JS&P 2017-18 IS OPEN!

Are YOU ready to take a stab at BWBTC’s playwriting competition?

Babes With Blades Theatre Company and competition sponsor Fight Master David Woolley announce the 7th round of Joining Sword & Pen, the international playwriting competition dedicated to expanding the canon of quality scripts featuring fighting roles for women.

treepondFounded in 2005, JS&P asks writers to take inspiration from a work of visual art, using it as the basis for a new play. All submissions must be new, original works, inspired by the artwork that is the focus of the contest. The moment depicted in the inspirational image must be incorporated into the play.

Submissions must be received by BWBTC by March 9, 2017.

The winner will receive the Margaret W. Martin Award: the play will undergo development via BWBTC’s Fighting Words program prior to premiering as part of BWBTC’s 2018-19 season, and the playwright will receive a $1,000.00 cash prize.

Rules, deadlines, and FAQ are available on the BWBTC website.


PREVIOUS WINNERS

2015-16: The Promise of a Rose Garden by Dustin Spence
2013-14: Witch Slap! by Jeff Goode
2011-12: Trash by Arthur M. Jolly
2009-10: A Gulag Mouse by Arthur M. Jolly
2007-8: Los Desaparecidos (The Vanished) by Barbara Lhota
2005-6: An Affair of Honor, consisting of two one-acts: Mrs. Dire’s House of Crumpets and Solutions by Byron Hatfield and Satisfaction by Tony Wolf

JS&P collection

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JS&P 2015-16 The Promise of a Rose Garden

Your Test. Your Time.

Jessie Swiech, a Central Illinois-based actress and an artist in a variety of mediums and Death-and-Sleep-with-the-Fallen-Warrior1styles, won Inspiring Sword & Pen 2014 with her piece “Death and Sleep With The Fallen Warrior.”

The image inspired 17 full-length scripts during the run of Joining Sword & Pen 2015-16.

The winner: The Promise of a Rose Garden by Dustin Spence, an exploration of what it means to be a soldier and the far-reaching effects of war. Directed by Elyse Dawson*, with Violence Design by Rachel Flesher, it opened on 8/6/16 on at City Lit Theater and runs until 9/10/16. Mr. Spence will receive the Margaret W. Martin Award, which carries with it a $1000 stipend.

Promise postcard frontCAST: Catherine Dvorak (Tina/Angel), Arti Ishak (Sharif), Sam Long (Ferguson), Izis Mollinedo (Ruiz), Patti Moore* (Nichols), Aaron Wertheim (Reggie/Angel), Kathrynne Wolf* (Selmy), Maureen Yasko* (Rockford)

STAFF: Leigh Barrett* (Production Manager), Milo Bue (Scenic Design), Elyse Dawson* (Director), Brigidta De Souza (Stage Manager), Jason A. Fleece (Dialect Coach), Barbara Lhota* (Props Design), Kimberly Morris* (Costume Design), Matthew Reich (Sound Design), David Trudeau (Lighting Design)

Graphic Design: Lauren Nichols

* denotes BWBTC ensemble member

CATCHING UP WITH PLAYWRIGHT DUSTIN SPENCE

How/when did you hear about Babes With Blades Theatre Company?
babes9470 crop loI first heard about BWBTC when I was in college at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. I was a fight nerd who got his hands on every stage combat experience the university had to offer. One day before class we were watching a badass video by this group of women in Chicago who did stage combat exhibitions. I was planning on moving to Chicago at that point and I knew then that I wanted to be involved with the company. What I didn’t know at the time was that the company didn’t use any men in its productions!

How/when did you hear about Joining Sword & Pen?
I heard about JS&P when I was cast in my first BWBTC production Los Desaparecidos by Barb Lhota, which was doubly exciting because it was the company’s first show that utilized men onstage!babes8707 lo

What made you decide to enter the competition?
So much of writing a play is about inspiration and passion for a project. When I saw this year’s Inspiring Sword & Pen image I knew I had a story to tell. There is a haunting beauty to the piece that I wanted to try and capture with a script and The Promise of a Rose Garden was my attempt at that.

What did you think when you won the competition?
I was so overwhelmed it was crazy. I’ve been involved onstage in two other JS&P productions so the project means quite a bit to me. Having been involved with the company for close to 10 years now I have to acknowledge that so much of our business is about the relationships that we build and the art that we create in community. As such it was all the more humbling to be selected as the winner of JS&P because the winner is picked through a blind selection process.babes9337 crop lo

Do you have a favorite memory from the development/rehearsal/production process?
Seeing some of the brutal fight choreography for the first time will definitely stay in my head for quite a while. There is a fight in Act One between Rockford, Nichols and Selmy that we lovingly call the “Selmy Smash.” Kat Wolf who plays Selmy has long held the title for participant in the best fight I’ve ever seen onstage. If you’re wondering, it was the fight between Macbeth and Macduff in BWBTC’s production of the Scottish Play; Kat was Macbeth and Amy E. Harmon was Macduff. It was insane! The Selmy Smash is the closest I have ever seen a fight come to reaching that level. It’s a much shorter fight but it’s so much more violent! The fact that it pairs with some of my favorite lines in the show helps too.

babes9056 loWhat’s happened to your script since (readings, productions, publications, etc.)?
Lots of revisions! We’ve gone through nine drafts of the play since we started table work for the full production. There are still a few things that I plan to work on, hone, finesse on the script before it gets its next production, but that’s the life of a playwright. I’ve gotten lots of feedback from a bunch of different directions and I want to look into those a bit so I can make this play an even more accurate and honest representation of the people I am attempting to capture in the script.

babes9565 crop loWhat are you working on right now?
Right now I’m brainstorming my next play which is going to be an overhaul of a work that I was developing a few years back. The play deals with the death penalty and whether state sanctioned violence is ever justified. You know, the usual lighthearted stuff…

Where can people learn more about you and your work?
Folks can learn more about me and my work at playwrightdustinspence.weebly.com. This is the best way to get in touch with me and to read excerpts of my scripts.

