Author Archives: jennifer

Meet the Playwright: Hannah Manikowski

Our first online play reading ever will be happening on Tuesday night! Read on here to learn a little about our playwright and the play we’ll be seeing on Tuesday:

 

Playwright Hannah Manikowski Hannah Manikowski is a Georgia-born, nationally recognized new play artist who holds a BFA in Directing from the School of Drama at Carnegie Mellon University. Hannah loves women in both the lesbian sense and the feminist sense, and she especially loves writing plays by, for, and about them. She is a 2020 O’Neill finalist and the winner of the 2018 – 2019 Judith Barlow Prize. Additionally, she is a proud alumna of The 24 Hour Plays: Nationals, Horizon Theatre’s Young Playwrights Festival, and the inaugural Tepper Semester Playwriting Program, where she studied under Antoinette Nwandu. Following her reading with Essential Theater, Hannah’s newest play, The Sunrise from the Moon, has an upcoming reading with the MACH 33 Festival, a collaboration between Pasadena Playhouse and CalTech. Oh: perhaps most importantly, she foster homeless bunny rabbits.

Please share in your own words a little about the play we’ll be seeing.

I wrote Sunrise in response to my own experience with the profound loneliness connected with existing specifically as a lesbian in a world that did everything in its power to prevent me from identifying this part of who I am – and that continues to do everything in its power to prevent me from connecting with my history and my community as a woman who’s exclusively same-sex attracted. Idk, sometimes, I feel like I’m from the moon. It’s also kind of an exploration of my experience with ambition and how being a characteristically ambitious human has served as my life raft in an otherwise unstable, chaotic life while simultaneously totally fucking me up. Also I fucking love jellyfish.

Where did you get the idea for this play? What made you want to write it?

This play is the vehicle for talking about all the seemingly disparate, sometimes unintelligible ephemera that collides and becomes enmeshed with/inseparable from Who I Am as a lesbian woman in 2020. Basically!! Shit is whack!! And I don’t know how to talk about ANY OF IT without talking about ALL OF IT!! Which is why this play is full of outer space and a disarming accumulation of Vanilla Coke and moon mannequins and jellyfish and Billie Holiday. Basically: as a writer, I feel a lot like one of those little birds that runs around collecting shiny things, and, on the surface, none of it seems connected, but THEN he tosses all that shiny stuff together, and – ta-da! – he’s built a nest! And he wins the girl! And he does a funny lil dance to boot! So, I collected a lot of shiny things, and this play is the nest, and Essential is the lady bird I am hoping to woo, and, when all is said and done, I hope we can come together and do a funny lil dance to boot.

How did you get into playwriting?

I grew up holed away in my room, writing fiction to escape an insidiously abusive, isolated home life. Everyone I knew anticipated I would become a novelist – but then I found theatre, and, for the first time, I was able to connect with a loving, supportive community. Theatre offered me a level of safety I had never known. Within months, it consumed my life. Naturally, my writing took a backseat. I loved acting, but I was dissatisfied with the lack of agency afforded to me in the field. So, I went on to study Directing at Carnegie Mellon University. Frankly, while I was grateful for the creative liberties offered to me as a director, directing itself often made me queasy with anxiety. I dreaded the hours leading up to my rehearsals – until I wrote a short story for a creative writing class, and my professor approached me to say, “Hannah, this isn’t a short story; this is a scene from a play.” She was right. I started writing for Playground, CMU’s yearly festival of new student work, and I directed my own pieces. Writing for the stage felt like putting on glasses for the first time in the sixth grade. Suddenly, the world came into focus. Ever since, I have been enraptured by the world of new play development: particularly when serving as a playwright, but also when working as a dramaturg or director. For me, that’s home.

What is the importance of staged readings in your own creative process and the development of your play?

For me, it’s in understanding the rhythm of the piece. When you hear your work read aloud with actors, suddenly, you have a window into its cadence: where it clips along, where it lags, where it sings… I’ve always loved the energy of a reading. It’s jointly terrifying and thrilling to gauge the reactions of a room of people who are connecting with your work for the first time – especially when it’s work over which you’ve been slaving away for months or years.

