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The Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival

2nd annual event provides a forum for original work

By Michael Summers

michael_summers@fortwaynereader.com

Fort Wayne Reader

2011-05-24


By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader

It’s always interesting to hear professionals in a particular field drop their adult roles for a few moments and “get their geek on.”

As the Executive and Artistic Director of the Fort Wayne Civic Theater, Phillip Colglazier obviously has plenty of opportunity to exercise his artistic skills — he directs, he programs the Civic Theater’s seasons, etc.

But when he talks about the inspiration and goals behind the Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival, you hear a little of the theater fan who really understands the hopes and dreams of all those undiscovered playwrights out there, pounding away at original scripts, then “workshopping” and revising, then emerging months or even years later with a stack of pages and wondering “now what do I do with it?”

Well, that’s what I heard. Colglazier himself might suggest I was being overly dramatic (and he’d probably know “overly dramatic”). But as he explains, the 2nd Annual Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival, which happens June 3 – 5 at the Allen County Public Library, is partially about helping playwrights get a better understanding of the process and taking that next step with their work. “One thing we’re trying to do is add a forum for local playwrights to be produced,” Colglazier says. “(Writing a play) is not an easy task, it’s certainly not a ‘get rich’ approach… you’re writing for a smaller, targeted audience, but the important thing is that for playwrights, it’s more about the process, about the sharing.”

He adds: “It’s the hardest thing for playwrights to be their best CEO and marketer, and that’s also what the festival is about, not only the writing, but developing that skill to help them get the word out.”

The festival is also, of course, about the end result of that creative process: that weekend features the debut of Denise Buhr’s Discom-BOOB-ulated, the winner of the 2nd Annual Playwright Festival Competition. The second and third place winners of the competition — Knitters Row by Ruth (Tyndall) Baker and Struggling for My Sanity by Rachel Kooi — will have staged readings.

Also featured is a performance of The Timekeepers by award-winning playwright Dan Clancy, who served as one of the judges for the playwright competition. Clancy will lead a workshop on The Timekeepers’ journey from idea to finished play (which is quite a story, but more on that in a moment) and take part in a panel discussion called “The Writing Process from Beginning to THE END” with Colglazier and director John Tolley.

Among those watching the premier of Discom-BOOB-ulated will be the play’s author, Denise Buhr. The story of a woman’s struggle with breast cancer, Discom-BOOB-ulated had its origins in a 2004 playwrighting workshop at the Pulse Opera House in Warren, Indiana. All Buhr had back then was the barebones of a story about a woman named Maggie who returns to her small hometown to clear out her parents house. “But the week that we had our first meeting was the week I went in for a biopsy and found out I had breast cancer,” Buhr says. “So the first version was only two or three scenes because I was going through treatments as I was trying to write this.”

Needless to say, Buhr had other concerns on her mind, so the play was shelved for about a year. She picked it up again in the summer of 2005, after she had finished treatments, and found the basic story fit well with her need to write about her recent experience. “The cancer was a whole new thing, not a part of the original idea at all, but when you’re dealing with something that big in one part of your life, it takes over everything,” says Buhr, adding that dramatically, it worked. “Part of it was that Maggie (the main character, played by Reagan Kreigh) was going to stay in her home town for a while, away from her job and everything. Because of what she was going through, she wants to be close to family, so that’s how I pulled it in, because in the story, the character stays for a year.” (as far as Buhr’s own health, she says that, after ending treatment six years ago, “where I’m at right now, as far as I know, I’m doing great”).

Discom-BOOB-ulated went through another set of revisions after a read-through in 2008, and it’s this draft that Buhr submitted to the contest last year.

Greg Stieber is in the director’s chair for Discom-BOOB-ulated (he also portrays one of the characters), but Buhr herself hasn’t been involved in much of the production process. She went to the auditions, just to see who came out, and she went to the first meeting of the cast. Very early on, Buhr and Stieber met to tweak the script a little bit. “I made a couple suggestions to Denise just in terms of dramatic structure,” says Stieber, who serves as Artistic Production Manager for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and has also directed numerous productions in the area, including To Kill A Mockingbird and 1776 for the Civic Theater. “Just how the story is told, and pacing… a few areas where I suggested that some dialogue be omitted because she had made her point very strongly in a previous scene.”