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JS&P 2013-14 Witch Slap!

Gabriella Boros was the winner of Inspiring Sword & Pen 2012. We couldn’t choose Medieval 1_2001s LO Medieval 2_2001 LObetween her two amazing pieces, “Medieval 1” and “Medieval 2,” so we chose both! The Babes requested full-length plays based on this artwork, and received 25.

Jeff Goode won Joining Sword & Pen 2013-14 with his comedic script, Witch Slap!. Directed by Delia Ford*, with Violence Design by Maureen Yasko*, Witch Slap! opened on 8/16/14 on the West Stage at the Raven Theatre Complex and ran until 9/20/14. Mr. Goode received the Margaret W. Martin Award, which carries with it a $1000 stipend.

POSTCARDfrontCAST: Alison Dornheggen* (Jezebella), Stefanie Johnsen (Minerva), Loren Jones (Novella), Kimberly Logan* (Crone), Morgan Manasa* (Goody Blunt), Jennifer L. Mickelson* (Widow), Patti Moore (Sylvia)

STAFF: Kimberly Morris* (Costume Design), Justin Castellano (Lighting Design), Lindsey Miller (Stage Manager), Kait Mikitin (Production Manager), Claire Nelson (Props Design), Mason Absher (Sound Design), Nicci Schumacher (Scenic Design/Technical Director)

Graphic Design: Lauren Nichols

* denotes BWBTC ensemble member

CATCHING UP WITH PLAYWRIGHT JEFF GOODE

How/when did you hear about Babes With Blades Theatre Company?
I studied stage combat in college and was SAFD certified twice. So when I began to write plays for stage combat, I was looking for companies that would have the ability to stage DornheggenJohnsenST4686 lothem properly. I think one of my friends from Chicago suggested I look up BWBTC…

How/when did you hear about Joining Sword & Pen?
…this would have been several years before I entered the contest. But I had been keeping up with the web site and trying to come up with a project that might be good for BWBTC. So I became aware of JS&P through the website and had followed it for a couple years.

What made you decide to enter the competition?
So of course I was inspired by the paintings by Gabriella Boros. They looked to me like witches fighting. And when I was in grad school, I directed not one, but two! plays set in the witch hunt era (Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and Caryl Churchill’s Vinegar Tom) so I was very familiar with that period. So once I had the image of witches fighting each other, I knew exactly what should happen. And once you get there, the show pretty much writes itself.

What did you think when you won the competition?
LoganJonesJK7467 loI was thrilled. And relieved that I wouldn’t have to figure out a way to stage it myself. 😉 I mean, how was I gonna get combat brooms and teach people to use them?

Do you have a favorite memory from the development/rehearsal/production process?
I remember being very impressed with both the talkbacks that I attended. As a playwright, I do a lot of talkback discussions and they can really go off the rails pretty quick. But I thought both Leigh as the moderator and the Babes participating were very good at focusing the discussion in directions that would be useful for the development process.

I also remember being blown away by the snake rope. I really did not see that coming and it was awesome.

JohnsenJonesMooreMickelsonManasaDornheggenLoganJK6532 loWhat’s happened to your script since (readings, productions, publications, etc.)?
There is a company in New Orleans that is looking at producing it possibly next season. And it’s under consideration for my former company here in Los Angeles.

What are you working on right now?
I have a new play about Furries. And I’m working on a new set of short fight plays for book 3 of my anthology Your Swash is Unbuckled. But my day job at the moment is writing for children’s animated show. This year I’ve written episodes for “Curious George,” “Lalaloopsy,” the Emmy-winning stop-motion show “Tumble Leaf,” and Amazon’s new “The Stinky & Dirty Show.”

Where can people learn more about you and your work?
You can follow my misadventures on my website:
www.jeffgoode.com

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JS&P 2011-12 Trash

Two sisters.  One letter.  TRASH.

Our fourth competition brought “forth” two firsts!

VictoriaSzilagyi Erinyes“Erinyes,” by Victoria Szilagyi, won the FIRST Inspiring Sword & Pen art competition. The Babes requested full-length plays based on this artwork, and received 16.

The winner, Trash, made Arthur M. Jolly the FIRST two-time winner of Joining Sword & Pen! Trash, directed by Delia Ford*, with Violence Design by JKChoreography (Kim Fukawa* & Jay Burckhardt), featured two rotating casts. It opened 4/1&2/12 at The Side Project Theatre and ran through 5/5/12. Mr. Jolly received the Margaret W. Martin Award, which carried with it a $1000 stipend.

