Celebrating the members of the League of Professional Theatre Women

Archive for the category “Dramatist (Playwright)”

Jenny Lyn Bader

New York, New York USA

When I was a child, most of the stories I encountered were written from a male point of view, so when I began writing, I too wrote stories from a male point of view! Remarkable to think about now, at that time it was the default setting for fiction.

Default settings do change and not always for the better. These days if you order coffee with milk you are asked if you want skim. When did skim become the default? That has to do with dieting trends and is perhaps a subject for another day…

But the shift from the inevitable male narrator must be seen as auspicious. What a breakthrough that in our times we don’t have to take a male pseudonym or masquerade as men in a fiction. When we do, though, it still helps, which feels sad. Yet at least today we have the privilege of airing and hearing a rich variety of female voices.

Wendy Wasserstein was my mentor for seven years, and before that I was her assistant for seven years. I admired how she approached the page without hesitation, even as she frequently repeated the Zen koan, “Plays are hard.”

I must confess that answering a question like “What is the one thing nobody knows about you?” is utterly confounding: there are so many.

Other things you are unlikely to know about me:

I adore social, emotional, and impersonal math — the adding and subtracting of items that actually can’t be quantified.

Against the advice of close loving friends, I wrote a full-length play in verse.

For a long time, I harbored fantasies of having a pet turtle.

In a recent interview, I revealed for the first time my early use of boy narrators. The interviewer, upon hearing this quirk of mine, responded that she had done the same thing. I wonder how many voices have developed by trying on other voices first.

My guilty pleasures are vintage port and vintage humor.

Jenny Lyn Bader co-founded Theatre 167, serves as Director of Artistic Development and co-authored the Jackson Heights Trilogy. Plays include Mona Lisa Speaks (Core Ensemble), None of the Above (New Georges), and Manhattan Casanova (Hudson Stage). A Harvard graduate, she contributed frequently to the New York Times “Week in Review” when it existed.

Jennifer Lane Bustance

JennyPlaywright, Arts Administrator
Astoria, New York USA

Where do you look for inspiration? Travel! Nothing inspires me more than visiting a new city (favorites include Prague and Barcelona) but barring that, I love to park it for a few hours in the Drama Bookshop and read whatever is on their wall of Staff Recommended plays.

What’s your favorite movie: All About Eve Song from a Musical: “Finishing the Hat” from eSunday in the Park with George  Cocktail: I’ll take a glass of white wine over a cocktail any day. Book: Crime & Punishment, or Jane Eyre, or The Unbearable Lightness of Being or The End of the Affair or Revolutionary Road or… I could keep going (I love to read.)

What play or production changed your life? Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses and the SoHo Rep production of Sarah Kane’s Blasted. But really, other theatre artists have changed my life much more dramatically than any individual production. Sarah Ruhl, Chuck Mee, Kelly Stuart, Lucy Thurber, Stuart Spencer — these remarkable writers are also wonderful mentors and teachers. They’re the ones who have changed my life.

I feel most like myself when I… am writing. Or, more accurately, I feel most like myself when I have just finished writing: in that moment when I am satisfied with the work, before the dark cloud of self-doubt has a chance to descend.

What is your best escape? Video games. I think I enjoy them because they tell me stories and offer me small, meaningless tasks to finish, so I feel like I’m engaged but it couldn’t possibly matter less whether or not I’m good at it or I finish at a certain time, etc.

What’s the one thing nobody knows about you? I don’t know how to admit this, I think it’s going to out me as a bad theatre nerd, but… I don’t like Chekhov. There. I’ve said it. It’s out there. Please don’t judge me too harshly.

Jennifer Lane’s work includes Harlowe (developed under the mentorship of Sarah Ruhl, winner of the Alec Baldwin Fellowship at Singers Forum); and The Seer and the Witch (developed in the terraNOVA Groundbreakers Playwriting Group). Jenny is the Administrative Director for the LPTW and the Literary Manager for APAC. BA: Sarah Lawrence; MFA: Columbia University.

Margaret Fofonoff

meg's photo 2Executive Producer/Artistic Director/Writer
Boston, Massachusetts USA

What is your favorite line from a play?
“What are we crazy or something?” from Guys and Dolls characterizing those wonderful and stressful moments in our theater world that we would not trade for anything.

