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Lab Theater’s 24 Hour Playwriting Project

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On this page you will find articles about Laboratory Theater of Florida’s 24-Hour Playwriting Project.

 

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Spotlight on 24-Hour Challenge playwright Laura Lorusso (12-01-17)

The Cast -02Lab Theater’s Sixth Annual 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge takes place Friday and Saturday, December 15 & 16. Four local playwrights of varying experience are taking part in the challenge. Laura Lorusso is one of them.

Lorusso has been active in the local theater community for the past fourteen years. She has starred with the Naples Players in Laura 06several shows and toured with a local comedy show, Joey and Maria’s Comedy Italian Wedding.

It’s only natural that Laura take the Lab’s 24-Hour challenge. It’s her espoused goal to become a well-received playwright. She has already taken a number of steps in that direction. Lab Theater audiences will recall Scrooge TV: A Modern Christmas Carol, Laura 08a spoof of the Charles Dickens classic starring Kendra Price and Dave Yudowitz (who is presently appearing in An Act of God) that The Lab produced in 2014. Lorusso also wrote Afterlife of the Rich and Famous, a dark comedy that was produced by Let’s Put on a Show at Golden Gate Community Center three seasons ago.

Laura continues to hone her playwriting skills. She has a play titled Divorce, Neighbors and Zombies under development. Already two years in the making, The Lab (in conjunction with The Naples Players ‘ ETC program) just hosted a staged reading of the play, which is a fast-paced, quick-witted situational comedy in the tradition of Laura 04Will and Grace meets The Walking Dead. (Including zombies in a plotline was no stretch for Lorusso. Last Halloween, she gave a tutorial on how DIY party-goers could do themselves up as zombies and deceased zombie bite victims for the Naples Daily News. As The Naples Players’ special effects makeup artist, Laura’s the one who brings to life the macabre in shows like last year’s production of The Rocky Horror Show. She has also competed on Global Beauty Master, a national styling competition and television reality show.)

Laura is no stranger to the 24-Hour Playwriting Project. Although Laaura, Jessica and Cast 06she’s taken a 3-year hiatus from the Challenge of recent, she snagged the Judge’s Choice in 2013 with her one-act, 12-minute vignette titled “The Hall: Last Sunday,” a story that sparkled with snappy dialogue, rib-splitting one-liners and a little song-and-dance number that brought down the house.

Performances start at 8:00 p.m. on December 16; doors open at 7:30.

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Spotlight on 24-Hour Challenge newcomer Sandra Dixon (12-01-17)

Dehomosexualization 01LThe Sixth Annual Lab Theater 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge takes place on Friday and Saturday, December 15 & 16. This year, four local talents will be showcasing their playwriting talent. Sandra Dixon is among them.

Sandra Dixon is new to playwriting and is a current member of the playwriting class at The Laboratory Theater of Florida. She has written plays and skits for her church and has appeared in several productions since moving to Cape Coral five years ago from the Chicago suburbs. Sandra most recently appeared in Sordid Lives Dr. Eve 03Land Body & Sold at the Lab Theater. Sandra has also performed in shows produced by the Cape’s Cultural Park Theatre, including The Fantastiks, Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, Music Man and Elvis Has Left the Building. Prior to relocating to the Cape, Dixon appeared in productions of The Women and Little Shop of Horrors.

Sandra has been an occupational therapist for 30 years.

Dixon is a brave soul. Like the other competitors, she will have a scant ten hours or so to craft a 12-15 minute one-act play that will be performed on Saturday evening, beginning at 8:00 p.m. Don’t miss this highly popular event. Doors open at 7:30. Space is limited. Reserve your tickets in advance. 

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Spotlight on 24-Hour Challenge playwright John Repa (12-01-17)

John Repa 2016 BJohn Repa is an actor, comedian, playwright and more recently, an author of a zombie apocalypse novel titled Blood Creek Eulogy (available on Kindle), which is told from the viewpoint of the zombies!

Many Southwest Florida residents and visitors have seen him perform at The Lab and, among other venues, Florida Rep, Theatre Conspiracy and on the Seminole Gulf Railway Murder John Repa 2016 DMystery Dinner Train. He has also performed in Chicago and Seattle. Last season, he was in two lab productions, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and Gore Vidal’s The Best Man. Before that, he was Sir Toby Belch for Lab Theater in last Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

As a playwright, John has written a two-man show called John Repa During QNA 02Biblically Speaking. As a member of the Theatre Conspiracy Playwriting Group, he penned a full-length play in 2014 called Harker’s Journal, a take-off on Bram Stoker’s Dracula in which Harker’s wife, Mina, must consider the possibility that her husband has gone mad after she receives and reads the journal he wrote during his recent trip to Transylvania. John wrote his first script in grade school when he found out that a group book report could be done as a staged scene – but his group had read Jack London’s White Fang. He went on from there to study playwriting at SIU at Carbondale and Columbia College Chicago, where he graduated in 1990.

John Repa During QNA 04Last year, John not only participated in his first 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge, he won the coveted Audience Choice award for a comedic vignette about the existential crisis faced by a Latino man who suddenly discovers in mid-life that the father he’s always idolized and emulated is gay. “People find it necessary to redefine their own self-image when a parent, sibling, child or former spouse suddenly reveals themselves to be gay, lesbian or transgender, and that can be traumatic,” noted Repa afterwards.

Because John started out as stage crew member and scenic designer, he has a very practical approach to staging. Having worked And the winners are 02extensively as an actor, he has a strong sense of what an actor can do onstage to captivate an audience. He seeks to combine thoughtful theater with a quirky sense of humor that provides heartfelt laughs during a performance and something deeper to think about later.

