POSTED ON JUNE 1, 2011:
Playwrights use the PAC to improve their works and let audiences be part of the process
Next weekend, the Tulsa Performing Arts Center Trust will open its annual SummerStage festival, which packs the Tulsa Performing Arts Center with music and theater during June and July, when the place would normally be empty.
But this year, the trust is throwing in a little something extra.
This weekend, June 2-4, three local writers will workshop new plays, gathering input from audience members and a panel of writers.
"We were seeing, which we love, a lot of people bringing new works forward (for the festival)," said Chad Oliverson, Tulsa PAC Trust marketing manager. "We want to encourage that in SummerStage, but we were seeing a lot of shows that weren't ready for full production yet."
The workshops will allow writers to present their works in a safe place, without financial obligation, where they can revise and hone their scripts.
The writers will present their plays with limited to no set, costumes or lights. They'll read from their scripts, and the panelists, writers who are disinterested in the Tulsa theater community, and the audience will comment on them, with the goal of providing constructive criticism.
The workshop process allows playwrights, and requires participants, to "focus on the words themselves, focus on the script which is really the foundation of any great work," Oliverson said.
It's a process nearly every professional new play or musical undergoes, but in those cases, it's a process that can take years.
During SummerStage, the writers will spend one night with panelists and audience members and use the notes provided that night to prepare their plays for full-scale production in July.
"We're all aware that it's still not ready, even then -- it's not ready to put $100,0000 into costumes and set -- but it's underway," Oliverson said.
"We want SummerStage to be a festival of traditional arts and disciplines but also of new works and new plays and cutting edge concepts and provide a place for that to cook and bake and grow."
Karen Lacy, who debuted a new, original work entitled Wide-Eyed Wonderland about her experience with depression at last year's SummerStage festival, proposed another this year, but Shirley Elliott, program director for the Tulsa PAC Trust, and Oliverson approached her about workshopping it instead. It's a process she's never undergone before.
"I looked back (at last year's show) and thought maybe some pieces should have been cut, some things changed," Lacy said. "It made me think about how difficult the editing process is if you're editing and producing own work.
"Last year, I loved everything in show -- because I wrote it -- so it was difficult for me to cut anything out. But there were probably some things that could have been cut, and it could have been a tighter show."
Lacy said she hopes the process will provide insight from another perspective -- mainly the audience's.
"Because I'm telling different stories that are connected thematically, as opposed to telling one story that has an emotional arc and happens in fairly chronological way, ... I want to know, does that work?" Lacy said. "Did I put the pieces together in a way that ties them together thematically so the audience gets it?"
Lacy's play, Dreamers and Doubters, is a one-woman show comprised of monologue-like poems set to original music by John de Wege. The play addresses the phenomenon of human resiliency and begs the question, "What makes one person go through really difficult circumstances and get through them and another person go through lesser circumstances and break?"
Where does hope come from? Where does despair come from? And where do the two meet?
"In a nameless place an uncharted country that lies between a fool's hope and the vast fields of despair." Lacy said.
And that is where her play is set.
The workshop for Dreamers and Doubters is Friday, June 3, at 7pm in the Tulsa PAC's Charles E. Norman Theatre, 110 E. 2nd St. Admission to all of the workshops is free.
Tickets to the second phase of the Dreamers and Doubters workshop, Friday, July 22, at 8pm in the same theater, are $12, but Lacy is offering a discount to anyone who attends the workshop Friday night.
"I think it would be a cool process, as an audience member, to see the show in its raw form and then come back and see full show," she said.
Other productions in workshop this weekend include:
Nanyehi, Beloved Woman of the Cherokee
Presented by Tulsa Project Theatre, this musical shares the story of Nancy Ward, whose birth name was Nanyehi, which means "she who walks among the spirit people." She was born in about 1738 in Chota, the capital of the Cherokee Nation, in an area that is now eastern Tennessee. She accompanied her husband, Kingfisher, to war against the Creek Indians in the 1755 Battle of Taliwa.
As she knelt by his side chewing the bullets to make them more deadly, Kingfisher was killed. Nanyehi took his rifle and led the Cherokee to victory.
Her second husband was Bryant Ward, a trader in Cherokee country, who was of Irish descent. She became known as "Nancy Ward" to the American settlers and risked her own life, using her position to promote peace between the Cherokee and Americans.
Nanyehi, Beloved Woman of the Cherokee stages Sunday, July 10, at 2pm in the Charles E. Norman Theatre. The event is free.
Morgan's Folly is a two-act comedy exposing the role of social media in Hollywood. The play centers around Samantha Morgan, an Oscar-winning actress, whose life has recently fallen apart, thanks to the indiscretions of husband, Rick. Soon the paparazzi swarm the Beverly Hills mansion, barricading a whole host of characters inside for one of the longest media days in Hollywood history. Personal assistants, agents, lawyers, servants and even a locksmith join in the fun in this "Simon-esque" play about worshiping false idols.
Morgan's Folly stages Friday, July 15, at 8pm in the Charles E. Norman Theatre. Tickets are $7.
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