Because it’s so hard to explain how the car plays works, here’s a video that will
show you exactly give you an idea of how it all happens…
To experience it fully, you’ve got to be there in person. If you’ve been before, please share your experience in the comments below. Thanks!
I’m sitting in a theater on Santa Monica Blvd. with a bunch of people I’ve never met before. I’m nervous. And a bit intimidated. Why? Because I will be hearing my new short car play read aloud in front of this room full of artists. Actors. Directors. Playwrights. Will it read well? Will they like it? Will they like me?
I was invited to be here by Lee Wochner– playwright and facilitator of my Saturday playwriting workshop. His theater company, he tells us one Saturday, is doing this thing called The Car Plays. Plays in actual cars. He suggest we try our hand at writing one.
WRITING A CAR PLAY
The play had to be set IN a car. The car had to be central to the play. Without a car, the play could not exist. The play couldn’t conceivably take place anywhere else. These were the rules. The car couldn’t start. The audience had to be IN the car with the actors, but the actors couldn’t touch the audience. Again, no touching the audience.
We were encouraged by Paul Stein- then Artistic Director of Moving Arts- to think about the range of experiences that happen in cars. Especially in Los Angeles.
So here we are in this theater… the intimidation quickly melts away leaving the truest form of collaboration imaginable. We playwrights hand our plays over to actors and they read them cold. After each read Paul asks, “Is this a car play?” And we say why it is or why it isn’t. We get feedback. We give feedback. We laugh. A lot. We play. We go back and rewrite. It’s bliss.
PLAYS IN CARS ON HOLLYWOOD BLVD.
A parking lot on Hollywood Blvd. Four rows of five cars. At least I think there were four rows that first time around. The audience buys a ticket to a ROW. They are guided to their row by car hops.
I am one of those car hops. I tell the audience that each person will have a partner. There will be two audience members per car. In one car you might be in the front and another in the back. Depends on the car. And, audience members are not allowed to open or close the doors. That’s my job. Got it? Car hops will close and open the doors for you. The door opening and/or closing, you see, is a cue to the actors.
Confused yet? Imagine having to explain this to Actors Equity.
Each car is a different play. Each one is ten minutes. Once the audience is loaded into each car and all of the doors are closed, the plays begin. Noises emerge from the cars. Screams. Laughter. Dialogue. Actors get in and out. Props are thrown onto roofs of cars. We carhops watch the parking lot filled with cars with 15 different plays happening simultaneously.
We watch Paul Stein to give us our cue that the ten-minutes is up. Once the ten minutes pass, we begin opening doors whether or not the play is finished. The logistical nightmare of The Car Plays requires this ten-minute rule to work.
The play is done when the ten-minutes is up. Period.
My favorite part of car hopping was opening the doors to let the audience out. The look on their faces. Would it be exhilaration? Relief? Horror? Happiness? Each car was different. And each audience member had their own reaction.
Part of Paul’s job was to choose the perfect balance of plays ranging from drama to comedy to the utter bizarre and confrontational. Each row had a mix of everything. Some were interactive, most were voyeuristic.
Would the audiences like it? Would they come?
Well, come they did. In droves. With only two seats available per play, they sold out so fast.
Did I mention that the actors had to perform their play a total of fifteen times per night?
MY THREE CAR PLAYS
I ended up having three car plays produced throughout Moving Arts’ various productions of The Car Plays.
Back Roads is about an elderly woman and her daughter stranded on a deserted stretch of road without a cell phone. It was directed by Herman Poppe and starred Helen Slayton Hughes and Mary Beth Pape. Back Roads went up in the first and second installments of The Car Plays.
It’s Not About the Car is about a man who gives his wife a car for her birthday, but all she really wants is a divorce. That one was directed by Lee Wochner and starred Joe Ochman and Liz Harris. It went up in the second and third installments and is worth noting that in the 2009 production Liz broke her arm right before and still performed brilliantly. With a broken arm in a sling!
