Start a Playwriting Contest Using 20 Questions

Start a Playwriting Contest in 20 Easy Steps

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Twenty-nine years ago, I was president of a community theatre, the Columbia Entertainment Company, in Columbia, Missouri.  Also, I was the director of a youth theatre program for them.   I volunteered hundreds of hours to both programs. It was an amazing learning experience and one that I draw upon from time to time in my career.

Here is the story of probably the most important thing we did in this company:  We created a national playwriting contest for large cast youth theatre plays.  It is called the Jackie White National Playwriting Award Contest and still in existence to this day.  That’s a long time for a contest of this nature to flourish, especially sponsored by a community theatre.

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The Origin

Thirty years ago I was a young woman who needed scripts for large casts—over thirty students in number, ages fourth through ninth grade.  At the time, there were very few plays to choose from, much less musicals for kids.

 I lamented to a board I was having a difficult time finding any suitable plays for the season. In the past, I pad the roles with extra non-speaking characters or ones with little ad libs, but what I really needed was youth theatre plays with large casts, period. The board member suggested our company create our own playwriting contest specifically for this purpose.

So, really out of desperation, we created one!

Please understand, we had NO idea what we were doing.  We merely figured it out as we progressed.  It took us a few years to perfect the contest, but it is still one of the most valuable programs the theatre created.

The Why

Generally, playwrights need their plays or musicals to be produced before a publishing company will represent them. The Denver Performing Arts Center sponsors a New Play Summit each year in February.

Their contest is very clever.  The first time the winning entries are produced as stage readings with minimal set and costumes.  The audience gives feedback after the performance through a survey.

If the play suits DPAC’s needs, during the next season, they mount a full production of it.  My husband and I have attended several years of the New Play Summit and enjoyed being part of the creative process. We feel more invested in the play, because we offered our suggestions. Whether DPAC intends to or not, this is a terrific way to encourage audience members to return to see the production once it is produced.

Your contest could be created by your drama class, community theatre or even youth group.  There is no end to the possibilities a contest of this type affords a group. The contest can be as big or small as your group desires. You could sponsor whatever kind of contest you want—a ten minute plays, musicals for youth theatre, plays focused on bullying or plays concerning tolerance. It’s all up to you.

Now before you look at these questions and think is an overwhelming project, I want you to consider the people who will receive such fulfillment from the contest. Playwrights are always seeking places to get their plays read and produced.  That could be you!

Here are some questions to contemplate when creating your own playwriting contest:

1)      What is the mission of our contest?  What is our end result?  Are we looking for something particular subject to be explored? Reach a particular audience? Attract an underserved demographic?

2)      What are the requirements of the winning script?  Cast size, gender and age of characters, length of play or musical, set, costumes props and the feasibility of producing the script within the confines of our budget are all important questions to consider.

3)       Is any subject taboo? In some social circles, certain subjects are considered appropriate.

4)      How about inappropriate language?

5)      Should we charge a fee to enter the contest?  How much?

6)      Are there granting agencies or donors we could approach to fund the contest?

7)      What is our budget to spend to advertise the contest?

8)      What free media sources will we use to publicize the contest?

9)      Will we fully mount the winning entry?

10)  Should we present a stage reading?

11)  Can anyone enter the contest? Are we seeking only student scripts or adults?

12)  Who will read the scripts and make the final decision on the awardee?

13)  Will we award 1st 2nd and 3rd place awards as well as honorable mention? How many honorable mentions?

14)  What will the winner receive?  A cash award, gift, certificate, life time season tickets?

15)  Where will the cash award money come from? A donor?  A service organization? Your city’s arts council?

16)  After the awardee is selected, will we publicize the winner?

17)  Do we want to bring the winning playwright to the performance?

18)   If the winning playwright attends, is it our responsibility to provide room and board to them?

19)  If the playwright is present, do we want to host a social in their honor?

20)  What is our time line?

A Contest with Their Head in the Right Place 

I am an indie author, too. Recently, I ran upon an indie author book contest in England created by a popular children’s author, Edward Trayer.  The Whistling Shelf Award is a fairly new contest.

When I was perusing his website regarding it, I discovered he charges an entrance fee and donates a portion of money to the Blind Children fund in England. Now, that’s my kind of author.  Because of this, I quickly entered my book, Bumbling Bea into its competition.  I look forward to this year’s awards.

I believe in philanthropy and I believe in the power of theatre.  I bet you do, too.

Try your hand creating a playwriting contest. The Jackie White National Children’s Play Writing Contest is one of the most important programs the Columbia Entertainment Company ever created.

If a desperate, young director like me with no experience creating a contest can be successful, so can you!

Columbia Entertainment Company playwriting contest:   http://www.cectheatre.org/playwriting.html

Denver Performing Arts Center New Play Summit:

http://www.denvercenter.org/events/colorado-new-play-summit

Wishing Shelf Book Awards

http://www.thewsa.co.uk/

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or check out my website at DeborahBaldwin.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Critical Steps in Producing a Play or Musical: Stage Makeup

Let’s talk about steps in producing a play or musical:  stage makeup

When I was in seventh grade, I wanted to wear makeup. Of course, that was about 100 years ago, so let’s keep it in perspective….. My mother wasn’t ready for that step in my life quite yet, but I was.  Boy, was I ready. I read in a Seventeen magazine that I could make my own “home made” mascara using charcoal and petroleum jelly.  I went to work!

