Center Theatre Group has announced the participants chosen for the 2011-2012 Writers' Workshop. Administered by CTG's Literary Department, the Writers' Workshop consists of seven Los Angeles playwrights who gather over nine months to share their work and assist one another in the creative process of developing their individual plays.
The selected playwrights are Padraic Duffy, Larissa FastHorse, Sigrid Gilmer, Prince Gomolvilas, Jennifer Haley, Matt Sax and Steven Yockey.
The Writers' Workshop is a great way for CTG to foster relationships with local playwrights, to facilitate progress by providing resources and to bring together the local playwright community. The writers are welcome to work on plays commissioned by or scheduled for production at other theatres. "We don't have ownership of the plays. This is really just for us to maintain friendships and working relationships and to encourage the work of local playwrights," said CTG's Literary Manager and Resident Dramaturg Pier Carlo Talenti. "There's a wide array of theatrical voices that call Los Angeles home and they deserve our support."
There is no application process for the program. Talenti and Literary Associate Joy Meads follow numerous local playwrights and invite seven to participate each year. All writers must reside in Los Angeles and be either starting or interested in starting work on a new play. They look for local writers from diverse backgrounds with varied writing styles who are challenging themselves and their audiences. This year's members are no exception.
Writers' Workshop member Sigrid Gilmer "writes plays that are experimental, both in form and content," said Talenti. Playwright Matt Sax is known for his previous work with CTG including "Clay" and "Venice." Steven Yockey writes playful, innovative and theatrical pieces. "He exhibits a real interest in storytelling, fairytales and myths," added Meads. Talenti called Padraic Duffy "a brilliant comedic writer," and said Jennifer Haley "writes a broad range of plays that are usually theatrically inventive." Prince Gomolvilas is also known for comedies and Larissa FastHorse is a Native American playwright with a diverse portfolio of plays.
The Writers' Workshop kicks-off with a weekend-long salon in October. Each playwright identifies local experts on the subject of his/her play and invites these experts to join the group for a discussion during the salon. Playwrights are encouraged to invite two experts from different fields in order to represent varying perspectives on the same topic. Past guest experts have included an LAPD homicide detective, the creator of Kwanzaa, a Cal Tech seismologist and a Los Angeles Times writer. Guests for the upcoming salon include the mayor of West Hollywood and a professional ghost hunter.
The playwrights will then meet once a month over the next seven months. While many use this time to hear their pages read aloud by colleagues, some invite additional experts, discuss relevant issues, or work with other members on improvisation exercises to further scene development.
In June, members gather for a three-day retreat during which they hear all seven plays that were written over the course of the workshop. CTG hires professional actors to do cold readings throughout the retreat.
While this program has been around for 15 years, this is only the sixth year that it is following this format. "The idea of the salon came after we received a grant in 2001 from the James Irvine Foundation to commission seven plays on California themes. As a part of that, we did a private and public symposium where we invited local thinkers to talk about Los Angeles. That was so exciting that I chose to use that format starting in 2005," said Talenti.
Several of the plays developed in the Writers' Workshop have been produced around the country, including Lisa Loomer's "Distracted," which premiered at CTG/Mark Taper Forum, Julie Myatt's "My Wandering Boy" and Adriana Sevahn Nichols' "Night Over Erzinga." Julie Hébert's "Night Falls" will be seen in San Francisco this fall and Lila Rose Kaplan's "Entangled" will premiere at UC Santa Barbara's Launch Pad in 2012.