Friday, November 9, 2012

Song of Extinction at Hostos College!

I'm very pleased that my play "Song of Extinction" is going to be performed on November 14th and 15th by Hostos Rep at CUNY Hostos College in the Bronx.  The play has also been named Book-of-the-Semester -- more than 900 students at Hostos will be reading and discussing the play.  I'll be attending the evening performance on November 15th and doing a talk-back, and also participating in some of the interdisciplinary events that are planned throughout the semester.  A big thank you to Professor Morales for directing this production, and to Professor Robert Cohen, who coordinates the Book of the Semester project.

Hostos Humanities Professor Ángel Morales, who earned an M.A. in Educational Theatre from New York University, has been the Artistic Director of the Hostos Repertory Theater (Hostos Rep) since 2007. Under his leadership, the Hostos Rep also produced Borinquen Vive en El Barrio by Tere Martínez, which played in the 2008 installment of TeatroStageFest. In 2010, the company staged the English/Spanish production of Virgilio Piñera’s Siempre se olvida algo (You Always Forget Something), for which they won four HOLA awards and two ACE awards. 
In 2011, the Hostos Rep was one of only five university-based companies, as well as the only one from a community college, invited to participate in the northeast regional competition of the Kennedy Center’s American College Theater Festival. The troupe presented Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s production of boom!, and cast member Abe Rasheed was a finalist in the festival’s individual category. 
Morales said he is excited that Song of Extinction is coming to Hostos. “The fact that a play of this caliber is going to have its New York City premiere at Hostos, and that it could serve as an opportunity to integrate various academic disciplines, is exciting and a privilege.” 
Morales added that Hostos students and faculty would be able to take advantage of the play’s diverse intellectual subject matter and participate in several post-performance discussions. Song of Extinction is also the fall selection for Hostos Community College’s “Book of the Semester” project. The “Book of the Semester” project is an interdisciplinary initiative to inspire students to read and develop critical thinking skills. With Song of Extinction, the themes that will be analyzed include literature, history, education, science, and music. 
The cast of the Hostos production includes award-winning Hostos student Abe Rasheed in the role of Max, Vice President Carlos Molina of the college’s Division of Continuing Education and Workforce Development, Hostos student César Acuria, and Hostos alumnus Sergio Mauritz Ang.  Also in the cast are actors Arnold Kim and Anna Savant.
Show dates and times
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
12:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Repertory Theater
450 Grand Concourse at 149th Street

General Admission $10
(Free Admission for CUNY students, faculty and staff)
For more information, please call 718-518-4455 or go to

Saturday, November 3, 2012

"Talking to Westfield" History Play Postponed

The family-friendly history play I was commissioned to write for Premiere Stages' Liberty Live initiative was supposed to be performed at the Liberty Hall Museum on the Kean University Campus November 1-4.  But the weather had other plans!  Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey and New York with devastating force, shutting down schools, businesses, transportation lines and power.

The show has been postponed indefinitely.  We had begun rehearsals, but hadn't yet reached load-in or tech rehearsals.  We all hope that it will have a life, once the lights come back on!

"Talking to Westfield" by EM Lewis.
Liberty Live Initiative at Premiere Stages.
For more information about the show:

KeanXchange: History Up Close and Personal

KeanXchange: Rehearsals Begin

New Jersey Stage: Premiere Stages at Kean University Launches Liberty Live

Alternative Press: Go Back in Time with Liberty Live's Interactive Production

The Examiner:  Premiere Stages Forms Partnership with Westfield Museum

One-Acts by EM Lewis at high schools in Lansing, MI

Congratulations to Everett and Sexton High Schools in Lansing, Michigan, where director Jim Allen produced nine of my short plays with his student actors.

  • The Incident Report
  • Partners
  • Drop-Off Day
  • Apple Season
  • $2,500 OBO
  • The Edge of Ross Island
  • Sing Me That Leonard Cohen Song Again
  • Lend Me a Mentor
  • Leonard's Voice

Hope you had fun with the plays!

