Thursday, February 13, 2020

More Devotedly... A Chat with Portland Musician and PodCaster Douglas Detrick About Magellanica and Climate Change


In January, Douglas Detrick came out to the farm to discuss my play Magellanica -- which is about a team of scientists studying the hole in the ozone layer at a research station in Antarctica in 1986, where they confront environmental crisis, geopolitical conflict, and interpersonal struggle. Though not directly about climate change, the play shows that human beings can work together on a global scale to forestall environmental crises.  Click the link to give it a listen!
"That’s the real question this now in which we find ourselves—this divided, polarized moment of anger and division and fear-mongering by a lot of people at the top—is that question of empathy.  Do we want to put up a wall, beyond which we don’t care?  Or do we say no, those are people like us, connected to us, living on the same small blue planet as us, and that we’re in it together?"  ~E. M. Lewis
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Songs from the Stage


On Friday, February 7th, join me and lyricist Holly Richards for Songs from the Stage!  Holly and I are both members of LineStorm Playwrights.  She writes musicals and I write opera!  So when the opportunity came for us to share some of our work in the Portland-wide Fertile Ground Festival, we decided to get together.  This will be a fun hour-long concert (give or take) with songs and numbers from several of our works.  Hope to see you there!

LineStorm Playwrights, in association with Chapel Theatre, present

Songs from the Stage

By E.M. Lewis & Holly Richards
Directed by Brian Shnipper

Featuring pianist Kira Whiting and singers Sienna Burnett, Quinlan Fitzgerald, Ben Tissell, Madeline Ross, William Goforth, and Erik Hundtoft.

Feb 7 @ noon
Chapel Theatre
4107 SE Harrison St, Milwaukie OR 97222

FREE!

From modern musical theatre to opera, join us for the musical works of E.M. Lewis and Holly Richards. Featuring songs from established works and works-in-progress, these two writers will share insights into their creative processes, as well as background on their inspirations.

This reading of Songs from the Stage is funded in part by the Regional Arts & Culture Council. ASL interpretation will be provided.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Readings of Dorothy's Dictionary in Florida and Oregon!



Dorothy's Dictionary is my newest play!  It's a big-hearted two-hander about an angry teenage boy who is forced to do community service after a violent incident at his high school.  But reading to ailing librarian Dorothy changes both of their lives in ways they couldn't have imagined.

January 27 at 7pm -- Reading of Dorothy's Dictionary in Palm Beach Dramaworks' new play reading festival in Palm Beach, FL.  Click here for more information!

February 5 at noon -- Reading of Dorothy's Dictionary in LineStorm's lunchtime reading series in the Fertile Ground Festival in Portland, OR.  Directed by Dan Kitrosser.  Featuring Ayanna Berkshire and Jordan Clark.   Click here for more information!


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

A Look at 2019!


I'd like to end 2019 by saying THANK YOU to all the wonderful folks I've had the privelege of working with this year. And to all of you who have graced me with your friendship!
I'm very grateful for this life I've cobbled out... living on the farm here in Oregon with family and animals, finding inspiration in the Portland theater community, and working all over the place. 
Special thanks to my folks, for their help and encouragement, and to Samara Harris, my agent, for her support!
Here are some of the happy highlights from this year, and a few pictures to go along with them. 

PLAYS:

Apple Season at New Jersey Rep.

Apple Season at Riverside Theater in Iowa City.

Apple Season at Riverside Theater in Iowa City.

Apple Season at Moving Arts in Los Angeles.
APPLE SEASON: My three-person play about a woman and her brother and their friend attempting to come to terms with the devastating events of their shared childhood received a rolling world premiere from the National New Play Network! I wrote and rewrote and discovered so much in the process of seeing these three productions brought to life. Many thanks to my teams at New Jersey Repertory Theater, Riverside Theater in Iowa City (directed by Adam Knight), and Moving Arts in Los Angeles (directed by Darin Anthony and produced by Cece Tio-- and it was such a joy to work with those two again!).
The Gun Show at Uprising Theater in Minneapolis.
THE GUN SHOW: The Gun Show was published by Samuel French this year, and had a bunch more productions -- both the solo version, and the duo version with me in it. I did the duo version in Tulsa, Oklahoma, then spent a month in Pittsburgh, doing it with Quantum Theater (with one night in West Virginia!).  Andrew William Smith (who performed the show in Pittsburgh) came out to Ashland, Oregon to do it with me in June -- and it was very special to share it with that community, which has come to mean so much to me.  Harold Hynick brought the solo version to Missouri Valley College, and the first female actor tackled the role of "the playwright" at Uprising Theater Company in Minneapolis.
DOROTHY'S DICTIONARY: In May, I had the first reading of a new two-hander I've been working on, directed by my pal Dan Kitrosser, under the auspices of my LineStorm Playwriting Group (with a generous grant from RACC -- thank you, RACC!). In this play, a teenage boy is assigned to read to an ill librarian after a violent incident at his high school. The two of them find an unexpected bond over books... and end up helping each other through some difficult times. We're going to have another reading of this play during the upcoming Fertile Ground Festival!

