Thursday, February 23, 2017

Interview with a Playwright: Novid Parsi

We caught up with playwright NOVID PARSI to ask some questions about his latest play, Our Mother's Meal
It's the third play in our Rough Readings Series, which is always PAY WHAT YOU CAN!
Eventbrite - Playwrights Foundation ROUGH READINGS Series

Your play explores intersecting topics of the immigrant narrative, assimilation between different generations, and patriarchy. Can you tell me about what drew you to these topics and the significance of that narrative?

I wanted to explore our narrative of American immigrant success. The standard storyline goes: Immigrants move to the States for a better life for themselves and their children. But as those children successfully integrate into the adopted homeland, they also become foreigners to their parents. Success comes with failure; the win comes with a loss. My play looks at that through the lens of Iranian immigrants and their American children. But I think it also speaks to the parent-child dynamic generally—how children inevitably become strangers to their parents, and vice versa.

The disconnect between generations—that’s one theme in the play. Another is its opposite: generational repetition. Minu is a strong, independent woman who balks at what she sees as her mother’s oppressive marriage to her father. Yet Minu ends up repeating some of the same dynamics in her own marriage. I find that parent-child experience—I’m not like you, I’ll never be you, oh crap I am you—endlessly fascinating. It’s about parents and children, but it’s also about how people define themselves in relation to one another: an opposition that’s also a binding tie, a hate that’s also love.

What was the writing process like for you? Has the story changed when you first started writing it?

It was similar to the process for all my plays, which isn’t terribly exciting: I take notes about themes, characters, structure; I jot down snippets of dialogue; I pose lots of what-if questions. Then I draft and re-draft (and re-draft) until the play starts to appear. For the most part, I find the writing process painful, and this play had some particularly difficult passages to write, like the father’s moments of explosive anger or the impasse between the mother and daughter.

In terms of what changed about the play, an early version showed the mother’s mother in flashback scenes, but I thought that came off as too formulaic. Like: In case you’re not getting the theme of generational repetition—here it is again. I also decided against it because I wanted to convey this immigrant family’s sense of isolation within a hostile, conservative environment in the South. And the play’s classic structure—a single place on a single day—helped do that.

What are you looking for or hoping to develop further with this reading?

Since the characters have been inside my head for so long, I’m eager to see who they become when the director and actors bring them alive. That always leads to exciting discoveries about how to enrich the play.

Shirin prides herself in making a hearty home-cooked meal for her family, so what's your favorite home-cooked meal?

My mother’s fesenjan, a Persian chicken dish with a tart-sweet pomegranate and walnut sauce—but that was before I went vegetarian a few years ago. Now it’s pesto I make from basil I get at my nearby farmer’s market every summer. Hard to go back to the store-bought stuff once you’ve had the homemade version—which, as Shirin would happily point out, is always true.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Get Involved - 2017 Internships Announced!

With the challenges facing art this year, turn your passion into work and help us create more inclusive narratives and access for playwrights. Check out our current opportunities!

Jake the Intern
Playwrights Foundation is dedicated to professional development and mentorship for aspiring nonprofit administrators, artists, and arts managers. We offer creative, ambitious, and savvy individuals the opportunity to receive instruction and on-the-job training working as either interns or fellows within the organization, working directly with the Foundation’s small, but mighty leadership team.
Spend your spring and/or summer as part of the Playwrights Foundation team! We generally operate on a 3-semester calendar: Fall (September through December), Spring (January through May) and Summer (June through August).
Applications are now open for our Spring and Summer 2017 cohorts. We’re recruiting for several different positions, and a total of 10 spots. Six will be dedicated production interns for the Bay Area Playwrights Festival July 14-24, 2017.
Our interns are an integral part of our close-knit team. Internships are for currently enrolled students in a degree program; fellowships are higher-level placements for candidates who have completed a degree, or seeking practical experience as a bridge to a career.
All positions are designed for early career theater artists with an interest in the inner workings of a nonprofit playwright accelerator. Summer interns assist with all aspects of Festival production, including event planning, scheduling, development, social media, front of house, and production assistance, as well as some daily office tasks. Other roles work with year-round initiatives and projects. All require creative, thoughtful and extremely proactive individuals for whom no task is too small or too large, and who are willing to learn and stretch.
A background and/or education in theater is mandatory; a passion for new plays and playwrights is preferred. Candidates must be available for a minimum 2-month term, with 3 months preferred, and will require a commitment of at least 10-15 hours per week. Some nights and weekends may be required.
All positions, while unpaid, provide active training, resume-building, and on-the-job experience. Most work takes place at our offices in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, with Production Interns/Fellows deploying to rehearsal spaces, theaters, and other venues during the Festival.
In addition to adding practical experience to your resume, interns enjoy these benefits:
  • Admission to all Playwrights Foundation events
  • Recommendation letters (upon request)
  • Academic credit
  • Modest travel stipend
  • Participation in the lively Bay Area theater community
We’re accepting applications now and will be reviewing them on a rolling basis until the positions are filled.
If you’re not able to commit to a full internship, but still want to get involved, explore one of our volunteer opportunities below.

