Category Archives: Farm Report

Martin Denton, Martin Denton


If you work in Indie Theater you have two days remaining to see Martin Denton, Martin Denton. It is a must for those of us who work in Indie Theater. It is as much a tribute to two vital people in the community of Indie Theater as it is to the history of Indie Theater.  If you don’t work in Indie Theater – is a must see simply to learn how a couple of people with a strong interest in theater made a huge difference in all of our lives.

mdmdElephant Run District puts together a wonderful production. It is directed wonderfully and in the spirit of Indie Theater by Aimee Todoroff. The play written by Chris Harcum captures the story of Martin and Rochelle beautifully – and with a similar humility that the two share. The performances of Chris as Martin and Marisol Rose-Shapiro as Rochelle are wonderful. The two do not look like the people they are playing but after about twenty minutes into the play you feel like you’re sitting at lunch at their favorite diner or chinese restaurant hearing stories about how all of what is Indie Theater Now came to be.

This blog is for writing about the process of developing new plays through The Farm Theater’s College Collaboration Project. I’m writing about Martin Denton, Martin Denton because if  it wasn’t for Martin and Rochelle having lunch with me at the Broadway Diner in 2013 and suggesting the blog as part of the process – this forum wouldn’t be available.

I went to the play with Micheline Auger – this past year’s College Collaboration Playwright – whose play will be published by Indie Theater Now and include the cast from all three schools. I also went with Michael Puzzo – playwright of The Dirty Talk which Martin reviewed so favorable in the Fringe the play moved to an Off-Broadway run, Martin and Rochelle published it and shared part of it as one of the earliest podcasts.

Besides the snacks offered at the show – one of the joys of the evening was to hear all of the names and spaces that were mentioned along the way. Every person and place was familiar to me. They were all important to my experience of the work. To hear the names of spaces that no longer exist is melancholy. However, to hear your name spoken is an honor. It is an honor to be part of this community and to call Martin and Rochelle friends.

Because of Martin and Rochelle – I, and all of us in Indie Theater, have received reviews for plays that would have gone without critical notice, have had plays published, and interviews have been shared about our work and our lives. This site, these two, are the chroniclers of our time and our work.

There are two shows remaining tonight at 7:00 and Sunday at 2:00. I recommend you go see this play. If you can’t because you don’t live here – you’ll be able to buy it soon on Indie Theater Now – I recommend you read it because it is not only good – it is important.

Thank you Chris, Aimee and all for chronicling their work.

Talk with you soon.


diversify together


We are entering into our fourth commission of the College Collaboration Project. I have made a commitment to commission female writers for the first five years. I was inspired to do this when I witnessed the unconscious bias against female writers by a female artistic director. I know it was not conscious because there was no agenda against women or pro-men – but when there were six slots for a retreat to invite new writers to a program, those slots were filled by six men. Five of which were over forty.

I happen to fall into that category. I would like my plays to be picked for development. I would like them to be produced. I certainly don’t want to not be picked because I fall into that category. However, recognizing that there is an unconscious bias I felt it important to make this commitment. Especially since the plays of the College Collaboration aren’t just being workshopped. They are being produced. Production is important. Putting resources fully behind artists is important for their growth and for them to be viewed as legitimate to the community as a whole. The wonderful thing when this happens at the college level is that the work is new for the student artists and it becomes the norm that women would of course be fully produced playwrights.

I’m self conscious to write about this as if it is changing the world. It’s an observation that I had and recognized I could take a small step toward lending support toward change.

In all cases I feel as if the best writer, regardless of gender, has been chosen to be part of the program.

