Category Archives: Playwrights Corner

Being in the room with the Boys of a Certain Age

From Playwright Dan Fingerman:

When we offered R. Scott Williams the role of Uncle Ira, he said that it would be a change “doing a play where the author isn’t dead.” I was a little unsure how to take that. Should I be dead? He later explained that he mostly did classic works where the author is long gone and that doing a new show with a living author was a real treat. As the playwright it has been a wonderful honor indeed to be in the room with this cast and team.

“Boys of a Certain Age” is about four gay Jews spending the weekend together. Their weekend is met with unexpected division and ideological differences as they navigate their own interpersonal relationships past and present. Despite the arguments and the barbs the characters all have a deep love and respect for each other and that kind of camaraderie can be difficult to fake.

After our sold out run at the Fresh Fruit Festival, the foursome were all eager to return and get back on stage with each other. The conversations I hear in rehearsal between the two generations mirror the gulf that’s happening on stage. Brian is helping his onstage uncle build his website, but really didn’t want to be paid with a check. R. Scott can’t believe Marc hasn’t seen Rocky Horror Picture Show. And Joe, who is not gay, amused us all with the story of the time years ago when he accompanied friends at the dive gay bar/sex club, The Cock (which he called The Rooster).

When working on a show it’s sometimes hard for me to spend a lot of time in the rehearsal room, particularly when re-writes and other items are needed, but I’ve loved being in this room. Watching our teamwork together on stage and off stage has been such a joy and I believe the secret to the success of this show.

On Dealing with Loss and Longing

You can’t have lived very long before you start getting tested by life and introduced to the concepts of loss and longing. In part, it’s what life is about, what gives life meaning. To a child, loss is often introduced tenderly through the death of a distant grandparent or elderly pet, or the disappearance of a friend whose family moved away. Shortly after that you begin to develop a sense of longing, the longing for someone now gone, or for something you once held close, or never had or never will have. Then as you grow older, life likely gets harsher, sometimes much harsher. My play Trio with Flute is about these unavoidable realities of life. It is about a developmentally disabled adult who is frustrated by feelings he cannot fully understand and the lack of relationships that are not to be. It is about a concert flutist who escapes the horrors of war and the betrayal of a childhood friend only to face the knowledge of her parent’s fate. And finally it is about the emotional toll on the wife of a soldier long missing-in-action as she endures the endless years of waiting for closure as hope wanes. As this trio of very different souls come together, they initially conflict and challenge each other, but ultimately find ways to confide and discover the common ground that allows them to finally deal with their unique challenges and move forward with their lives. In productions, Trio with Flute has received wide-spread critical and popular acclaim and is now available at www.indietheaternow.com. Please give it a read and let me know what you think.

  • Richard Warren, Playwright

The Impact of Others

To a great extent all of us are reflections of the impact others have had on our lives. Praise, encouragement and love generate positive self-esteem while disrespect, disparagement and loathing create the opposite. And in today’s world there is perhaps nothing more damaging than the effects of outright bulling, especially on people who are young and still seeking their own identities.

Often the “bully” doesn’t see himself as such, but thinks he’s simply “being funny” or “just teasing.” And just as often this unwanted behavior is learned by the “bully” by having been bullied himself. However it happens, it isn’t without negative consequences and shouldn’t be tolerated.

My play Snap exposes the effects of long-term bullying on four former high school classmates, now factory workmates in their twenties. Most particularly it explores the consequences of the constant belittling and berating by one “so-called friend” on another in a confined situation with limited opportunity for escape.

Discover how finally, after years of despair, Charlie is able to journey from a life of isolation and loneliness to one with promise and renewed hope, and a mountain view. Check out Snap at Indie Theater Now.

  • Richard Warren, Playwright

The Times They Were A-changin

From the moment they conceive, most parents have hopes and dreams for their children and are anxious to provide the discipline and encouragement they need to grow from helpless infants into responsible adults. Then, when they reach their late teens or early twenties, there comes a time in their children’s lives when their children are compelled to exert their independence and strike out on their own. Sometimes they embrace their parents’ aspirations and follow their parents’ direction and there is harmony, but more often than not there is the need for them to follow their own dreams and challenge lessons learned.

Set in the summer of 1961, Shifting Gears is a coming-of-age play for the United States and for a Michigan family and for each of its family members. World War II ended more than sixteen years ago, the Eisenhower presidency ended a year ago and the youth, vigor and promise of the Kennedy years is in full swing. In the traditions of the time, dad was the bread-winner, mom was the home-maker and their children were properly taught to be seen but not heard and to not speak unless spoken to. Well all that was about to change.

As family members confront each other over personal desires and unforeseen challenges, both parents and children alike find new understanding, respect and maturity as all face the emerging realities of the times and their own lives. Typically, all most parents want is some assurance that they raised their children well and that their children now have the opportunity to live productive, rewarding and happy lives. Of course only time will tell.

I grew up during this period and have since raised three children of my own. And although none of the circumstances or characters in this play ever truly existed, everyone in Shifting Gears and everything that happens to them was informed by what I witnessed and experienced first as a child and then as a parent.

To me, Shifting Gears combines a time that has passed with truths that are timeless. Check it out for yourself at Indie Theater Now.

Richard Warren, Playwright

Trust Is A Must

It seems to me that mutual trust is the fundamental basis for any relationship. When it starts to fray, the relationship inevitably falters. This truth is particularly important in family dynamics.