"Infinite Black Suitcase" at Colony High School

Congratulations to Colony High School in Ontario, CA for their production of "Infinite Black Suitcase!"

"Infinite Black Suitcase" by EM Lewis
at Colony High School in Ontario, CA.

Friday, November 2, 2012

ANPF 2012!

Having fun as Host Playwright of ANPF 2012!
The 2012 Ashland New Plays Festival kicked off with a beautiful gala at the Art Museum on October 22, celebrating the festival's 20th anniversary.  It was a fantastic week of play readings and talk-backs, theater talks, and playwriting workshops.  I was so glad to return for my third year as Host Playwright! The week was hosted by dozens of volunteers, led by the festival's Artistic Director, Doug Rowe, and Board President Gray McKee.

Three of this year's playwrights were from New York City, and one was from San Francisco.  We had a delightful time getting to know each other during our week in Ashland!  The directors and actors were fantastic.

"The God Game" - Written by Suzanne Bradbeer, directed by Kimberly Scott
"This Rough Magic"- Written by Richard Manley, directed by Michael J. Hume
"Omission" - Written by Joshua Rebell, directed by Liisa Ivary
"How It Works" - Written by Cary Pepper, directed by Cristofer Jean

Ashland audiences always provide the best talk-back conversations, and this year was no exception.  The playwrights had given us much to discuss, with plays on topics ranging from politics and religion and the implications of social media and technology to financial misdeeds and the perils of success in the art world.

I enjoyed teaching a three hour playwriting workshop on Friday with local writers.  On Saturday morning, Cary, Josh and Suzanne offered a second workshop, allowing local writers the opportunity to ask them questions about everything from the craft of writing plays to how to market your work.

Local Bed and Breakfasts hosted the playwrights, and other local businesses opened their doors to us as well, including local cafes that offered coffee and the official drinking establishment we attended each night, appropriately named "The Playwright."  I was also able to see several shows at the world-class Oregon Shakespeare Festival!  I cried at "Romeo and Juliet," and am still thinking about "Troilus & Cressida" and "Medea/MacBeth/Cinderella."

It's always so wonderful to see everyone who makes this festival happen each year.  Thanks for another great ANPF, my friends!

Me and playwright Josh Rebell at the ANPF 2012 Gala.
Carol, ANPF Board President Gray McKee and host playwright EM Lewis.
ANPF 2012 winning playwrights:
Richard Manley, Cary Pepper, Suzanne Bradbeer and Joshua Rebell.
All photos by ANPF's fantastic marketing director, Elizabeth von Radics!

Friday, October 12, 2012

A production of "Heads" at Missouri Valley College

Harold Hynick directed a production of my play "Heads" at Missouri Valley College in Marshall, MO where he teaches.  I'm very glad that my plays are finding homes not only in traditional theaters, but also in university theaters and classrooms!

The Heads cast featured: Thomas Waller (Sedalia, Mo.) as Harold Wolfe, the American Engineer; Samantha Hill (Greenwood, Mo.) as Caroline Conway, the British Embassy worker; Matthew Ford (Camdenton, Mo.) as Michael Aprés, the network journalist; and Joshua Tag (Redmond, Wash.) as Jack Velazquez, the freelance photographer. The production was directed by MVC Assistant Professor of Theatre Harold Hynick. This production featured lighting design by MVC Senior Theatre Major Catie Combs (Blue Springs, Mo.), scenic and sound design by MVC Associate Professor of Theatre Jay Rozema, and costume design by Dyann Rozema. The play was stage managed by MVC Senior Theatre Major Crystal Mann (Marshall, Mo.). The assistant stage manager was MVC Freshman Theatre Major Jessie Carpenter (Oak Grove, Mo.). 

A Reading of "Heads" at NOW Theater Company

A talk-back after the reading of "Heads" with our cast, playwright and director,
moderated by Ian August.

