The Quickening Life of a Play

Erin Brehm and I co-starred in a production of Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich‘s play Cleavage at the Universal Theatre Festival this past January. Cecelia Raker, herself a playwright, was the director; the production was a surprise cross-country meeting of two actors (Erin and myself) from the same town in Oregon who had never previously crossed paths. The production took place in the context of the Universal Theatre Festival’s final season in Provincetown, MA. (The producer and founder, Myra Slotnick, has retired from producing the festival to focus on playwriting.) It seems that everyone likes to see more Cleavage, because there is a new production coming to Boston this summer.

The chronology of Cleavage provides a useful illustration of how a play can pick up steam and gain circulation once it’s first picked up. This is from a combination of many factors: media exposure, professional recognition, fine-tuning and polish from feedback, increased confidence in the work and more circulation of the script, etc. The first production is usually the hardest, but if you get a second in the region you can build up momentum, as seems to have been the case with this (ahem) bodaciously-titled play:

  • First Appearance: Public Reading at Boston Bohemia (Boston, MA – November 2012)
  • Second Appearance: Single Performance at Culture Park’s 11th Annual Short Plays Marathon (New Bedford, MA – November 2012)
  • Third Appearance: Three Performances at the 6th Annual Universal Theatre Festival (Provincetown, MA – January 2013)
  • Fourth Appearance: ? Performances at the 15th Annual Boston Theater Marathon (Boston, MA – May 2013)

Sound good so far? Here’s the twist: the deadlines for the last cycle of UTF and BTM submissions was the same – Nov. 15 of this last year. The recognition that we’re seeing of Barbara’s work this year is partly the result of her not resting on her laurels and proactively sending things out for the next stage. It’s a good lesson for us all.

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