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@WordsPlayers #PlaywrightRespect and an open Letter

The following was posted in the comment section of the Words Players Facebook page, re: the recent controversory over their call for submissions.

There are some here who believe that the playwrights who have voiced our concerns have somehow “bullied” Words Players, Mr Driscoll, or their young actors and directors. I have been closely following the hashtag on Twitter and the @WordsPlayers twitter account and have seen snark but not bulling. We have not in any way threatened violence or made fun of you personally. We did not dox anyone or threaten to. We have not once, that I can find, attacked any of the young actors or directors. Many of us have stated, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Blogs, that our biggest concern is the education of these students. That we want everyone to treat playwrights with respect. In the original call, as it stood, many of us felt that we were not being respected, both by tone, word choice, and by the implication that our words would be changed with or without our permission. Mr Driscoll has graciously acknowledged that it could be read this way. But we still have questions and we still have concerns. I think just about anyone who has ever spent time in the theater has seen actors “go up” or have paraphrased because they either couldn’t be bothered to memorize or just couldn’t memorize. I have been involved in theater for a quarter of century. The majority of my life has been spent acting, writing, directing, producing, live theater. And most of that has been on the high school or collegiate level. I have worked in churches and in bars. And I’ve seen it happen. But just because it does happen does not make it right. As someone who has just finished directing a production of Legally Blonde, I strove every day to make sure that my young actors (most were between the ages of 16-22) got every word, word perfect. At one point there was some confusion, the book said one girl sang a part of a song, the score another. I contacted MTI and said, “hey we have a question here…” and they answered it within 24 hours and apologized for not answering it sooner. Does that mean we had a word perfect show? No. Because it happens. Bt my actors knew that was what I was striving for. In my training, I was taught “you aren’t the writer of this play, you cannot change the words no matter how much you want to.” And that has never limited my artistic ability to create something new and fresh and original. In my adaptation of Alice In Wonderland, I wrote “Hatter enters, sits down and the chair breaks. He tries to fix the chair” (that isn’t word perfect to the script btw I just don’t have it handy in front of me to copy and paste), when it was performed in Atlanta, I saw 2 minutes of some of the funniest physical comedy I’ve ever seen. That is not modification of the script, it is an interpretation.

There are those who have asked, why we have held this amateur theater to a professional standard. My first response is, don’t you want everyone to be treated like they are a profession, regardless if they are or not? Wouldn’t you want your children to learn how to act and react in a professional environment and learn the proper “professional” way of handling things in the theater? My second response is this, Mr Driscoll is a college professor and is a mentor to the young students of Words Players. As such, he should be aware of the current standards and practices in the theater world (which for decades have included not changing writers words without their permission, provided the writer’s works are not in the public domain.) As an educator, he SHOULD be held to a higher standard. Just because this is “art” doesn’t mean that there isn’t a professional behavior to be taught, and our main concern was that the next generation of theater creators (actors, writers, directors) were not being taught that. Surely you would want your business teacher to teach your children the proper way to do accounting, or build a computer or cook or whatever. Before you can bend the rules, before you can “break” the rules, you must learn the rules, I was always taught (and that there are some rules that shouldn’t be broken) and again, our concern, based upon this call, was that an unprofessional behavior would be taught.

I sincerely believe Mr Driscoll, North Words and Words Players have the very best intentions at heart. I do believe that they respect writers, but that respect isn’t reflected in the call for scripts that we saw (on your public website, and yes as I mentioned in my follow up comment above, it is a public website that anyone can access and does access. If you did not mean for this call to be spread, a simple “this submission opportunity is by invitation only” and would not be posted on your website OR you could have put, much like the Barnyard Players in Kansas City have done, “this submission is limited to people within 300 miles of Rochester, MN” or anything similar.) Writers have had the words abused, as I said, and almost every writer can attest to seeing it happen, or actor, or whatever. And in light of last years incidents with the transgender casting of Olenna without David Mamet’s permission and the incident with DGA president Doug Wright’s play, Hands On A Hard Body, and the rearranging of words, songs, scenes, etc without permisison and the arrogance displayed there (the director reportedly said “But you have to admit I made it better” to the writer) and in follow-up investigation on TUTS in Houston, I hope all of you can see why many writers are defensive and take up this cause as being quite personal. Words Players is not the first to have had this happen nor will it be the last. It was just a perfect combination of events, bloggers, and writers taking up a cause that was quite important to us. The continued silence on the issue, the deleting of posts criticizing the call for submissions (and I saw some of those that were deleted and they were not in any way “bulling” or “vulgar” or anything else.) fueled us on, encouraged us to make our voice heard louder and louder until the Dramatist’s Guild, Doug Wright, Playbill and Broadway World had no choice but to hear us. And at that point you did what you had to do.

I understand why Mr. Driscoll granted an exclusive with Playbill, but I would have loved to have seen him reach out to those that first started this call, particularly Donna Hoke and Howard Sherman.

I know this was long, and I appreciate anyone taking the time to read it and hopefully the critics of #playwrightrespect understand where we come from.

Reading their letter to the Dramatist Guild, I can sympathize. They describe a collective environment where writers, directors and actors helped each other. I love that style of theater. I love workshops, and I love that kids spearheded this.  My first couple of plays were done in the same guerrilla style “hey my dad has a barn, lets put on a play” style. Hell, directing Legally Blonde, I had no budget; props, costumes, set decoration came from actors closest, homes, or out of mine or my co-director’s pocket (and I wasn’t working much so that made it difficult). I understand where they are coming from, but that doesn’t make it any less right or wrong, how it was suggested it would be handled. There is growing up as a theater and growing out and then there is remaining stagnant. I hope this was simply a sign of growing pains.