CASTS: Alison Dornheggen* (Diane) & Megan Schemmel* (Becky); Jennifer L. Mickelson* (Diane) & Elizabeth MacDougald* (Becky)Trash postcard FRONT

STAFF: Leigh Barrett* (Lighting Design), Libby Beyreis* (Production Manager), Jennifer Corcoran (Scenic Design), Matthew Cummings (Properties Design), Mary-Catherine (Kate) Mikalayunas (Assistant Stage Manager), Sara Robinson (Stage Manager), & Melissa Schlesinger (Sound Design).

Graphic Design: Jason Rosenbrook.

* denotes BWBTC ensemble member

CATCHING UP WITH PLAYWRIGHT ARTHUR M. JOLLY

What made you decide to enter the competition for a second time?
After A Gulag Mouse won, I had had such a positive experience working with the Babes that I knew I wanted to enter again.

MickelsonMacDougaldJK4668 LOThe Inspiring Sword & Pen winner did exactly the job it was supposed to – the haunting painting “Erinyes” by Victoria Szilagyi was so evocative, so richly detailed, that I ran with it. I decided not only to use it as inspiration, but to try and find a way to use every element I could find in the painting in the play – and try, to the best of my ability, not to introduce any additional elements that weren’t present in the artwork. This led to a sparse, highly focused play – two characters, fighting in a municipal dump over a letter from their dead mother with no other set, no scenes from the past. The outfits the two women wore became important elements, the streetlight in the background, the truck dumping garbage – even the strange, hyena-like dog creatures watching from the shadows – all of these were woven into the play. I didn’t want to expand the locale; to show anything other than that culminating moment… but to stretch it out, to play it almost in real time as these two women dig down through the stratified layers of garbage to uncover the truth beneath it all.

What did you think when you won the competition?
SchemmelDornheggenJK4796 LOI was pleasantly surprised when it won – I knew that with only two characters it would be an unlikely choice, if only because too many of the Babes would be left out of a production! The decision to double cast each role and have four women perform it helped, of course.

It was a challenging play to write – while the two sisters of the play are their own women with their own problems, I freely dove into some of the most antagonistic aspects of the sibling relationships of my friends and family for inspiration – while some of the most painful moments came from my own experiences in relationships with people struggling with drug and alcohol addictions. In many ways, it was cathartic to get them on paper and let someone else agonize about them instead.

Do you have a favorite memory from the development/rehearsal/production process?
MacDougaldMickelsonJK5329LOFor me, my favorite memory of the BWBTC premiere was walking into the Side Project Theatre and being surrounded by a fully enclosing set – the audience fenced in, with plastic bags and trash encroaching on all sides. The play was wonderful – and watching the rehearsal video of the cast whaling on each other with an oil can and laughing hysterically whenever the moment “sold” was great fun – but that immersive set (Jennifer Corcoran’s work) just told you this would be something special the moment you walked into the theatre.

What’s happened to your script since (readings, productions, publications, etc.)?
Since the BWBTC production, the play has gone on to life in other places – it was a semi-finalist for the O’Neill conference and an official selection of the Last Frontier Theatre Conference. It has had staged readings in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Houston, and Anchorage, and has been revived in Chicago by the Forget Me Not Theatre company, and most recently was produced in London at the Rosemary Branch Theatre by Indigo Iris Productions. That one was interesting – due to the very different nature of the UK waste disposal system, the play was “translated” from US to UK English, with what turned out to be hundreds of line changes to make it make sense to an English audience.

DornheggenSchemmelJK5469LOWhat are you working on right now?
Currently, I’m preparing for the premiere of my latest play about four 1950’s faculty wives who meet for their monthly play reading knowing one of them has betrayed another’s husband to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee… and this is the evening they’ve chosen to read Medea. It’s a wonderful mixture of drama and humor. The A.D. keeps claiming it is a dramedy, I call it “a tragedy – with funny bits.” There are no fight scenes in it, although there is a mishap with a pot of coffee. The Ithaca Ladies Read Medea opens on September 23rd in Los Angeles at the Little Fish Theatre.

Where can people learn more about you and your work?
All the details on plays and productions are at my website: www.arthurjolly.com.

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JS&P 2009-10: A Gulag Mouse

You do what you have to – to survive.

Rather than focusing on an already-created image for our third round, the Babes turned to Chicago artist Kristine Borcz, who provided us with a charcoal sketch entitled “Film Noir.”

Film Noir Kristine BorczOnce again the Babes and Woolley requested full-lengths, and received 17.

The winning play, Los Angeleno Arthur M. Jolly’s A Gulag Mouse, was directed by Brian Plocharczyk, with Violence Design by David Woolley.  It opened 3/29/10 at the Trap Door Theatre, and ran through 5/1/10.  Mr. Jolly received the Margaret W. Martin Award, which carried with it a $1000 stipend.

postcardFront_CMYK_toPrintCAST: Delia Ford* (Svetlana), Amy E. Harmon* (Masha), Gillian N. Humiston* (Anastasia), Stephanie Repin* (Prushka), Dustin Spence (Evgeny/Ivanov), and Kathrynne Wolf* (Lubov). Danielle Defassio understudied.

STAFF: Leigh Barrett* (Lighting Design), Libby Beyreis* (Assistant Violence Design), Kristine Borcz (Scenic Painter), Jeff Lisse (Set Design), Kjerstine McHugh* (Stage Manager), Morgan Manasa* (Production Manager), Ruth Meridjen (Assistant Stage Manager), Jessica Pribble (Costume Design), and Adam Smith (Sound Design). Props by Sans N E Sleep Cooperative.