Now I’m not known to be very patient (although I am better now that I have grown older), so I looked around our house for the two ingredients I needed.  Hmmm.  I found a jar of petroleum jelly  in my bathroom cabinet, but charcoal?

The only charcoal I knew of was charcoal briquettes.  Being my impatient self and not taking into account that perhaps a charcoal briquette was the wrong kind of charcoal for my DIY mascara, I mixed it into the jelly anyway.  Yes. I. Used. A. Charcoal. Briquette.

No kidding.

Needless to say, it was a flop. Upon entering our dining room for dinner that evening while modeling my  “homemade mascara”, my mother let out an “Oh my!” Soon after  she drove to a Merle Norman store and enrolled me in a class about makeup.

I have refrained from making any other makeup products since that day.  I will admit that whenever we grill burgers over charcoal briquettes,  I grow a bit misty eyed remembering my DIY makeup days..

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The Infamous Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz film

The Thrill of Wearing a Costume

Like a costume, stage makeup ranks up there as one of the most popular aspects of theatre.  For some people, donning a costume and applying makeup IS theatre.

A costume and makeup psychologically comforts the actor and helps him to feel “safe.” A good director, especially in amateur theatre, must be careful not to lean on a character’s costume and makeup as the only characterization of an actor.  In that case, let’s just put the costume designer on stage and let her perform the show (I doubt she would appreciate that…) because the character solely originates with her and not the actor.  Tsk,tsk…

Stage makeup is different than street makeup (makeup worn for everyday use).  It is durable, saturated color and easily blended. It’s sturdy–you can cry, eat and have water thrown in your face and the stuff stays on!

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Makeup Designer

Makeup Designer

Since this series of posts concerns producing a play or musical and the critical steps one must take for a successful production, I  knew I should discuss stage makeup.  Do you have a makeup designer?  If not, a good place to find one is through hairstyling salons.  Most hairstylists are trained to do makeup as well as hair.  Many hairstylists LOVE this kind of work, because it is so creative.

If I need special makeup (say, for Ursula in Lil Mermaid), I give them photos of my ideas first.  Like set and costumes, a designer needs somewhere to begin in their designing.  In your budget, you need an amount for stage makeup.

I include wigs and hair needs in that budget, too–hairspray, bobby pins, hair nets, etc. If a designer must build a mustache or beard, that is an additional cost.  If you have someone who is familiar with stage makeup, so keep them around.  They are invaluable.

If you don’t have budget money for a designer, perhaps you could acknowledge them through your program and give them complimentary tickets to the production?

Specific Makeup Products

Every cast member should own their own makeup, however some things can be shared if you are on a tight budget.  If the makeup is selected ala carte, then I suggest you purchase:

  • foundation–several shades (I like crème foundation, but some people prefer pan.)

  • hi-light and shadow for contouring

  • translucent powder to match the foundation

  • eye brow pencil

  • blush–several shades

  • eye shadow–several shades

  • makeup sponges

  • spray sealer

  • makeup remover

  • eyeliner (should not be shared with others)

  • mascara (should not be shared with others)

  • lipstick (should not be shared with others)

You are going to pay more ala carte, than if you buy a kit or collection. Your actors may find that they like owning their own makeup.  I have my own makeup when I perform.

There are several companies and different size kits as well.  Like a “one size fits all” tee shirt (I have never understood that phrase), you can buy kits such as fair/lightest, to brown/Dark.  Ultimately, I suggest you find one close your skin color and work from there with the color provided in the kit.

Ben Nye Makeup is very good as is Mehron.  I’m partial to Ben Nye myself. The kits can run as little as $20.00 and upward to $150 for a comprehensive collection.  You’ll find what you need quite easily on line.

I played Nellie Forbush in South Pacific when I was in my twenties. This was NOT a character I ever thought I’d play.  In my mind, she was “101 pounds of fun” as the song says.  I wasn’t that poundage by a long shot.  The part called for a  bright, cute, sincere and naive young woman.   I worried that no one would believe my performance.

My favorite part of the whole experience (other than my husband, then fiancé who was the conductor) was the shower scene.

  I actually washed my hair and yes, danced with shampoo in my hair. Then I’d rinse it under ice cold water (!) while speaking with another character, wrapped it up in a towel and exited.  In the next five minutes, I dried my hair, reapplied my makeup and donned an elegant full length evening gown, drop earrings and elbow length gloves.  It was a blast to do!

Something about those two scenes helped me past the worry.  Every night as I stepped on the stage,  I knew I was surrounded by a wonderful armor which carried me past my fears and supported my character in a way I could never have done all by myself.

That’s what makeup and a costume can do for you.

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No, this is not me in my South Pacific costume…it is Talulah Bankhead which, for some odd reason, my mother nicknamed me.

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or Bumblingbea.com

I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

Maya Angelou's Thoughts

Maya Angelou’s Thoughts on Creativity

I have to agree with Ms.  Angelou. You can’t use up your creativity.

