JONESVILLE – As part of a continued effort to create theatre during the Coronavirus shutdown, The Sauk, Hillsdale County’s community theatre, will move their annual Plays-in-Development to May with four readings of new plays online.
The plays will be streamed live at The Sauk’s Facebook and Youtube pages, as well as at www.thesauk.org.
Started in 2015, "Plays-in-Development" is a unique project to help writers develop their scripts. Actors and directors work one on one with playwrights to learn what works and what doesn't about their plays. During rehearsals, the playwrights make changes to their scripts. The project ends with free staged readings for the public. After the readings, the audience gets an opportunity to respond to what they have heard. Therefore, the playwrights end the process with constructive feedback from directors, actors and audience.
“We usually do this program in July each year,” said Sauk Executive Director Trinity Bird who coordinates the projects. “We traditionally bring the playwrights to Jonesville where they interact one-on-one with our actors and directors. This year, things are unique in our world. Our theatre is dedicated to offering theatrical experiences to our community even if we can’t meet in person at the theatre. We proposed bringing the project online to the writers and directors and I am happy to say everyone was on board.”
The four plays selected for this project were chosen from over 250 submissions from all over the country by a seven-member selection committee.
The plays include: "Gravity: A Union" at 7:30 p.m. May 9; "Sebastian Rising" at 7:30 p.m. May 16; "Clear Blue Sky" at 7:30 p.m. May 23; and "The Long Wait" at 7:30 p.m. May 30.
Local playwright Sarah Gray said she got the idea to write "The Long Wait" after seeing Sauk Shorts last year with her daughter.
"It was the first time I had gone to the production and we absolutely loved it," Gray said. "Each play was so unique, so different from the one before. We laughed, we were moved and I can honestly say at least one short play left me all choked up."
When she returned home from the play, she kept thinking about the idea of an entire play in just ten minutes.
"The idea just popped into my head," she said. "I toyed with the idea for a few weeks, then one afternoon I just sat down and wrote it. I thought it was a pretty relatable topic - a couple driving home from a party, what conversations they might have and what they do when a problem arises. This particular event has never happened with me and my husband, but I imagine if it did, we might handle it in a similar way. I wanted it to be light and hopefully a bit funny."
She originally submitted the play for Sauk Shorts and Bird asked if it could be part of the Plays-In-Development.
"I was flattered," Gray said. "This is the first script I have written. I have a background in journalism, but this is a new and exciting genre of writing for me."
Gray has since written another short play and two pieces that were produced as part of The Sauk's Living Room Monologues in April.
Gray said she thanks The Sauk for their dedication to keeping theater alive during this time of quarantine.
"Theater is alive and thriving in Jonesville thanks to the efforts of Executive Director Trinity Bird and the members of The Sauk Board," she said. "Like Sauk Shorts, the Plays-In-Development offer a range of subject matters that are sure to appeal to a wide range of audience members. Live theater is a very important form of art and we are blessed to have The Sauk here in our community."
Alex Wolfe, a playwright from Nebraska, said he was inspired to write "Gravity: A Union" by the usual things: a song, a book and a random piece of good writing found on the internet.
"In terms of the exact plot of the show I wrote, I'm not entirely sure that there was a specific reason for writing it," Wolfe said. "I think I wanted to talk about what happens to people after a tragedy and the ability for small but vital issues to slip through the cracks.
"I thought I'd submit it for the Plays In Development program for the same reason I expect most people submit to the program, because I thought I had written something kinda neat that could only be improved by working it for a couple of weeks with a team that wants to make it better," he said. "Not a lot of places are offering that, and they are especially not offering to pay you for the opportunity, so this is a rare pleasure. I'm very grateful for the opportunity provided to me here."
Wolfe added that writing is something that can "connect you to the very roots of humanity by giving you access to the parts of our brain that desire to solve problems, connect to other humans, and to talk about the wonder and the mystery around us."
Plays-in-Development is sponsored by Gossage Eye Institute & Optical, Playford Real Estate, Country Carpets and Don Toffolo of Edward Jones. The Sauk 2020 season sponsor is Expressions Photography & Design. The 2020 media sponsor is WCSR Radio Hillsdale. For more information about The Sauk, visit www.thesauk.org.
Plays-in-Development to be streamed online:
"Gravity: A Union" - By Alex Wolfe (Nebraska), directed by Liz Pence; 7:30 p.m. May 9
"Sebastian Rising" -By Edward deBuvitz (Albuquerque, New Mexico), directed by Trinity Bird; 7:30 p.m. May 16.
"Clear Blue Sky - By Bruce Karp (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), directed by Jennifer Wagler; 7:30 p.m. May 23.
"The Long Wait" - By Sarah Gray (Jonesville), directed by Mari Nunez; 7:30 p.m. May 30.