On October 9th, 2017, Play on Words was fortunate enough to be given the space to perform on a stage, with lights, sounds, microphones, everything by the Dragon Theatre located in the Redwood City’s downtown theater district neighborhood. Leaving San Jose is hard to do, but the good folks at the Dragon made it all possible with Monday Night Play Space, when they make the theatre available to local artists like us to do cool stuff.
The night was titled “Leading Women,” and you can watch it all on our YouTube page!
Let’s talk about all three segments:
1) “Exposure,” by Julia Halprin Jackson. Read by April Culver.
It begins with breasts, and ends with a camera. What happens in between is a picture of a place, Spain, at a time, the George W. Bush era, that shows us the experience familiar to Americans in college abroad at a crossroads of culture, sex, work, and life.
This translation rules! For real, it puts this Dante fellow in the time and place of the artists and poets and people that hang around artists and poets talking about those things that artists and poets always invariably talk about: death, sex, and love. Sprinkle in some obsessive impulses (does Dante really move away to some other place NOT because of the woman that also moved to that place?) and you got yourself some good old fashioned Dante angst. Check it out.
3) “Unigirl,” by Leah Griesmann. Read by Ivette Deltoro.
Ivette reads this gem by Leah Griesmann, one of the first writers featured by Play on Words, where we walk in the shoes of an unicycle riding escort who is getting their doctorate and needs to make some money in between teaching gigs over a summer. Want more, click the link and tell us what you think!
For the first time ever, Play On Words is performing in a theatre! We are kicking off our 2017-2018 season with a special reading at the Dragon Theatre in Redwood City on Monday, October 9. This show features work by Bay Area women writers who challenge–and occasionally mock–gender norms. Unlike our ensemble shows, Monday’s performance will showcase two short stories and one translated monologue. Look forward to work by:
Leah Griesmann has received grants and residencies for her fiction from the MacDowell Colony, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Key West Writers’ Workshops, Seoul Art Space Yeonhui, the Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai, the DAAD (Berlin), and the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies. Her stories have appeared in Burrow Press Review, J Journal: New Writing on Justice, The Weekly Rumpus, Union Station, The Boiler, The Cortland Review, Boston University’s 236 Magazine, and PEN Center USA’s The Rattling Wall, and have been performed at Litquake San Francisco, The Center for Literary Arts, Sacramento Stories on Stage, the New Short Fiction Series in North Hollywood, and the Shanghai American Center.
Melinda Marks, Play On Words co-founder and casting director, has performed as an actor for more than 25 years. Melinda has an MFA in Shakespeare and Performance with a concentration in directing at Mary Baldwin University and an MA in Theatre Studies from San Jose State University.
Julia Halprin Jackson, Play On Words co-founder and publicity director, is a writer whose work has appeared in Oracle Fine Arts Review, West Branch Wired, California Northern, Fourteen Hills, as well as selected anthologies. She has an MA in creative writing from UC Davis and currently contributes to Washington Square, San Jose State University’s alumni magazine.
We are delighted and grateful to showcase performances by Melinda, as well as:
Ivette Deltoro is the casting assistant and patron experience manager at City Lights Theater in San Jose and artistic manager of the Mini Lights Emerging Artist Program at City Lights. She is also a local actress whose credits include City Lights Theater Company’s I and You and Silicon Valley Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
April Culver earned her BFA in Acting at Drake University. Some recent roles include Mrs. Givings (In the Next Room, Pear Theatre), Cordelia / The Fool (B8 Theatre), Catherine (A View From the Bridge, Pear Theatre), Gillian (Permanent Collection, Piedmont Players ), Constance (Three Musketeers, Silicon Valley Shakespeare), Calpurnia (Julius Caesar, Silicon Valley Shakespeare), Sonya (Uncle Vanya, Pear Theatre), and Olivia (Shakespeare in Hollywood, Silicon Valley Shakespeare).
RSVP for our show here. There is a $5 suggested donation for Monday’s show. Hope to see you there!
Good news, Playonwordsians: We are extending the deadline for the chapbook that we are producing in conjunction with the fabulous Flash Fiction Forum. You’ve got until October 15 to send 500 words of fiction, nonfiction, poetry or theatre to email@example.com.