It seems the more I imagine, the more I scoop from the creativity pool. It is never ending.

Are you a person who has to make yourself sit down to create?  Sometimes I am the way.  In fact, I can easily distract myself.  Of course, I can always blame it on the ease of using the internet and “researching” for my next book. Usually, I end up on social media sites reading about kittens being saved from flood waters or something like that….

Honestly, I think my procrastination has to do with fear or failure.

I can’t really measure the value of something I’ve created.  I’m too close to it, or from my standpoint my work isn’t as good as someone else’s.

Nothing will stifle your creativity faster than comparing yourself to someone else.

I’ve been reading “The Big Magic” and let me tell you, Elizabeth Gilbert’s book is helping me in ways I didn’t expect.  It is very comforting to read a popular author admitting they don’t think they have much talent and are in a quandary why someone would want to read her books.

These are things I know about myself if I want to create:

  1. I have to have brain space.  If there are too many variables in my day (being grandma to our darling granddaughter, teaching and lesson plans, creating Teacherpayteachers products, daily goings on like the laundry needs to be done or we need to run errands,) I simply can’t create.
  2. I have to be rested.  If I’m tired or stressed, forget it. I simply             can’t imagine.
  3. I need classical music or sound tracks playing in the              background.
  4. My ideas arrive most fluidly between 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. and           4:00 to 6:00 p.m.
  5. I do my best creating on a rainy day.
  6. I have to have some plan before I begin whether it’s synopsis or an outline.
  7. I like my life to be balanced.  If I spend too much time creating lesson plan products or grading papers, then I need to do something such as cook a new recipe, or color in a coloring book or maybe write.

I used to think I was an “emotional perfectionist”.  That’s a person who needs to feel emotionally balanced in order to function well in life.  In some respects, I am one.  It is difficult for me to create anything of quality if I am stressed or worried.  (I can write really good poetry then, though. Ha!)

I think I will always have problems with self confidence and I have to be on guard to the little voices in my brain which like to distract me.  Those little boogers never seem to go away.

What do you do when you want to create?  Do you have certain steps you take to nurture your creativity?  I’d love to hear from you.

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or DeborahBaldwin.net

If you’d like to read more about my journey as an author, read here:

A Writer’s Journey: A Really, Really Long One But Worth It

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author interviews

My Latest Author Interviews

author interviews

I thought it might help if I compiled my latest author interviews for you. If you are wondering who the heck I am and why Bumbling Bea is a great book for your child to read, this should help!

https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2018/05/05/three-times-a-charm-an-author-interview/

https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2017/01/20/authorblogspot-another-author-interview-of-me/

There are some really nice book reviewers out there in the indie author world.  I happened to find two of them, or maybe they found me.

As an indie author, it is an overwhelming task to market your book.  I thought writing the book would be difficult. Trust me, that’s the easy party (“easy part?” you may ask…). Marketing the book is a hundred times more difficult.

Ever so often, however, you meet someone who genuinely wants to interview you about your book. Each time it occurs, I thank the powers that be because I know the interviewer could select anyone and they chose me.

And podcast have come along, too!  What a great medium for the author and reader.

Click here for a podcast: https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2018/04/06/10788/ 

I couldn’t believe Jed gave me thirty minutes to speak about Bumbling Bea.

Part of the reason I enjoy the interviews is most folks ask me questions which pertain to something about the book which spoke to them.  In Jed’s case, he had sponsored Asian students in his home.  That certainly brings a different perspective to the interview, because he can relate to the Beatrice’s Bumbling Bea bookstory just as I do.

Here is a clever one using my main character for the interview instead of me.

https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2017/10/05/exclusive-interview-of-my-main-character/

Isn’t that unusual?  I appreciate this one very much, because it allowed me to think about some additional back story on Beatrice and Michiko.

One of my fondest memories of book talks is when readers ask me questions about the story which I hadn’t thought about myself.  Questions such as:

What happens to Beatrice’s parents?  Do they stay together?

What about Michiko?  What happens to her?

Does Beatrice and Michiko continue to be friends?

Do Jerri and Peter remain friends with Beatrice once they are in high school?

Does Beatrice study theatre in college?  Check out this post for that answer: https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2016/10/25/ten-years-later-a-chat-with-beatrice/

I know I am very fortunate in this indie author journey.  I’ve made many friends through writing and I treasure their help, knowledge and support.  Someday, I hope I can repay the favor.

contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or DeborahBaldwin.net

I’d love to hear from you!

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Happy Mothers Day, the Sad and Happy Parts

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Mothers Day, the Sad and Happy Parts

May is Mother’s day month!

I wish I remembered this day.

I wish we could remember our lives from birth. It might help us understand some aspects  of ourselves we have overlooked.

My mother became ill and diagnosed with heart disease when I was ten years old. Although she lived a very long life, my brother shared she was never quite the same after her illness.

Here are a few things Mom taught me:

To delegate

To make caramels

To sew

To travel

To attend concerts and plays

To swim

To make a pie crust

To help people less fortunate

To love reading

To hostess a party

To love the out of doors

To appreciate the Arts

To welcome newcomers

To have manners

I have her green thumb and color sense. I can grow just about any plant with very little effort. I have a knack with color with practically a photographic memory of colors.

