Friday, March 18, 2011


So here I am, back to my real life, and I says to myself – “Self, you gotta process this experience. If not for yourself, Self, then for those who was there and those who weren’t.” And I said to myself, ”Or I just gotta clarify and pontificate.” Self interrupted, “You did that already; you were an adjudicator.” “Don’t say it like that, like I was a mean, lowly, heart-breakin’ rat.” “Well, then don’t adjudicate next time.” And then I took a swing at myself, and Self dodged and countered with a jab to the place that makes me exhale really quickly, and so here I’m at, still trying to figure out what to say about Kaleidoscope ’11 at the Spokane Civic Theatre while I catch my breath.

The WSCTA awards. Also known as the “member awards”, those are the distinctions bestowed from the WSCTA members unto the festival participants. The adjudicators don’t give them and they are my favorite thing about the festival. The Ralph Eaton New Horizons Award wasn’t given this time – this award is given to a first-time participant at Kaleidoscope that most exemplifies the values of high quality community theater. The “Magic Moment” is a vote for that one special thing that festival-goers most loved about the plays this weekend. This year, it went to the character Olive Ostrovsky singing “The I Love You Song” from The 25thAnnual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The Betty Wills Washington Treasure Award goes to the theatre that most exemplifies . . . oh, cut to the chase, it’s the member’s choice for best show. The plaque stays at the theatre awarded until the next Kaleidoscope sends it along to the next festival. This year, it went to the Bremerton Community Theater’s production of All My Sons.

These are my favorite awards cuz they almost always come from the heart of the festival and rarely match the adjudicated awards. Which makes them feel good.

Read more about them. Four plays of four differing styles, modes, and genres. So rather than detail what was good about ‘em (you either went or you didn’t – next time GO!), here’s where you can follow up on your favorites.

Dan Zolidis wrote !Artistic Inspiration, a wacky farce intended for high school-aged performers. It’s a specialty of Zolidis who has around 50 other plays like it available through (In fact, it’s a specialty of, the wacky high-school farce. Through direct marketing and making samples of scripts readable on-line, high school students don’t have to go through teacher to find what plays they like.) If you liked this play, you might try Zolidis’ adaptation of Bobby Wilson Can Eat His Own Face; Stephen Gregg’s S.P.A.R (Dramatic Publishing); and Christopher Durang’s The Actor’s Nightmare (Dramatists Play Service).

Doug Wright wrote Wildwood Park, a daring psychological chiller. Included as part of a creepy evening of one-acts titled Unwrap Your Candy (all Wright’s plays are at Dramatists), which made my must-order pile. Doug Wright’s a Pulitzer Prize winner (for I Am My Own Wife) who focuses on the psychological need, maybe even drive, for transgressive self-delusion. His most well-known work is arguably Quills (stage play made into a feature film with Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet, Joaquin Phoenix and Michael Caine) about the power struggle between an asylum “warden” and his most outrageous and famous patient, the Marquis de Sade. How exactly can you punish a man who enjoys punishment? My personal favorite is The Stonewater Rapture, a heart-breaking two-hander about high school love gone wrong. David Harrower’s Blackbird (Dramatists) is recent full-length play of macabre re-connections, not dissimiliar to Wildwood Park. (Thanks for the suggestion, Sandy.)

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee was written by Rachel Sheinkin (sp?), who I don’t know much about, with music and lyrics by William Finn. Super mondo musical theater geeks would be very familiar with Finn’s “Marvin” trilogy, three small musicals that focus on the foibles of, well, Marvin, a man who leapt out of the closet and struggles to be a good father, ex-husband, and lover. The short sung-through musicals (so more like operettas) include In Trousers, March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland. (MTI.) Fans of Putnam would like Marvin.

All My Sons by some guy. Some guy who wrote Death of A Salesman, The Crucible, A View From the Bridge, and Resurrection Blues. Arthur Miller’s that guy, and three of those titles are regular combatants in the Greatest American Play arguments. Miller’s tragedies of the common man are arguably his stronger works, and my heart’s fondest of Sons (and Bremerton showed great plays are their own best argument for doing them). That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy re-reading or seeing Salesman, Crucible, and Bridge. (Dramatists AND Samuel French AND lotsa used copies out there – check your used bookstores.) And if Miller gets to you too, try some Lillian Hellman and Robert E. Sherwood.

