INTERVIEW: THE DRAMATIST

Interview in The Dramatist by Les Hunter
November/December 2018

 

In my first update as the new Ohio Regional Representative, I introduced myself and outlined some of my goals in this position. This second update is about you, the Ohio Dramatists Guild members. This update will begin with a brief review of the recent survey sent out to Ohio DG members and will conclude with a spotlight on one of our members, Dr. Mary Weems, whose new work, At Last, will be produced by Bringing Words to Life at Cleveland's Ensemble Theatre from Feb. 22 through March 3, 2019. 

Who are Ohio Guild members, and what are their priorities? The Ohio Member Survey was created to answer these questions. The data provided by respondents will help inform our strategy for serving members in Ohio. Twenty-six percent of Ohi oDG members responded to the survey. Of the respondents, 90% said they are primarily playwrights, and 10% said they are primarily lyricists. Generally, respondents are active online. Seventy percent have visited the Dramatists Guild's new website and 75% were members of "The Dramatists Guild - Ohio Region" Facebook Group. Responding to the narrative question, "Why did you join the Dramatists Guild," many respondents mentioned the model contracts and business affairs resources available through the DG, and many mentioned wanting a sense of community. It is in this latter area, building community, that I would like to continue the great work of our previous Representatives. According to the survey results, the most commonly listed, desired type of Guild event is one dealing with various forms of professional development including submissions and productions workshops. Secondly, respondents said they wanted craft discussions and talks about dramatic writing. In response to the stated desires by respondents in the survey, the Ohio Region of the Build has partnered with local organizations across Ohio for three upcoming events. The first was a craft talk, "Writing Plays that Get Produced" at Playwrights Local (www.playwrightslocal.org) in Cleveland on September 29 at 1pm. The second was a full afternoon of craft talks, professional development panels, and a meet-and-greet at MadLab Theatre (www.madlab.net) in Columbus on October 14.  Both of these events will be complete by the time of printing this update (look for a report on these events in the next update). The first event of 2019 will partner with Cleveland Public Theatre (www.cptonline.org) in January as part of their Entry Point New Play Development Series and will focus on development and craft issues. Check your emails and the Ohio Region Facebook Group for more on these events.

But our Ohio members are more than just statistics. Dr. Mary Weems, a longtime Guild member and winner of a 2015 Cleveland Arts Prize Emerging Arts Award for Literature, proves that. I recently sat down with Dr. Weems at a coffee shop on the East Side of Cleveland to talk about her work and upcoming productions. For Weems, theatre is "a way to learn about the cultures of people from different background." Her work particularly focuses on theater as "the language of life" to "create plays based upon my interpretation of the black experience." When writing a new play, Weems first asks, "Who is on stage? Where are they? And, what is their first line?" She used this technique while writing her play At Last. The piece is comprised of a series of monologues celebrating the lives of famous black women including Etta James, Zora Neale Hurston, Josephine Baker and Michelle Obama. Originally written in 2009 for a production through Cleveland's Ingenuity Festival, Weems has continued to develop the script and received recent development through Dobama Theatre's Playwrights Gym. The upcoming production of At Last, directed by Ashley Aquilla from February 22 through March 3, 2019, will be produced by Bringing Words to Life at Cleveland's Ensemble Theatre.

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