Tag Archives: Playwright

Interview with Stan Richardson

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Playwright Stan Richardson

The first Representatives Show I saw, The Rakes: An Introduction, was in 2012. I was hooked. I’ve seen every show of theirs since and even had the extreme pleasure of acting in their Summer 2015 show, Cut The Shit. Stan Richardson is the playwright of this collaborative team which includes actor Matt Steiner and often involves productions in unique spaces, like apartments, churches or a nail salon. Their current production, The Rakes Die, opens Thursday March 24th and runs through April 3rd.

Brooke M. Haney (BMH): How did you and Steiner start working together, and what was it about Steiner that drew you to think “he is the actor that I’m going to write for, for years?

Stan Richardson (SR): He auditioned for a play of mine at Dixon Place. He came in and read like a five second scene and the way that the words came out of his mouth, his cadence’s, just perfectly matched the sort of everyman cadence of my plays. I don’t know how to characterize it, but there’s a standard way, that’s maybe just how I speak, and then a bunch of deviations, but they all come back to this way of speaking that is effortless to me. I hadn’t had this experience before of this perfect match. It wasn’t that he was exactly what I had expected, but that he did something more interesting than what I had expected.

BMH: In my personal experience with The Reps, there are two different ways you work on play:: Workshop Pages and World Premieres. Is there anything else you deal with or are those the two main things?

SR: Veritas would be the only exception to that, with a remount.

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Matt Steiner and John Garret Greer in Veritas. Photo: Joshua Paul Johnson

BMH: What’s the best thing an actor can do in the “workshopping pages” part of the process?

SR: I guess they can relax. We ask people to come in usually because we already know they are talented and interesting. Part of the experience of workshopping pages, is people being willing to share their experience of those pages and how they relate to the World as they see it. I have a hard time when actors seem “on” in a professional sense. Because I sort of immediately feel that I don’t know how to help them, because really we are just a bunch of people sitting around drinking wine with these very uneven pages. So when people come in with a professionalism that is above and beyond what you would do when you are visiting someone’s house – what I really want people to do is come over as if they are coming to dinner. You can just read in the moment and don’t worry about how you are coming across. Yes, I generated this but I am not the authority behind it, and you are not the authority behind it, none of us are the authority. Basically, until the play is fully written, people are both the artists interpreting this and witnesses to it. But then for the bulk of the rehearsal process they are collaborators.

BMH: What type of feedback do you like to hear from the actors in the discussion part of the workshopping pages process?

SR: I really enjoy when people are both actors and storytellers. So, there’s the double awareness of the fact that you have to simulate this experience, but you are also a storyteller so you can’t get lost in your performance. You have to always be in a private moment and a public moment at the same time. And, I think that can be hard; people a lot of the time are much more drawn to performance or pain. There’s something really nice about somebody coming in and both inhabiting this character, but also bringing themselves. Come in with all of your talents and limitations, don’t try to hide it.

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Meg McQuillan and Caitrin Kelly in The Rakes: an Introduction. Photo: Dorvit Avganim

BMH: What are the most useful things an actor can do in the rehearsal process for the World Premiere?

SR: (Have) a sense of humor. Because, I go into any production assuming there will be a lot that goes wrong, that won’t be ideal. And so for people to go into accepting every complication, and having the grace to say “Okay now we’re doing this instead” that’s great because I’m not always that way so it’s a really great thing to have others be more chilled out than I am. I call it a sense of humor, but maybe it’s flexibility.

A self-possession is also a really important thing, to not be afraid to speak up, but also realizing that most of the time if we can not process too much, that’s probably better.

BMH: The rehearsal process for Reps show are very brief.

SR: There’s something I really like about being in front of an audience before we’re ready. The technical elements should obviously be worked out before, whether they be sound cues or knowing your lines. But in terms of choices being calcified or blocking being fully set, it works to present before assumptions are made.

BMH: There are a couple of times during Cut The Shit where a line that I was attached to would be cut and I would ask for it back. How many times can an actor ask for a line back before you tell them to back off?