Hollywood Hills is my dark comedy about two Hollywood starlets in the making drunk, high and lost in the Hollywood Hills on the way to an after-party. It was first directed by Paul Stein and starred Kathi Chandler and Jennifer Kingsley and went on to be published by Smith & Kraus.
PRODUCING THE CAR PLAYS
Imagine being a producer of this event. For just a second. As I said, just imagine having to explain to Equity what it is you want to do. You want to put the audience in a car with the actors and have the actors perform the play fifteen times, FIFTEEN TIMES in a row. And having them agree.
This is where I bow down to Paul Stein, Michael Shutt, Ronnie Clark, Christel Johnson and Lisa Marschall… the original producers of The Car Plays. They were the ones who had to figure all of this out. How to explain to audiences what they’d be seeing. How to arrange for all of the cars. How to time fifteen plays to start and stop at the exact same moment. And a million small details I’m overlooking, forgetting or just never knew about.
I became a producer of The Car Plays when I was the interim Managing Director of Moving Arts. So I have an idea of how difficult this show is to produce. But I was lucky because I was producing with the original producers and didn’t have to figure any of this out. They’d already done the hard work.
People would ask why Moving Arts didn’t produce it more often seeing how popular it was. Well, because it’s just not that easy to do.
Terence Anthony can attest to that. He was the artistic producer of The Car Plays in 2009 when they were done in Burbank with Steve Lozier as Managing Director of Moving Arts and Cece Tio as a producer. Am I missing anyone on that one? I might be. That one happened right as my husband and I were moving out of L.A. so I wasn’t as involved in that one. I did get to see it, though.
PLAYS IN CARS IN DOWNTOWN L.A.
The Car Plays are back! And Paul Stein returns as Artistic Producer of The Car Plays with Kim Glann, Steve Lozier and Cece Tio. Moving Arts was asked to bring The Car Plays to the upcoming RADAR L.A. Festival downtown Los Angeles. And yes, they are already sold out.
The theme of this production of The Car Plays is L.A. Stories. So it’s appropriate that my play Hollywood Hills is a part of it.
This time Hollywood Hills is being directed by Zeke Rettman and is starring Jenn Swirtz & Lynn Mikeska.
I’m immensely proud to be a part of The Car Plays once more. I only wish I could be there to car hop again.
If you want to check it out but didn’t snag a ticket, you could always offer to volunteer as a car hop.
You get to see a unique perspective that way.
Brave audience members get into cars. Doors slam shut. A beat of silence. Then… theater.
THE CAR PLAYS: L.A. STORIES
“This unique melding of site-specific theater and freeway crawl should be hailed as a local treasure… the production’s voyeuristic appeal is undeniable.” —LA Weekly
Responding to the vast landscape of Los Angeles, Moving Arts presents a series of intimate ten-minute plays in which audiences of two move from vehicle to vehicle, experiencing works by different playwrights in a dramatic setting familiar to all Angelenos—the car. After being ushered to a rear seat, the car doors close and the drama unfolds as people in the car break up, make up, make out or even deal with a dead body or two, just inches away. Ten minutes later, the doors open, a seat in a new car awaits, and a fresh story begins. In the course of about one hour, five evocative L.A. stories are revealed.
Conceived by Paul Stein
Produced by Paul Stein, Steve Lozier, Kim Glann and Cece Tio
RUN TIME: 70 minutes
Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater
631 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012 | Map
PARKING: $9 event parking in the Walt Disney Concert Hall parking garage off 2nd Street.
For more information, visit Moving Arts’ Website.
THE GENESIS OF THE CAR PLAYS
The Car Plays were conceived by former Moving Arts artistic director, Paul Stein. Moving Arts had recently lost their theater space downtown L.A. Paul grabbed the moment to try something he’d been thinking about for a long time. Paul talks about the inception of The Car Plays in his first person article “RADAR L.A.: The Car Plays: L.A. Stories for Moving Arts” in L.A. Stage Times.
