Wednesday, May 30, 2012

PlayGround Night at SF Playhouse

The much-anticipated world premiere SF Playhouse-PlayGround co-production of Kenn Rabin's REUNION is almost here and the official "PlayGround Night" has now been set... for Friday, June 8! To join the PlayGround community in supporting this new play and purchase tickets to the June 8 performance, visit

Reunion began as a short play during the 2003-04 PlayGround season and was premiered at the eighth annual Best of PlayGround Festival (June 2004). Kenn subsequently received a PlayGround commission to adapt the short into a new full-length play, which received a staged reading as part of the next year's Best of PlayGround Festival. More recently, the short play was adapted to the big screen by Kenn and local filmmakers Greg Runnels and Mark Paul Runnels, featuring PlayGround Company Member Julia McNeal, as part of the inaugural PlayGround Film Festival.

Reunion will premiere at SF Playhouse's Stage 2 as part of their Sandbox Series, with significant support from PlayGround's New Play Production Fund. The production is directed by PlayGround Company Member Louis Parnell and features company member Lauren English, recently seen in this year's Best of PlayGround.

ABOUT THE PLAY: Julie and Valerie have several things in common- they both went to the same high school, they both now reside in Berkeley, CA, and they both had a sexual relationship with their high school teacher, Mr. Gillette. Now that they’re paths have crossed, again, they are uncovering their pasts together, all the while anticipating Mr. Gillette’s prison release.

ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT: Kenn Rabin’s short plays include How to Chop Wood, Hotel Poststrasse, When the Dead Weep, The Country of Us, not yet discouraged of man, The Great Wall From Space and Blackbird, as well as Celadon Box #8, Hunters and Gatherers, Gymnopedie No. 1 and the short version of Reunion, all of which won PlayGround Emerging Playwright Awards.

For more information, visit To purchase tickets for the June 8 "PlayGround Night" performance, visit

2012-13 Submission Guidelines

Applications for the 2012-13 PlayGround Writers Pool are being accepted, now through August 31, 2012. Only members of the Writers Pool may submit scripts as part of the monthly staged reading series, Monday Night PlayGround, and from which are selected the seven plays and playwrights for each year's Best of PlayGround Festival. For specific eligibility requirements and responsibilities, see below.

2012-13 Submission Guidelines

To apply for a place in the 2012-13 writers pool, playwrights must submit a maximum ten-page double-spaced script (previously produced and unproduced scripts eligible) via email to as an MS Word (.doc), Rich Text Format (.rtf) or Portable Document Format (.pdf) attachment. Applications must be received by Midnight Friday, August 31, 2012. The script must have the playwright's name, address, email and phone number at the top of the first page of the script. Excerpts from longer works are not accepted but short plays that meet the above requirements and are derived from a longer work are accepted. Writers featured in a Best of PlayGround Festival since 2008 need not submit a script but must send an email confirming interest in being in the pool by the deadline. Women and playwrights of color encouraged to apply.

To view sample script formats, click the link(s) below.
Submission Format #1
Submission Format #2

To be eligible, writers must reside within the nine counties of the San Francisco Bay Area and cannot have had a full production at any LORT theatre.

Announcement & Pool Requirements

The 2012-13 PlayGround Writers Pool of thirty-six emerging professional playwrights will be announced at the PlayGround Season Kick-Off on Monday, September 24, 2012 (selected writers must attend a mandatory company meeting at 6pm that evening). Selected writers must commit to submitting for at least five of the six Monday Night PlayGrounds in any season. The submission of a script to Monday Night PlayGround grants PlayGround the exclusive option to stage the play as part of the Monday Night PlayGround and, should it be so selected, to present the world premiere as part of The Best of PlayGround Festival and publish the script in the "Best of PlayGround" anthology. Upon publication, PlayGround serves as the exclusive licensor for English language stock and amateur rights in the U.S. and Canada.

For more information on how to apply to be in the Monday Night writers pool, send us an email.

PlayGround Company in the News Jun-12

Read on to learn about PlayGround Company Members' recent news, current happenings, and upcoming events. 
Ken Slattery’s TRUFFALDINO SAYS NO started rehearsing May 29, and opens on the Ashby Stage on July 2 in a Shotgun Players-PlayGround co-production. Previews are June 30 and July 1. Graham Smith is directing, and the production features company members Brian Herndon, Gwen Loeb, and Michael Phillis, and Bethanie Baeyen is stage manager.