A big thank you to Lynne Elson and her new NOW Theater Company for including my play "Heads" in her new reading series at the West Windsor Arts Council in Princeton Junction, NJ.  I love the opportunity to work locally, and with such great people!  The series also features new plays by Ian August, Jim Christy and Elson herself.

My playwright/director friend and colleague David Hilder directed for me.  What a pleasure, always, to work with him!  And we had a great cast!  New Jersey actors Chris Coucill as American engineer Harold Wolfe, and Eric Rolland as photojournalist Jack Velazquez, and New York actors Christian Conn as network journalist Michael Apres, and Thia Stephan as British embassy worker Caroline Conway.

I'm particularly fond of this play, which is a fictional story about four civilians who are taken hostage in the early years of the war in Iraq.  It was nice to have the chance to spend some time with these characters again. Like seeing old friends again.

Semi-Finalist for Page 73's 2013 Development Programs

I'm pleased to be a semi-finalist for Page 73's 2013 Development Programs.  This is a great group in New York City that supports playwrights and the development of new work.  I really hope that they have a place for me in one of their programs next year.

More information about this year's list of semi-finalists HERE.

Who is Page 73?  From their website:

Founded in 1997, Page 73 Productions has made a name for itself as a home for the development and production of new work by early-career playwrights. We seek out untried playwrights who are yet to be produced and recognized in New York City and usher their work from first draft to production-ready script. Page 73′s developmental programs are carefully designed to give early-career playwrights the tools and resources to ready their work for production opportunities. Our mission is to offer a crucial steppingstone at a critical, early point in a writer’s career. 
Each year, Page 73 offers five primary programs to early-career playwrights: a New York City or world premiere production of a new play by an emerging playwright; the year-long P73 Playwriting Fellowship which provides cash, development and career support to one writer annually; a week-long summer residency program on the Yale University campus to four playwrights; Interstate 73, a writing group that consists of six to eight playwrights; and the Page 2 workshop, offering extensive rehearsals and design support to a play in development.

Reading of "Apple Season" at PlayFest Santa Barbara Event

Director (and PlayFest co-artistic director) Jeffrey Meek,
between our two "Apple Season" actors, Rebecca Staab and John Walcutt.
A big thank you to co-artistic director Michael Gross for including a reading of my play "Apple Season" in his kick-off event for PlayFest Santa Barbara.  This brand new festival is going to be an exciting celebration of new work, and I was delighted to be involved!  I wish I could have been there myself.

"Apple Season" is set in my home state of Oregon.  It's a ten-minute play that I'm now working to turn into a full-length two-hander.

Rebecca Staab and John Walcutt in "Apple Season" by EM Lewis,
at the PlayFest Santa Barbara Kick-Off Party.
"Apple Season" by EM Lewis.

Friday, September 14, 2012

"Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday" - some nice reviews!

My play "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday" has just opened in its world premiere at HotCity Theater in St. Louis.  I'm very proud of the play and the production.

Reviews are always tough, especially with new work, but we've received some lovely press.  Here are a few of the responses:

"Four words: Go see this play!  'Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday' is the best play I have seen in a long time..." -Laura Hamlett, Playback: STL

"This is a comedy, and a good one...  a remarkable cast..."  -Andrea Braun, Village Voice

"...a funny and touching slice of life...  Director Bill Whitaker does nice work here, bringing this new play to life and gently guiding this exceptional cast.  The laughs and the tears are honest...  HotCity Theatre's production of 'Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday' is entertaining and moving theatre, and it continues through September 22, 2012 at the Kranzberg."  -Chris Gibson, Broadway World

"...the look and tenor of a domestic comedy layered on top of the emotional mysteries and unspoken threats of a Harold Pinter drama...  -Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

" examination of one woman's desperation filtered through the prism of her life as it is, the way it was, and the hope... of finding what's missing...  a comedy, and a good one... remarkable cast..."  -Chuck Lavazzi, KDHX

Eric White as Ray and Nicole Angeli as Lynn in "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday"
by EM Lewis at HotCity Theater in St. Louis, MO.