While playwriting experience and credentials are all well and Cintron, Repa, Chesebro and Dirrigl 2good, Repa and his fellow challenge-takers will have a scant ten hours or so to craft a 12-15 minute one-act play that will be performed on Saturday evening, beginning at 8:00 p.m. Don’t miss this highly popular event. Doors open at 7:30. Space is limited. Reserve your tickets in advance.

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Spotlight on 24-Hour playwright Carmen Crussard (12-01-17)

The Sixth Annual Lab Theater 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge takes place on Friday and Saturday, December 15 & 16. This year, four local talents will be showcasing their playwriting skills. Among them is Carmen Crussard.Carmen

Carmen is a playwright project vet. She participated in Years 1 and 2, winning the Judge’s Choice Award in the inaugural Playwriting Challenge. Since then, she’s gone on to foster area actors both as the Youth Director at the Alliance for the Arts and as a director at The Lab on such successful productions as this summer’s dark comedy hit, The Smell of the Kill starring Tera Nicole Miller, Jessica Walck and Lucy Sundby. Lab Theater audiences will also remember her other directorial accomplishments, which include Play On!, Scrooge TV: A Modern Christmas Carol and The Second Book of RuthScrooge TV: A Modern Christmas Carol is an interesting line in Crussard’s resume as it was written by fellow 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge participant Laura Lorusso.

With Smell of the Kill, in particular, Crussard demonstrated more than just (just?) the ability to formulate and express a unique take or slant on the script (i.e. vision). The play demonstrated a panache for pacing and handling the transitions between and during scenes. But while bringing out the best in adult actors may indeed be satisfying, what makes Carmen’s heart skip a beat is helping children develop into young actors, directors and stage hands. She genuinely enjoys working with kids of all ages and talent levels, as evident in productions like Peter Pan, Jr. and Xanadu, Jr. But in Almost, Maine, she enjoyed the rare privilege of working with a small group of serious older aspiring actors just finishing high school or embarking upon their college careers.

Of course, it wasn’t too long ago that Carmen was first learning the ropes herself. Several seasons ago, she served as Assistant Director for Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, and her early directorial credits include Thoroughly Modern Millie Jr., Wizard of Oz and The Addams Family.

Carmen’s experiences in working with large and small casts consisting of younger and older actors gives her an affinity for designing a storyline, dialogue and thematic content appropriate no matter the concept, characters or cast that Lab Theater might throw at her during this year’s Playwriting Challenge. It will be interesting and fun to see what Carmen comes up with in the scant ten hours or so that are available to her and her fellow playwrights. One prediction can be made without reservation. Whatever she writes is likely to be entertaining, and that bodes well for the 120 or so who are lucky enough to secure seats for the Sixth Annual Laboratory Theater 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge.

The performance takes place on Saturday evening, December 16. The show starts at 8:00; doors open at 7:30.

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Labor of love – the evolution of Lab Theater’s 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge (11-09-17)

The Actors 04Lab Theater’s popular 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge is just around the corner. Now entering its sixth season, the high-tension, pressure-packed competition invites between three and five playwrights to produce a short one-act 12-15 minute play in just ten hours. The writers typically work through the night, starting around 9:00 p.m. on a Friday night and wrapping up at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, just before breakfast is served.

After The Actors 10a table read, input from a panel of directors and some last-second fine-tuning, the scripts are printed, copied and handed to teams of directors and actors who have a mere matter of hours to learn their lines and blocking before hitting the boards beginning at 8:00 p.m. – in front of a standing-room-only audience.

Admittedly, the Challenge represents an incredible amount of work for The Lab, but in the opinion of Artistic Director Annette Trossbach and Prop Mistress Stella Ruiz, the benefits justify the huge outlay of Annette at 2016 Playwriting Challenge 04time and effort.

The inaugural 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge took place in December of 2012.

“We didn’t know what we wanted to do that first year,” concedes Ruiz, who has placed her own imprint on the 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge in the years following that seminal contest.

“By year three, we had worked everything out pretty well. The schedule is all important. It has to be tight and everyone has to adhere to it because it’s such a truncated experience. Obviously Annette and Stella 02everyone rehearses outside of their stage time, but stage time is critically important. It has to be timed really, really carefully.”

The parameters of the Challenge have evolved over time. In 2012 and 2013, the concept was fairly simple and straightforward. The playwrights were given a common setting, such as a waiting room (2012) or the hallway in a rundown apartment building (2013). But they were free to structure the plot, characters and Stella at 2016 Playwriting Challenge 06even time period of their play any way they wished within the confines of that set.

But Lab has built a reputation for innovative work and always strains to push the proverbial envelop.

“We decided pretty quickly to change things up in order to keep everyone on their toes – playwrights and audience alike,” comments Ruiz, a grin tugging at the corners of her mouth.

Two years ago, Lab introduced the idea of a progressive play revolving around the day before, the day of and the night after a wedding. New for 2015 was the creation of a family tree that reflected the pool of actors who wStella Ruiz 04ould be performing in the Challenge.

“We gave them names and relationships, although not the character traits or arc,” Stella expounds. “[To the casual observer], it may look like we do the same thing each year, but we really don’t. We like to experiment. In 2016, for example, we created a collaborative work, set in the same universe but in which the action didn’t necessarily happen chronologically or linearly like with the wedding scenario.”

