Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Congratulations Michael Gellman!

Posted By Dan Kitrosser, Playwright and Writopia Lab Teacher

Congratulations Michael Gellman, 14, for winning the middle school division of the Young Playwrights Inc. Write a Play NYC festival this year, with his play Intersection! Intersection is a funny and surprising story seen in real time at a bus stop, where two random strangers find out that they have more in common than anyone would expect. Michael spent six weeks conceiving, writing and rewriting this piece--his very first play--at a playwriting workshop in March and April with five of his peers. Congratulations to each of the amazing, award-winning writers in the group--Emma, Leanna, Rafi, Lily, and Michael--for taking on this new, intimidating literary challenge.

Playwright Moss Hart once wrote “The four most terrifying words for a playwright are: act one scene one.” Starting a play is thrilling, scary process—you drop yourself in the middle of a new world and all you can do is sit and listen to you characters talk to one another. It’s a form dominated by dialogue, stories presented by what people say and sometimes what they don’t say. For some of us introverted writerly types, working on a piece that--due to its form--demands that people express themselves in their speech, can seem daunting. In contrast, one of the great things about prose or poetry is that there is a quiet, intimate relationship between one reader and one writer. For plays, not only are the playwrights' words intercepted by a cast of actors before they hit the audience, but to top that off, an audience for a single performance can be ten, a hundred, sometimes over a thousand people.

Plays are not intimate in their nature—yes, they can be small, and yes, they can be personal—but when all is said and done, they are meant to be performed in buildings in midtown.

So what kind of person wants to go through the arduous task of writing something that has to be personal, honest, meaningful, all of those things Rebecca eeks out from writers in her memoir classes, and then have them displayed by other people on a stage in front of a group of pretentious strangers?

Well, we’re a peculiar bunch, us playwrights. We crave both the solace of the writing room and the spotlight of the theatre. We explore the depths of the human condition inside our heads and then ask underpayed actors to speak our brilliant lines. We play each character in our mind as we write them, yet play none of them on opening night. We’re extroverted introverts and introverted extroverts.

I love LOVE writing plays. I love hearing actors say, “Dan, this is a hard monologue.” I love watching actors and audience members alike not only witness the written journey of my play, but actually take part in it themselves. I love how alive theatre is—and how no matter if I’m acting in, writing or even watching a play, I am forced to take part in the process.

Plays are the most immediate form of writing. They happen now, in front of you. The actors breath the same air as the audience. When a play works, as in the case of plays by William Shakespeare or Michael Gellman, it’s just thrilling. Writing a play, being a part of that wild beast called the theatre, pushes you to explore both the extrovert and the introvert inside you which is one of the most exciting, vital, electrifying experiences in the world.

Congratulations to Michael for taking on this experience in full! I am excited to hear an excerpt of his play, Intersection, read by professional actors at Hunter University next week at the awards ceremony. And I am looking forward to working with more Writopia writers this summer and in the fall.

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Rachel and Courtney Sign onto Brooklyn!

Writopia teachers, Rachel and Courtney, spread the word about our newest region, Writopia Brooklyn, at a fair in Carroll Gardens today. Not only are they amazing sign makers, but fabulous writers and teachers. We are so excited to have them on board. In case you haven't read their work, or read about them on our website, here are some highlights...

Courtney's fiction has appeared in journals and anthologies including Washington Square, Tampa Review, Saint Ann’s Review, Redivider, and the international Fish Prize Stories and has been nominated for inclusion in Best New American Voices 2007.

A finalist in the 2008 Danahy Fiction Prize, Courtney has held residency fellowships at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Vermont Studio Center. Courtney has received two graduate degrees in fiction: an MA from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, where she held a Teaching Fellowship, and an MFA in fiction from the University of Arizona, where she received the Minnie M. Torrance Scholarship in Creative Writing and the UA Foundation Award. When she is not running workshops at Writopia, she is teaching creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania.

Courtney will be working with at least two groups of Writopia Teens in Manhattan and Brooklyn this summer.

Rachel has been teaching Writopia's youngest writers, ages 9-10, since the beginning of the year, bringing with her a plethora of fun, inspiring, and useful writing exercises. She also has helped produce our first set of Writopia Anthologies, and works regularly on all the anthologies that emerge from Writopia workshops and in-school residencies. Rachel earned an undergraduate degree in creative writing, screenwriting, and film production at Boston University and is currently writing a young adult novel. She has worked on the PBS children's show, "Zoom" and regularly contributes articles to online publications on food, music, and nightlife. She teaches in both Manhattan and Brooklyn, and also lives in Brooklyn.

Anyone who takes a writing workshop with them is incredibly lucky!
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