What do you hope to gain from this Bare Essentials experience?

Mostly, I’m excited to reconnect with the piece and with my identity as a playwright! Lockdown has sapped my creative energy. I miss my artistic community, and I’m ready to jump back into the work I love.

Where else can we see your work, either recently, currently or in the future?

Sunrise will soon enjoy a reading through the MACH 33 Festival, a collaboration between Pasadena Playhouse and Caltech. My website (where you can also find my fiction podcast) is here and  my NPX profile is here.
# # #
Sunrise from the Moon will be our first-ever online play reading!
Tuesday, August 11, at 7:30pm.
Directed by Peter Hardy.
Readers: Ash Anderson, Erika Miranda, Jeff Hathcoat, Kevin Qian,  Amee Vyas, Yolanda Asher

All readings in the Bare Essentials Play Reading Series are free and open to the public thanks to support from Georgia Humanities, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, through funding from the Georgia General Assembly. Funding for this program is also provided by the Fulton County Board of Commissioners. This series is curated by Essential’s founding Artistic Director, Peter Hardy.

 

Funding for this program is provided by the Fulton County Board of Commissioners.

 

Additional resources for distance learning

Recommended by Education Associate Emily McClain:

The Georgia Department of Education has a fantastic collection of Fine Arts resources for all content areas. It’s free and available to teachers and I wanted to share with my teacher-network. We are resilient and creative and endlessly flexible. We will continue to share our love of art and music and theatre and dance with our students in this new medium!

Recommended in a recent email newsletter from the office of Essential’s Congressman, John Lewis:

Educational Tools for Distance Learning: While many schools have temporarily closed their doors, tools are available to assist parents with educating their children from home. However, each school or school district fosters its own program on how to adjust to the current pandemic. I recommend contacting your relevant institution for best practices. Talking to children about Coronavirus may be difficult but the CDC has provided an online resource to help parents and those working with children approach the subject. PBS has also provided tips on how to approach the topic.

Although changes have been made in how our students are learning, civil rights must still be protected. The Department of Education has released a fact sheet and webinar to serve as guidance for protecting the civil rights of students with disabilities for schools using online learning tools during the COVID-19 outbreak. Additional resources for schools and school personnel may be found on the Department of Education’s website.

In addition, there are nationwide resources available for distance learning provided by PBS and the Smithsonian.

For Students:
PBS Kids Livestream Channel
PBS Kids Game App

For Parents:
The PBS Daily Newsletter
PBS Parents Website

For Educators:
PBS Learning Media K-12
PBS Distance Learning Resources
Smithsonian Learning Lab (Resources for Distance Learning)
Smithsonian Resources and Collections
Smithsonian Museum Specific Collections

Looking for some creative, inspiring programming that’s a little more home-grown? Check out the digital offerings from Atlanta’s own Center for Puppetry Arts here!

The work these people have long done to develop frontier-pushingly accessible programming is profound, and their response to our current situation has been swift and inspiring. Icing on the cake? Tried and true Essential audiences will recognize at least one friendly face in their Digital Learning Artist-in-Residence Jeffrey Zwartjes!

And the winners are…

Essential Theatre announces the winners of the 2020 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jennifer Kimball, Managing Director
jennifer@essentialtheatre.com

2020 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award Winners press kit

February 2020 – Essential Theatre is proud to announce the winners of the 2020 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award: The Outrage Machine by Daniel Carter Brown and The Wishing Place by Beverly Trader Austin. The Outrage Machine and The Wishing Place will each receive a full production in the 2020 Essential Theatre Festival this summer as well as a cash prize. Now in its twentieth year, the Essential Theatre Playwriting Competition is the only competition of its kind. The 2020 Award is sponsored in part by Corbin Real Estate Team.

About Daniel Carter Brown and The Outrage Machine

Daniel Carter Brown is an actor, playwright, and director who moved to Atlanta from Chicago a decade ago. Since that time, his writings have seen regular production with companies such as Out of Box, New Origins, Onion Man and others. He also performs with several companies around town and works at Emory University School of Medicine, training actors to portray patients as part of the medical school curriculum.