To some extent, I inherited my singing voice from Mom. When she was around eleven years old, she was asked to sing Japan’s national anthem for the Emperor of Japan for some public gathering. I guess she forgot the words.

She never forgot that or forgave herself.  What a pity.  At the time, no one knew that was too much pressure to place on a young person. Whenever I see a child singing the Star Spangled Banner at a sporting event, I think of Mom.

Mom wasn’t always the nicest person. She could be mean and spiteful. Then, no one knew about the benefits of anti-depressants or seeking counseling. Both were taboo.

If they had, I think a lot of Mom’s emotional and self esteem issues could have been helped. She had a tendency to pit her kids against one another which only pushed us to be more competitive with one another.

To this day, my brother and my sister and I are splintered with many deep seeded hurts. We can’t seem to get past them. Maybe she didn’t mean to do this to us, but it’s a common complain’t among us.

The good thing is I have broken that pattern with my own daughters and step son and they are all the best of friends with each other.

I hoped I’d  have a chance to speak to Mom about myself and what I’ve learned about life. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to do so.

I’m a very driven person who needs a constant creative challenge set before me. Mom didn’t understand that about me. In fact, I think it intimidated her. I know she compared her stay-at-home life with my sister and I and our working mother lives.  She appeared regretful about her decisions, but aren’t we all at times?

I’m sorry to say she could never teach me to knit. Lord, I’m terrible at it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Or sculpt! She was quite good. I inherited her hand sculpture which has no wire armature within it. It is perfectly balanced. We have moved twice in the last eight years and one of the first things I think of is Mom’s hand and whether it made through another move. It sits in my office and I love it.

 

 

 

 

I love fine china and art. I don’t especially like drinking hot tea, but I love to collect tea pots. That’s Mom’s influence. She prided herself on her English ancestry, drinking strong tea.

I don’t have enough walls for all of the art work I  inherited from her nor for my own collection. That’s her influence. “One can never have too much art,” and “Think of art as furniture” she’d say.

While on one our trips, one really funny thing Mom would do is collect rocks for her garden. I sat in the middle of the front seat of our red truck when we traveled.

Whenever we stopped for a break, Mom would go rock hunting. She’d put a newly discovered rock in the truck gleeful at her discovery. Whenever she wasn’t looking, Dad would have me sneak another “precious” one to him and he’d drop it out!

It was this crazy rock tennis match I still laugh about from time to time.

She never bought decent snacks for us, either. As a young girl, I would arrive home and hungrily search the kitchen for anything to eat. Usually, there was some old gross shrunken up apple in the fridge or maybe a piece of moldy cheese.

One time, I found the baking chocolate and took a hunk  thinking it was the sweetened kind. One bite and well, I’ve never recovered.

My mother was quite a character. She could be very kind and generous and on a good day, silly and funny.

I try to remember those times on Mothers Day. It only seems fair, respectful and appropriate. It’s the least I can do. You know?

Happy Mothers Day Mommas

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or DeborahBaldwin.net

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Lessons Learned as a Drama Teacher

The Lessons I Learned from Working as a Drama Teacher

In a past post, I spoke about my advice concerning teaching a drama class.  But I haven’t reflected on the lessons I learned about myself personally.

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After thirty-eight years of teaching drama to students of all ages, including adults, here are the lessons I have learned:

1. It is better to take the time to become well acquainted with my students than to hurry into a lesson.                People love to talk about themselves, so I give them a chance to do so.

2. I am punctual.  I like to be a bit early to engagements rather than late.  In the theatre, I was taught, “If you      are early, you are on time.  If you are on time, you are late.  And if you are late, you are in trouble.”  Works      for me.

3. I’m organized.  I like to have all the materials I may or may not need at quick access.

4. I over plan my lessons, so that there is more than enough material to cover in case my students zip                  through an activity or exercise. This helps me keep my anxiety at bay.

5. I still wear a watch to keep track of the time.

6. I carry a water bottle and a beloved large cup of coffee.  I replenish the water bottle many times during a        day.  Water and coffee help me to center myself if I find I’m unfocused.  Also, I carry snacks.

7. I dress nicely, but casually.  My mother always wondered my reasons for not wearing a dress to teach.  It’s        simple–I like to sit on the floor with my students, no matter the age.  I find it gives the classroom a kind          of closeness that chairs can’t provide.

8. I invest in a good pair of expensive Danskos clogs from time to time.  They are sturdy, last a long time and      have enough heel to make me appear taller. 🙂

9. I use my intuition and observation skills during class.  I’m aware of a class’ energy, dynamics and body            language.  If a group of lethargic kids enter the classroom, I take the time to re-energize them through a        game or merely telling a funny story.  Or, if they arrive too wound up, I will take the time to calm them            down.

10. At the same time I am organized, I do enjoy moments of improvisation–those times where the class               takes  off in a different direction than where I thought it would go.  It is quite easy to                                         become perfunctory in one’s teaching, especially if one teaches the same subject many times in a day.  Off       balance moments keep me alive in the classroom, so to speak.

