Anne Hamilton/Hamilton Dramaturgy


Hamilton Dramaturgy Intensive Postponed

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the Hamilton Dramaturgy Intensive scheduled for October 19th and 20th has been postponed. We hope to be able to offer it sometime in the near future. If you would like to be placed on our mailing list for future workshops, please send a message to hamiltondramaturgyintensive@gmail.com.

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Hamilton Dramaturgy Intensive in NYC October 19-20

(Please note: The intensive has been postponed. If you would like to be placed on our mailing list, please send an email to hamiltondramaturgyintensive@gmail.com)

 DRAMATURGY INTENSIVE – AN INTERACTIVE WORKSHOP

AUTHORS: WALTER BYONGSOK CHON AND ANNE HAMILTON

FOR ADVANCED UNDERGRADS, GRADUATE STUDENTS, AND THEATRE PROFESSIONALS

Saturday, October 19, 9am-5pm

Sunday, October 20, 10am – 5pm

a Studio in New York City, Location TBA

Features: 10 hours of instruction and exercises, discussion of 2 essays and 5 plays, and a maximum of 15 participants.

Cost: $350. Contact: Anne Hamilton at hamiltondramaturgyintensive@gmail.com

Register: Hamilton Dramaturgy Intensive Flier – October 19-20, 2013

Dramaturgy is a creative practice that, through critical thinking, enhances the breadth and depth of artistic imagination.  Dramaturgy is an integral process to the origination, development, production, and reception of plays and theatrical performances.”  – Walter Byongsok Chon

This workshop is designed to familiarize the participants with the term “dramaturgy,” to enhance their understanding and appreciation of dramaturgy as a practice and a profession, and to provide them with the essential tools to practice dramaturgy.   We will examine dramaturgy in its various functions and explore the role of the dramaturg in relation to the play text, the playwright, the artistic team, the theatre, the audience, and the community as a whole, both professional and public.  Through extended discussions and practical exercises, this workshop will help develop an understanding of dramaturgy as a process integral to the creation, development, production, and reception of plays and theatrical performances.

Syllabus: Introduction to Dramaturgy; How to Read a Play: Reading with a Dramaturgical Sensibility; Dramaturgy Practicum and Case Studies – Overview; Case Study I and II; Dramaturgy Practicum III and IV; Daring Dramaturgies in Practice and New Voices in American Theatre; Resources for Dramaturgs and Playwrights.

Anne Hamilton is the Founder of Hamilton Dramaturgy, an international consultancy based in New York City’s professional scene. With 22 years of experience, her clients have gone on to win the Pulitzer Prize, the MacArthur “Genius” Award, the Tony  Award, and a Royal Court International Residency. STAGE DIRECTIONS magazine named her a “trailblazer” in American dramaturgy. She holds an MFA in theatre criticism and dramaturgy from Columbia University of the Arts, and was a Bogliasco Foundation Fellow. She hosts and produces TheatreNow!, an oral history podcast series on female theatre artists.

Walter Byongsok Chon is a doctor of fine arts candidate at the Yale School of Drama, where he has served as a Dramaturg and the Artistic Coordinator at the Yale Repertory Theatre as well as several YSD and Yale Cabaret productions. He has developed new plays at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center and The Great Plains Theater Conference. His other specialties include translation (Serpent At My Thigh, Inching Towards Yeolha, from Korean into English; Charles Mee’s True Love from English to Korean), conference presentations (ATHE, PTRS), and publications of his articles in Praxis, Theater, The Korean National Theatre Magazine, and The Korean Theatre Review. Walter holds a BA in English from Sungkyunkwan University, an MA in theatre studies from Washington University in St. Louis, and an MFA from the Yale School of Drama. He is an Associate Dramaturg at Hamilton Dramaturgy.

Many thanks to Dr. Cindy Melby Phaneuf, who commissioned Walter Byongsok Chon to create this Dramaturgy Intensive for its first presentation at the University of Nebraska Omaha in May, 2013.

Please send an email, and we will send more information.

Payment: $100 is due to register. The remaining $250 must be paid by October 11th, 2013, or the deposit will be forfeited

Payment must be made by PayPal. We will send PayPal invoices by email.

  • The Dramaturgy Intensive is available for two-day workshops at colleges and universities. Please send an inquiry.
  • If you are located somewhere else in the world and are interested in the Intensive, please send an email indicating your interest and we will attempt to create an online program.
  • We are able to present the Dramaturgy Intensive in additional American cities.

Download the Registration form here: Hamilton Dramaturgy Intensive Flier – October 19-20, 2013

PLEASE EMAIL THIS REGISTRATION FORM TO hamiltondramaturgyintensive@gmail.com

and you will receive an invoice by email.

@AnneHamiltonlit       #hamiltondramaturgyintensive



Great Plains Theatre Conference 2013

I just returned from ten days in Omaha, Nebraska, where I participated as a workshop leader for a Dramaturgy Intensive at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and gave dramaturgical feedback to ten playwrights whose works were given readings at the Great Plains Theatre Conference.

Walter Byongsok Chon designed the intensive, which was one offering included in a month-long course offered by Dr. Cindy Phanuef. He gave six lectures, and Heather Helinsky and I led one workshop each.

It was my second year as a dramaturgical respondent at the GPTC, and my first as a workshop leader at UNO. The plays and playwrights were absolutely terrific. I also enjoyed spending time with other Guest Artists such as Constance Congdon, Mac Wellman, Ruth Margraff, Kate Snodgrass, Elena Araoz, Justin Townsend, and Eliza Bent. Many thanks to Artistic Director Kevin Lawler for inviting me to participate again.