The Outrage Machine is a semi-comedic exploration of internet journalism, social media, and the culture of outrage. This summer’s production will be directed by Essential’s founder and artistic director, Peter Hardy. “It’s a strong, timely script,” says Hardy, “a sharply-observed, fast-paced look at a real thing that’s happening in society today — the way social media and the internet have created an environment in which anger is fostered and manipulated to drive commerce. It’s also a compelling and believable story about a young woman looking for a way to make a living by helping people to be more well-informed, only to find that the truth isn’t always the surest way to generate clicks.”

 

“The first version of this play was written before the 2016 election, when I realized how many web journalists seemed to be intentionally provoking anger instead of presenting facts objectively,” shares Brown. “Then 2016 happened, and I practically had to rewrite the whole thing. The ideas I was trying to introduce were now mainstream, and the play became more of an exploration of how things got like this.” 

About Beverly Trader Austin and The Wishing Place

Beverly Trader Austin is a native Atlantan for generations back. “My great-grandfather had a yard full of chickens on Peachtree Street where the Bank of America building stands now. My uncle Glenn had his professorship threatened and crosses burned in his yard for attempting voter registration in the 1940’s. I was reared, as were most of my generation, on school integration, women’s rights, anti-war activism, and environmental protest. Those issues tend to haunt my plays, my journalism, and my time in the classroom,” Austin shares. Beginning in 1974, her work has been professionally performed and favorably reviewed in London, New York, Palm Beach, Los Angeles, and around the Southeast, with more than three dozen productions of her plays to her credit to date.

The play that won this award, The Wishing Place, looks at two families living in 1960s rural Georgia, one black and one white. It will be directed by long-time Essential collaborator Ellen McQueen. “While The Outrage Machine is a thought-provoking script with a driving urban pulse,” observes Hardy, “The Wishing Place is emotional and dreamy, full of the wonder of nature. It’s about people who feel deeply connected to the place where they grew up, where their families have lived for generations – and who yearn to escape it.” Director McQueen adds, “It’s about longing and belonging.” “The Wishing Place will, I think, make for a very nice balance and counterpoint to The Outrage Machine,” Hardy concludes.

The 2020 Essential Theatre Play Festival will take place from July 24 to August 23, 2020, at the West End Performing Arts Center in Atlanta’s Historic West End. Join Essential Theatre on March 14, 2020, to meet this year’s playwriting award winners and get your festival pass at our annual Celebration of Georgia Playwrights! The Celebration will take place from 4-6pm at Manuel’s Tavern. Admission is free but RSVP is requested.

About the playwriting competition

Now in its twentieth year, this is the only competition of its kind, exclusively dedicated to the work of Georgia playwrights, with the winner receiving both a cash prize and a full production. Playwrights must be residents of the State of Georgia. There are no restrictions as to style, length or subject matter, though previously unproduced plays that would run an hour or more in performance are preferred. The deadline for the 2021 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award competition is April 23, 2020. Past Essential Theatre Playwriting Award winners include Karen Wurl, Karla Jennings, Vynnie Meli, Lauren Gunderson, and Topher Payne. For more information or to submit your play, visit EssentialTheatre.com/Playwriting-Competition.

For more information and the latest updates, join our newsletter, follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or check out our website at www.EssentialTheatre.com

# # #

For media inquires: 
Jennifer Kimball, Managing Director
jennifer@essentialtheatre.com

Calendar Listings
Celebration of Georgia Playwrights
Hosted by Essential Theatre, Inc
March 14, 2020
First Level Space, Manuel’s Tavern
602 North Highland Avenue NE
Atlanta, GA 30307
Tickets available on Eventbrite or at EssentialTheatre.com

The Essential Theatre Festival 
July 24th – August 23rd  
The Essential Theatre 
at West End Performing Arts Center
945 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd, 
Atlanta, GA 30310
Festival Passes go on sale March 14 at www.EssentialTheatre.com

Meet the Playwright: Daniel Carter Brown

Read on to find out about the playwright and the play we’ll be seeing Monday night!

Tell us a little about yourself, personally and professionally.

