Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thoughts from the Artistic Director

As I type this, in the next room rehearsals on going on for the Madison Young Playwrights Festival which will be held this Saturday, March 17, 2012 from 1-4 pm. Reservations can be made by calling 973-514-1787 X34 and more information can be found at our website.

As promised, here are the program notes from John Pietrowski, Artistic Director.

If we have learned nothing else from these difficult times, I think we have remembered the need for, and value of, collaboration, compassion, listening, and creativity. So much of what we thought was true, so many of our assumptions about how the “world works,” have been altered, perhaps even torn apart. It has not been easy for many, and has sent many of us back to examine some basic values to see what we can find there.

For those who do ongoing work in the creative arts, or in any creative field for that matter, humbly questioning assumptions, lovingly tearing things apart, and lovingly putting them back together is an almost daily task that moves towards an unspoken goal of a connection with a spiritual self, a “better angel of our being” (to crib from Abraham Lincoln) that is almost always in a state of transcendence or renewal. What is happening in the world right now reflects what we are constantly doing with ourselves every time we create, unfortunately in the world there seems to be, in certain very loud and visible quarters, a lot less humility and a lot less love.

None of this process is mystical in the stereotypical sense of the word, and when you are working with the arts, there is that tangible product that must be made that grounds you. But it also tests you, and changes you, and ultimately becomes a reflection of who you are, who you were, and who you will be. It is life writ small and large all at once, and that magical moment on the stage, which Martin Esslin called the “Eternal Present,” wraps up all of the contradictions of being human into a package that we can study and admire. It is what we imagine existence to be, and if our imaginations are truly healthy, our daily lives, which are manifestations of our beliefs and imagined thoughts, will reflect that, and follow suit.

The theatre requires us to build a community of people who strive to really listen to each other, to compassionately collaborate to make a new world every time we set a piece of action into motion in a space. It is what we need right now. And this is why we need to honor these young writers who have taken a run at this and set yet one more positive and irreversible action into motion.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Thoughts from the Education Director of Playwrights Theatre

With the 26th Annual Madison Young Playwrights Festival just a few short days away, we are buzzing about with rehearsals, revisions and program printing. Here is what our Director of Education and Festival Director, Jim DeVivo, had to say in the program.

As I have listened to discussions about the state of education at home and across the nation, I have become aware of the great number of new (and “new”) concepts and programs that proclaim their potential success because they “put students first.” In my fifteen years in education, I have come to find that measuring success in student learning can be as varied as each individual student. While some of these programs have potential, rarely do they reference specific student needs, nor do they involve any student input. I am not certain that any one approach can be the great panacea for which we seem to be so desperately searching, especially if it does not truly put students in a primary position.

We have found through our creative arts programs that placing students at the center of the creative process can influence them in ways that provide for successful individual student learning in the present and beyond. In the role of playwright, students have the opportunity to exercise initiative, to make decisions, and to collaborate with professionals to create a piece of theatre. The act of collaboration alone is an essential skill for a students’ learning, but additional skills and knowledge and personal characteristics learned can be as varied as the students themselves can.

Over the years, some of our past young playwrights have shared their experiences with us immediately after the program’s conclusion and after having a few years to reflect on the program’s impact. Here is just a sampling of what some former young playwrights have to say:

· “(The actors) dedication to my work and their intellect with the piece brought my confidence back in a heartbeat… that's what this experience was all about: real actors taking my real work very seriously. This was invaluable to a young artist like myself. It made me feel like I wasn't just some kid who wrote some play about moody teenagers and their moody rings -- it made me feel like I was a real dramatic force that had something to say and they were there to cultivate that.”

· “But ultimately this wasn't an exercise in flattering a writer's ego. The experience truly helped me learn more about my script. After only one read-through, I was able to hear a myriad of new things: rhythm that didn't work and rhythm that did, lines that needed to be cut or added, plot points that remained unclear. Sometimes someone asked me a question, and I realized I couldn't answer because I had never thought about that aspect of the story before. After the performance, I began rewriting the script based on information I had gleaned from this process.”

Although these statements are from older students (one who was a young playwright both in elementary and high school), they are indicative of what we hear from students and parents regarding the impact that participation in this program can have on their personal and academic lives. Many students come away with a newfound confidence, critical inquiry skills, and curiosity that can prompt future learning. By putting their words, their voices, and their imaginations first, we create an opportunity for students to skills for life-long learning.

We congratulate each of the young playwrights who participated in the Madison Young Playwrights Program on their creative work and look forward to all the benefits that this experience will bring.

Check back tomorrow for Artistic Director, John Pietrowki's thoughts.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Check Out What Our Friends Are Doing

Check out "One-Hit Willie" by William Westhoven. A story of MUSIC, MURDER, MYSTERY AND MAYHEM!

See Jane Keitel and all the gals from "MoM A Rock Concert Musical" in NYC April 12 - April 28, 2012. To get your tickets visit

Yasmine Beverly Rana's "Blood Sky" will be running through March 25 at New Stage Performing Arts Center in Pittsfield as part of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers and International Women's Month.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Playwrights Theatre's Stages Festival Events

Playwrights Theatre will present two programs during the New Jersey Theatre Alliance Stages Festival. The Stages Festival is a month-long, state-wide celebration of theatre and the performing arts – a project of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance and its membership.