What play or production changed your life?
A production of Ragtime at The Strand Theatre in Boston. It was a show that I always dreamed of doing since I love the score, story and imagery. It was the experience of a lifetime to do this show where it really meant something in the heart of inner city Boston. We also made an important political statement just before the 2012 election that was heard far and wide. It is not often one has partners like the American Civil Liberties Union and The City of Boston, who both really care about making a difference. We all are on the same mission to make the world a better place for everyone. It is rare one has the opportunity to give back.

When I looked around on opening night at the diverse sea of faces in the audience, I knew this was not like any audience I had seen in any other Boston theater. At intermission I remember a lovely older African American patron, unconnected to anyone in the production, approached me, grabbed both my hands and said, ”Thank you so much for doing this, it means so much.” I will never forget that moment as it embodies why we all do what we do.

Is there anything you still dream of doing?
So many things! A production in NYC, writing a new work, collaborating with my son writer/filmmaker, changing the world for the better in as many ways as I can.

What is your best escape?
Ballroom dance. It takes me away from everything else and the music and steps fill my head and make me smile.

Margaret Fofonoff (Executive Producer & Artistic Director, Fiddlehead Theatre Company) founded Fiddlehead theatre in 1993 and continues to produce and direct all shows and drive the artistic direction. Fiddlehead is a medium professional IRNE and Broadway World award-winning theater. She has a BA from Boston University with honors.

Talia Pura

Talia-Pura-200actor, aerial dancer, playwright, filmmaker, educator
Stonewall, Manitoba, Canada

Inspiration comes from every aspect of life: snippets of conversations, interesting news articles, even from dreams. Once, I dreamt the entire plot of a feature-length drama. As I dreamed, I knew that I wasn’t in the story, just watching it unfold. It was right there in front of me when I woke up. All I had to do was write it down. If I knew how to make that happen again, I’d do it every night! I’ll even admit to taking notes when certain friends call me to chat. Sometimes reality makes the best fiction. I’m also very interested in writing about historical women who should be famous, but are largely forgotten, like Emilie du Chatelet, Voltaire’s brilliant mistress. She deserves to have her story known.

When I want to write a relationship play, you can’t beat the advice columns in the daily newspaper for all the myriad ways in which people mess with each other. Sometimes, you just can’t make this shit up! After shaking my head and having a chuckle, I’ll imagine the ‘what if’ moments between the characters described in the column, and another play is born.

I feel most like myself when I am doing what I love: Writing something truly satisfying, seeing my students make discoveries in class, performing on camera or stage, and physically – when I am climbing silks. As an aerial dancer, I experience the pure joy of flying. A side benefit is the thrill of hearing audience members gasp when they’re sure you’re plummeting to the ground, when I know that I’ve made a knot that will catch me just in time. Another benefit is being more fit than ever before in my life. As a dancer on stage, I was always slender, but there is something truly satisfying in being able to haul your own body 25 feet up into the air on nothing but fabric, knowing that you have the strength to hang on as you perform complicated wrapping patterns and poses, falling and twirling and spinning through space.

Talia Pura is an independent theatre artist. Her book, STAGES: Creative Ideas For Teaching Drama, is available on Amazon. Her five shorts have screened at various film festivals. She also loves performing on silks, producing her one-woman plays and teaching drama at the University of Winnipeg.

Zanne Hall

Zanne photoPlaywright
Kew Gardens, New York USA

I look for inspiration by keeping my eyes open, my ears clean and unwavering concentration on life around me. It’s not always easy because we all get wrapped up in the problems of daily living and lose focus on activities around us, whether it be the sunlight streaming through a window, our pets, the grocer down the street – whatever. We get scared and worry far too much. It’s not good to primarily focus on the self a majority of the time because then we lose our perspective of how ever-changing life is. Look at how a child sees everything around it as new. So do animals. How many times have I said to myself – “I don’t remember seeing that before?” – but it was always there. I just wasn’t paying attention.

What hones my day-to-day inspiration and helps me plug it into my creative writing process is music. I think that music is the purest artistic discipline because it directly connects to our emotions. The music I listen to or even just the sounds of everyday living (perhaps hearing distant wind chimes) helps me to create worlds inside my head and then influences them to manifest theselves outside of my head.