I am an actor, playwright, and director who came to Atlanta from Chicago a decade ago. I’ve had two full-length plays produced in Atlanta: Honor The System at Out of Box Theatre, and Steal My Heart with New Origins Theatre Company. I’ve also had numerous short plays produced by Onion Man Productions and others, and I wrote, produced, and directed four sketch comedy shows under my former company Give Us Brains! I also write and perform political sketch comedy for the weekly podcast Barely Audible Whisper. As an actor, I can currently be seen as George Bailey in OnStage Atlanta’s production of It’s A Wonderful Life. I work frequently at Out of Box Theatre, most recently this summer in Entertaining Lesbians. I spent a year as an apprentice at the Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse when I was new to Atlanta, and later performed in several plays there including playing Demetrius in Midsummer Night’s Dream. I also toured several children’s shows with Georgia Ensemble Theatre, and performed and/or directed with various other theatre companies, including Academy Theatre, Onion Man Productions, Tribal Theatre Group, and Merely Players Presents. I am married to the lovely and talented Emily Sams Brown, who I met at Out of Box Theatre when we played twins in The House of Yes. We welcomed our first child, Rayme Claire, last year, and we have two sweet dogs, Archie and Ruby. I work at Emory University School of Medicine, training actors to portray patients as part of the medical school curriculum.

Please share in your own words a little about the play we’ll be seeing.

In short, this is a play about how the internet makes us angry on purpose. It’s a criticism of journalism and the way we consume it. It’s also a criticism of the gig economy, and the listlessness it has imposed on a generation. The main character, Rina, begins the play with no aim other than to find a foothold somewhere in the world. But when she finds a place where she can make an impact, she also finds that she can do some damage. The Outrage Machine is not a satire, but my satirist roots certainly show as I use humor to shed light on a serious societal problem.

Where did you get the idea for this play? What made you want to write it?

The first version of this play was written before the 2016 election, when I realized how many web journalists seemed to be intentionally provoking anger instead of presenting facts objectively. Then 2016 happened, and I practically had to rewrite the whole thing. The ideas I was trying to introduce were now mainstream, and the play became more of an exploration of how things got like this.

How did you get into playwriting?

I’ve always had a drive to write, but never been drawn to writing narrative. When I first tried writing dialogue, it clicked. That’s what I want to write. For most of my young life, it was all about comedy–sketch and parody–but as I grew up and got to know myself as an emotional human being, I realized how fulfilling it is to let emotion into my writing, and how, in many instances, it makes the comedy funnier.

What is the importance of staged readings in your own creative process and the development of your play?

It’s one of the best parts of the process. There are some things you just don’t catch until you hear them out loud. The actors’ perspective teaches you about your work, and you realize the importance of some things, and the unimportance of others. Hearing the audience reacting to just the words–not the staging, not the antics, not the design — only happens in this setting.

What has your experience with this reading been so far?

Pure excitement. I love the cast Peter put together, and can’t wait to hear what they do.

Where else can we see your work, either recently, currently or in the coming year(s)?

I had a reading of another new full-length play, a romantic comedy titled Happy Places, at Out of Box Theatre at the beginning of the year. And Out of Box is currently producing one of my sketches as part of Santa After Hours.

How did you find out about Essential and the playwriting contest?

I worked with Peter Hardy on the touring show And Then They Came For Me at GET, and as a creator, supporter, and fan of new works, I’ve followed Essential ever since.

# # #

The Outrage Machine will be read at the West End Performing Arts Center on Monday, December 9, at 7:30pm. Directed by Peter Hardy.

Readers: Rylee Bunton, Bridget McCarthy, Charles Travontia Thomas, Joey Davila, Sean Kelley, Parris Sarter, Aaron Gotlieb, Najah Ali

All readings in the Bare Essentials Play Reading Series are free and open to the public. This series is curated by Essential’s founding Artistic Director, Peter Hardy.

2020 Festival power2give campaign

December 8 through January 22

For the first time in several years, we are THRILLED to announce that Essential Theatre has been awarded a power2give campaign from the City of Atlanta in support of the 2020 Essential Theatre Play Festival!
Our campaign is LIVE December 8 through January 22!

