Author Archives: jennifer

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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.


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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.

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Meet the Playwright: Leviticus Jelks III

Leviticus Jelks III (left) wrote the first Bare Essentials reading in this summer’s Festival series, Day of Saturn. Read on to learn a little more about Leviticus and the play we’ll be seeing this Saturday afternoon!

Hi Leviticus, tell us a little about yourself!

I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, where I pursued the study of playwriting at the Horizon Theatre and The Alliance Theatre. In 2014, I was accepted as a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. I am the proud co-recipient of the 2016 KCACTF Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award, for my play A Is For Apron. Day of Saturn was awarded as a Finalist for the 2018 Eugene O’Neill Playwrights’ Conference, the 2018 Woodward/Newman Drama Award and the 2019 Kitchen Dog Theatre Award. I am the co-recipient of the 2018 Play LA Humanitas Playwriting Award. I take my inspirations from August Wilson, James Baldwin and Donald Glover.

What is this play about? What made you want to write it?

Day of Saturn tells the story of the complicated relationship between ex-stuntman Achilles Jones and his gay son, Icarus. Through journal entries, astronomical occurrences and 90s hip hop legends, the play explores the torments of Black masculinity, the discovery of sexual identity and the fragile link between generations.

This play is essentially a portrait of the Black American male, but in high resolution. You can see the cracks in the paint, the flaws, the mistakes, but stepping back you don’t lose the strength and the fragility of the entire art piece. I wanted to write my coming out story with the character of Icarus. However, not from my perspective, but rather that of my father, or in the play’s case, Achilles. Despite all the questions and thoughts I had running through my mind, I couldn’t help but to be curious about the questions and thoughts running through his. This play also drew inspiration from The Greek myth of Icarus, a boy with wings made by his own father, who flew too close to the Sun and started to fall. I feel that this is often the story of all Black men in America, and I wanted to ask the question of: what happens after we start falling?

How did you get into playwriting?

I was an English major at Clayton State University, when I decided to take a course in Playwriting, taught by Philip Depoy. It was through his teachings that I wrote my first play, The Witch’s Fee, which had been staged the same year. Ever since seeing my words and ideas acted out in front of an audience, I have grown a passion and a love for writing for the theatre.

What are your thoughts about Saturday’s reading?

I love staged readings because there is no pressure of a full production. Sitting in the dark is nothing but me, my audience and my words being brilliantly read by talented actors. With that I have the opportunity to just hear my words and hear how they flow and reach an audience. I can tell what’s funny, what’s sad, what’s dramatic, even what sounds ridiculous. However, it is all important for me, the playwright, to take note of when I later make revisions and breathe new life into my play.

I’m looking forward to interacting with a new director and new actors who will bring their own interpretations to the script, which will help me see it from a new perspective. it will also be beneficial to gauge a new audience and see how they react to the story being told for them. I hope to gain a deeper knowledge of the material and the characters, seeing as how they are so personal to me and influenced by my own life. So far, this whole experience has been wonderful! I look forward to seeing this play go up in my home city.

Where else can we find your work?

I have a reading for Play LA, which is a subset of Humanitas, taking place in Los Angeles during the month of September. It is for a new sci-fi racial drama piece I have spent the past year working on, called HYDRA.

#   #   #

Day of Saturn will be read at the West End Performing Arts Center on Saturday, August 3, at 2pm. Directed by Najah Ali. Readers: Kerwin Thompson (Achilles), Anthony Nash (Icarus), and Markis Gallashaw (Odysseus).

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.

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Now Accepting Scripts!

Essential Theatre is now accepting play script submissions for the 2020 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award competition!

Essential’s competition is free to enter, and any previously unproduced play by a Georgia playwright is eligible. There are no restrictions as to style, subject matter or length (though preference is given to plays with a running time of at least an hour). The winning playwright will receive a cash prize of $750, and the play will be given a full production as part of the 2020 Essential Theatre Play Festival. The script submission deadline is April 23, 2019.

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Meet the Playwright: Emily McClain

Emily McClain is co-winner of the 2019 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award, along with Ben Thorpe. Emily is the co-director of theatre at Buford High School. She graduated from Berry College with a B.A. in Theatre. Her work has been performed by Out Of Box Theatre, Merely Players, Atlanta AppCo, and the Courtroom Drama Series. She is a member of Working Title Playwrights and Merely Writers. She is particularly passionate about playwriting in schools and spent 9 years working with Georgia Thespians to develop the PlayWorks program for high school theatre students. Slaying Holofernes is her first full-length play. Join us as we get to know her a little bit better:


ET: Hi, Emily. Congratulations! What can you tell us about the play we’ll be seeing this summer?

EM: The play has two storylines, one in which a young female painter struggles to gain recognition for her work within the male-dominated art world of Renaissance Italy, and the other in the contemporary United States, in which a young career woman encounters her own version of the same challenges as she fights for recognition in the workplace. chiaroscuro or Slaying Holofernes blends and blurs the worlds of past/present, fact/fiction, and personal/political as it explores two women’s parallel quests for justice in an imperfect world.

ET: That sounds intriguing – and timely. Where did you get the idea? What made you want to write this play?

EM: I have been enamored of Artemisia Gentileschi as an artist and historical figure for many years. Her story is complicated and tragic, but her strength and resilience is inspiring. I feel a connection to her and her commitment to creating art that fulfills her creative desires. I see the echoes of what she endured in the treatment of women in our modern society. This play explores the structures in society that prevent women from advocating for themselves when they are wronged- both in Renaissance Italy and modern day America. We are living in a moment where we are navigating changing gender dynamics, and some parts of society are slow to catch up. I wanted to write this play to explore those dynamics and to celebrate the strength and resilience of women.

