Script tease with Lightbulb Improv

The annual Canberra Unscripted Improv festival happened last month (19 – 22 September). I’ll admit, as a playwright who never acts (and very rarely directs), improvisational theatre isn’t something I’ve ever connected with.

For me, the script is the heart and soul of my theatre experience. It’s where I start, and usually where I finish my part in the whole “making theatre” thing.

Needless to say, the thought of being involved in an improv show has never crossed my mind. If it doesn’t have a script, I don’t see how I fit.

However, a couple of months ago I got an offer I couldn’t refuse from a local improv troupe, Lightbulb Improv. The brief was simple: write the first scene of a play so that the troupe could then make up the rest. It was for an improv show called Script Tease that would, for the first time that I know of, incorporate scripts into an improvised performance.

The Lightbulb Improv troupe (with a few writers in there too ….)

I was intrigued by the idea, and I’ll admit, a little overconfident about the whole thing. After all, starting plays is easy! The hard part is filling in the rest – i.e., the middle and end.

Of course, it was trickier than anticipated. Starting a play and needing to set up the characters, situation, stakes, and obstacles without any idea about where it was going in terms of plot or theme was a very counter-intuitive way to write.

I kept thinking about how every interaction or hint at an idea would lead to a payoff or reveal later in the play. But of course, I wasn’t writing a full play – just a tease of one. So, I had to pull back and leave it as open as possible. After all, the players need room to play!

Luckily, I managed to get the job done. My play was about two gamer geeks that, after a year of talking online, accidentally agree to meet in real life. Of course, they both freak out and run to their respective friends for advice. Hijinks ensue.

Overall, Script Tease was a lot of fun to be part of. As expected, my play went in a direction I never anticipated. It got chaotic and slapstick very quickly – but that’s no surprise given the subject matter.

Still, I was stoked with what the improvisers did with the characters, especially given the tight timeframes and setting they had to deal with. It was wonderful to see my creations come to life and then quickly run amok.

I was one of four local playwrights taking part in Script tease. The others included John Lombard and Harriet Elvin (both Short+Sweet regulars) and Laura Griffin (a Lightbulb member and Short+Sweet finalist too). The show included crazy business meetings, pirates, haunted houses, and zombies.

Big thanks to all at Lighbulb for the fun night, especially Lou Maconachie, Amy Crawford, and Katherine Berry for making it all happen.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but hopefully, I’ll get to improv again.

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Keeping good company in Wagga

Super stoked that my short play The Hold Up was included in the 2019 edition of SOACT’s Ten x 10 Playfest in Wagga Wagga on 7 – 9 June.

This year’s festival was absolutely bursting with talent, including some of the best ten-minute playwrights going around, such as Alex Broun, Pete Malicki, and Adam Szudrich.

The Hold Up was directed by Margaret Bannister and featured Julian Smith, Tony Woods, and Felix Hadler.

Can’t wait to submit to this great little festival again next year!

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Short+Sweet Queensland (Strand 3)

My short plays Smart Jimmy, Slow Bob and Stargazers got their Queensland debut last weekend as part of Short+Sweet Queensland 2019.

Both plays were in Strand 3 of the competition which took place at the Brisbane Powerhouse on 19-22 June.

Smart Jimmy, Slow Bob was directed by Arryn Cox and starred Jesse Blachut, Anna Conomos and Bella Rose.

Stargazers was directed by Jaron Phillips and starred Freya Hoareau, Tadgh Parker and Darrel Plumridge.

Neither plays made it to the gala final, but my Mum did get to go and see them — so that’s a win in my book!

My short play The Hold Up will be in Strand 4 of the comp, which is happening on 25-27 July at The Space, HOTA (Gold Coast).

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Stargazing in Toronto

My short play Stargazers will be part of the 14th InspiraTO Festival (Canada’s Largest Ten-minute Play Festival) from 30 May to 8 June 2019.

The play will be part of the “Blue Show” sessions, enticingly subtitled “Intriguing”. The overall theme for the festival is “Outcast”.

Stargazers is directed by Aviva Fleising (of Tziporah Productions) and will feature the talents of Daniel Vo, Jacqueline Ambrosia, and Shannon Dickens.

I was lucky enough to meet the team via face time a few weeks ago and have no doubt they will put on a cracker of a show. Just wish I could be there to see it!

For details about the festival, go to www.theatreinspirato.ca

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One weekend, three productions!

The last weekend in April proved to be a huge one for my little plays! I had three plays happening in three separate productions, two of which I was directing!

Fallout

My newest play Fallout appeared in the “All Stars” line up of Short+Sweet Canberra on 26 and 27 of April.

Although I was only able to make one of the performances, my play was in great hands. Jess Waterhouse, Brendan Kelly, Kirsty Budding, and Dec Hastings were terrific in bringing this rather absurd little play to life and giving the audience a good laugh.

I am delighted to report that Fallout tied for Judges Choice and was outright winner of the People’s Choice. It will now be performed in the Short+Sweet Canberra 2019 Gala Final on Saturday 4 May!

Tickets are available via Canberra Theatre.

The Hold Up

My play The Hold Up competed in the Short+Sweet Sydney Gala Final on 27 and 28 April. After winning the Judges Choice in Week 6 of the competition (and drawing for first in the People’s Choice), we were lucky enough to be invited back for two more performances in front of sold-out crowds.

