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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Update on Baltimore Festival!

Senior Theatre Festival USA
Finally getting to post about the Senior Theatre Festival USA in Baltimore, which happened last June--a Presidential campaign got in the way, and it's been a busy (albeit ultimately rewarding!) Fall. The festival was in mid June; I'm on the board of the organization, and put together a playwriting workshop, which met each morning of the festival. Playwright Stuart Hall joined me in conducting the workshop; the festival also heard a reading of his new short play, "Spindrift Way," on Friday night. We had between five and ten writers (some came and went, because of other programs), and gave them various exercises and assignments. Lots of creative work, from both accomplished and frequently produced playwrights, as well as from people hoping to get started.

some of the group assembled; that's Stuart in the red shirt

Stuart started us out on the first day; he'd prepared three envelopes. One had professions, the second had an emotion, and the third a line of dialogue. So a writer could draw "carpenter" "frustrated" and "where is the exit?" and then have to write a short piece incorporating those details. Great fun. A couple of folks had brought short pieces, which we read aloud, and then talked about. At the end of the first day, we gave the writers an assignment: to produce a short monologue on the topic, "What Shall We Do About Mother?"

Stuart, Shirley, and John study a script

On the second day, the playwrights read their monologues, which were inventive (and for senior theatre folks, the topic was close to home). And we worked on additional exercises, and read a few more short pieces or scenes from longer works brought in by the playwrights. The homework assignment for the next day: write Mother's response to the first monologue.

One group of playwrights and actors listen to readings

Again, readings, and again, wonderfully inventive work. More discussion, more readings, with volunteer actors. Then the assignment for the next day: write a five minute play which incorporates the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, a bouquet of flowers, and the line, "Myrtle really did it this time!"

The playwrights really outdid themselves; terrific work (perhaps inspired by seeing Stuart's play the previous night!). Volunteer actors again, who then rehearsed later in the morning, then performed the plays in one of the festival's performance spaces in the afternoon.

That afternoon also saw a reading of my short piece, "Limbo, Ohio" on a bill with Doug Stewart's short play, "Final Exam." The cast for my play included Doug Stewart as Willy Loman, joan kohl as Jocasta, and Daneen Axelrod as Cleopatra. I read in Doug's play as St. Peter, with joan as Mother Earth.

Drove to Baltimore with my colleague Joy Reilly, who presented several workshops and one of the creators of senior theatre, having founded a major company, Grandparents Living Theatre, some twenty years ago, and Columbus senior actor Sarah Worthington, founder and artistic director of the Senior Theatre troupe, Footsteps of the Elders. The Festival included lots and lots of performances, workshops, panels, and great energy. Only drawback: the campus of the University of Maryland--Baltimore County, where the Festival was held, isn't fully ADA compliant, and there were very long walks between the housing in dorms and the performance/festival sites. And it was hot and humid! But the discomfort was, in the end, minor; the energy and excitement about the senior theatre movement more than made up for the weather and distances.

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