If Shakespeare was correct, and the whole world is a stage, perhaps more people should take up play writing. The San Juan Community Theatre’s new project Original Works attempts to encourage just that.
“The goal is to give writers more tools and more education about what it means to be a playwright,” said Tyler Ryan, lead instructor for the program. He went on to explain that for the last two years, Bobby Ryan, executive and artistic director at the theater, had been formulating a vision for Original Works.
The 10-minute plays written by locals for Original Works will be performed at the San Juan Community Theatre, Sept. 7 through the 9, at 7:30 p.m. and again on Sept. 10 at 2 p.m. Tickets are all $15, and Thursday is “pay what you can.”
Original Works attempts to fill the void left by the annual Playwrights Festival, where locals submitted short plays and those accepted would be performed on stage at the theater. However, Original Works was developed as a more structured and focused training ground for writers, Tyler said.
Registration ended May 10, and those who enrolled had to accept the fact that their summer would now be devoted to the program, Tyler said. During its breakout first year, 10 attended the class, and all participants’ plays went into production.
The theme, “It Happened in the Park” served as a guide to writers. Part of Bobby’s idea was sparked by a conversation he had with San Juan National Park education specialist Raena Parsons about climate science. Ideas from that conversation became a “Young Playwrights for Change,” a program being implemented into the Friday Harbor High School curriculum this year. Each student will write a 10-minute play about climate science.
Original Works park theme came out of working with Parsons and the national park.
“Having a theme was helpful because it gave us a place to start brainstorming. Because we were all working on the same theme, there are interesting connections between these really different plays, that came up totally independently,” said Carolyn Jewett, who wrote “Next Stop.”
Diana Mancel’s play “Rabbits on the Rock” takes place at rabbit warrens on the bluff at American Camp, and addresses personal growth, and the progress through life, whether human or rabbit, to knowing ourselves.
“No bunnies were harmed in the process of making this play,” said Mancel.
She went on to add that Tyler and Bobby set up a perfect process for a first-time playwright, complete with workshops, deadlines, reference material as well as the opportunity to be creatively engaged. This sentiment was also shared by Shannon Borg, who wrote the play “Shells,” another Original Works play.
“Working with dialogue is a process of listening. Listening to what people say and how they say it, why something said one way would be funny but said another way falls flat,” said Borg. She added that language is fascinating and that through drama one can explore language differently than through a novel or poetry.
“Since this started, I am now getting all sorts of ideas for plays. That is the way with any type of art, the more you engage the more ideas you have and the more exciting the process becomes,” said Borg.
Tyler agrees with Borg’s assessment. His advice to writers is just simply to write, get involved and do it.
“What we’re finding is that once you put words on the page, there is a very supportive network of writers to provide feedback,” he said, adding that it was the intention of Original Works to provide an outlet for writers as well as the summer-long training, putting more tools in their tool box.
“Bobby and I have been clear that this program is for everyone,” Tyler added, noting that one of the playwrights is a high school student.
All he expects is curiosity and dedication to seeing the writing process through.
“The key is to start small,” Jewett said. “You can finish a three-page short story, you absolutely can. You can write a 10-minute play. Come to the show and see what people can do in 10 minutes and then sign up for the next Original Works.”
For more information, visit www.sjctheatre.org.