Posts Tagged ‘Playwright’

Q & A with a Festival Playwright

June 5, 2009

We asked Renee Calaraco, author of the Festival One Act Play The Mating of Angela Weiss, to answer five of James Lipton’s famed 10 questions. Get all of the details while performing your best Lipton impersonation. Renee lives and works in Washington, DC. Her play Short Order Stories received the 2007 Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play. She’s an Artistic Associate at Charter Theater and teaches improv comedy for the Theatre Lab.

What is your favorite word?

Spectacular.

What is your least favorite word?

Decadent.

What sound or noise do you love?

The oboe’s tuning pitch for an orchestra.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Art conservator.

What profession would you not like to do?

Roadkill remover. Or pharmaceutical company sales rep. 

Renee’s The Mating of Angela Weiss performs at the Source Festival July 8 and 10 at 8pm; July 11 at 2pm.

The Attempt to Invent Lightning (Kids, Don’t Try This at Home…)

March 31, 2009

By Playwright and Source Festival Mash-Up Participant Allyson Currin

After a number of meetings and brainstorming sessions, prior to last week we only knew one thing. We liked each other. Nice, of course, but not necessarily useful if the task at hand was supposed to be creating a compelling work of art. Not one that people are actually going to SEE. Our initial aesthetic seemed to be, “Art, Shmart, let’s just go to The Diner and get a burger.” Followed shortly by the inevitable cell phone call, “I have the flu” or “I can’t find parking.” Still, we did find ourselves artistically on the same page – on a number of the same pages, actually – so narrowing the field to a topic, or a notion, or a gut impulse we wanted to explore as a team was our first challenge. Lesson Learned # One:

Figuring out how to do this makes you surrender to the process. Surrender. Breathe. Surrender.

We’re fully prepared for a whole textbook of Lessons Learned as we navigate what our Mash-Up Mission is all about. Number One is a lesson we all know intellectually, of course, but being practitioners in addition to artists, it is a limitlessly frustrating lesson to live and create with. It’s hard to fight the ingrained impulse to generate RESULTS.

Our team consists of Scott Burgess, composer extraordinaire; Kate McGraw, a dazzling visual artist whose work includes a performance element; and me, Allyson Currin, a playwright. Our first meetings revealed that we clearly spoke the same language artistically, and got jazzed by the same sorts of ideas. We knew fairly early that we wanted to explore the notion of how creativity functions – or fails to – in daily life, how it helps shatter our mundane patterns (if we have the wherewithal to look up from our navel-gazing to see it). All well and good, but how to activate this idea, make it theatrical and energized, fresh and real? AND NOT SELF-INDULGENT. We talked about using music, painting and written word that exploited “found” objects. At one point I seem to recall a bunch of dancers prancing around the stage…Let’s just say there was no shortage of opinions on how to explore this notion of how one unlocks creativity and channels it . Good thing we are all such freaks. Lesson Learned # Two:

We’re not pyromaniacs. (Insert defensive tone) We just have a sick curiosity about it…

I’ll back up. Last week we had our much-needed epiphany when, in the interest of sharing work, I read a piece I had written years ago about spontaneous human combustion. Kate’s eyes lit up. Scott arrived late, having been dealing with a shitty situation at The Atlas (literally: plumbing problems), and when he heard what the topic of conversation was, HIS eyes lit up. Clearly we had a winner.

After grossing each other out with Googled pictures of victims, we actually found that we were onto something: a useful, concrete, theatrically viable metaphor for creativity. Remember Monty Python’s sketch about the World’s Funniest Joke? The second you got the punch line, you died? The Ah-Ha moment, when you connect with something complete and larger than you: what do you sacrifice for that moment of blazing (pardon pun) clarity? The balance between light (inspiration) and dark (death, failure.) is a scary place to be, but it is the place where we as artists should always aspire to land, because that’s the place where all the discoveries are.

What’s this handy-dandy revelation going to mean for our piece? Couldn’t tell you. But it’s a relief to have a hand hold, one we can all grip with equal enthusiasm…we rehearse on Wednesday. God only knows what’ll happen.

Lesson # One Revisited: Surrender to the Process