But beyond that… “Denise is absolutely hands off, and I think that’s very much to her credit,” Steiber says. “She’s put the trust of her work into our hands. Like every playwright has to do, you put their work out there to be interpreted, and she certainly has the bravery and lack of ego to do that.”

And Buhr believes that’s the way it should be. “It’s my role to write the play; it’s the actor’s and director’s job to actually bring it to life,” she says. “I actually feel very comfortable leaving it in their hands.”

She adds: “I kind of think that if I’ve done my job right, their vision of the play should be close to what I imagined it to be, and if there are spots where it doesn’t seem like it’s working very well… then maybe that’s something I need to go back and look at again.”

Though she does admit that “letting go” was a little easier since she was familiar with the work of the cast members. Actually, a lot of Fort Wayne theater-goers know the cast. In addition to Stiber and Kreigh. Discom-BOOB-ulated also includes Susan Domer (who was in last year’s first place play The Ladies In Cabin 10), Brad Beauchamp, and Leslie Hormann. “This is probably the most seasoned cast I’ve worked with as a whole,” says Stieber. “It’s been a joy to really sink our teeth into this, because when you’re working with people with experience, you have the benefit and time to do that.”

For Leslie Hormann — Youtheatre’s Executive Director and a DJ on Rock 104 — this is the first time she’s been involved in creating a character basically from scratch. She plays Chris, a nurse and Maggie’s close friend. “It’s been really exciting,” she says. “My character is the port in the storm, the strong voice of medical reason. She says at one point, ‘your biopsy is not a death-sentence.’ But deep down she’s scared too, like everyone is. We’re all kind of scared of the big C.”

When creating a character, Hormann says the natural tendency is to base some aspect of it on yourself, but a big source of inspiration for Chris came from Hormann’s mother. “She was a nurse, so I could really relate to that part of it,” she explains. “She was very no-nonsense, and everything was based on science — ‘we can’t believe this, we can’t surmise this’ — everything has to be based on fact. When everyone gets emotional she keeps a very practical outlook. That’s Chris.”

Discom-BOOB-ulated isn’t the only full staged production happening that weekend. Dan Clancy’s play The Timekeepers will also be performed, and as we said above, Clancy will also be attending the festival and taking part in a workshop and a panel discussion that weekend. Set in Sachsenhausen concentration camp during World War II, The Timekeepers has played in London, Israel, Ireland, Canada, Poland and many other places, garnering rave reviews.

In the director’s chair for The Timekeepers is John Tolley. Tolley was artistic director First Presbyterian Theater in Fort Wayne from 1974 – 1990 (he now serves as Associate Professor of Arts in Ministry at Meadville Lombard Theological School at the University of Chicago), and he brings an interesting perspective to The Timekeepers — he first met playwright Dan Clancy in London in 1977. “We did our doctoral studies together with New York University,” Tolley says. “I’ve known The Timekeepers since it was just ideas floating around in Dan’s head. I’ve seen it develop over the years. It has a really stunning history of performance, particularly in Israel and Europe, Germany in particular.”

While Tolley has directed other works by Clancy, this is his first time with The Timekeepers, but says that knowing the play as intimately as he does is definitely helpful as a director. “This is just me speaking personally here, but when I direct something I always believe it’s my responsibility to bring a fairly thought-out idea/image to a group of actors so that we have something with which to begin,” he explains. “It’s a foundation that we use to build something as a group. With The Timekeepers, I’ve entered the process with a confidence I don’t always have.”

