This year for the New Voices Play Festival GVT reached out to find out more about the playwrights. We asked them some questions and here are their answers!
Slow Dating – An elderly woman spends the night with a charming stranger and realizes the heartbreaking decision she must make.
Q – In your opinion, what are the characteristics of a good 10-minute play?
A – I like when a play grabs me straight away – an interesting character, situation, an unusual problem. I’ve found the best way to engage an audience is to start big, take them on a ride and end in an unexpected but satisfying manner.
Q – What are some techniques you’ve perfected for yourself over the course of your career?
A – I think as a writer you never perfect anything. My approach is trying not to be too terrible and work my way up from there. The most important technique I’ve perfected is self-discipline – sitting in the chair, writing every day – even when it isn’t flowing, because every bad word makes me a better writer.
My niece is just getting into writing and she recently asked me “how do you write a good story?” I said write 10 terrible ones first. I then explained how writing 10 good stories would lead to a great one.
Q – Which of your plays is your favorite? Which of your screenplays is your favorite?
A – I wrote a play called Spiderman that was really well received in festivals around Australia, across Asia, New Zealand and Dubai. It’s about two romantic male spiders who dream of finding true love in a world where women just want men for sex and for lunch. I think audiences really connected with it because it reversed gender stereotypes and shone a light on sexism, patriarchy and leaving the toilet seat up.
I have just written a short animation called Red Balloons. It’s about a young girl who sees a lone red balloon flying past her house every morning at the same time. Following one leads her to a magical place and back to where they are coming from. I’m on the lookout for a talented animator to bring it to life.
Adam Szudrich is an award-winning screenwriter and playwright whose work has been seen throughout Asia, Australia and the United Arab Emirates.
Forever – A quirky comedy with a new twist on life everlasting.
Q – What made you want to participate in New Voices this year?
A – Actually I just happened to see the news article in our local paper regarding New Voices and said “Why not”. I have been playing with playwriting for the past three years as a challenge to myself. This past summer I came up with an idea for a short play that I thought was unique, saw the news article and gave GVT a copy. When chosen, it was “Wow, what a wonderful surprise.”
Q – Are you working on anything exciting right now?
A – I am always working in my head. So far, nothing new on paper. It will come when it will come. I do not force it, I just get a couple of characters together in my mind, let them have a talk and write down what they say.
Q – What suggestions do you have for new/beginning writers?
A – Try to find something familiar and make your audience see it in a new or unique way. Write what you know, then it will be true. And always: Revise, Revise, Revise.
Danny Boone is a Greenbrier County native who has been involved with GVT for over 40 years, most recently as Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol.
In Her Golden Years – The story of a mother finally confiding in her daughter.
I Saw What You Said – An examination of what happens when social media interferes with life.
Q – The plot in I Saw What You Said is something most people can relate to, have you ever been confronted in that type of situation?
A – Yes. I had met someone I found to be completely charming and amiable in person- and then this individual “friended” me on Facebook and immediately began posting political rants that were, to me, utterly abhorrent. I was so disappointed in the difference between the live person and the cyber version, and so confused as to how to handle the situation- that it eventually let me to write I Saw What You Said.
Q – What do you want audiences to take away from In Her Golden Years?
A – I generally shy away from saying what others should take away from my work, but in the case of In Her Golden Years I think, at the very least, audiences might recognize the idea that we really never can completely know our own parents; no matter how sure we are that we do.
Q –D you think live performance theatre is important in our culture? What suggestions do you have for someone just starting out in the theatre world?
A – To me live performance has never been more important than it is right now. At this point in our history, where technology and social media has the effect of dissociating us from each other, I believe the act of watching live human beings talking, communicating with each other and an audience, is as vital as it’s ever been.
If I had to give advice to someone starting out in theatre now, it would be to try to keep some small part of your work only for yourself, separate from any meter of success or failure, praise or rejection. I think it’s extremely important to appreciate the pure joy of creating, because it may very well be the one thing in your career that never fails you.
Q – Have you ever performed in any of your plays?
A – Yes, I began as an actor and only started writing after being told many times that I was “hard to cast type”. I have performed in many of my own works, but over time, even I’ve found myself ‘hard to cast’ and now most of my plays have no part for me.
Q – How is writing a 10-minute play different from writing a full length play?
A – The difference between 10-minute pieces and full length play is, to me, simply getting to the point. You need to kick off your plot from the very top of the play and make sure to always maintain forward motion.
Korbar is a well-known playwright whose work has been produced throughout the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.
Ira’s Fantastical Night Ride Up New York 9 – One man’s battle with dementia, while his wife watches helplessly from the sidelines.
Q – When did you write your first play and what was it about?
A – My first play was called Huntington’s Railroad, a one-act piece about the sit down strike at the automobile plant during the height of the American depression. It was produced as part of a campus wide study of the American depression at my alma-mater, Otterbein College, in 1983.
Q – What was your inspiration for this play?
A – Ira’s Fantastical Night Ride Up New York 9 was inspired by my father, a brilliant man who was struck down by Alzheimer’s disease. The play is one of four plays planned to track the disease and its impact on a spouse.