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Zachary Clark and Brooke M. Haney in Cut the Shit. Photo: Jan Wandrag

SR: If someone remembers a line from a previous version that’s usually a really good thing. So I take that very seriously and usually I will reinstate it. Usually people remember things because it was valuable somehow. Maybe that line wasn’t 1000% essential in the dramaturgy in some sense, but it is useful for the actor and becomes a step for them. Usually the actors I work with are very smart about the lines they want to bring back. They usually want lines because they are useful, they provide a build, or because they are just fucking funny, which I might have forgotten about. I don’t often have someone say “My character wouldn’t do this” because I think that’s something we’ve learned not to say very early on.

Hannah Herbert-Hunt (HHH): When you are hearing an actor read the lines for the first time and you encounter them saying a line different from the way you had envisioned it when you wrote it, do you most often find yourself wanting to correct them or liking their interpretation better?

SR: I encounter my own personal difficulty with how someone interprets the line less and less. Because if it’s not a matter of just making sense, then it’s a piece of the actor’s interpretation of the role. Usually their choice is more interesting than what I would have imagined. I like the idea that even after I’ve watched somebody with the “perfect” performance in this role, I also know that somebody else will pick it up later and do something different with that. I used to guide a lot more with my punctuation and/or italicizing but I don’t do that as much now because I think there is always a compelling argument for why a line could be said differently.

BMH: What advice do you have for an actor going through the casting process?

SR: The reasons you might be right for something can be really weird and the reasons you might be wrong for something can be completely arbitrary, but there’s so much that factors into casting that has nothing to do with talent. Part of what works really well with Steiner is that he can be an everyman when I want him to be, but he changes as a person a lot, and since he’s my best friend I witness those changes and the things that obsess him. When I’m writing for people who I know are going to be in the show, in some ways I’m writing for our shadow-selves. It’s very personal and obviously I want the roles to be repeated by others. I’m the sole author of the plays, but they are all touched by human hands, nothing that I do comes out of nowhere.

STAN RICHARSON is a Playwright and Director from St. Louis. A graduate of Tisch School of the Arts and Edward Albee’s Playwrights Workshop in Houston, TX, Stan’s plays, which include Veritas, The Children (with composer Hal Goldberg), wHormone, and The Tale of the Good Whistleblower of Chaillot’s Caucasian Mother and Her Other Children of a Lesser Marriage Chalk Circle (with composer Rachel Peters), have been developed at such venues as Second Stage, Ars Nova, Classic Stage Company, Dixon Place, PS122, The Brick Theatre and the New York Musical Theatre Festival.

Interview with Andrew Russell and Sonya Schneider, Director and Playwright of THE THIN PLACE

I was in Seattle for the summer working for Last Leaf Productions on The Winter’s Tale and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I had the wonderful opportunity to see Intiman Theatre’s production of The Thin Place. I was moved by the production and excited about the process that must have occurred in the unique way in which this play was devised.I was thrilled with both Andrew Russell, the Director, and Sonya Schneider, the Playwright, agreed to talk with me.

Brooke M. Haney (BMH): I understand that The Thin Place was conceived from interviews done by Marcie Sillman. How was that different than a regular process?

Andrew Russell (AR): It wasn’t the typical sitting alone at a computer. Sonya really had to do justice to 15 interviews, a set that she knew she had, and an actor she was writing for.

Sonya Schneider (SS): I admitted to Andrew that I was terrified, but instead of considering that an obstacle, he admitted that he was terrified too.

BMH: It sounds like you guys were a great team.

SS: There were so many incredible people working on it. It was amazing.

BMH: I’m curious how Gbenga Akinnagbe, as the actor, influenced the script or your process.

SS: I think he influenced it very much. Everything from his sex, his race, his voice, his background – all of that – I couldn’t help but consider that as I was writing, and as we were shaping the narrative.

Having him in the room for the first of two workshops, I think it was very influential: to see what he jumped into immediately, what seemed foreign to him.