Join us. The board of the WSCTA could use a few more bodies, especially a treasurer. And it’d be nice if a Westside theatre stepped up to host Kaleidoscope ’13. (We’re looking at you, Bremerton and Tacoma . . .). But mainly, if you’re reading this, we need you. Put up a show, bring in one of us for a workshop or presentation, let us know what you’re doing. I’ll dribble out some more festival-related discoveries (what? You thought I’d blow it all in one blogpost? ) and news as we go along, but the main virtue of this medium is the two-way communication. Tell me what you wanna know.

Thanks to ACT Richland, Richland Players, Spokane Civic and Bremerton Community Theatre for the above plays and the great weekend. And thanks to Civic’s wonderful hosting – and rock the folks in Rochester, Bee’s! (Thanks for the Bee tiara, too. All my wife is jealous.)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Kaleidoscope 2011 Results

We just completed a wonderful festival hosted by Spokane Civic Theatre! The following awards were presented:


These are voted by ballot by WSCTA members present for the festival:

WSCTA Magic Moment Award - "The I Love You Song" - Lacey Bohnet as Olive Ostrovsky - The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Betty Wills Washington Treasure Award - All My Sons - Bremerton Community Theatre


These are selected by the adjudicators:

Outstanding Performance - Mark Pleasant -The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Outstanding Set Design - Eric Wise-All My Sons

Outstanding Costume Design - Jan Wanless - The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Outstanding Lighting Design - Bret Parker - Wildwood Park

Outstanding Sound Design - Jan Goolsbey -Wildwood Park

Outstanding Ensemble Performance - The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Outstanding Direction - Joyce Bean - Wildwood Park

Outstanding Choreography - Kathie Doyle-Lipe - The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Outstanding Design & Production Team - The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Excellence in Company Creativity - ACT Richland !Artistic Inspiration


Alternate Company Advancing to the National Festival – Richland Players – Wildwood Park

Company Advancing to the National Festival – Spokane Civic Theatre - The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


So, for those of you who don’t know,

{And that’s assuming anyone’s out there reading these. Taptaptap –heeeeh-looooo, anybody on the other side of this screen? Other than you, Ted.}

Unky Sean is an adjudicator for this upcoming Kaleidoscope. And the rules of adjudicating are constrictive, folks. I can’t talk about any of the plays at the festival, for one. No, not even that one. Not a jot or a tittle. I said NO, so kwit askin’! And all forms of theatre are legitimate. Seriously, it’s a rule, I have to swear that I respect all theatrical genres as legitimate expressions deserving their moment on stage.

. . .

Fortunately, I do believe that. Not that everything’s automatically a good example of said theatrical expression, but that at heart, there’s nothing wrong with a pirate story. Or restoration comedy. Or children’s musicals based on gothic literature. Or neo-futuristic political sketch comedy. Or even Christmas plays, despite what you may have read in this blog before, assuming you exist.

So I’m not going to come outta the adjudicator’s gate fish-slapping some hard-working theatrons for heartfelt sincerity. That’s not why I’m there. I’m there to reflect and advise. No fish-slapping required for that, right?

Cue the violins.

Usually I’m at these conventions to talk about plays and theater. I’m a big ol’ script geek, and I’m so busy reading & seeing 120 scripts a year, I barely get a chance to talk plays with like minded folk. So here I come to the big city of Spokane, not for the St. Paddy’s parade (although I’m half-Irish), but for rubbing shoulders with y’all like-minded script geeks, only you’re all warned not to talk about plays and theater with me. (Yeah, it’s a rule.) It’s like a very cruel version of Keep-A-Way where no amount of Free Brunch will ameliorate the pain.

OK, stop the violins, they’re bugging me.

So I know you exist, and also so I don’t feel like John Travolta in a plastic bubble, come up and ask me for a guide to quality playscripts. I will then hand you a single sheet of helpful playscript resources. That will not violate any rules and we don’t talk about the plays we’re watching.
And enjoy this recap of the good plays I’ve read or seen during the first two months of this year. I read and saw more than these, but I’m just talking about the good ones, just for practice.

Six Degrees of Seperation (John Guare). Dramatists Play Service. Always surprised how much I enjoy this work (arguably Guare’s most accessible) and this time struck by how well this would play in a community theatre. Big multi-generational cast, each character distinct, simple and theatrical set demands, fast-moving.