Louis Parnell is currently directing Kenn Rabin’s REUNION in an SF Playhouse-PlayGround co-production, playing June 6-30 at SF Playhouse Stage 2, and featuring PlayGround company member Lauren English. “PlayGround Night” will be Friday, June 8. For more information, visit

Liam Vincent is currently working on SALOMANIA written and directed by Mark Jackson and opening at the Aurora in June. 

Mary Baird will be teaching for NYSSSA all of July at Sarah Lawrence

Christian Barth’s play DARYL HANNAH - the salad dressing play from this season's Monday Night series - will be produced at FUSION Theatre in Albuquerque as part of their short play festival entitled "The Seven".  It was selected in May out of 748 submissions from around the U.S. and nine countries.  It will run June 7-10 and will be directed by Staci Robbins. For more info, visit 

Michael Barrett Austin will be appearing in the Marriage Equality Plays Benefit June 11th ( and VAUDVILLE at The Willows Theatre June 28-July 21 (
Evelyn Jean Pine’s ten-minute play, INVESTING (which premiered at the 2007 Best of PlayGround Festival), will be staged on June 3 by Theatre Ariel in Philadelphia as part of their ongoing exploration of the theme, “A Stranger in their Midst.” Celebrate the publication of Evelyn's full-length play, HEPHAESTUS AND THE GOLDEN ROBOTS in Songs of Hestia:  Plays from the 2010 SF Olympians Festival published by Exit Press at a book party at the Exit Theatre (156 Eddy Street) at 8:30 on Thursday, June 7. 

Sam Misner will be acting in a production of WOODY GUTHRIE'S AMERICAN SONG, written by Peter Glazer, performing July 11-22 at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley (directly across from Berkeley Rep). This will be the same cast as the production that was done at Marin Theatre Company in 2010. The Freight & Salvage is one of the top music venues in Northern California, and this special limited run is in celebration of what would have been Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday in July. Here's a link to the website:

2012 PlayGround Festivals Wrap-Up

        This last weekend saw the closing of two PlayGround festivals. The 16th annual Best of PlayGround festival showcased the best work of the season by an incredibly diverse group of writers. These writers ranged in experience from regulars on the PlayGround stage to writers in their first year as part of the playwriting pool. This year’s Best of PlayGround brought us everything from a set of Oakland mothers breaking into spoken word to a musical number involving a grown man in a diaper. Needless to say, it was a night to remember. This year PlayGround also brought some of its short plays to the silver screen in our first ever Film Festival. The festival screened in various locations in San Francisco, Berkeley, and San Rafael. This was an exciting opportunity to experience some of the past and present work of PlayGround writers in a completely different way. It even included an animated short! More than 1,300 people around the Bay Area enjoyed this year’s theatre and film festivals…if you missed it don’t worry, we’ll be back with more next year! Next season begins on Monday, October 15th and subscriptions are on sale now for just $60 at

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Conversations with Playwrights: Festival Edition!

This year’s Best of PlayGround Festival contains a truly diverse mix of writers. This diversity is accurately reflected in the dynamic mix of short plays and musicals that make the 16th Best of PlayGround a must-see. As we approach the third weekend of the run I would like to invite you to get to know some of the playwrights who have been a part of this experience.

Celine Delcayre
Literary Associate

Do you remember where you were when you found out you had been selected for the festival?

Ignacio Zulueta:
I heard the best way possible - which is via congratulations, sent by text, in private, where I could react as appropriately or inappropriately as needed without fear of embarrassment. I’m pretty sure I whooped.

Mercedes Segesvary: I was actually working on an illustration project when I received an e-mail from Jim saying I should give him a call. Jim’s never asked me to call him before so I figured it had to be good news. After I got off the phone with Jim I did a happy dance in my apartment. Thank God my roommate wasn’t home.

Kirk Shimano: I was at work when I got the call about the selection. Well, more precisely, I was on a park bench a few feet away from work because AT&T doesn't deem anywhere else worthy of cell reception. I didn't have the phone number in my caller ID so I thought I was just getting a call about renewing a web address. This was much better.

Robin Lynn Rodriguez:
I was in the midst of preparing for my twin daughters' seventh birthday celebration, with glitter glue under my fingernails, when I got an email from Jim. He asked me to call him. He told me my play had been selected for the Festival and that I'd won the June Anne Baker Award. It was a bit surreal. Unexpected, to say the least.