Graphic Design by grumpy monkey graphics & design.

* denotes BWBTC ensemble member

CATCHING UP WITH PLAYWRIGHT ARTHUR M. JOLLY

How/when did you hear about Babes With Blades Theatre Company?
I have a vague memory of someone discussing a new theatre company they’d heard of – the Babes With Blades – at the SAFD National Stage Combat Workshop, back when it was in Las Vegas… but this would have been in 1998, so it would have been in the very early days of BWB. Perhaps I disremember, and it was a later workshop, quite likely while learning sword tricks from David Woolley!

Spence Humiston 2 JK 6510 loresHow/when did you hear about Joining Sword & Pen?
For me, the competition was an online discovery while searching for opportunities for my first play – the mother/daughter drama Past Curfew. I was looking for theatre companies that were excited about presenting plays about women and ran across the Joining Sword & Pen competition.

What made you decide to enter the competition?
As a playwright with a background in stage combat and a tendency to gravitate towards female-centric storylines, it seemed like the perfect opportunity! I was taken by the inspirational image for the competition – a very “film noir” look of a woman in a fur coat concealing a dagger as she meets a mysterious figure at a train station.

The key for me with A Gulag Mouse was the setting. I knew I wanted to write something dramatic – so I needed a situation where violence could break out amongst any and all of the women in the play without it feeling forced, comedic or unusual. I realized that a prison setting would allow that side of them to come out freely – but I also wanted some of the mysterious, dark qualities of the image to sustain throughout the play. Setting it in a different time and country – a Russian Gulag in 1945 – made it more symbolic than Humiston Harmon JK 6627 loresrepresentational which, if you see or read the play, is a large part of what’s happening. This is not a historical play, but a metaphorical one.

I set aside a month to write the play, leading up to the midnight deadline – and two personal tragedies happened, simultaneously, at the beginning of the month: my wife and I lost a pregnancy – our third miscarriage – and with it came a painful acceptance that, for us, parenthood was all but impossible; and my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent an emergency mastectomy. The two women closest to me were faced with losing something inextricably linked to the experience of being a woman, and I was utterly powerless to help. Writing was obviously put on hold while I tried to be there for both of them, traveling to the UK to see my mother.

Right before the end of the month, I had a chance to get back to my computer, and everything flooded out. I wrote the play in a feverish four days flat in a desperate attempt to recognize their experiences and deal with my own emotional anguish. I wrote “LIGHTS OUT. END OF PLAY” at nine pm on the last day, and took a break to grab a cup of tea and clear my head before going back to polish it before the midnight deadline… whereupon I realized Chicago was two hours ahead of LA. With barely forty minutes to go, I sent that first draft in unread, typos and all. Fortunately the play won, so I was given a wonderful Ford Wolf Repin JK 6339 loresopportunity to refine it, fix an atrocious title, get some of the language straight, and catch more than a few typos.

What did you think when you won the competition?
Winning the competition was a huge step for me. This was only my second full length play, and until a couple of months before it opened, I had not yet had a production of my first.

Do you have a favorite memory from the development/rehearsal/production process?
Hearing the Babes’ initial table read of the play was amazing, even though it it was on a DVD with a warbling tone on the sound track – I was so excited, I listened to it all anyway. (They did send me clean copy a few days later!)

What’s happened to your script since (readings, productions, publications, etc.)?
Since the premiere in 2010, the play has done well. It not only won the Margaret W. Martin Award, it would go on to win the Off Broadway Playwrights Competition and make it as a finalist for the inaugural Woodward/Newman Drama Award. As well as Chicago, it has been produced in Anchorage, Seattle, London, at the Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Valdez, and most recently in Los Angeles. It is published by Next Stage Press, and after rewriting the ending for the Los Angeles production, it is now out as a second edition.

Repin Wolf JK 6401 loresIt took some perspective to be able to revisit the work – but the intervening years have softened the pain of that tumultuous time, and my experience and craft as a writer have grown. The LA production was directed by my wife, director Danielle Ozymandias, and while my mother passed away two years ago, we had to work the rehearsal schedule around our beautiful son who was, and is, an unexpected miracle.

What are you working on right now?
Currently, I’m preparing for the premiere of my latest play about four 1950’s faculty wives who meet for their monthly play reading knowing one of them has betrayed another’s husband to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee… and this is the evening they’ve chosen to read Medea. It’s a wonderful mixture of drama and humor. The A.D. keeps claiming it is a dramedy, I call it “a tragedy – with funny bits.” There are no fight scenes in it, although there is a mishap with a pot of coffee. The Ithaca Ladies Read Medea opens on September 23rd in Los Angeles at the Little Fish Theatre.

Where can people learn more about you and your work?
All the details on plays and productions are at my website: www.arthurjolly.com.

Wolf JK 6387Harmon Humiston JK 6748Spence Humiston JK 6252 lores

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JS&P 2007-8: Los Desaparecidos (The Vanished)

José de Ribera’s painting “Duelo De Mujeres (The Duel of Women)” was the focus of the next round of Joining Sword & Pen.

Duelo de MujeresThe Babes and David Woolley requested full-length plays rather than one-acts, and received over 20 entries.