Gbenga Akinnagbe in The Thin Place at Intiman

BMH: What were things Gbenga did that were helpful to you both in your different capacities?

AR: He was intelligently challenging in a really useful way. He would try everything, but if it wasn’t working, he would let you know. Some actors will show you exactly what you want with out anything underneath it, and then some actor’s can’t do it until it really feels genuine, and Gbenga is that kind. So, we could tell pretty quickly what would definitely work and what wouldn’t. This is very useful in a new work.

SS: And he was immediately intrigued by particular characters. He would ask to see more about those characters. So, Andrew and I would examine them further. I’ve never seen an actor grow in the way that he did. Through the whole process, he reinvented himself so much. Also, he came in with so little prejudice around the piece, maybe because there wasn’t a script at the beginning.

Andrew worked with him really, really well. They found a really good vocabulary. And one day, Andrew decided that Gbenga had to take it and it was right around the same time that Gbenga was like, “I have to take it.” The timing felt right. It was great.

AR: And it’s funny how that ownership totally shifted.

SS: I think it was empowering for Gbenga to be there as it was being built. There is something really unique in new work. There are some really deep connections you’re forming with your characters, with your team, your designers, your director. And then the stakes are so high, for everybody, but in theatre that’s a good thing.

BMH: Where is that balance between being the challenging actor? When do I try to make the words work as they are, and when do I say, they aren’t working for me, can we try this instead?

AR: Sometimes the playwright will say, I’m changing that, it’s ju

st not working and the actor will say, just give me some time, I can make that work. And I’ve gone through moments when the actor says this isn’t working, can we change it. I think it comes down to whether or not there is someone who can own it. If the playwright


The Thin Place at Intiman

can say I really believe in this, or if the actor says I’m really behind this moment, you keep it.

But if you encounter a problem and no one really knows why it’s there, then that’s the kind of time that we trust ourselves that it isn’t working. So, you have to kind of give it a chance.

BMH: It seems like such and amazing project to have the opportunity to be a part of.

AR: I was so excited to talk to you, because it was such a personal process.

BMH: And, I think it was pretty personal for the audience too.

AR: One audience member told me she hated it. And I said that was too bad, but okay. Then she said that she hated it, but she talked about it for five hours afterward with her husband. And I thought: “that’s great.” I’d rather you hate it if it means you talk about it afterward!

BMH: Right? Isn’t that what we want good theatre to do?

Interview conducted July 2010.

Interview with Reina Hardy

I met Reina at Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s 2010 PlayFest where she was doing a reading of her play Glassheart.

Playwright Reina Hardy

Brooke M. Haney (BMH): Tell me a little about your process as a playwright.

Reina Hardy (RH): Daydreams, cardio, private dance parties, insane typing sprints, sleep, slightly saner typing sprints, elaborate procedures to get rid of internet, readings, rewrites, despair, alcohol, solutions, rewrites, reading, alcohol, rewrites, despair.  Shake, repeat.

BH: For you as a Playwright, what is the most valuable part of the new works process? Reading, Workshop, or World Premiere? Why?

RH: Well, I can’t speak to Workshop, as I haven’t really had one.  I think that full productions are more valuable than Readings (assuming the play is ready for them) because you can live inside the play during the rehearsal period, and you can see it on its feet, as the beast it is.  You get more ideas that way.

BH: When you go into rehearsal for one of your shows in one of these capacities, what is the best thing and actor can do to help you?

RH: For readings: Keep the pace up and trust the text.  Even if the text isn’t working yet.  If you trust it instead of fixing it, I can see what’s wrong. For full productions: amaze me.  Do all the good stuff, and make all the discovery that you’d make with a classic play.

BH: How much does one of your plays tend to change from before a Reading to the World Premiere?

RH: I’ve only had one World Premiere, and that had already gone through two college level productions.  I made small but significant changes.  I had one other play that had a high school production (best workshop EVER).  That play changed significantly, and changed even more after the production.  I wasn’t allowed to switch up the script on the high schoolers as much as I wanted.

