Monday, August 13, 2012

PlayGround Comes to Los Angeles!

On August 28, PlayGround Associate Director Annie Stuart and I head down to L.A. to meet with L.A.-based theatre artists including many PlayGround alumni to discuss the proposed launch of PlayGround-LA. Playwrights, directors, actors and producers interested in learning more about the plans for the first L.A. season of Monday Night PlayGround are invited to join us at the Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, at 8pm. To R.S.V.P. for the PlayGround-LA Kick-Off, visit http://www.facebook.com/events/119097361566016/ (note: capacity is limited).

I had first discussed the possibility of bringing PlayGround programs to L.A. with Zephyr Theatre owner and longtime PlayGround Company Member Lee Sankowich a number of years ago. Lee and FireMused Productions' Deborah Taylor had been experimenting with a full-length play staged reading series at the Zephyr and had included a few PlayGround full-length commissions along the way. There was also a growing number of PlayGround alumni and artists with PlayGround experience in L.A., including directors Jesus Reyes, Robin Stanton, and Juliette Carillo, actors Katie Rubin, Greg Bryan, Isabelle Ortega, Don Speziale, and Arthur Keng, and playwrights Daniele Nathanson ('97 and '99 Best of PlayGround) and Mark Sherstinsky ('01 Best of PlayGround), among others.

So it was on a sunny day in March I went to L.A. to meet with Lee and discuss how this might all work. I also had a chance to speak with L.A. actor (and fellow Brown alumnus) Andrew Borba about how PlayGround might best complement the existing new works and new voices communities in Los Angeles. Andrew had experience with PlayGround's precursor and inspiration, "Once Upon A Weekend," a fast-paced short play development exercise initiated by Paula Vogel when she came to Brown in 1986 to head up the graduate playwriting program. Among the many distinguished playwrights who emerged from Brown during her time there (and, we can assume, with their fair amount of experience with "Once Upon A Weekend") were Sarah Ruhl, Nilo Cruz, Lynn Nottage, Adam Bock, and Peter Sinn Nachtrieb (who, no stranger to PlayGround, won the PlayGround Emerging Playwright Award in 2000 for his short play, "Self Help").

As the discussions continued, the plan began to take shape. PlayGround-LA would start with the Monday Night PlayGround staged reading series six monthly performances of original short work inspired by an assigned topic, written in just four-and-a-half days by some of the area's best emerging writers, and presented as script-in-hand staged readings by leading local directors and actors. Nearly two hundred local artists would be involved in the first L.A. season of Monday Night PlayGround. The series would take place on the second Monday of the month, October through March. Over the past eighteen years, PlayGround (in San Francisco) has developed over 600 short plays by more than 175 Bay Area playwrights in this fashion, from out of more than 3,000 submissions. Monday Night PlayGround has served as a cornerstone for PlayGround's new play incubator programs which also include the Best of PlayGround Festival, full-length play Commissioning Initiative and New Play Production Fund, facilitating full production of PlayGround-commissioned works in partnership with local theatres.  But it always comes back to Monday Night PlayGround, often the introduction to the professional theatre community for many first-time or early-career playwrights and a leading showcase for the Bay Area's top new play practitioners the directors, actors and designers who help "bring to life" these amazing short plays.

What's left to do? PlayGround-LA (a fiscally-sponsored project of San Francisco-based PlayGround) needs to raise $5,000 to ensure the successful launch of the L.A. Monday Night PlayGround series. PlayGround-LA has launched an IndieGoGo campaign at http://www.indiegogo.com/playground-LA to facilitate donations though donors can also call (323) 992-6766 to make donations by phone. And at the Kick-Off on August 28, PlayGround-LA will establish a list of writers, directors, actors and producers interested in helping ensure the success of the launch and discuss next steps.  Help spread the word and, if you're an L.A.-based theatre artist, we hope to see you there!

PlayGround-LA Kick-Off
Tuesday, August 28, 8pm
Zephyr Theatre
7456 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles
To donate to PlayGround-LA, visit http://www.indiegogo.com/playground-LA.
For more information, email info@playground-la.org.

Jim Kleinmann co-founded PlayGround in 1994 and has served as Artistic Director since 1996.  For PlayGround, he has provided artistic and administrative leadership for the past eighteen seasons, developing PlayGround’s unique array of new playwright and new play incubator programs, including Monday Night PlayGround, the Best of PlayGround Festival, the full-length play Commissioning Initiative, the New Play Production Fund, and most recently the PlayGround Film Festival.  He is a veteran arts administrator with more than twenty years of experience, including stints leading Traveling Jewish Theatre, Smuin Ballet and Berkeley Symphony. He is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and Brown University, where he co-founded the improvisational theatre, IMPROVidence.

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