Fortune’s Favored – There Will Be Words Recap from Literary Manager Zach Winston

I came across Fortune’s Favored a little over a month ago, back when VTG opened submissions for its summer production. Like any other play we’ve selected, it initially needed some work. It took a bit of convincing to get the play chosen but, with such passion, such an educated voice, and highly inspired elements, it simply could not be ignored.

When it comes to selecting plays for There Will Be Words, I like to think of more than just choosing a “good play.” The playwright should benefit just as much as VTG from both the reading and the talkback. The question I’ve always asked is, “is this play developed as much as it can be without being heard in front of an audience?”

Such was the case with Fortune’s Favored.

In acting school, we’re taught to make our characters lead from one of three places: the head (character’s choices made from intellect), the heart (character’s choices made from the soul), and the stomach (character’s choices made from impulse). This is also the case with a play, and Fortune’s Favored is one which leads from the heart.

I was amazed with exactly how much heart and soul was ingrained into the script. So much so that it overflowed from the pages into playwright Lesley Anne Moreau’s process which led to three new, honed drafts before TWBW.

A small but mighty assembly of new theatre enthusiasts gathered together at Trident Booksellers & Cafe on Thursday, May 15th to hear the words of Fortune’s Favored. We gave them words as promised and, in return, we got words. Lesley heard the words spoken by our audience and, without hesitation, worked around the clock on a new draft before going into rehearsals. In fact, first thing I’m going to do after publishing this blog post is look over the revisions Lesley just sent after a successful first week of rehearsals.

I’ve been describing the play as an inspired mash-up uniting the characters of Tennessee Williams, the tone/setting of Sam Shepard, and the themes/motifs of Anton Chekov. It takes place in a run-down arcade in Big Ugly, West Virginia where Eudora Redden (Annie Hochheiser), daughter of the arcade’s negligent owner, runs day-to-day operations. When Davis Milford (Conor Walsh), a mysterious stranger from Beverly Hills, offers a very large sum for a rare fortune-telling machine, she finds a way out. However, when her beauty-pageant-washout cousin Luann (Lauren Robinson) interferes, sparks fly and the gloves come off in a riveting family drama.

Fortune’s Favored opens at The Factory Theatre (791 Tremont street, Boston MA) on July 11th, and runs through the 26th. Tickets can be purchased at on Brown Paper Tickets. We will also be hosting pay-what-you-can night ($5 min.) on July 16. Hope to see you there!

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Open Submissions for December There Will Be Words

Winter is coming and you know what that means? So it the winter edition of There Will Be Words!

Our next There Will Be Words will be held on Thursday, December 19 at 7:00 PM at Trident Booksellers & Cafe, which means that SUBMISSIONS ARE NOW OPEN!

While we just closed submissions for our next production in the spring, this is a chance for playwrights to submit works that feel like they would benefit from a public reading.

Starting today, we are accepting both short and full-length plays. Please note that TWBW submission guidelines have been modified slightly with a newly added limit on the number of plays that a playwright may send:

    • Playwrights must be New England-based.
    • Playwrights must be available to attend the reading and be able to provide their own transportation to and from Trident Booksellers & Cafe.
    • Plays should be entirely original work.
    • Plays should not have been produced in full prior to TWBW (readings/workshops are fine).
    • Playwrights may submit up to two plays per round of submissions.

Please email plays in PDF format to submissions@vagabondtheatregroup.com. Include a personal biography and a synopsis of the play in the body of the email.

Submission deadline is Thanksgiving: Thursday, November 28 at 9:00 PM.

We look forward to reading your work!

Meet the Crew: Zach Winston: Stage Manager

Zach WinstonMeet Zach Winston, Vagabond Theatre Group Literary Manager and Stage Manager for Supergravity and the Eleventh Dimension! This is Zach’s first shot at Stage Managing and he says, “the weirdest thing (which means my favorite thing because I’m sick like that) is that I’m actually enjoying it. Watching these wonderful actors and designers doing their best work for this fantastic play has been an experience I’ll cherish forever.”