 

No matter Char and Annette During QNA 04the Challenge’s specific structure or format, Trossbach and Ruiz seek to advance two synergistic goals through the auspices of the competition.

First, they take immeasurable pride in being able to encourage people who’ve never really written before to explore the realm of playwriting. “We’d prefer to have people who have some kind of theatrical background because you’re writing with a live performance and audience in mind,” Ruiz notes. “It helps to know how theater actually works in practice. Lab has always John Repa 2016 Dbeen about nurturing people and giving them opportunities. That extends to the 24-hour project, as well. There’s a bit of learning process, and that’s intended. But we’ve had writers who’ve written things before and others who are new to playwriting.”

Secondly, Lab endeavors to provide live theater experience for the actors who participate in the project, as wBotinelli and Raddatz 02ell. “It’s always challenging for actors to memorize lines and perform,” states Ruiz, who knows of what she speaks, having starred in such productions as Bad Jews, Happy, Mr. Marmalade, The Rimers of Eldrich, Othello and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. (She currently stars for Ghostbird Theatre Company in Writing Shadows, which takes place in the historic Langford-Kingston Home.) “Davis and Rizley 02But here, we’re compacting into a mere matter of hours what would normally transpire over days, weeks and even months.

The audience is a big winner as well. “People like to see what the playwrights can come up with in such a short amount of time. It’s high energy, fun, and you can actually feel the buzz and tension when you walk into the Raddatz at Lab 02theater on Saturday night. There’s a vibe you can actually sense.”

Lab employs a clever device to keep the audience involved. It gives the playwrights three lines of dialogue and several props that they must incorporate into their plays. Trossbach tells the audience what they are during her curtain speech, and that induces the audience to not only watch and listen, but to be on the look-out for how they’re used by the playwrights in each of their one-act vignettes.

TStephanie Davis 105rossbach and Ruiz devote two months to the project each year. They brainstorm throughout the year, of course, but their efforts intensify during those final two months leading up to the project and performance.

It requires a tremendous amount of organization and, of course, there’s always the challenge of working around the set of the production that’s going to take place next. And it takes a special type of person to accept the challenge of producing a performance piece in such a compressed amount of time.

“There’s John Repa During QNA 04a lot of pressure,” concedes Char Loomis, who has won both Audience Choice (2012, 2013) and Judge’s Choice Awards (2014, 2016) in past years. But it’s more than just getting something down on paper within a scant ten hour timeframe with little or no sleep. “It’s the pressure of writing something that entertains. Judge’s and audience choice awards are nice, but not really important in the larger scope of things. The tension is about whether the audience is going to laugh or not laugh at the funny parts or laugh at parts that weren’t intended to be funny.”

Last year, actor John Repa participated in his first 24-Hour Challenge. Stella Does TGIM 02SMany Southwest Florida residents and visitors have seen him perform at The Lab and, among other venues, Florida Rep, Theatre Conspiracy and on the Seminole Gulf Railway Murder Mystery Dinner Train. He has also performed in Chicago and Seattle. Last season, he played political candidate William Russell in Gore Vidal’s The Best Man. Before that, he was Sir Toby Belch for Lab Theater in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

In college, John majored in playwriting and is currently a member of Theatre Conspiracy’s Playwriting Group. He’s also written a two-actor show called Biblically Speaking as well as a full-length play called Harper’s Journal, which is a take-off on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. His fear And the winners are 06when he took the Challenge was writer’s block.

“I’ve never experienced writer’s block in the conventional sense because I always have more than one project going at the same time, so if I ran into a situation where the words weren’t coming easily, I just shift to something else and then come back to it later 2013 Playwrights 1on,” Repa shares. But the 24-Hour project is different because the deadline is intransigent.

“It really comes down to finding your hook, what is it that will make for an interesting story, and as soon as you get that down, the rest writes itself,” John shrugs. Whether his comment reflected self-confidence or nonchalance, it all worked out well as Repa won over the audience last year picking up the coveted Audience Choice Award.

Bird Flew Cast 06“I love the freedom that the Lab gives to do this kind of project and see what happens – even though it’s so compacted and there’s a lot of pressure for everyone involved from Annette and me, to the playwrights, directors, actors and even stage hands,” adds Ruiz, who has playwriting experience herself. She wrote about a third of the Rauschenberg Project Play two seasons ago, as well The Judges 04Sthree full-length plays and some shorter pieces. However, she is having too much fun organizing the challenge to participate in it herself.

“Maybe someday, when I pass on the reins to someone else,” she says wistfully.

The 2017 Playwriting Project takes to the stage at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 16.

[Author’s Note: Because of other commitments, Ruiz will not be involved in this year’s Challenge. However, Lab has found a qualified replacement in the guise of Char Loomis. Lab has other changes and surprises in store for this year’s participants and audience.]

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Loomis is judge’s choice, Repa wins over audience in 5th Annual 24-Hour Playwriting Project (12-04-16)

cintron-repa-chesebro-and-dirrigl-2This past Saturday night, Lab Theater staged three one-act plays that had been written the night before by Dave Chesebro, Char Loomis and John Repa. It was part of Lab Theater’s Fifth Annual 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge. In a very close contest, Char Loomis won the Judge’s Choice Award , with John Repa garnering the coveted People’s Choice Award.

annette-at-2016-playwriting-challenge-06The playwrights convened at Lab Theater at 8:00 p.m. the night before with sleeping bags, blankets and laptops in hand. It’s only then that competition director Stella Ruiz and Lab’s Artistic Director Annette Trossbach divulge the storyline, characters and bits of dialogue they must include in their scripts. This year, each play had to center around a family reunion being hosted by two recently wed annette-at-2016-playwriting-challenge-04grandparents anxious to integrate their respective dysfunctional families into a cohesive whole. But Ruiz and Trossbach included a diabolical twist – the newlyweds were two men by the names of Timmons and Stephan.