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11. Over my many years of teaching, I have found students and parents to be much the same. It is the times        in which we live and societal norms that make for the changes in their attitude towards their education            and its importance in their lives and future.  When I first began my career, parents were very uninvolved in      their children’s education. That was in 1979.  Then I became a parent in 1983.  I stayed home full time with      our daughters for twelve years. 

12. When I returned to the classroom a parent’s behavior toward a teacher was quite different.  The parents        only believed their children and NOT the teacher, an adult peer to the parents.  Times change,                            however. Recently, I heard someone complaining about the damages of over gifting of trophies to                    the losing team. He mentioned that over praising children makes for lack of self esteem instead of the              opposite. Aha!

13. Theatre is created through an emotional person displaying other emotions. This is not an easy task,                especially for kids. Early on, I learned to model the emotion for them which gave them a starting point.            Sometimes, the student just needs you to go first.

14. I have believed in and lived my life by the quote, “People of integrity expect to be believed.  If they are          not, time will prove them right.”  There are moments in my career when I know I did or said the right              thing even if no one else agreed with me.  I hold myself to a high standard and expect students to do so,          too.  Sometimes parents or my administrators seem threatened by this. I hold my ground and it pays off in      the end.  I may never receive an apology from the accuser, but at least I can live with myself for doing              what was right at the time.

15. I rarely raise my voice with a class anymore.  I find that our students do not respond well to this.  I use a        call and echo response technique instead.

16. I like to be on top of my game when I teach.  Teaching a group of different personalities is stressful                enough.  I am rested.  I don’t grade papers on a weekend or spend my vacation thinking about the next            semester.  There is plenty of time for that later.  If I am given professional time off, I use it for myself.

17. There are some school related details I just don’t remember–deadlines for grades to be in, fire drill               dates,  turning in a class materials list, etc.  Usually, I find another teacher who can keep all of this straight       for me. They don’t know I turn to them for this information, but I do.

 18. When I am feeling bored, I usually entertain myself with a store bought lunch or new piece of music or         new acting exercise to teach.

19. I use humor A LOT. I lifts my mood.😊

20. I enjoy team teaching.  Recently, I retired from formal public school teaching (I’ll probably teach in the          private sector in the years to come).  I team taught with three different vocal music teachers in musical            theatre classes for six years.  Although it takes a while for me to adjust to another person’s style of                    teaching, I find that having another teacher in the classroom completely changes the dynamics and                  refreshes me more than it frustrates me.

21. I try not to knee jerk at a student’s behavior.  Sometimes I achieve success at this and other times not so        much. I still have to remind myself that kids make random behavior choices. Most of the time they                    are unaware of the consequences of their behavior.  I am very protective of my students, their                            learning time as well as mine to teach.  Even after all these years, I remind myself that not all behavior is a      direct attack at me.

22. I like to teach!  I think that’s one of the reasons I enjoy directing as well.  It is a kind of teaching.  There is      nothing more fulfilling than seeing the “aha” moment in a student’s eyes when they understand and                appreciate what I am instructing.

23. I am a better person having been a teacher.  It has brought out the best in me and shown me my                    weaknesses as well.  I impress myself by how much I know about theatre and quickly can become                      overwhelmed by how much I don’t.  I think that’s a good sign, though.

After all these years, I can still say I have room for improvement. Not everyone can say that about their chosen occupation.  Can you?

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I’d love to hear from you about what you have learned from your teaching experiences. Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or my website DeborahBaldwin.net

If you’d like to read about more of my teaching experiences, check out these posts:

https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2016/12/08/how-to-make-your-elementary-drama-class-more-successful-lessons-learned-from-38-years-of-teaching-drama-part-one/

https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2016/12/09/how-to-make-your-drama-class-more-successful-part-two/

https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2016/12/12/how-to-make-your-drama-class-more-successful-lessons-learned-from-38-years-of-teaching-part-three/

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No Small Parts

The Hidden Meaning Behind “There Are No Small Acting Parts Only Small Actors”

Broadway

I bet you have clicked on this post because you expect to find out  the hidden meaning  to “There are no small acting parts, only small actors.”

The Tony Awards show is Sunday, June 11!  I’ve been listening to the Sirius Broadway station all week (honestly, I do most days anyway) and it’s wonderful to hear the performers’ interviews and all the nominated show music.

The Tony Awards are the Oscar Awards for Broadway–except they are more classy, in my humble opinion.

Theatre is different.

It is special, because it is live.

What’s the hidden meaning behind, “There are no small parts, only small actors.”?

I got to thinking about the performers who are playing smaller parts in the nominated productions.  If you ever see them on television in a short quip on a syndicated news or talk show, you’ll observe those supporting characters and chorus members are just as invested in the production as the leading actors.

That’s impressive.  I bet the nominated actors and actresses began as chorus members and under studies many years ago.  They put in their time portraying small acting parts and earned their stripes to receive the spotlight.

Just because you are cast in a small acting part does not mean you are not important to the show. If you think so, you have missed the point entirely.

You are still important to the show.  Believe me.

