Monday, November 21, 2011

"Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday" in HotCity Theater's Greenhouse Festival in St. Louis!

HotCity Theater's 6th Annual Greenhouse New Play Festival.
The third stop in my Fall 2011 theater festival triple-header was the HotCity Theater Festival.  My play "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday" was a finalist in their annual Greenhouse Festival, and they brought me out for a week of working on my play, culminating in a reading.

It was great to be back in St. Louis, and seeing all the nice folks at HotCity again.  My play "Song of Extinction" had been a finalist back in 2008, and I'd attended then and really liked the people and the plays they'd chosen.  When I saw their call for submissions, I scrambled to find something to send, because I knew they were good people -- and the kind of theater folks I want to work with.  Lo and behold, they picked my play to be a finalist again!

"Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday" is my very first play.  Earlier than "Infinite Black Suitcase," even, which was my first produced play.  I wrote "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday" in the playwriting class that changed my life.  I took it after I'd finished my graduate program at USC.  I'd worked out in the world for a year or two, then returned to work on staff at USC -- and one of the benefits of working at the university was the opportunity to take classes.  I chose to take a class back in my old writing program.  The playwriting class happened to have a seat open.  I took it!  And I've written almost nothing but plays since.  It was divided between a two-week intensive with the sweet and wonderful Paul Zindel ("The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds") and the rest of the semester with Lee Wochner, who became a real mentor to me as I struggled to become a playwright.  The assignment was to write a one-act play.  "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday" was the play that poured out of me.

A poster for "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday."  Writing plays is hard.  Writing *about* your plays is even harder...
"Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday" is a comedy about a woman who decides to leave her life behind to become a commercial fisherwoman in Alaska, and about her family, who has decided that they will do absolutely anything to keep her from going.

HotCity had created posters with playwright's notes on them for each of the three finalist plays -- "Release Point," "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday," and "Shake and Be Saved!" -- and displayed them in the lobby, so audience members could see what they were getting into.
Three plays were selected for the 2011 HotCity Greenhouse Festival.  My compatriots were Gino Dilorio, whose offering was an uncompromising two-hander called "Release Point," and Christopher Wall, who had written a fierce farce called "Shake and Be Saved."  I liked both of their plays very much.

Me and the guys.  Playwrights Christopher Wall, EM Lewis and Gino Dilorio.  They are fantastic writers, and I was lucky to be  at the HotCity Greenhouse Festival in such good company!
HotCity brought in a dramaturg to work with all three of us on our scripts -- the incomparable Liz Engelman.  We each had our own director and set of actors.  We had alternating rehearsal and writing days throughout the week, which gave us time to work on our scripts.

I was very pleased to have this chance to work on "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday."  Being such an early play, I didn't have a lot of craft when I wrote it.  I didn't like the ending.  And there were some clunky bits that I'd been itching to get my hands on.  This was the perfect opportunity to go back in and really make this play into what it wanted to be... what I thought it could be.  Because in spite of its faults, I've always had a soft spot for it.  It's a family play.  It's a comedy!  It's a brother/sister play.  And it's got a lot of my heart in it.

The view from my room at the Ignacio Hotel -- a very nice establishment, across from St. Louis University, and right down from the theater.
What is a visit to St. Louis without a stop for barbecue???  Christopher, Gino and I walked over to Pappy's for lunch one day, for what was both a great lunch and an amusing experience.
My lunch at Pappy's.  Pulled pork sandwich with Sweet Baby Jane BBQ sauce, sweet potato fries, and deep fried corn on the cob.  Yes, you heard me right!
Actors hole punch their new pages and insert them into their scripts.  Lots of rewrites!
My team was outstanding.  My director was Annamaria Pileggi, who teaches at Washington University. She had brought together the funniest, most wonderful actors to be my cast.  They even assigned me a "Playwright's Assistant" to print up my pages for me and help with logistical issues and read stage directions -- the sweet and very responsible young Sarah Wagener.  I wrote like a mad woman all week, and by the time Saturday night -- the night of our reading -- rolled around, we were ready!  I thought we were ready...

And we were!  Lots of fun, lots of laughs... just a beautiful night.  Standing room only.  Several friends in attendance, including Hannah Joyce-Hoven, who had been in my reading two weeks earlier at the Inge Center, and happened to be in town to see her sister.  I was walking on air.

The cast of our HotCity Greenhouse Festival reading of "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday" included:

Julie Layton as Lynn Hallaby
Antonio Rodriguez as Kelly Hallaby
Lavonne Byers as Margie Hallaby
John Contini as Hudson Hallaby
Michael Kastelein as Gary White
Eric White as Ray Arendt

I'm pleased to report that HotCity has selected "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday" to produce in 2012!  The play will have its world premiere in September.  I am absolutely delighted, and can't wait to return to St. Louis!

HotCity Theater in St. Louis, MO will be producing the world premiere of "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday" by EM Lewis in September 2012.