9 out of 11 of the College Collaboration Project productions have been directed by men. Again, I fit this category. I would want to direct one of these plays. I love new plays.  All of the directors have been wonderful, talented, and committed artists. They have been excellent partners. They have been wonderful collaborators with the


Playwright Morgan McGuire & Director Peggy Yates at the talkback of In The Cotton

writers. The first six productions of the College Collaboration Project were made up of teams of a female playwright and male director. So, as an Artistic Director, it was my first time collaborating with an all female leadership team. I was aware of this from the onset of the project. The work was approached in the same way as the other productions. There was no difference in quality. All of the collaborations have been equally committed and professional in their approach to the process. However, when in town to see the shows and witnessing the working relationship – it was slightly different. I believe there are a lot of elements that contribute to successful relationships; the individuals, chemistry, life experience, interests, etc. In both productions the relationship between writer and director was slightly more comfortable.  I’m not sure what it was exactly, but there was a familiarity and trust present in the relationship that was achieved with a greater sense of ease between the collaborators. When we met at the restaurant before the show, I was aware that when I joined the table, I was slightly outside of the relationship. Not in a bad way. Not in an exclusive way. In the smallest of ways. In a way I imagine it feels when one female joins the table of two males, or one ethnicity joins the table of two or more of the same.

I’m for balance. I’m for equality. As I get older, and I’m a slow learner, I recognize that if the desire is for diversification of a student body, or a faculty, or a collaborative team it’s good to make sure people know they not only have a seat at the table but it’s a table where they belong. They are not alone. They are not the ‘other’. Diversification happens when we create opportunities for people to fully and comfortably be themselves in the world.

The Farm will continue creating opportunities to cultivate early career artists. We will continue creating opportunities for mentoring relationships to occur. We will continue creating opportunities to showcase the talents of those that need a platform. We will continue to build a community of support around those on the platform.

Talk with you soon.


Can I come again tomorrow?


Last week Morgan and I went to see In The Cotton at Prince George Community College in Maryland. The script was tight. The production had a response from John Gresh of Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival – which was very positive about the production, the students’ work, and the College Collaboration Project.IMG_8091 However, my favorite response came from a fifteen year old audience member. A first year student had brought his brother with him to see the play. When he met the director, Peggy Yates, he immediately asked if he could come again tomorrow. He said, “I didn’t get the first ten minutes. Can I see it again tomorrow?” Peggy asked, “Were you late?” The fifteen year old  responded, “No. I saw it. I didn’t understand it. But the rest of it is the best play I’ve ever seen.” Peggy put him on the list to see it again tomorrow.

The youg audience member was excited about the play for the same reason the cast was excited when I met them after the first production; the characters were talking about race in an honest relevant way to their lives. Not fully getting the beginning of the play was also great feedback. That is IMG_8094the part of the play Morgan is still working on. At the top of the play there is a collage of activity. Morgan has incorporated a voice over speech by Michelle Higgins that frames the work of the student organization, along wi
th projected images of recent protests at Ferguson, St. Louis, and most recently the student protests of 2014. On stage there is a gathering of students singing a song. This takes place at an on campus vigil.

These three elements form the world of the play. The images also begin to play with the idea of time in the play. Some of the images projected are from things that happen before and after the events of the play. Morgan is trying something to frame the world. It is very exciting. It is complex. The production was very close at achieving the idea – after seeing the second production of the play this is probably the main focus of the next level of development. The rest of the play, it is tight.

It was exciting to see the work mature. I agreed with what  John Gresh shared with the students. Their work was deep and specific. It is clear that they have a relationship with issues in the play, they’ve matured their relationships to one another, and they have an affinity for the characters they play.

Morgan has done a wonderful job in the rewrite. The first draft was written very quickly and often the characters were stating things that framed the world of the play – outlined the conflict, gave coimg_8099.jpgntext for who the individuals are, and stated the debate. In this second draft the text now is clearly the students talking to one another with a clear defined relationship with one another, a history, and a clear ability to speak in the moment about the personal of what is happening. There was no obligation for them to speak for the play or playwright. It is exciting second draft.
There were minor technical issues on the first performance. This was not a detractor. The videos enhance the story telling – but ultimately the script is so tight that the audience went on a very fast and powerful ride. I’m thrilled that the schools are having this conversation on their campuses.

Also in attendance for the play were a team of faculty members from Howard Community College that were talking with the director of the third production about ways to connect the themes of the plays to other departments on the campus. As was evident in the fifteen year old audience member the play is exciting and is inspiring conversations across the campus about a very important issue. It is in the voice of the students. And all of this successful because it is being brought to life by Morgan, who present this issue with great maturity and an elevated understanding of diffeIMG_8108rent points of views, a sense of history and of the conversation happening in this moment.