However, if you can’t get past the fact that you are certain you could portray the role you didn’t receive just as well or better than the person cast, it might be best for you to focus on something else in your life.

 Get over yourself, you know?

Brighton Beach (2)

I was Blanche in “Brighton Beach Memoirs” 1989

If you aren’t cast in the role you wanted, it is not a big enough reason not to be involved in a production.  Maybe you are to learn or gain something else from the experience? Life is a journey, you know.

For several days after I cast a production, some times I deal with hurt egos of cast members or those who auditioned for me and didn’t receive the role they desired.

I know I’ve previously mentioned this–casting a production has a lot to do with who a director envisions in a role.

Sometimes I have no idea who I want to play a part.  Other times, the right person walks in and is perfect. They are the essence of the character all ready.

 Some people can mold themselves into what I am looking for.  Those people are special because they are versatile.

There are other factors in the decision to cast someone, however.

Do I know their work?  Are they responsible?  Are they known to be difficult to direct and/or not a team member?

cricket on the hearth (2)

I was Dot in “Cricket in the Hearth” 2000

There are people who can only portray straight roles.  Straight roles are those parts most closely related to your personality.  Have you ever seen someone in a movie who plays the same sort of roles in each movie?  The roles the actor portrays is much like her off screen. Aha. Personally, I think Meg Ryan is a good example of someone who can only portray a straight role.

Then there are character roles.  Characters roles are those parts which are unlike you–because of your age, stature or personality. Paul Giamatti can portray character roles with such genius.

Character roles:

Ugly step sister

Wicked Witch

Cowardly Lion

Shrek

Straight roles:

Cinderella

Rapunzel

Dorothy

Fiona

Luckily, I can play both straight and character roles. That makes me more valuable to a director.   To be honest, I enjoy performing character roles the most, because usually they are interesting and unique.

It isn’t about playing the lead.  It is about who you are best suited to portray.

Guess what?  I have not been cast in a production before.  No joke!  (I’m scoffing here a bit.  I hope you understand.)

So, chin up! If you don’t receive the role you craved for, your time will come in the future.

If you’d like to know about my acting journey, check this out: https://wordpress.com/post/dramamommaspeaks.com/389 

Watch the Tony Awards this Sunday, June 11 and pick out the chorus members or those supporting characters, folks portraying small acting parts.  See if you notice them.  If they are good at it, you’ll only observe them filling out the stage–sort of like shadows in a painting.

I know several actors who will perform that evening.  I am very excited for them.

 Shout a Bravo to your television and I will, too.

I think they will magically hear us…..

Importance of Beaing Earnest (2)

I was Miss Prism in “Importance of Being Earnest” 1976

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or DeborahBaldwin.net

I’d love to hear from you!

 

This is Why Public Education is Important and the Reasons to Provide it

I can give you tons of reasons why public education is important and the reasons to provide it.

But there is only one defense of it that truly matters. Read on.

crayons

My father was a physician.  By the age of twenty-one, I had traveled all over the world (Europe, Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, Soviet Union and Japan).  Consequently, my world view was completely different from my peers.  Just think what a child born into lower economics would have gained from such experiences?

I attended a private womens college.  You want to talk about a microcosm?  Your life becomes the world around you, right?  Honestly, it is easy to forget other people are suffering when your roommate’s only challenge is to get the best tan she can before she travels to the coast for Spring Break.  That was her reality, not mine.

Mine wasn’t as superficial, but I was plenty privileged.  Somehow, I knew so and this awareness serves me well. My father was raised on a farm when he was a child and my mother’s parents were missionaries in Japan.  Plus, they lived through the Great Depression.

There were times my parents were very poor.  Consequently, their childhood’s formed them which in turn shaped mine.  I knew I was fortunate. I was expected to help others, share my bounty and support those who were hurting. I have never forgotten this.

About thirteen years ago, I noticed the ELL students at my middle school weren’t fraternizing with the American students.  This bothered me.  I knew both groups could gain much from each other.  So, I developed an ELL Drama Club primarily to give the ELL students an opportunity to be seen in the school. They performed on the multicultural assembly.  They were so excited and loved every minute of it! It was a tremendous experience for us and one I will never forget, either.

esl-drama-club-pic

 

 

 

 

 

However, experiencing both public and private schools allows me a viewpoint some privileged folks never have.

I have a good grasp on the importance of public education and the reasons to retain it as our best option for educating our students.

I have taught:

  • at  private and public schools
  • the wealthiest students in a private, very prestigious preparatory program
  • the poorest students in a summer program with city funding
  • home schooled students
  • students in an arts magnet school
  • general drama education class to five hundred sixth graders, seventy-five at a time (for twelve years, I taught 400 sixth graders each year, yikes!)
  • created curriculum for individual courses in Drama from creative dramatics to film making
  • and a mixed bag of other teaching experiences too numerous to mention here.

There is one important reason that public education is vital to our country.

Simply put:

Public education gives everyone an equal opportunity to become educated and to reach their potential. All children and adults have the right to an education if they so choose.  No matter a person’s age or social status, everyone should be allowed to learn to read and write.

