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!