Here are the plays I was privileged to work on:

PlayLab Readings

Penny  Gets Bit by Molly Welsh

The  Singularity by Crystal Jackson

Ganglia:  Instructions for the Symbiogenesis by Peter Roth

Daughter by Elana Gartner

Silueta by  Diana Burbano, Christopher Shelton, Tom Shelton

Neverland  Industries by Danny Carroll

Irreversible by Jack Karp

Madame  Ho by Eugenie Chan

MainStage  Readings

William  & Judith by Cody Daigle

Mai  Dang Lao by  David Jacobi

Many congratulations to all of the playwrights, and best wishes for the continued development of their new work.



About Anne

Anne Hamilton has over twenty years of experience in New York City, across the nation, and internationally. The Founder of Hamilton Dramaturgy, she has consulted with Lynn Nottage, Andrei Serban, the Joseph Papp Public Theater, the Harold Prince Musical Theatre Institute, Michael Mayer, Classic Stage Company, Jean Cocteau Repertory Theater, Leslie Lee, Deborah Gregory, Andrew Barrett, the New York City Public Library’s Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, the University of Iowa Playwrights’ Workshop, and Warren Bodow.

Her clients have gone on to win the Pulitzer Prize, the MacArthur “Genius” Award, the Tony Award, a Royal Court International Residency, and several national playwrighting awards.

She worked for James Lipton (host and producer, INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO) for three years as the academic advisor to the graduate students and faculty at The Actors Studio Drama School in NYC. The Bogliasco Foundation of New York City and Bogliasco, Italy awarded her a fellowship in recognition of her personal contribution to the American theatre. She studied the philosophy of aesthetics at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford University and was a NYSCA auditor.

Hamilton is a graduate of Columbia University School of the Arts and holds dual citizenship in the United States and Italy. She is available for consultations in script development, production dramaturgy, and career development, through her website at www.hamiltonlit.com. Anne is a member of The Dramatists Guild of America, Inc.(DGA, www.dramatistsguild.com), Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA, www.lmda.org) and is the Co-Secretary of the League of Professional Theatre Women (LPTW, www.theatrewomen.org).

You may contact Anne at hamiltonlit@hotmail.com or at Hamilton Dramaturgy, 215-536-1074.

Anne Hamilton, Dramturg and Playwright



BETWEEN TIME AND TIMBUKTU in L.A.

One of my favorite Theatre Artists I Love to Follow (TALFs) is having a reading of his new musical in Los Angeles on May 21st. Andrew Barrett and I have been working together since 1998, and I’m proud to say that I’ve often served as his dramaturg on both stage plays and musicals.

Here is a short article in which he describes the development of the piece, including its being one of four new musicals selected for development in the ASCAP/DreamWorks Musical Theatre Workshop in LA this past February under the mentorship of Stephen Schwartz.

Details for the Blank Theatre’s Living Room Series

Monday May 21st, 8pm
Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA

BETWEEN TIME & TIMBUKTU: A VONNEGUT MUSICAL
Book & Lyrics by Andrew Barrett
Music by Ira Antelis
Directed by Kirsten Sanderson

For more information and to RSVP: http://theblank.com/pages/livingroomseries.html

Anne Hamilton: Congratulations on this new development in the life of this musical. What are the new features you’ve added for this reading?

Andrew Barrett: The ASCAP/DreamWorks workshop is an astonishing experience for writers of the musical theatre.  You perform in front of an audience of 150 theatre lovers, mostly writers, and then a distinguished panel critiques you in front of everyone.  You need a thick skin!  The panelists who listen to your work and critique it are simply the best of the best.  In addition to Stephen Schwarz, we were fortunate to have such intelligent minds as Irene Mechhi, Bill Damaschke, Paul Lazarus and Mark Saltzman.  All offered invaluable insights.

However, they are only listening to up to 50 minutes of your show.  If you understand the structure of musicals you know why they do this.  A musical must have certain elements at very specific moments in the show.  I do not know one successful musical over the decades that has not followed these rules.

What makes a show unique is how it plays with this format.  But you must follow this format.  This includes the opening number that sets the audience on the path with the show (“I Hope I Get It” from A CHORUS LINE and “Comedy Tonight: from A FUNNY THING HAPPENED…).  Shortly after, your leading character must have the I Want song.  This is often mocked by haters of musical theatre (or lovers, such as the Orlando theme in BOOK OF MORMON).  Within the first hour, that leading character must face some sort of revelation that gives new perspective to what they want.  (“And I’m Telling You…” from DREAMGIRLS).

So we did our 50 minutes and we learned something important.  Our opening was spot on, and we had the audience with us right away.  But then we lost them because we were not clear about what our leading character wanted.  We waited too long to state it.  In addition, once he was off and running, he suddenly went from being very active to being passive, an observer of action he would later act upon.

All of the panelists picked up on this problem and gave us invaluable feedback to help improve things.  This new version of the script addresses those two major adjustments.  It also meant cutting one of our beloved characters.  But sometimes, as they say, you have to kill your babies.

AH: How did you come to write this musical?

AB: The truth is, I’ve been writing this musical my whole adult life.  I first fell in love with Vonnegut, like millions of others, when I was a teenager.  When I was 15, I discovered the published teleplay our musical is based on and I began trying to adapt it.  The longer I live the closer I get to understanding how to successfully tell this story.  More than anything else I have written it is so closely aligned dramatically and thematically to who I am.  This version has been in development since August of 2009.

We did an informal reading in Chicago, where my brilliant composer/ collaborator Ira Antelis lives.  That reading provided us with one of the most crucial components for moving forward – a producer!  A dear friend, Josh Felderstein, had done well with investing in the Broadway production of THE COLOR PURPLE.  He offered his financial support to develop our musical.

