Playwright Elaine Jarvik on creating BASED ON A TRUE STORY for the 2015/16 Season

BASED ON A TRUE STORY by Elaine Jarvik receives its world premiere February 25-March 6, 2016 featuring Colleen Baum, Jason Bowcutt, Mark Fossen and Nell Gwynn, directed by Cheryl Cluff.  The tiny seed for this play was a photo that my friend Andra Harbold sent me several years ago of a woman wearing aviator goggles. Write a play, she said. And so I began to think about the woman. Where was she going? And why? And the more I thought about her, the more I wondered why she wasconsumed by so many doubts. And I wondered what she looked to for comfort. By then, of course, I was talking about myself. I wondered what would happen if a worried person could travel to the future to see how her life turned out. I wondered why I can sit every Sunday in the church I attend and never be convinced of the big story everyone else believes. So this play is a journey about time and faith, a play where I’m trying to work those questions out. I’ve been fascinated with the notion of time travel ever since reading Robert Silverberg’s “Up the Line” several decades ago. His journeys were to the past, as most time travel fiction is. But I preferred thinking about what would happen if you ended up in the future, caught in a time that wasn’t your own, a refugee of sorts. Of course we’re all trapped in the time we live in, and I wanted to explore that too. I’m excited to see this play come to life under the imaginative direction of Cheryl Cluff. And I’m...

Playwright Jenifer Nii on creating KINGDOM OF HEAVEN for the 2015/16 Season

KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, with book & lyrics by Jenifer Nii and music & lyrics by Dave Evanoff, receives it world premiere March 31-April 10, 2016. Subscribe to the full season for only $70! Social media is a dangerous thing, and one never knows when the right/wrong people are watching. KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is proof. In a moment of impulsiveness, after evening spent binge-watching a reality television show about drag queens, I posted on my Facebook page something to the effect that “I wanna write a musical.” There was something so joyful about the television show, something surprisingly captivating about its courageous, stunningly creative contestants; something incredibly inspiring about their stories of discovery, determination, pain, and strength. It made me happy, this show. I loved the spectacle, marveled at the way those men transformed themselves into such a heightened state of femininity, and was fascinated how that process helped fulfill the contestants in such personal, individual ways. It had a triumphant, celebratory, inclusive feel to it, which was so refreshing and invigorating and nearly the opposite of what I’d been seeing in the community I live in. Gender issues are still very hot to the touch here, the heartland of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the last few years, women (and men) have been disciplined in an unprecedentedly-public arena for questioning their roles, for organizing to challenge everything from dress codes to women’s participation in leadership and religious rites. In January 2015, high-ranking leaders of the Church gave a rare press conference on gender identity. Elder Dallin H. Oaks acknowledged the Church is now striving to address the pantheon of...

Playwright Jenifer Nii on RUFF! (2014/15 Season, Add-On #2)

Jenifer Nii’s plays WALLACE (co-written with Debora Threedy), THE SCARLET LETTER and SUFFRAGE have premiered at Plan-B, the latter two garnering back-to-back nominations for the American Theatre Critics Association/Steinberg Award for Best New American Play Produced Outside New York. She spent a decade as a newspaper reporter after her university aspirations to be a concert pianist were thwarted by a pinky finger that snapped three times during a single Schumann sonata. She now trains dogs and writes plays, proudly calling Plan-B her creative home. When Jerry Rapier commissioned me as one of the five playwrights to create work for Plan-B’s Free Elementary School Tour, I wondered what kind of nuttiness had possessed him. I am childless, terrified of children, and I believe equally terrifying to them. I’m the dog lady! What story could I possibly tell that would be of interest to tiny humans? “Dogs, silly,” said Jerry. “You’re a playwright who’s obsessed with dogs. So write. Tell a story. Say it with dogs.” It turns out that writing plays and training dogs are similar processes. They both require discipline, openness, patience and perseverance. They both require me to face fear, do my homework, step out into the unknown, and believe. Training dogs requires creativity, to be able to look at a situation and see possibility, and then make the possibility a reality. In so many ways that’s exactly what writing is for me: overcoming doubt, allowing myself the freedom to act on an idea, and then willing myself to keep trying. I have seen firsthand the special connection between animals and children. I see it again and again, almost...

