BloomingPlays, the Bloomington Playwrights Project’s (BPP) new collection of one-act plays, grew out of a group of writers looking for a place to call home.
“Outside of very specific events we do here, there’s not really a place for new plays,” says David Nosko, a BPP member who’s involved on many levels with BloomingPlays. “There’s a group of us local writers who sought a space for us to develop and showcase our own works.”
So, starting in March, the group began meeting regularly to discuss each other’s writing. In the workshops, writers provided positive feedback to each other, who then revised their plays. Out of that process, five plays—“Streetside Shoeshop,” “For the Love of a Couch,” “Morning,” “The Clockwork Man” and “Party Girls”—emerged to be part of the Lora Shiner Series, in which each was polished to a finished product, collectively known as BloomingPlays.
The plays run the gamut from serious to comic, says Gabe Golden, the BPP’s public relations director. “The Clockwork Man” explores death and aging, and is the most serious of the five, Gloden says. On the other extreme is “Party Girls,” a dark, grisly farce in which two zombie partygoers deal with the fact that they have become the walking undead. Then there’s “Streetside Shoeshop,” a play about a resourceful, if unscrupulous, street vendor; “Morning,” an existential comedy; and “For the Love of a Couch,” a comic exploration of the seedier side our furniture.
BloomingPlays uses the Lora Shiner Studio, a large, open area in the Bloomington Playwrights Project’s space on 9th Avenue. The Lora Shiner Studio is tucked in between the box office and the larger Timothy J. Wiles Stage. The building that houses the BPP used to hold a nightclub and before that a garage; the back wall of the Shiner Studio a massive garage door painted maroon. The stage is short, and allows for only the barest of set decoration. The Shiner Studio space had just been used as a storage area, says David Nosko, who is directing “Party Girls” and co-producing BloomingPlays along with Bill Goveia and Russell McGee.
The playwrights involved spent months meeting with one another, reading plays and giving feedback to one another. Sometimes actors and directors came to help walk through the plays in staged readings, Gloden says. That way, the playwrights were also able to work on aspects of writing like blocking and directing that might be otherwise overlooked.
“Workshopping is not for the faint of heart,” says Tracy Bee, whose play “For the Love of a Couch” is part of BloomingPlays. A playwright has to be able to listen to constructive criticism with an open mind while still maintaining the integrity of the original work. It can be a tough line to walk. “You have to know, ‘This is my vision.’ Or, ‘This comment helps me.’ Or, ‘This comment doesn’t work at all and I’m going to respect this person for giving it but I’m not going to use it,’” she says.
To illustrate how these changes work, consider Holly McClane’s play, “Streetside Shoeshop.” It went through “seven or eight” revisions before rehearsals, and since then “the director’s changed the premise somewhat,” she says. Of the process, McClane says: “I really learned to let go of myself. Actor feedback and audience feedback can really help fine tune a show in ways that I in my little writer bubble couldn’t think of.”
The BPP wants to turn the Lora Shiner Series into “an ongoing series that helps nurture our mission to create new works of American theater, ” Gloden says. “We want this to be a yearlong thing.” They play to begin workshopping again in October. envelopes. While the plays this time around are all 10-minute one acts, the BPP hopes to expand to longer works for the next Lora Shiner Studio Series.
Playwrights have already begun sending works to be considered. Gloden points to a tray near his desk. “Playwrights come in,” he says, “and just drop off the play.” Already the tray holds seven fat envelopes.
Jess Darland can be reached at .
If you go:
BloomingPlays runs Thursday, Sept. 20 through Saturday, Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 23 at 2 p.m. at the Bloomington Playwrights Project, 107 W. Ninth St. Tickets are $8. Workshops will be held for the public on Saturday afternoon. For more information or reservations, call 335-9001, email or visit www.newplays.org.