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.
Click here to read more, or sign up for our mailing list at the bottom of the page to receive our newsletter directly!
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.
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)
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.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org!
- 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 email@example.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.
Avery Sharpe is an actor and recently a playwright from Atlanta, GA. After studying Acting and Spanish at Kennesaw State University, he has performed at a variety of stages across Atlanta. Some of his recent credits include: Pearl Cleage’s Tell Me My Dream (Alliance Theatre), A Bucket of Blessings (Alliance Theatre), and Marcus; Or the Secret of Sweet (Actor’s Express). He has also done voiceover work and various commercials in the TV/Film world, but can be found most frequently at Dad’s Garage Improv Theatre where he performs weekly as a company member. As a playwright, he has discovered a passion for telling stories that echo the beautiful complexity of humanity, which is why he is excited to be making his debut as a playwright with Woke. He looks forward to writing more compelling stories in the future, and he wants to thank all of the brilliant minds and generous hearts that have supported him throughout this journey.
Woke is a play that follows two friends from different backgrounds who are trying to navigate the already rocky transition from high school to college. When a calamitous event captures national attention, they are forced to wrestle with their different understandings of social awareness. Through family, romance, and their own friendship, they painstakingly and comically explore what it truly means to be woke.
Honestly, this is my first playwriting venture, and I wouldn’t even consider myself a playwright by any means. In undergrad, I had experience writing solo performance pieces which always turned out fine, but I didn’t really try my hand at playwriting until this piece. As I neared the end of undergrad, I postulated that any marginalized person who thinks they even MAYBE could write should try it out. Many of my colleagues and I frequently talked about the lack of representation in stories that were written so it seems I finally got around to caving in to the peer pressure.
Avery’s play, Woke, is a co-winner of the 2018 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award and premieres August 4, 2018 as part of the 20th Essential Theatre Play Festival.
Rachel Graf Evans (left) is a writer and theatre artist most interested in silenced and forgotten stories. Her Atlanta playwriting credits include: SUIT YOURSELF (Georgia Lawyers for the Arts’ Courtroom Drama CLE Showcase @ Actor’s Expres); INCH BY INCH (Synchronicity Theatre’s Stripped Bare development program); PEACH COBBLER (The Weird Sisters’ Dangerous Women); THE RIGHT KIND OF MARIGOLD (Working Title Playwrights’ 24 Hour Festival); [IF YOU DON’T KNOW] THE PLEDGE (One minute Play Festival @ Actor’s Express); THE HANDMAID RHIANNON; NEWFOUND MASCOT; HER NAME IS HUNTER (Horizon Theatre Apprentice Company Showcase). Rachel currently serves as the Dramatists Guild Young Ambassador for Atlanta, the Alliance Theatre’s Literary Intern, and is a proud member of Working Title Playwrights and the Dramatists Guild. She was a 2016/17 Horizon Theatre Company Playwright Apprentice and received a B. A. in Theatre / Gender, Sexuality, and Femenist Studies, graduating with High Honors.
Tell us a little bit about the play we’ll be seeing this summer!
This is the story of Tess, who quietly crusades to keep it together, working full time as a phlebotomist and caring for her ailing mother Marjorie, who likes to harp on Tess’s dormant dreams of becoming a doctor. Suddenly, her sister Roz shows back up from rehab, pledging high expectations and a clean slate. When stranger William, an echo of their deceased father, arrives in town with a tempting new offer of employment, Tess tries her best to keep everyone from going underwater. Everyone else, anyway.
Where did you get the idea for this play? What made you want to write it?
The idea for this play first came to me as a fixation on the idea of experiencing emotional deja vu with a complete stranger. What sort of circumstances might someone encounter unexpected, inexplicable, magnetic, platonic attraction? I grew up rather nomadically, and as I meet new people, I often find myself startled at how much they are an echo of someone else I know, either in aesthetic or aura. This idea was the basis of Tess and William’s relationship, right from the start.
At the same time, mental health and addiction are in constant conversation in much of my work. As much as one wants to be topical and trendy with one’s writing, I am sobered (if you will) at how recent events, particularly around the opioid crisis, have fueled the need for this play right now. I wanted to bring to light the ways that addiction, mental health, trauma, family – the forces of nurture versus nature – can manifest and interact. And, because I love theatre magic – always have, always will – I set forth to theatricalize mental health in a way that only this medium can. Amidst these very heavy topics, it has been a joy to figure out fantastical ways I could give Tess’s world center stage.
As often happens in my work, this play has become a love letter to people I care deeply about. Dear ones who have prevailed, in spite of their demons. It also seems prudent to mention at this time (no spoilers!), I have a splendid relationship with both of my parents and my siblings. Family, blood and chosen, is another common theme in my work; some of my favorite moments in this piece are between Tess and Roz, amidst the whirlwind of their sisterly banter between confrontation and deflection. Eternal gratitude for my family and their support of, in my mother’s words, my “vivid imagination.”
How did you get into playwriting?
I grew up in the theatre, primarily as a performer, and have been lucky enough to have drama for self-expression and exploration throughout my living memory. I didn’t feel a need to WRITE plays, however, until my first major adolescent heartbreak wherein I found myself at a loss on how to process my confusion. How could this other person have been so BLASÉ about this breakup when I SO CLEARLY thought we were in love?! The solution? Culling through our many emails, MSN Messenger chats, exchanged LiveJournal quizzes, and every other iota of interaction I could find and splicing it all together to make sense of the narrative arc of my heart. Let’s be clear: it was not a GOOD play. But it was the first play.
After that, I made an accidental habit of weaseling my way into writing plays for the final project/presentation/paper of non-theatre classes. (I highly recommend this academic strategy.) For example: while at Quaker boarding school, I wrote a play for an English class elective (“Voices of Gay and Lesbian Liberation;” I had a remarkable curriculum in high school) final exploring gender identity and expression when a male student borrows a female classmate’s skirt and “gets caught.” Or, after researching a rare medical condition for my Gender Studies Honors Project in undergrad, I wrote and composed a musical featuring an ominous Greek Goddess chorus about what it means to be “female bodied” in the face of biological infertility.
The short answer to this is: I love research and I love theatre and playwriting is my way of weaving those loves together, along with a piece of my heart.
Are you working on any new projects at the moment? What’s next for you?
I am in the midst of adapting a one-act play of mine, THE HANDMAID RHIANNON, into a young adult novel. The play was produced as part of the Horizon Theatre Apprentice Company showcase in June 2017 and the characters still want to talk to me. Here to report: writing a novel is very different from writing a play! So many more words required. I read a remarkably amount of YA as a young person, so I’ve set down to write something I’d have wanted to read at 14.
I’m also working on self-producing an album showcasing some of my singer-songwriter portfolio from over the last decade, including selections from the music I’ve written for theatre, in addition to songs probably best classified as Folk Pop.
And, for the theatre, I’m writing a new full-length comedy about the phenomenon known as “pheromone parties” and the quirky characters who may or may not find themselves at one. This is the first time I’ve set out with the intention to write a comedy. Will it work? Well, if you aren’t familiar with the concept of a “pheromone party,” I really must insist you look it up.
Where else can we see your work?
For all things creative, stay tuned at: www.rachelgrafevans.com
To check out more theatre writing: www.newplayexchange.com/users/2207/rachel-graf-evans
If you’re interested in a cappella arrangement, head over to my Soundcloud (https://soundcloud.com/rachel-graf-evans) and my YouTube page (https://www.youtube.com/c/RachelGrafEvans).
What made you decide to submit your play to the Essential Theatre Playwriting Competition?
The reasons are twofold. I was given excellent advice as an early career playwright: if there’s a theatre maker you admire, find all the places they’ve worked and go check them out. And I have taken that advice to heart. The playwrights who have previously won this contest are writers whose work and careers I greatly admire. Having found myself eligible for this contest, I said: let’s try! And, by golly, it worked! The second reason is: this opportunity is very, very special. A first production is something is coveted and not accomplished lightly. It takes a lot of trust (and even more WORK!) to produce new plays. I’m thrilled to report this will be my first full-length production! It’s exquisite. My enthusiasm cannot be bridled.
What are your thoughts on having your play produced for the first time?
It is exhilarating and petrifying, all at once. I used to think playwriting was a less vulnerable practice than acting. That was wrong. Often when acting, one character carries your whole heart and it is your responsibility to nurture that heart throughout the duration of the story. Make no mistake: that takes work. And then I learned: when you’re the playwright, each of the characters carries a wedge of your heart, because you sliced it up and left it there. At some point you have to give the play away to other people! Along with your fragmented heart! That said, I love theatre. I worship theatre. I honor the tradition of how the same script transforms and recalibrates in every iteration. The playwright must give the play away in order for the play to come to life. I’m ready! No play will never be exactly like it was in my head and that is the joy of the medium. I cannot wait to see what this piece blossoms into. It’s a thrilling thing to be a part of.
How did you find out about Essential and the playwriting competition?
I learned about Essential during my Playwright Apprenticeship at Horizon Theater Company. Upon completing the apprenticeship, I joined Working Title Playwrights which has expanded my knowledge of Essential programming; for that I am so grateful.
Rachel’s play, BUILT TO FLOAT, is a co-winner of the 2018 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award and will premiere as part of the 2018 Essential Theatre Play Festival running this July 27-August 26 at the West End Performing Arts Center.
At noon this Saturday, Makeshift Circus Collective‘s Sara Gregory will lead a workshop entitled Mindful Story Gathering: Seeking to address social barriers from beginning to end of community based art making processes. This workshop will focus on ways to approach the information gathering process of community based art making. MakeShift is an Atlanta based collective that calls together diverse groups of social artists and community members to delve into issues of importance. Their current initiative, the Gender Project, will produce a circus show driven by and culminating in community dialogue to be shared free of charge in metro Atlanta. During the workshop, Sara will offer an overview of methods of collecting community stories and experiences with a specific focus on best practices for the creation of interview/story circles.
MakeShift’s mission is to collaboratively provoke exciting, depthful, and transformative moments through teaching and performing circus in Atlanta and beyond.
We are process oriented, seeking to be a part of projects that will transform us into better agents for social change. We do not see ourselves as outside of the issues that our work delves into, drawing from the concept of Theater of the Oppressed which recognizes that everyone creates the situations that allow social justice to continue. We all have a stake in moving forward social equity for all beings.
Our larger projects generally run on a two year cycle beginning with the identification of the social issue that the specific project will address. Next we investigate the context of the issue by reading, viewing documentaries, attending events and lectures, and working to connect and learn with others touched by the issue. We then reach out to the larger community to gather voices that would amplify the complexities of the issue. Through story circles and interviews we gather recordings of community members sharing their stories and experiences. Next we work with social artists that are representative of key stakeholders to create a performance that will bring the stories to life on stage. We then host a season of free, widely accessible performances followed by dialogue amongst audience members.
Sara Gregory is a founding member of MakeShift Circus Collective and is the coordinator of their current initiative, the Gender Project. Please visit https://makeshiftcircus.org/ to listen in on the Gender Booth, in which our interviewers will themselves share intimately about their own gender experiences as we are asking others to do. She spent five years traveling around the Americas collaborating with social circus organizations in around 15 countries in preparation to bring fresh perspectives to the budding social circus movement in the US. She earned her Masters degree in community Social Work from Georgia State. She feels so fortunate to be walking a path that nourishes her mind, body, and soul.
The Essential Theatre is taking appointments for their 2018 General Auditions, to be held from 6:15 to 10 p.m. on Monday, March 19. Auditioners are asked to prepare two contrasting monologs that do not last more than a total of 4 minutes. To make appointments, call 404-558-4523 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The auditions will be held in the Jugglers’ Room on the top floor of the Little Five Points Community Center, 1083 Austin Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30307. This is the building that Horizon Theater is located in, and the room is on the top floor of the building, directly to your right as you come to the top of the stairs. (It’s also directly across the hall from the Horizon Theater offices). It is at the corner of Euclid and Austin Avenues, and is exactly what it looks like – an old high school building.