The Wonderful Cast and Crew of "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday"

Lynn Hallaby -- Nicole Angeli 
Kelly Hallaby - Charlie Barron 
Margie Hallaby -- Peggy Billo*
Hudson Hallaby -- Joe Hanrahan
Gary White - Rusty Gunther
Ray Arendt -- Eric White 
Director: Bill Whitaker
Stage Manager: MJ Probst
ASM: Erica Rogers
Set: Sean Savoie
Lights: Michael Sullivan
Costumes: Jane Sullivan
Props:Meg Brinkley
Sound: Zoe Sullivan

"Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday" premieres at HotCity!

I spent a wonderful weekend out in St. Louis, helping my director Bill Whitaker, my fantastic cast, and all the nice folks at HotCity Theater celebrate opening weekend of the world premiere of my play "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday."

"Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday" is about a young woman named Lynn who decides to leave her whole life behind, to become a commercial fisher in Alaska -- and about her family, who decides that they'll do absolutely anything to keep her from leaving.  It was a finalist for HotCity's Greenhouse Festival last year, and the company selected it for full production.

The Hallaby family -- Margie and Lynn and Kelly and Hudson.
Lynn and Margie.
Lynn and Kelly.
Hair brush and duct tape.
"I hate Alaska."
"Don't leave."
"You want to fish?  We'll fish!"
Ray and Lynn.
The play is just receiving its debut... but it was actually the first real play I ever wrote.  Before "Infinite Black Suitcase," and "Heads," and "Song of Extinction."  Like those plays, it's personal.  (Is it possible to write a full-length play without including a slice or two of your soul?)  Watching it play out on the stage was like stepping back into a turning point in my own life.  It's not a true story or anything.  But... I might have entertained notions of flight at one point myself.  And Alaska is a beautiful place for people who are running away from everything to imagine themselves going.

"Going.  I'm going.  I love you.  But I'm going."
In the end, my character went one way; I went another.  I stayed; she goes.  It's hard to watch the play without wondering if everything might not have turned out differently if...

But I don't get to step back in time and change things.  Just peek in the window, remember, laugh a little, cry a little, and appreciate the talented people -- actors, designers, director, producers, stage manager -- who have worked so hard to bring this play to life.

The whole family.  Lynn and Ray, Gary and Kelly, Hudson and Margie.
Endings and beginnings.

"Lend Me a Mentor" heads to the Catskills

Last month, one of my most-produced ten-minute plays, "Lend Me a Mentor," was produced at the Open Eye Theater up in the Catskills as part of their "Summer Shortcuts" program.  The play is about a young writer who stalks her favorite curmudgeonly old novelist at a book signing, and tries to talk him into being her mentor.  It's been done in Los Angeles, featuring the delightful duo of America Young and Tom Boyle, directed by Julie Briggs.  It's been done in San Diego, and in China, and in a handful of other places.  Glad to add upstate New York to the list!

"Lend Me a Mentor" by EM Lewis at the Open Eye Theater.  Directed by Melissa Day.  Featuring Barbara Morrow and Mark Gunst.  Performances were August 9-19 at the Open Eye Theater, 960 Main Street, Margaretville, NY.

Friday, September 7, 2012

"Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday" - World Premiere at HotCity Theater in St. Louis!

Tonight was opening night of the world premiere of my play "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday" at HotCity Theater in St. Louis.  My director, Bill Whitaker, did a beautiful job -- shepherding this little play of mine up onto it's very first stage, listening to the play, listening to me, figuring out how to make it all happen.  The cast is fantastic!  And all of this has been after a wonderful experience workshopping and developing the play in HotCity's Greenhouse Festival in the fall, where I had the chance to work with director Annamaria Pilleggi and dramaturg Liz Engleman.

