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!

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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

Meet the Playwright: Heather Houston

Heather HeadshotMeet Heather Houston, Supergravity and the Eleventh Dimension playwright! In her day job, Heather works for Harvard Law, saying that her expertise is “translating for the copier when it gets too complicated for the lawyers.” She’s super smart!

If you weren’t in theatre, what would be your dream job?
Oh, I’d still be a writer of some sort.  I’d still feel the need to create whole worlds in my head and have my creations fight back at me.  In fact, if I could get a magic typewriter that would let me have full-on battles with my characters, that would be neato-keen, and I’d set up a camera, just like all of those really terrible mockumentary horror movies and record myself having battles.  Of course, no one would believe it, so I couldn’t go into film, but I would totally write that shit down and get a best-selling novel out of it, because let’s face it, the printed word can’t die…. Can it?  CAN IT?  So, yeah, to hell with playwrighting.  Thanks for convincing me.

What has been your favorite thing about working on the play so far?
My favorite part has been watching the characters develop as the actors get their hands on them.

Ooh, wait, another favorite part is listening to the production team tell me their ideas to make this world come alive and having me look at them like, “Come on, get out of here.  I know I wrote it in the script, but I never expected anyone to actually DO it.  You guys are crazy.  You’re my heroes.”

Ooh, wait, also watching James Sotis work his magic as director (and clandestinely planning how I might take credit for his brilliance).  Muwahahaha!

Have you ever been fascinated by a certain aspect of science?
Yes, horticulture.  I know some people think I’m into physics, but really, it’s plants for me.  Just kidding.  I’ve been awe-struck by what the equations of physics can say about the world that we both can and can’t see and how those worlds collide.  Of course that’s what sparked the idea for this play.

What totally confuses you about physics?
Um, everything.  I’m more of what you would call an armchair physicist, which means I will live in perpetual fear that someone who really knows what they’re talking about will show up to the play and rip it to shreds.  Little do they know my fearless band of ninjas await.

Do you have any special relationships with geographic locations (good or bad) like the characters in the play have or had with the cabin?
My grandmother’s house.  Whenever I would go to visit, I would sleep in the back room, and at the foot of my bed, I swear to God there was a clown just like the one that pulled that kid under the bed in Poltergeist.  I will never forget that clown.  If only I could find him now and make him suffer for all the years of torment he has given me.  I would like to dedicate this play to him.

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.

Paper City Tuh-Wuh-Buh-Wuh

Hello Vagabond Theatre Groupies! Your Literary Associate here to give a big “thank you” to everyone who came out to Trident Booksellers & Cafe on Thursday for There Will Be Words. It was an excellent turnout, and a very fun evening.

Rachel Katherine Alexander And Kayla Ginetis reading Paper City Phoenix at There Will Be Words

The development of the plays we present at TWBW (pronounced “tuh-wuh-buh-wuh”) relies heavily on your feedback, and we got some excellent commentary. Judging by the smile on Walt McGough’s face, each response was appreciated, and you can bet every contribution will be immensely helpful as he continues work on Paper City Phoenix.

If you didn’t get the impression, Vagabond Theatre Group is very enthusiastic about theatre, especially when it comes to new works and young playwrights. To stand before a room of people who share that same enthusiasm is almost overwhelming. I cannot even begin to describe the passion and heart that has been on display at every TWBW Trident has so kindly hosted. Thanks to that, we are determined to continuously provide new and innovative works of theatre for your viewing and listening pleasure.

After the reading, Artistic Director James Peter Sotis announced that we will be presenting a full-fledged production of Burning Up the Dictionary by Meron Langsner at Boston Center for the Arts this November. As some of you may recall, our last TWBW was a presentation of that very same play (we’re pulling a True Believers here, so fasten up!). If you’re interested in seeing just how much your support and contributions work their way into the development of new works, you won’t want to miss out.

Again; thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you again, and thank you some more. Without collaboration between artist and audience, VTG simply does not work. It’s like a party where everyone’s invited to experience and contribute to the various stages of its development- Want beer pong? Done. A watermelon eating contest? Done. Beach barbecue? Done. A petting zoo? What the hell, let’s do it!

For updates on our next TWBW, our upcoming productions, or any other Vagabond Theatre happenings, “like” us on Facebook, “follow” us on twitter, or “talk” to us at any local theatre events we attend. We’re easy to identify, and I think you’ll find we’re pretty nice people.

An Interview with Paper City Phoenix Playwright, Walt McGough

Paper City Phoenix Playwright, Walt McGough

Paper City Phoenix Playwright, Walt McGough

Hello friends! In preparation for our upcoming reading of Paper City Phoenix, we have a fancy-schmancy interview with playwright Walt McGough for ya! And we hope to see you this coming Thursday at our There Will Be Words reading: 7:00 PM at Trident Booksellers & Cafe. You can RSVP to our facebook event here!

What was your first theatre memory and why did you decide pursue it?
I’m pretty sure I saw the touring production of ‘Cats’ when I was, like, five, but beyond a vague feeling of disquiet I don’t recall much of it. Practitioner-wise, I came to theatre relatively late (ie high school). I played the Priest in a production of ‘Twelfth Night’ and remember spending an entire Saturday sitting in the audience watching rehearsal in preparation for my one tiny scene, and just being enthralled by the whole thing. I think I went to, like, 95% of the rehearsals for that show, despite having maybe ten lines total, just to sit and watch and soak it all up. That pretty much sealed it for me.