The school is about thirty minutes from Washington, D.C. In the morning of our second day of residence – before going to talk with Peggy’s acting class, Morgan and I took a drive to D.C. seeking out some inspiration. We went to the monuments and first one we came upon was MLK’s. The first quote on the wall seemed perfect for the play. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenges and controversy.”

Paper to the South East Theater Conference – by Rachel Kent, Centre College Student

I’m Rachel Kent and I’m currently a Junior at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. This year, for the second time in my college career, I’ve had the opp


Rachel Kent as South East Theater Conference

ortunity to work on a brand new piece of theater. While this may not sound like an earth-shattering experience, working on these projects have become some of my fondest memories at Centre, and perhaps doing theater at all.

But how does a tiny school in the middle of nowhere end up with an opportunity like this? The answer is the Farm Theater in New York, and its college collaboration project. Padraic Lillis, the founder of the Farm, describes its name as coming from the Farm System of baseball – the idea of growing new talent and building up the sport or the art from the ground up. In baseball, hands-on practice and experience is what gives a leg-up – and increases the likelihood that the farm players will make it to the big leagues. So, too, then, does the farm focus on hands-on experience – giving early-career playwrights some “playing time” and allowing them to work their way up to whatever the big leagues may mean to them. The Farm Theater has become so much more than a training platform, though – it focuses on building a community of mentoring, support, and growth (which makes the traditional meaning of the word Farm not all that far off either).

Here is a description of the Farm Theater College Collaboration project, in Lillis’ own words:

“Three schools commission an early career playwright to write a play that each school will independently produce throughout the academic year. The playwright, faculty, and students collaborate throughout the year in the development of the text. The script will be a full-length play with a minimum of five characters. The majority of the characters will be under thirty years of age so that undergraduate actors can successfully play the roles.

The project commences with the playwright interviewing students of the participating schools on the topic she will be exploring through the development of the play. The playwright writes for six months and then the play is workshopped in NYC in August with professional actors. Faculty and students from the schools are invited to participate in the NYC workshop. The schools then each produce the play independently during the academic year. The playwright is in residence for part of the rehearsal process for rewrites and attends the productions. The project culminates in a public reading of the play in NYC with a cast made up of professional actors and student actors from each of the schools.”

In the Event poster Centre

poster from Centre College production


I am lucky enough to have been around for two of these college collaboration processes. My first year at Centre, we commissioned our first College Collaboration project. Our playwright was Lindsay Joy, and she gave us her beautiful play, In the Event of my Death. Lindsay herself talked to me about what she considered to be the benefits of the farm from the playwright’s side. She says:

“My favorite part of the process was the actual time I had to spend with the students during the rehearsal process. I was fortunate enough to have a long weekend with the cast of In the Event at Centre in the thick of it, right when they were just off book. I really got to shape and mold and re-write with an informed sense of character because the students did such specific work. It made that re-write the most significant of the program, and I think it made for a good show. For me, there is nothing as beneficial as the change that happens in a rehearsal room, and during the crisis of production. When you can cut/add/rework a scene with smart actors? It’s the best.”

We were the second school to tackle In the Event, and I was a lowly Assistant Stage Manager, desperate to be involved in any way I could. Even so, it was the most incredible experience for me as a student. Her play was one of the first I had ever worked on that dealt with things that immedia


In The Event – Curtain Call

tely impacted me as an almost 20-year-old – it talked about people my age, coming back to their hometown after college, deaing with suicide and sexuality and love and friendship. It was one of the best-received plays I’ve worked on to date at Centre as well, selling out completely for both nights of our limited run. Being the second sc
hool to get the play, we were able to see a substantial number of rewrites both from the initial first draft we received and throughout the process itself, and a lot changed afterward because of us. A lot of students felt that they personally created their characters, and took serious ownership of them – it was an incredible thing to watch. A real family was formed, and even the scared little freshman was welcomed into the process. It was surreal in a lo
t of ways, and made me endlessly excited to get to do it again.