Favorite Movie – “Fasten your seatbelts…” What else? A movie about theatre: All About Eve!

One Thing Nobody Knows About Me – If I told you, then you’d know!

Zanne Hall: Theatre’s been in my blood since I was a kid stage actor in Pittsburgh, PA and continued through to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London. I began writing plays later in life because I had such fun creating characters and putting them in unusual situations that surprise and inspire.

Cecilia Copeland

Cecilia CopelandPlaywright and Artistic Director
New York, New York USA

Where do you look for inspiration? I don’t typically look for things but just start writing and then they present themselves fully dressed demanding an audience and a suitable story to go with it.

What’s your favorite movie – Dune; cocktail – Gin Martini, stirred, not dry, not dirty, straight up, olives on the side.

What play or production changed your life? The first play I ever wrote solidified for me that I was meant to be a writer. It was a one act called The Amusement Bomber and was made into a short with Metro Screen Productions. The writing was an instruction in thought development and the piece turned out to be very synchronistic in ways that I couldn’t explain beyond to accept that by writing I was beyond the limitations of myself. That sounds more vague and esoteric than I wish it sounded, but it’s the truth.

Is there anything you still dream of doing? Lot’s of things! I want to have a major Broadway Production of one of my plays that features a female protagonist in the science fiction genre, explores poetic realism as a style, and uses Transmedia. I would also like to have a family with a partner who engages me on all levels, especially the intimate ones. I would like to promote and assist in establishing government policy that develops the Arts in the United States and to earn a very comfortable living via my creative writing.

I feel most like myself when I … am around someone who gets me or when I’m writing.

What is your best escape? It’s pretty rare for me in my life right now, but I think making love is the best escape ever because it’s not a solitary escape it’s a co-created reality that’s good for one’s soul, body and mind.

What’s the one thing nobody knows about you? I was going to say that my answer to the last question might be a good one, but I don’t know if I can answer because I don’t believe I can truly be certain of what someone else doesn’t know.

Cecilia Copeland. Playwright and Artistic Director, NYMadness. Recipient of the Lennis J. Holm Scholarship at the Writers Workshop, Finalist for Mabou Mines Residency, and Semifinalist for The O’Neill Playwright’s Conference. Her work has been produced by Metro Screen Australia, Culture Project, IATI, The Disreputables and workshopped at TerraNOVA and New Dramatists.

Laurie James

New York, New York USA

Where do you look for inspiration?
I am inspired by all around me, what I see, hear, touch, read, while walking along the water’s edge under a hot sun, but mostly just by people, what they say, do, their daily lives, how they interact and react to situations, the choices they make, the company they keep, the pets they keep, the clothes they wear.

What’s your favorite movie?
Could there be any movie better than Gone With the Wind?

Is there anything you still dream of doing?
I dream of living to be 114 years of age, like a woman I heard about on TV, I dream of being able to speak Italian and live in Italy for at least a year; I dream of writing plays and having them performed in regional theatres, off-Broadway and on Broadway; I dream of standing on stages facing and inspiring audiences; I dream of every woman being able to bring forward her individuality and reach her potential and desired goals; I dream of a world without war, at peace, in happiness.

What is your best escape?
The beach, white sand, blue water either crashing or quietly cascading, scraggly trees bending and inviting, myriad shells daring you to pick up and add to your already overflowing collection.

What’s the one thing nobody knows about you?
Nobody knows that I like to walk in crowds, study the varied faces, wonder where each one is from, where going, what doing, how their lives are lived, etc., and make up stories.

Author/actor Laurie James has toured her original solo dramatization, Men, Women, and Margaret Fuller, throughout USA, in theatres, Chautauquas, colleges, libraries, conference sites as well as Mexico, Hong Kong, Edinburgh. Her book, Men, Women, and Margaret Fuller, won New York Foundation for the Arts non-fiction award.

Deborah Asiimwe

Deborah Asiimwe, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenMy full name is Asiimwe Deborah GKashugi, but I officially go by Deborah Asiimwe.
Theatre practitioner, playwright and performer
New York, New York USA and Kampala, Uganda

What’s your favorite book?
Maya Angelou’s I know why the caged Bird Sings

Favorite line from a play:
“When the madness of an entire nation disturbs a solitary mind, it is not enough to say the man is mad.” Betrayal in the City: Francis Imbuga

What’s your pop culture guilty pleasure?
I enjoy watching the episodes of “Army Wives”….endlessly 😉

What play or production changed your life?
The musical – Sarafina!

