Another Interview with Shellen Lubin

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NOplays welcomes back Shellen Lubin to talk about the In Her Name Festival. You can see her work this weekend at the 13th Street Repertory Theatre. Click here for tickets.

Q: You have two plays in this festival, White Cotton and After the Thin Man. How have these scripts evolved since the first 365 Women a Year cycle?

A: ​After the Thin Man has had two sets of revisions over two readings of the play, bringing it stronger, tighter, and eliminating some lines which over-stated the intentions. White Cotton has had a reading and a production, but hasn’t seemed to need as much revision. I think it was tighter to start.

​Q: What drew you to each of the women featured in these plays?

A: ​I studied with Stella Adler, but was always haunted by this statement Sylvia Gassell made about Stella when she was in a musical of mine, that Stella had told her not to let them make her a character actress in Hollywood–and when Sylvia had said that was what she wanted to be, Stella had told her then she’d never work. I knew that Stella had come back from Hollywood destroyed in some way, and then went full time into teaching, and so constructed this imaginary encounter between the two of them that also addresses the conflicts she had with Lee Strasberg and the kind of teacher she became.

Fannie Lou Hamer to me is everything 365 W…a…Y… is about–women who did extraordinary things who have essentially been written out of our history. Fannie Lou s was an extremely important civil rights activist and voting rights activist from a family of sharecroppers, and she even testified before congress about the brutal beatings and illegal jailings she received, but because she wasn’t a man, and, maybe even more, because she wasn’t a male preacher, her story is almost forgotten.

Q: Can you walk me through the process of creating both of these plays in the same 365 Women a Year cycle? How did the writing of one play influence the writing of the other?

A: ​These plays influenced and were influenced by other plays I am and was writing, but not so much each other. And I wanted them to be two unique, individual stories. I loved them for their differences, as I love Sylvia and Stella for their differences. ​

Q: You wrote two new pieces for 365 Women a Year in 2015. Has your experience in the first year influenced your writing the second time around? 

A: ​Absolutely! I am feeling even less of a need to tell anyone’s story, and more inspired to just write a play that is about a moment in their lives, a dramatic, pivotal moment in their lives. For example, the piece I wrote about Zilphia Horton is a fight with her father in her early 20s that determined the rest of her life, but you need to then go read about what it was she did with the rest of her life.

Q: In addition to writing this play, you’re also one of the producer for the In Her Name Festival. What are some of the challenges of working as both writer and producer? What are some of the rewards?

​A: The challenge is just the amount of work–I love shifting perspective and letting other people do their jobs for each individual piece. The rewards are so many–the women (and men) I’m working with, the energy and creativity and passion of all involved, and the education! So much history I didn’t know. I love to learn, and 365 Women a Year is a perpetual learning adventure.​

Q: What are you most excited about for the reading this weekend? What are you most nervous about? What are you hoping to accomplish with your play specifically? 

A: ​I’m most excited about the opportunities it is creating for all involved to connect, to be heard, to hopefully have new connections that might lead to productions and other opportunities (including for myself and my work).​

I am most nervous about our coordinating the number of people involved and not neglecting anyone or having anyone feel they were not treated fairly. ​

Q: This is the second In Her Name Festival. Is there anything you want to see in this years festival that wasn’t there last year? What are your hopes for In Her Name 2016? 

​A: This year I hope we are better paced. We had so many plays in one night last year, it was overwhelming. More plays this year, but we’re also more spread out. I’m hopeful that that will allow the whole festival–and all of us involved–to breathe better. Breathing is good.

Shellen Lubin‘s plays and musicals have been performed in productions and staged readings at the Public Theatre, Henry St. Settlement, MCC, AJT, and many other venues. She is currently working on a new play about Sarah Bernhardt, and a musical based on Elsa Rael’s award-winning children’s books with Elsa Rael (book) and Matthew Gandolfo (music). She and her songs have been featured in cabaret (most recently the Metropolitan Room in NYC and Stage 773 in Chicago), on radio (Woody’s Children on WQXR-FM and a one-hour special on WBAI-FM), cable television, and in Milos Forman’s 1st American film, TAKING OFF. Shellen has directed numerous plays, musicals, and cabaret acts in productions, workshops, and readings, most recently DOOR OPENS WALK THRU by Susan Merson at the 13th Street Repertory Theatre; the 28th-31st Annual Bistro Awards for Sherry Eaker; and Lainie Kazan in a concert reading of BELLE BARTH: IF I EMBARRASS YOU, TELL YOUR FRIENDS by Koch/Levinson/Kalt at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank, CA. She coaches voice and acting privately and at a number of colleges and professional and private schools. Her philosophical musings on artistry as a means of understanding ourselves and living more deeply, truly, and meaningfully have been read by thousands in six cover pieces for Backstage, the Performing Arts Weekly. She also writes a weekly think piece called the “Monday Morning Quote” (www.mondaymorningquote.com). As an advocate for women in the arts, she is the Co-President of the Women in the Arts & Media Coalition and VP of Programming for the League of Professional Theatre Women, She is a member of most unions and guilds in our industry, and an elected member of the National Theatre Conference.