My play Revokable Trust explores the ever evolving relationships between a husband and wife with traditional values, and their uptight and bitter divorced middle-aged daughter Lucy who feels nothing but rejection. In the desperate pursuit of financial security and another shot at marriage, she becomes increasingly manipulative and mean-spirited, thereby imperiling the trust of her parents and her would-be fiancé.

Parental love is instinctive, strong, freely given and usually unwavering. On the other hand, trust is earned through positive actions, but can threatened and ultimately lost through negative actions. Feeling entitled, Lucy demeans her step-father and blames him for her failures, and she ultimately embezzles from her mother. After seeing Revokable Trust audience members have told me how personally sensitive and concerned they are about these issues in their own relationships with their own children. Apparently these issues are very real and wide-spread.

We often learn a lot about people by witnessing the way they treat others. As Lucy attempts to rush her reluctant boyfriend into marriage, he observes the way she treats her parents and eventually breaks off their already delicate engagement. He tells Lucy she isn’t the woman she had led him to believe she was, and Lucy hits back.

Sadly, in contemporary America many people are rejecting the comforts of friends and family for the pursuit of self-interests. The result is that they are becoming more isolated, defensive and paranoid. By not embracing and nurturing close relationships, they have freed themselves from responsibility, but it is a lonely freedom.

Because the subjects my plays seem to be so diverse, some have asked if I write in a specific arena. After some thought I concluded that my through-line is my love of people and my concern for the commitments, efforts and rewards that are inherent in meaningful relationships.

At its best, Revokable Trust plays as a quirky contemporary comedy pitting violence against virtue, deception against decency, and secrecy against sincerity. Yet, I like to think it’s a fun play with something to say. Check it out for yourself at Indie Theater Now.
Richard Warren, Playwright

THE POSITIVE RESULTS OF NEGATIVE ATTENTION

No matter how much life-styles change, the human emotions of family dynamics seem to fundamentally remain the same.

My contemporary comedy Reconciled Differences deals with the age-old challenge parents have when trying to deal with children seeking rewards via negative attention. Now I somewhat understand this emotional and rocky road after having participated in this struggle first-hand with one of my step-daughters. But for this play, I refreshed my memories by creating original characters confronting topical situations and relationships unrelated to my own journey.

The play deals with single mother Ginnie who has raised her rebellious daughter Judy from infancy to adulthood while living with Martin, an aloof and out-of-touch eye doctor who has yet to bond.

The play opens as aging Martin has decided he may need a care-taker wife more than a live-in girl friend. For some unknown reason Ginnie resists his tempting offer of a Las Vegas Elvis-style marriage. Meanwhile twenty-year-old Judy has become financially self-sufficient by running what appears to be an XXX-rated internet site from her bedroom. Martin suspects it and Ginnie denies it, but it’s definitely getting their attention, albeit negative attention.

Suddenly, Ginnie’s “long-declared dead” husband Randy returns from prison and shakes things up. Ginnie is threatened, Martin is stressed and Judy is confused.

Finally, a deal is struck between Martin and Randy which results in Judy receiving the one thing she most wanted and never thought possible, the feeling of truly being loved and respected.

Reconciled Differences is an enjoyable up-beat show with something to say. Check it out at Indie Theater Now.

Oh, on a side note, during one production the director called me aside and asked that I talk with the young actor playing Judy. The actor told me she had no problem with the “porno stuff” (it isn’t really), but the script also calls for her character to exclaim “Jez!” The actor explained she was a devote Christian (as am I), and that she therefore couldn’t say the word because it’s slang for Jesus. Well we talked about it awhile and were finally able to work out an acceptable word, but you just never know.

Using ITN with Students – by Lynda Crawford

Indie Theater Now is a rich resource for teaching playwriting. One way that we use it in the playwriting lab at SUNY/Empire State College is by having students view plays by Indie Theater Now playwrights who are visiting the lab. For example, Chris Harcum has been a guest at the lab for the last three summers and students have read several of his works from ITN.

Another way I have used ITN academically is with a student working on a solo piece. We both purchased the United Solo collection to read through and discuss, making it the curriculum for the course. It’s been a great resource for some of the finest solo pieces that are currently being written and performed.

Students in the playwriting lab are also invited to submit plays to be considered for inclusion in the ESC Playwriting Lab collections that Indie Theater Now has twice published. This has not only enabled some of the best plays from the Lab to get more visibility on ITN, but it again puts the students in contact with the tremendous variety of contemporary plays and playwrights published there.

I know there is more I could do to use this invaluable resource. My own plays are on ITN and I might encourage students who are curious about my work to read some of them there, although I suspect they already do. I would like to suggest that students choose at least one play to read from ITN as a requirement for the playwriting lab, as I believe it beneficial to introduce them to this incredible resource of new work—and perhaps it might be an outlet for their own work one day. (And the price is so reasonable for students—membership is free and most single plays currently cost in the vicinity of $1.29.) I’d also love to have more ITN playwrights join us for discussion at the playwriting lab.

I’m very grateful to Martin Denton and Indie Theater Now for all ITN has done to support the scrappy, exciting, and daring new work of independent theater artists that enriches all of us.

Lynda Crawford, playwright

Lynda is a New York playwright, published by ITN, who leads the Playwriting Lab at SUNY/Empire State College.

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