Shawnee Playhouse Produced My One Act Play “Errant Souls”

I have finally achieved a major goal, an actual production of one of my plays! I wasn’t actually expecting my play to be performed. I was expecting a staged reading. But I guess the staged reading was part of the initial selection process. The winning plays were then given a full production much later. A production is a bigger deal than a staged reading. A staged reading is just actors sitting around a table reading the script, with the script in hand. But for this performance the actors were not holding scripts. They were all off book and the one act plays were given minimal sets and props. And the plays will be performed on the weekends for three whole weeks, which is six performances. A staged reading is usually not repeated.

On the drive out to Shawnee on Delaware I listened to a CD of Murder Ballads by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. This put me in the right mood because the songs were very dramatic and tragic. I arrived an hour early so I had a meal at Gem and Keystone Brewpub, a restaurant so close to the theater you could walk to it. I ordered a Sausage Sandwich topped with sour red cabbage slaw with a large helping of french fries and a Pepsi. I only mentioned this because it made the trip seem more like a special occasion. The brewpub is part of the upscale summer vacationer establishment in the Poconos. The Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort is the big resort in the area.

Unfortunately I don’t think my play worked at all on stage. It seemed horribly silly and pretentious. I think I used too much elevated language in an attempt to express wonder and this does not work unless it is spoken in utter sincerity. My play was the most ambitious one of the lot and it may have been too ambitious for what is essentially community theater. There were six other one act plays performed during the evening and they were all farces or comedies. I stayed to watch all six plays. I liked The Birthday Room by Rich Strack, and Absolution Green by Paul Kodiak was pretty good and well done. I almost forgot to mention that I was invited on stage by the lead actor in my play to receive a certificate. That was slightly awkward.

The Shawnee Playhouse was actually much nicer than I expected. It is one of the last summer resort theaters which used to be an important training ground for show biz folk. Moss Hart’s autobiography “One Act” describes the sort of amateur theatrical productions that were done by the social directors of summer resorts. The playhouse even had a fireplace which is one of the rustic aspects of a summer resort playhouse.

So what is next for my playwriting career? Today I received a postcard from the Actors Theatre of Louisville notifying me that my ten minute play was received for the 2016 National Ten-Minute Play Contest. This isn’t terribly exciting news since it just means I made it in before the 500 play limit. But the National Ten-Minute Play Contest is a big deal since the play they select will be considered for the Humana Festival of New American Plays and be published in their annual book. I submitted the ten minute version of my play “The Shaman” which is now a longer one act play. Eventually I will make it even longer for submission to the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference which is a major opportunity. “The Shaman” is practically a rewrite of “Errant Souls” but with a focus on how the visionary artist is like a shaman and how this relates to theater. This play will be my most important work so I have cleverly created ever longer versions of the script to send out to the most important playwriting competitions.

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