Q – How do you hope the audience will respond to the play?
A – I hope the audience will not pity Ira but cheer him on towards his dream to reach his beloved mountains. Like my own father the struggle to reach dreams should never end; likewise, I hope the audience chooses to support Holly at her crankiest moments. Her life has been robbed as well.
Les Epstein’s long career in theatre includes writing, directing, acting, singing and teaching at different theatres all over the country.
William H. Sikorski
Canon 983 – The story of a priest forced to make an impossible decision.
Q – Did you study playwriting or creative writing when you were younger? Who are some of your favorite writers?
A – I have no formal training in writing or theatre. On a whim, I wrote my first play four years ago in response to a call for submissions by a local community theatre for its annual 10-minute play festival. Mine didn’t make the cut. I figured, “If you can’t beat them, join them,” so I went to the auditions for that play festival to see if I could get cast in one of the winning plays. I was, and that was my first acting experience. I used the opportunity to understand the theatre process (how the actors and directors translate a script into a performance) and what makes a winning play. That helped, as my plays were selected in each of the following years. (I also discovered that I enjoyed acting and have been in several shows since then).
Q – Did you know when you were writing this play how it would end?
A – I never know what the ending will be when I start writing. I usually don’t even know what the play is about. I start writing something, anything, and along the way if some idea emerges that seems interesting, I scrap all of the rest and build around the idea, which often leads to another better idea, so I end up scrapping and re-starting again.
Q – How would you describe your writing style?
A – Grow and prune, grow and prune. I write more than I need, go through the painful task of cutting out dialogue, plot elements, or even characters that I’ve grown to love (to get it down to target length). Then, I add to it again (building up and strengthening what’s left), pare it back down to size, keeping the best, and repeat until it doesn’t materially change anymore. Although I hate to cut out things that I worked so hard on, I must admit that it’s always better for having done so.
William H. Sikorski is a lab manager for 3M, and, in his (limited) free time, enjoys writing short plays.
Playing Cards by Twilight’s Shine – A fresh look at West Virginia’s battle with substance abuse.
Q – You do a lot of work with the theatre, what do you enjoy most about your time spent here?
A – I have really enjoyed getting to work with the variety of actors and technicians at GVT. I took acting and other theatre-arts classes in college, but I count my experience at GVT as my primary training. I always feel like I’m a theatre journeyman anyway, so working with people who are professionals and so much better than me has helped me improve.
Q – Your play could be read as somewhat of a cautionary tale, was that intentional?
A – If my play is a cautionary tale at all, it’s probably one about the destructive nature of hopelessness. It might not seem like it on the surface, but one of the major reasons these drugs take hold in small town America is often due to poverty. People in hopeless or depressing situations often either seek escape from that through substance abuse, or by the tremendous amount of money that can be made in selling those substances. Unless the sellers leave the area, they’re going to be selling to their communities, gaining new customers, continuing the cycle of destruction that might have been originally spawned by a miner being laid off. Granted, you’d have to squint pretty hard to see all that in my play, but that’s the idea behind it. The fantasy world of Eldridge exists in a bubble, seemingly protected against hopelessness.
Q – How are writing plays different from writing short stories? How are they similar?
A – Writing short plays, such as the ones in this festival, can be similar to writing short stories. Both have a limited amount of space in which to tell a story or convey an experience. But one of the major ways that plays differ from prose is in the ability to get into the heads of the characters. In plays this has to be addressed in terms of dialogue and performance alone—sometimes suggested by the playwright, but often intuited by the actor in the role. Prose writers use dialogue and description as well, but they have the ability to directly tell the reader things about the characters and situations, or even depict everything from a single character’s perspective, which is trickier to do in drama.
Eric Fritzius is a Greenbrier County native who has a long history with GVT. He has written and performed in many plays over the years, most recently in The Tragedy of Hamlet, and A Christmas Carol.
Housekeeping – In the not-too-distant future of this comedy, houses can be programmed and the “help” comes with different settings.
Q – How did you learn about the New Voices Play Festival and what made you want to be a part of it.
A – I was in the New Voices Play Festival two years ago with a play called The Drive-In. I’m in a Yahoo group called the Playwright Binge and that’s how I saw the original call for scripts. I had not had a production in West Virginia before so it was appealing. Once I get in a festival I like to submit to it again thinking my style of writing must appeal to the readers.
Q – What made you want to write this play?
A – This is the fourth play I have written about technology gone wild, and I would like to have them published in a script for an evening’s entertainment. I am not a technology person (still have a dumb phone) and the whole thing tends to scare me a little. I guess “scare” isn’t the right word, more like “intimidate”.
Q – What was the greatest challenge you had completing this play?
A – I have a line of Spanish and a line of French and I didn’t trust the internet to make a translation for me so my college-aged daughter had to find two people to translate. Also, it also took me a while to come up with the ending. I wanted the wife to come off as intelligent and with the upper hand.
Connie Schindewolf is a veteran playwright who has won multiple awards over her 25-year career.