As a matching program, power2give is a gift to donors and Essential alike: for every dollar we raise through power2give, the City of Atlanta will contribute matching funds – up to $20,000!

If you think supporting Georgia’s writers and artists is important, if you enjoy seeing great new theatre by playwrights from your community, if you believe that Georgia’s playwrights are great American playwrights and want to help us amplify their voices, if you have enjoyed Essentials’ work in the past and would like to support it in the future, If you appreciate seeing new creative and cultural opportunities represented in West End, the Festival’s home since 2014, or in Georgia as a whole, please consider making a donation to Essential Theatre through power2give this holiday season – and see your dollars have double the impact!

Bare Essentials Reading Monday December 9

Join us at the West End Performing Arts Center for our next Bare Essentials Play Reading:

THE OUTRAGE MACHINE
Written by Daniel Carter Brown
Directed by Peter Hardy


“Is something that was supposed to bring us all together only driving us further apart?”

The Outrage Machine is a semi-comedic exploration of internet journalism, social media, and the culture of outrage. Twenty-something Rina Marsh gets a job writing headlines for The Centurion, an upstart website aiming to stand out for its integrity and responsibility. Rina finds that pushing people’s anger buttons results in more views, and she and the website become rapidly successful. But one headline goes too far, and Rina finds out what happens when an angry public gets out of control.

Cast:

Rylee Bunton, Bridget McCarthy, Charles Travontia Thomas, Joey Davila, Sean Kelley, Parris Sarter, Aaron Gotlieb, Najah Ali

“I was drawn to this play because I found it to be a sharply-observed, fast-paced look at a real thing that’s happening in society today — the way social media and the internet have created an environment in which anger is fostered and manipulated to drive commerce. It’s also a compelling and believable story about a young woman looking for a way to make a living by helping people to be more well-informed, only to find that the truth isn’t always the surest way to generate clicks.”

-Essential Theatre Artistic Director Peter Hardy

Join us Monday night!

All readings in the Bare Essentials series are free and open to the public. Free parking in the Wells Fargo lot next door. Be sure to stay after for exciting conversation with the director, cast and playwright!

Meet the Playwrights: Ted Westby and John D. Babcock III

Wednesday night’s Bare Essentials reading is The Odds Against Death, co-written by John D. Babcock III (Independent, 2017) and Ted Westby. Read on to find out a little more about the pair, and about the play we’ll be seeing on Wednesday!

The writers:

John D. Babcock III is a writer for Agatha’s – A Taste of Mystery and the Mystery Café of Indianapolis. He is also a writer/performer with Sketchworks Comedy. John was cast in, and wrote additional scenes for, the Sketchworks Comedy production of VAPE THE MUSICAL– a parody of GREASE. VAPE won BroadwayWorld Atlanta’s 2018 award for “Best New Work” (non-professional). In August 2019, VAPE ran at Improv Asylum’s theatre in New York City. John’s play INDEPENDENT – about filmmaker John Cassavetes – received its premier at Essential Theatre’s 2017 Play Festival. John’s other writing credits include on-air scripts for Turner Classic Movies, Laughing Matters corporate entertainment, and the upcoming fantasy/comedy web series “The Campaign.” John enjoyed writing THE ODDS AGAINST DEATH with Ted Westby and looks forward to seeing their work on stage.

Ted Westby hails from a small Midwestern town and never really grew up. After somehow finishing college he spent twenty years writing and producing on-air content for TV stations around the country. During those tumultuous last years he foolishly wrote and produced four no-budget Indie short films that to this day have been seen by less people than it took to make them. For the past decade, after abandoning his steady day job and screenwriting aspirations, he has made his living photographing actors and a few regular people. In the last few years he has co-written two stage plays, a Television Pilot script, and threatened to finish his true-life book detailing his absurd life with photo models. Ted refuses to eat beets and still enjoys listening to music on cassettes and vinyl.

The Play:

THE ODDS AGAINST DEATH is a modern, classic farce in which a simple romantic dinner for two becomes an evening where five people are confronted with deceit, deception, and Death herself. The play “encompasses my feelings toward love, death, and foolish ideals – not necessarily in that order,” says Ted. “Our endeavor was to give an audience both an entertaining evening as well as a few choice bits to contemplate while they walked back to their cars.”

