365 Women a Year Part II!

Tonight’s your last night to see 365 Women a Year Part II at Hubbard Hall! The performance starts at 8pm in the Freight Depot. Come support local artists and greater gender parity in theatre.

Check out these highlights from the rehearsals. See what you missed? Don’t miss out again!

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Buy tickets here.

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365 Women a Year Part II TONIGHT!!

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Get on your snow boots and scarf! Tonight’s the opening night for NOplays’ second 365 Women a Year event, featuring the works of Bennington College students and alumni. What do Mary Shelley, Elizabeth Bishop, Stella Adler, and Pina Bausch all have in common? They’re going to be on stage tonight at Hubbard Halls’ Freight Depot at 8pm! Don’t miss out! Buy tickets here.

An Interview with Catherine Weingarten (Reposted)

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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 Catherine Weingarten regarding her play Feelin’ Lonely. This interview was originally published on the site in 2015.

You can see Feelin’ Lonely, and the other 365 Women a Year plays, on Friday, January 29th and Saturday, January 30th at 8pm. You can purchase tickets here.

Interviewer: Natalie Osborne

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

A: Last year I got in touch with Jesslynn Chamblee because we both were selected for a few of the same short play festivals. She was super fun to talk to and we ended up commiserating about grad school, being a female playwright and submission opportunities. Then she told me about her awesome project “365 Women” and I decided to join the Facebook group and give it a go!

Q: Why did you choose Elizabeth Bishop as your historical woman? What drew you to her?

A: At Bennington College I took a poetry class my freshman year about intense friendships between poets; and we studied Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. Ever since then she has stuck in my head. I love how observant, crisp and surprisingly funny her poetry is. Also she was a lesbian and so edgy and strong! Can I be her now!

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 knew that I didn’t want to be too literal when it came to adaptation. I wanted to take details from her life that did it for me; and then give myself the freedom to imagine my own version of how things could have played out. The challenge is the pressure of being historically accurate/depicting things as they probably occurred; but to tell you the truth that sounds supa boring, so I tried to avoid that and let myself have weird Elizabeth Bishop odd fantasy sequences.

I had a lot of fun creating Elizabeth Bishop as a character because she is so spunky and smart and repressed; what cool qualities for a woman!

Q: The play takes place during Bishop’s time at Vassar College, what inspired you to focus on this part of her life? 

A: Ever since I have been writing plays I have been obsessed with stories about younger people trying to figure out adulthood. The idea of writing about Elizabeth Bishop still trying to figure out her voice and her swag, really did it for me. Also I was a playwriting apprentice at Vassar’s Summer Theater in 2012, so I had a clear image in my mind about the buildings she probably studied in.

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

A: I am such a Bennington chick, so I am thrilled whenever my alma mater decides to put up my work! I am nervous that people will throw hipster vegan drinks at the stage and cry and say that my play is not historically accurate(which it probs is not).

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

A: Things that inspire me: coconut cake, Sherry Kramer, Sam Hunter, pink cupcakes.

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

A: I am a big proponent of female playwrights and minority playwrights having more of a voice on the American stage; so this project is right up my alley. I love feeling like I’m apart of this sketchy secret Facebook group mission that involves a ton of female playwrights.

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

Don’t worry too much about getting every detail of the person’s life correct. Just try to take what’s interesting to you and then give yourself room to be crae and have fun!

Catherine Weingarten is a recent Bennington College graduate in Vermont and an incoming playwriting MFA candidate at Ohio University. Her short works have been done at such theaters as Ugly Rhino Productions, Fresh Ground Pepper, and Nylon Fusion Collective. Her full length plays include: Are you ready to get PAMPERED!?, Recycling Sexy, A Roller Rink Temptation and Pineapple Upside Down Cake: a virgin play. She is the Playwright in Residence for “Realize your Beauty inc” which promotes positive body image for kids by way of theater arts. She was previously a member of Abingdon Theater’s playwrights group and New Perspective “women’s work” short play lab 2014.

An Interview with Emma Plotkin

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Emma Plotkin discusses her new play PINA, which will be premiering as part of the 365 Women a Year Festival at Hubbard Hall’s Winter Carnival.

