Thursday, July 16, 2015

Seattle Playwrights Circle’s “Short Shorts” and other playwriting groups

There are a number of playwriting groups around town that toil together in support of new work. Some of them are kind of class-based, like Freehold Studios and a spin-off of a group called Parley (led by Freehold instructor Rebecca Tourino Collingsworth). Some of them are newer iterations where one applies to be part of a small group supported by a theater (SeattleRepertory’s Writers Group, and a musical writing group at 5th AvenueTheatre).

There are three main large-group play writing entities in town. Seattle Playwrights Studio meets a couple of Mondays per month at BurienActors Theatre. They are presenting some shorts in a weekend there, from July 24-26. Information about joining them is sketchy after a bit of a reorg, but Scot Bastian reports that there is no longer a monthly contribution (it had been about $5) and the group is open to new members.

WARP (Writers and Actors Reading and Performing) claims the title of longest running playwright support group in town. They create three shorts festivals a year and meet almost every Tuesday night at Stone Soup Theatre. They ask for donations for space rental.

They also invite anyone who is at all interested and do not require any prior experience, either to come and be a reader for plays presented that evening, or for being established in any way as a playwright. So, they are clearly the most inclusive, and a great place to start, if you’re looking for a welcoming place to get your feet wet. More information at:

Seattle Playwrights Circle, which I am a member of, is open to people who have a certain (fairly minimal) amount of play writing experience and have had a play or two presented on stage somewhere. We generally have two “table reads” a month at a local library on Sunday afternoons during the “school year” and also in fall/winter, monthly public readings at Elliott Bay Bookstore.

In July (17-26), we’re presenting at The Phoenix Theatre in lower Edmonds (less than a mile from the Shoreline Costco) a comedy shorts festival, “Short Shorts.” As with SPS and WARP presentations, this festival will be entirely locally written. (Pay-what-you-can tickets are available here:

There is a lot to consider in mounting a shorts festival. Choosing each other’s plays can be a bit tricky, considering you don’t want to have hard feelings for those not chosen. Casting a shorts festival, particularly in the summer time (when there are more venues available to rent), is a dicey proposition. Many people are on vacation, young people who ordinarily are in acting classes are gone or busy for the summer, and those who are left get cast quickly in other summer productions.

Rehearsal for multiple short plays, when there is generally no budget for rental spaces is another challenge. It can also be a challenge when actors are cast in multiple shorts so that their talents and interests are well-used for the event. But then different directors might run into scheduling problems with those same actors.

Costumes are most often those found in people’s closets or picked up at thrift stores. Props are similarly found somewhere or made if necessary. Much of a shorts festival calls for the audience to bring their imaginations with them to fill in the blanks in a rudimentary set and environment. Sets are non-existent or sketched in with a few chairs and random tables.

But that can be part of the fun, as well. In fact, for a playwright’s festival such as ours, the important aspect is that a new play gets a chance to breathe and the playwright can see if her play works the way she expected it to when she wrote it.

I have the pleasure of seeing one of my plays presented in this event, and finding out if people will find my sense of humor funny… and I also am helping bring a couple of others to life as a director. It’s hectic, but fulfilling, allowing me to flex my artistic muscles, when much of the rest of the time, I report on others’ efforts.

I look forward to seeing you there!

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