Where did the idea for this play come from?

Initially conceived by co-author Ted Westby as a short film, The Odds Against Death began its life as a good old fashioned farce about love, miscommunication, and death. He introduced the idea to Babcock and the pair fleshed out the idea and made it into a two act play. “I’ve always been fascinated by theoretical characters, ie: Death, Imaginary friends, anyone out of the accepted norms of ‘reality’,: says Ted, adding, “I found it a wonderful concept to have Death actually come and ‘kill’ someone’s romantic ideals, thus forcing them to come face to face with absolute reality.”

How did you get into playwriting?

Ted: I’ve been writing most of my life, predominantly scripts and screenplays. My original introduction to play-writing began years ago at the 24 Plays presented by the good people at the Horizon Theatre. I co-wrote three short plays during three different 24 Hour Play fests. The Odds Against Death is my first full-length stage play.

John: I began writing sketches and stories in grade school. I continued writing through high school and began writing longer pieces in college. I had a natural interest in writing and was something I always kept doing.

What is the importance of staged readings for your creative process and the development of your play? What do you hope to gain from this Bare Essentials experience?

“Staged readings are a great opportunity to hear the characters come alive. It’s beneficial hearing actors read the work out loud and observing how they interpret the character,” observes John. “Reactions to staged readings inform me what areas need work and what areas did well.” He adds, “There are always surprises.”

“Until you hear it out loud, read by voices other than your own, you don’t really hear it live and breathe,” says Ted in agreement.

“THE ODDS AGAINST DEATH has had a handful of private readings,” says John, “but Ted and I are really looking forward to having the play read to an audience. An audience reaction is what we hope to gain from the reading at Bare Essentials.

Ted adds, “This will be our first reading with an impartial audience. This will be a real good test of how it will be received by a general audience… I hope.”

# # #

The Odds Against Death will be read at the West End Performing Arts Center on Monday, August 12, at 7:30pm. Directed by Bill Murphey.

Readers: Mary Saville, Robby Owenby, Evan Cleaver, Diany Rodriguez, Steve Hudson, Christie Brumfield Baggett, Kathleen McManus, and Anne Stainback Davis.

All readings in the Bare Essentials Play Reading Series are free and open to the public thanks to support from Georgia Humanities, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, through funding from the Georgia General Assembly. This series is curated by Essential’s founding Artistic Director, Peter Hardy.

Meet the Playwright: Allan Dodson

Monday night’s Bare Essentials reading is Waiting for Big Stuff, written by Allan Dodson. Read on to learn a little more about the playwright and the play we’ll be seeing Monday night!

Allan Dodson is a playwright, actor, and director that’s been hanging around Atlanta theater for longer than he’d like to admit. He had a delightful 15 years as a high school theater director and was fortunate enough to study acting under the late William Esper, protege to Sanford Meisner. He’s found himself accidentally specializing in shorter plays, and he’s been produced in various venues around town with a one-act, “Three Hundred and One,” that’s still regularly produced nationally. He says he’d like to be a misunderstood artist, but he can’t quite find the energy.

How did you get into playwriting?

I’ve dabbled in a variety of writing styles over the years, and I’ve even made my living as a writer (NOT a fiction writer). I’ve always enjoyed the rhythms of dialog, and I love live theater, so I’ve gravitated toward playwriting.

Where did you get the idea for this play?

I was dining alone in a fast food joint, and I was told I was Guest 40. It occurred to me that “Guest 40” was my only identity for the next half-hour or so. And a play was born that asks possibly the most important question in the American experience: How long, exactly, will we wait for a burger and an order of rings?

What do you hope to gain from this Bare Essentials experience?

There’s really no experience as valuable as hearing your play read by good actors, seeing how a director interprets it, and seeing how an audience reacts to it. With a staged reading, you can get that experience in a safe place – it becomes a part of the journey.

It’s also nice to get a little exposure, and an honor and confidence-booster to be chosen.