Interviewer: Natalie Osborne

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

A: I first heard about 365 Women a Year when I saw the festival performed at Bennington College.

Q: Why did you choose Pina Bausch as your historical woman? What drew you to her?

A: Pina is one of the foremost choreographers in modern dance. Her work is raw and revolutionary. It contains a clear love of lines and creates pictures on stage but there is also a theatrical element that doesn’t seem overwrought or cliched. I love the way she speaks about dance, it is clear that this art is her innermost being.

Q; Can you walk me through the process of adapting a person’s life for the stage? What were some of the challenges? Which parts really clicked together?

A: I have seen a couple of documentaries about Pina before beginning the process of adapting her life, including “Pina” by Wim Wenders and “Dreams in Motion: In the Footsteps of Pina Bausch.” I also watched some of her most acclaimed work including “Cafe Muller” and “The Right of Spring.” After this I sorted through some interviews to get a better sense of how Pina speaks, not only the content but the speech pattern. It was difficult to find articles Pina had written but there is one speech she wrote for the Kyoto Prize in 2007 called “What Moves Me” that helped fuel this play. Some things are directly sourced from this speech, for example the phrase “What moves you?” and the story about Pina living in the restaurant with her father. I knew that the story could not possibly be a completely accurate portrait of Pina and her company, but all the dancers are based on real people.

There is very little documentation about Pina’s personal life save that her first husband had passed and that she remarried and had a son. The entire “personal life” section on her Wikipedia page took up two sentences! Pina is not a love object; that is not why I and other people should look up to her. Pina’s life was in her work. So I wanted to write a piece that provided commentary to her choreography and an emotional dialogue embedded in the practicalities of creating work. When Josephine says that “Cafe Muller” is revolutionary she means it. “Cafe Muller” comes out of Tanztheater Wuppertal, dance theatre, a form with music and other sounds, strong emotions and evocative set and costume. Pina says “It is almost unimportant whether a work finds an understanding audience. One has to do it because one believes that it is the right thing to do. We are not only here to please, we cannot help challenging the spectator.”

Q: Can you walk me through how you incorporated movement into the piece?

A: Pina is all about movement. If you watch her interviews and read her speeches there is a certain way they move too, everything blends together, which is the basis of Tanztheater Wuppertal.  So I would write with music from her show in the background and then watch and rewatch her dances. The dance I was most drawn to was “Cafe Muller.” I remember seeing this dance on Youtube when I was a child and not understanding in my mind but responding deeply to the movement that seemed so longing, desperate and lonely. After reading Pina’s story about her childhood in her father’s restaurant, I arrived at a possible conclusion for the choreography behind this piece. The movement motivates the dialogue, it recalls the past.

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

Yes, I was reading well over a dozen plays (at the same time ahh!) before starting this piece and while the styles may be different, I have a lot of a playwrights who have influenced or inspired my writing. I owe a great debt to Lanford Wilson, not only as a playwright but as a teacher. When I was 17 I attended a program called New York Summer School for the Arts of (NYSSSA). This is where I learned how to work with an ensemble, to move between dance and theater and this is where I wrote one of my first plays. Lanford Wilson had fought and fundraised for NYSSSA and the program continues to benefit from his patronship. I assistant directed two short Tennessee Williams plays last year at the Hangar Theatre. Tennessee Williams is one of the foremost poet playwrights of our time. Poetry to movement is like sand to the sea, enriched by their joining. Sherry Kramer, a playwright responsible for such transformative work as “The Bay of Fundy” has been a huge inspiration. Not only is she a terrific playwright but she is an incredible teacher at my school. Sherry has taught me the ABC’s of playwriting, everything from breaking down a script to breathing life into my characters. I owe her a great debt and am forever grateful for her support and knowledge. Other playwrights that have had a profound influence on my work include Sarah Ruhl, Sarah Kane, Alice Birch, Caryl Churchill, Anton Chekhov, William Shakespeare and Sophocles.

