Magazine article Stage Directions

West Coast Confab

Magazine article Stage Directions

West Coast Confab

Article excerpt

A recent event in Los Angeles drew playwrights and theater companies together for some valuable schmoozing.

Dozens of voluble playwrights mingled with over 100 theater groups at the fifth Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights (ALAP) Expo on October 4 at Loyola Marymount University. ALAP is a support group for writers that provides everything from staged readings to attorney referrals.

ALAP organizer Dan Berkowitz explains that the Expo is "a wonderful opportunity for writers to meet face-to-face with the people who sit in judgment of their work."According to Berkowitx, this Expo, the first since 1999, was the best one yet. ALAP picked up over 20 new members, and everyone seemed very enthusiastic about the event.

"It's a minglefest,"says Richard Tatum, associate artistic director of the ARK Theatre. Tatum, a first-time participant, was interested in finding new plays. He was also there to be a part of the L.A. theater community. "You see a lot of people you know, and a lot of people you forgot you know." Right on cue, Mike McGuinness, an old Mend of Tatum's, stopped by the table. They met at a theater in Philadelphia, and the Expo was the first time they'd seen each other in 12 years.

Mimi Seton of Playwright's Arena says that at the Expo, playwrights and theater companies learn about each other. Playwrights can sign up for theaters' mailing lists and meet dramaturges. "Our artistic director, Jon Lawrence Rivera, is looking for work that's daring, different and fresh-something that represents a new issue or a new way of speaking theatrically," she says.

Richard Niederberg of Los Angeles Designer's Theater was looking for stage-ready commercial plays. "We don't substitute someone else's vision for [the writer's]," he says. His consortium of investors is a producing entity that buys material outright. Writers who sell their work to Niederberg and his associates are compensated with royalties but "have no control over the destiny of the show. We like shows with production value," says Niederberg."We often hire the designer first."

Unlike most trade shows, where vendors have booths and buyers walk the floor, the ALAP Expo works in reverse: The buyers (the theater groups) sit at tables, while the sellers (the writers) roam about. Berkowitz explains that, in a way, the writers are shopping, too. "Everyone feels each other out [at the Expo]. Writers want to know if a theater is right for them. Can they get along? It's an informational thing."

Sue Hamilton, producing artistic director of the Cultural Arts Department of the LA. Gay and Lesbian Center, made at least three valuable contacts. In the week following the Expo, Hamilton received the script, Prove It On Me by Dee Jae Cox. The story about "the blues, love and a little bit of voodoo" takes place in 1929 Harlem. Hamilton will include it in the Center's new lesbian playwrights' reading series.

Playwright Katherine Griffin submitted Crazy Ladies, a one-woman show about gender, identity and "women's silence." Griffin plays 17 characters. Hamilton is considering the show for her new women's solo series. …

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