Poet, Playwright, Workshop Facilitator
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Kelly's News Blog

IWWG 2018 Play Lab - 8 Short Plays/Excerpts/Monologues Have Staged Reading at Muhlenberg College Conference

(Left to Right: Kelly DuMar, (Raquel Arrechea, not a playwright), Lisa Shapiro, Ingrid Bruck, Mindy Ohringer, Sue Huggans, Patricia Bell-Scott, Suzanne Westhues, Linda Bergman, Marisa Moks-Unger

(Left to Right: Kelly DuMar, (Raquel Arrechea, not a playwright), Lisa Shapiro, Ingrid Bruck, Mindy Ohringer, Sue Huggans, Patricia Bell-Scott, Suzanne Westhues, Linda Bergman, Marisa Moks-Unger

We have only six workshops, six days together in the Play Lab. Is it enough? Never! Is it worth it? Definitely, participants always say on the last day. 

Some of the writers arrive with a draft of a short scene, a monologue, or a ten-minute play they hope to develop during our week together at the IWWG Annual Summer Conference at Muhlenberg College.

What each writer wants is to try something brand new, or to get a project she's been working on for the stage to the next level. She wants to know if she can make it work, and how. She's nervous, and willing to step out of her comfort zone into the unknown.

This year, two playwrights were working to build plays from nonfiction books they had published. Another writer has been working on a one-woman show about childhood incest. One woman brought a draft of a monologue she drafted in our Boston Regional Conference; another wrote a new script on the spot with no prior experience. Every writer found something meaningful to develop, and went all in.

Three years ago, I established the IWWG Summer Play Lab workshop to give writers, many who have never before written for the stage, (and some who are in the midst of full-length plays) a way to be introduced to playwriting in an intimate, supportive environment for risk-taking. This is the most significant aspect of this Play Lab: the generosity of creative support that is shared. It's all for one and one for all. Everyone's script matters and is attended to with great concern and interest, and assistance.

At our summer conference, we're busy from dawn to dark. There are, in fact, twenty-five workshops across genre that conference participants can choose from - fiction, poetry, memoir, creative nonfiction, screenwriting and more. So, it's remarkable that those in the Play Lab are also attending other workshops during the day as well. It's a stretch – but one they always rise to, to revise every day and return with a fresh script in development.

During the first year of the Play Lab, I knew the participants would greatly benefit by a reading of their script in front of an audience, by actors and friends available and willing to jump in to the creative process. Conference director, Dixie King, gamely agreed to squeeze time into our overcrowded schedule to offer the readings to the entire conference on Wednesday. It was standing room only and a huge gain for everyone: This is the learning process of moving from page to stage; hearing your words lifted off the page by actors, (some truly professional ones are always present, available and willing), hearing the laughter and applause and gasps of an audience, and then being able to hear feedback and comments and encouragement from everyone afterwards.

The first Play Lab readings were a huge hit; the rest of the conference attendees crowded into the Red Door Lounge to see what their friends had been working on all week. And the playwrights were awed and thrilled and helped immensely by understanding the art of the collaboration and the elements of production they were exposed to. 

We're a unique conference, in that dozens of women writers are present all week, and many are eager and willing to share acting talents; some who had no idea they even have acting talent. Every actor, experienced or otherwise, was willing to take a risk on stage to support the writers. This is truly one of the most generous, fun, collaborative communities I've ever been involved in. And I really look forward to seeing where the scripts go from here; into production on stages around the world, and then into published scripts. I'm honored, once again, to be part of the development of women's stories for the stage. 

Kelly DuMarComment