September 2017 Newsletter
Member Spotlight: Kari Ann Owen
“I am sixty eight years old now, writing as I did when I was twelve at a time of approaching nuclear war. The call to courage is, must be, just as strong for creative artists as it was then: the informed conscience and the empathetic soul may be the only thing holding back the might of the generals and their “leaders”.
Kari Ann Owen
Acting and singing at an early age combined with writing to make me a dedicated playwright at a young age. My first play concerned religious rebellion by a young girl in medieval times.
While an undergraduate at New York University, I began writing a play about domestic terrorism in an effort to understand our government’s lunacy in Vietnam and the concurrent lunacy of “home grown” terrorists bombing our school and also blowing themselves up while preparing to bomb a nearby military base. The name of the play is “Circle of Silence”, and portrayed the consequences of parental rejection and emotional isolation on one young girl.
Thirty years later, autobiographies began to appear, and it turned out I had perhaps been prescient: the sixties terrorists had survived a parent’s suicide attempt, among other horrors. This particular future domestic terrorist had discovered her mother’s head in the oven at age nine. Early unresolved grief ran like a wide thread through the lives of several of the bombers, as well as emotional explosiveness, sexual sadism (men and women) and a deep urge to be violent.
I felt their frustration with our murderous government, participated in demonstrations, and had a deep personal identification with the Vietnamese (especially the children) under our B-52 bombers: the private school my sister and I attended had been directly under a double commercial plane collision in December 1960.
War, therefore, has always been a very personal matter to me.
But the political people I met were frightened by emotions, and a violent alleged member of Weatherman told me I was too fat to be acceptable in his circle (he was fatter than I was) after threatening to hit me.
I kept writing, completed my Bachelor of Arts at New York University and also won the Academy of American Poets Prize, given by my university department.
The wonderful master’s creative writing program at San Francisco State University helped me develop a wide canvas of concern which (I hope) was accompanied by fluid yet disciplined technique. I spent months writing a sequence of poems about the decline and fall of Rome with very recognizable contemporary allusions.
I have been able to produce my plays in San Francisco and Berkeley, and my play about Vietnam and the CIA won an award from the American Theatre Association. Fortunately, I have been able to combine serious modern dance studies with playwriting. “Terms of Surrender” concerns a gay male couple, a choreographer in New York and his lover in the early stages of AIDS in California. The dance segments occur in a hospice room and on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
I thank God that I have been able to grow in empathy toward other persons’ experience of violence and prejudice and write plays that demonstrate human dignity and not stereotypes. My plays comprise the quest for sobriety in prison; children and older teens and young adults surviving abuse of many kinds, realistically illustrated along with their parents’ collapses and coldness. I have written monologues for judges and correctional officers and prostitutes, and for a national security aide to Henry Kissinger, and for Nixon and Kissinger and Salvador Allende.
And after I suffered loss of mobility due to crippling sciatica, I wrote comedies about living with a service dog among ignorant people who knew nothing about such assistance. I even wrote about a cat who became a psychiatrist (“I just tucked my tail and dressed for success!). The comedies won awards at Dominican University, San Rafael, California. And my work has been performed at the George R. Moscone Center and the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
When I began my quest for artistic and moral and emotional clarity through writing, I had no idea that many men in the arts did not believe women belonged with them in their theatres, universities, poetry readings etc. My plays have never been produced on or off Broadway or at the famous regional theatres in Minnesota, Kentucky and southern California.
I blamed myself: my work just wasn’t clear enough or good enough.
Then the Princeton Study came out, and hard statistics concerning under-representation made clear that invisible wall of prejudice against women, and male anxiety toward women.
I stopped blaming myself, but felt a terrible grief that these American academic and artistic establishments prefer women to be sexually and intellectually degraded, monsters best kept at a distance.
The women and men who gave greatly of themselves to help me understand the governmental insanities of my plays about Vietnam, Chile, nuclear proliferation and many similar subjects were not prejudiced against women.
Their concern and respect for me kept me alive until medications for depression were discovered.
I am sixty eight years old now, writing as I did when I was twelve at a time of approaching nuclear war. The call to courage is, must be, just as strong for creative artists as it was then: the informed conscience and the empathetic soul may be the only thing holding back the might of the generals and their “leaders”.
I have written a position paper on impeachment, supporting the psychiatric observations of the Yale College of Medicine concerning Mr. Trump.
The memory of my beloved husband and many friends supports me.
Write your heart, write your conscience.
Now is not the time to give up. There may be no other time to be a creative artist, an interpreter of living souls, if Donald Trump suspends the Constitution and declares martial law.
Welcome New Member
Playwright, actress, lyricist Eloise Coopersmith has been performing and presenting her creative talents for the last 50 years.
Representative Play Titles
Home for Mom, Finding Center, The Pass. Re-sil-ence
Now Playing and Coming Soon
Finishing School by Elaine Liner from Dallas, TX, opens Sept 8 (through 17) at the Bristol Opera House in Bristol, Indiana, in a production by the Elkhart Civic Theatre.