How the Light Gets In at Boston Court Pasadena. 
How the Light Gets In at Boston Court Pasadena.
How the Light Gets in at Chatauqua!
HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN: This play had its world premiere at Boston Court Pasadena, after an amazing week of workshopping at Chatauqua in New York, helmed by director Emilie Beck. This play is a love story about a travel writer in the middle of a health crisis who meets a Japanese architect, a lost girl, and a tattoo artist. I loved this whole process, and Emilie, and my designers and actors were just fantastic. Chatauqua was such an adventure! (A special shout out to my grad school friends Scott and Kristine Moe, who let me stay with them while I was in Los Angeles!)
INFINITE BLACK SUITCASE: When I was in Los Angeles, working on How the Light Gets In, Santa Monica High School was working on their production of Infinite Black Suitcase. I attended a rehearsal, met all the young actors, watched their scenes, talked with them about their characters, and generally had a great time revisiting this big-hearted old play of mine.
THE GREAT DIVIDE: In really, really big news for me, I was commissioned by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to write a history play for them, as part of their amazing "American Revolutions" project. I am honored and excited, and will be working on this piece for the next year or two, researching and writing. It was co-commissioned by Artists Repertory Theater -- and I'm grateful to be able to develop it with both of these outstanding Oregon theater companies! And I'm also grateful to Chuck Harper at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Michael Mendelson and Karen Hill at Portland Shakespeare Project for early support of this big, complicated, messy play!

OPERA:

The cast of Dear Erich at the National Yiddish Theater, produced by New York City Opera.
DEAR ERICH: I only contributed a couple lyrics for this full-length opera by composer Ted Rosenthal and his wife Lesley, who worked with him on the libretto. But I was very glad to hear the entire work performed at the National Yiddish Theater, produced by New York City Opera in January. The opera is based on Ted's father's experience, losing most of his family in the Holocaust, and it was an honor to be part of it. I'm proud of my number, entitled "Everything My Father Never Told Me" that Ted used to open the second act.

TOWN HALL: An excerpt from this opera was performed in an American Lyric Theater showcase in New York City in February. (Thank you, Larry Edelson!) I wrote Town Hall two years ago with composer Theo Popov, when we were commissioned by University of Maryland to write something for their first year masters students. It's a passionate piece about health care in America today, set during a contentious small town town hall event. In March, the opera had its orchestral premiere at Willamette University here in Oregon, and Theo and I had a wonderful time working with Chris Engbretson and his talented students.
Composer Evan Meier, librettist E. M. Lewis, and artistic director of American Lyric Theater Larry Edelson after the piano vocal workshop of Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Fallen Giant. 
The cast of our Sherlock Holmes opera!  What gorgeous voices!
SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE CASE OF THE FALLEN GIANT: I've been working for several years now with composer Evan Meier on this family friendly operatic mash up of the mystery and fairy tale worlds. In March, American Lyric Theater -- the wonderful company who trained us and commissioned us to write this opera -- brought us to New York City for a piano vocal workshop. Eight singers, a pianist, a harpist, a conductor... it was an amazing week, hearing our music and words together. (We'll be heading back to NYC in February of this year for the orchestral workshop!)