Glassheart at PlayFest

BH: What do you see as the actor’s role in developing new plays?

RH: Inspirations and collaborators. I think writers work best as part of an ensemble.  Actors should seek out new writers, and try to help them, for selfish reasons.  If a writer you admire expresses admiration for your work as an actor, volunteer your services for readings.  Actors who’ve been involved with my plays during the writing process have often hugely shaped the plays themselves, in a way that I think is magical.

Interview with Debbie Lamedman

Playwright Debbie Lamedman

I met Debbie working on the World Premiere of her play Triangle Logic in December of 2009 directed by Earl Weaver. I was lucky to have the opportunity to play Claire. Debbie came to Orlando for the last week or so of the rehearsal process and stayed through the run of the show for talk-back discussions.

Brooke M. Haney (BMH):  Tell me a little about your process as a playwright.

Debbie Lamedman (DL): My process is a little hard to define.  It changes from one project to the next.  For example, “Triangle Logic” began as a short story told from a female character’s point of view. The short story was a snapshot moment in the lives of two friends.  I liked the characters and felt there was much more story to be told, so I expanded it into a full-length play.

For other pieces, I have started with an idea of theme or character.  Sometimes I do an outline to determine where the arc is, but sometimes, I simply sit down and start writing dialogue and let the characters decide where they want to go.  That can be the most fun!

BMH: For you, as a Playwright, what is the most valuable part of the new works process? Reading, Workshop, or World Premiere? Why?

Trent Fucci and Brooke M. Haney in the World Premiere of "Triangle Logic"

DL: I think all 3 aspects are equally valuable.  Every layer of the process will hopefully enrich the work.  Readings are terrific, because it’s usually the first time I hear the work outside of my own head.  I hear the rhythm of the piece and what is working and what isn’t.  Workshops are amazing, because now it becomes collaborative between the playwright, director and actor.  I love this part!  I love seeing what an actor and director can bring to the work and often, I have seen them discover things in rehearsal that would be impossible for me to come up with during the writing process.  Workshops are probably my favorite thing of all.  Finally, World Premieres?  Well, in addition to being incredibly nerve-racking, it’s what I imagine it would be like sending your child off to school for the very first time.  Nervous, but proud to send the work out into the world.

BMH: When you go into rehearsal for one of your shows in one of these capacities, what is the best thing an actor can do to help you?

Brooke M. Haney and Mason Criswell in the World Premiere of "Triangle Logic"

DL: What I’m about to say may sound like a contradiction, but I think it’s best if the actor can both embody the character and also be open and flexible to change.  If the actor is able to embody the character, discoveries are bound to be made both for the actor and for me as the playwright.  But also, if something isn’t working, or if it seems I’ve written the character too flat or two-dimensional, I need the actor to be flexible enough to make the change, and be willing to go deeper and not be afraid of exploring new ideas.

BMH: How much does one of your plays tend to change from before a reading to the world premiere?

DL: Again, it depends on the project.  My most recent piece “Ignorance is Bliss” changed significantly from first reading to World Premiere (which will take place on April 21, 2010.)  The ending for “Triangle Logic” changed several times prior to its World Premiere, and as you remember in our rehearsal process, you had originally thought the play had one ending until I got there and told you it was changed.  I would like to think that if the cast and the director of TL vehemently opposed the newer ending, I certainly would have considered changing it back.  I find writing endings to be the most challenging…I want to serve the play and the characters as best I can.  I’m not necessarily looking to wrap things up in a tidy little way unless that is actually the best way to end things.  I learned early on as a writer, that you cannot be so in love with your own words, that you are reluctant to let anything go.  Change is good!  Good writing comes from good rewriting, but that is also the most challenging thing about writing…the rewriting.

Brooke M. Haney and Trent Fucci in the World Premiere of "Triangle Logic"

BMH: What do you see as the actor’s role in developing new plays?