So we were able to do a big, fancy Broadway staged reading in January of 2010.  That afforded us two fantastic development opportunities.  The first was in November 2010.  We did a student workshop at The Boston Conservatory.  If you ever lose faith in musical theatre simply spend one day with the brilliant students and faculty at my undergrad alum.  That was a real privilege.

From there, Peter Flynn at The Hanger Theater in Ithaca, NY offered to develop the musical in their gorgeously renovated theatre in the heart of Kurt Vonnegut country (yes, he’s from Indiana, but he went to Cornel).  Kirsten Sanderson has since come on board to help us develop it further and her artistic home is The Blank Theatre in LA.  And so…here we are!

AH: What do you hope that people will take away from this reading?

AB: Kurt Vonnegut wanted as many people as possible to read his books.  He made his books easy to get into and an absolute joy to get through.  He did not use big, fancy words and sentence structure.  But underneath his hugely accessible style were strong Humanist ideas (Vonnegut was a Humanist).  His love of the idea of America was only second to his fear of its inevitable fate.  These are the same things Ira and I think about and feel.

We want audiences to have an easy time getting into our show and then have an absolutely joyous experience throughout.  But when they get home, perhaps something begins to stir.  They think about Stony and his mother and the world they live in and they start to think about their own world.  We hope they are completely entertained, and then surprisingly provoked after the fact.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to share our history and thoughts.  I hope this has proven informative and in some way to useful to anyone reading it.

AH: Thank you, Andrew. It’s always a pleasure to learn from you.

Download the interview here: Interview with Andrew Barrett – BETWEEN TIME AND TIMBUKTU



TheatreNow! Interview with Fran Tarr

Hamilton Dramaturgy’s TheatreNow! is a podcast series featuring some of the most exciting women artists working in the theater today. Anne Hamilton is the producer and host. You may listen to the podcasts and read the transcripts at http://theatrenow.wordpress.com

Hamilton Dramaturgy’s TheatreNow!  

Interview with Fran Tarr, Playwright, Filmmaker, and Educator

(Season Two, Episode Four, September, 2011)

Anne Hamilton: Welcome to Hamilton Dramaturgy’s TheatreNow! This is a podcast series featuring some of the most exciting women artists working in the theatre today. I’m your host, Anne Hamilton. Today we are speaking with Fran Tarr. Fran is a writer, independent documentary filmmaker, and the Founder and Director of BREAKING WALLS. She was Education Director for the Women’s Project and Productions, and currently serves as the Education Coordinator at the Atlantic Theatre Company. Since 2006, she has volunteered leading play-making workshops in Israel, Liberia, and Palestine. She is based in New York City. Welcome, Fran.

Fran Tarr: Hello.

AH: Well, Fran, I’m very excited about your film, which is now completed. Can you tell us about it?

FT: Certainly. The title is BROOKLYN BRIDGES- TO BETHLEHEM AND BACK and it tells the story of three inner-city Brooklyn students who travel to Bethlehem to write and share life experiences with the teenagers in the Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem.

In the process of writing, they discover the things they all share in common, as well as the unique differences that each of the group and the individuals have. Once they finished the writing, they created a collage play script, and then the Brooklyn kids packed their bags, came back to Brooklyn, and a week later, the Bethlehem kids arrived. We spent a week rehearsing and having meetings here in New York at the State Department and with various other change advocacy organizations and individuals. And then we performed our play at the Atlantic Theatre Company Stage 2 for a live audience.

AH: What was the name of the play?

FT: BRIDGES NOT WALLS.

AH: And can you tell us what that play looked like and what the content was?

FT: I can indeed. Collage plays are constructed from poems, interviews, music, dance, monologue, anything that the young artists – in our case the kids in Brooklyn and Bethlehem – have created as a group. And then we select certain pieces and construct them into a performance piece. This particular piece, BRIDGES NOT WALLS, used several different writing themes. Here’s an example of three or four of the topics that were covered in the production:  “I want my words to…”, “I want my life to…”, and “How dare you say that to me?” And one of the most extraordinary triggers that was used in the writing was a quote that is as follows: “Some people put up walls, not to keep others out, but to see who cares enough to break them down.”

And in the case of the Brooklyn and the Bethlehem kids, walls are particularly significant. Clearly, [there is] the wall of separation in Bethlehem, but even in Brooklyn, [there are] the walls that the young men and women feel from the police, and from racism. So we thought that those were particularly interesting. Several of the young men and women in the cast are very talented musicians, and they created music. And so it was very much a musical/movement/language-based performance.

We had another situation that developed while we were writing and sharing life experiences in Bethlehem, and that is, that two of our young men had problems getting their visas to the US from the US consulate. So, in the end, they couldn’t come. And so then we added another dimension to our performance, which included the words and faces of the two young men who couldn’t come. So when it would have been their turn to perform live, we switched to them on the screen. So it was a multimedia extravaganza.

AH: How imaginative. It sounds wonderful.

FT: Thank you.

AH: And how was it received?

FT: People really, really enjoyed themselves. They really did. And they respected the young men and women for being so honest and so brave to talk about their lives. But I think the thing that the audience and the young men and women involved discovered from the entire experience – and especially the performance – is just the amazing resilience that they are able to voice through their writing and their performing. And that, despite the challenges that they endure day to day, they are hopeful. They are proud. They’re wanting and eager to help others write and share these same kinds of experiences. They’re not defeated by the world around them. They are inspired by it. And that really came through in the writing and it really impressed the audience.

AH: Did you have some kind of audition process to include the individuals in the group?

