“Good writers define reality; bad ones merely restate it. A good writer turns fact into truth; a bad writer will, more often than not, accomplish the opposite.”
Edward Albee said that, and he should know; Albee won three Pulitzer Prizes and two Tony Awards for his playwriting, as well as several Lifetime Achievement Awards before his death in 2016. Albee also said, “A playwright is someone who lets his guts hang out on the stage.”
Playwrights — and playwriting — have consumed much of my thoughts lately, for several reasons. I am currently immersed in the MAPA (Maui Academy of Performing Arts) Educational Theatre Tour of Maui elementary schools and preschools. “The Magic of Kamishibai” is my first attempt at writing a completely original story, rather than my usual practice of adapting classic tales and legends as a storyteller. Granted, it is only a half-hour’s worth of dialogue, geared for audiences of single-digit age, but I did get paid to write the script; so, technically, I can now add “professional playwright” to my resume. And yes, each time we present “Kamishibai,” I do feel as though my guts have been spilled out onto the stage as I watch the reactions of our young audience. Will they relate to the characters? Will they catch that joke? Will they “get” the message and the moral of the play? So far, with five performances completed and 30 more yet to come, the reviews have been positive. I just hope to survive the next three months of gut-spilling.
Last Friday, as I sat in the audience at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei, I could empathize with Lin McEwan, the playwright/star of “Vindication: Scenes from the Life of Mary Wollstonecraft.” That is, in the way a LEGO hobbyist would relate to Gaudi or Frank Lloyd Wright. Lin, better known to Maui audiences as a talented and beautiful lead actress, has written an intriguing, compelling drama about the 18th-century author who was, far before her time, a fierce and formidable feminist.
Tina Kailipono co-directs “Vindication” with Lin, and in the program notes, Tina remarks that, 200 years after this amazing woman’s campaign to be recognized “as a human being first and woman second,” we are still fighting for this recognition. With this production, Lin has proven herself an articulate and powerful (human, not female) playwright.
You have only three more opportunities to see “Vindication” this weekend: Friday and Saturday evenings and a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday. Seating is limited, so you’d best reserve your tickets in advance by visiting proartsmaui.com or calling (808) 463-6550.
Happily, “Vindication” is only the start of professional production of locally written plays at ProArts. The Kihei theater company’s mission statement includes a pledge to “offer opportunities to nurture creativity and self-expression.” Toward that goal, ProArts is now seeking submissions by Maui playwrights, with plans to produce one or more of these in the summer of 2020. Here are the criteria:
1. The play must be fully written at time of submission.
2. Length of 60 minutes or longer is preferred.
3. Musicals may be considered with original sheet music to which the author has rights.
4. Play must be written to conform with ProArts’ physical space and production resources.
5. Small cast size (six or fewer actors) preferred, though multiple characters by actors is allowed.
Deadline for submission is June 30, 2019. You may send your finished work in pdf format to ProArtsMaui@yahoo.com or mail a hard copy to 1215 S. Kihei Rd. No. 410, Kihei 96753, Attn: play submission.
I briefly toyed with the idea, but have decided playwriting is not my forte. If you are interested in giving it a try, I offer some advice from another writer you might have heard of:
“I believe the way to write a good play is to convince yourself it is easy to do, then go ahead and do it with ease. . . . A play is a phoenix and it dies a thousand deaths. Usually at night. In the morning it springs up again from its ashes and crows like a happy rooster. It is never as bad as you think, it is never as good. It is somewhere in between. . . . But it is much more likely to be good if you think it is wonderful while you are writing the first draft. An artist must believe in himself. Your belief is contagious.”
— Tennessee Williams
* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.