“We created a family tree for each so that the playwrights could reference the characters appearing in the other two writers’ plays,” Ruiz explained to the audience prior to the performances.

Ruiz and Trossbach also provided each playwright with three lines of stella-at-2016-playwriting-challenge-04dialogue they were required to incorporate into their scripts, vis: “But why did I have to hear about it on Facebook,” “You hate bananas,” and “Do you really want to touch that?” How they employed the lines and the order in which they appeared was left entirely to the writers.

Stage-ready scripts were due by breakfast at 7:00 a.m., and following a couple of table reads where they received invaluable editorial suggestions, the playwrights made final revisions before the completed scripts were handed over to the director and contingent of four actors that Ruiz and Trossbach assigned to each play.

annette-and-stella-02“To memorize a 20 or 25 minute play in just five hours is a tall order,” noted Trossbach, but the twelve actors who participated in the challenge pulled off the feat with barely a missed or flubbed line.

Chesebro and Repa got about two hours of sleep in the wee hours of the morning. Loomis took a scant half hour cat nap. But the over-caffeinated Waterman Broadcasting Chief Video Editor received an added jolt of adrenaline when her char-and-annette-during-qna-04comedy was selected by the judges as the best play of the night. It’s the second time Loomis has taken that honor. She was Judge’s Choice in 2014 and Audience Choice in 2012 and 2013. Char has dabbled in various aspects of film, television and theatre, and her credits include one line in “Rat Bastards,” an award-winning independent film directed by Emmy award winner Mike Stivala, a small acting bit in Florida Repertory Theatre’s production of WIT, and making eye contact with Kevin Spacey while working for MSNBC.

repa-cintron-and-trossbach-during-qna-02Repa also opted for comedy in his poignant play about the existential crisis faced by a Latino man who suddenly discovers in mid-life that the father he’s always idolized and emulated is gay. “People find it necessary to redefine their own self-image when a parent, sibling, child or former spouse suddenly reveals themselves to be gay, lesbian or transgender, and that can be traumatic,” noted john-repa-during-qna-04Repa afterwards.

Many theater-goers in Southwest Florida know Repa from his 15-year stint on the Seminole Gulf Railway Murder Mystery Dinner Train. He was last on stage at The Lab as presidential candidate William Russell in Gore Vidal’s “The Best Man” and has also performed at Florida Rep and Theatre Conspiracy. But John is also an accomplished writer. He recently authored a zombie apocalypse novel told from the viewpoint of the zombies, and as a playwright, he has written a two-man show that will be read at Theatre Conspiracy this season. A member of the Theatre Conspiracy dave-chesebro-during-qna-02Playwriting Group, he also penned a one-act play in 2014 called “Harker’s Journal,” a take-off on Bram Stoker’s Dracula in which Harker’s wife, Mina, considers the possibility that her husband has gone mad after she receives and reads the journal he wrote during his recent trip to Transylvania.

Chesebro’s piece was a dramatization of the highly-confrontational arguments waged between families, friends and complete strangers over the gay rights and marriage on the one hand and those who believe that homosexuality is prohibited by God and the Bible – with each camp finding it impossible to accept the other’s right to act and believe as they do. Chesebro knows of what he writes. He was one of the the-judges-06playwrights who worked on”The Rauschenberg Project Play,” in which he also played a number of roles.

This year’s 24-Hour Playwriting judges consisted of Florida Weekly’s “Diva Diaries” columnist, stage director and actress Stephanie Davis; Florida Weekly Editor and Fort Myers Film Festival Executive Director Eric Raddatz; international documentary filmmaker and human rights advocate Connie the-actors-04Bottinelli; and Lab Theater founding member and frequent director Nykkie Rizley. Tera Nicole Miller took time away from her role as Squeamish in Theatre Conspiracy’s production of “The Country Wife” to direct the cast of Char Loomis’ Judge’s Choice play. Miguel Cintron directed for John Repa, and Kate Dirrigl directed the cast of Dave Chesebro’s piece.

The 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge is part of Lab the-actors-10Theater’s ongoing effort to provide unique cutting edge theatrical experiences for playwrights, directors, actors and, most of all, Southwest Florida community theater audiences.

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Meet the 2016 24-Hour Playwriting Project contestants, Char Loomis, Dave Matthew Chesebro and John Repa (12-03-16)

laboratory-theater-exterior-2-3Last night, Char Loomis, Dave Chesebro and John Repa converged on the Lab Theater in downtown Fort Myers for an all-nighter. The three are taking part in tonight’s 24-Hour Playwriting Project, an annual event that challenges participants to come up a 15 to 25 minute one-act play in just 12 hours that’s performed the following evening by a cast of volunteer actors who have less than 8 hours to memorize their lines and blocking.