Love Letters (A.R. Gurney). A life-long relationship in letter form. Gurney’s continuing explorations of fading WASP culture sometimes get too Manhattan-centric for me, but the two voices here are dynamic and well-pitched and their journey plays like a rediscovered story shared with friends.

Further Than The Furthest Thing (Zinnie Harris). Dramatists. Loosely based on the evacuation of the entire population of the isolated island Tristan de Cuhna to Southhampton, England, we watch a small family struggle with issues of assimilation and self-definition. Are we defined by our acts, our passions, our successes, our tragedies, or where we’re from? Beautiful language, heart-breaking drama.

The Zoo Story (Edward Albee). Dramatists. Yeah, I’ve read it before. In fact, last year when I read Albee’s At Home at the Zoo, which combined Homelife (about what Peter was doing before Zoo Story) with TZS. Yeah, while it birthed a million bench plays afterward (and there’s nothing wrong with a bench play), it still lands its punches squarely. Jerry’s not going to be comfortable in this world and Peter’s steadfast complacency places him on the wrong bench at the wrong time. Hard to believe, over fifty years later, this was viewed as absurdist, when it sounds like everything now.

7 (x1) Samurai. iDiOM Theatre. David Gaines performs in this one-man retelling of Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai. I saw it twice. An award-winning solo performance tour-de-force in clowning and physical performance, if you find him (check his website) performing near you, go see him. Understanding Japanese film theory or reading subtitles not required.
I always thought if I was gonna blog, this was what I’d blog about – plays out there, old and new. Anything to recommend? Just to prove you exist?

See you in Spokane, or we will talk about you behind your back. No rule against that.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


OK, at this point you’re bringing the show of your dreams or you’re just coming to attend. Either way, it’s vital you get this advice under your belt. Whether you’ve never gone to a state festival or gone to every state festival since Nero staged “A Funny Thing Happened When I Burned Rome in a Day – Kill That Guy For Not Laughing”, there’s three essentials to enhance your experience.

(1) Bring cash. Yeah, yeah, it’s a credit/debit card world and you can pay for your tickets ahead of time. (And you should pay for your tickets ahead of time.) But you’re at a theater for an extended period of time and you’re gonna get noshy, maybe thirsty, maybe see candy and where’s your cash? Yeah, see? Lobbies work by cash, folks, so bring some. As well, there’s usually someone raffling something snazzy as a fundraiser for the event or the adjudicators or the something-official-don’t-ask-so-many-questions. And I see there’s a karaoke event scheduled. You think that’s not gonna suck up some singles? So hit an ATM, and have a little sumthin’ on hand.

(2) Pen/pencil and paper. Back in the olden days, before phones did your taxes while you played Tetris, people took notes on little pieces of paper, sometimes collected for that purpose in what was an actual notepad. So, you’ll be chatting with Suzy Seatmate in-between shows and Roger InFrontofYou mentions a show he liked at his theatre, which reminds Suzy of this great play and Trudy BehindYou loved this delightful musical which would be perfect for this actress you all like and you go to type this all into your phone only it’s turned off cuz you’re polite and in a theater and know better and then the show starts and you forget all that stuff. No rules against Pen and Paper, people. Good for recording phone numbers, e-mail addresses, vendor information, restaurant recommendations and directions too. Conveniently available in pocket or purse sizes. (And if you’re in a hotel, a part of the room you get to keep.) Part of the fun of the festival is the stuff you discover – take notes.

(3) Brunch. Yeah, cuz you gotta pay up front, you don’t think you’ll do brunch. But then, at the festival, you make friends, find out that’s where the awards will be and remember you’re not leaving til later so you try to buy a brunch at the last minute. After the people running the thing have already been told how many to prepare for. If you’re gonna checkout Sunday, buy the brunch now. It’s a great schmooze time, the food is gonna be better nutritionally than anything you’re finding on the road home, and you see the awards given. -- And as further incentive, any bacon you eat at a hotel is fat-free and vegan. (According to the Tranportational Food Ethics Act of 2000-sumthin’, google it, you’ll find it.)

Trust me, these three things are vital to enjoying your festival experience. The shows are pretty good too, but lobby snacks, accurate notation, and pre-purchased hotel bacon will kick it up to turbo. And you want turbo.
See ya there.