We are a varied society, rich in cultures from around the world. This is one of our greatest strengths, don’t you think? Living in a micrcosm of any sort divides us.  This is less likely to occur in a public school setting.

Public school levels the playing field.  There are many students who were born into extreme poverty and neglect only to become some of our most decorated heroes and role models.  In public schools, they can learn alongside students of privileged backgrounds. Generally, privilege gives one choices not easily provided for students with lesser opportunities. Public school gives opportunity to everyone of every economic background. It is that simple. This is why public education is important and the reasons to provide it.

crayons

 

 

 

 

You can argue until the cows come home about the reasons against public school education, but more than anything it merely comes down to this:

Public education embodies equal rights and provides an equal education and opportunities for everyone. Period.

If you’d like to see my teaching resume, go to: https://dramamommaspeaks.com/resume/ 

Playwriting Contest

Start a Playwriting Contest Using 20 Questions

This is my most recent article I penned for Litpick. I hope it’s helpful to you.


Start a Playwriting Contest Using 20 Questions

by Deborah Baldwin

Twenty-nine years ago, I was president of a community theatre, the Columbia Entertainment Company, in Columbia, Missouri. Also, I was the director of a youth theatre program for them. I volunteered hundreds of hours to both programs. It was an amazing learning experience and one that I draw upon from time to time in my career.

Here is the story of probably the most important thing we did in this company: We created a national play-writing contest for large cast youth theatre plays. It is called the Jackie White National Play-writing Award Contest and is still in existence to this day. That’s a long time for a contest of this nature to flourish, especially sponsored by a community theatre.

The Origin

Thirty years ago I was a young woman who needed scripts for large casts—over thirty students in number, ages fourth through ninth grade. At the time, there were very few plays to choose from, much less musicals for kids. I lamented to a board that I was having a difficult time finding any suitable plays for the season. In the past, I pad the roles with extra non-speaking characters or ones with little ad libs, but what I really needed was youth theatre plays with large casts, period. The board member suggested our company create our own playwriting contest specifically for this purpose. So, really out of desperation, we did!

Please understand, we had NO idea what we were doing. We merely figured it out as we progressed. It took us a few years to perfect the contest, but it is still one of the most valuable programs the theatre created.

honk-jr

The Why

Generally, playwrights need their plays or musicals to be produced before a publishing company will represent them. The Denver Performing Arts Center sponsors a New Play Summit each year in February. Their contest is very clever. The first time the winning entries are produced as stage readings with minimal set and costumes. The audience gives feedback after the performance through a survey. If the play suits DPAC’s needs, during the next season, they mount a full production of it.

My husband and I have attended several years of the New Play Summit and enjoyed being part of the creative process. We feel more invested in the play, because we offered our suggestions. Whether DPAC intends to or not, this is a terrific way to encourage audience members to return to see the production once it is produced.

Your contest could be created by your drama class, community theatre or even youth group. There is no end to the possibilities a contest of this type affords a group. The contest can be as big or small as your group desires. You could sponsor whatever kind of contest you want—ten minute plays, musicals for youth theatre, plays focused on bullying or plays concerning tolerance. It’s all up to you.

Now before you look at these questions and think is an overwhelming project, I want you to consider the people who will receive such fulfillment from the contest. Playwrights are always seeking places to get their plays read and produced. That could be you!

studenst-reading-play

Here are some questions to contemplate when creating your own playwriting contest:

1) What is the mission of our contest? What is our end result? Are we looking for a particular subject to be explored? Reach a particular audience? Attract an underserved demographic?

2) What are the requirements of the winning script? Cast size, gender and age of characters, length of play or musical, set, costumes props and the feasibility of producing the script within the confines of our budget are all important questions to consider.

3) Is any subject taboo? In some social circles, certain subjects are considered inappropriate.

4) How about inappropriate language?

5) Should we charge a fee to enter the contest? How much?

6) Are there granting agencies or donors we could approach to fund the contest?

7) What is our budget to spend to advertise the contest?

8) What free media sources will we use to publicize the contest?

9) Will we fully mount the winning entry?

10) Should we present a stage reading?

11) Can anyone enter the contest? Are we seeking only student scripts or adults?

12) Who will read the scripts and make the final decision on the awardee?

13) Will we award 1st, 2nd and 3rd place awards as well as honorable mention? How many honorable mentions?

14) What will the winner receive? A cash award, gift, certificate, lifetime season tickets?

15) Where will the cash award money come from? A donor? A service organization? Your city’s arts council?

16) After the awardee is selected, will we publicize the winner?

17) Do we want to bring the winning playwright to the performance?

18) If the winning playwright attends, is it our responsibility to provide room and board to them?

19) If the playwright is present, do we want to host a social in their honor?

20) What is our time line?

I hope these twenty questions will help you create your playwriting contest.  Do keep me informed.  I’d love to hear from you.

wishing-shelf

A Contest with Their Head in the Right Place

I am an indie author, too. Recently, I ran upon an indie author book contest in England created by a popular children’s author, Edward Trayer. The Whistling Shelf Award is a fairly new contest. When I was perusing his website regarding it, I discovered he charges an entrance fee and donates a portion of money to the Blind Children fund in England. Now, that’s my kind of author. Because of this, I quickly entered my book, Bumbling Bea, into its competition. I look forward to this year’s awards.