Not sure where to start? Here’s a brief recap of recent headlines that might trigger a response:
Last week, Trump announced that he plans to rescind the DACA program, which will affect approximately 800,000 students and their families who are working and studying legally in the United States.
Hurricanes like Harvey and Irma displace thousands of families, many of whom may have been previously displaced by Katrina in 2005.
Charlottesville–August 12, 2017, and the rise of neo-Nazism.
Trump’s July announcement to ban transgender citizens from serving in the military.
There are lots of ways to resist and show solidarity with communities whose livelihoods and basic civil rights are at risk. We’re hoping to provide a platform for writers to speak up and speak out.
Attention poets, playwrights, and other creative writers!
Community activists from Play on Words and Flash Fiction Forum are producing a chapbook and want your fiction, poetry, works of theater and creative nonfiction work about activism.
Specifically, we’re interested in the complexities of activism (humorous, tragic, inspiring, or all three), situations that call for activism, pitfalls and rewards of activism, and above all, the personal, unexpected, and inexplicable. We’re interested in stories that move but don’t preach, and shed light on communities or causes that may not make it to the news every day. Help us prove that our words matter–perhaps now more than ever.
In addition to publishing a chapbook in collaboration with Flash Fiction Forum, Play On Words will select a number of the accepted pieces for a corresponding performance in early 2018.
Do you have enough Betsy Miller fiction in your life? We thought not. That’s why we were delighted to share more of her work at New Year Nouveau in January at Cafe Stritch. Watch Melinda Marks read Betsy’s “Collectibles”:
Betsy also writes under the name Bethany Gray. This same piece was previously published by Evil Girlfriend Media. She is one of the co-founders of Thinking Ink Press, a small independent press. She is currently working on a children’s picture book, Brooklynn Bunny’s Super Boots, and on a young adult novel called Dance, Interrupted.
Last week we were delighted to perform another piece by Silicon Valley writer Betsy Miller, who also writes under the pen name Bethany Gray. Melinda Marks kicked off New Year Nouveau by reading her story “Collectibles.” We’ll be posting video from that performance over the next few weeks, though in the meantime you can watch the show in its entirety at South Bay Pulse’s YouTube page (see Part I and Part II).
Bethany Gray writes stories about things just below the surface of your life that you can almost see out of the corner of your eye. Gray lives in Silicon Valley, where she also writes about passive-aggressive wireless equipment that wants you to think it’s your fault. But it’s totally not.
Publications, Honors or Awards:
Betsy Miller is the author of The Parents’ Guide to Perthes, The Parents’ Guide to Clubfoot, and The Parents’ Guide to Hip Dysplasia. Her short stories have been published in anthologies and in various magazines and publications.
I’ve recently started using the pen name Bethany Gray for my speculative fiction set it apart from my children’s health books. My story “Collectibles,” which was performed at Play On Words, is a Bethany Gray story that was edited a bit for length. You can read the full-length version online at Evil Girlfriend Media, where it was published as an EMG short. You can also read “The Language of the Dead” at Youth Imagination magazine. That’s a spooky story for teens that was published for Halloween. As 2016 unfolds, stay tuned for more Bethany Gray stories, and possibly a Betsy Miller book.
What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?
I love seeing the actors bring stories and plays to life. The shows are a lot of fun.
Well, Playonwordsians, we did it: we powered through New Year Nouveau. Thanks to everyone who joined us last night in person and online. We wanted to introduce you to one of our new contributors, Keiko O’Leary, whose piece, “The Golden Beauty of Carlina Johansen, Author of Milliner’s Dreams,” was performed last night by Alex Draa.
Keiko writes short stories, primarily flash fiction. She also organizes the almost-weekly writing group Write to the End. She is a co-founder of Thinking Ink Press.
Publications, Honors or Awards:
I’m proud to have participated in the Flash Fiction Forum’s first annual pubcrawl, where I read my flash piece “The Ghost of Ice Cream.” My story “White Mice” was also chosen for a Flash Fiction Forum. “White Mice” is available from Thinking Ink Press as a postcard that includes my original artwork Warning: Narrative Hazard. (Okay, I also make visual art. But shh! Don’t tell anyone.)