A big thank you to artistic director Marty Stanberry, and everybody at HotCity, for producing my play. This little play means a lot to me, and I'm so glad to be here with you to see it come to life.  Congratulations on a beautiful opening night!

**Click here to read our first review!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

More pictures from If I Did This at Flux in NYC

The beautiful choir balcony theater at Judson Memorial Chuch, where Flux Theater Ensemble produced a staged reading of my new play "If I Did This."  Here, the saints in the windows are overseeing tech, as director Pete Boisvert talks with the actors playing Miriam Lawrence and Hal Walker.  Photo by Alisha Spielmann.
I had a great time with Flux Theater Ensemble last week, working with them on a staged reading of my new play "If I Did This" at their Food:Soul event.  A potluck dinner, followed by a reading of a new play, followed by cake.  What could be better than that?

The evening was well-documented by two fantastic Flux photographers.  In a previous post, there were pictures by Ken Glickfeld that really told the story of the play.  I love this new batch by Alisha Spielmann, too!  They are very stylized -- which kind of matches the noirish feeling of the play.  They also make the beautiful location pop -- we were in the choir balcony at Judson Memorial Church, cradle of the off-off-Broadway theater movement.  Her photos capture the beautiful church windows and organ pipes, as well as the drama below.  Check them out here!

Detective Hayden Quinn. 
Editor Brett Martin and mystery writer Hal Walker discuss how his new ghostwriting job is going.
Hal Walker drinks a little.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Some pictures from (and news about) "If I Did This"

Donnie Lawrence lays down the law for ghostwriter Hal Walker.  Photo by Ken Glickfeld.
The reading of "If I Did This" at Judson Church, produced by Flux Theater Ensemble, went very well! What a warm and friendly thing they've created in their "Food:Soul" series -- a potluck, followed by a reading of a new play.  I haven't known the Flux folks for very long, but I felt welcomed into their theater family on Friday night.

For artistic director August Schulenberg's write-up of the evening's festivities, go here.

A thank you to Ken Glickfeld for the lovely pictures!  And a big thank you to my director and cast.  We had four rehearsals over two weeks, in which I was able to work with them closely, write new scenes and edit existing ones, and see what this new play is made of.  I'm so happy to be a playwright!  The work is such great fun.

Some happy news arrived in the mail today, regarding the play -- it is a semi-finalist for this year's Princess Grace Award!  And that was before the new edits...

Editor Brett Martin worries about her wayward writer.  Photo by Ken Glickfeld.
Detective Hayden Quinn has a few questions for Hal Walker.  Photo by Ken Glickfeld.
Hal and Miriam try to figure out what really happened.  Photo by Ken Glickfeld.
Hayden interrogates Donnie.  Photo by Ken Glickfeld.
Donnie comforts his daughter, Miriam.  Photo by Ken Glickfeld.
  Time shifts.  Photo by Ken Glickfeld.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"If I Did This" at Flux's Food:Soul in NYC

I finished the first draft of a new play a few months ago, just in time to work on it with my fantastic director friend David Hilder and a most wonderful cast at Passage Theater in Trenton, where I attend the Playwriting Lab.  Since then, I've been tinkering with it a bit, but haven't been sure, yet, what it's really made of.  

Enter Flux Theater Ensemble!

I've been attending Flux Sundays at FTE for more than a year, now -- their Sunday afternoon theatrical "work-outs" with playwrights, directors and actors -- and enjoying the opportunity to see their fierce productions.  And I was very pleased when I received an e-mail from Matt Archambault at Flux, asking if I'd like to workshop that play I'd been bringing in pieces of over the last few months.  I leapt at the opportunity!  There's nothing like working with a great bunch of actors over a couple weeks of rehearsal to figure out how a play is working.  Actors and directors ask great questions as they're trying to figure out how to make a play work.