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An Interview with Shellen Lubin (Reposted)

We’re very excited to have the opportunity to develop 365 Women a Year, The Bennington plays, further with Hubbard Hall as part of their Winter Carnival.

In preparation for the performance, we’re reposting this interview with Shellen Lubin regarding her play After the Thin Man. This interview was originally published on the site in 2015.

You can see After the Thin Man, and the other 365 Women a Year plays, on Friday, January 29th and Saturday, January 30th at 8pm.

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Interviewer: Natalie Osborne

Q: How did you hear about 365 Women a Year?

A: On facebook — not even sure whether it was a post in the Playwriting group there — or just noticing one of Jessica’s posts — but I immediately became involved.

Q: Why did you choose Stella Adler and Sylvia Gassell as your historic women? What drew you to them?

A: I studied with Stella Adler when I was younger, and she was in her 70s. Sylvia Gassell was in a play of mine when she was in her late 60s. Sylvia told me about Stella coming back from Hollywood and telling her not to go out there as a “character actress” because there are no parts for them. It’s something that has stayed with me all these years. I decided to imagine the moment when Stella gave up on acting as a profession and decided to teach, and that decision became the center of this play. (Also the fact that she was right, because, as brilliant as Sylvia was, how much did she really get to work in New York?)

Q: Can you walk me through the process of adapting a persons life for the stage? What were some of the challenges? What parts really clicked together?

A: I read and read until something about their path excited me, sparked me, and then focused my research on that aspect, fleshing out “information” where I needed it. The biggest challenges are 1) knowing that truth is more important than life, and so you have to write what makes the play work, not worry about what actually “happened”; 2) knowing that whatever you write about them, there is so much more, and the more ground you try to cover the less depth the piece will have.

The clicks were mostly found in the writing itself, the discoveries that come up when you create characters in your mind and set up the scene and discover where it goes. Some of the greatest clicks were: when I discovered why Stella became a teacher, something that she never discussed publicly and I’ve never heard anyone say about her, but I’m sure is true; when I discovered why she set up her classroom the way she did, not just to aggrandize herself.

Q: Are there any playwrights that inspired you while you were working on this piece, or who inspire you in general?

A: Lanford Wilson. Secrets. Discoveries. August Wilson. Athol Fugard. And Shakespeare. Keeping things active.

Q: What has been your favorite aspect of working with 365 Women a Year?

A: I have only once before written a biographical piece, and working on this piece has really helped me with that one (still in the middle of re-writes). I have also only written a few short plays. Most of my work has been full-length. It has been very exciting to just pick women I want to write about and then read all about them, become absorbed in their lives, and discover what it is I want to say, the angle I want to come from, how I want to say it.

Q: Do you have any advice for the playwrights joining 365 Women a Year in 2015?

A: Don’t think you have to decide what you want to write about the person first. Go deep into them and find where they touch you deepest.

And don’t try to cover too much ground. The illumination of one moment or a sequence of a few moments is actually much more interesting than a bio-pic (as it were) of their lives. It’s not a history lesson. It’s a play.

Shellen Lubin is a playwright, songwriter, and director, most recently writing music & lyrics for Susan Merson’s BETWEEN PRETTY PLACES and THE QUALITY OF RESPECT, her take on Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. Other produced plays include: IMPERFECT FLOWERS, WAITING, COFFEE ONCE A YEAR, ELEVATOR INVENTIONS. Musicals include: MOLLY’S DAUGHTERS, MY BRAVE FACE, and DEAR ALEX, DEAR HARRIET. She is currently working on the musical WHAT ZEESIE SAW ON DELANCEY STREET (with Elsa Rael and Matthew Gandolfo) and THE SARAH PROJECT. Co-President – Women in the Arts & Media Coalition; Co-Secretary – League of Professional Theatre Women; DG, BMI, SDC, AEA @shlubin @MonMornQuote.

Interview with Shellen Lubin

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Shellen Lubin discusses her new play AFTER THE THIN MAN. This is the second in a series of four posts featuring the playwrights of the Bennington 365 Women a Year Festival.

Interviewer: Natalie Osborne

Q: How did you hear about 365 Women a Year? 

A: On facebook — not even sure whether it was a post in the Playwriting group there — or just noticing one of Jessica’s posts — but I immediately became involved.

Q: Why did you choose Stella Adler and Sylvia Gassell as your historic women? What drew you to them? 

A: I studied with Stella Adler when I was younger, and she was in her 70s. Sylvia Gassell was in a play of mine when she was in her late 60s. Sylvia told me about Stella coming back from Hollywood and telling her not to go out there as a “character actress” because there are no parts for them. It’s something that has stayed with me all these years. I decided to imagine the moment when Stella gave up on acting as a profession and decided to teach, and that decision became the center of this play. (Also the fact that she was right, because, as brilliant as Sylvia was, how much did she really get to work in New York?)

Q: Can you walk me through the process of adapting a persons life for the stage? What were some of the challenges? What parts really clicked together? 