Is this your first time being selected for a Best of PlayGround Festival?

Mercedes: This is my second year writing with PlayGround, first year in the festival!

Garret Groenveld:
I am one of the original writers of PlayGround and was in five of the first six festivals. I have had over 40 Monday night pieces.

Are any of you new to the writers pool this year?

Kirk: This is my first year in the PlayGround pool! I actually first applied two years ago, but my piece didn't hold muster with the selection committee (I still stand by it, though!). This season I had the great honor to be suggested for the pool and submitted a piece that had already been tested before an audience, with much better results. Since it's my first year, it was my first chance to be in the Best of PlayGround, so I'd say it worked out well!

Any other interesting writers’ pool stories?

Cleavon Smith: I was nudged by Robyn Brooks to apply. I had never written a play before, and I think that actually helped. After going through an MFA for fiction program, I think my process for writing prose was almost one of mechanics rather than gut and inspiration, so my inexperience prevented me from getting in the way of my own story.

Tell me a bit about your festival piece. How did you approach the prompt/topic and where did you find your inspiration?

Robin: "Hella Love Oakland" came from the creative id. The topic that month was Bay Area Stories. As usual I went through my regular cache of saved up half-baked ideas. But something kept gnawing at me. I have very strong feelings about living in the Bay Area, and my particular neighborhood of the Bay Area, which is Oakland. I'm not going to give those feelings away, because I want people to see and hear them for themselves. But I knew almost immediately that these were what I wanted to write on.

Mercedes: My play, “Room for Rent,” was written around the March topic “Bay Area Stories.” I had actually begun writing it the night before it was due, sometime around 1am. I was working on an elaborate musical about MUNI but I wasn’t really happy with where it was going and I was getting a little frustrated. But earlier that day I’d had a conversation with my roommate about needing to move and it brought me to a place of reflection about some of the more colorful roommates I’ve lived with. So I just started free writing and these characters sort of created themselves. The next day, after I submitted it I called my grandmother to say hello. I told her about the play I just wrote and she was cracking up on the line. She asked me, “Is the Naked-Boy in the play.” I said, “Yes, yes he is.” And more laughter ensued.

Kirk: I wrote my play in response to "Patterns of Chaos", the topic for our "math night" in collaboration with the Berkeley MSRI (Mathematical Sciences Research Institute). The night before the topic was revealed, mathematicians from MSRI presented a series of short, focused lectures. I was intrigued by their research into the process by which random patterns, when repeated thousands upon millions of times, start to form characteristics of order. My first impulse was to write something wild and sprawling, with a cast of characters from different universes who slowly came together into something more orderly. But as I started to try to figure out who these chaotic people could be, I found myself drawn to the idea of someone unassuming – the type of character who might get a throwaway line in someone else's movie.

Ignacio: “Meet The Breeders” is a musical that reflects my fear of musicals. The topic was Heroes/Heroines, which I thought was appropriately self-reflexive. Who doesn’t write a play with a hero (or antithesis) at the core, after all? So, having ditched my ambitions for an 8 person ensemble driven apocalyptic musical (I’m only partly joking), I narrowed my scope to a heroic young woman, Beatrice, defined by the insurmountable and insidious odds arrayed against her. With 4 days to write, the creative process is often a blur of sleeplessness and panic disguised as inspiration, or vice versa. But I remember writing the lyrics to the chorus first. It all grew from there. If audience members can hum the melody and recite that memorable three word chorus from which the play itself sprang, I think I’ll have done my job at giving the gift of hysteria.

What do all these different pieces and voices bring to this year’s PlayGround festival experience?

Robin: There is some fantastic work on the stage at this year's Festival. The variety of voices and so many new voices - first timers to the Festival like myself - bring an amazing energy to the evening. It's funny, and fierce, and full of the dynamism that comes with new work. I'm truly grateful to be a part of it.

Garret: The best thing about every PlayGround festival is that it shows a broad variety of interesting work, and introduces diverse forms, content and voices to a new audience.

Kirk: This year's festival has a great variety of work. There are so many divergent themes and settings that it really illustrates what a diverse set of ideas you can draw from a small pool of writers working within the same parameters. I know I find something new every time I see these plays - hopefully the rest of the community shares the same experience!

Thank you to all our participating playwrights, and please tune in again next month for further discussions with and about these, and other artists and the wonderful work they have been doing!