Since 2004 I’ve organized Write to the End, a writing group that meets most Tuesday nights. Anyone is welcome. Please visit http://writetotheend.com for details on how to attend. There you can also read articles about writing by members of our group.
Thinking Ink Press is looking for submissions. We consider any length or genre, but I’m especially interested in flash pieces for our postcards and Instant Books, since I design those. (Instant Books are small books folded from a single sheet of paper. They’re so exciting! Have you seen the one we did for Betsy Miller’s Play On Words story “Bees”?) Please see our call for submissions and our flash fiction publishing formats.
What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?
I love things like Play On Words. I found out about Play On Words because Thinking Ink Press launched the Instant Book of Betsy Miller’s “Bees” at Take Flight when Adam Magill read “Bees.”
And I’ll tell you a secret: When I was revising “Carlina Johansen,” I imagined it being performed, and I made my decisions with performance in mind. Seeing a Play On Words show inspired me to do that.
Which writers or performers inspire you?
It took me years to figure out that lead roles in Kate & Leopold, X-Men, and The Prestige were all played by the same actor: Hugh Jackman. I saw him in performance at the Curran Theatre, and even though I was in the VERY BACK row of a completely sold out house, the experience was like having coffee one-on-one. Now that’s skill! I aspire to write as well, and as intimately, as Hugh Jackman performs.
As for writers, I’ll mention Julio Cortázar. I read him in Spanish, and he writes like he’s making love to the reader. His command of syntax is insane – he can control you completely just by the structure of his sentences. I don’t know what the English translations are like, but he has a great (flash fiction!) piece called “Continuidad de los parques” (translated as “Continuity of Parks”). One of my favorite longer pieces is “La autopista del sur” (translated as “The Southern Thruway”).
Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.
I read Waiting for Godot in high school, and do I dare say I fell in love? I’ve since seen a few performances, and it always makes me laugh and feel understood, and it leaves me completely obsessed with the text. Even though I haven’t read or seen it for years, little phrases bubble up into my life from time to time: “A country road. A tree. Evening.” “There’s man all over for you, blaming on his boots the faults of his feet.” The funniest part is where Pozzo makes Lucky “think” and Lucky spouts all sorts of repetitive and disjointed but conceptually connected phrases that seem to follow the structure of some sort of a logical argument. Just the rhythm of it is enough to cause uncontrollable giggling. I know there’s a lot of meaning to be found in that speech, but it’s also just plain fun. I’m sure Beckett had a blast writing that part.
Thank you for the opportunity to think about these things I love. I can’t wait to reread the pieces I’ve mentioned here. And I can’t wait to see the next Play On Words!
The rain might be coming, San Jose, but you know what else is? New Year Nouveau, our first show of 2016. We’re delighted to share our lineup for tonight’s performance, which starts at 7pm at Cafe Stritch:
“The Golden Beauty of Carlina Johansen” – Keiko O’Leary, read by Alex Draa
“Van Tribe: Dudley & Donnie” – Rick Alpers, read by Brian Van Winkle
“End of Time” – Freya Seeburger (Cellista), read by Julia Halprin Jackson and Ryan Alpers
“Fabulous Water Sports” – Roy Proctor, read by Jeremy Ryan and Ryan Alpers
For our online fans and friends around the world, we invite you to tune in to our live-stream channel, provided courtesy of the fabulous online and print magazine South Bay Pulse, at 7pm Pacific Standard Time. Intrigued? It’s easy as one, two, click:
South Bay Pulse was founded by journalists and graduate students at San Jose State University. Not only do they write great stories–they’ve mastered the art of live-streaming events such as CineQuest, and their YouTube channel hosts all kinds of great content, such as lectures from the Santa Cruz Music Festival, the SubZERO Festival, and interviews with Silicon Valley Artists. We’re delighted to be working with them on New Year Nouveau.
Bottom line: you’ve got no excuse to miss out on all the greatness that is headed your way. We can’t wait to share the work of our writers and artists. Grab a specialty cocktail at Cafe Stritch’s great bar, try out their spicy macaroni and cheese, drop us a few bucks at the door and prepare yourself for New Year Nouveau. See you there.