Tag Archives: Fly/Lyf

An idea takes flight

Childsplay costume rendering (Lyf) for With Two Wings

Playwright Anne Negri says the “seed” for future writing was planted during childhood, but admits she lost her zeal for creative writing for a good decade or so after taking so many middle and high school writing classes focused on academic style writing. Negri shares that “a graduate school playwriting class brought it back out of me.”

Negri now lives, and teaches theater to public school students, in Illinois. But she earned an M.F.A. in theatre for youth from ASU in Tempe, where she took a playwriting class because she “wanted to be around playwrights and talk to them.” The professor told her she had to write, and a ten-minute version of her first full-length play was born.

The initial piece took “a few weeks to a month” to write, according to Negri — who says she “shopped it around” with various playwrights at ASU and other folks in her college program. Negri recalls the day associate professor Pamela Stewart chased her down to adamantly tell her, “You have to see where this goes.”

Negri says the play grew with each draft as “new themes came to light.” Eventually Negri submitted it to a Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences playwriting competition, which recognized her work with its 2009 playwriting award.

Childsplay costume rendering (Meta) for With Two Wings

The play, though performed by friends of Negri at Space 55 the following year during the 2010 Phoenix Fringe Festival, wasn’t yet in final form. Even the name needed changing — because the original title referencing the name of the boy at the heart of the story puzzled those who tried to pronounce it.

It didn’t help that a man who saw Negri’s “fly/lyf” (pronounced like “life”) at the festival approached her after a performance to say, “I love those little flies.” Negri says the winged characters in her play “are sort of human creatures.” Despite the bird language used in the play, she says, they’re not birds. Or bugs.

Negri took her play, complete with new title, to a biennial national playwriting competition and symposium presented by Indiana Repertory Theatre. The Bonderman Playwriting for Youth event is “a forum through which each playwright receives constructive criticism and the support of a development team consisting of a professional director and dramaturg.”

“With Two Wings,” which shares the name of a folk song by Red Grammer, was selected as one of four 2011 Bonderman finalists. And it caught the eye of David Saar, who was there that summer directing a different production. “He heard me read the play,” recalls Negri, “and saw the finished product.” But then he did something more. He gave the play wings.

Childsplay costume rendering (Taur) for With Two Wings

Saar shocked Negri by calling soon thereafter to say he wanted to produce the play during Childsplay’s 2011-12 season. Normally, says Negri, the road from initial interest to full production takes many years. But Saar, founder and artistic director for Childsplay, was eager to bring the play back home to its Arizona roots.

It’ll take flight later this month as a Childsplay world premiere –perhaps inspiring other young writers to try their hands at playwriting. Negri’s advice for aspiring playwrights is simple — just write. And share your work with others. You never know when an idea might soar from page to stage.

— Lynn

Note: Costume renderings in this post feature designs by D. Daniel Hollingshead for Childsplay’s production of “With Two Wings.” Click here for show and ticket information.

Coming up: More wings & things

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A homecoming tale

Costume rendering (Lyf) for Childsplay's production of "With Two Wings"

Playwright Anne Negri is experiencing a homecoming of sorts as Childsplay in Tempe prepares its production of “With Two Wings,” a work Negri wrote while enrolled in ASU’s M.F.A. in theatre for youth program. Negri now lives, and teaches public school drama classes, in Illinois –but she’s been in the Valley this week for Childsplay rehearsals of her work.

“I’ve been in the room since the the day the actors read it,” says Negri. She’s also attended production meetings, spent time in the prop shop and more. Negri says she’s thrilled to have “all these smart people” talk about her work and debate the finer points about how best to give it wings.

The impetus for writing “With Two Wings” was a personal experience — coupled with a teacher’s expectation that she not only study playwriting but also give it a try. Negri shares that her older sister, who suffered malnutrition and other challenges before being adopted from India, has learning disabilities.

Though Negri’s sister, now in her late 30s, is now divorced — she was married for a time to a man with learning disabilities, and they had a son. Negri notes that Will, now 10 years old, “somehow missed those genetic hits.” And it got her wondering.

Costume rendering (Mom) for Childsplay's production of "With Two Wings"

What would it be like for a child to surpass his own parents in many ways? By age 8 or 9, says Negri, her nephew Will was already reading better than his mom. Early in the process of thinking about Will’s story, Negri had a dream about people with wings — which led her to revisit the myth of Icarus.

The myth describes an escape by Icarus and his father Daelalus using wings made with wax. Seems Icarus ignored his father’s advice to avoid flying near the sun, then died once the wax in his wings melted from the sun’s heat. Negri imagined the story with a different ending — in which the father, rather than the son, fell into the sea.

Negri describes “With Two Wings” as a “fantasy world.” Its inhabitants include a boy named Lyf (Nathan Dobson), his dad (Jon Gentry) and his mom (Kate Haas). Also two kids — Taur (John Moum) and Meta (Kaleena Newman) — who live in town but stumble one day onto the family’s isolated home.

Costume rendering (Dad) for Childsplay's production of "With Two Wings"

Lyf’s encounter with the pair sparks his first realization that his world is different. How and why it’s different are at the heart of the play — which is being performed weekends Jan. 22-Feb. 5 at Tempe Center for the Arts. Families who attend a Jan. 22 “Storybook Preview Performance” pay just $12 per ticket and receive a free book.

The back of my lovely “With Two Wings” postcard notes that there’s a “Backstage Tour” after the 1pm performance on Feb. 4. Also a “Family Improv” event that morning at Childsplay’s “Campus for Imagination and Wonder.” Parents can learn more by visiting Childsplay online at www.childsplayaz.org.

— Lynn

Note: Costumes for the Childsplay production of “With Two Wings” are designed by D. Daniel Hollingshead. Childsplay recommends this play for ages six & up. “With Two Wings” is also part of Childsplay’s 2011-12 “School Tours” season. Click here for details.

Coming up: More about the “With Two Wings” journey from class project to Childsplay world premiere