This marks Tolley’s fourth time returning to Fort Wayne as a director (he’s been invited to direct The Farnsworth Invention for the Fort Wayne Civic in February). He believes that live theater holds its own among the plethora of entertainment options available these days, and it remains as vibrant and vital medium as ever. “On stage, we see people who are more like us, and they are in situations that often mirror our own, and I think it’s that immediacy that keeps theater fresh,” he explains. “It’s the same as if you and I had the chance to sit at a table and talk one-on-one — there’s that immediacy of being in each other’s presence, and it’s more profound that when it’s filtered through different layers of technology. I certainly think there’s a role for technology to play in the arts, but with live theater, you’re engaging the whole. It’s visual, it’s auditory… That’s the magic of it, and I absolutely believe it’s vital.”


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Festival Schedule

All plays, readings, workshops and panel discussions to be held at the Allen County Public Library Auditorium.

The 1st Place Play Discom-BOOB-ulated by Denise Buhr, will also be performed June 10-18.
The Timekeepers by Dan Clancy will also be performed June 9 – 18

For more information, call (260) 422-8641 x 221

Friday June 3

8 PM — performance of The Timekeepers by Dan Clancy



Saturday, June 4th

Auditorium

10:00 am until 11:00 am – Workshop with Dan Clancy.

Noon until 3:00pm — First Place Play
Discom-BOOB-ulated by Denise Buhr with post-show discussion.

4:00pm until 7:00pm — First Place Play
Discom-BOOB-ulated by Denise Buhr with post-show discussion.

8:00pm- The Timekeepers by Dan Clancy with post-show discussion.

Post-Show Reception: at Courtyard by Marriot

Meeting Room A & B

Noon until 3:00pm — Third Place Play Reading
Struggling for my Sanity by Rachel Kooi with post-show discussion.

4:00pm until 7:00pm — Second Place Play Reading
Knitters Row by Ruth (Tyndall) Baker with post-show discussion.

8:00pm — Noon until 3:00pm — Third Place Play Reading
Struggling for my Sanity by Rachel Kooi with post-show discussion.

Sunday, June 5th

Auditorium

Noon until 1:00pm — Panel Discussion with Dan Clancy, John Tolley, and Phillip Colglazier


2:00pm-5:00pm — The Timekeepers by Dan Clancy with post-show discussion.

Meeting Room A & B

2:00pm until 5:00pm — Second Place Play Reading
Knitters Row by Ruth (Tyndall) Baker with post-show discussion.


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Single tickets
The Timekeepers —Friday June 3 at 8 PM: $15
The Timekeepers —Saturday June 4 at 8 PM: $15
The Timekeepers —Sunday June 5 at 2 PM: $15

Discom-BOOB-ulated (1st place winner) — Saturday June 4 at Noon: $15
Discom-BOOB-ulated (1st place winner) — Saturday June 4 at 4 PM: $15

Knitters Row (staged reading: 2nd place winner) — Saturday June 4 at 4 PM: $10
Knitters Row (staged reading: 2nd place winner) — Sunday June 5 at 2 PM: $10

Struggling For My Sanity (staged reading; 3rd place winner) — Saturday June 4 at Noon: $10
Struggling For My Sanity (staged reading; 3rd place winner) — Saturday June 4 at 8 PM: $10

Workshop: From Alan Cumming to Fort Wayne – The Timekeepers journey — Saturday June 5 at Noon: $15

Panel Discussion: The Writing Process from Beginning to THE END — Sunday June 6 at Noon: $10

Saturday Reception at the Courtyard by Marriot: $15

Special Festival Offer - students with a current school/college ID receive 50% off!
For tickets, call 424.5220 today!

Festival Package
Includes: The Timekeepers, Saturday’s 1st Place Play; 2nd & 3rd Place Readings; Workshop, Reception and Sunday’s Panel Discussion.
Adult: $90
Youth/Senior: $85

Festival Package: Civic Members
If your current Civic Theatre Membership includes a ticket to The Timekeepers, then this option will complete your Festival weekend package. Includes Saturday’s 1st place play; 2nd & 3rd Place Readings; Workshop; Saturday’s Reception and Sunday’s Panel Discussion

Civic Member w/ticket: $75


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