As my Facebook followers/friends already know, this past weekend I had the incredible opportunity to be the Playwright in Residence at the 8 in 48 Festival for Young Audiences in Meridian, Idaho!
In March or April of 2015 I wrote a 10-minute play called Devushka and the Cat which I was very proud of.
In May I submitted it to the 8 in 48 Festival.
In August I received an e-mail telling me that of 120 submissions my play had been selected as one of eight to be produced and performed at the festival. Then, following that, I received an invitation to be the festival’s Playwright in Residence: an all expenses paid trip to Idaho to be a part of the festival and watch my words come to life! Here’s the story of my weekend:
On Friday I flew off to Boise, where the mastermind herself and managing director of the festival Julia Pachoud Bennett picked me up at the airport, treated me to some DELICIOUS Boise Fry Company and brought me to the Meridian Methodist Church where the festival would be located. There I met the director of my play, Lynn Allison Hoffman. Lynn is an Equity actress who works with Idaho Shakespeare Company and she immediately sat me down and talked with me about the beautiful vision she had for my play. She put me at ease right away with her kindness, wisdom, and artistic integrity. Then, I sat among the 8 directors to watch the actors audition. There was so much talent on that stage and after some bartering and trading among the directors we had our dream cast: Janet Lo as Mama, Eric Ellis as Papa, and Michele Carter-Cram as the title character Devushka. Friday evening we all sat down for a first reading of the play together and rehearsed into the night. The actors immediately began to make magic from my words. I knew we were incredibly lucky to have these three.
And so began the crazy hours of rehearsal! After rehearsing late into the night on Friday, rehearsals continued ALL DAY Saturday leading up to the performance on Saturday night. It was hard work. The actors and directors had to do SO MUCH. They had to block everything, memorize everything, and finesse everything. In the end, they created something truly beautiful. I was blown away by the final result. And I got to be a part of the magic!
We had the final slot of the festival – the 8th and last play. Each audience member received ballots and after all 8 plays the ballots were counted and our play Devushka and the Cat WON THE AUDIENCE’S CHOICE AWARD!!
Here’s the thing about all this: I’m mostly in grateful shock. So I’m going to end this post with lots and lots of thank yous.
Thank you to every audience member, actor, and artist who voted for my play and/or who approached me to tell me how much they liked my play. It feels great to WIN THINGS but also a weekend of encouragement about my writing has totally been a kick in the booty. I’m going to write and write and write and write. You were all so inspiring to me and I don’t take your words or votes for granted!
Thank you Lynn Allsion Hoffman. I really don’t know how the play could have been directed better. You had an absolutely beautiful vision and you opened my eyes to all the potential my script had and even pulled out more so I could improve upon it and make it better. I LOVED the addition of the bed in the middle of the stage. I think it enhanced the bedtime-y, dreaminess of the play. It takes a writer and a director combined to truly tell a story and you completed my script with your vision. (Also, thank you for being my late night and early morning chauffeur. We had some lovely car rides together)
Thank you Janet Lo ~ the most loving Mama and most stunning cat I know! I know you must have been a little thrown off when you found out you’d be playing a leopard as someone who’s deathly allergic to cats! But your feline energy brought the show to life. You’re playful and wise as a person, just how I described Mama in the text. I’d love to play with you more!
Thank you Eric Ellis who played the the challenging role of Papa. You played Papa with a beautiful grace. He was a tricky character for me to write and you brought all of him, his love for his daughter and his need to get out of poverty, on stage in the most honest and captivating way. I didn’t want Papa to be a bad guy. I wanted him to be an antagonist that we all understand. His story is the most tragic. This is no easy feat and you performed it like a master.
Thank you Michele Carter-Cram. I have no words for your beyond amazing performance as the title character, Devushka. It may not come as a shock but I see a lot of myself in this character. I made her fierce, adventurous, smart, passionate, and loving. You brought me to tears with your immense understanding of exactly who she is. Michele, I honestly cannot picture anyone else in this part. You are only 13 but I don’t think anyone older could have played it better. You have a professionalism and maturity about you without losing your youthful energy and spirit. Please continue to perform. I still have chills when I think of the brilliant performance you gave.
Thank you Julia Pachoud Bennett for bringing the 8 in 48 Festival to life. I could sense all around me the gratitude the artists had for being a part of this incredible festival and your love for the arts is absolutely contagious. Thank you for opening your arms to me, including me in the festivities, and making me laugh all weekend long! You, out of everyone, told me the most to KEEP WRITING. My respect for you means that I’m going to take your advice and run with it! You accepted me as part of your artistic family and provided for me all weekend long and I’m truly, sincerely thankful for that. It was a dream! I can’t wait until our paths cross again!
Now it’s back to writing and submitting and writing and submitting! I don’t know when I’ll have an opportunity like this again which makes me even more grateful that I had this chance at all! I’ll never forget this weekend! I hold all the memories close to my heart ❤ Thank you for loving Devushka and the Cat!