Saturday, February 29, 2020

Teaching Playwriting Workshops in April!

I'll be teaching two playwriting workshops in April 2020, both through Artists Repertory Theater in Portland, Oregon, where I'm a resident artist.

I'll take a four class "Introduction to Playwriting" course to high school students at Vancouver School of Arts and Academics in Washington State.  My colleagues Sarah Lucht, Michael Mendelson, Chris Harder, Barbie Wu, and and Lynda Hayden will also be providing workshops and classes to students there in Shakespeare, Meisner, clowning and movement, and acting styles.

If you're an adult interested in taking a playwriting course from me, I hope you'll sign up for "Rage on Stage" a three-hour workshop I'll be teaching at Artists Rep on April 22nd, from 6:30-9:30pm!


RAGE ON STAGE

Do you feel anger? Anxiety? Depression? Fear? White hot rage? You are not alone. Join us for this workshop in which we will explore how playwrights through the ages have purged their strongest personal and political rage in their work for the stage. And come prepared to write out your own primal screams, and then shape and share them!


Click here for more information on how to sign up!  All are welcome!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Gun Show goes to Michigan!


My thoughts are with actor Jala Jackson, a student at Michigan State University, as she takes my play "The Gun Show" across the state for multiple performances in multiple venues in February and March.

For more information, click here!

For tickets, click here!

Willamette Week's "Can't Miss" Spring Art Picks includes Song of Extinction

Big thanks to Willamette Week, for including Twilight Theater's upcoming production of Song of Extinction in Portland, Oregon in its "Can't Miss!" spring art picks.

Image result for song of extinction

Song of Extinction


At the center of this play is the bond between a biology teacher who survived the Cambodian genocide and a student whose mother is dying of stomach cancer.  It was written by E. M. Lewis, the Oregon playwright who wrote the Antarctic epic Magellanica. Like that masterpiece, Song of Extinction is about the intersection of science and grief.  Twilight Theater Company, 7515 N Brandon Ave., twilighttheatercompany.org. 8 pm. Through May 17. $18-$24. 


Click here to find out what else they recommend!

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Fallen Giant! The Opera!


I've just returned from an amazing ten days in New York City, in which composer Evan Meier and I had an orchestral workshop of our opera Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Fallen Giant at American Lyric Theater. 


We've been working on this commission for several years now.  Writing a full-length opera is no small matter!  But this was a huge leap for us -- our first opportunity to share the piece now that Evan has completed the orchestration.  I LOVE his music!  And our conductor, Andrew Bisantz, brought the best out of our delightful cast of eight singers, and the orchestra.  


Evan and I are so grateful to everyone who has supported our creation of this new family-friendly piece, including Larry Edelson who runs ALT, and commissioned us to write it, our colleagues Theo Popov and Tony Asaro who are working on their own beautiful new opera alongside us, called The Halloween Tree, our mentors Cori Ellison, Paul Morevic, Mark Campbell, and Mark Adamo, maestro Andrew Bisantz, and our glorious singers and orchestra.  It takes a really large village to create a new opera, and we're so lucky to have the continuing support of all of these people as we move forward, doing a few final revisions of the piece now, and searching for an opera company that wants to put this piece on their main stage.  We can't wait to see it fully produced!


Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Fallen Giant is an original story that Evan and I created, which mashes up the logical world of Sherlock Holmes with the magical world of Jack and the Beanstalk.  There are angry giants and magic harps and a whole lot of fun for kids and grown-ups alike.  

We even had an announcement of the InsightALT Festival in the New Yorker, which was exciting!  And a nice little feature on our opera written by Gabrielle Ferrari, in her Parterre opera blog, which you can read here. "Readers, it was simply charming— nicely performed and perfect for young audiences without talking down to them or to their older counterparts," she says in her article. She gives lots of love to our delightful singers, and then shares, "I won’t spoil the mystery (hint: Jack didn’t do it), but I will say I found this a captivating 90 minutes... The score is varied and interesting, the libretto funny and full of warmth. The opera quotes were a nice way both the introduce kids to the concept of leitmotiv and to appeal to an opera-nerd audience, with a mix of really famous tunes with some lesser known ones."


Would you like to hear what we've been up to?  Tell your local opera company to bring Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Fallen Giant to your community!

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


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 15, 2020

Apple Season at Theatre Nova in Ann Arbor, Michigan!

After a three-production Rolling World Premiere in 2019 with the National New Play Network, Apple Season continues its journey in Ann Arbor, Michigan at Theatre Nova!  January 31-February 23, 2020.  www.theatrenova.org



APPLE SEASON by E. M. Lewis

Michigan Premiere

When her father dies, Lissie returns to her family's apple orchard after escaping from there with her brother Roger many years before. But a chance encounter with an old flame conjures haunting family secrets she thought she'd left behind. As Lissie tumbles down a rabbit hole of memory and grief, she must choose whether to preserve her tangled past--or burn it to the ground. Directed by David Wolber, featuring Alysia Kolascz (Bright Half Life), Matthew Swift, and Jeremy Kucharek (Admissions).

"...fabulous direction by David Wolber on a heartbreakingly idyllic set (designed by Monica Spencer)...  Audience members feel the incredible grit tinged with vulnerability in Lissie, the warmth of the kindhearted, earnest Billy, and the pain of the selfless, stoic but hurting Roger... an emotional, beautiful, haunting journey that is hard to forget."  -Patti Smith in Damn Arbor

Friday, January 3, 2020

The Gun Show heads to Vermont!

In January 2020, I headed to snowy Vermont with actor Andrew William Smith to share The Gun Show at Putney School and Middlebury College (as part of their 21st Century Theater Festival).  Thank you for inviting us out to have this conversation with your community, Michole Biancosino!

A beautiful, snowy walk through Middlebury!

The Gun Show at Middlebury College.

The Gun Show team, plus producer Michole Biancosino and colleague Pia Wilson, at Middlebury working on a  new play commission!

Andrew and I teach workshops while we're here...

Andrew and the script at Putney School.

Wednesday, January 1, 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.
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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