I’m proud to be a part of a talented group of playwrights called LIZARD CLAW PLAYWRIGHTS. Here’s a bit about the Claw:
LIZARD CLAW is a band of scaly playwrights who issue absurdly difficult playwriting challenges to each other on a regular basis, then submit and evaluate their entries anonymously. The plays that emerge are theatrical, inventive, and provocative. These tough-skinned playwrights, many of whom met at the Kennedy Center in 2007, are hatching plays in cities all across the country, including Minneapolis, Boston, NY, Baltimore, Portland, Los Angeles, New Haven, and Washington, DC.
Our most recent challenge was put forth by the lovely and talented Kate Tarker (who happens to be on her way to study with Paula Vogel next fall at Yale). The challenge was to write a screenplay in three pages with two characters. That’s it.
Kate then worked her magic and produced and directed each script submitted.
My full-length play about the foreclosure crisis, AMERICAN HOME, was named the winner of American Blues Theater’s first annual Blue InkCompetition.
I’m thrilled! This is a wonderful company and it’s such a warm welcome back to Chicago.
Part of the prize is a staged reading by American Blues Theater. Details to come.
American Home– my full length play about the foreclosure crisis- is a finalist for Echo Theatre Company’s Big Shout Out playwriting competition (hooray!) and will be read in a public reading
on Tuesday, October 26th at 7:30 PM
at the Bath House Cultural Center
521 E. Lawther Drive
on White Rock Lake
I wish I could be there!
I’m so excited that my new ten-minute play Edward Cullen Ruined My Mother’s Love Lifewill be a part of the 10-Minute Workshop at Chicago Dramatists in October. We just moved back to Chicago and I’m grateful to Chicago Dramatists for making me feel like a playwright again. Don’t get me wrong, I love feeling like a mom. Best feeling in the world. But being a mom doesn’t mean I stop being a playwright. I’ve just been trying to figure out that balance lately.
I’m a member of a really cool group of playwrights called Lizard Claw Playwrights. On a somewhat not so regular basis we issue insanely difficult playwriting challenges to each other. This play – Edward Cullen Ruined My Mother’s Love Life – was a response to one of the Lizard Claw challenges. This will be the first time the play will be read aloud.
Anyway… here are the details:
October 16, 2010 at 2:00 PM
at Chicago Dramatists- 1105 W. Chicago Avenue
I just found out that my play American Home was a semi-finalist for the 2010 Princess Grace Awards.
Here’s the synopsis for American Home:
A Full-length play in 2 acts- 81 pages/ Drama
18 Characters, 5 women, 3 men
To possess one’s own home, however small, is the hope of every family in our country. That is the American ideal, born of an exquisite sentiment, nurtured by a long national tradition, and proved right by its innumerable practical advantages.” – President Herbert Hoover, 1932
What happens when we fail at achieving that ideal — the possession of one’s own home? What happens when we achieve it only to have it taken away? What is home and why is it so powerfully linked to our success as Americans? These are the questions explored in American Home.
Florence Rainwater is a ninety-year-old widow in Ann Arbor, Michigan who just wants to be in her home with her memories until her last day. Mike and Dana Washington are a thirty-something couple who thought they would be in their dream home in the hills of Los Angeles forever, or at least until they could trade-up. Prosperity Preacher Paula never imagined in her wildest dreams that her Florida mega-church would ever be threatened by foreclosure. And Robbie West, Michigan cop, just wants to help people and does not enjoy kicking them out of their homes.
Playwright Stephanie Alison Walker based American Home on her very own foreclosure story. The first draft was written in the midst of her fight to save her Los Angeles home from foreclosure in 2008/2009.
I’m delighted to announce that my ten-minute play The Chocolate Affair is a part of the Stillspeaking Theatre Company’s production – THE EVOLUTION OF LOVE – on August 6th, 7th & 8th in San Marino, CA.
THE CHOCOLATE AFFAIR is only one of ten one-act plays that make up the festival.
Here is the complete line-up:
THE EVOLUTION OF LOVE
VOID by Don Tongue
In the beginning there was a void and the void was not good.