If theatre is not your full-time job, what do you do on the side?
For the past three months or so, I’ve been working for a kids party company. Most of the time, it involves a large amount dancing in an Elmo or Mickey Mouse costume. I love working with kids, I love entertaining, and I love the satisfaction of entertaining kids. Also, I just started working for the new Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Museum of Science. I’m an exhibit host meaning I had to memorize a four-page presentation which I perform about a dozen times a day. Part of my sanity was sacrificed, but it’s a good way to keep myself in front of an audience while I manage this wonderful play!

What has been your favorite thing about working on the play so far?
James sent me a text message one day that said, “How would you feel about stage managing this summer?” I have never stage managed in my life, nor have I ever ASM’d, called cues, or compiled rehearsal reports. Needless to say, I told James I was waiting for some sort of sick punch-line. But after giving it some thought, I decided to give it a try. The weirdest thing (which means my favorite thing because I’m sick like that) is that I’m actually enjoying it. Watching these wonderful actors and designers doing their best work for this fantastic play has been an experience I’ll cherish forever.

Have you ever been fascinated by a certain aspect of science?
Paleontology. Just finished watching Walking with Dinosaurs for, like, the fourth or fifth time. Although, it’s not so much the bones that fascinate me about Dinosaurs as much as it’s the monolithic masses of evolutionary prodigy competing for their very survival. It’s fantastic drama.

What totally confuses you about physics?
How I’ve managed to go this far into life without any major physical injury. I’ve suffered many a sleepless night anxiously awaiting the day. Physicists fear me.

If someone were to read your fortune (a la Carmen in the play), what do you think it would say?
Ever see that episode of Rocko’s Modern Life where Filburt keeps opening fortune cookies that say, “bad luck and extreme misfortune will infest your pathetic soul for all the eternity?” I always picture something like that happening to me. But, with my luck, I imagine I’d get something tragically common and mundane like, “one week from today you will fulfill a minor obligation, but you cannot do it unless you are to drink a moderately sized cup of dark coffee from Dunkin Donuts.”

Do you have any special relationships with geographic locations (good or bad) like the characters in the play have or had with the cabin?
We’ve certainly had our ups and downs, but Salem will always be a special place for me. I started going to school there in 2007, then moved there in 2009. Some of my best friends were met there, and much of my growth as a performer and a person occurred there. Not to mention The Willows and The Waterfront are beautiful this time of year. Definitely feeling a day-trip soon. Who’s with me?

There Will Be Words – Undesirables by Kevin Mullins

Typically for There Will Be Words we open submissions, receive plays for about a month, spend another few weeks reading and discussing options. James and I will read the plays that the rest of the readers enjoy and pick our play. It is a great system because we get a new batch of plays every time, and we love plays! However, there have been a lot of very promising plays that have, for whatever reason, fallen through the cracks. So for this past TWBW, we decided to go back into the archives and pull out one of our favorites that wasn’t chosen.

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For this reading, we chose Undesirables by Kevin Mullins. It’s a post-apocalyptic tale of survival taking place in a remote cabin with drones flying overhead and radioactivity infecting the landscape. We cast five capable actors who not only turned out top-notch performances, but also lended valuable commentary for the play’s development. The best part is that they do all of this in one rehearsal.

The reason we only have one rehearsal is because we like to keep the emphasis on the play and playwright. If we have much more than one rehearsal, the emphasis turns from the script to the direction and the acting. In full production of any play, new or established, this is a major step in a good direction. But TWBW is a workshop meant to help the playwright by with a reading in front of an audience. Once a playwright has a clear enough understanding of what they want from their audience, the fun can start (and if you’re not looking for fun from theatre, why the hell are you doing it in the first place?).

Director James Peter Sotis, actors Devon Scalisi, Kevin Paquette, Todd Sandstrom, Jillian Barry, Cassandra Meyer, playwright Kevin Mullins and I met up to read and discuss the play. Some edits were made, and we were ready to put Undesirables in front of an audience. The result was one of the most humbling experiences VTG has ever had.

