Missouri by Hartley Wright
One of the best things about being a Guild member in this region is having a vast amount of opportunities and resources to develop new work. Here we have a wide variety of black box theatres, monthly showcases, weekly salons, small theatre companies, back rooms of coffee houses and bars, and access to professional theatres that continually encourage and champion the development, production and continued life of new plays for the American theatre. Since this is true, you should expect some of the best new work to come from DG members in our part of the country. I would like to celebrate a few individuals who are well on their way and have experienced even more success during this first part of the year, then tell you what’s happening with all of us as a community here in the Kansas City/St Louis region.
In March, Kansas City audiences had opportunity to see two works written by Jessie Salsbury in the span of four days. Her ten-minute Route 84 House Fire, previously presented at the Midwest Dramatist Conference, was part of a script-in-hand showcase at Just Off-Broadway Theatre and KC Phoenix Theatre’s Out Loud! series. Days earlier, Jessie’s Adoption of Grief won the 2018 Olathe Civic Theatre Association’s second New Works Playwright Competition. Her script will receive a full-length workshop production at Olathe Civic Theatre on July 13 and 14.
St. Louis playwright Henry Schvey was in Florida two months ago to present The Plastic Theatre of Tennessee Williams, an examination of how Williams’ lifelong preoccupation with painting provides a crucial key to understanding his plays. The presentation was based on Schvey’s forthcoming book of the same title. Columbia Playwright David Webber’s Practicing Democracy was produced in March while St. Louis playwright Taylor Gruenloh’s play Hot for T-Rex (which won last year’s St Louis Fringe) was performed at the Southeastern Theatre Conference in Alabama. Lindsay Adams is establishing herself as an award-winning playwright. Two months ago, the brand-new Kansas City Public Theatre staged a reading of Lindsay’s newest work, Her Own Devices. DG playwright Darren Canady’s newest work Black Butterflies was just presented at the KC Repertory’s Monday Night Playwright series, and the Missouri Playwright’s Workshop in Columbia recently presented a reading of Aaron Scully’s The Recovery Project.
During the last weekend of April, our regional members gathered to hear updates on the Guild, discuss local submission opportunities, share collaboration ideas and hang out at our DG Member Mixer held during the “Missouri Self-Taught: Lanford Wilson and the American Drama” Conference presented at the University of Missouri. The mixer paired nicely with an opportunity to attend a performance of Lanford Wilson’s Rimers of Eldritch, directed by regional DG member David Crespy, and participate in the conference focused on Missouri’s own Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Lanford Wilson. The Conference featured guest artists Marshall W. Mason, Lanford Wilson’s Tony Award-winning director; Tanya Berezin, the former artistic director of New York’s Circle Repertory Company, where Wilson’s plays were first produced; Danny Irvine, founding director of its Circle Rep Lab; and Mary Sue Price, an Emmy award-winning Circle Repertory playwright and protégé of Lanford Wilson. Wilson’s major plays, including Rimers of Eldritch, Talley’s Folly, Fifth of July, Talley and Son, and Book of Days, all take place in an imagined Missouri, and feature the Ozark voices he became so familiar with growing up in the Missouri towns of Lebanon and Ozark.
The Dramatists Guild has been presenting the Lanford Wilson Award annually since 2012. The award was established by the Estate of Lanford Wilson and is presented by the Dramatists Guild Council to a dramatist based primarily on their work as an early career playwright. Maybe you’ve heard of one.