Guerrilla Girl Aphra Behn aka Donna Kaz in “Act Like a Feminist Artist - a Guerrilla Girl Unmasks” at the Decatur Book Festival in Georgia on September 3rd at 2:30PM - www.decaturbookfestival.com/sessions/view/591dd8d323c1d53b573e205a AND
at the Baltimore Book Festival on September 24. www.baltimorebookfestival.com/participants/author/4409/Donna-Kaz
“Performing Tribute 9/11: Ordinary People, Remarkable Stories” by Donna Kaz will be presented by The Common Ground Community and The Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City on September 14 at 7PM - 7 West 55th Street, NY, NY.
Coming to America, written by Stephanie Satie and directed by Anita Khanzadian, October 22, 2 p.m. at the United Solo Festival on Theatre Row
Board Member and Newsletter Team Member Lillian S. Cauldwell has made an audio version of the newsletter available through Passionate World Radio. Click on the icon below to listen.
My drama EVERYDAY EDNA MAE received three nominations from the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity following production this summer, including a nomination for Outstanding Playwriting for a New Script. My dark comedy LISTEN! THE RIVER received four nominations for acting and one for sound design.
I was selected to be a panelist for the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival in New York City in August.
Top Ten Ways to Get Your Play Produced in New York
by Debbie L. Miller
Are you at a creative impasse? Burned out? Tired of sending out submission after submission, only to receive nothing but rejections? Well, don't give up! That big production deal is just around the corner. If you follow these handy tips on how to get your play produced in the Big Apple, you'll be raking in the money in no time.
1. To fund your play, rob a bank, marry Donald Trump, or bump off a rich relative. Or, come up with a novel fundraising idea. Forget bake sales and car washes. Think outside the box: host a Tupperware party in trendy Tribeca; parade around Midtown wearing a sandwich board, dressed as a duck; actually talk to people on the subway. Let desperation be your guide, and don't be afraid to make a spectacle of yourself. It’s New York, after all. Nobody will bat an eyelash. They don't call it "Show Biz" for nothing!
2. Originality is way over-rated. Forget about having your own voice. This is an erroneous belief started by a writer who read too many "how to" playwriting books and attended too many workshops. The key word here is "derivative." Copy characters, "borrow" ideas. You aren't stealing--you're paying homage to other writers.
3. Make it a love story. You'll have a hit every time. Punch it up -- have the main character fall in love with a sheep, or better still, a unicorn. Audiences love to watch romance unfurl. But, whatever you do, do not have the characters talk about anything serious! Frivolity must prevail. Create characters who muse about the weather, sing the praises of their dry cleaners, or long for the right haircut. The last thing you want to do is depress your audience by asking them to think about reality.
4. Give your play a sexual theme. Sex sells, remember? So, sex it up! Elaborately staged orgy-istic scenes, costumes out of Frederick's of Hollywood. No holds barred! If you worry about offending, you'll lose precious butts in the seats! And, is that not the name of the game? This is a marvelous way to boost ticket prices and help your bottom line. Why charge just $95 a seat when you can rake in $250?
5. Cast big names. Think "Dancing with the Stars” and celebrity chefs. And, don’t forget washed-up former child stars -- anything that makes an audience say, "Gee whiz, I thought he was dead!"
6. Remember the three S's. Fill your script with Sex, Sin, and Special Effects. Add lots of flying actors in tights and an erupting volcano or two. Spray-paint the audience with RustOleum. After all, words just get in the way. 7. When hosting a reading of your masterpiece, encourage the audience to make comments that tell you how they would write the play and be sure to take each criticism to heart. They're just trying to be helpful, after all. Nobody's out to get you. Stop being so paranoid!
8. Is your muse out to lunch? Keep writing. Haven’t had a creative thought in a decade? Write anyway. Nobody's listening to the words. The writing is just one cog in the theatrical wheel. Don't take yourself so seriously, for God's sake!
9. A word about success, that elusive butterfly. Elusive yes, but there are more important things, are there not? Moments nobody can take away from you. The expression on the face of your lead actress when she flubs her lines. The actor who misses his cue and enters a page later. The director who insists your play would be better if you closed Act One with your romantic leads doing it “doggie style" on a table. These are the moments that every playwright lives for. Forget about money and fame--these are our real bread and butter. This is why we dream of leaving our day jobs. And, why we’ll do anything to get our plays put up.
10. If all else fails, you can always take hormones to lower your voice, sprout body hair, and grow a penis, thereby dramatically increasing your chances of getting the attention of producers, backers, and agents. Come to think of it, pretty much everything else falls into place if you follow this rule.
So, there you have it. Follow these tips and soon Broadway producers will be knocking down your door.
Letter from the Editor
Thank you for your contributions. We are trying to make the newsletter more inclusive of our members and to include news and writings from them.
I have been ICWP Newsletter Editor for more than five years and love the opportunity to contribute to this great organization and to learn new skills. However I have a lot of new obligations this school year and I am trying to start my own online business. With these extra responsibilities, I will not be able to continue doing the newsletter after the first of the year. I will be happy to teach and mentor whoever volunteers for this job. You will have the opportunity to promote one of the best online communities on the web and become close friends with playwrights around the world.
Yours for innovative, engaging, and equitable theater.
The image used in this newsletter are the work of KreativeHexenkueche. It was downloaded from Pixabay. Agust 26, 2017. It is available under a CCO Creative Commons License.