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

I love that this festival feels like a community! I saw 365 Women a Year Bennington College. I met the inspirational powerhouse Shelly Lubin and I’ve been fortunate to study with Natalie Osborne! Part of my studies include female empowerment and examining female role models in media, so this was an amazing opportunity to put a woman on stage who is complicated, dynamic and focused on following her passions rather than focusing on a love interest or being flattened by passivity and circumstance. Pina is powerful. Pina is revolutionary. Pina is an inspirational woman!

Q: Do you have any advice for playwrights joining 365 Women a Year in 2016?

Take your time selecting a woman to write about. I spent a couple of weeks looking through autobiographies and watching movies before I chose Pina. Also ask yourself, “What about this woman inspires me?” Personally I would stay away from her love life unless it’s relevant to what makes her kick ass, because putting a woman on stage is not enough. As a playwright we have a responsibility to put up characters who are holistic (or satirically flat), who have passions and who inspire others to live empowered fulfilling lives which are not going to be derived solely out of the media myth of romantic love! Am I for love, hell ya! Do I love my work, hell ya! Do I love my family, hell ya! So let your character love, but love the world, let her be so big and complicated and powerful and fearful and loving that she becomes a hand pressing at the ceiling – confines that each of us has placed on ourselves. Write a woman who shatters the ceiling, that’s the play I want to see.

Emma Plotkin is a Playwright/Poet, Director/Devisor, Actor, Singer/Musician, Mover/Dancer (Theater Maker?) and Life Lover from Ithaca NY. At Bennington College she explores the interdisciplinary nature of performative work as well as themes of marginalization and empowerment including the history of colonialism, structural and microaggression, feminism, gender equality, global conflict resolution and the portrayal of figures in media. At the heart, her work has explored the humanness of characters colliding with rigid societies. Her most recent work includes devising/directing “One Man” which investigates assimilation and incarceration in a hierarchical world (sounds familiar) and directing/writing “Black Out” which explores the relationship of a dying Jewish woman and her former Nazi pupil during the beginning of WWII. Emma has most recently studied with and owes a great debt to, Robert Wilson and the Watermill Center, Sherry Kramer, Dina Janis, Jean Randich and the whole of Bennington College, Teya Sugareva, The Hangar Theatre, New York State Summer School of the Arts and Running to Places Theatre Company as well as her incredible friends and family. There is no way I would be here today without your mentorship, love and support.

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.

A Year in NOplays

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2015 was a huge year for NOplays!

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365 Women a Year at Bennington College, our first production, happened this March. We had an excellent turnout both locally with audience members who attended the event live, and an international audience who tuned into the live-stream. We introduced four new works by female playwrights Shellen Lubin, Maia Villa, Catherine Weingarten, and Natalie Osborne. Their plays celebrate the achievements of extraordinary women such as Mary Shelley, Elizabeth Bishop, Stella Adler, Slyvia Gassel, and Gloria Anzaldua.

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LADIES FIRST, a newsletter for new productions, workshops, readings, and publications by female playwrights, launched it’s first two issues this November and December. The goals of LADIES FIRST are to create greater gender parity in theatre by highlighting the works of female writers and the organizations that promote and produce their works.

None of this would be possible without support from our communities, from the many theatre-makers who have given their time and talents to our projects, and from our followers. Thank you for an amazing year, and we hope 2016 will be an even bigger one!

So What’s Next for 2016?

365 Woman a Year is Back!

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NOplays, in collaboration with Hubbard Hall, will be presenting another production of the 365 Women a Year, Bennington plays. The production will be part of Hubbard Hall’s Winter Carnival this January.

Featuring three returning plays; Making Frankenstein by Natalie Osborne, Feelin’ Lonely by Catherine Weingarten, and After the Thin Man by Shellen Lubin.

The production will also feature one world premiere, Pina by Emma Plotkin.

En El Medio, by Maia Villa, one of the four original 365 Women a Year plays, is currently being workshopped by Chicanas Cholas y Chisme in Los Angeles, and will have a production in March 2016.

The 365 Women a Year performances will take place the evenings of Friday, January 29th and Saturday, January 30th.

Hope to see you there, and have a safe and happy New Year!