A dear friend of mine and one of the lead actors from In The Event of my Death, has this to say about her experience:

“There are an endless number of good things I could say about the Farm’s College Collaboration Project, but I think the most important feature that the students benefit from is a better understanding of a truly collaborative process. Most college-aged theater kids have spent their years putting on Cinderella and various watered-down Shakespeares and have no clue what goes on in a collaborative setting or where to begin with an original piece. It is an invaluable experience to talk to the creator of a character that you are inhabiting. I would even call it a luxury. However, with that luxury comes a much greater responsibility because the playwright is watching every choice you make and possibly even changing the script to reflect what they liked or disliked about your performance. Seeing how important your character is to the playwright makes your character even more important to you and when you have a cast full of people who are greatly invested in their characters individually, the ensemble becomes intense and fortified. The collaborative nature of this project is truly unlike any other. My love of theater was refreshed and renewed and I wanted to pursue theater for a whole slew of reasons that I never knew existed. I also felt 1000 times more prepared to enter a professional setting, because they already treated us like professionals. Anyone who has the privilege of being a part of the college collaboration project will leave a better member of the theater community, 100% guaranteed.”

Another student has similar things to say, describing the process as:

“An opportunity to step into a fresh new work in which my interpretation of a character is valued by the playwright themselves, which is extremely rare for an actor, especially a young one. My experience during In the Event of my Death shaped me as an actor more than any other show I have ever done for this reason. I was able to live inside my character and grow as a performer as she grew and developed as a person in the script. Since I was able to grow with my character, I was able to connect to the script on a much deeper level than I had before and now I am able to apply that ability to connect to other scripts I am handed later because now that I have worked so closely with a playwright it gives me a whole new perspective when I’m performing. The playwrights are always in the room with me, whereas they never used to be before.”

The second time around, the initial skype call happened while I was in England studying abroad. I was filled in by my cohorts that the play was going to be about gender. It seemed super interesting, and the bar was set high by In the Event, so I couldn’t wait to get back to Centre and get started! A little bit later in my trip, I got an email from Matthew Hallock, who is the chair of our department, a sort of liaison to the farm people, and my boss. He asked me if I would be interested in coming to New York for the initial table reading.

Would I be interested?!?! I was ecstatic!! That August, I met up with Matthew, Patrick Kagan-Moore, director of both Farm projects to date, and another student and friend of mine. I didn’t really know what to think, but I’m an energetic, outspoken person and as we got going I let my reservations go. The table reading took place across the street from the Public, something I noted immediately. Around the table sat professors from one of the other two schools working on the project this go-around, plus a smattering of students. Represented was SUNY Brockport, and distantly supportive was University of Western Florida, who, understandably, couldn’t make it to New York. Additionally present were, our playwright, Micheline Auger, farm director Padraic Lillis, and half a dozen professional New York actors. It was a diverse, enthusiastic, wise, and giving group and after a couple hours of reading and discussion, a few things became clear.

  1. This play was no longer about gender. Suddenly, it was dealing with the very real, very prevalent issue of sexual assault on college campuses.
  2. Micheline was the coolest darn thing, and all these professionals sitting around me were intimidating and wonderful.
  3. I did not like her main character.

Fearless, or perhaps foolish, as I am, I decided to focus on that last point, and vocalize it. Micheline was clearly taken aback. Who was this random person to come in and criticize her otherwise very brave, very wonderful piece of work? I remember walking out of the room that day and looking at my friend. “Oh my god, that was too much, wasn’t it?” He sort of shrugged it off, but my stomach was in knots the rest of the evening.

After seeing some shows and wandering around New York taking it all in, we reconvened the next day for much of the same. That night, however, Micheline was going to do some rewrites. That final day, we all came together and there was an almost entirely new play in front of us. It was incredible seeing the process firsthand like that – and the most


workshop in New York

wonderful part was that she had actually listened to me and made some edits to the character I had so vehemently disliked. She, a professional playwright, had listened to me!! That was the first distinct moment where I felt the scope of just how lucky I was – I was sitting in New York city surrounded by brilliant collaborators, and I had something to say that was valued and taken into account to improve a piece of art!

