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

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