The 16th annual Best of PlayGround Festival runs Thu-Sat at 8pm and Sun at 7pm at Thick House through May 27. In addition to the fully-produced evening-length program of seven short plays and musicals, the festival also includes staged readings of new full-length plays commissioned and developed by PlayGround, including Daniel Heath's Sirens this Sunday, May 20 at 2pm and Ken Slattery's The Shakespeare Bug on Monday, May 21 at 7pm, all at Thick House. Concurrent with the Best of PlayGround, the inaugural PlayGround Film Festival runs through May 26 in various locations, including Thick House, the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood, 32TEN Studios (formerly George Lucas Theater). For more information or to purchase tickets for the 16th annual Best of PlayGround Festival, visit For more information or to purchase tickets for the PlayGround Film Festival, visit

Monday, May 07, 2012

Fund the Festival Campaign Leaps Forward!

Late last week, we announced that a PlayGround artist had generously offered to match 1:1 all gifts to the “Fund the Festival!” campaign, up to $5,000. We’re very pleased to announce that as of this morning, we’ve broken the $1,000 mark on contributions and, with the match, have now reached 20% of our $10,000 goal with 20 days remaining.  Thank you to all who have already made your gift to the “Fund the Festival!” campaign!

Why is the Fund the Festival! campaign so important? The Best of PlayGround is the leading showcase for Bay Area emerging playwrights and their original work. Over the past sixteen years, PlayGround has recognized fifty-seven early-career playwrights with the Emerging Playwright Award and full production of 110 of their short plays in the Best of PlayGround Festival. In addition, the festival has been the launching pad for forty-one new full-length plays commissioned and developed by PlayGround, many of which have gone on to full production at Bay Area theatres.

Alumni of the Best of PlayGround  represent a who’s who of the Bay Area’s best new playwrights since 1997, including Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, Garret Jon Groenveld, Trevor Allen, Aaron Loeb, Geetha Reddy, Evelyn Jean Pine, Daniel Heath, and Lauren Yee, among others.  Over the next three months alone, three festival alumni will see premieres of their full-length plays at Bay Area theatres, all of which began as a Best of PlayGround shorts and were later adapted to full-length under commission from PlayGround: Lauren Yee’s Crevice at Impact Theatre (May 3-June 9); Kenn Rabin’s Reunion at SF Playhouse (June 6-30); and Ken Slattery’s Truffaldino Says No at Shotgun Players (June 30-July 29).

This year’s Best of PlayGround Festival will provide opportunities for nearly two hundred Bay Area professional theatre and film artists, including twenty local playwrights, and will be seen by more than 1,500. Make an investment in the community and in the many artists who help enrich it. Make your gift to the Fund the Festival campaign today!

To learn more about the Fund the Festival! campaign and how you can make your gift today, visit or call (415) 992-6677. All gifts to the campaign made by May 27 – whether made through Causes, Google Checkout, PayPal, by phone or mail – will be matched 1:1, up to $5,000. Double your impact and ensure the future of the American Theatre, one playwright at a time!

Friday, May 04, 2012

Best of PlayGround... the Backstory

Lights up on the interior of a small theatre, some time shortly after the first public performance of a respected festival of short plays by new writers. The Artistic Director sits alone in the now-empty house as the crew put away the props, turn off the light board, and clear the stage. The Production Manager approaches the Artistic Director.

PRODUCTION MANAGER:        Any notes?

ARTISTIC DIRECTOR:           (Long pause as he considers his response. He turns to the Production Manager and begins to grin slowly as he responds.) None…

Lacking in dramatic tension?  Perhaps, but this scenario is the dream of Artistic Directors world-wide, from the time of the first organized performances to today. We strive to leave the drama (or comedy, as the case may be) on the stage.  And last night, before a capacity crowd, we did exactly that! The 16th annual Best of PlayGround Festival marked its first preview last night and, while the official opening night is still a day away, it was a satisfying culmination of more than eight months of work, beginning last September with the selection and announcement of the 2012-13 PlayGround Writers Pool, including eight first-time members.