This time around, we were the last school to perform the show. When we auditioned the play, the show was titled Your Wings Have Eyes, but by the time of our first read-through in November, we had a new title: Love 95 times. By early January, the start of rehearsal process, everyone was raring to go. I, usually a16708739_1886412301592379_4635506758090955775_n-1n actor, was somehow shifted into the role of Stage Manager, which was an entirely different personal journey in itself. But I couldn’t be more grateful – it allowed me to be close to the process from beginning to end in a way that almost no one else was. It amplified that feeling I had first experienced freshman year and that I encountered again in New York – I wasn’t just a student, I was an artist and a collaborator.

At Centre, we have a slightly different schedule – we have two normal-length semesters, but we also have a third term, sort of like a J-term. We call it CentreTerm, and it lasts for the month of January. During that time, students take only one class, and it meets for three hours each day. This works out splendidly for the theater department, because it means we got to work on both of the farm plays as a class. For In the Event of my Death, the show had a small cast which meant that all the actors and designers, the stage manager, and the AD got to be in the class. This time, however, Love 95 times by the time it went up included a large group entity that became essentially a type of chorus. In a department as small as ours, we needed to pull people who couldn’t necessarily be in the class, but who we needed as part of the process. Because of this, we divided the cast into principles and chorus members, calling the principles for work during the class day and calling the chorus members for traditional after-class rehearsals. We also included our costume designer, props designer, and video designer in the class, as well as myself. This meant long days for the director and myself, but a much more inclusive process than we were able to have in the past.


Centre College By-Stander/Hoodie Chorus

In terms of the benefits of the process, they cannot be overstated. For both the designers and the actors, getting to work with the playwright throughout the process was invaluable. It felt like working on a professional new writing show – rehearse all day long, call up the playwright if you need her. Micheline flew in to visit us for a weekend during the process, and came back at the end to see the show in its entirety. She consistently sent us tons of rewrites and was always available for questions, comments, or concerns. We really appreciated her support, talent, and bravery throughout the process. One of our actors says:

“The process of the farm show was different than the other shows we do here at Centre. Not only was this show a class, but it was also being revised and rewritten as we went along. The fact that it was developing with us was very cool. It was interesting to see the changes and edits the script went through and how that translated onto the stage. It felt like I was constantly learning new things about my character and about myself as an actress and it was challenging and fun to experience.

From a design perspective, our costume designer for Love 95 times says of the process:

“It’s intimidating to have a playwright looking at your stuff…particularly in terms of a show that doesn’t have a lot of references to costume in the script. I wa


Libbie Sparks (Jenny) in Centre College

s given a lot of freedom which is exciting and scary! One time she just came in and looked at my designs and mentioned that I went in a completely different direction than the de
signers at the other schools, which is something I’m proud of, but also something that initially made me pretty nervous. One thing that really excited me was the super cool advantage of having the playwright there to fill in the ‘gaps of affirmation’ between my ideas, the directors’ ideas, and the thoughts of the other designers. She made sure it was cohesive and consistent with her own vision – a luxury that most designers don’t get to have. Getting to see the process change and to witness how organic the show became was super unique because usually we only see the finished product, and getting to see the messiness of her earlier stages was encouraging and humanizing – it also made me


post show discussion with the cast at Centre College

feel like I was allowed to make mistakes in my process before I found the final product that I wanted to put onstage.”

Now that the show has gone up and down, the next stage of the process is the reading in New York. I, as well as t
wo other Centre Students who were actors in Love 95 times, are lucky enough to follow this process to New York, and right up to the end. I couldn’t be more excited to see how the play unfolds and see it through – hopefully to the big leagues one day. There is no doubt in my mind that without the college collaboration project, I would never have the opportunity to follow a show like this through so many stages of its life, and I am so grateful for it.

Overall, the College Collaboration is beneficial to the schools, the playwrights, and the plays themselves.

Micheline Auger, our second Farm playwright, says:


playwright Micheline Auger

“Why does the Farm College Collaboration work? Because plays (and theater artists) need to be developed in front of an audience and, as Todd London’s book Outrageous Fortune brought to light, it’s hard enough for the average play to get one production (if they’re lucky), it’s near impossible to get two or three. With the Farm’s College Collaboration, the new play receives three different productions at three different universities, and the beauty of it is that everyone benefits. The students get to see what it’s like to work on a new play and experience the thrill and ownership of contributing to it’s development; the community gets to take part in a meaningful conversation and also feel ownership in the play-making process; the playwright is provided the opportunity to work her craft at a high level and the universities get to contribute to building the canon of New American Plays. This is a worthy investment. I feel extremely enriched by this experience and what I’ve heard from the student collaborators, faculty and audience members is that they feel the same. This, to me, is the measure of success.”