We had our first read-through on Monday, and will continue rehearsals next week.  The process will culminate in a potluck and staged reading of the play.  Big thanks to Matt, FTE Artistic Director Gus Schulenberg, and director Pete Boisvert for putting this whole thing together!

Flux Theater Ensemble (in partnership with Judson Memorial Church) presents Food:Soul

A Staged Reading of "If I Did This" 
Written by EM Lewis
Directed by Pete Boisvert
Featuring: Matt Archambault, John Greenleaf, Marianne Miller, Stephen Conrad Moore and Jane Lincoln Taylor

Friday, July 27th
At Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square Street South

Doors Open and Food is Served at 7:00pm
Staged Reading Starts at 8:00pm

For more information about this reading, visit the FTE Blog.  
For more information about the company and their Food:Soul play development workshops, visit the FTE Website.  

Rehearsals begin for the World Premiere of "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday" at HotCity Theater in St. Louis

I'm heading to St. Louis this weekend for the first read-through and first rehearsals of my play "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday" at HotCity Theater in St. Louis.  The play was one of three finalists in HotCity's Greenhouse Festival in the fall, alongside plays by the talented Gino Dilorio and Christopher Wall.

I'm delighted that HotCity decided to produce the world premiere of "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday."  And I'm so pleased that they're bringing me out this weekend to meet with the director and actors, do one last look at the script, and nudge this baby chick of a play out of the nest!

For more information on the world premiere of "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday," visit the HotCity webpage!

Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday

September 7th - 22nd

What it's about:
In one hour, Lynn is going to climb onto a Greyhound bus, leaving her home, her husband, her job and her family behind to work on a commercial fishing boat in Alaska; her family has decided that they'll do anything to make her stay. "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday" is a comedy about trying to explain why you have to go find yourself to people who don't want anything to change.

Cast and Crew:
Lynn Hallaby -- Nicole Angeli  

Kelly Hallaby -- Charlie Barron  

Margie Hallaby -- Peggy Billo*

Hudson Hallaby -- Joe Hanrahan

Gary White -- Rusty Guenther 

Ray Arendt -- Eric White

Director: Bill Whitaker

Stage Manager: MJ Probst 

ASM: Erica Rogers

Set: Sean Savoie
Lights: Michael Sullivan
Costumes: Jane Sullivan

Props: Meg Brinkley

Sound: Zoe Sullivan

     *denotes member, Actors' Equity Association

Saturday, July 14, 2012

"The Incident Report" in Jersey Voices

This summer is turning into the busiest time ever!  Up next is the five-character version of "The Incident Report" in Jersey Voices at Chatham Community Players.  I've been actively pursuing opportunities here in my new state of New Jersey, and am delighted to have had this short play picked up at an annual event that showcases Garden State playwrights.

Why the five-character version?  Well... an accident of the submitting process, actually!  "The Incident Report" is about an aviation safety investigator who is trying to determine what went wrong on a flight where things went very, very wrong -- and who's responsible.  It has gone through a variety of iterations, some that moved through time in various ways, some that had three characters and some that had five.  Ultimately, the version that was produced in an evening of my short plays at Moving Arts in Los Angeles, and subsequently made the finals of the Samuel French Off-Off-Broadway Short Play Festival in New York City, was the linear three character version.  When I submitted the play to Jersey Voices, though, through the magic of e-mail submission, I accidentally attached a different draft.

I gave the theater the other version when I realized my mistake, but they really liked the five character version, which brings the action that happened on the plane right up on stage in three bloody dimensions.  And I have to say, I"m excited!  How often do we have the chance to see different versions of the same play fully produced, to see what works best in each?  I'm looking forward to attending.  If you're in New Jersey, I hope you'll check it out!  More information and ticketing are available through the Chatham Community Players website.

"The Incident Report" is directed by Chris Messineo of New Providence, and features Brian Carroll, Jeff Maschi, Chip Prestera, Jim Clancy, and Jessica Phelan.