How did you get started in playwrighting?
I knew I wanted to write, but in high school I thought I’d be a journalist because that’s a “respectable” writing job. Then in college I switched to wanting to write prose, but all of my stories were, like, two lines of description and then three pages of dialogue. I think around then I figured that playwriting might be the better approach.

If you weren’t a playwright, what would you do?
When I was five I told my grandfather that I wanted to be a paleontologist, and then between digs I’d be a stand-up comedian. I think that’s still pretty much the back-up plan.

When did the idea for Paper City Phoenix first pop into your head? What experiences have influenced its development?
I had just come off writing “The Farm,” which is fairly realistic (as much as possible when you have a ghost on stage) and very dark, so I wanted to change gears a bit and write something comedic and really big and crazy and theatrical. I got a picture in my mind of the moment that closes Act One (you’ll know it when you hear it), and had also just had a conversation with a friend about whether anybody out there has ever tried to make a hard copy of the Internet, as an archive. The two ideas kind of fused together in my brain and then a bunch of other things popped in there, too. At one point I surveyed my Facebook friends to get their favorite pieces of random trivia, and a lot of that found its way in there, as well.

Development-wise, I’ve heard the play a few times and last summer did a workshop with Orfeo Group, but it’s always changed pretty drastically from version to version as I gradually try to reign in the story and keep the characters consistent.

Any specific questions you want answered? What should we as audience members look for during the reading?
For this draft I’ve tried to make the logic of things as consistent as possible: the world of the play is pretty crazy and I’m curious to see if the audience comes out of the reading with a sense of what the rules are. On the character level, there are some arcs and conclusions that I’m happy with, and some that are still going to take some work, and so I’ll be listening for people’s opinions on where all the characters end up at the end of things.

What’s next on the docket for you? Do you have any upcoming projects?
I just finished a new draft of a swordfighting play called “The Haberdasher!”, and am working through a first draft of a post-apocalyptic mother-daughter drama called “Chalk.” In the meantime, my play “Priscilla Dreams the Answer,” which Fresh Ink produced last December, is being published by Playscripts, which has been a very fascinating process to go through. And lastly, I teach a Playwriting course at the Boston Center for Adult Education which is starting up next Monday (and can be signed up for at www.bcae.org, plug plug plug).

What do you like most about the Boston theatre scene? The real sense of excitement that seems to permeate the scene; it’s young and it’s scrappy and this really feels like a time of definition where anything is possible.

What advice can you offer other playwrights?
1) Write your characters into situations that you don’t immediately know the solution to. If you can solve the problem in five seconds, then the audience will be able to, as well, and they’ll get ahead of you. But if it takes you a week of walking around and thinking and stressing to see the answer (and there’s always an answer), then you’ll write it into the play and no one will see it coming.

2) Don’t waste your audience’s time. They’re giving up an entire evening of their lives to listen to something you wrote, so make sure to include them on the experience. (This goes double for your collaborators: they’re dedicating entire MONTHS of themselves to your work. Their opinions matter.)

3) Realism, by and large, doesn’t exist. Nobody actually thinks they’re looking through the invisible wall of a house. This is a good thing, because it means you get to decide how the rules of your world work.

4) Do everything you can in the theatre and learn as much as possible about it. You can’t write for it until you know it, and if you can talk to a designer or a director or an actor or a marketing manager in a way that connects with them, you’ll be a much better collaborator.

5) Whenever it is humanly possible, start your scenes in the middle of a conversation. If you start at the beginning, you’ve damned yourself to a page and a half of small talk before anything dramatic starts happening.

Who’s Ready for Another TWBW?!

Hello there!

Submissions for TWBW #4 closed a little over two weeks ago, and we here at VTG have been drowning in your talent ever since. Shorts, comedies, histories, tragedies, and even movement pieces have crossed our desk, with some amazing, gut busting, heart wrenching works glowing in the pile. This go around, you’ve sent us the most plays yet in the short history of TWBW, and it has been a pleasure to discover the depth of creativity in Boston.

After much internal debate, and a Hunger Games-esque battle to the finish*, we have finally chosen the script we’ll be presenting live and on stools (with script stands!) at Trident Booksellers and Cafe:

Paper City Phoenix by Walt McGough!

Paper City Phoenix
, in the playwright’s own words, is “an explosive comedy exploring how we connect when we’re always connected.”  The show is fantastically energetic, and brings forth some great discussion on identity, love, technology, and memory and how we as a society have incorporated all of those ideas into our lives in the light of the others.

We think you’re all going to dig it.

So join us! There Will Be Words: 4th Edition will go down on Thursday, September 13th, at 7pm. As always, the lovely people at Trident Booksellers & Cafe will be our gracious hosts (338 Newbury Street, Boston).

Come on down, grab a coffee or beer, some food, watch a reading, and Q some A’s. A great time is sure to be had by all. You can RSVP to our Facebook Event and we hope to see you there!

Until then, thanks from all of us at VTG.

*this part isn’t true.