# # #

Waiting for Big Stuff will be read at the West End Performing Arts Center on Monday, August 12, at 7:30pm. Directed by Kati Grace Brown. Readers: Natalie Karp, Charlie Thomas, Jeff Morgan, Sean Kelley, Kirstin Kalvert, Betty Mitchell, Sarah Newby Halicks, Mike Pugh, Alex Pica, Bowen Fox, and Danielle Hopkins.

All readings in the Bare Essentials Play Reading Series are free and open to the public thanks to support from Georgia Humanities, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, through funding from the Georgia General Assembly. This series is curated by Essential’s founding Artistic Director, Peter Hardy.


Meet the Playwright: Roz Sullivan-Lovett

Tuesday Night’s Bare Essentials reading is Henry Darger Takes a Walk, written by Rosalind Sullivan-Lovett. Read on to learn a little more about Roz and the play we’ll be seeing on Tuesday!

Hi Roz, tell us a little about yourself!

I’m a recent Atlanta transplant from Portland, Oregon, having graduated from Emory two and a half months ago and stayed put. I’ve been writing plays since I was a Sophomore in high school, but “Henry Darger” was my first to be published and my most successful to date, having been read previously in Theater Emory’s Brave New Works series and at the Tennessee Williams Literary festival, where it won first place in the one act play contest. My next project will be taking my solo show, “And God Forbid It Should Be So,” to New York City, where it is set to be performed at the United Solo Theatre Festival.

And what’s this play about?

“Henry Darger Takes a Walk” is in large part about familial grief and the inheritance of trauma. The suicide of a family member is jarring not only for the nature of its suddenness, but also for its sense of history and its brand-mark on the future. Grace’s journey is not so much about grieving as searching for a way to save her remaining family members from a narrative of mental illness that she fears threatens to swallow all of them, including herself.

Wow! What prompted you to tackle this subject?

I wrote this in the wake of my aunt’s suicide, in large part to find a way to link my own experiences with crippling loneliness as a college Freshman with the grief I felt in the wake of her unexpected death. I had, after that grim Freshman year, run into Henry Darger for the first time in Olivia Laing’s excellent book The Lonely City, a half-memoir-half-research piece that spoke to 19-year-old me in a way that nothing else could at the time. I saw in Darger’s isolation both a tie to my own experience and a selfish sense of confusion that a man so utterly alone died of old age, while two of my family members had found themselves incapable of living so long. I had a lot that I needed to come to terms with, and I also had a Sophomore playwriting class that required me to write a lengthy one act that I had no other ideas for. Thanks to my professor, Jim Grimsley, for allowing me to write this so soon after the incident occurred; I would probably have suggested to myself that I shouldn’t.

What, exactly, got you into playwrighting?

From procrastinating on studying for high school midterms: I wrote my first one act in a single weekend out of a refusal to do math.

What is the importance of staged readings in your own creative process and the development of your play?

Voice is so entirely the point of playwriting that I can’t imagine writing a play and considering it complete without having had multiple readings. I discovered so many things about this play from its readings at Emory and the Tennessee Williams Fest, many of them aspects of the middle-aged characters that I, as a young writer, would not have noticed without the contributions of the older actors in those roles. Understanding the shape and energy of a play is impossible without readings.

And what are you hoping to gain from this Bare Essentials experience in particular?

A sense of how the play behaves for another set of eyes and ears—where does it move and drag, what shines and what doesn’t. I’m also so excited to get to work with the Essential Theatre on this, and to have a chance to have work produced in Atlanta’s professional sphere for the first time!

Well thank you – and congratulations! We are definitely looking forward to your reading on Tuesday. Outside of Tuesday’s reading, where else can interested audience find your work?

In New York city at the United Solo Festival! Also hopefully in Atlanta in the coming year or so.

# # #

Henry Darger Takes a Walk will be read at the West End Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, August 6, at 7:30pm. Directed by Natalie Fox. Readers: Genevieve Leopold, Emih Abrahamson, Olivia Dawson, Brad Brooks, Brandon Deen, Joey Davila, Brieanna Haberling.

All readings in the Bare Essentials Play Reading Series are free and open to the public thanks to support from Georgia Humanities, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, through funding from the Georgia General Assembly. This series is curated by Essential’s founding Artistic Director, Peter Hardy.