FT: That is a question that I get asked all the time because the nine men and women are so amazing. Everyone wants to know how I found them.  I literally went into a high school in Manhattan, Independence High School, and just pitched the idea – Who feels their voice goes unheard? Who would like to be given the opportunity to discover their voice and a platform on which to use it? And I did the same thing in the Aida refugee camp and then I just took the kids that raised their hands, and ended up with nine really, really terrific young men and women.

AH: So they self-selected.

FT: Yes, they did. And they talk about the fact that part of what empowered them is the fact that when a positive situation is placed in front of them, they have the courage to step into it, not back away.

AH: That’s life, isn’t it? [Laughter] That’s a good way to live a successful life. I’ve just learned a lesson. [Laughter] What made you decide to travel abroad?

FT: That’s a very good question. Unfortunately, the answer’s going to be kind of long, so bear with me. In 2005, I had an extraordinary idea. I still believe it is an extraordinary idea. And that is to create a series of one-hour docudramas, so that there would be live action filming, and then it would be interspersed with interviews from the young men and women who have actually lived these experiences. And the experiences would be focused in seven countries where kids come of age in conflict: Palestine, Liberia, Columbia, Detroit, Iraq. So that was my plan. And I really didn’t know how one connected with those individuals.

So, I called their consulates at the UN. And of the countries that I contacted, six bent over backwards. They just couldn’t help me enough to locate recent immigrant communities. But I was having a more difficult time making a connection with the Palestinian mission to the UN. And while all this is happening, I just got this very random email that said, “Palestinian Kids Dance.” So I opened it, and they were going to perform in June of 2005 at the Barrow Street Theatre. So I went over, I watched the performance which was lovely, a lot of Dabka dancing and all of that. And I kept looking at the kids and thinking, “Wow! They look so much like the kids in Brooklyn”.

So, when it was over, the founder and the director of the Al-Rowwad Cultural and Theatre Training Center in the Aida refugee camp spoke to us, and he said, “We’re always looking for volunteers”. And I said to myself, “That’s how you get to know these kids. You go there as a volunteer for three weeks or a month or whatever”. And I actually had a skill to offer them, which was the writing, performing workshop that I was doing. So, I wrote him a letter and golly if he didn’t call me and say, “Will you come?” So I went, and it was the experience that I had expected it to be. These kids were really, really cool. They were honest, open writers.

So, when the workshop ended, Dr. AbdelFattah said to the kids, “I want you to tell Fran what you thought of it”. Never before have I instantaneously been given feedback like that. And they all really liked it and when we reached one of the young women named Islam, and she said, “Before you came, I always felt like a failure in writing”. And I couldn’t believe it, because I thought she was brilliant. And as she said that, out of the corner of my eye, I could see all the other young men and women at the table shaking their heads in agreement. They said that their teachers are just like, “Don’t be creative”. So, I was totally humbled by the whole experience, and they invited me to come back saying that it was the best collaboration they’d ever had. So that was great.

And I got back [to New York] and I was teaching one of my writing workshops for the Women’s Project, and the classroom teacher said to me, “Well, what did you do over mid-winter break?” And I told her about how wonderful the whole experience was. And she looked at me and she said, “You have a documentary there”. And I’d never thought about making the documentary. And I owe her a huge debt of gratitude because without that one sentence, I never would be where I am today.

So, I went ahead gung-ho, and when I got ready to make my first documentary, just as I was getting ready to go to Bethlehem to film, Nancy Abraham at HBO called and said she wanted to see it when it was done, so then I just went gung-ho forward to make that documentary. And then the logical step was then to make the new one where the kids actually worked together and got to know each other, which is a truly remarkable film, truly remarkable film.

In fact, in my first film, which is called, BETHLEHEM TO BROOKLYN: BREAKING THE SURFACE, I did exactly the same writing workshop, and had the kids write their own collage play and perform it. The kids in Bethlehem did theirs, and then I came home and I found the Brooklyn kids, and they did it. And then we spliced it together, going back and forth. And interestingly enough, the first time I showed the film in the New York public schools, a young man raised his hand and just said, “I love it. But I have a question. Why didn’t they write and perform together?” And I was like, “Wow, really? That’s a great idea”. So that was why we ended up taking everybody to Bethlehem and then bringing the Bethlehem kids here, so that they could actually experience it together.

And I think that, not only is it a remarkable film – BROOKLYN BRIDGES- TO BETHLEHEM AND BACK – but it has inspired these nine young men and women as well as myself to go on to the next step, which is to introduce the writing and performing workshops that we’re doing internationally. And that’s breaking walls. Our first scheduled workshop is in Berlin in the summer of 2012. And the cast members from the film will now take my role as facilitator, and they’ll be deciding on the themes, deciding on the writing trigger, getting the kids to write, giving them positive feedback, making suggestions, selecting the best for the collage play, directing it. They’re going to take all that over. And then also become part of selecting the next location for our summer of 2013 workshop.

AH: How about China? The Great Wall.

FT: I’d love to go to China. I’d love to go to China. Just throw out those ideas, send us some cash, and we’re there. [Laughter]

AH: I love that the teens are teaching one another. That’s magnificent.

FT: Yes, they really are. The thing that was most fascinating to all of the kids was that we were sitting in the Aida refugee camp in the Al-Rowwad Center writing, and then I would give out the writing trigger and then we would all share, and they would say, “We’re so much alike. We all have these same feelings of, ‘I don’t want to be misrepresented, I don’t want to be disrespected, I have this hope and dream’”. And it was just amazing.

AH: What are their hopes and dreams?