Teaching and Mentoring Young Playwrights in Richmond

The last few weeks have been really, really amazing.  I've been teaching and mentoring young playwrights in the SPARC: New Voices for the Theater program in Richmond, Virginia.

Being playwright-in-residence at New Voices meant spending a week teaching the fundamentals of playwriting, and then moving to a more dramaturgical role in week two, as the eight winning playwrights were paired with directors and actors, and began rehearsals of their winning plays.  It all culminated with beautifully staged readings of the plays with friends, family and members of the community in attendance.
The eight winning playwrights of SPARC: New Voices for the Theater 2012!
Having six hours a day, for five days in a row, to talk about how plays work was a great gift.  We had so much fun!  All eight of the student playwrights were smart, creative and game.  I tried to mix things up with group exercises, paired work, physical activities, writing prompts, and sharing work.  I used improv as a writing tool more than I ever have before to teach playwriting.  The kids really took to it, and I felt like it gave us a chance to try out some of the things we were talking about in class -- goals and objectives, obstacles and tactics, action and dialogue, negotiation over props, theater magic...  All the fun stuff!  It also reinforced something I believe strongly -- that plays are about action, not just two dimensional words on a page, but three dimensional human beings crashing into each other in beautiful and complicated ways in the living, breathing world of the stage.  We studied by day, and by night, they worked on rewriting their own one-act plays.

The Richmond theater community gave their hearts and their talent to this program, with some of the best directors and actors in town working tirelessly with these young writers -- letting them be the playwright in the rehearsal room for the very first time.  (What joy, seeing them see their plays come to life in hands of talented actors!)  The plays ranged from romantic comedies to tragedies, and from the deeply psychological to the absurd to the delightfully funny.

I truly hope that I have more opportunities to teach in the year ahead.  Teaching playwriting -- being able to share what I love so much with others -- was a great gift.  But it will be hard to beat the experience I had with New Voices.  It's an extraordinary program -- well organized and inspirationally led by Laine Satterfield.  And we had an extraordinary bunch of kids.

Writing my closing speech -- and saying goodbye to the kids -- made me cry.  What a lovely couple of weeks, New Voices!  Thank you so much!

Friday, June 22, 2012

New Voices for the Theater in Richmond!

This has been such a great year for theater travel!  A few days ago, I took the train down to Richmond, Virginia, where I'm going to be spending the next two weeks as playwright-in-residence for the SPARC New Voices for the Stage program.  I'll be working with eight young dramatists whose plays were chosen from submissions throughout the state.  The first week will be lots of classroom work, and working on their plays.  During the second week, they begin working with their directors and actors.  The program culminates in staged readings of all the plays, and a big celebration of these new works with family and friends.

Our team is headed up by program director Laine Satterfield (who is an absolute delight), and supported by two wonderful resident assistants, and what seems like the whole city of Richmond.  There are dinners and outings planned with many board members and other program supporters while we're here, and I felt so warmly welcomed at the kick-off party down at the Firehouse Theater.

I'm delighted to be following in my friend Babs Lindsay's footsteps.  She was last year's PIR (or playwright-in-residence).  Big shoes to fill!  And I just found out that my friend and colleague Clarence Coo was a young playwright in this very program when he was in high school -- now he is winning national awards for his work.

I have so much love for writing and the theater -- it's a joy to be able to share that.  I'm looking forward to this being a wonderful couple of weeks.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"Apple Season" in Colorado Springs