TEACHING GIGS AND SPECIAL EVENTS:

I taught a few playwriting workshops through Artists Rep this year, and worked with the indefatigable Karen Rathje to bring short playwriting courses into Portland area high schools. We began with Roosevelt High School -- and have more lined up for the new year! I also taught a variety of workshops and classes as I traveled for my plays, including ones at Carnegie Mellon and Point Park University in Pittsburgh. I do love teaching!
In March, I was on two panels at the AWP Conference in Portland, Oregon! The Emerging Eco-Theater panel allowed me to talk about Magellanica, Song of Extinction, and the pieces I've written for the Climate Change Theater Action. The Playwriting in the Pacific Northwest panel allowed me to give shout outs to all the theater companies here who have dedicated themselves to producing new work, including my home company Artists Rep.
Also in March, I taught a workshop on "Making Magic for the Stage" at the Dramatists Guild Intensive in Portland. Thank you for coming to Portland, Dramatists Guild!!!
Magellanica was a finalist for the Oregon Book Awards! I lost to my esteemed colleague, Andrea Stolowitz, for her delightful comic Oregon wine play -- but appreciated the nod!
My wine-maker brother commissioned me to write a poem for his new release, an orange wine! Then he put my poem on the label! It was great fun, and I'm honored.
__________________________________
That's it, I think. Whew! Did I miss anything? It's been grand. 
Best wishes, friends! May the new year bring good things our way.
~Ellen

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2018 Was a Busy Year!

What a year! I'm so very grateful for all the wonderful people I've had the pleasure of working with in 2018. Here are a few highlights that I'd like to remember.




MAGELLANICA. I will be forever, forever grateful to Damaso Rodriguez, and everyone at Artists Repertory Theater in Portland, Oregon, for producing the world premiere of my five and a half hour long Antarctic epic. I love this story. I've worked on it for ages... researching, writing, finding my way slowly forward, with lots of help along the way. I could not have asked for a better team, in every aspect, designers, director, crew, and my eight magnificent, brave actors. I would sit up on the back step of the theater, watching the audience watch my play unfold in front of them. Listening to them laugh and gasp. I'm proud of what we made together. And was delighted to have so many friends from across the country come and see!

HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN. In January, I had a first reading of a new play, sponsored by my beloved playwriting group LineStorm, in Portland's Fertile Ground Festival. It's about a travel writer who never travels... but ends up on a journey she'd rather not be on, with three companions who are on journeys of their own.  Daniel Ajl Kitrosser directed our wonderful group of actors, and I wrote and rewrote until about three in the morning the night before the reading. You know how that is? The play went on to a table reading at 16th Street Theater in Chicago (thanks, Ann Filmer!), and then to a week-long workshop at Boston Court Pasadena, directed by the extraordinary Emilie Beck, with a fabulous cast. I wrote and rewrote and wrote some more. And I'm so happy to report that Boston Court will be premiering the play in fall of 2019, with Emilie at the helm! 


TOWN HALL. In February, I flew out to the University of Maryland, where the opera that composer Theo Popov and I were commissioned to write for the ten singers of the Maryland Opera Studio was being produced, directed by Tara Faircloth. What a grand experience! Town Hall is about a retired librarian who faces off with a conservative senator who has voted to take away her health care... right when she needs it most. I'm glad to report that this opera is going to have its second production right here in Oregon, at my alma mater, Willamette University, in March 2019!






THE GREAT DIVIDE. In March, Chuck Harper invited me out to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville for a five week residency. I taught a playwriting class while I was there -- a fabulous group of young writers! And I worked on a brand new play inspired by the 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon. This is a play about patriotism and protest, and what it means to be an American in this divided moment. I came with 22 pages, five song ideas, and an absolute certainty that there was a play in there somewhere. By the end of the five weeks, Chuck and I and our cast of twelve put up a workshop production of the play. It was an absolute joy to sing with these people, and be lost in the process, and have the difficult conversations that come with making art, and seeing them all up on stage. This play had the gift of further development after I got back to Oregon, when dear Michael Mendelsonincluded it in Portland Shakespeare Project's "Proscenium Live." It's not done yet, though. This is a big play, a political play, and I continue to follow where it leads me.

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE CASE OF THE FALLEN GIANT. This opera is a fast and fun mash-up of Victorian mystery and fairy tale worlds, in which Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson solve the mystery of the dead giant in Jack and the Beanstalk. Composer Evan Meier and I continued our work on this family friendly opera in July when American Lyric Theater's creator and director Lawrence Edelson invited us to Saratoga Springs in New York for a week-long writing retreat. We did some major work on the libretto, and drafted several new numbers. We're excited to hear how it all sounds in March 2019, when we'll be in New York City for a piano vocal workshop!

THE GUN SHOW. This play about guns and gun control, which is both personal and political, continued to have productions across the country in 2018. Unfortunately, it doesn't stop being topical. I'll be in Tulsa and Pittsburgh with the play in 2019, and am also looking forward to its upcoming publication!

