As a rural southern playwright, I am often isolated from the most vibrant theatre artists in the country even though I previously lived in New York for over a decade and currently work remotely with a New York based collaborator. For the past few years, I have relocated to Chicago for a few weeks each summer so that I can participate in Chicago Dramatists programming, and that has been enriching, but I always return to my nest in the country feeling detached from my tribe. Although my quality of life is gentle and affordable, geography prohibits my eligibility for many fellowships and resident playwright programs contained in metropolitan areas. In fact, over the years the disparity between the haves (big city theatre) and the have nots (rural theatre) of the theatre world has become painfully evident to playwrights such as me.
Then came COVID-19. Like a bully, she has forced the collective national theatre community into the same train car even though we are many people living in many places. That train car is called Zoom. Because we have all had to operate from inside our homes, regardless of where that home is, we have found ourselves equally qualified to participate in many of the classes, seminars, readings and workshops that are now being offered daily and virtually to anyone, regardless of locale. Is this an act of desperation on the part of theatres? Maybe, maybe not but since the world entered lockdown, I have found myself ironically liberated where access is concerned. Even though I live in a small town in the deep south I am suddenly equally qualified to participate in professional development with a vast community of theatre artists and it has been exhilarating. Were I a big city writer, that reality might feel threatening. But this is the thing. Theatre artists as a whole are the most generous people in the world. Primary Stages, Dramatists Guild, Chicago Dramatists and others have wholeheartedly welcomed me and others into their classrooms, theatres and studios even though we live far away. Just a few days ago, I participated as an actor in a reading of Kate Hamill’s Little Women at Primary Stages with the playwright herself in attendance and chatting with us afterwards. Be still my heart.
My question is this: Once this is over, what will happen to those of us who were so collegially admitted into these exclusive rooms during the quarantine? Once theatre folk are again allowed to commune face to face, will writers like me lose access to the rooms and people we have been so interconnected with during quarantine? My hope is that theatres and their adjacent organizations will have developed a new appreciation for playwrights living outside of major theatre hubs. Surely, the efficiency of virtual cultivation will have had some sort of impact. Right? I am hopeful that others like me will not have to retreat back into the second or third tier of desirability because we choose to live in small towns and on country roads where quality of life is attractive and feasible. It may happen and it may not. Either way, I will always be grateful to those theatres and organizations that intentionally welcomed all of us into their communities during this time. I have loved interfacing with so many exceptional theatre artists. Maybe when we all “get back to normal,” normal will look a little larger than before.
I sure hope so.
Originally published by Dramatists Guild Blog on May 6, 2021
Link to Original Article: https://www.dramatistsguild.com/thedramatist/rooms-where-it-happens-some
As a rural southern playwright, I am often isolated from the most vibrant theatre artists in the country even though I previously lived in New York for over a decade and currently work remotely with a New York based collaborator. For the past few years, I have relocated to Chicago for a few weeks each summer so that I can participate in Chicago Dramatists programming, and that has been enriching, but I always return to my nest in the country
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Donna Gay Anderson is a playwright/lyricist whose career path has always been forged by love for the stage. Her mother was a director, so her earliest memories are of theatrical rehearsals. She worked as an actress before accepting the position of Director of Children and Teens Division at Gilla Roos Talent Agency in New York. Later, she taught theater at the high school level before becoming Director of Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts and its annual festival, Fanfare. Donna Gay is the author of High and Mighty, a musical which debuted in November 2015 at Southeastern Louisiana University, and also received multiple awards of recognition at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, Region 6. She was the first place winner of the So You Think You Can Write, One Act Competition in 2016 for Blues, and was a finalist in the one act play category at the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival 2016 for Shrimp and Crab. Other produced works are An Act of Charity(New York) and Formula One(Louisiana and North Carolina) and Red Red Wine(Louisiana). Her work has been presented in development at the First Draft Series at Chicago Dramatists and also by the artists from Kentucky Shakespeare in cooperation with Spalding University in Louisville. Donna Gay has served as a contributing writer for Dramatists Magazine and MusicalWriters.com. She is the founder and facilitator of The Neighborhood Book Club (theneighborhoodbookclub.com), a weekly book club program for young girls. She holds degrees from Southeastern Louisiana University, The National Shakespeare Conservatory and Spalding University, and memberships at Theatre Communications Group, Dramatists Guild of America and Chicago Dramatists. She and her husband, Tom, live outside of New Orleans with any neighborhood dog who wishes to spend the night.
In the mid 1980s, two young women-Caroline and Bernie-meet for the first time in an Upper East Side church in Manhattan. On the same day, they are delighted to also meet Will, the new seminary intern, who happens to be a handsome, charming Princeton graduate. The two women and the intern become fast friends and unbeknownst to the women, the two younger gals each become romantically involved with the intern, who is of questionable character. When the possibility of a public scandal arises, the three act out as the worst of us would. One of them commits a crime within the walls of the church. Friendships, trust and hopes fracture as each character’s inner voice tries to steer them through this turning point in their lives.
The play contains strong language and is not appropriate for youngsters.
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In Unfolded, a Playboy Centerfold cares for thousands of disabled abandoned children in Haiti for 25 years, all in a desperate effort to purge herself of her own shameful past, one of family dysfunction, sexual abuse and exploitation. As a small child, Susie made a promise to God that if she could survive the abuse, she would find a way to protect other children who had no protector. As an adult, she honors that vow by seeking out the most vulnerable children in the world and finding them in Haiti, where she establishes an orphanage, school, feeding center and medical clinic. However, it’s not without insurmountable challenges, for as recent news demonstrates, Haiti-as well as Susie-is still constantly assaulted by natural disasters, gang violence, corruption, and babies being sold. Here are some samples of the story in song.
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