The winning play, Chicagoan Barbara Lhota’s Los Desaparecidos (The Vanished), was staged at the Raven Theatre, April 6 – May 11, 2008. Directed and choreographed by Fight Master David Woolley, Los Desaparecidos (The Vanished) was the first BWBTC production to feature a mixed-gender cast. Ms. Lhota received the Margaret W. Martin Award, which carried with it a $1000 stipend.

Admat PC frontCAST: Libby Beyreis* (Female U/S, Servant, Fight Swing), Lisa Herceg (Marisol), Gregory M. Larson (Antonio), Sean Patrick Leonard (Eduardo), Morgan Manasa* (Zania), Meghan Martinez* (Isabel), Paul Martinez (Frederico), Stephanie Repin* (Diana), Mercedes Rohlfs (Lucilla), Dustin Spence (Father Roberto, Man), Rachel Stubbs (Eliana), Ryan Zarecki (Male U/S, Servant, Fight Swing)

STAFF: Leigh Barrett* (Lighting Design), Tina Bernacci (Assistant Director), Libby Beyreis* (Fight Captain), Alexander Braatz (Sound Design), Amy E. Harmon* (Producer), Gillian Humiston* (Assistant Producer), Anders Jacobson (Set Design), Michelle Julazadeh (Costume Design), Kjerstine McHugh* (Stage Manager)

Graphic Design by grumpy monkey graphics & design

* denotes BWBTC ensemble member

CATCHING UP WITH PLAYWRIGHT BARBARA LHOTA

How/when did you hear about Babes With Blades Theatre Company?
My now wife, Lisa Herceg, was involved with BWBTC soon after we met and started dating. She was in Choose Your Adventure, which I thought was super fun and funny. I went to see that play, of course, and then I went to see The Girl in the Iron Mask, which I also really enjoyed.

Marisol (Herceg) Eliana (Stubbs)How/when did you hear about Joining Sword & Pen?
I was at a fundraiser at The Theatre Building (when it was still called that) and BWBTC was doing a portion of When Fairy Tales Attack. Sam Alden announced the first Joining Sword & Pen.

I didn’t write anything that first year. I wasn’t going to do it the next time either because I knew nothing about writing period pieces or scripts with sword fighting, but a Babes member, Alison Dornheggen, really encouraged me. So I wrote Los Desaparecidos (The Vanished), which won Joining Sword & Pen that time around. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing but it was an exciting way to work.

What made you decide to enter the competition?
I wanted to stretch myself. I was fascinated by writing a play for an all-female cast. I wrote male characters for the show but had originally imagined it with all females playing the Isabel (Martinez) Eliana (Stubbs)characters. I was also interested in letting go of the control of the story. Having a visual for inspiration that was completely different from my life experience allowed me to research and experiment in a wholly different time period than I would ever consider on my own. I never wrote a play that included sword fighting so that was quite exciting.

What did you think when you won the competition?
I was thrilled! I was so excited to see what David Woolley would do with the fights, which were amazing.

Do you have a favorite memory from the development/rehearsal/production process?
About three-quarters of the way through the rehearsal process, we were feeling like one particular scene going into another was clunky. David and I realized that the order of the scenes may be slowing down the progression. We immediately said let’s try and reverse them. Once we did, it’s as if everything magically flowed much better. Everyone in the room could feel that shift help propel the play faster and in a more logical way.

Frederico (Martinez) Isabel (Martinez)I believe I did something similar with for The Double after Leigh suggested it. I’m pretty sure that also occurred for 180 Degree Rule with a Rachel suggestion. I must tend to have two scenes out of order.

What’s happened to your script since (readings, productions, publications, etc.)?
It’s now called The Vanished. There’s been a few rewrites as I wanted to shorten the script a bit. The publishing & performing rights were granted to Chicago Dramaworks in January 2015.

What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a play called Phantom Pain, which is about three women in their 50s who grew up in Detroit. All three of them faced racial tension and childhood violence. One of the three lost her leg in the violence they faced. They meet up as adults and begin to realize what is buried beneath the surface of their relationships. It’s sad, funny, and ultimately somewhat hopeful.

Diana (Repin) Isabel (Martinez)I’m starting to work on a reverse-gender, urban musical riffing off The Prodigal Son/Forgiving Father story.

I’m also outlining a play about an older female boxer who has been on a losing streak. She faces domestic abuse in her relationship. Her relationship happens to be with a female stockbroker. The play will also have a slew of interesting, off-beat boxer characters (coaches, competitors, etc.).

All the plays I’m writing right have violence central to the storyline or back-story of the play.

Where can people learn more about you and your work?
www.barbaralhota.com

Isabel (Martinez) Diana (Repin)Diana (Repin) Eliana (Stubbs)Isabel (Martinez) Eliana (Stubbs) Diana (Repin)

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JS&P 2005-6: An Affair Of Honor – Satisfaction

Joining Sword & Pen‘s inaugural theme was proposed by Fight Master David Woolley, inspired by the print of Emile Bayard’s “An Affair of Honor” that hung on his living room wall. Each entry to the contest was required to incorporate the moment depicted in the print.

An Affair of Honor lithographThe competition netted the Babes over 40 one-act entries, from locales ranging from our native Chicago to South Africa and New Zealand.

The two winning one-acts, Chicagoan Byron Hatfield’s Mrs. Dire’s House of Crumpets and Solutions and New Zealander Tony Wolf’sSatisfaction, were staged at the Viaduct Theater, April 7 – May 14, 2006, under the title An Affair of Honor. Each playwright received the Ballantyne Award, which carried with it a $500 stipend.

