Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Chelsea Rep Lab Playwriting Classes

My colleagues and I at Chelsea Rep Lab have been working on expanding our program. In the spring, we will offer a beginning class on Sunday afternoons, and an advanced class every other Monday night. We are quite excited about it. Because we're connected to an acting school (The Acting Studio), every student gets to go through the rehearsal process with actors and a director.
One of my former students, Gregory Cohan, has just written me about his experience in the beginning and advanced classes this year:
"When Anne came to one of the monthly Labs do to give a crash-course in playwriting it opened up a whole new perspective. I remember after doing some writing exercises to get our pens to the paper, Anne was running out of time and said something to the extent of, "If anything, taking a playwriting class will make you a stronger actor." I wanted to be a stronger actor, and it just turned out I really liked to write. One of my favorite components of Anne's class was our reading assignments. We were given plays to read, some one-acts and even some full lengths (depending on the class level) and we sat around and broke them down: protagonist v. antagonist, themes, dramatic images, rhythm, etc... It made you look at pieces of work differently. This carried over into our own work as playwrights. We would read our plays or scenes in class, and it was very similar to how an actor might approach a scene that they're given in a class: what does "A" want? What' does "C" want? "A" wants "B" in spite of "C". I'll never forget that formula. We would break down beats and the rhythm of writing, we would discuss the choices we made, why we made them, and how we can make them much more specific which in turn would result in a more interesting moment or scene to an audience. We would talk about how to make a scene build, how to make it arc, how to keep it moving forward. These are things one might hear in an acting class, from a director or an instructor, but approaching the material from the playwright's perspective definitely helped to crystalize it. This type of critical analysis and thought is something that has helped immensely in approaching new scenes and even audition sides. It's helped me to break down ambiguous material much more effectively and make choices that are clear and interesting."
So, if that isn't a good reason to teach, I don't know what is.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Soup & a Story

As part of Open Source Gallery’s fourth annual December Soup Kitchen, playwright Anne Phelan will serve soup and read from her play, Crèche Scenes, on Wednesday, December 21, 2011.

The soup will be Giuliano Hazan’s Pappa al pomodoro (Tuscan Tomato Bread Soup). Phelan will be reading the monologue “Pete’s Christmas Story,” about a thwarted office worker’s Christmas Eve theft of a statue of the Baby Jesus. She has had three plays produced at Open Source: Brooklyn Lighthouse (based on the paintings of Jacob Ouillette), Deconstruction (based on the paintings of Rachel Youens), and Mi Tigre, My Lover (based on the paintings of Naoe Suzuki). Phelan is currently at work on a full-length version of the latter, The Tiger Play, which will be read at the Gallery in September as part of 30 Plays Celebrate 30 Years, the 30th anniversary of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Open Source Gallery is a participant-driven art initiative in Brooklyn, NY that provides space, community and conceptual context for creative play and critical commentary. Founded by Monika Wuhrer and Gary Baldwin, it is a not-for-profit organization; all contributions are tax-deductible. The current show is Felipe Mujica’s fabric installation One Day This Will All Be Yours.

The soup kitchen is open most nights in December, 7-9 PM, and located at Open Source Gallery, 306 17th Street (corner of Sixth Avenue) in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Admission is free. For more information, info@open-source-gallery.org. The soup kitchen calendar is available at http://open-source-gallery.org.

Photo is of the new Open Source Gallery's opening night last June.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Student

My former student, Angelo Berkowitz, has just had his screenplay "Walt Whitman Never Paid for It" shot. He wrote the play for my playwriting class last year, and adapted it for the screen. He also plays the lead.
Go to YouTube, and search WALT WHITMAN NEVER PAID FOR IT.

Dead Composers

There was a wonderful article on Slate this week (with YouTube links) entitled "Famous Classical Composers: The Last Piece They Wrote Before They Died." It's not just the usual suspects (Bach, Mozart, etc.), but also Schubert (Der Winterreise), Brahms and Schoenberg. The link (as above) is: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/music_box/2011/11/famous_classical_composers_the_last_piece_they_wrote_before_they_died_.html
The Mozart is disappointing. It's the Neville Marriner Requiem (sooo sloow), and does not include the last movement Mozart wrote (I believe), which is the Lacrimosa. And if that does not send shivers up your spine, nothing ever will.