However, I think the biggest benefit is for the students. Getting to work on and have a hand in the development of a new play is a unique, hugely rewarding experience that most undergrads don’t get a chance to participate in. I wouldn’t be the same artist I am if not for the two rounds of the Farm – I have more confidence to speak my mind, a better working knowledge of the processes I want to be a part of for the rest of my life, and a deeper appreciation for all the different jobs that go into putting together a play. Most of all, though, the farm theater college collaboration project teaches students that they are worthy – that they are artists, not just bodies on a stage, and that they are valuable parts of the process not just because of their ideas, but because of who they are as people. It builds confidence, trust, support, teaches teamwork, and creates magical new theatrical experiences – changing the lives of everyone who is lucky enough to be a part of it.

7,000 Cotton Balls


“The only thing I care about in the first production is that the stage is covered with cotton balls.” – Morgan McGuire, Playwright – Tanner and the cotton.

The event of the play centers around an act of vandalism. Two students have placed a lot of cotton balls and signs that read “Cotton Picker” in front of a dorm whose residents are predominantly African American. That is the inciting incident that kicks off the action of the play. To have its impact – theatrically we want to see this. Seeing it strengthens the audience’s ability to engage in the ongoing discussion about the intention behind the event and the actions required to hold the students accountable.

7,000 Cotton Balls fell from the sky! They covered the stage floor and steps of the dorm. It was quite impactful. Moments like this illustrate the value of a full production in the development of a script. We are able to feel the impact of a theatcbp_6222tannercbpick-2rical moment that the story turns on. There are many ways to address something. And over the next couple of productions I am sure that the
cotton ball drop will be finessed or done in a different way to match the ideas of the physical productions at the other schools. But seeing it – helps strengthen the commitment to the impact the act has and the need to see it for the success of the argument that motivates the play.



Also, the play takes place today so there is a lot of technology used by the students. They live stream the protest and FaceTime with family members. This technology was utilized in the production very effectively. The production also built off of this element to include slides of images of civil rights protests from Fifty years ago – and today. These images lifted the play out of a discussion of one incident on one campus to being part of a national discussion.

The development process of a play is always much greater through getting to realize the physical life of the play. Moving it beyond the ‘reading’. I am so grateful to our partner schools that commit to the process of fully producing a play that it is yet to be written. The commitment of everyone – director, actor, designer, crew, stage managers, all -give the play and playwright the  security and foundation to be able to grow as much as possible. Each artist’s investment strengthens the play and lives in it as it grows.

I look forward to watching the development of all aspects of Tanner and the Cotton. It is off to a very good start!

Talk with you soon.


The play that fits in the mouth of the actors


Last night I saw Morgan’s play Tanner and the Cotton at Carroll Community College. Because this play was started later than the others it did not have the benefit of a three day workshop in New York before starting rehearsals at the first school. This play was being written as rehearsals started.  The first production is truly a workshop production – for the writer. Morgan is truly learning about the play through this process. She is learning about it like you learn about a new friend – Who are they? What do they have in common? What passions do they share? How do they connect to one another? It is truly a new relationship.  I understood this through my conversations with Morgan as we both talked about how to use the process of the first production. What I didn’t take into account of the very fast process of putting the play together was that I had not gotten to know the play intimately as  I am used to. I didn’t get to get to know it through a day workshop of questioning at the culmination of months of talking about the theme of the play and potential structure.

My concerns were about Morgan connecting to the themes, were the students feeling as though they were heard in the process of creating the play, is everyone excited about the conversation that can be had through the development process. All good questions – but as I entered the theater to see the play I realized I was preparing to meet the play and the actors for the first time. I was happy to be greeted with photos of the cast and the theater space is beautiful.