APPLE SEASON. In October, I had the opportunity to work on this new play in Theater Lab, in Boca Raton, which calls Florida Atlantic University home. This week of work on the play, and two public readings, was so helpful! Particularly because I already knew that the world premiere of the play was coming up quickly (January 2019 at NJ Rep!). We had a wonderful team. It was my first visit to Florida! Thank you, Matt Stabile! This is a play about a woman who is trying to come to terms with her past. It's about the power of truth-telling. Stay tuned for more exciting news about this one, coming soon...

TEACHING. I did a good bit of teaching in 2018! I taught my playwriting class at SIUE, and was a guest teacher in Profile Theater's Community Profile group (which was a real pleasure). I talked with several other teacher's classes as a guest! And I began teaching playwriting workshops at Artists Rep, which I plan to continue doing in the new year. Thanks for finding a place for me in your new education initiative, Karen Rathje

Between all of these exciting theatrical and operatic and teaching adventures, I spent time with friends and family, took road trips to the coast and to Ashland, walked up and down the Abbey Hill with Sam and Augie, cuddled with Joe the Cat, planted a garden, and saw a lot of wonderful plays. 
I'm grateful to be able to do what I love, and live where I want, and spend time with all of you. Thank you for being part of my year! May 2019 bring joy to us all.
Happy new year!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Magellanica World Premiere January/February 2018!


I am absolutely delighted to announce that my epic play "Magellanica" will have its world premiere at Artists Repertory Theater in Portland, Oregon in January/February 2018.



Magellanica is a five-part epic play written by Oregon playwright E.M. Lewis, and directed by Damaso Rodriguez. This world premiere production at Artists Repertory Theater is made possible through major funding from the Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) Creative Heights Initiative and the Edgerton Foundation New Play Award.


In 1986, scientists and engineers from around the world converge at the South Pole Research Station to figure out, among other things, if there really is a hole in the sky. In the darkest, coldest, most dangerous place on Earth, eight imperfect souls are trapped together. Utterly isolated from the outside world for eight and a half months, this research team must face life or death challenges, their own inner demons and depend upon each other for survival.

With epic scope in the tradition of The Kentucky Cycle or Angels in America, this play takes its inspiration from the true story of the discovery of the hole in the ozone layer at the height of the Cold War. Part historical adventure, part love story and mystical foray into the unknown, Lewis has constructed a demanding, five-part epic that tackles issues of political, social and scientific urgency on a global scale. As Lewis says, "It has scientists as heroes. It's about the importance of truth. It's about a world that can either tear apart or come together for its own survival."


Epic. Captivating. Unforgettable. A binge-watching theatre experience!
A 5-part adventure, with three intermissions and a dinner break, click here to check out the menu!
Award-winning Oregonian playwright
Limited Run
Oregon Community Foundation Creative Heights Grant recipient
Edgerton Foundation New Play Award-winner


Featuring:
Vin Shambry as Captain Adam Burrell
John San Nicholas as Freddie de la Rosa
Sarah Hennesy as Dr. Morgan Halsted
Michael Mendelson as Dr. Vadik Chapayev
Alan Nause as Dr. Todor Kozlik
Barbie Wu as Dr. May Zhou
Joshua Weinstein as Dr. William Huffington
Eric Pargac as Dr. Lars Brotten

Saturday, July 29, 2017

We're Taking THE GUN SHOW to Edinburgh!




It's been such a busy year, my friends, that I've not even had a chance to breathe, much less blog.  But this latest news can't go without an update.

I'm taking the Portland production of THE GUN SHOW to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2017!  The play was directed by Shawn Lee, assistant directed by Nate Cohen, and features the fantastic Vin Shambry.

We are going with the support of Coho Theater, which supported the fall production of the play and is sticking with us!  We received a wonderful grant from the Oregon Arts Commission and another from the Regional Arts Council Commission, as well as major donations from Ronni Lacroute and Harold Weinstein.  Artists Repertory Theater allowed us to do a major fundraising event in the Morrison on July 1, where we played to a full and supportive house.

I am so excited to be part of this year's fringe festival!  I've heard so much about Edinburgh over the years.  And this is the most wonderful group of theater-makers.

If you or a friend find yourself in Edinburgh in August, come on down to The Space UK and see the show!  And say hello!

Details about THE GUN SHOW at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival can be found HERE!

Vin Shambry and playwright E. M. Lewis at The Gun Show.  A standing ovation at the special fundraiser performance at Artists Repertory Theater on July 1, 2017 -- raising money to take the show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival!