Tag Archives: Essential Theatre

Henritze’s Play, Bitch of Balaclava, reading tonight as part of Brave New Works at Theatre Emory

Tonight at 7pm in the Schwartz Center at Emory, former Essential Theatre collaborator Patricia Henritze’s play, The Bitch of Balaclava, is being read as part of Theater Emory’s Brave New Works series.

Brave New Works is a festival of new play readings and exploratory workshops presented by the Playwriting Center of Theater Emory. Playwrights, adaptors, composers, and dramaturgs come together towork on these plays in development, with a combined company of student and professional actors.
I had the opportunity to connect with Patricia earlier this week and hear about her experience with Brave New Works, learn a little about tonight’s play, and find out what’s next   on her own creative horizon. Check it out!
Tell me a little about who you are and what your background is? 
I’m a writer, director, and teacher.  I’ve taught theater all over Atlanta: Agnes Scott, Clayton State, Kennesaw State, Oglethorpe.  I love teaching.  Most recently I directed Milvotchkee Visconsin at Synchronicity, and I’m currently directing Intimate Apparel at GA Perimeter, as well as teaching playwriting at Oglethorpe. My play The Bitch of Balaclava is in Brave New Works at Theater Emory this year.  
Do you primarily think of yourself as a Georgia writer? 
I don’t think of myself as a ‘Southern Writer’ at all.  That said, I have no doubt that my thoroughly southern roots have influenced my reading and writing.  I’ve lived outside the south for extended periods, but I always come back.  
How do you primarily think of yourself, either as a creator or an artist or a person?
When I describe myself, I usually say, “theater artist.” I come from performance art background and it’s normal for me to think in an interdisciplinary format.  I love to collaborate and have worked with dancers, musicians, and filmmakers. I’m currently stewing on a project that would involve a visual artist – I hope I get to do that soon.
Tell me about your history/relationship with Essential.
The earliest memories I have of Essential Theatre are going to see a play by Karen Wurl.  It must have been one of the first years of the festival.  I also remember seeing a Karla Jennings play there around that time (or the same time?) Then, nearly ten years ago, I directed Going to St. Ives by Lee Blessing for Essential and had a wonderful experience.  I’m still friends with the two actors from that show, Yvonne Singh and Shawna Tucker.
Where did your play come from? Where did you get the idea to write it?
I often write from image and this play came from a strong visual impulse. I often gravitate toward classical inspiration and history, but it’s funny because I don’t think of myself as intellectual in that way at all. This play is very physical, but very language rich at the same time.
What made you decide to actually pursue the idea?
I was actually in graduate school years ago when Ifirst started the play and proposed it as a final project of some kind.  But I ended up dropping it and secretly writing another play.  Then, at the end of the semester I had to show something and I didn’t have this play, so I gave them the other one that I thought wasn’t very good.  It won the graduate writing award that year.  Many years later, I picked this one up again.  Obviously, I wasn’t ready to write it at the time.
How did your participation in the Brave New Works series come about?
I met Vinnie Murphy through a Working Title Playwrights workshop. I brought in some work, he and I started talking, and then I sent him some more work.  I really enjoy talking theater with him. Eventually we began to talk about BNW and I went through the proposal process.  I was surprised when they chose this play.  
What is exciting or unique about Brave New Works?
Since it’s focused on process and it’s a university setting, they have the willingness and resources to develop work that might be less accessible or producible for other theaters. BNW creates opportunities for writers to explore new ground, which is rare – and getting more so every day. Also, working in the Schwartz Theater space is perfect for this play and having Vinnie direct this first workshop of the piece feels very lucky.
What has your experience with this process been, or been like?
The best part for me, so far, has been working with allthe people at Theater Emory.  Everyone I’ve met issmart and funny and kind – it’s been a real pleasure.  Plus, they liked this play.  Sometimes you write a play that you know has challenges and finding people interested in exploring those challenges is not always easy.  When you do, it’s a gift so you better just enjoy the ride.  And I have.
Outside of this reading, what else are you up to? What’s the next thing of yours we could go see, or the next thing you’re excited about seeing or being involved in?
I’m the Creative Director for Life Sentence, a music project that benefits the Georgia Innocence Project (GIP.) March 9th we have a co-sponsored event with True Colors Theater Company in conjunction with their play Race at the Southwest Arts Center.  Life Sentence is inspired by the life of Clarence Harrison,the first man exonerated by GIP. Clarence will be there talking about his 18 years of wrongful incarceration and his eventual release – and musicians Melanie Hammet and Ben Holst will be performing the songs they’ve written about his life.  It’s moving, but also entertaining.  The music isamazing, Melanie and Ben are so talented, and Clarence is a great storyteller with a dry sense of humor. The audience always has a great time. Plus, it benefits GIP so they can continue to free the innocent.  What could be better?
Bitch of Balaclava will be read tonight at 7pm in the Theater Lab at the Schwartz Center at Emory University. Admission is free. To make reservations call the Arts at Emory box office, (404) 727-5050.

Congratulations to Karla Jennings and Theroun D’Arcy Patterson, Winners of the 2014 Essential Theatre Playwriting Competition!