Is there anything you still dream of doing?
Learning a new language.

I feel most like myself when I ….
This keeps changing, but for now, it would be when I am with my brilliant, funny 5-year-old nephew who is not afraid of asking me any questions that come to his mind.

Where do you look for inspiration?
Landscapes. Sitting by a water body. Silences.

What is your best escape?
Reading gossip columns

What’s the one thing nobody knows about you?
I can’t ride a bike and I am terribly embarrassed about it.

Deborah Asiimwe is a playwright, producer and performer from Uganda. Her numerous plays have received productions and readings in the US and East Africa. Asiimwe received her MFA in Writing for Performance from CalArts and was the overall winner of the 2010 BBC World Service African Performance playwriting competition.

Zoe (Corell) Kaplan

Zoe Kaplan, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenProfessor, actor, writer
New York, New York USA

The plays and productions that chiefly inspired my theatrical passion were GB Shaw’s Heartbreak House, where I played Hesione Hushabye when I was 19,and The Barretts of Wimpole Street where Ii played Elizabeth at 20. (Both were college productions, with such professionals as a young Barnard Hughes, doing the men.)

I played featured roles in Joe Papp’s Shakespeare in the Park in earlier days, and acted in several Off Broadway theatres – and Fringe Theaters in London – as well as the “Play of the Week” on TV, and a few other TV shows.

I still participate in readings, the latest being at Jonathan Bank’s Mint Theater in a short DH Lawrence drama.

I was fortunate in growing up in Manhattan in a very intellectual and artistic household, as well as in having an uncle who was the Music and Drama critic of a NY newspaper From the age of 4, I was taken to theater, opera, ballet and concerts – in press seats – till I was a late teenager. As I always say, I’m the only person I know who went from the best seats to the gods, instead of vice-versa, as in the normal course of events!

I still hope to have some success in playwriting. I translated Alfred de Musset’s Lorenzaccio from the French, and Harold Clurman, at the end of his life, liked it so much that he opted to direct it but died before this could happen. The Guthrie also was interested in producing it, but it never materialized. As a lyricist, I wrote the lyrics for a projected musical version of Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard – which I retitled The Trees of Silence. (Some famous composers were interested – George Kleinsinger, John Duffy – but considered it too operatic, being on the cusp of Sondheim’s capitalizing and popularizing of that form.)

The theater still beckons and remains a passion.

My biography of “Eleanor of Aquitaine”- a most dramatic lady-was published in the late 1980s.

Zoe (Corell) Kaplan, native New Yorker, attended Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London; has acted here in and in London. PhD in Dramatic Literature, History and Criticism from CUNY; taught for many years at CUNY, NYU and Marymount Manhattan College. Published poetry, short stories, lyrics, and working on plays.

Catherine Schreiber

Catherine SchreiberProducer, Actress, Writer
New York, New York USA

Where do you look for inspiration?

My favorite current quotes
“Any idea that isn’t dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.”
— Oscar Wilde
“Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done.” -Louis D. Brandeis

What play or production changed your life?
Desperate Writers – successfully producing the play I co-wrote, and acting in it. This jump-started my producing career, and I started producing on Broadway in 2010.

Is there anything you still dream of doing?
Being a lead producer on a major Broadway hit and seeing shows like Scottsboro Boys and Stick Fly get the widespread attention they deserve.

I feel most like myself when I ….
am acting on stage

What is your best escape?
Traveling with my family, being away from computers and phones, but it’s pretty impossible. I have a hard time not working, but I love what I’m doing, so I really don’t need an escape.

Catherine Schreiber: Tony-nominated producer (four productions): Peter and the Starcatcher, Clybourne Park, The Scottsboro Boys, Next Fall; other recent productions: The King’s Speech (London), Stick Fly, Desperate Writers (Off Broadway). Catherine is also a feature/tv/stage actress and writer. Founder: Center Theatre Group. B.A. Yale College. Happily married with children.

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