Tag Archives: Debra Sussman Susser

Women playwrights & Arizona theater

Katsina Dolls and Hopi Ceremonial Calendar on exhibit at the Heard Museum North Scottsdale

I was struck, during a recent trip to the Heard Museum North Scottsdale, by a round graphic of the Hopi ceremonial calendar. The calendar depicts time in circular rather than linear fashion — speaking volumes about differing ways diverse cultures sometimes view time.

The image of an unbroken circle came to mind the other day when I got to thinking about Valley writer and performer Kathleen Buckstaff — who will present a piece titled “The Tiffany Box” at Theatre Artists Studio in Phoenix Nov 4-14.

Our children attended the same elementary school, though I don’t recall that we ever had the opportunity to spend all that much time together. Still, I am eager to see the work — a “unique and intimate performance piece” in which Buckstaff shares a “touching and uplifting journey from love to loss.”

"The Tiffany Box", written and performed by Kathleen Buckstaff, comes to Theatre Artists Studio in Phoenix Nov 4-14

I spoke recently with Matthew Wiener, producing artistic director for Actors Theatre of Phoenix, who noted that three of the offerings in their current season are works by women playwrights.

Wiener takes great pride in bringing “recent, contemporary shows from New York” to the Valley. The company’s 2010-2011 season includes “three of the most exciting playwriting women today.”

In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play)” by Sarah Ruhl runs Oct 29-Nov 14. It’s “a comedy about marriage, intimacy and electricity” set in the 1880s.

This” by Melissa James Gibson runs Jan 21-Feb 6, 2011. It’s a “bright, witty, un-romantic comedy” about “the uncertain steps of a circle of friends backing their way into middle age.”

Circle Mirror Transformation” by Annie Baker runs Apr 22-May 8, 2011. It’s the Arizona premiere of an “inventive and absorbing comedy” exploring “the impact we can have on each other’s lives.”

Actors Theatre presents "In the Next Room" by Sarah Ruhl Oct 29-Nov 14 at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix. Pictured here are Angelica Howland (Catherine Givings) and Erica Connell (Sabrina Daldry). Photo: John Groseclose

The Arizona Women’s Theatre Company, established in 2003 and based in Scottsdale, produces “contemporary, provocative, thought provoking plays written by women.”

The company is working to provide “an innovative forum for women’s issues” — revealing women’s lives and documenting women’s experiences.

Their “Pandora Showcase,” taking place Nov 12-13 and Nov 19-20 at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, will feature “contemporary and new plays by Arizona women playwrights.”

Women playwrights from across the country are invited to submit works for consideration as Arizona Women’s Theatre Company seeks scripts for its 5th Annual Pandora Festival.

A juried panel will select unpublished full length, one act and 10 minutes plays for staged readings during the May 20-22, 2011 festival at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

Check the Arizona Women’s Theatre Company website for submission details, instructions and deadlines.

And keep an eye on Theatre Artists Studio, which often features the work of Arizona playwrights and actors including the magazine’s own Debra Rich Gettleman.

Like so many women writers, there’s more to Gettleman than just a pretty blog.

— Lynn

Note: Local writers Amy Silverman and Deborah Sussman Susser offer two “Mothers Who Write” workshops each year. The next 10-week series begins Feb 24 at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

Coming up: Playwriting contests

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Crepes, jarring journalism and resources for writers

Jennifer and I discovered a lovely little crepe joint in Tempe a few years ago when she had an overnight birthday party at the Tempe Mission Palms Hotel (we took a couple crates of craft supplies along and had a giant arts fest between trips to the rooftop swimming pool).

Recently Lizabeth and I headed out on a frosty morning to read our newspapers and enjoy toasty drinks. Liz recalled the lovely artwork and comfy couches at the Mill’s End Café and Creperie on Mill Avenue, so that’s where we headed.

When we got there, a copy of the New Times—strewn with other reading materials atop a two-tiered metal cart near the cash register—grabbed Lizabeth’s attention.

The otherwise stark white cover featured a broken piece of glass covered in blood. A bit jarring for morning reading, but then, sometimes the best reading gives us a jolt. The lead story, by managing editor Amy Silverman, was titled “Suicidal Tendencies.”

Silverman’s story, part of an ongoing series called “Lost Kids,” recounts harrowing tales of youth with serious mental illness within Arizona’s juvenile justice system. (I use the word “justice” here with more than a tad of trepidation.)

Later that day I hit my pile of yet-to-be-read newspapers in search of earlier pieces in Silverman’s series—including “Saving Alex” and “Losing Erica.” They were near the top, and I set about reading them right away.