FT: Their hopes and dreams, that’s an excellent question. They all want to get a good education. They all want to take care of their families and make their families’ lives better. Ryan from Bed-Stuy really wants to get his family out of Bed-Stuy, into a really safe suburban life. They all want to be seen as valuable members of their communities and a leader in their communities. Mohammed from Bethlehem talks extensively about how he wants to feel as every human feels, you know, just free and open to live his life any way he wants. And the Brooklyn kids feel the same way. They feel very restricted in their lives.

I’ve known those young men and women. I’ve worked in at-risk areas my entire teaching career. And yet, it took me all of those years and schools and programs to reach a point where I could be sitting with Ryan in Bethlehem late at night, one evening, and he turned to me and he said, “Do you have any idea what it feels like to be black?” And I, of course, don’t, and he started to tell me and the kids chimed in. There’s been a real education for me, a real depth of feeling of these young men and women about the things that we don’t necessarily want to look at. First of all, there are the political issues of racism and apartheid, but there are deeper issues of stereotyping and making quick judgments based on a quick assessment of how a kid looks or sounds, and I think [sharing their viewpoint on these issues is] the most beautiful part of the writing and the performing that these young men and women are doing. And also in the film, you see just how completely, completely engaging and disarming these young men and women are. I think that they are really great diplomats and ambassadors for their countries, their communities, and their cultures.

AH: How old are they?

FT: They are now, sixteen through twenty-one. They were fifteen through twenty when we were doing the film.

AH: Is there any chance that the students from abroad can come over here and study?

FT: That would be an extraordinary situation. That would be great, that would be great. Clearly, it would be something that I would love to help facilitate. There are cultural issues. A lot of the families do not want their daughters to travel alone to a foreign country, especially as freshmen in college. That would be one obstacle. It is difficult for the young men to get visas. As I mentioned, Mohammed and Mahmoud, could not join us in the summer of 2010, but since then, Mohammed has gotten his visa. I think that for the Arabic students, they are more comfortable going to Egypt, Lebanon, and those areas, or staying close to home. Staying close to home is really important, and they can work and be at home. I think there’re some financial considerations there as well.

AH: How about educational opportunities for the students who live in Bed-Stuy?

FT: Clearly they all want to get good educations. Fabie is going to Plattsburg State University and she’s doing beautifully, beautifully. She’s on the Dean’s list. She’s working hard to get a 4.0 this semester. I mean, she is a highly motivated young woman and student. Ryan, he’s hoping to go back to school in spring semester of 2012 to study sound engineering.

AH: Well it sounds like quite a bunch of responsible young adults to me.

FT: Yes, they are, they are. They’re great. You can tell. I feel very fortunate to know them. I feel blessed that they raised their hands to be a part of my film. I feel blessed that they were willing and able to do such great writing, and just really be troopers far, far, far from home, no matter what you threw at them. They were like “Okay, yeah, we’ll do it. We’ll taste it. We’ll do this, we’ll do that”. And they were willing to put together this extraordinary performance. I mean it was really, really professional. There’s a clip on my website. It really looks professional. They did a beautiful job and they’re not trained actors.

AH: What is your website?

FT: www.bbdocumentary.com.

AH: Very good. I hope our listeners get to visit the site and take a look at it.

FT: Me, too.
AH: Well Fran, I had an idea which is that perhaps you could do an online teaching workshop that would link into several countries at once, and see what you came up with in one day. [It would be interesting to] see what the students wrote. I think teleconferencing could be a very good way of spreading your program more.

FT: Well, that’s interesting to hear you say that and a lovely way to get the Bethlehem and Brooklyn kids involved at the same time. Also, Ryan, Shan and Fabie, the Brooklyn cast from Brooklyn Bridges, have been selected to represent the United States as the United Nations International Year of the Youth “Take the Leadership” Conference in Jerusalem in November. And so, it’s an extraordinary opportunity for them of course, but they’re also going to be connecting with kids from twenty different countries. So, that would be nice. We could build on that connection right away by having these teleconferencing-type workshops and see what happens.

When the Bethlehem students were here, we went up to the Bronx and did a writing workshop. We showed our first film and did a writing workshop and it was amazing. What the kids wrote like in fifteen minutes, [was a great accomplishment], so I can’t imagine if we were to do something for an hour, what we can actually come up with.

AH: Right. It sounds very exciting, very beautiful.

FT: Thank you.

AH: So, Fran, I just have to ask you, what drives you to do this kind of work?

FT: Well, I think I have two answers or perhaps it’s a two-part answer. Number one, I always loved school, and it was very clear to me that a big part of why I love school is that my teachers always looked [at me]  and found something in me that I didn’t know existed. Or, if I exhibited some sort of special trait, they really nurtured it. They really nurtured it from the time that I was very, very young until the time I left high school. So, I think that because that’s how I was treated as a student and it made me feel so special and so unique, and [it] really nurtured the artistic part of me, that I have always been really open to doing that for others no matter where I find them.

The second part would be that the first job that I ever had as an educator was teaching elementary school art on the south side of Chicago, and that really opened my eyes to the world. I’ve always been really open and really curious about the world. But there was something about stepping into that environment and meeting 900 kids a week, and guiding them through the series of art experiences, and taking them on field trips and everything. I realized how truly, truly brilliant and bright and articulate and funny and passionate these children were. And yet so many assumptions were placed on them that were inaccurate, and that has always been a driving force behind what I do. One of the kids summed it up the best: “If you don’t talk to us, you assume the worst”. And so, my teaching, my own writing, the documentaries, the BREAKING WALLS writing performance/social activism program that we’re initiating – they’re all for the same reason. [The kids are saying,] “Get to know us. Before you make any kind of decision about who I am, get to know me. See who I am on the inside.”

AH: That’s both a very wise and a very intelligent statement to make for ones so young.

