viewed at interns’ convenience.


To apply for this internship, please submit a resume and letter of interest to Jennifer Kimball at jennifer@essentialtheatre.com. Be sure to include “FUNDRAISING INTERNSHIP” in the subject of your email!
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We Have a Winner!

Essential Theatre is proud to announce our first Walk-On Role winner for Bat-Hamlet, Cedric Floyd!
 
Cedric will be appearing in the 8pm performance this Friday, July 27. Congratulations Cedric! We look forward to sharing the stage with you!


Raffle tickets, as well as tickets to our remaining performances, are available online
. Raffle winners are drawn one week prior to the date of the performance in which they will appear. Time is running out, so get your tickets today!”


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Essential Shines at LMDA Confab

We’re proud and happy to announce that Theroun Patterson’s powerful family drama A THOUSAND CIRCLETS, winner of the 2011 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award (and successfully produced in our 2011 Festival) has been picked up for a second production — an 8-week run at the Detroit Repertory Theatre, next spring.  That makes two Essential Award winners in a row that have gone on to a second production (the first being our 2010 prize-winner, Gabriel Dean’s QUALITIES OF STARLIGHT, which was recently produced in Washington, D.C. in the Source Theater Festival).
 
On June 29, Theroun Patterson and Irepresented the Essential Theatre at the LMDA’s Writers Night, hosted by the Alliance Theatre.  LMDA stands for Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, and such folks from all over the country got a chance to hear about Atlanta theatres and their work with new plays, and the Essential Theatre got a lot of shout-outs from the different writers and directors speaking there. Learn more about LMDA
 
For the past fourteen years, the Essential Theatre has been the leading supporter and producer of new work by Georgia playwrights.  Next week we’ll be opening our 2012 Essential Theatre Play Festival, running July 6 – August 5 at Actor’s Express, and featuring THREE World Premieres by Georgia writers — our first ever All-Georgia Festival!  The shows will be Topher Payne’s EVELYN IN PURGATORY, Jordan Pulliam’s BAT-HAMLET and THE LOCAL, a collaborative portrait of the City of Atlanta featuring the work of almost THIRTY Atlanta writers, musicians and storytellers.
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