Since the penning of this post, I received word I was a finalist in the children’s books division in the Wishing Shelf contest.  What an honor!

I believe in philanthropy and I believe in the power of theatre. I bet you do, too.
Try your hand creating a playwriting contest. The Jackie White National Children’s Play Writing Contest is one of the most important programs the Columbia Entertainment Company ever created. If a desperate, young director like me with no experience creating a contest can be successful, so can you!
Columbia Entertainment Company playwriting contest:

http://www.cectheatre.org/playwriting.html

Denver Performing Arts Center New Play Summit:

http://www.denvercenter.org/events/colorado-new-play-summit
Wishing Shelf Book Awards
http://www.thewsa.co.uk/

—————

Deborah is a veteran drama teacher having taught in Missouri and Colorado for nearly thirty-eight years. Specializing in youth and community theatre, Deborah has directed more than 250 plays and musicals with adults and children alike. Recently, she and her husband moved to Kansas to be near their family and first grandchild. Her award winning middle grade book, Bumbling Bea, can be purchased through Amazon.com.

Check out her blog at: Dramamommaspeaks.com or her website Deborahbaldwin.net. Deborah serves as handmaiden to her beloved cat and sings harmony to most any song she hears.

Two actors in The Fanstaicks

How Theatre Saved My Life

dramamommaspeaks.com

This is how theatre saved my life.  My imagination (and later, theatre specifically) saved my life. When I was a child, my mother was quite ill and consequently to show respect to her, I controlled my emotions. so I didn’t want compound her stress.

I was the youngest in my family. With ten years between me and my next closest sibling, I rarely had anyone to play with or talk to. I depended upon my imagination to comfort me and take me away from loneliness I felt but wouldn’t admit to anyone. I learned how to slap on a smile and pretend everything was good with me.  I was quite a little actress.

When I saw movies, I would act them out and sing very dramatically while sequestering myself upstairs on the east porch of our house. It had no heat and I remember freezing to death for my “art”.

I thought I was crazy, though. I never told my friends about my make believe playing and when I would visit their houses, they never played make believe. So I decided I wasn’t like everyone else. I played make believe until I was twelve.

My father was a physician and my mother was raised in Japan when she was a child. Consequently, her wander lust was difficult to satiate and we traveled to many countries when I was quite young.

If it wasn’t hard enough being the youngest, my world view was very different from my fellow classmates. Just another thing to make me an oddity, at least in my mind.

My mother wasn’t at all supportive of my interest in theatre. She intimated I could end up like Elizabeth Taylor, “She’s been married seven times. Look at her…”Something was mentioned about me ending up on a “casting couch.” I didn’t know what that was, but by my mother’s attitude I knew it must be bad.

Trying to be the good daughter,  I left behind my imagination and became a cheerleader in junior high school. It makes sense if you think about it. That worked for two years and I loved the performing aspect of it.  I was a rotten jumper.  No one taught me how to do a round off or cartwheel, so I taught myself.  But I could yell loudly and lead the crowd in cheers.  At least I could do that!

When I was in high school, I found exactly what I was seeking –the stage! I was cast in my first play as Madame Arcati in “Blithe Spirit”.  Since I had no previous acting experience, but lots experience playing the piano, I notated my script as if I was playing the piano. I used fermatas for pauses and crescendo and decrescendo signs when I wanted to speak louder or softer.

To this day, I grow nostalgic whenever I step backstage. The scent of sawdust, newly painted flats and the warmth of the stage lights are a magical elixir to me. I brush the back of my hand across a velvet grand curtain and immediately I feel I’m home.

This is how theatre saved my life
In college, I experienced an epiphany. It was the early 1970’s, and society impressed upon me to hide my negative feelings or only express those feelings most accepted by others. I realized by sharing myself hiding behind a character, I could express  all my feelings and thoughts. I felt accepted universally.

That’s a heady experience which made me come back for more. Nearly forty years later, I’m happily stuck here.

this is how theatre saved my life

I became a director for a community theatre production of The Miracle Worker because there was no one else willing to do the job. Ha! I have a leader type personality and directing fit into my life.
I was quite young to take on such a challenging production but I took to it right away. I saw the potential of affecting people through stories that I created in my own manner.

Now, I adore making a statement through words and actions.

As of this writing, I have directed over 250 plays and musicals with adults and children alike.  I chose to direct and act at the community level for most of my career.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy professional theatre.  On the contrary. I’ve appreciated the professional positions in which I have been employed.

It’s just not where my life’s journey has taken me.  I’m always open to work in whatever venue needs me.

I’ve portrayed many beloved roles–Maria in “The Sound of Music”, Marion Paroo in “Music Man”,  Dot in “Cricket on the Hearth”, Penny in “You Can’t Take it With You” and many others. Above all, more than any particular role or any special production, I have learned about myself.

Theatre saved my life.  It has given me great joy, creative challenges and great friendships (I even met my husband while acting in a show).

I don’t know where I would be without it.  image

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or check out my website at DeborahBaldwin.net.

I’d love to hear from you!