Passionate and enthusiastic volunteers are always welcome and deeply appreciated.  Contact us to find out about upcoming volunteer projects.
Current Volunteer Opportunities:
  • Sponsorship Associate: We’re looking for an outgoing, friendly individual who will work closely with the General Manager willing to cold-call to solicit in-kind goods and services for Spring and Summer events as well as for the Bay Area Playwrights Festival.  This role can be mostly fulfilled remotely.
  • 40th Anniversary Archive Associate: Is organization your thing? Is your sock drawer color-coded?  We want to talk to you.  We’re currently gathering 40 years of archives in preparation for our 40th Anniversary Celebration.  We’re looking for a research-minded individual to help us select the most wonderful images and content from four decades of archives and turn them into beautiful displays and materials.
Volunteers will also be needed in a variety of roles for our July Bay Area Playwrights Festival:
  • Front of house:
    • Box office
    • Ushers
    • Concessions
  • Community Outreach
  • Artist concierge
  • Event support
    • Food and beverage running
    • Hosts and greeters
    • The always glamorous set up, clean up and load out
Interested?  Give Lorenz a call at 415.626.2176 or email him to sign up.

What We Fight For

Our Resident Playwrights Are On Fire!

Here's a sampling of some of their latest projects!

This weekend

E. Hunter Spreen
  “What if I told you the future is off the table? Would that effect your choices? What you do with your life?”
University High School's production of six/eleven, written by PF Resident Playwright E. Hunter Spreen and directed by UHS Theater Instructor Susannah Martin (Shotgun Players, Mugwumpin), will open on the UHS stage in San Francisco tonight Friday, January 20, and play again on the 21st. Tickets are available HERE.

Next Week

Jon Bernson
We continue our 2017 Rough Reading Series with 
Written by Jon Bernson
Directed by Jon Tracy
With Rhodessa Jones, Annemaria Rajala*, John R. Lewis*, Sarita Ocon*, Indiia Wilmott, Krista DeNio, Anthony Frederick Aranda *AEA
    Jan 23 at 7:30pm Roble Hall, Stanford campus
Jan 24 at 2:00pm Custom Made Theatre, San Francisco
FREE/pay as you can  RVSP HERE 
                                                           (stay for treats and post-reading reception with the artists)

Coming Up

Dipika Guha
IN BRAUNAU: will be read at SF Playhouse on Feb 20th at 7.30PM. It's directed by Susannah Martin. Tickets aren't online yet, but will be announced HERE.
YOGA PLAY opens at South Coast Rep April 19th for the Pacific Playwrights Festival, directed by Crispin Whittel. Learn more HERE.

Dipika has just been named a Hodder Fellow at Princeton Arts! Congratulations! be sure to check out Dipika's website.

Min Kahng
Min's enjoying several premieres of his plays this spring. Bad Kitty has its New York Premiere at TYKEs, JCC Rochester, January 14-22. Tickets at

Story Explorers is a new musical for children living with autism and other special needs. World Premiere, Bay Area Children's Theatre, The Osher Studio in Berkeley.  February 18-March 5.  Tickets HERE.  

The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga will have its world premiere at TheatreWorks Jul 15-Aug 6. For more info visit Min's website.

Lisa Ramirez

Stay tuned for the West Coast premiere of TO THE BONE, Lisa's searing play, at Ubuntu Theater Project in March/April Tickets HERE.

Patricia Cotter
Patricia's short play The Crossing will premiere in PlayGround's The Potrero Nuevo Project at PlayGround At Thick House  Feb 2 – 12 
On Feb 20th, Patricia's new play The Surrogate (2016 O'Neill Theater Playwrights Conference finalist) opens at the Centenary Stage Company in New Jersey. 

Michael Gene Sullivan
Michael's play, 1984 will open at the Williamston Theatre, Williamston, Michigan March 23rd. A ferocious and provocative adaptation of one of the most prescient works of literature of the last century, 1984 asks: “What does it mean to be an individual?” ”What does it mean to be human?”

Michael will be profiled with Velina Brown in the February issue of AmericanTheatre Magazine.  Check it out!

Noelle Viñas
APOCALYPSE, PLEASE, co-written and co-directed by Kevin Vincenti, will be read with the cast on February 1st on the Second Stage of PianoFight beginning at 7pm, for FREE. Donations are welcome to pay actors. A fundraiser for the production, an Intersection for the Arts Project, is HERE

The play tells the story of Remy, a computer programmer at the MIT's corporate lab, who is framed for the death of millions of U.S. citizens because of her work with futuristic cell phones. Amongst its key themes are questions of responsibility, systemic bias, and of the invisible structures around us – be they race, technology, or magic.

Victoria Chong Der
Shape-shifters, time-travelers, and rebellious take the stage in ESCAPE VELOCITY, a collection of fantastical new short plays by Victoria Chong Der, Genevieve Jessee, Carol S. Lashof, and Madeline Puccioni.  February 17-25 at Temescal Art Center.  Choose your own price for all performances:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Never Doubt

Great advice from Resident Playwright Min Kahng:

Artmakers and storytellers - write books, draw comics, paint paintings, do stand-up, code video games, make movies, become a YouTube sensation, craft poetry, animate short-films, make documentaries, design fashion, sing original songs, choreograph a number, create theatre!

Make us laugh. Help us grieve, heal, and breathe.
Challenge our notions. Engage us in social dialogue.
Teach us to be kind and empathetic. Remind us who we are.
Show us who we can be.

Let's keep inundating our culture with our varying narratives and perspectives. We're playing a cultural long-game here - centuries in the making. We can be influencing tomorrow's voters in profound ways today. There are short-term horrors to be concerned and grappled with to be sure, but never doubt the power of your craft to shape the country in the long-run.

(Oh, and do drag! Lots and lots of drag!)