ET: Speaking of strong and resilient women, another personal question: how did you get into playwriting?

EM: I love theatre: performing and directing were my first passions, but playwriting has been a source of creative expression for me for many years. It is truly thrilling to create characters and voices on a page and then see that come alive and become enriched by the collaboration with other artists.

ET: Are you working on any new projects at the moment? What’s next for you?

EM: I have several new plays in various stages of development- I just finished my first draft of a play based on the single performance of Julius Caesar that all three Booth brothers participated in prior to John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of Lincoln. My second full-length play, CHEEK BY JOWL, was selected for the Elephant Ears Reading Session in Philadelphia in May of this year. I continue to write 10 minute plays for various festivals around Atlanta.

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

EM: I’m excited to see my play Secret Family Recipes go up at Out Of Box for the Women’s Shorts production in April. My play The Great Suburban Outback will be performed at Merely Players’ Amplifest 10 Minute Play Festival in May as well (it has been performed already by the Atlanta AppCo Alumni as part of their Culture series) and I cannot wait to see it performed too. Most importantly, I will have a reading of SLAYING HOLOFERNES through the Ethel Woolson Lab for Working Title Playwrights on March 31 at 7:30 PM.

ET: What led you to decide to submit your play to the Essential Theatre Playwriting Contest?

EM: I have attended Essential Theatre many times and I believe strongly in their mission of championing new works by Georgia playwrights. Essential is doing the kind of theatre that is interesting and vital– maybe even “essential?” Ha! This is the first time I have submitted to the contest. I felt like my play was in line with style and substance of the pieces I’d see in prior years, and would be a good fit for the mission of the theater.

ET: How does it feel to have the world premiere production of your script on the horizon?

EM: It is exhilarating. Good theatre thrives on collaboration and to be able to be a part of that process is so thrilling.

ET: Well congratulations, once again. We look forward to working with you and bringing your play to life in the Festival this summer!


Emily’s play, Slaying Holofernes, will premiere as part of the 2019 Essential Theatre Play Festival and opens Friday, July 26, 2019. Festival Passes are on sale now at EssentialTheatre.Tix.com.

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Meet the Playwright: Ben Thorpe

Ben Thorpe is co-winner of the 2019 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award, along with Emily McClain. Join us as we get to know Ben a little bit better:


ET: Congratulations, Ben! We’ll be spending plenty of time together in the coming months, but for now, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

BT: I’m an actor and playwright, originally from Snellville, GA. I went to Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA and lived in New York City for years before moving back to Atlanta in 2015. I’ve been in productions around town at Actor’s Express, the Alliance Theatre, Art Station, Horizon Theatre Company, Serenbe Playhouse, and Theatrical Outfit. 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 the Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival in August of 2018.

ET: Tell us a little bit about the play we’ll be seeing this summer.

BT: It’s the night of the ‘Hell Feast’ and a small, isolated cult is prepping for 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. Plus, there’s a talking goat… so that’s pretty cool.

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

BT: I began working on this play in 2015 as a class exercise. At the time, I had JUST moved back to Atlanta from New York City and wanted to not only work as an actor, but pursue my passion for writing. I was re-watching ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ one afternoon, and started to wonder what the baby shower for Rosemary might have been like. Not long after, I was speaking with my best friend about the lack of darker, comedic roles for young women in the plays that were continuously getting produced. She was frustrated that those roles were almost always written for men. I too found it frustrating because the funniest, most incredible actors and artists that I know are women. The play started as an exercise to create something fun for my friends to read/ play with and has morphed into the beast that’s getting produced this summer.

ET: How did you get into playwriting?

BT: I’ve grown up in the theatre and a lot of the people that I look up to are multi-hyphenates. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but I never shared much of it with anyone. It isn’t until I moved back to Atlanta that I decided to share my writing more publicly and pursue this passion of mine.

ET: How did you find out about Essential and the playwriting contest, and what led you to submit your script?

BT: When I was in high school, I saw a bunch of shows that were produced by Essential and I loved seeing whatever Essential produced in town. Essential is such a great platform for the incredibly rich pool of writers in Georgia.

This play was part of the Bare Essentials reading series last summer and the response and feedback were fantastic. I’ve been working on it since, and was encouraged to submit it for 2019.

ET: How are you feeling about having this play produced for the first time?

BT: I’m equal parts thrilled and terrified, but I think that’s a good thing! I worked on this, never thinking it’d be read by anyone other than a few close friends. To see it fully produced this summer at Essential is beyond what I thought was possible.

ET: Besides this upcoming production, are you working on any new projects at the moment?

BT: I’m going to be in the upcoming production of ‘Falsettos’ at Actor’s Express this March/ April that is being helmed by Freddie Ashley! Also, my fiancé, Jeff, and I are in the midst of planning our May wedding!

ET: Oh, congratulations! That’s fantastic!
Where else can we see your work, either recently, currently or in the coming year(s)?

BT: I’m working on a couple of actor-y/ writer things at the moment that are exciting me. In addition to ‘Baby Shower for the Antichrist’, I’ve been continually working with John Burke on ‘Red: A Crayon’s Musical’, and we hope to share some exciting news about that show’s future soon!

ET: Sounds exciting! Keep us posted!


Ben’s play, Babyshower for the Antichrist, will premiere as part of the 2019 Essential Theatre Play Festival and opens Friday, August 2, 2019. Festival Passes are on sale now at EssentialTheatre.Tix.com.

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