Jefe's House

Tag: ensemble studio theatre

Mantua Theater Project

by on Jul.30, 2012, under NYC, The Sixth Boro, Theatre

I’m thrilled to have been a part of the incredible Mantua Theater Project this past weekend, sponsored by Drexel University and created by Drexel Theatre Program head Nick Anselmo.    Nick modeled it on New York City’s 52nd Street Project where he used to work, based at my old stomping grounds The Ensemble Studio Theatre.  He also previously replicated this phenomenal organization at a theatre in Trenton, NJ several years ago to work with economically disadvantaged kids there.  Now he has replicated it for at-risk 4th through 8th graders in Philadelphia’s Mantua neighborhood which borders Drexel’s campus.

Nick’s technique is based on Daniel Judah Sklar‘s book Playmaking: Children Writing and Performing Their Own Plays which was the foundation for the 52nd Street Project.  This summer’s inaugural program at Drexel took  place over the course of four weeks during which Nick taught the basics of playwriting to about a dozen kids.

After that, the students were paired with professional playwrights for a retreat weekend, working one-on-one to create short plays.  That’s where I came in, helping an energetic 8-year-old girl realize her awesome creative vision with her Peter Panlike fantasy play Croc Galore which is 7 pages of poignancy and hilarity about two orphaned creatures helping each other survive in a jungle full of traps, danger and liars.  Hers and the other students’ plays are now being handed off to professional directors and actors, and will culminate with a performance for these young writers’ friends, families and community members on Drexel’s main stage, the Mandell Theatre, in August.  I plan to be there front row, center.

As Drexel’s website accurately puts it, “the process yields funny, creative, surprisingly truthful and often hilarious results. Along the way students develop self-esteem as they create something to be proud of.” Drexel students are also helping with various aspects of the program. Education, and Screenwriting & Playwriting students will be involved in the classes, and Theater students and alumni will help with the production.

Granny, 1967.

For me, a similar lifesaving program didn’t come along until I was a teenager. That program was the Young Writers Workshop at UVa which I’m glad to see is still going strong. Thanks to a partial financial aid scholarship from the good old Vinton, VA Moose Lodge across the street from my high school (thanks to the efforts of my profoundly influential 10th grade English teacher and lifetime friend Rose Townsend) and a donation from my now-departed grandmother, Ethel Orelia, who had an 8th grade education and had been out picking tobacco at the age of 4,  I was able to attend the 2-week UVa workshop two summers in a row.  The experiences I had there — visiting a college campus for the first time, getting a taste of college life, meeting professional writers and other like-minded kids — set the course of the rest of  my life.  I had been raised in a cash-strapped single-parent home and wound up becoming the first person in my family to attend college, let alone grad school, moving to New York City at age 19 with a one-way ticket and a duffle bag, and went on to terrific success as a dramatist and university faculty, and it all started because a writing workshop presented itself to me out of the blue.

I hope that my thimbleful of work this weekend yields similar results for these kids someday.  Not that  they all need to become playwrights but that they see there’s a whole, wonderful world just outside the borders of their own neighborhood and that they’re just as entitled to participate in it and have a piece of it as anyone else.

Congratulations to Nick Anselmo and the  Mantua Theater Project.

 

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Please Silence Your Teletrofono

by on Feb.16, 2012, under Politics, The Sixth Boro, Theatre

 

Antonio Meucci

In connection with my being a 2011-2012 PDC@Plays & Players Playwright-in-Residence, a reading of my unproduced play Fishing With Tony and Joe will be held at Plays & Players Theatre at 1714 Delancey Place (17th Street between Pine and Spruce) in Philadelphia on Tuesday, February 28th at 4pm in the 3rd floor Skinner Studio.  The event is FREE but seating is limited so please RSVP to Dan Student at dstudent@playsandplayers.org .

Meucci's teletrofono.

The play is an historical drama with a touch of magic realism about opera stagehand, exiled leftie and “back yard inventor” Antonio Meucci, an Italian immigrant who invented a working electric telephone at his Staten Island home some 20 years prior to Alexander Graham Bell.

The plot covers a year in the life of Meucci, his firebrand wife Esterre (Esther) and their house crashing friend Giuseppe Garibaldi, the famed Italian revolutionary.  A love triangle, corporate greed and the dawn of telecommunications ensue.

Garibaldi

This unproduced play was originally commissioned by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York, in 2005-06 (this same pairing by a science foundation and an Off-Broadway theatre  produced my hit play Tesla’s Letters in 1999).

The awesome cast includes Paul McElwee, Michelle Eugene, Mark Cairns, Mike Hagan and  Brendan Norton.  The reading will be directed by Josh Hitchens.

There will be a Q&A of this work-in-progress with the audience afterward and I would value your attendance and your input.  The event is FREE but seating is limited so please RSVP to Dan Student at dstudent@playsandplayers.org .

Thanks, see you there,
Jeffrey Stanley
“The history of the telephone will never be fully
written; it is partly hidden away in twenty or
thirty thousand pages of testimony and partly lying
on the hearts and consciences of a few whose lips
are sealed — some in death, and others by a golden
clasp whose grip is even tighter.”
- Elisha Gray, inventor and competitor of Alexander Graham Bell

 

 

 

 


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Beautiful Zion: The Interview

by on Aug.11, 2011, under The Press, The Sixth Boro, Theatre

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Interviewer Kristen Scatton of Rep Radio in Philadelphia wound up deftly getting me to talk about some things that weren’t even on my agenda, like my feelings about NYU Tisch School of the Arts, being taught and strongly encouraged by David Ives, my adventures with Tesla, Ouija Boards, death and why everything is not going to be okay, reflecting on why I never moved to LA, and a call-to-arms to Philadelphia filmmakers.  Oh and there’s also my upcoming Philly Fringe show Beautiful Zion: A Book of the Dead directed by Dan Student. 

Many thanks to Kristen for joining me in the Blue Grotto for the interview during a rehearsal break. Listen now.

 

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Tesla’s Letters Now on Kindle

by on Oct.18, 2010, under Theatre

The cool kids in the programming department at amazon.com have come up with a unique way for authors whose works are available on the Kindle to share their opening pages, so here’s an excerpt from Tesla’s Letters.  You don’t need to own a Kindle to view it.  This new app for reading Kindle-formatted books right in your browser without owning a Kindle is, understandably, a marketing tool to get you to want to buy a real Kindle and download the whole book. And that’s okay.  It’s only a Kindle, and they’re cool.

A word to the wise — *do not* buy a hard copy of Tesla’s Letters from one of the resellers on amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com listing it for exhorbitant amounts like $43.00, $100, etc.  There are some unscrupulous jackasses operating through those websites trying to rip you off.  You can buy this script directly from Samuel French or download the Kindle version from amazon.com for just $7.50, and at a similar price in Euros from amazon.co.uk.  Enjoy.

If you’re not familiar with the play, it’s a semiautobiographical wartime drama set in the late 1990s Balkans with unfortunately (continue reading…)

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