FT: Yes, yes. I think that when people see the film – and at some point, hopefully, we’ll be able to get the writing published – they will see how truly, truly bright and inspiring these young men and women are. They truly are. And how universal what they’re saying is. It’s not just representative of this or representative of that. It’s so universal. The lovely Sofia Ramadan, from Bethlehem, summed it up at the performance in August of 2010, when someone asked how big did the kids want to see the bridge that they were creating grow, and she said, “We want everyone, no matter your race or your culture or your community and your religion, to join us on this bridge.”

AH: That’s beautiful.

FT: Yeah.

AH: I can’t help but think of the Brooklyn Bridge. Did they take a walk on the Brooklyn Bridge when they were there?

FT: No, they didn’t. We should have done that.  Next time, when they come for the film festival, we’ll take them to the Brooklyn Bridge and have them walk across.

AH: Yes, it sounds wonderful. So, I want to talk for a moment about Speak, Reach, Peace Out. Can you tell us about that?

FT: Yes, I’d love to tell you about that. Speak, Reach, Peace Out is our online teen literary, visual art, photography and music magazine. You can go to the website www.srpoutmag.com, or go to the BB documentary site and find it on there as well. You can submit your writing to us and it will be published. So we’ve got that going on too. We’re really hoping to get a big impact from that because it really is a wonderful opportunity for young men and women to get their work published and to have it read internationally.

AH: Who are your editors?

FT: My editor is an amazing young artist and literacy educator named Rebecca Masback, and she is the project manager and editor for that. She has done a brilliant job.

AH: How did that come into being?

FT: [Laughter.] Well, you know how these things go. When you start these processes, you meet people and when I talk to people they’re so funny. They’re like, “Are you listening?” Especially if we’re on the phone, they’re like, “Are you there?” And I’ll say, “Yes, I’m listening and I’m taking notes”. And someone said to me, “You know, you really have a unique opportunity to draw in more and more kids to be a part of what you’re doing by having an online outlet for them and resource for them as well”. It has a little book nook. Right now we’re accepting quite a bit of poetry, and so you can go to the book nook and it tells you how to order books on how to write poetry. So, we’re trying to make it sort of an interesting resource as well as a platform for kids to get their voice out there.

AH: That’s marvelous.
FT: Thank you.

AH: Fran, let’s talk about your own writing. I’ve been privileged to read and dramaturg some of your plays and screenplays. Can you tell us about the story that grew out of your meeting with Salomea Kape?

FT: Oh, of course I can. I think that one of the things that I hope that this interview has highlighted or underscored is the theme that runs through my life: How important it is to connect to people that you wouldn’t normally connect with. How life is really about what you make it, and what an important role we really can play in an individual’s life. So, when I had the privilege of meeting Salomea Kape, I was just blown away by her story. Not only her story about surviving and coming of age in the Lodz ghetto during World War II, but the fact that she really didn’t want it to be like, “This is Sally’s story. This is who I am. This is what I did”. She really wanted it to be about all the children who had gone through that same experience. And with her guidance and support and love, I was able to create what I believe to be a truly, truly brilliant and under- recognized story.

When you’re talking about the rebels in Libya or what is happening here in some hotspots, you see pictures of the wise older people and their beautiful weathered faces. You see the little children nibbling on a little cookie. So, it’s about the young and old, or maybe the tough fighter, but there isn’t any imagery of the young men and women that are struggling to come of age, who are the high school kids in those environments. Now maybe [we see] some are the child soldiers, but that’s really negative. There’s still a ton of kids out there that are just trying to be like Mohammad and Ryan and the Brooklyn and the Bethlehem kids, and that is to stay on course. To [not only] take advantage of the positive opportunities that are placed in front of them [but also to] seek those out.

So when I met Sally and I could tell a story of these two young women, and because they’re characters that I created, they’re composite characters based on real kids in the ghetto, real young people who were twelve when they were sealed inside the ghetto in 1940 and seventeen when the Russians liberated them in 1945. What is it like to become a teenager and experience first love and poetry writing, and fights with your girlfriends, and trouble with your parents when you’re trapped inside a Nazi death camp? You know, I mean I think that’s an important story to be told, and I’m privileged that Sally let me tell it. And I think it has a lot of relevance today still, even though people aren’t really locked inside of ghettos, but they are locked inside of small worlds that sometimes appear that there is no way out of.

AH: Right. I have this thing which I do periodically. I try to walk through walls that I construct myself, whether I’m afraid of something, or I feel like I’ve been barred from some experience or some opportunity. I try to perceive the walls and purposely walk through them simply to prove to myself that I can do it. And I think it’s a really good practice. It’s the practice of walking through walls. I think that’s what you’re doing for these young adults because you’re helping them walk through walls, which metaphysically is not possible, yet metaphysically is possible because you’re doing it. I think that’s a great lesson. So Fran, how do you think that theatre helps build resiliency?

FT: On a multitude of levels. First of all, theatre, especially if you’re doing the writing, allows you to reach inside and tap into your own personal void, which is hugely important for everyone. Dr. Martin Luther King told us, “Violence is the cry of the unheard”. So we need to have more opportunities for the voices of the underrepresented to be heard. So that’s the writing piece.

But from an acting pov or the directing pov, [theatre] allows an individual not only to get their voice heard through the character, but it allows them in many ways to escape the reality of their situations, either because the character is so unusual and so different from the way they live, or because the characters are handling the challenge in a way that the individual wouldn’t, or in a way that they wish they themselves would. So the theater experience is on a bigger, broader and more pronounced stage or platform.

So, I think, it offers these young men and women – all young men and women, anyone who participates in theatre, and the audience – the opportunity to get a view of the world that they wouldn’t normally take in. That’s the beauty of theatre, that fourth wall experience where you are drawn into a world that you wouldn’t normally experience, in a very intimate way that a film can’t really duplicate.