Satisfaction – Tony Wolf
directed by David Woolley
fight choreography by David Woolley

postcard lo resCAST: Dawn Alden * (Miss Kelly), Mary Becker (Mme. Renaud), Mary Anne Bowman * (Mme. Leboucher), Amy E. Harmon * (Sarah), Gillian N. Humiston (Mathilde Leboucher), Stephanie Repin * (Mrs. Thomas); Rachel Stubbs (Understudy)

STAFF: Joshua D. Allard (Costume Design ), Jennifer Aparicio (Scenic Artist/Carpenter Intern), Libby Beyreis * (Producer), Beth Cummings (Assistant Director & Props Design), Lisa Garmoe (Scenic Artist), Matt Harding (Dialect Coach), Brenda E. Kelly * (Assistant Producer), Jesse Klug (Lighting Design), Julie Lutgen (Scenic Design), Kjerstine McHugh * (Stage Manager), Jonathan Molitor (Dialect Coach), David Winer (Sound Technician), John Zuiker (Sound Design)

Graphic Design by grumpy monkey graphics & design

* denotes BWBTC ensemble member

CATCHING UP WITH PLAYWRIGHT TONY WOLF

BWB AoH Sat Alden JK MG_5651How/when did you hear about Babes With Blades Theatre Company?
I think I first heard about BWBTC from Dawn “Sam” Alden when I was teaching at one of the Paddy Crean International stage combat conferences in Banff, Canada – that would have been in the late ’90s.

How/when did you hear about Joining Sword & Pen?
I can’t recall, sorry – probably from Kat. I remember that I was in New Zealand when I wrote the script.

BWB AoH Sat Alden Humiston JK MG_5644What made you decide to enter the competition?
I liked the premise of telling a story inspired by a particular, evocative image. The house that I grew up in had been built during, and was largely decorated in the style of the Edwardian era, due to my Dad’s large collection of antiques. That collection included several similarly evocative paintings, and I have a vague memory that they had
been painted specifically for a kind of popular (circa 1900) parlor game in which people cooperated in improvising stories based on the scene depicted in the painting.

That plus, when I looked at the image of the Emile Bayard painting, I immediately decided that the women were dressed to attend a funeral, so the story basically wrote itself in that moment. Apart, that is, from the delicious twist, which I believe was inspired by a BWBTC company member’s comment to the effect that it was a pity that the most politically progressive woman in the story turned out to be the villain.

BWB AoH Sat Bowman Repin Humiston Alden JK MG_5879I didn’t have a problem with that motif – I reckoned that progressives can be just as evil as anyone else when it comes to affairs of honour, and of the heart – but the comment did get me thinking about an alternative that made for a much stronger story.

What did you think when you won the competition?
I can’t recall exactly, but I was probably surprised because I hadn’t actually written a script since I was in grade school.

I haven’t entered any subsequent Joining Sword and Pen contests, so I guess that counts as retiring undefeated, or maybe something more like beginner’s luck.

BWB AoH Sat Humiston Bowman JK MG_5357Do you have a favorite memory from the development/rehearsal/production process?
I was out of the US throughout almost all of that process, so I didn’t really have any part in it other than attending one staged reading when I was passing through Chicago. All my previous work in theatre had been as a fight choreographer, so I had no clue as to how to act as the author in a staged reading situation. Kat advised me to nod when we got feedback from the audience, so I think that’s all I did.

Likewise, I was overseas during the run, so I never actually saw the show until I watched a video of one of the performances, maybe a year or two later.

What’s happened to your script since (readings, productions, publications, etc.)?
It was performed by a NZ theatre company, and Sam Alden has
optioned it, after a fashion, for possible transformation into a short film.

BWB AoH Sat Alden JK MG_5438What are you working on right now?
Right now, I’m back in NZ managing my late father’s estate. In writing terms, I’m putting the finishing touches on an an adventure novel with superheroic motifs, set in 1860s England, and also editing an anthology of non-fiction articles by Rose Mackenberg, who was Harry Houdini’s chief detective in his exposes of phony Spiritualists during
the 1920s.

Where can people learn more about you and your work?
I keep a pretty low profile and I’m not into social media, but the Suffrajitsu website, which was set up to promote the graphic novel I wrote in late 2014, is probably the best way to do that at the moment. I may bite the bullet and set up an actual author website in the future.

BWB AoH Sat Mary Alden JK MG_5564BWB AoH Sat Harmon Alden JK MG_5502BWB AoH Sat Bowman JK MG_5399

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JS&P 2005-6: An Affair Of Honor – Mrs. Dire

Joining Sword & Pen‘s inaugural theme was proposed by Fight Master David Woolley, inspired by the print of Emile Bayard’s “An Affair of Honor” that hung on his living room wall. Each entry to the contest was required to incorporate the moment depicted in the print.

An Affair of Honor lithographThe competition netted the Babes over 40 one-act entries, from locales ranging from our native Chicago to South Africa and New Zealand.

The two winning one-acts, Chicagoan Byron Hatfield’s Mrs. Dire’s House of Crumpets and Solutions and New Zealander Tony Wolf’s Satisfaction, were staged at the Viaduct Theater, April 7 – May 14, 2006, under the title An Affair of Honor. Each playwright received the Ballantyne Award, which carried with it a $500 stipend.

