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Playwrights give insights

By Staff | Jul 24, 2014

As the Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) ushered in its new season of plays, it also kicked off its collection of West Virginia Humanities programming, with the Playwrights Roundtable discussion on Saturday afternoon.

Writers, Christina Anderson, Thomas Gibbons, Bruce Graham and Chisa Hutchinson were all on hand to answer questions regarding the creative processes and the development of this seasons plays.

This year’s roster of plays includes: “Dead and Breathing;” ” The Ashes Under Gait City:” “Uncanny Valley;” “One Night;” and “North of the Boulevard.”

Christina Anderson discussed the vocation of play writing as it began for her.

“It found me,” she said.

“I had seen plays before. It never registered to me that someone had actually written them,” she said.

“At this point in my life, it’s just like breathing to me …I don’t necessarily think of it as a choice at this point,” she went on to say.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the way people speak,” writer Bruce Graham said.

A former stand up comedian, Graham said writing plays is similar to writing jokes and one liners.

“It’s all dialogue.”

Most of he writers agreed that the process of completing a final draft is the result of a series of table reads or workshops with actors, directors and sometimes other writers.

As is true every season, some of the playwrights came to CATF with a “finished” version of their play still subject to rewrites and development.

“The first week and a half of the rehearsal, I rewrote the whole play.” Anderson said of her world premiere, “The Ashes Under Gait City.”

Thomas Gibbons discussed “failing,” as a writer and his introduction to the world of public criticism.

“The first bad review you get is pretty horrifying.” he said.

“I’ve had plays that haven’t worked for a variety of reasons.”

During a question and answer period, an audience member asked the writers to explain how they deicide a play’s ending.

“You discover it when the characters do,” Chisa Hutchinson, author of “Dead and Breathing” said.

When asked about “feedback,” CATF Producing Director Ed Harenedeen called the audience’s participation in the process of creating new plays essential.

“The American theater persists because of new plays,” he said.

“You are assisting us.” he said.

“You play a vital role.”