Ohio by Les Hunter
This fall, the Dramatists Guild – Ohio hosted “A Playwright’s Path to Production: An Afternoon of Panels and Conversations” at Columbus’ MadLab Theatre. The well-attended afternoon event included a professionalization panel, a Q and A with Cleveland Public Theatre’s Raymond Bobgan on what theatre companies are looking for in new plays, a craft talk with playwright Eric Coble, and an informal meet-and-greet. All presenters were Ohio members of the Guild.
The panel “Writing Plays that Get Productions” was moderated by Rick Hole and featured presentations by playwrights Amy Drake, Vivian Lermond, and Jeremy Sony. Ohio Guild Ambassador Amy Drake spoke on “Adapting a Story for the Stage: How to Determine What to Include and What to Leave Out.” Drake presented a step-by-step diagram relating story plot points to sequences in play structure. “Crafting Voices of Credible Characters in Conflict,” the second mini-session, given by Vivian Lermond, offered tips on creating engaging characters. Jeremy Sony spoke on “Rewriting for Production, or How I Learned to Love Producers’ Notes.” Sony encouraged those attending to not overwrite their plays in an attempt to fix production problems, and also to not be afraid of their plays changing during production.
The conversation, “What Theaters Are Looking For: Q and A with Raymond Bobgan, Executive Artistic Director at Cleveland Public Theatre and President of the Board, National New Play Network,” was moderated by former DG Southern Ohio Rep and Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre at Ohio State University, Jen Schlueter. Schlueter and Bobgan discussed current new play development and production trends in American theater. During the audience Q and A, one attendee asked Bobgan what, specifically, theatre companies are looking for, to which he replied that playwrights need to remember that theatre companies are looking not only at plays, but also to create relationships with the playwrights themselves, and that they are looking for playwrights who are willing to invest time with the company. He mentioned, by way of example, Ohio DG member Eric Coble, who has had several productions at Cleveland Public Theatre and also gives back to the theatre through service to their programming.
The final conversation of the day, “Write What You Don’t Know,” A Craft Talk Q and A with Eric Coble, writer of Broadway’s The Velocity of Autumn,” was moderated by Columbus-area theatre company Available Light’s Executive Director Matt Slaybaugh. Coble challenged the audience to continue to take on new and different projects, as he himself has done. He noted that when it comes to constructing characters writers should ask: What does the character want? What research have you done on that character? And finally, to communicate with members of the community that they are writing about: what do they think? Does the story seem authentic to their experience? Finally, he encouraged the assembled audience to “move your work into craft and away from art.”
The event concluded with an informal meet-and-greet hosted by DG Ohio Ambassador Amy Drake. There were many positive responses to the event. One member concluded, “this was my first such gathering, and it was helpful to meet other writers in person to share knowledge, experience and encouragement.”