"Apple Season" by EM Lewis in the 2012 6 Women Playwriting Festival.  Actress Joye Levy.
I was delighted when I received the call from the 6 Women Playwriting Festival that they wanted to include my 10-minute play "Apple Season" in this year's event.  When I found out that my pals Babs Lindsay from Seattle, WA and Maureen Brady Johnson from Oberlin, OH had plays in the festival too, I knew I had to go.
Playwrights Babs Lindsay, EM Lewis and Maureen Brady Johnson.  On our way to the Six Women Playwriting Festival in Colorado Springs!
Babs, Maureen and I coordinated our arrival at Denver Airport, rented a car together, and zipped out to Colorado Springs.  The women who produce the 6 Women Playwriting Festival could not have been warmer.  They put us up in the home of one of their board members, and had arranged a lovely reception, a beautiful brunch, a cast party, and talk-backs after two performances.  The three of us met two of the other playwrights there -- Cricket Daniel from Bend, OR and Margo Hammond from Newark, NJ.  We also had plenty of time to chat with our directors and actors.

I'd written "Apple Season" on a prompt from Jennie Webb, who coordinates the Botanicum Seedlings new play program at Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon, CA.  During the summers, Theatricum Botanicum produces classical works (for the most part) on their gorgeous outdoor stage.  But the Seedlings program guarantees their engagement with new work as well.  They did a reading of my play "Reading to Vegetables" a few years ago, and I've also talked a lot with Jennie from her work with the LAFPI -- (that's the Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative, if you're wondering!).  Just before I left for New Jersey, Jennie asked me if I'd like to write a ten-minute play on the theme of "backyard fruit" for a reading festival they wanted to do during the summer.  I had no idea what that prompt would prompt in me, but I said absolutely.  I knew something would occur!  I ended up spending the summer between leaving Los Angeles and moving to Princeton back on my family's farm in Oregon.  Because I could!  Because I wanted to.  How often as an adult do you get to spend a few solid months during the glorious Oregon summer, when everything is growing in the gardens and orchards, back with your much-loved family?  It was certainly an inspiration as I sat down with my little laptop to write a play on the subject of backyard fruit.  For inspiration, I ate raspberries, logan berries, boysen berries, marion berries, blackberries (wild and domestic), gooseberries, blueberries, peaches, apples and plums.  (Have I mentioned how much I love our farm in the summertime?)  I ended up writing a play that is set in the world I grew up in -- on a small farm in rural Oregon.  It turned out a bit darker than I expected it to be.  The characters surprised me with where they took things.

"Apple Season" by EM Lewis, directed by Birgitta de Pree, in the 2012 Six Women Playwriting Festival in Colorado Springs, CO.  Actors Anthony Archer and Joye Levy.
At the 6 Women Playwriting Festival, "Apple Season" was directed by Birgitta de Pree, and featured actors Joye Levy and Anthony Archer.  Here's the synopsis:  Will is interested in buying the farm that Lissie inherited from her folks, but he hadn't bargained on her asking price.

If you'd like to watch the play in its entirety, you can!  The festival filmed each play, and they're available here.
Me and my cast at the cast party!
Short play festivals aren't always reviewed, but we received lovely notices in the local paper.  Read them here.  I was certainly pleased that my play was highlighted by critic TD Mobley-Martinez as:
"...the best short play I’ve ever seen on that stage: “Apple Season,” which was written by E.M. Lewis and directed by Birgitta De Pree, is worth the cost of admission all on its own. Haunting. Poetic. And genuinely unexpected.  
It’s a story as simple as this: Lissie (Joye Levy) must deal with a death. Seen it, you might say. But Lewis unreels a nuanced story in poetic little pieces. Some spell things out, sure, but others rely on your own ability to put two and two together.  
Director De Pree takes her time with Lewis’ story, allowing silences to say as much as Lewis’ heartland dialogue. Levy and Tony Archer, who plays Will, know what to do with it all. Both offer deeply memorable performances. Levy was powerfully honest and human — in what she shows and perhaps more important, in what she doesn’t."
A big thank you to the more than 6 Women (and men!) who so graciously welcomed us playwrights to their community.  It was lovely meeting you!  And you've inspired me.  Since I returned home, I've been working to turn "Apple Season" into a full-length two-hander.  We'll see where the characters want to take me now!