Loomis is the veteran of the trio. After judging the competition last year, Loomis returns as a char-loomis-2016-03playwright. She won the Audience Choice Award in the project’s first two years, followed by the coveted Judge’s Choice Award in 2014 with an edgy one-act play that crackled with humor, wit, sarcasm and irony that had both the judges and the audience howling with laughter. Loomis is the Chief  Video Editor at Waterman Broadcasting, a post she has held for more than a decade. She also moonlights as a freelance video editor on a range of projects. Char has dabbled in various aspects of film, television and theatre, and her credits include one line in Rat Bastards, an award-winning independent film directed by Emmy award winner Mike char-loomis-2016-02Stivala, a small acting bit in Florida Repertory Theatre’s production of WIT, and making eye contact with Kevin Spacey while working for MSNBC. A jack of all trades, Char mostly enjoys working behind the scenes on any project and writing in her spare time. Originally from upstate New York, Char made the journey to the Sunshine State many years ago as a Florida Repertory intern following graduation with her Master’s Degree from Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

dave-chesebro-2016-bLab Theater audiences last saw Chesebro as Chef Gaston in An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf. But Dave is no stranger to writing. In fact, he was one of the playwrights who worked on this past season’s The Rauschenberg Project Play, in which he also played a number of roles. He also played Mr. Mushnik in Little House of Horrors, and has worked on a number of other productions in set construction and props management. But stella-ruiz-02this is his first time accepting Annette Trossbach and Stella Ruiz’s challenge to write a play overnight. Being an inveterate night owl will help, says Dave, as he hammers out lines of dialogue on a laptop.

Rounding out the field is John Repa who was last on stage at The Lab as presidential candidate William Russell in Gore Vidal’s The Best Man. Many Southwest Florida residents and visitors have seen him perform, among other venues, at Florida Rep, Theatre Conspiracy and on the Seminole Gulf Railway Murder Mystery Dinner Train. He has also performed Chicago and Seattle. Prior to The Best john-repa-2016-bMan, John played the role of Sir Toby Belch for Lab Theater in last season’s production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and he will appear in The Last Night of Ballyhoo at Lab Theater in April.

But John is also a comedian, playwright and more recently, author of a zombie apocalypse novel titled Blood Creek Eulogy, which is told from the viewpoint of the zombies! As a playwright, john-repa-2016-dJohn has written a two-man show called Biblically Speaking, which will be read at Theatre Conspiracy this season. As a member of the Theatre Conspiracy Playwriting Group, he penned a one-act play in 2014 called Harker’s Journal, a take-off on Bram Stoker’s Dracula in which Harker’s wife, Mina, must consider the possibility that her husband has gone mad after she receives and reads the journal he wrote during his recent trip to Transylvania. John wrote his first script in grade school when he found out that a group book report could be done as a staged scene – but his group had read Jack London’s White Fang. He went on from there to study playwriting at SIU at Carbondale and Columbia College Chicago, where he graduated in 1990.

Because John started out as stage crew member and scenic designer, he has a very practical approach to staging. Having worked extensively as an actor, he has a strong sense of what an actor can do onstage to captivate an audience. He seeks to combine thoughtful theater with a quirky sense of humor that provides heartfelt laughs during a performance and something deeper to think about later.

See what these three courageous 24-Hour playwrights produced tonight at The Lab. The action starts at 8:00 p.m.

 

Playwrights convene at The Lab for start of 24-Hour Playwriting Project (12-02-16)

laboratory-theater-exterior-2-3Three local playwrights are lugging their sleeping bags, coffee mugs and laptops to Lab Theater for an all-nighter. No, they’re not hoping to sight the ghost who inhabits The Lab. They’ve accepted The Lab’s challenge to write a one-act play in a single night, with the results being produced and performed by volunteer actors tomorrow night beginning at 8:00 p.m.

Here’s how it works. After the playwrights are all settled in, Lab Artistic Director Annette Trossbach and Stella Ruiz will assign them a theme for their plays. briefing-04Then they’ll draw straws and choose costumes, props and even sound cues that they must incorporate into their scripts. They only have until morning to come up with a one-act play that’s no less than 15 and no more than 25 minutes long.

After breakfast, a table read, and very little time for tweaks, the scripts go to the copy center. The directors assigned to each playwright get the scripts just before lunch, when a diverse group of actors shows up ready, willing and eager to learn jewelry-2and rehearse their lines in the seven or so hours remaining before the curtain goes up and the plays are performed before a live audience. You read that correctly. The director and actors actually have less time to stage the plays, block the action and memorize their lines than the playwrights had to write the scripts!

picking-costumes-04The three plays are not just performed. They are judged by a panel of area theater and arts professionals … and by the audience. That’s right. The playwrights are not only vying for the judges’ award. They’re hoping to win the coveted Audience Choice Award as well.

Last year, Ben Lamoureux was both the judge’s and the audience’s choice for best play – the first time a playwright has ever one both awards. This is the fifth year of the Laboratory Theater 24-Hour big-ben-rick-sebastian-and-cast-06Playwriting Project and promises to be as hotly contested as ever.

Read here for details about The Lab’s prior 24-Hour Playwriting Projects.

A hugely popular event, your season ticket will gain you entry! Or get online tickets HERE

The Lab and the participating playwrights thank Bennett’s Fresh Roast and Chick-fil-A on Colonial Blvd for donating food for our creative entrepreneurs!

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Lab Theater’s 24-hour playwriting challenge returns December 3, 2016 (05-11-16)

Big Ben, Rick Sebastian and Cast 01The 24-hour Playwriting Project returns to Lab Theater at 8:00 p.m. on December 3, 2016. The night before, playwrights will bring their sleeping bags and coffee mugs to Lab Theater, where they will be assigned a theme, a director, and actors. Within just twenty-four hours, you will see the fruits of their labor when Lab Theater stages all of the 15-minute one-act plays! Each year, the plays are judged by a panel of area theater and arts professionals. Mark your calendar for this hugely popular event!