Atlanta, January 2014 – Essential Theatre has just announced Theroun Patterson and Karla Jennings as co-winners of the 2014 Playwriting Competition.  “It’s taken us a long while to come to a decision this year,” observes Peter Hardy, Founding Artistic Director of the theatre, “because of the large number of strong submissions we received.  But we feel that both of these plays are worthy of the prizes and will be excellent contributions to our Festival this summer.” Both playwrights will receive a $600 cash prize and a full production in this summer’s Essential Theatre Festival.
Having two contest winners in one year is not unprecedented, as this was also the case in 2006, when both Valetta Anderson’s “Leaving Limbo” and Larry Larson and Eddie Levi Lee’s “Charm School” shared the prize.  Since that time there has continued to be an increase in both the quantity and quality of plays submitted to this competition.
Karla Jennings’s play, Ravens and Seagulls, is a heartfelt story about four sisters going through the process of losing one of them to illness. “It’s often painful,” says Hardy, “but also has a lot of humor and some hope at the end.”
That Uganda Play, by Theroun Patterson, was written in reaction to Ugandan Parliament Member David Bahati’s “Kill the Gays” bill of 2010. “With the virulent anti-homosexual sentiments and violence in Africa and recently with the legislation signed into law in Russia, this play is timely and sheds light on a very American involvement with such a controversial figure like Bahati,” states Patterson in a 2013 interview. “My hope is that [this play] provokes debate and conversations late into the night long after it’s over.”
Both plays were previously workshopped by Working Title Playwrights, and That Uganda Play was also featured in the Bare Essentials Reading Series during the 2013 Essential Theatre Festival. Both Karla and Theroun have had other plays produced by Essential, Images in Smoke by Karla in 2000 and A Thousand Circlets by Theroun in 2011.
About Essential Theatre
Essential Theatre has been supporting Georgia playwrights and presenting new plays to Atlanta audiences since 1987. Since 2011, the Essential Play Festival has presented all world premieres by Georgia playwrights. Dates and venue for the 2014 Festival will be announced soon. For additional information about the festival, the contest or Essential Theatre, visit www.EssentialTheatre.com.
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For media inquires
Jennifer Kimball, Managing Director

(404) 587-3853

Thank you, Daniel Burnley

I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile now, but every time I sit down to write, I get lost in the photos, my own memories and the Facebook posts from friends of Daniel’s. It’s been almost a month, and I still can’t believe we’ve done our last show together, that I’ve seen Daniel’s amazing talent onstage for the last time. This Thanksgiving, there’s a lot to give thanks for. And through the tears that still well up for a man that, let’s face it, I worked with once a year at most, I suppose it’s fitting that it took me till Thanksgiving week to be able to say it. Thank you, Daniel. There aren’t words enough, so just — thanks.

On October 25, 2013, the world lost a wonderful actor and human being, Mr. Daniel Burnley. The Essential Theatre was blessed to have him on our stage and in our family for many years, and our world will not be the same without him. He was an unforgettable man to those who knew him, and the characters he created onstage were unparalleled in my experience. 

Here are some thoughts that our artistic director, Peter Hardy, shared with me around the time of Daniel’s wake, which fittingly enough was held at Manuel’s Tavern, a longtime haven for the Atlanta theatre community.

“Most people in the Atlanta theatre community knew Daniel Burnley — over the past few decades he’d worked with most of the companies in town, at one time or another, along with a bunch of film work.  I got to know him in 2005, when I directed him in the Essential Theatre’s production of Sam Shepard’s THE LATE HENRY MOSS, which is a play I loved and really wanted to do, but don’t think I would have had the courage to take on if Daniel hadn’t been willing to do the title roll.  Which he was, and without really knowing me much at all, for which I’ll always be grateful.  He was splendid, and that show is still one of my proudest memories with the Essential Theatre, and Daniel went on to do exemplary work for us in four more productions — CHARM SCHOOL, JIM CROW AND THE RHYTHM DARLINGS, THE DARKER FACE OF THE EARTH and QUALITIES OF STARLIGHT.  In just about every case, Daniel was taking on a role for us that no one else (that was available to us) would have been willing or able to do — or, at least, not nearly as well as he did them.  Daniel told me repeatedly how much he believed in the work Essential was doing, and how he’d give up the chance to get (much) better playing work in films to do one of our projects.  Which was an honor for us, but also just a testament to the generous and committed person that he was.  All that being said, he was also just a good guy, a good friend, and someone that all of us will miss a lot.”

Thank you, Daniel, for your crass humor, your quick laughter, your generous spirit, your belief in the work we do at Essential, and for making that work better with your involvement. We love you, and we miss you!

Daniel Burnley (July 29, 1956-Oct 25, 2013)

photo courtesy of Valerie Weaver

“Connecting with Deaf Audiences” Final Report

In 2013 for the first time, sign language interpretation was offered as part of the Essential Theatre Festival. This was a pretty big undertaking for us – there’s a lot of work and a lot of money that goes into making this happen smoothly and well – and we were very excited to be bringing this new aspect into our festival.
To help fund the project, we participated in our first ever power2give crowdfunding project. If you’re not familiar with power2give, it’s actually pretty awesome, and you can learn more about it here. We’d started out hoping to raise money, but through our power2give project, we gained so much more. The outpouring of community support and enthusiasm was touching, encouraging and absolutely inspiring to all of us. People we’d known for years contacted us thanking us for the work we do every year, for our years of support of Georgia artists, and for our commitment to sharing quality theatre with anyone and everyone we meet. People we’d never realized had an interest reached out to say thank you for bringing new theatre to Deaf audiences, and thank you for engaging us in conversation. And the support we received from members of Atlanta’s own Deaf community was heartening and inspiring as well. The video you see if you go to our project page would never have been possible without two of our most committed Deaf collaborators, Amy Cohen Efron and AJ Wooddall. And the geographic extent of the response was impressive too: Terp Theatre in Detroit, MI, contacted us and said,  

“You are embarking on a wonderful project, which will greatly enhance your local theatre community’s ability to better reflect the diversity of our world…Your community-centered approach is to be lauded…Our heartfelt congratulations to you, from your friends in ‘The D’.”

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Interview with playwright Theroun Patterson

Interview with playwright Theroun Patterson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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