By Shannon Borg
Some of us had never written a play, acted in a play or directed a play. But there we were.
The Original Works Project, the San Juan Community Theatre’s summer-long playwriting intensive workshop challenged a dozen brave souls to do it all, write, act and direct – and fast. For our plays to be considered for production at the Original Works Project in September, they had just a few requirements: they had to be no more than 10 minutes long, and they had to work with the theme: “It Happened in the Park.”
Done. And done.
“We want to encourage people to engage with our national park in new ways – and the arts are an important part of that mission,” says Raena Robertson at a rehearsal for a play she had been recruited to act in. Robertson, who works at American Camp in the San Juan Islands National Historical Park, helped create this year’s new OWP, by applying for grant money to fund it and the youth version, Young Playwrights for Change, which encourages kids to write about climate change.
As the OWP got underway, we playwrights – some new and some more seasoned – brought our ideas. Each artist found the courage to share our words with our fellow playwrights in a setting of support and learning, with the help of SJC Theatre guru Tyler Ryan (along with program creator, Bobby Ryan), who invited talented drama professionals to work with us. In day-long workshops, Bryan Kettler, a director and writer from Portland, urged us to consider pushing the dramatic moments in our plays further. San Juan director and playwright Stan Matthews drilled us on the basics of play structure, and Bellingham playwright Steve Lyons, whose play “Mrs. TK Presents The Pig War,” helped us work through awkward spots in our plays.
When the plays were finished, we submitted them to three off-island adjudicators to be considered for production, and several were chosen for stage production and for a reader’s theater. Then craziness ensued. We held rehearsals, sent out tweets, fired off flares and sent up smoke signals to find enough actors, directors and readers to put on our mini playfest, which (God willing!) will take place at the San Juan Community Theatre from Sept. 7, 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Sept. 10. For more information, visit www.sjctheatre.org.
Even though the theme of the park was similar in each play, everything–and I mean everything else–was up for grabs. There is a play set in the historic times before American Camp existed, and one set in a terrifying version of a future age. There are plays set in the very real world – and ones in fantasy worlds were rabbits talk and magical creatures comb the beaches for … well, no spoilers!
Come experience the rest of the stories for yourself, and support the next wave of playwrights on San Juan.