Upstairs, at Trident Booksellers & Cafe on Newbury Street, about thirty or so smiling faces appeared with three common goals: to eat, to drink, and to see some new theatre. Many were recognized and respected faces in the Boston theatre community, many were new to us. Regardless, their enthusiasm was almost tangible and that, more than anything, is what we value most in our audiences, especially for TWBW. After all, who wants to hear someone’s opinion who isn’t even enthusiastic about it? Sorry. Not interested.

When it comes to workshopping new plays, it’s always a crapshoot. There’s no way to completely immerse yourself into an audience’s position, nor can you know for sure what they’re going to think. One thing can make perfect sense in your head or make you react a certain way while reading it, but the fact of the matter is that plays were meant to be seen and heard. Not read. Luckily, Kevin Mullins has a clear understanding of this, as was evident from the talkback.

Undesirables takes us on a multi-layered adventure that not only tells a tale of present survival, but also opens many doors to past and future conflict all unraveling in a single room of one abandoned house.

One major discussion point during the talkback was whether or not we wanted to know more about what we can’t see happening and, if so, whether or not it was needed. With your passion and enthusiasm (and a few allusions to Samuel Beckett, for which I’m an absolute sucker), we came to the conclusion that we were okay knowing what we know and there was no need to for any additional information. This was a major question we all wanted to ask, and thank you all for providing any and all commentary to help reach that conclusion.

As I’m sure most of you know, we performed this reading amidst rehearsals for another show which opens shortly at The Factory Theatre. For more information on Supergravity and the Eleventh Dimension. Click here to purchase tickets and click here to contribute to the show!

Thank you all for attending There Will Be Words: Undesirables. We hope to see you again at Supergravity and future TWBWs!

– Zach Winston, Literary Manager

An Interview with Kevin Mullins, Undesirables Playwright

TWBW7PosterWe hope you can join us on Thursday, May 23, when we’ll be reading Undesirables by Kevin Mullins upstairs at Trident Booksellers & Cafe as part of our There Will Be Words program! Take a moment to get to know the playwright below and get psyched for our next TWBW!

What was your first theatre memory and why did you decide pursue it?
It was in second grade when my father took me to see a friend in a production of The Hobbit that the Watertown Children’s Theatre was doing. I begged my father to sign me up as we were leaving. I’ve been hooked ever since.

How did you get started in playwrighting?
I started out trying to write a novel, but I kept getting bogged down in having to describe everything. I was already doing a lot of acting and in a dramatic act of frustration said “Well, that’s what set designers are for!”

But the reason I kept writing plays is that theatre is a collaborative art. That’s what’s most important to me. It’s more than just words on the page. It’s a blueprint that tells my collaborators what they need in order to do the play. The trick is in only telling exactly what they need. No more. No less.

If you weren’t a playwright, what would you do?
Good question! I have no clue.  I’ve always been very political and I’ve often been called a political playwright. If not theatre I probably would have studied in the social sciences and done some type of leftist organizing. There have been times in my life where I have thrown myself into political work, but theatre has a gravitational pull that just sucks you in and doesn’t let you go. Part of the reason all of my plays deal with social issues is an attempt to make up for not dedicating myself fully to some lost cause.  

Any specific questions you want answered? What should we as audience members look for during the reading?
I’m a huge nerd. I tend to write plays that take place in worlds that are not our own. So worldbuilding is a HUGE thing for me. My main question would be does this world make sense? Can you imagine it? At what point did things about the world pull you out the story?

When did the idea for Undesirables first pop into your head? What experiences have influenced its development?
It was my thesis play at Carnegie Mellon University. I had been trying to write another play that I thought was going to be my thesis play and I was stuck in the mud with it. It was during the summer of 2011 during the whole debt ceiling “crisis” and a massive heat wave.  I decided that I would take a few days off from the play and picked up a book to read while sitting in front of the air conditioner.

The book was Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence by Christian Parenti. It’s about how climate change is having an effect in places and conflicts as far reaching as the war in Afghanistan to the drug war in Mexico. If we don’t change course, it’s going to trigger massive migration. In some aspects it already has. There’s a decent chance that we’re going to have something akin to climate apartheid, where the wealthy live in gated communities with guards and the rest drown or starve. The book scared me to death and it, added with the craziness of the right wing, coupled with the fact that it was 110 outside in the shade made me write with a furry.