AH: Fran, I want to talk about your early artistic influences. Where did you grow up and what kind of artistic endeavors did you take part in when you were kid?

FT: Oh, my golly. I was born and raised in Omaha in a really large family – a really large family. And the emphasis in my family was sports. I was just this absolutely happy-as-a-camper tomboy. Any kind of sport you named, I was there; baseball, football, hockey, bicycle riding, tree climbing. We even created a game, my brothers and I. We called it polo, and we rode our bicycles and we used a soccer ball and hockey stick. Yeah. So, that was sort of the environment that I was raised in, and yet I had, from very young age, this sort of interest in using my hands. My father owned a shop in downtown Omaha called ‘Ted’s Pen Shop.” And so I had access to all these pens, and these different nibs and all of this, and I started writing.

When I was in kindergarten, I could print sentences, and then my brothers were learning how to write cursive, so then I started learning cursive, and the next thing I knew I found a book on calligraphy, and I was experimenting with all these different writing styles. And then, a girl moved into our parish, our Catholic parish, named Susan Richardson, and I went over to her house one day and we were drawing. That’s what we were doing, we were drawing. And I just started drawing, from that experience. I mean that’s what her family did. My family beat each other up with hockey sticks or chased each other, which was just great. It was a very beautiful way to grow up.

So I learned this from Susan and then I started drawing and the next thing I knew, again coming back to the teachers, I was recognized as a school artist and whenever they needed anything in my elementary school, I was called down to the office.  [They said,] “We need this and we need that. Will you draw it, will you paint it, will you do this?” And [my reputation] just sort of grew from there until I became sort of this renowned drawer. And it continued during high school, same thing. And then, I was known as visual artist in school and at home. My parents were like, “Oh, look at her”.

And then, when I was a freshman in high school, the principal called our home on a Saturday and said to my mother that she believed that I had an extraordinary speaking voice and she wanted me to join the speech team. I had to memorize these speeches and deliver them in competition and I loved it, and I did really well at it. So here was, again, educators spotting me out of a crowd of kids and really opening doors for me. So now I’m a visual artist. I’m a thespian and speech team member in this all-girls catholic high school. Even starting as young as ninth grade, we would have this big assignment coming up, and the teachers handed out the sheet to everyone, and at the end of class they said, “Frances, I need to talk to you”. I go over and they’d take the sheet out of my hand and they’d say, “Do whatever you want. Just create whatever you want”. I was always just given this free reign to create whatever I wanted as my Latin project, as my language arts projects – not math – but social studies, anything.

I could dream of anything I wanted to do and I just went nuts. I was just allowed to be as creative as I wanted and clearly, because I worked so successfully from the initial time that I was asked to do whatever I wanted, they continued. I graduated from high school just making things up. [It was like,] “Okay Frances. Everybody is going to do this and this, and what’s Fran doing?” and stuff like that. [Often I’d say,] “I haven’t decided yet.” [Chuckle] So clearly that had huge influence on my life and how I perceived the world – I wasn’t judged like everyone else. I was treated uniquely and because I followed through, I didn’t slack off, it only built my reputation.

So I left high school as a visual artist, a speech team girl, a poet, and editor of the high school yearbook. None of those things would ever have popped into my mind to do, although by the time I left high school, I knew that I wanted to tell stories that could change people’s lives. I knew that, whether that it was as newspaper editor [or in another position]. Once I got my job teaching, then I knew that was where I needed to be. That was how you told stories to change people’s lives. You are an arts teacher.

AH: Well, it occurs to me that you have quite an old soul, and also another layer that most people don’t have, which is that you seem to be able to experience what you’re going through and also kind of look at it from above. You’re able to look at the situation and figure out how to make connections – how to draw meaning out of whatever you’re experiencing or whatever your opportunities are. And I love that about you and I love that you’re endlessly inventive. You make the opportunities for other people and you also teach them, by example and by deliberate instruction, how to do the same for themselves. So I feel like you’re replicating your artistic spirit, and I really respect that.

FT: Thank you. Thank you.

AH: I think you also have another layer of maturity in that it doesn’t seem to me like you try to control the teens. You let them speak, and I respect that very much, because you’re providing an opening in which they can grow instead of providing a slot, which to your teens, frankly, would cause them to feel like they’re in another set of walls.
FT: Very perceptive, yes. And also it makes it so much more interesting and fun for me. And again I will quote of the Bethlehem kids, Fida. After we finished our first film, she and Sophia and Rowa made a little two-minute movie saying how much being in the film BETHLEHEM TO BROOKLYN: BREAKING THE SURFACE meant to them and Fida said, “Fran really let us be ourselves and she really listens to us. She really listens to what we’re saying. She’s not like, ‘Oh yeah, just give me the check marks’”. I’m not expecting them to say what I want. So, that of course is empowering for me, and it keeps me on my toes to always be open, and really listening to what’s being said. And encouraging them to be honest, and providing them a safe environment in which they can be honest.

So when I say safe environment, I don’t mean physically safe. I mean emotionally safe. So that you know if you say something, nobody’s going to give you any grief or if you share something, it stays where it stays. You’re not going to hear it come back to you from somebody that wasn’t in our group.

AH: I think that if one adult gives one teen that opportunity [to speak freely], that’s imprinted on the teen and it gives him or her confidence to be able to find other people like that. It’s patterning that you’re providing, which I really appreciate.

FT: Thank you. It is my dream that that is true. It is my dream that that is true. And I hear Ryan say it all the time. He says that, he said he [has loved others] a lot, but through these experiences he just loves more. And his friends tell me that they can’t put their finger on it, but he’s so different since he came back from Bethlehem.