DL: I believe it all comes down to trust.  I think it’s imperative for the actor to trust the playwright and to trust the play as it is written.  I’m a natural collaborator, and I am open to hearing the actor’s thoughts regarding the character, and I am very open to changing something if I believe it is not working.  As I stated previously, there is nothing like watching an actor take on a role and make discoveries about that character in the rehearsal process.  So I think the actor’s role in developing new work is to be an open, communicative and collaborative part of the creative team, all the while respecting the boundaries of the playwright and her work.

Debbie Lamedman is a playwright, author and editor of eight acting books published by Smith & Kraus, Inc. Debbie’s produced plays include phat girls, Triangle Logic, Mind Control, Eating in the Dark, and Just Add Love. phat girls is featured in the Smith & Kraus anthology, New Playwrights: The Best Plays of 2003.

Debbie is the co-bookwriter for the  musical How the Nurse Feels, which has had staged readings at both the ASCAP/Disney Workshop in Los Angeles, and New World Stages in New York City. Debbie’s newest work, Ignorance is Bliss: a Global Warning will have its world premiere in April 2010.

Additionally, Debbie writes for the blog Confessions of a Cluttered Mind. She received her MFA from Brandeis University and is a proud member of The Dramatist Guild.

Interview with Steve Yockey

I met Steve doing the workshop production of Heavier Than at Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s 2010 Playfest.

Playwright Steve Yockey

Playwright Steve Yockey


Brooke M. Haney (BMH): What do you like to see in an actor in a reading, workshop or World Premiere?

Steven Christpher Yockey (SCY): In any one of those environments, I’d want and actor to be willing to try things and to be willing to play. I’d also want them to be open to different interpretations of the text. But mostly, I think it is being willing to try different choices before locking anything down.


BMH: Does the role of the actor change at all from reading to workshop?

SCY: In readings and short workshops, actors need to be more open to accepting guidance and feedback because of time constraints. When you don’t have staging, there are things that as a Playwright you just need to have happen.

In a sustained workshop, that isn’t the case for me. Instead, the goal for me is creating the strongest possible version of the play. Then, I want actors who are more vocal in saying things like, “well, I’m not sure in how this connects to this.” I really love actors who can talk about things within their character’s journey rather than actors who say “I don’t think my character would say this.” Phrasing it in a way that relates to the arch of the character is much more useful.

Avery Clark, Melissa Fricke, Brooke M. Haney, and April Montgomery in the workshop of Heavier Than.

BMH: And, does this go further when you get to a World Premiere?

SCY: Absolutely. In rehearsals for production, it becomes exceptionally important that an actor speaks up, and I don’t mean becomes adversarial – and I’ve certainly seen that happen –  but rather, the actor should take more ownership of the role. In a play that hasn’t been done before, there is a certain ownership of the role, the actor becomes the keeper of that character. At this point, the actor almost surpasses you in understanding where that character fits into the world of the play, and they can help to hone in on small details. This is where the actor becomes really valuable.

Grant Jordan in the workshop of Heavier Than.

BMH: Are there any extra tips you have for the new works actor?

SCY: Pay attention to the things other characters say about your character, because your character doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

I want actors to be confident in their craft, who have a sense of play. There are all different kinds of actors, but if you have a good attitude and are willing to bring the best of what you have to the role, as opposed to the best of what you think the role should be, then it’s going to work. I really love actors who just kind of go for it and then are willing to fall on their face and not get defensive about changing choices.

Steve Yockey is a roaming member of Out of Hand Theater. His projects with the company include HELP! and Cartoon. In 2008, Actor’s Express Theatre in Atlanta, GA presented the world premiere of Octopus followed by an extended run in San Francisco, co-produced by Encore Theatre Company and Magic Theatre. He is a regular fixture at Dad’s Garage Theatre Company including the short play cycle Sleepy, a work written to inaugurate the second-stage series, and the adults-only Skin — both commissioned & directed by Kate Warner. Dad’s Garage and Berkeley’s Impact Theatre produced the co-world premiere Large Animal Games this season. Octopus, Cartoon and subculture (collected short plays) are available from Samuel French. Other plays include: Bellwether, Afterlife and Wonder. Steve is a Phi Beta Kappa, Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of Georgia and holds an MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. He recently completed a Coca-Cola Artist Residency teaching dramatic structure at Emory University in Atlanta, GA and currently lives/works in the San Francisco Bay Area as the National New Play Network playwright-in-residence at Marin Theatre Company.