I sat down with some excitement of meeting a new friend in the play. I knew the ideas were good from my conversations with Morgan. I trusted Jane, the director, from our conversations from the beginning of the process. But realizing I hadn’t heard the words said out loud before I was excited and a little nervous to see how it worked.

At the top of the play the students entered the stage and starting moving scenery and setting up chairs for the first scene and there was a confidence that let the audience know that they got this. This is their play. And as soon as they started talking it was clear that this was a play for them. Or of them. It was theirs. They owned the language. They owned the issue. They owned the play. I love the College Collaboration Project because it is thrilling to have the actor speaking about things that are from their immediate experience. Not only did the cast own it but you could feel a sense of security, familiarity, and investment from the audience. This is their play too.

Afterwards the actors shared their appreciation of feeling like they were being represented on stage. That they were connected to who they are playing. They were surprised by Morgan’s ability to listen to them in rehearsal over a very short time and to be able to capture an essence of them that would appear in the character. However, I’m not sure Morgan was writing specifically for each actor but what I do know is that each actor felt as though they knew who they were playing. They felt close to it – and that gave them an ownership.

One actor is in her first play. You wouldn’t know it. She credits the support of the cast, writer, director, and whole team – working together on this project along with the trust of having to share bravely and openly on the topic throughout the process. All of that is vital. However, the first step is recognizing the value that the students’ experience bring to a theme or issue that a writer is writing about – and then bringing that experience out through the play.

I like this new play. I’m excited to see how the play and artists mature throughout the process. I am confident that this play and I will be friends. That confidence was born the moment the performance started and it was clear that the play fits in the mouth of the actors.

Talk soon.


Trust the process


I am grateful for the trust of the schools in the upcoming College Collaboration Project with MACPACC (Carroll, Prince George, and Howard Community Colleges). Next week I’m going down to see the first production of Morgan McGuire’s play at Carroll Community College. I went online to look for a poster to include in this blog post. I realized there isn’t a poster for the show. The information online reads: The Farm Theater Project. The reason there is no poster is because until a month ago there was no play.  Morgan went down to Carroll Community College to work with the twelve actors cast and the director to develop an idea of a script January 12th. She had a full draft of the script 13 days later.

So in lieu of a poster: Here is an image of Philadelphia 76er basketball player Joel Embiid. 122016_joel-embiid_1200

The 76er’s General Manager said to their fans that they needed to ‘trust the process’ when it came to the rebuilding of the talent of their team.  In attending a 76ers game recently I was tickled to learn that they nicknamed Embiild “The Process” because he is the only one of four first round draft picks to pan out. It was good lesson on having a sense of humor, staying committed to the goal, and to trust the process because everyone involved wants it to be as successful as possible.

In this college collaboration project the first writer and script for the project presented challenges for the schools. It had roles they couldn’t cast and it excluded certain groups of students from participating. Not every first draft works out. I am learning a lot about trying to talk about race through collaboration. However, I am grateful and excited about Morgan taking the lead on the project.  I am impressed with her ability to capture many sides of people trying to address the issue on a college campus. The play is an exciting reflection of the need to address the issue in our society. However, the main thing I am learning is that the most valuable skill in collaboration is listening. And time. Successful collaboration takes time.

Since writing the draft Morgan has been down to rehearsals for two days and has done some rewriting. In absence of the three day workshop in NYC – her and I met for two hours in a coffee shop and she’s been in discussion with the schools. This coming week Morgan will see a dress rehearsal of the play. I will see a performance in front of an audience. And then she will have a month to do rewrites.

In absence of time to prepare for a workshop – The cast, production crews, design team, and Morgan are diving right in. They are sharing a first draft with the audience. The audience is being invited in to be part of the development process in a deeper way than has been explored through our program in any previous collaboration. Their response will be vital in our learning about the play because the play is so new – we really don’t know what it is yet. That is exciting. That is scary. Maybe not scary…but courageous of all to be willing to be fully in process in front of an audience.

The schools believe in the value of having the conversation on the issue of race with their students,  artistic partners, and audience. I am grateful for their trust in the process. And ultimately that is the most important element necessary in a successful collaboration – trust.

Talk with you soon.


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