Your Test. Your Time.
Jessie Swiech, a Central Illinois-based actress and an artist in a variety of mediums and styles, 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.
CAST: 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?
I 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!
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.
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.
What’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.
What 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.