Interview with Playwright Meron Langsner

Brooke M. Haney (BMH): Tell me a little about your process as a playwright.

Meron Langsner (ML): Most of my plays are built around images or ideas that then have characters build around them.  Sometimes I’ll get the idea for an exchange of dialogue and then build a play around it based on the type of people that would say that sort of thing to each other, occasionally the original exchange is not even in the finished play.

My process can be situational, it’s always best when I have access to readings and can hear what I’ve done.  That said, I feel that I’ve developed a good ear and can tell when a line rings false when I am rereading something for revision.

BMH: What part of the new play process is particularly helpful to you?

ML: Readings (table or staged) and workshops with intelligent actors are an amazing opportunity because they let you make changes almost as soon as you realize that they’re necessary.  Audience response is a tricky thing because you have to train yourself to filter out the worthless responses and only let in what actually helps your process.

BMH: When you go into rehearsal for one of your, what is the best thing and actor can do to help you?

ML: Play the part with the impulse that the script gives you.  And be open to suggestion from the playwright, as well as open about the impulses that you are getting from the script.

I once made a major change in a script at New Rep between the table read and the staged reading because the actress (Zillah Glory) practically exploded (in a good way) about what her character did at the end versus the track she felt she was on.  She gave me this great honest response about the journey she was on as that character and where she was experiencing resistance to the end that I had in an early draft.  I ended up with a far stronger ending because of that.

I’ve also had great feedback from actors about sound and language in a script. Willie Teacher and I once sat down with a monologue of mine and we talked about not just the actions but the sounds of letters and how he was able to use them on stage.  That kind of feedback and collaboration is fantastic when you can get it.

BMH: Tell me a little about your experiences at The Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Alaska.

ML: The Last Frontier Theatre Conference was one of my best experiences as a writer in my adult life.  It’s a ten day event dedicated to the development of new plays.  They have this whole schtick about how they are there to help the playwright and facilitate the improvement of their work and they mean every single word.  It is staged readings all day and polished works at night, followed by a fringe festival.  It is also theatre camp for grownups, plus beer.  I highly recommend it to playwrights as well as to any actor interested in working on new plays.

BMH: Are there any other ways that actors have impacted your work?

ML: A couple times plays of mine have been done because it was an actor who wanted it to happen more so than because of any marketing on my part (that is not to say that I don’t market my own plays, but in the end plays happen because actors and directors want to do them).

MERON LANGSNER was one of three writers in the country selected for the pilot year of the National New Play Network Emerging Writer Residencies, fulfilling his residency at New Repertory Theatre.  His plays have been performed around the country and overseas and developed at New Repertory Theatre, the Lark New Play Development Center, the Last Frontier Theatre Conference (which he later returned to a a featured artist), and the Region I Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.  Publishers of his plays include Smith & Kraus, Applause, JAC, and Lamia Ink.  His writing has also won awards and grants from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity, the Last Frontier Theatre Conference, and numerous competitions.  Meron is also active as a professional fight director in the Greater Boston Area, having composed violence in venues that include Merrimack Repertory Theatre, New Rep, Lyric Stage Company of Boston, the Boston Center for the Arts, and several academic theaters.  His scholarly work has been published by McFarland, Oxford University Press, and Puppetry International.  Meron is also in print as a poet and journalist.  He holds an MFA in Playwriting from Brandeis University and an MA in Performance Studies from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.  He is currently a doctoral candidate in Drama at Tufts University, where he has been recognized for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education.