The series was reading to remember. It was writing that reverberated. It may well be the single best collection of Arizona journalism I’ve read all year. Not surprising, I suppose, when you consider that Silverman has twice been honored as “Journalist of the Year” by the Arizona Press Club.

Work for consideration for the 2009 awards must be submitted per Arizona Press Club guidelines and postmarked no later than Jan. 20th of 2010. Award categories have been modified somewhat to reflect growing trends in journalism such as increased news content on the Internet.

I last saw Silverman at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. She was there with Deborah Sussman Susser, co-instructor for Mothers Who Write—an enterprise that engages writers in developing their craft while sharing feedback on each other’s work.

We’re proud to count one of their alumni—Debra Rich Gettleman—among our fellow writers at Raising Arizona Kids magazine. Gettleman never fails to deliver a lively read, so check the magazine’s online archives when you’re craving a kernel of controversy.

Several of the women who participated in the last Mothers Who Write workshop were at SMOCA with Silverman and Susser to read portions of their work aloud from behind a humble podium located adjacent to a magnificent museum exhibit of Nick Cave “soundsuits.” 

Listening to their works conjured memories and musings—of things simple, scary, sentimental and strong—much like a magical night at the symphony or the theater.

Mothers Who Write is a testament to the power of the pen.

Their next 10-week workshop begins Feb. 25th and I must admit that I’m toying with taking part. (First I have to quell the intimidation factor.) Registration for the workshop, which often fills quickly, begins Jan. 4th. 

We’re partial to parents who write around here, but equally fond of youth who commit pen to paper—so I’m always on the lookout for events that engage children and teens in reading and/or writing. Here’s one that recently caught my eye…

Changing Hands Bookstore and Hoodlums Music and Movies present “YAllapalooza! 2010” from 4-7pm on Saturday, Jan. 9th. They’re located side by side on the corner of S. McClintock Dr. and E. Guadalupe Rd. in Tempe. (The fact that Wildflower Bread Company is next door is an added bonus—especially when you have a hankering for breakfast on a budget.)

The event is described as “a literary musical extravaganza featuring live bands, pizza, games, prizes, and a chance to mix and mingle with your favorite YA authors and get books signed.” (YA is bookstore speak for “young adult.”)

As the proud parent of an ASU student and “indie-minded” consumer, I often hear of these events firsthand. But it doesn’t hurt that I’m on the e-mail alerts for both Hoodlums and Changing Hands.

The Changing Hands e-newsletter alerted me to several writing-related events scheduled for January—some for grown-ups, some for tweens and teens—covering everything from poetry and journaling to how to get published and how to beat writer’s block.

A teen workshop titled “Indie Mini-Comics” (for ages 13 and up) will take place at Changing Hands on Saturday, Jan. 16th. Check the store’s website for event and registration information.

Every author I’ve ever spoken with offers the same advice to potential writers: The best way to improve your writing is simply to write—and write, and write. The most proficient writers are often the most prolific readers, so blossoming writers do well to have their nose in a book when there’s no pen in their hand.

Anyone witnessing the recent exchange of gifts at our house might suspect that we’re destined to become a writing version of the famous singing von Trapp family (whose story is loosely told in the movie “The Sound of Music”). If you can’t eat it, listen to it or read it, it probably wasn’t on any of our holiday wish lists.

The bookseller to whom I handed Jennifer’s list was especially surprised to see one of Freud’s works on the list. I thought I’d get a good chuckle when I mentioned I had one daughter who planned to give it to another, but no—just a blank stare. He wouldn’t have had any fun celebrating the holidays at our house.

If you want your teen to love reading and writing, expose them early and often to good books and writing opportunities.

Aspiring teen writers can learn a thing or two from “how-to” books like “A Teen’s Guide to Getting Published: Publishing for Profit, Recognition and Academic Success” (Jessica Dunn and Danielle Dunn), “The Young Writer’s Guide to Getting Published” (Kathy Henderson) and “Screen Teen Writers: How Young Screenwriters Can Find Success” (Christina Hamlett).

Still, nothing replaces the acts of reading and writing. When you can share them with others—especially while enjoying crepes and coffee or cocoa together—so much the better.

–Lynn

Note: When last I visited the Stone Soup magazine website, it announced blogging opportunities for creative writing teachers. If you’re interested in learning more, check it out at www.stonesoup.com

Coming soon: The Young Writers Program at ASU, Upcoming community college theater productions, Youth symphonies in the Valley of the Sun