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A look back at Aricka Shuck’s ‘INNdiffernet’ (12-18-15)

The Playwrights 01STwo weeks ago, Aricka Shuck did something she had never done before. “ I wrote my first play.  Well, my first one act,” she reveals. “And it was one of the scariest, most rewarding experiences of my life and I did so under some of the strangest, most high-pressure circumstances ever.”

Aricka is referring, of course, to Lab Theater’s 24-Hour Playwriting Project. This year, Aricka and aspiring playwrights Patty Duncan and Ben Lamoureux assembled in the old theater on Woodford at 8 p.m. on Friday, December 5. The challenge: each had just ten hours to write a one-act play that was no less than 15 and no more Jewelry 4Sthan 25 minutes long.

“I had never even written a scene or taken a writing class, but I once had a wise professor named Michael Gillespie who told me that if a project frightened me, it was definitely worth doing,” says Aricka of her decision to accept the challenge of writing a play in one night. “As with every piece of advice he gave me, I heeded this one as well and jumped in face first.  I got there at 8 p.m. and was given my parameters.  At 9 p.m. we were given the green light to start.  At 7 a.m. we had a table read and from 8 to 9 we worked with a completely wonderful The Playwrights 06playwriting teacher who gave us fantastic notes. We then were able to make final changes and at 12:00 p.m. our scripts went to the printer. We then met our actors for the first time, had a table read, one hour on stage to block, and then roughly 6 hours to try to help them memorize the lines. At 8 p.m. the plays were performed before an audience and three judges.”

Inndiffernet 03huck mentions parameters. Here are a few of them:

  • The play had to take place in Maine at an Inn named the Mainely Lodge. It could take place in any era, but had to take place in this dimension, country, earth, solar system, reality, etc.
  • The set included a check-in desk, rocking chair, sofa, side table, hat rack and, most importantly, Inndiffernet 05outside a plague is a taking place.  That is what the central action of the play had to deal with.
  • “We were each told we would have four actors with details limited to their sex, basic build, age range and race.”
  • One actor had to be a staff member of the Inn.
  • “We had to use and refer to two props. I had a bottle of 6 prescription pill bottles and a small metal decorative box which had to be referred to as a ‘prized possession.’”
  • “We has to use three lines verbatim but in any Inndiffernet 09order.  They were “It doesn’t affect me. I don’t live there;” “I’m not homeless, I’m displaced;” and “How can we tell if they’re contagious?”

Shuck’s one-act play was performed first and it contained some very funny lines between lead characters, Ellice Delflorio, a 31-year-old refuge directionless English grad who secretly aspires to be a stand-up comedian and who uses humor to deflect criticism and cope with people and Inndiffernet 11problems, and Penelope Parker, a tech-savvy junior in college majoring in sociology and who annoys people ad nauseum by shortening words and spewing acronyms whenever she speaks. But conflict erupts between Ellice and Penelope because of their disparate social and political views. You see, Ellice is a staunch liberal while Penelope is a passionate conservative and they take turns blaming each other for creating the predicate for the plague, which is a viral form of indifference. The following dialogue will give you a Inndiffernet 13taste for both the tension and humor that Aricka built into the fabric of her play.

FINN: Huh?

PENE: It seems as though apathy can exceed a level that is healthy and can become fatal. Once you reach a certain level of indifference it causes something called ‘Akinetic Mutism’ which is a form of brain damage.  The damage is so severe a person Inndiffernet 17becomes unable to talk or move.  Once the brain stops delivering messages to your body it goes into multi-system organ failure.

DOUG: In layman’s terms; you stop caring, your brain stops caring, you die.

FINN: I didn’t even know that was physically possible!

DOUG: Nobody did until it was too late.

ELLICE: You see, dangerous levels of indifference have spiked over the years.  The Trail of Tears, the Inndiffernet 18Holocaust, genocide, the Kardashians, but the collective spike in apathy was unprecedented and led to a pandemic that we didn’t foresee.

FINN: How did this happen?  What caused the levels to get dangerously high?

DOUG: I blame my parents’ generation, the Baby Boomers. As their generation got older they became less and less concerned with what was Inndiffernet 20going on around them.  The earth wasn’t going to be their home much longer and they passed the buck to the younger generations. They figured it was our responsibility to fix what was broken.  I find it kind of bizarre though because their generation used to be so involved.  They were going to change the world with love and compassion.  I guess as the world got uglier they became more frustrated and disillusioned and Inndiffernet 22before you know it they didn’t care  what earth we would inherit.

ELLICE: Nonsense!  Finn, you want the real reason?  Thank Pene over there and her generation of Millenials. It wasn’t even a matter of the cessation of caring, they never cared to begin with.  They think everything they want in life is owed to them.  They created this plague and I can pinpoint the moment that it happened.  The Selfie!

Inndiffernet 23PENE: Are you totally crazy?

ELLICE: If Indifference is the disease, social media is what helped deliver the virus! The Millenials said, “how can we make photography better? Got it!  Pictures with only ME!”  That total free fall into narcissism was the beginning of the end.  Once you only care about yourself you stop caring about others.  You guys never wanted to get involved, learn the issues, join the debate, you guys couldn’t even take an hour to vote every 4 years.  The cold hard fact is you can only care about one thing for so long before you stop caring all together.

Arickas GroupAs this excerpt from the play illustrates, the writing is sharp, the dialogue snappy and the premise imaginative and clever. And in the final analysis, the judges declared a tie among all three playwrights in every category save one – time. When finally performed, Aricka’s play and that of Patty Duncan came in under the 15-minute minimum, giving Ben Lamoureux the win. But is clear that Aricka has a bright future as a playwright, and local community theater audiences await eagerly her next effort.