At CMU I felt like the play was put through the ringer. When the play originally ended they all arrived at the house. Then it took place in or around the house. As a result of the CMU production the whole story is confined to the main room of the house. I still have scenes and scenes that take place in the outer world of the play that I wonder where they belong, if anywhere.

What’s next on the docket for you? Do you have any upcoming projects?
I’m getting married in July! So that’s the next big project on my docket.

As for theatre projects: I’m collaborating with the amazingly talented director Lindsay Eagle on an adaptation of Euripides’s Medea. It’ll be set in near-future Sudan and involve Iranian cyborgs, Chinese spies, Russian mobsters and queer people… always queer people. I’m beyond excited for it.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to have gotten into The Accomplice Writers Group with Interim Writers. They’re an amazing group of people who you should all take notice of.

What do you like most about the Boston theatre scene?
Sarah Rhul, (whom I adore) totally dissed Boston theatre in an article about a year or so ago. She said that we weren’t a real theatre town because we still hold to our Puritan founding’s. Maybe she just tried to get a drink or take the subway after 1:00 am and was less than forgiving… Anyway, there was a time where I might have agreed with her, but when I look around at all the young companies and the dedication towards new work, I think… I hope… we’re starting to prove her wrong.

What advice can you offer other playwrights?
A few things:

1. Most importantly: Write! Don’t stop. Write one play and then another, and then another. The more you do it, the more you’ll get a feel for it. Write the play that you would go see by yourself on a Friday night when you don’t know a single person in it or anyone who worked on it.

2. Seek out the people who share your sensibilities as an artist. Find the writers who you respect and admire. Find directors who get what you’re trying to do. A good director is a real treasure, when you find a good one hold on to them.

3. See theatre. A lot of theatre. I see a show a week. You should too! And always go to the bar after. Always. Half the battle is getting them to remember that you exist. I can’t tell you how many opportunities and contacts have happened because of after show socializing.

4. Self-produce! Don’t wait for a third party to select you. Have people over to your house and give them beer and pizza and read the play in your living room…hell try staging the play in your living room (tell the roommates first though) and put it up yourself when it’s ready. Even if it’s for a night or two, you’ll learn more from a production than any reading or workshop.

5. And lastly: BE NICE. This is a small world, not just Boston theatre, but all theatre. It’s really just six of us, so if I hear that you’re an asshole, or a narcissist, or someone I trust won’t work with you, it’s going to make me think twice about collaborating with you. You can always catch more flies with honey than vinegar as my grandmother would say.

Our Next TWBW: Undesirables by Kevin Mullins

TWBW7PosterPlease join VTG for a reading of local playwright Kevin Mullins’s UNDESIRABLES this coming Thursday, May 23 at 7:00 PM at Trident Booksellers & Cafe (338 Newbury Street)!

In a nuclear-ridden post-apocalyptic America, three men escape a concentration camp and hide out in an abandoned ranch. The arrival of a renegade AK-47-wielding woman tests relationships, patience, and each character’s hunger for survival.

As with all TWBW readings, admission is FREE, though we do suggest a donation of $2 to help us continue to hold events like this and bring fresh, new voices to Boston audiences.

You can RSVP on Facebook and invite your friends to grab a drink and bite to eat while supporting small theatre and new plays! Hope to see you there!

Our Next TWBW Selection Process!

Amidst IRNE award nomination, board meetings, and elaborate planning for Supergravity and the Eleventh Dimension, we’re also getting ready for our next There Will Be Words (Thursday, May 23, 7:00 PM, Trident Booksellers & Cafe)! This time, we did something a little different.

Since we typically open submissions for specific readings, there are often great plays we love and give much consideration but, for whatever reason, they’re not picked. So for this one, we went back into the archives and are selecting one of those plays. In other words, if you submitted anything to us since the first TWBW, your play was eligible for consideration!

This is a very important time for artists to create, and we are immensely humbled by the amount of people who send us plays and are willing to see what we can do. For updates, be sure to check our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter (@VagabondTheatre), and sign up for our newsletter. Keep your eyes out because we’ll be announcing our next TWBW play very very soon!