From October through March, the thirty-six writers generated 177 original short plays inspired by assigned topics that ranged from ICON (marking the passing of icon Steve Jobs) to HEROES/HEROINES (as part of our third annual Musical Theatre Night) to BAY AREA STORIES. Thirty-six works were selected and presented as staged readings before capacity crowds on third Mondays at Berkeley Rep. And, in late March, the festival selections were announced. Cleavon Smith’s O’Neill-inspired You Eat What You Kill; two selections from Musical Night - Garret Jon Groenveld’s Medea retelling, Childless, and Ignacio Zulueta’s Meet the Breeders; Kirk Shimano’s mathematics-infused Miss Finknagle Succumbs to Chaos; and three works from the final Monday Night PlayGround of the season inspired by the topic “Bay Area Stories”: Mercedes Segesvary’s Room for Rent, Genevieve Jessee’s Ships in the Day, and Robin Lynn Rodriguez’ Hella Love Oakland. Six first-time festival participants, including three writers in their very first PlayGround season, and one veteran celebrating his seventh Best of PlayGround appearance (though his first musical, I should note).

Then the REAL WORK began! Over the last month, we assembled a team of more than thirty playwrights, directors, actors, designers, stage managers, and technicians to help realize the seven stories and numerous characters created by our festival playwrights. The cast and crew met on April 16 for the ceremonial first rehearsal and read-through – a unique opportunity to hear all of the works at one time, something we would not get a chance to repeat until just prior to public performances.  And then over the next two weeks, casts for individual plays rehearsed with their directors and playwrights, identifying the setting, creating the blocking, and finding the nuances that may have been missed in the original Monday Night PlayGround staging. Plays were edited, scripts were sent to our Publications Director (Cass Brayton, himself a member of the Writers Pool and two-time Festival participant) in preparation for the publication of our twelfth annual compilation of festival works, and the actors went “off book.” And over the past four days, we’ve loaded all the production elements into the theatre, hung the scrim (the sheer black curtain that sits in front of our cyclorama, allowing us to create solid blackouts or – when light is projected on the cyc and the scrim becomes transparent – a bold screen of color), and worked through all of the technical elements and final tweaks in the theatrical performances… all leading up to last night’s first preview.
There’s a lot that goes into producing a play, from the time it is first conceived to the time it is fully produced and shared by an audience. Rarely is that cycle completed in just eight months. But that’s part of what makes the PlayGround experience so special… providing writers and audiences the chance to share in the development and production of new work in an accelerated environment, eight months or less from page to stage.  Of course, without the final ingredient – YOU, our audience! – we can’t possibly succeed.  For like the proverbial “tree in the forest,” a play can’t really be said to exist until it is seen, heard and experienced.  And if last night is any indication, I can safely say: You won’t be disappointed!

The 16th annual Best of PlayGround Festival runs May 3-27, 2012 at Thick House. To purchase tickets, visit or call (415) 992-6677.

PlayGround Company in the News May-12

Read on to learn about PlayGround Company Members' recent news, current happenings, and upcoming events.

Ken Slattery’s DEATH TO THE AUDIENCE runs at the BOA Festival until May 12th. This was originally a short play written for PlayGround in March 2004 (topic: "Son of Juno"); it's directed by M.Graham Smith and produced by Precarious Theatre. To read an interview with Ken on the creation of DEATH TO THE AUDIENCE, visit His short film TEENAGE OBSESSION is online. It was produced for Killing My Lobster. Here's the link:

Genevieve Jessee will be performing her solo piece, GIRL IN, BUT NOT OF, THE HOOD in DIVAfest at the EXIT theatre this May. The schedule for performances is available at She was contacted by a writer for 96 hours in the Chronicle, who said that she would be writing a feature on the show.

Diane Sampson’s short play UNDONE, written for PlayGround and performed in the 2010 Best of PlayGround Festival, will be done at the New American Theatre in Los Angeles Sundays at 7pm from May 13 - June 17. Her play THE TALE OF SLEEPING CUTIE, a Monday night PlayGround selection, will be done by the Driftwood Players in Edmonds, WA in July.

In addition to his play in the festival, CHILDLESS, Founding PlayGround Writer Garret Jon Groenveld's full-length play THE HUMMINGBIRDS will receive two readings as part of the Playwrights Foundation's In the Rough reading series on Monday, May 14th at Stanford and Tuesday, May 15th tbd. For reservations and information visit:

Rosie Hallett is delighted to officially join the company! She is a member of the 16th annual Best of PlayGround Festival acting ensemble.

Maury Zeff’s short story WHEN WE TALK ABOUT TIME TRAVEL was published in the latest issue of the Southern California Review.

Cindy Goldfield is heading back to San Jose Rep to appear in BILL W AND DR. BOB and then, with D'Arcy Drollinger, will bring PROJECT: LOHAN to the Costume Shop Performance Space at ACT in late July.