Please keep reading for more on Aricka Shuck, Patty Duncan, Ben Lamoureux and this year’s Lab Theater 24-Hour Playwriting Project.

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Ben Lamoureux’s ‘Bird Flew’ wins judges’ and audience choice awards (12-08-15)

Bird Flew 07Last Saturday night, three short one-act plays were performed at Lab Theater in downtown Fort Myers. They were part of Lab Theater’s 24-Hour Playwriting Project, a challenge in which three to five playwrights arrive at the theater at 8 p.m. on Friday night and have roughly ten hours to write a 15 to 25 minute play. After a table reading over breakfast, the plays are tweaked, typed, printed and given to their volunteer directors just before lunch, when a diverse group of actors shows up ready, willing and eager to learn and rehearse their lines in the seven or so hours remaining before the The Judges 04curtain goes up and the plays are performed before a live audience.

This year’s courageous playwrights were Patty Duncan, Aricka Shuck and Ben Lamoureux.

“This is the fourth year of the 24-Hour Playwriting Project,” said judge Nikkie Rizley after the performances. She was joined on stage by fellow judges Connie Bottinelli and Char Loomis, who The Winner is Bird Flewearned the Judges’ Choice award last year.

“This is the first year where everyone was equal in all parts except for the time, and we thought it was very important that we said to the playwrights and the audience that there pretty much would have been an across the board tie on what you needed to do and were asked to do except for that.”

Congratulatons 02Among other requirements, the plays could be no shorter than 15 minutes and no longer than 25.

“For every minute over or under, we had to deduct one point,” Rizley continued. “So if someone was under by five minutes, we had to subtract five points. So we thought it was important to come on stage and let everyone know that time was a big factor.”

That said, their decision was nonetheless unanimous. Ben Lamoureux’s comedy, Bird Flew, took top honors.

“My first thank you has to be to my actors,” said an Big Ben 03overwhelmed Lamoureux. “I came into this at the last minute,” he continued, shaking his head. “Annette only asked me to participate on Monday [when one of the other contestants had to bow out due to illness]. I said, ‘Yeah. Sure thing. Why not?’” He very nearly couldn’t convince his employer to give him the time off.

“But coming in here last night and getting all the criteria for the play, I sat down at my blank computer screen and said, ‘What in the hell am I going to do?’ But then I remembered that one of Big Ben 04the sound effects we could use was a loon crying and I thought, ‘I can do something with that.’ Of course, I didn’t know it would be people actually turning into them …..”

Minutes later, Ben learned that he had also won the Audience Choice Award – by a landslide. It is the first time in four years that the same play earned both the judge’s choice and Audience Choice awards.

Ben has aspirations to move to New York City to hone his skills and refine his craft. But not quite yet. He has taken a lead role in Lab Theater’s Rauschenberg Project, in which Big Ben, Rick Sebastian and Cast 06more than 175 local lesbians, gays and transgender 14-24 year olds are sharing their stories and weaving them into a production that will take the stage in late March of 2016. If the 24-Hour Playwriting Project is any indication, the Rauschenberg participants are in good hands and the Southwest Florida theater community is in for a treat next Spring.

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Spotlight on 24-Hour Playwriting Project participant Ben Lamoureux (12-05-15)

Briefing 05One of the playwrights taking part in tonight’s Lab Theater 24-Hour Playwriting Project is Ben Lamoureux. Originally from Massachusetts, Ben moved to Florida in 2009 and graduated from North Fort Myers High School in 2013. During his time in Southwest Florida, he performed with many of the theatrical companies in the area, including Florida Rep, The Naples Players, Creative Theatre Workshop and Lab Theater.

In 2015, Ben graduated with his Associate’s degree Jewelry 4Sin Musical Theatre from Florida School of the Arts, where he trained in voice (Dr. Kandie K. Smith, Rhonda Nus Tinnin), acting (Patricia Crotty, Ed Kelly), and dance (Hee Ra Yoo, Jenne Vermes, Mary Love Ward, Jessica Mayhew), as well as aspects of technical theatre such as costumes and makeup (Emily Strickland, Tracy Lloyd). Favorite credits from FloArts include Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, Les Miserables (Vocal Captain. Bishop, Feuily, Javert u/s), and Mr. Bennett in Pride & Prejudice.

Professionally, Ben has worked summer stock with Lees-McRae Summer Theatre (Swing! The Musical) and has attended The Playwrights 06the Southeastern Theatre Conference as a professional auditioner for the last two years. He is currently involved with Lab Theater’s Rauschenberg Project. Now 20 years old, Ben plans to move to New York City in the near future.

You can see for yourself what Ben produces as a playwright tonight. The Lab Theater 24-Hour Playwriting Project takes the stage tonight at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Season ticket holders will be admitted at no charge. For everyone else, get your tickets online HERE or at the door.

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Spotlight on 24-Hour Playwriting Project participant Aricka Shuck (12-05-15)

The Playwrights 01SOne of the playwrights taking part in tonight’s Lab Theater 24-Hour Playwriting Project is Aricka Shuck. When Lab Theater audiences last saw Aricka, she was portraying Petronella van Daan in last season’s highly popular Diary of Anne Frank.