He’s so different. And he’s still the cool Ryan, the rapper, sitting on the stoop with his friends, but he’s a different young man and he’s so responsible. Oh my gosh.

AH: That’s wonderful. Well Fran, I have to say it’s been marvelous to speak with you today. Thank you.

FT: Thank you so much for the opportunity.
AH: You have been listening to Hamilton Dramaturgy’s TheatreNow! We have been speaking today with Fran Tarr and you may follow her career through www.frantarrpro.com. You may read a transcript of this interview and download this podcast at my blog, which is theatrenow.wordpress.com. This is Anne Hamilton. Thank you for listening.

TheatreNow!’s Sound Editor is Otto Bost (http://www.folkdude.com) and our Program Assistant is Cate Cammarata. Nancy Ford composed our theme. Visit http://theatrenow.wordpress.com to subscribe to our blog and be notified when new podcasts are released. Hamilton Dramaturgy is an international script development consultancy located on the east coast of the United States. You may contact Anne Hamilton at hamiltonlit@hotmail.com. © 2011 Hamilton Dramaturgy.

Hamilton Dramaturgy’s TheatreNow! – Season Two

(Episode One)  Kamilah Forbes – Artistic Director, Hip Hop Theatre Festival

(Episode Two)  Laura Maria Censabella – Playwright

(Episode Three)  Paule Constable – Lighting Designer

(Episode Four)  Fran Tarr – Playwright, Filmmaker and Educator

(Episode Five)  Jennifer Tipton – Lighting Designer and MacArthur Fellow

 TheatreNow! - Season Two, Episode Four

Fran Tarr, Playwright, Filmmaker and Educator


Anne Taught Screenwriting/Playwriting Workshop at Philadelphia Writer’s Conference

I had the pleasure of teaching a scriptwriting workshop at the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference from June 3rd through 5th.  One of the nation’s oldest writing conferences, past instructors have included the great novelist Pearl S. Buck. Close to 200 participants attended. I taught three one-hour sessions to about 25 class members on topics including: dramatic elements, the dramatic form, developing character and storyline, differences in formatting between screenplays and stage plays, the writer’s life, cultivating self-expression, and myths and truths about professional writers. I gave the students several writing exercises in free form expression and writing taglines. I discussed the opening from the screenplay WINTER’S BONE to demonstrate characterization, diction, and tone. Class members read roles in a scene from a terrific comedy written by another participant, and I taught them how to give feedback in an appropriate and constructive manner.  Finally, I read two excerpts from my own work to illustrate the use of imagery and high dramatic stakes – the opening of AND THEN I WENT INSIDE, Part II of  THE STACY PLAY – A LOVE SONG – VOLUME I, and the monologue RED RIBBON TIE, which is part of ANOTHER WHITE SHIRT.

I will be looking for other opportunities to serve as a conference workshop leader. Thank you, PWC.

Here are testimonials from four of my students:

“I had the privilege of attending one of Anne Hamilton’s playwriting workshops at the 2011 Philadelphia Writer’s Conference. As an emerging playwright I found her workshop to be superbly instructive; submission formats and targets for submitting plays were particularly helpful. Her in-class writing exercises and prompts were excellent workshop fuel and her reading from her own piece about the 9/11 attacks was galvanizing. It’s good to know there is a resource like her out there as my portfolio of plays continues to evolve.”

-Lisa S. Lutwyche has a BFA in painting, a BA in Art History, and spent 28 years in corporate and residential architecture and design, teaching creative writing at a community arts center since 1992.  After attending AROHO (A Room of Her Own, a selective, bi-annual women’s writing retreat in New Mexico) in 2009, and a workshop there with playwright Ellen McLaughlin, Lisa started writing plays.  She had her first one-act play, THE FALL, produced in the 2010 Philadelphia Fringe Festival.  A poet, novelist, essayist and playwright, she is currently working on her MFA in Creative Writing through a low residency program at Goddard College in Vermont.

“Anne Hamilton provides an outstanding workshop for aspiring playwrights and screenwriters.  She speaks from a wealth of experience as a playwright and dramaturg and is able to impart her knowledge clearly and in a manner that is helpful to those on every level of proficiency.  Her handouts, which cover key elements of dramatic writing as well as formatting, are useful, plus she excels at establishing a warm, encouraging presence that infuses the insightful critiques of work submitted by members of the workshop.  I strongly recommend her.”

Diana Pazicky, Assistant Professor of English, Temple University

“Anne Hamilton’s recent Playwriting/Screenwriting Workshop at the 2011 Philadelphia Writer’s Conference was intriguing and informative. Her experience as a Dramaturge was put to good use in passing-on solid, technical information on Playwriting, together with “tricks-of-the trade” and some of her own powerful, inspirational writing.”

Nick Lutwyche has nearly 50 years of experience in military aviation engineering and operations,with 25 of those years in Royal Navy aviation including active service. He has had long time involvement in Community Theatre in the UK and the USA, which has helped preserve his sanity. His roles in many venues include  Actor/Back Stage/Front-of-House/Scenery/Construction/Trash-hauling/Lighting. One day he will write that play…

“I had the pleasure of taking Anne Hamilton’s screenwriting workshop at the Philadelphia Writers Conference. Ms. Hamilton offered a wonderful overview of techniques, examples of works and priceless information for breaking into the business. To be honest, I was on the fence as to whether or not I wanted to pursue screenwriting. However, Ms. Hamilton was so encouraging and inspiring that I applied to MFA programs that same day! Her workshop was truly an invaluable experience and easily my favorite of the three day conference.”

Porsha Addison, Aspiring Screenwriter/MFA Student