Mrs. Dire’s House of Crumpets & Solutions – Byron Hatfield
directed by Alison Dornheggen*
fight choreography by the cast

postcard lo resCAST: Dawn Alden * (Esme), Mary Becker (Mother Dire), Mary Anne Bowman * (Viola), Amy E. Harmon * (Mrs. Dire), Stephanie Repin * (Mrs. Kinsington), Rachel Stubbs (Mary); Gillian N. Humiston (Understudy)

STAFF: Joshua D. Allard (Costume Design ), Jennifer Aparicio (Scenic Artist/Carpenter Intern), Libby Beyreis * (Producer), Beth Cummings (Assistant Director & Props Design), Lisa Garmoe (Scenic Artist), Matt Harding (Dialect Coach), Brenda E. Kelly * (Assistant Producer), Jesse Klug (Lighting Design), Julie Lutgen (Scenic Design), Kjerstine McHugh * (Stage Manager), Jonathan Molitor (Dialect Coach), David Winer (Sound Technician), John Zuiker (Sound Design)

Graphic Design by grumpy monkey graphics & design

* denotes BWBTC ensemble member

CATCHING UP WITH PLAYWRIGHT BYRON HATFIELD

BWB AoH Dire Alden Repin JK MG_5782How/when did you hear about Babes With Blades Theatre Company?
I befriended one of your members, Ali, and she was kind enough to suggest I submit a play to a new contest that Babes was sponsoring… and I found everyone I met to be delightful and professional and was excited to do so.

How/when did you hear about Joining Sword & Pen?
Over whisky. See above.

BWB AoH Dire Repin Bowman JK MG_5866What made you decide to enter the competition?
I loved the progressive idea and honesty of of what you all stood for and were creating. It was a well researched, talented, and dedicatedly rehearsing machine.

What did you think when you won the competition?
I was thrilled. It was a play in which I loved all the characters and banter, and it was the first fight-oriented piece I had written.

Do you have a favorite memory from the development/rehearsal/production process?
Seeing it for the first time. I had no grasp of the actual nature of the historical combat that would be involved. I just wrote in brilliant stage directions such as “They Duel and ‘So and So’ wins.”

BWB AoH Dire Harmon Alden Bowman Mary JK MG_6002So, as I’m sitting there, watching the production for the first time with a friend, there was a moment during climatic sword duel when a character ripped her bodice free to allow for more movement of her sword arm. The person I was with looked over at me: “You seriously wrote in a topless moment in a play for an all-female combat group, you idiot?” I was like, “I did not. I did not know that was coming.”

It was such an honest and fearless moment of being true to the material that I’ve always remembered it.

It also encouraged me to do more dramaturgy work when I’m writing something.

BWB AoH Dire Alden Stubbs JK MG_5997What are you working on right now?
An American Carol, the story of a young senator on the eve of a critical vote, who’s visited by the ghost of American Past, Present, and Future. It debuts fall 2016.

For spring 2017, it’s Door Stops. The story of a woman’s repeated visits to the horrible bureaucracy of Purgatory as she muddles through repeated attempts to take her own life.

And just generally trying to run our theater, The Public House Theatre here in Chicago.

Where can people learn more about you and your work?
The Public House Theatre

BWB AoH Dire Bowman Harmon JK MG_5992BWB AoH Dire Mary Repin JK MG_5988BWB AoH Dire Harmon Alden Repin JK MG_5741

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Joining Sword & Pen: The Countdown Begins!

Joining Sword & Pen, BWBTC’s international playwriting competition, is turning 10 this year!

AT THE SEPTEMBER 8th PERFORMANCE of The Promise of a Rose Garden, together with sponsor David Woolley, we’ll be:

Presenting Dustin Spence, the winner of Joining Sword & Pen 2015-16, with the Margaret W. Martin Award.

…AND…

Launching the next round of the competition, Joining Sword & Pen 2017-18.

In the meantime, we’re taking a  look back at our previous winners… catching up with the playwrights, showcasing production photos, and celebrating the legacy of a truly unique competition. We’re posting every week or so through 9/9… don’t miss it!

HERE! WE! GO!

JS&P collection

 

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The brain behind the Skull – Jason A. Narvy

Jason Narvy became synonymous with “Skull” on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in 1993 and has since appeared in numerous film & MMPRtelevision series featuring the teenage team of super heroes.

Full disclosure – I’ve never seen a single episode of MMPR.  I was a teenager at the time it first came on the scene, and had just been introduced the world of Marvel comics, where I immediately fell in love with Wolverine and Rogue and Gambit (et al). Probably I thought I was too mature for MMPR (or at least wanted to appear that way). I’m such a snob.

So when I saw a staged reading last year with my friend (and BWBTC ensemble member) Alison Dornheggen in it, I was non-plussed by the fact that “Jason Narvy” was also in the cast – until fellow Babe Elyse Dawson explained just exactly who he was and how amazing it was to be in the same room as him (at which point I was still non-plussed, but more curious!).  Then around November, 2015, I started working on PR for the Babes’ next show, 180 Degree Rule, in which Jason had been cast.  We came up with a questionnaire and I sent it off in an email to this unknown man – and what I got back was fantastic.  His philosophy on acting, violence on stage, and guiding in the next generation of story-tellers as a professor at Concordia University was truly inspiring. (see Q&A below)

February rolled around and rehearsals for 180 Degree Rule began.  This script is very special to a lot of the cast & crew and the Babes’ ensemble.  The Babes had been work-shopping this play for years and co-writer and dear friend to many, MEH Lewis, passed away in March of last year.  Rehearsals were a good mix of pseudo-familiarity with the story, hearing new voices in the roles, exploring a world of film on stage, and nostalgia for the woman missing from the rehearsal room.