SELDOM IS HEARD by Mary Steelsmith
Hannah and Ivan (just back from Afghanistan) reclaim the American Dream.
HAPPILY EVER AFTER by Jon Wright
After announcing wedding plans, Jack and Caroline come face to face with… EACH OTHER in a slice from an exciting new Rock musical.
AMANDA SPLIT by Dale Griffiths Stamos
A young woman literally divided between her rational mind and her carnal desires faces down a beautiful young man and there’s an explosion.
THE PHOTOGRAPH by Mona Deutsch Miller
A pair of former lovers looks back with longing and regret on the kiss that defined their lives.
TIME FLIES by David Ives
Time flies when you’re having fun, right? So, what do you do if you’re a lowly mayfly on your first (and last… and ONLY) date…and the clock is running out?
CURRENT SEASON by Vanessa David
Life isn’t easy when you’re a plastic reindeer lawn decoration. Don’t worry— you’re not in it alone.
ROSA’S EULOGY by Richard Strand
This one’s for all you cat lovers out there. But really, aren’t we ALL God’s creatures?
THE CHOCOLATE AFFAIR by Stephanie Alison Walker
Torn between two candies and feeling like a fool. When you’re being such a “good girl” in your “regular” life, is it wrong to want some illicit sweetness when you THINK nobody’s around?
THE COOKING GENE by Jonathan Dorf
A Home Ec project ends up creating a recipe for courage when a high school baseball player and his boyfriend get honest about what’s cooking.
A play a day for 30 days? We call that a Playwright Binge and the next one begins on Monday, March 1. The idea is to make at least one submission a day for the entire month. It doesn’t have to be a different play a day. Just a different submission. For must of us, marketing our work doesn’t come easy. The ‘binge’ community helps!
From the Playwright Binge Yahoo Group site:
This is a group for playwrights interested in period marketing “binges” where they exchange information, meet marketing challenges (like sending out a script a day for 30 days), and report back to the group.
Here are some sample FAQs…
What is the Binge? It’s really two things. First, it’s a Yahoo group that’s turned into a supportive, online community for playwrights, with a focus on marketing and the business end of playwriting.
Secondly, it’s a challenge that the group takes twice a year (starting March 1 and September 1)—to make a submission a day, every day, for 30 days. During the Binge, writers make submissions and then report to the group about what they sent, where, and why. These 30 days end up being a fun way to get a lot of play marketing done, while also exchanging a lot of information and building good habits.
What if I can’t submit every day?
That’s okay. We’re not going to kick you out of the group. Some people just don’t have the time to submit every day and end up clumping instead. Use the Binge however it works best for you. But do join in and start making submissions and sharing what you’re up to.
When did the Binge start? The first Binge started in 2002, when Patrick Gabridge issued the challenge to a dozen or so writers and set up an e-mail list. The group has grown steadily over the years and now has more than 450 playwrights from around the world.
So, if you’re a playwright looking for some motivation and support… check out the Playwright Binge
I’ve never made it to 30 submissions. Not yet. This binge I will. I’m determined. I’ll be sending out my new play AMERICAN HOME as well as a new ten-minute play and my full-length THE ART OF DISAPPEARING. The goal? Productions! Productions! Productions!
One last note. I was introduced to the Binge by the fabulously talented playwright EM Lewis. She has a blog. You should check that out too. It’s called Prayers to Broken Stone.
On Monday, February 15th at 8PM a staged reading of my new playAmerican Home will be presented as part of the Living Room Series at The Blank Theatre in Hollywood.
By Stephanie Alison Walker
Directed by John Billingsley
Chris L. McKenna
When: Monday, February 15 at 8PM
Where: The Blank (2nd Stage Theatre) 6500 Santa Monica Blvd. (at Wilcox)
Cost: free, but they ask $8 suggested donation
American Home is about what happens when Americans lose their foothold in the American Dream. It follows several people in various stages of life losing their homes to foreclosure. It’s about people forced to renegotiate the American Dream, the extremes people go to when faced with losing everything and the resilience of the American spirit.