A: I read and read until something about their path excited me, sparked me, and then focused my research on that aspect, fleshing out “information” where I needed it. The biggest challenges are 1) knowing that truth is more important than life, and so you have to write what makes the play work, not worry about what actually “happened”; 2) knowing that whatever you write about them, there is so much more, and the more ground you try to cover the less depth the piece will have.

The clicks were mostly found in the writing itself, the discoveries that come up when you create characters in your mind and set up the scene and discover where it goes. Some of the greatest clicks were: when I discovered why Stella became a teacher, something that she never discussed publicly and I’ve never heard anyone say about her, but I’m sure is true; when I discovered why she set up her classroom the way she did, not just to aggrandize herself.

Q: What are you most excited about for the reading on the 27th? What are you most nervous about?

A: I am excited about seeing where the director and actors take these women–these characters–having nothing but the words I have written in front of them to start from on their expedition. That has only happened a few times in my life (where I got to see the production but was not a part of the process), and it is always somewhat breathtaking.

Nervous? Hmmm … I guess only that maybe I didn’t write what I thought I did, and it doesn’t get where I wanted it to … yet … because there are always re-writes.

Q: Are there any playwrights that inspired you while you were working on this piece, or who inspire you in general? 

A: Lanford Wilson. Secrets. Discoveries. August Wilson. Athol Fugard. And Shakespeare. Keeping things active.

Q: What has been your favorite aspect of working with 365 Women a Year? 

A: I have only once before written a biographical piece, and working on these two pieces has really helped me with that one (still in the middle of re-writes). I have also only written a few short plays. Most of my work has been full-length. It has been very exciting to just pick women I want to write about and then read all about them, become absorbed in their lives, and discover what it is I want to say, the angle I want to come from, how I want to say it.

Q: Do you have any advice for the playwrights joining 365 Women a Year in 2015? 

A: Don’t think you have to decide what you want to write about the person first. Go deep into them and find where they touch you deepest.

And don’t try to cover too much ground. The illumination of one moment or a sequence of a few moments is actually much more interesting than a bio-pic (as it were) of their lives. It’s not a history lesson. It’s a play.

Shellen Lubin is a playwright, songwriter, and director, most recently writing music & lyrics for Susan Merson’s BETWEEN PRETTY PLACES and THE QUALITY OF RESPECT, her take on Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. Other produced plays include: IMPERFECT FLOWERS, WAITING, COFFEE ONCE A YEAR, ELEVATOR INVENTIONS. Musicals include: MOLLY’S DAUGHTERS, MY BRAVE FACE, and DEAR ALEX, DEAR HARRIET. She is currently working on the musical WHAT ZEESIE SAW ON DELANCEY STREET (with Elsa Rael and Matthew Gandolfo) and THE SARAH PROJECT. Co-President – Women in the Arts & Media Coalition; Co-Secretary – League of Professional Theatre Women; DG, BMI, SDC, AEA  @shlubin @MonMornQuote. You can see her play AFTER THE THIN MAN at the Bennington College Student Center on March 27th, at 7:40pm. Or watch the online stream on HowlRound TV

Announcing the Cast of 365 Women a Year at Bennington!

NOplays is very excited to announce the cast for the 365 Women a Year Festival at Bennington College!

Making Frankenstein, written and directed by Natalie Osborne

Mary Shelley – Sarah Jack

Percy Shelley/Frankenstein – Marshall McGraw

Clare Shelley – Maia Villa

Stage Directions – Celene Barrera

En El Medio, written and directed by Maia Villa

Ria – Ada Guzman

Glo – Joana Santos

Stage Directions – Jessie Berliner

Feelin’ Lonely, written by Catherine Weingarten, directed by Natalie Osborne

Elizabeth – Lauren Cagnetta

John – Jade Pope

Stage Directions – Molly Forgaard

After the Thin Man, written by Shellen Lubin, directed by Maia Villa

Stella Adler – Singer Moora

Sylvia Gassel – Victoria Nation

Stage Directions – Molly Kirschner

Unfortunately, the play White Cotton is no longer a part of the festival, but we are very excited about our four plays and our fantastic cast! The performance will take place on March 27th at 7:40pm in the Bennington College Student Center. The performance will also be livestreamed on HowlRoundTV, starting at 8pm EST.

NOplays FIRST PRODUCTION

NOplays is pleased to announce that we will be organizing our first production in collaboration with 365 Women a Year!

The event will take place on March 27th at 7:40pm in the Bennington College Student Center. The evening will feature staged-readings of five original one acts written by Bennington College students and alumni. The evening will also be live-streamed on HowlRound and Nitenews, as part of the 365 Women a Year 24 Hour Broadcast.

We are very pleased to announce the plays that have been selected for the event.

MAKING FRANKENSTEIN by Natalie Osborne

EN EL MEDIO by Maia Villa

FEELIN’ LONELY by Catherine Weingarten

AFTER THE THIN MAN by Shellen Lubin

WHITE COTTON by Shellen Lubin

For more information on the readings, please email natalie.noplays@gmail.com. For more information about 365 Women a Year, please visit the website.

Stay tuned for more information on the playwrights and the historical women featured in their plays, and for the link to the live-stream.