Playwright Melissa Leilani Larson on PILOT PROGRAM (2014/15 Season, Show #5)

Melissa Leilani Larson makes her Plan-B debut with PILOT PROGRAM.  An award-winning writer from Provo, Utah, her plays MARTYRS’ CROSSING (IRAM Best New Play) debuted at the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE enjoyed a sold-out run at Brigham Young University last March. Her screenplay FREETOWN, presently filming in Ghana, will be in cinemas in April 2015.  Other plays include LITTLE HAPPY SECRETS (Association for Mormon Letters Drama award), A FLICKERING (Trustus Playwrights Festival finalist), STANDING STILL STANDING (Mayhew award), and LADY IN WAITING (Lewis National Playwriting Contest for Women winner). Dramatists Guild ambassador for Utah, BA in English from BYU, MFA from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop. What would it take for me to leave my Mormon faith behind? Polygamy. Other faithful Mormons have told me on multiple occasions that I will find love in the hereafter, as some lucky guy will be blessed to have me as a plural wife.  Lucky?  Really?  I’ve always been grateful to know polygamy is a thing of the past. But is it?  Plural marriage was decriminalized in Utah in 2013.  Recent decisions on both state and federal levels have called the definition of marriage into question, and I began to wonder: could polygamy really be legal?  Could it make a comeback in LDS practice?  And the possibility, as insignificant as it may be, terrified me. As a lifelong Mormon, marriage is something that I’ve heard about for as long as I can remember. As a child and a teenager and even in religion classes in college, I was taught that marriage was the key to the kingdom.  I’ve been told all my life that I would marry a good man...

Playwright Matthew Ivan Bennett on A/VERSION OF EVENTS (2014/15 Season, Show #4)

Matthew Ivan Bennett has been Plan-B’s resident playwright since 2007, when he wrote his first radio play, RADIO HOUR EPISODE 3: LAVENDER & EXILE.  Since then RADIO HOUR EPISODE 4: FRANKENSTEIN, BLOCK 8, DI ESPERIENZA, RADIO HOUR EPISODE 5: ALICE, MESA VERDE, RADIO HOUR EPISODE 7: SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE BLUE CARBUNCLE, ERIC(A) and DIFFERENT=AMAZING have premiered at Plan-B, along with a plethora of short plays including TERMS OF USE.  His plays RADIO HOUR EPISOD 9: GRIMM and A/VERSION OF EVENTS receive their world premieres as part of Plan-B’s 2014/15 season as shows #1 and 4, respectively. Sometimes you don’t want to talk about plays because you want people to be surprised. So I’ll talk around the plot of A/VERSION OF EVENTS and tell you why I wrote it. My parents lost a baby when I was 18. Actually, he died on my nineteenth birthday. I can still hear my stepdad sawing wood for a tiny blond coffin in the backyard. I can still hear Benjamin cry. I can still feel my younger self’s cold anger. I didn’t understand my baby brother’s suffering. Or the certainty with which our neighbors cooed things like, “You’ll see him again one day.” Now I’m 36. Twice the age I was then. I’m not twice as wise, probably, but I can parse the remembered anger from the faith, love, and hope that was also alive in our house. The play isn’t autobiographical, or even an adaptation of those events, but it’s a place for my past anger and present acceptance to live side by side for 90 minutes. But besides grief, it’s a play...

Playwright Carleton Bluford on MAMA (2014/15 Season, Show #3)

Carleton Bluford is a member of The Lab at Plan-B, a cadre of 9 local playwrights. He has created roles in Plan-B’s WALLACE by Jenifer Nii and THE THIRD CROSSING by Debora Threedy; he will also appear in A/VERSION OF EVENTS later this season.. MAMA, winner of the inaugural Plan-B Theatre grant from The David Ross Fetzer Foundation for Emerging Artists, is his first professional production. There are a couple of poignant things about MAMA that make it what it is. First is my mother Dawn Bluford. MAMA is a sort of homage to motherhood and her.  She is so much of the reason why I am where I am today and the reason why I’ve done what I’ve done. Without her, I couldn’t be the man that I am. So MAMA is really a way to say to my mother and all mothers, “We may not always say it, but we see what you do, and we thank you!”  We celebrate the sacrifices our mamas make for us on a daily basis that raise all of us to our higher potential. Second is David Fetzer.  His influence was a huge motivation for this play. He was a friend of mine and we talked about the kind of theater he wanted to show people and the kinds of experiences we wanted people to have in the theater. MAMA was written with him in mind and I’d like to think he’d get a kick out of it. I’ve been blessed with one of the most talented casts I could hope for and a company that really cares about our work...

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