Jason Narvy (Gilbert), Lisa Herceg (Margot), Amy E. Harmon (Ruth), Kelly Yacono (Press). Photo by Johnny Knight.

Jason Narvy (Gilbert), Lisa Herceg (Margot), Amy E. Harmon (Ruth), Kelly Yacono (Press). Photo by Johnny Knight.

As in many productions, the true cast bonding came during tech week:  hours upon hours together with too much caffeine & not enough sleep, figuring out costume quick-changes, working with physical steps that were only a tape mark on the floor before, fog effects being added to fights, video projections that had no sound for a day, Twizzlers, and dressing room war stories.  This is when I discovered that no matter how many millions of people think they know who Skull is, the privilege of working with Jason is a personal one.  And the same can be said of working with Chris, Tommy and Kate. The amazing BWBTC members in the cast, Kelly, Amy & Lisa, I had already worked with, so I knew they were great – but I continue to be amazed by them all. Every. Single. Time.  Known or unknown, ensemble or guest artist, we’re all in this together – and the crew is 100% behind us and has created an amazing atmosphere to tell this story with panache, style, safety, compassion and some big laughs.

And now, going back over that questionnaire, with an actual ‘person’ in mind, I’m even more inspired.  Not only is this guy charming as hell, talented & fun to watch on stage, he’s whip-smart, too.

By the way – if you want to meet the man himself, come see 180 Degree Rule at 3PM on Sunday, May 1st, and stick around for a talk-back with Jason.  Maybe ask a follow-up question or two.  For all promos & events, check out the site.

Now for Jason in his own words:
What drew you to acting?
First of all, my mom and sister were performers. From the time I was a very small kid I remember my mom belting out those folk revivalist songs, the Simon and Garfunkel, the Mamas and Papas, stuff like that. She had this operatic soprano voice and she probably was always torn between being a singer and being, well, our mom. Then there was my big sister, who did a few plays in high school and her plays I think were the first ones I remember.
I was an aspiring derelict but without the malice most of my hoodlum friends had. So after taking a drama class in high school, I had a place to go and have a voice, redirect my youthful angst and energy.  I was a smart kid, but too preoccupied with adventure (or petty crime, whatever you want to call it) to be a successful student in anything but the arts. Then there came a time when the only thing I was allowed to do when I was grounded was theater. AND I WAS ALWAYS GROUNDED. But if you give a young person something that forces them to be brave, forces them to work harder than they’ve ever worked, forces them to show an honesty which , when push comes to shove, every teen wants to show, and allow them the ability for escapism amidst all that, I think you’ve given a teenager everything they need.

How do you compare on-camera to on-stage work? Do you prepare differently?  
There’s a myth that good stage acting requires you to be bigger so the people in the back row can see you. And that film is about subtlety and using your face more. No. That’s the lazy actor. The truth is that the good actor just kind of telescopes who they are being honest for. If the guy you’re being honest for is 20 rows back then, yes, you adjust so that person hears you but it doesn’t mean you have to fake it. If the person is right up your nose, you can let your nose do the talking.
Now as for prep, I lucked out by having my first steady film gig with another talented stage actor, Paul Schrier. And we were doing slapstick which can only be honestly done in a scope that people might associate with stage. But the real comedy isn’t in the pratfall. It’s in the reaction to the pratfall—the humiliation, the anger, or the bewilderment that gravity somehow found me and is mad at me even though I have a deep profound respect for him.

Paul Schrier and Jason Narvy as Bulk& Skull

Paul Schrier and Jason Narvy as Bulk& Skull

So we realized that the only way to do bad work was to follow the wisdom that everything must shrink for film. Your performance is the scope it needs to be to be truthful to the needs of the script. Both big and small are right depending in the given circumstances.

What is it about stunt-work/stage combat that interests you?
I could tell you “I enjoy telling a story when the character’s stakes are high.” I’d be lying, I enjoy a fight that doesn’t hurt me.
All kidding aside, a fight is dangerous. Throwing punches, chucking swords can be  dangerous even when staged. They say Olivier had more scars and battle wounds when he died than the characters he played would have. So stage combat is interesting because it requires immense self-discipline and focus just at those moments when a character is losing those things.

What’s the most challenging thing about working on a new script?
That’s tough because every script is a new one if you’ve never worked on it, isn’t it? Othello is new if you’ve never done it.

How often do you get recognized on the streets of Chicago (and how many times is it for Skull, rather than from a student?!).
Surprisingly often. My wife always wonders how the hell people recognize me so out of context.

How does living in Chicago compare to college life in PA and the weirdness of LA?
Its an interesting mix of LA and New York: A proper city like NY, spread out like LA. Not as dirty and moody as NY can be. It’s a shockingly friendly city, unpretentious and gorged to the gills with theatre.

What do you like best about working at Concordia?
The students without a doubt. Earnest, hard working, many of whom are from rural Illinois, so there is a considerable growth curve for them and they relish every minute of it.

**Be sure to see Jason live in action as Gilbert Bailey in our production of 180 Degree Rule**
blog post contributed by Kimberly Logan
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