We are looking for non-Equity people to consider for the 2018 Essential Theatre Play Festival, which will run from July 27 – August 26 at the West End Performing Arts Center. This will be our 20th annual Festival. All actors will be paid a stipend. For more information on the Essential Festival, visit www.EssentialTheatre.com.
The Festival will feature the World Premiere productions of the co-winners of the 2018 Essential Theatre Playwriting Prize: Avery Sharpe’s WOKE, to be directed by Ellen McQueen, and Rachel Graf Evans’ BUILT TO FLOAT, to be directed by Peter Hardy.
We will NOT be reading for these plays at our General Auditions, but the casting breakdowns for them are:
Jesse Blanche– White. 18-20. Has an incredible amount of charm. Smart and knows it.
Adrian Strong– Black. 18-20. Thoughtful and passionate. Has underlying swag.
Martha Blanche– Jesse’s mother. Overly affectionate and full of energy.
Frank Blanche– Jesse’s father. Something about him says “all-American”.
Tanisha McCoy– Black. 18-20. An intelligent and passionate firecracker.
Natasha Boyd– Black. 18-20. Outrageously sweet with a hint of spikiness. Has an aura that is alluring and calming.
BUILT TO FLOAT
Tess Beauregard, 20s
William Neal, 50s
Marjorie Beauregard, 60s, Tess’s mother
Roz Beauregard, 30s, Tess’s older sister
(No specific racial requirements)
And the winners are…
Essential Theatre announces the winners of the 2018 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award
February 2018 – Essential Theatre is proud to announce there are two winners of the 2018 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award: Rachel Graf Evans’ Built to Float and Avery Sharpe’s Woke.
Built to Float and Woke will both receive a full production in the 2018 Essential Theatre Festival this summer as well as a cash prize. The runners up for the prize were: Rick and Ricky by Lee Raines, The Odds Against Death by John D. Babcock III and Ted Westby, Orbital Debris by Vynnie Meli, and Dead Gay Body by Abraham Johnson. Now in its eighteenth year, the Essential Theatre Playwriting Competition is the only contest exclusively dedicated to the work of Georgia playwrights.
Rachel Graf Evans is a writer, theatre artist, and serves as the Dramatists Guild Young Ambassador for Atlanta. Built to Float follows Tess, who quietly crusades to keep it together, working full time as a phlebotomist and caring for her ailing mother Marjorie who likes to harp on Tess’s dormant dreams of becoming a doctor. Suddenly, her sister Roz shows back up from rehab, pledging high expectations and a clean slate. When
stranger William, an echo of their deceased father, arrives in town with a tempting new offer of employment, Tess tries her best to keep everyone from going under water. Everyone else, anyway.
Avery Sharpe is a playwright and actor. He studied acting and Spanish at Kennesaw State University. Woke is a play that follows two friends from different backgrounds who are trying to navigate the already rocky transition from high school to college.
When a calamitous event captures national attention, they are forced to wrestle with their different understandings of social awareness. Through family, romance, and their own friendship, they painstakingly and comically explore what it truly means to be woke.
Finalists for the 2018 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award were Rick and Ricky by Lee Raines, The Odds Against Death by John D. Babcock III and Ted Westby, Orbital Debris by Vynnie Meli, and Dead Gay Body by Abraham Johnson.
About the playwriting competition:
Now in its eighteenth year, this is the only contest exclusively dedicated to the work of Georgia playwrights. The winning play receives both a full production and a $600 cash prize. Playwrights must be current Georgia residents, and the plays must be previously unproduced. There are no restrictions as to style, length or subject matter. The deadline for the 2019 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award competition is April 23, 2018. 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.
Join Essential Theatre on March 10 to meet this year’s award winners and get your festival passes at the Celebration Event at Get Scene Studios, near Atlantic Station: Tickets on sale now at bit.ly/ET20Celebration. To submit your own play, visit EssentialTheatre.com/Playwriting-Competition.
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For media inquires
Caroline Baxter, Marketing and Outreach Coordinator
The Essential Theatre Festival
July 27th – August 26th
The Essential Theatre
at West End Performing Arts Center
945 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd,
Atlanta, GA 30310
Tickets available starting March 10 at www.EssentialTheatre.com