Unfortunately, we missed out on winning any major awards, but we still put on a damn good show! The final night was full of great plays, many of which could have easily taken out the top prizes. My personal faves were True To You by Nicky Denovan and Riding the Clutch by Sally Bartley.

Many many thanks to my amazing actors Michael Ubrihien, Philip Meddows and Peter Fock. It was a big weekend full of driving, attempted sleep, late night burgers, sickness, Avengers and theatre – sometimes all at the same time! Despite this, they lit up the stage every time. Couldn’t be prouder of how this play turned out.

Can’t wait to work with these guys again soon.

Stargazers

My quirky romantic comedy Stargazers was included in the Stage It! 10 Minute Play Festival in Bonita Springs (Florida) on 26, 27 and 28 April. The play starred father and son team Michael DC as (Dr Ludwig) and Michael Cherbini (as Danny), as well as the talented Skyler Moore as Becky.

Although I didn’t have a lot of contact with this particular production, I did get a nice update from the festival organisers and some of the cast letting me know that it went well and that everyone had a great time putting it together.

As a bonus, Stargazers was also published in their annual anthology, Stage It! 3: Twenty 10-Minute Plays. Grab a copy on Amazon today!

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The Hold Up into Short+Sweet Sydney Gala Final

Super stoked that my short play The Hold Up has won the Judges Choice for Week 6 of Short+Sweet Sydney 2019. We were also co-winners for the People’s Choice vote too!

The cast of The Hold Up (Michael Ubrihien, Philip Meddows and Peter Fock)

As a result, we have been granted direct entry into the Gala Final event happening on 27 April at 7.30pm and 28 April at 6.00pm at the Tom Mann Theatre in Surry Hills.

I’ve had a few plays in Short+Sweet Sydney before, but this is the first time I have taken a Canberra cast to the event, or taken on the role of director.

I’ve also been told that Canberra productions taking part in Short+Sweet Sydney have traditionally found it hard to win over the big city crowds, so I was more than a little nervous about how it would all turn out.

Luckily, my stellar cast of Peter Fock, Michael Ubrihien, and Philip Meddows brought the goods. They were charming, funny, and utterly unflappable in the face of a new stage, new crowd and a few minor technical difficulties along the way.

In fact, they were so good that one reviewer wrote that the play was a:

Quick-fire comedy with so many memorable and just very wrong one-liners, provided huge laughter frenzy all in under ten minutes.

Lynn Belvedere, Sydney Arts Guide

Can’t wait to take this play out for one more spin. Sydney, we’ll be back!


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Holding up Short+Sweet Sydney 2019

After taking out Best Production, People’s Choice, Best Script, and Best Actor (for Peter Fock) at Short+Sweet Canberra 2018, my short play The Hold Up has been invited to take part in Short+Sweet Sydney 2019.

Michael Ubrihien, Peter Fock and Philip Meddows rehearse The Hold Up.

I’ll be returning to the director’s chair along with original cast members Michael Ubrihien and Peter Fock.

Cameron Thomas couldn’t come back as our robber (Shakespeare was calling) but luckily the fabulously talented Philip Meddows has agreed to step into the role.

So far rehearsals have been a blast. I have no doubt these cool cats are going to light up the big city stage!

The Hold Up is in Week 6 of Short+Sweet Sydney from 14 – 17 March at the Tom Mann Theatre (Surrey Hills). Tickets are available at Ticket Tailor.

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Sexy Beth is back in Hollywood!

Super excited that my short play Sexy Beth’s Giant Dildo Collection is getting another run with New American Theatre on March 10 and March 31.

Sexy Beth’s Giant Dildo Collection at the Fall 2017 Festival of New Plays (starring Brendan Brandt, Jenny Lerner and Ken Lerner)

After appearing in the New American Theate Fall 2017 Festival of New Plays, Sexy Beth was recently voted one of their favourite one-acts of the past 10 years. So, now it’s set to hit the stage again as part of their “Best of the One Acts” redux.

Sexy Beth’s Giant Dildo Collection will star David Purdham, Charley Stern, and Gina Weber.

If you do the LA thing, go check it out and say g’day for me. Tickets are available at the New American Theatre website.   

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In development: Open Heart Therapy web series

In early 2018, local Canberra filmmaker Sebastian Chan invited me to join a writer’s room to develop a new comedic web series titled ‘Open Heart Therapy’. Produced by Sanguineti Media and Vorfreude Pictures, the series will consist of ten episodes, each ten to fifteen minutes long.

Writers at work on Open Heart Therapy

So far, the experience has been a blast. It’s been a real treat to work closely with Sebastian (who’s both writer and showrunner for the series) and the other writers — including Kirsty Budding, Erin Bingham, Joshua Koske, and Willian He — to build the series from the ground up.

From developing characters and story ideas to plotting episodes and character arcs, it has been a truly collaborative affair.

I was lucky enough to be able to write two episodes for the series — including the pilot.

Apart from the differences between writing for the screen as opposed to writing for the stage, the whole experience has been unique. I’m playing with characters I didn’t create, in a story world I don’t own.

At first, I thought these would be constraints, but if anything, the freedom to concentrate on just my episodes has been liberating. I think my scripts are stronger for it too. 

First read through for Open Heart Therapy

In late January 2019, a cast of talented Canberran actors performed a table read of the entire series. It was a long night (about five hours!), and there are still a few issues to iron out, but I think everyone in the room was excited by what we saw.

The series will be entering the financing stage later this year. Fingers crossed it finds some legs!

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