Event 1 ~ Katrina On Stage—Five Plays

Madison Public Library, Chase Room, Madison Public Library, 39 Keep St., Madison, NJ 07940.

Cost: There is a suggested donation of $5.00, seating is first-come, first-served, no reservations will be taken.

When: Thursday, March 22, 2012, 7:00 pm There will be a post-show discussion following the reading.

A staged reading with professional actors of selections from plays from Katrina On Stage edited by Suzanne M. Trauth and Lisa S. Brenner.

Ms. Trauth is a professor of theatre at Montclair State University, where she coordinates the BFA Acting Program. She is co-author of Katrina: The K Word, one of the plays included in the book.

Ms. Brenner is an assistant professor of Theatre Arts at Drew University in Madison, and the co-author of Katrina: The K Word. In 2009, Drew University granted her the Faculty Leadership Civic Engagement Award for her work on Katrina: The K Word, among other projects.

Selections will be read from:

Rising Water
by John Biguenet. Performed at Playwrights Theatre in 2008, the play traces the possible last hours of two New Orleans residents trapped in their attic as the waters are rising around them.

The Breach by Catherine Filloux, Tarell Alvin McCraney, and Joe Sutton. Read at Playwrights theatre in 2008, the play weaves three stories of the flood into a compelling expressionistic rendering of the chaos that ensued during the days of the tragedy.

Because They Have No Words by Tim Maddock and Lotti Louise Pharriss. This moving play deals with the plight of pets that were abandoned during Katrina.

Trash Bag Tourist by Samuel Brett Williams. Read at Playwrights Theatre in 2008, the play looks at the experience of one of the “Trash Bag Tourists,” the refugees that escaped New Orleans with very little possessions, some just tossed into black plastic trash bags.

Katrina: The K Word by Lisa S Brenner and Suzanne M. Trauth. Also read at Playwrights Theatre in 2008, this Documentary Drama uses the actual words of residents to put together a poignant and memorable impression of the experiences of those affected by the storm and its aftermath.

Trauth and Brenner’s book Katrina On Stage Five Plays will be on sale at the reading. A portion of the proceeds benefit The Porch 7th Ward Cultural Organization in New Orleans, LA, which conducts diverse creative programming for all ages.

Event 2 ~ Readings from Playwrights Theatre Adult Playwriting Class

Black River Playhouse, home of the Chester Theatre Group, 54 Grove Street, Chester, NJ 07930

When: Friday, March 30, 2012, 7:00 pm

Cost: $5.00 Suggested Donation

Playwrights Theatre runs an ongoing year-round playwriting workshop for adults where plays are shared in a nurturing and supportive environment. Run by Playwrights Theatre’s Artistic Director John Pietrowski (a recent recipient of a New Jersey State Council on the Arts Playwriting Fellowship), students range from beginners to highly experienced writers who have received NJSCA Playwriting Fellowships and who are writers and performers in their own right.

Professional actors will present ten-minute selections from ongoing works from the workshop and will include: Ed Shakespeare (prior NJSCA Fellow, from Lavalette, NJ), Jewel Seehaus-Fisher (prior NJSCA Fellow, from Highland Park, NJ), Claire Porter (nationally-recognized dancer and performance artist, from Teaneck, NJ), Gregory Cole (Bernardsville, NJ), Stephen Catron (Mendham, NJ), David Allan Crosset (Far Hills, NJ), Ruth Darcy (Chatham, NJ), Roberta Francis (Chatham, NJ), Paula Freed (Sea Bright, NJ), Elaine Lane (Irvington, NJ), Alan Silberberg (Valley Cottage, NY), and Devon Villacampa (Randolph, NJ)The Stages Festival takes place every March with discounted and/or free tickets to performances, workshops and events statewide, and with programming suitable for ALL age groups (not just the little ones). The event provides wonderful opportunities to experience the magic of live theatre with everyone in your family - and your extended family of friends. The Stages Festival is a cosponsored project of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

26th Annual Madison Young Playwrights Festival To Be Held on March 17, 2012

Playwrights Theatre is pleased to announce the 26th Annual Madison Young Playwrights Festival will be held on Saturday, March 17 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. The Madison Young Playwrights Festival brings to life the work of young playwrights who completed a play as part of a 10-week playwriting program conducted by Playwrights Theatre in the Central Avenue School, Kings Road School, Torey J. Sabatini School, Madison Junior School and St. Vincent Martyr School. Five plays were chosen and these plays will be presented with professional actors.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students. For tickets, call the box office at 973-514-1787 X34. The Festival will take place at the Madison Junior School, 160 Main Street, Madison, NJ.

On Monday, February 27 at 8:00pm, Robert H. Conley, Mayor of Madison, proclaimed March “Madison Young Playwrights Month”.

The following student’s plays will be presented this year:

She’s Actually Pretty Cool by Ellie Culin (Kings Road School)
It’s Hard to Get a Halo by Katerina Rettino (Central Avenue School)
Crime Scene Disaster by Kelly Notine (Madison Junior School)
Is It A Dream? by Kevin Espiritu (St. Vincent Martyr School)
From Geek to Chic by Mollie Sullivan (Torey J. Sabatini School)