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LuPone Strikes Back! Grabs Texter’s Phone at Shows for Days – Playbill.com

LuPone Strikes Back! Grabs Texter’s Phone at Shows for Days – Playbill.com.

In light of this story and the recent one at Hand To God where a patron climbed up onto the stage to plug his cellphone in, I am reposting an old blog I wrote about whether Twitter may be the new version of Shakespeare’s groundlings.

Ask yourself, is Twitter The New Groundlings?

One thing for sure is, we need to educate people on proper theater etiquette.

IN THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS–A New Play coming soon

So I’ve been keeping this kind of quiet until the past couple of days but I have a new play coming out from The Script Co. titled IN THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS.

A little history about this play, while it wasn’t the first play I wrote, it’s for sure an “early work” and one I had kind of trunked for a good long while. I was ready to self publish this but then I got that sweet, sweet email that said “you’ve been accepted.”

So I’m happy to announce that I’ll SOON have another publishing credit on the resume.

I’ve seen the art work for it and it looks AMAZING and I want you to see it to. But to do that, I’m sending you on a virtual treasure hunt of sorts.

I have a plethora of social media accounts and I’ve loaded the cover art on ONE of them, so I’m sending you off to find it. Once one person finds it, likes it and/or shares it, I’ll share it with the rest of  you. Until then…happy hunting…

Social Media Accounts

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

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Pinterest

Attacks on Satire Is An Attack On Our Humanity

#JeSuisCharlie In my play THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE STORY OF TOM SAWYER AS TOLD BY BECKY THATCHER, I included, at the very end of the show, a bit of satire. Not the greatest writing in the world and that good of satire but a light poking at president of the time. The line goes “George? That boy was dumb enough to be president.” This was inspired, no doubt, from my love of Saturday Night Love, The State and other comedy groups. I found out later (not at the time of the performance) that one of the actors parents got upset at my friend who co-directed the show and accused him of bringing a liberal bias into everything he did there. People get upset at satire all the time, its how we respond that matters.

Satire, in all its forms, really is our expression of speech. That’s why we can mock President Obama the same way we mocked President Bush and President Clinton, and President Bush, and President Reagan and President Carter and President Ford and President Nixon and…well the list goes on.

As someone who cares about the arts, who supports the arts, who lives in the arts, the minute we silence one voice in one area, gives us the power to silence the voices of anyone we disagree with and that will lead to tyranny and the end of our humanity.

Satire May Be Uncomfortable, But Humor Makes Us Human : NPR.

Where Do We Go From Here?

2/28/14, 1pm UPDATE: In the past 50+ hours of my original blog post post going live, it has exploded like wildfire. This is my fault. I have encouraged people to share this blog on social media across Facebook, Twitter, etc. I originally thought I would get at best a 100 or so views. I wasn’t expecting the fast approaching 20,000 hits it has received so far. As the page view count grew so did my passion for this area and my desire to see it grow more.

As it has grown, I have received messages from all over the US expressing support and solidarity. I have also been told stories that break my heart about schools like this. These stories, coming out of Kansas, Minnesota, Nevada, and others, continue to show that this is a subject which has touched off a lot of people. I have seen, in the very comments here, posts that I would consider bullying in nature, from fellow students and from parents. For that reason, I’m LOCKING THE COMMENTS SECTION DOWN and removing the sharing options. I’m sorry I have to be doing this, but I feel that it is for the students safety.

I have heard from fellow members of the senior class who played in the band that disagree with my statements and the facts as they were presented to me. I have invited them to share their thoughts.

I am also changing many aspects of this article, I’m removing the name of the town and the names of the students, from both the article and the comments section. I have also removed the original picture. This is for the students own safety and for their future.

I am also removing ALL contact links to the school in question.

I never imagined that this story would take off as it has, I never imagined it would become the juggernaut that it has become.

Thank you all for standing up for these two students. I am proud of what I wrote, I am proud of them. They are my heroes for taking an unpopular stand that they felt was right. #WeAreSeniorsToo

-Everett Robert
Emergency Room Productions
Feb. 28, 2014
1pm
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

So, if you haven’t heard, I wrote a blog a couple of days ago that has been getting a lot of attention. How much attention? Well, over 17,000 views since it went live early Wednesday morning. At the bottom of all my blogs there is a little “Share This” bar, the Facebook “Like” button has been hit 3.7K times. I’ve received comments, tweets, Facebook messages from across the state and the nation. I’ve heard stories that have made me cry because of how schools (schools across the nation!) have treated their children who choose to focus on their music, their art, their writing, their academics, their whatever instead of sports. How they’ve been ignored and mistreated. How funds they’ve raised have gone on to be used for the athletes, how teachers pay for things out of their own pockets and fight for their students. Stories about this being used to encourage other band students. Somehow #weareseniorstoo has started to bloom into something I never expected or anticipated.

In these messages, I’ve been asked “What can I do? What’s next?”

You maybe wondering that too, but didn’t know how to ask. Here’s my answer, short and sweet.

SUPPORT THE ARTS!

Don’t bully students that are involved in the arts, don’t pressure students into doing athletics if they don’t want to. Recognize student artists, student academics, student farmers, student volunteers. Don’t prioritize sports over everything else.

Sports is a fleeting moment in a person’s life, it lasts for a moment and then it’s gone. You may learn valuable lessons and hard lessons and that is good. But don’t prioritize it over everyone else and don’t romantize it. Support the arts. Go to concerts, plays, musicals, art shows, etc. If your school has a Twitter or Facebook page, encourage them to not just post the latest team scores but also the honor roll, when the FFA does well, the Scholars Bowl, the artists, etc.

#WeAreSeniorsToo

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