Aricka was actress Kim Basinger’s photo double/stand in for the movie 8 Mile. A veteran of the stage, her favorite roles include Kay in Father of the Bride, Maggie in The Man Who Came to Dinner, the good witch Glinda in The Wizard of Oz, Maddy in Tony and Tina’s Wedding, Madge in Picnic, Kate in She Stoops to Conquer, Hermione in Formulating a Plan of Action 03Winter’s Table, Libby in Blue Window and Helen in Cripple of Inishmaan. At the Naples Players, she played Dr. Zavalla, ADD waitress and Carolyn in Distracted and Electra in Gypsy. She majored in theater performance in college, studied improv at The Second City conservatory and was nominated for the Irene Ryan award.

Now Aricka is taking a turn at playwriting. You can see for yourself what she produces tonight. The Lab Theater 24-Hour Playwriting Project takes the stage tonight at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Season ticket holders will be admitted at no charge. For everyone else, get your tickets online HERE or at the door.

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Spotlight on 24-Hour Playwriting Project participant Patty Duncan (12-05-15)

The Playwrights 04One of the playwrights taking part in tonight’s Lab Theater 24-Hour Playwriting Project is Patty Duncan. A published novelist, Patty is branching out, trying her hand at playwriting. Duncan retired to Cape Coral (although she also spends time with her husband, Joe, in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee) after spending twenty-five years in public relations and advertising, including a stint as press secretary in the Tennessee legislature.

Formulating a Plan of Action 01Her novel, Detour to Dallas, grapples with the Kennedy assassination and, in particular, an assassination theory revolving around Rose Chermini, a woman who warned medical personnel of the impending assassination. “Although there is a dearth of information about Rose Chermini, she, and her warning, warrants further attention – as do some of the other players in the assassination drama,” said Patty of the book. Formulating a Plan of Action 05“Subjects that belong to the American public, as the Kennedy assassination certainly does, invite us to revisit them again and again.”

In Ellen’s Eye, the main character is a ten-year old girl who loses an eye. She thinks the very worst thing that can possibly happen already has, but she discovers her biggest problem now is that she’ll have to accept all the gawking and questions from friends and relatives, which she dreads and wants to postpone. But the year (1954) progressively presents more dangerous and chilling challenges for Ellen- here Jewelry 3Smother’s strange, new silence as her older brother Buck’s behavior spirals out of control.

Duncan is no stranger to playwriting. Her play, Reasons for Grandparents, will be the subject of a staged reading at Lab Theater on March 21, 2016. When Ruth takes on a second job, her daughters begin to harbor a secret, especially about the oldest child’s new behavior. The grandparents try to intervene, only to be prohibited from seeing their granddaughters again.

Both books are available on Amazon.

Duncan graduated cum laude from East Tennessee State Briefing 01University.

You can see for yourself what Patty produces tonight. The Lab Theater 24-Hour Playwriting Project takes the stage tonight at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Season ticket holders will be admitted at no charge. For everyone else, get your tickets online HERE or at the door.

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Three aspiring playwrights spending night in haunted theater to write plays in just 15 hours (12-04-15)

The Playwrights 04Lab Theater’s 24-Hour Playwriting Project is underway, and three brave playwrights are hunkered down in the reputedly haunted theater on Woodford Avenue turning out 15-25 minute productions that will be performed tomorrow night.

“There’s a plague out there,”  Production Coordinator Stella Ruiz told participants Patty Duncan, Ben Lamoureux and Aricka Shuck at Stage Direction 029:00 p.m. “People are fleeing and some have arrived at an inn in Maine, but there’s no vacancy at the hotel. At least one of your characters must be a hotel employee, but beyond that there are no limitations on the characters or plot you create. It can be comedic or dramatic. You can get really weird with it or keep it realistic. It just has to be set at this specific place.”

Briefing 06While each playwright has open-ended creative license, they must include the following three lines in their scripts:

  1. “It doesn’t affect me. I don’t live there.”
  2. “I’m not homeless, I’m displaced.”
  3. “How can we tell if they’re contagious.”

“Audiences love this [part of the Challenge],” Artistic Director Annette Trossbach. “They will be told in advance what the three lines are, and they’re going to be waiting for them. They like Formulating a Plan of Action 05hearing them and seeing how you use them in your plays.”

There are two other requirements, as well. On the hotel desk is a telephone, and each playwright must incorporate it into the action at some point in their play along with one of four sound effects, which include the phone ringing, howling wind, peals of thunder or the sound of a distant loon. And each playwright chooses costumes and a special prop that they must use at some point in the action. This year, those props are a bag of pills, a stuffed bear and three The Playwrights 06rangetop pots.

“You mean we have to choose costumes and props before we write our plays?” Patty Duncan asked with incredulity.

Yes, that’s part of the Challenge. And, as is true with most theater productions, beyond a general description of the actors they’ll be assigned, the Picking Costumes 04playwrights do not know the identities of the director and actors who will perform their plays.

One page of text typically equates to two minutes of on-stage dialogue and action, so the challenge is for Duncan, Lamoureux and Shuck to write between 8 and 12 pages of dialogue between roughly 10 p.m. tonight and 8 a.m. tomorrow morning, when the playwrights assemble with Ruiz, Artistic Director Annette Trossbach and director Louise Wigglesworth for a Jewelry 2table read of the scripts. After that, the playwrights have a couple of hours to tweak and fine tune their scripts before they go to the printer at 11:30.

The directors and actors who put on the show don’t arrive until noon and they don’t actually get their scripts until 12:30, which means they have a Jewelry 4Sscant seven hours to read, comprehend and memorize their lines before the shows are performed before a live audience and panel of esteemed local judges.

“The actors are all good,” Trossbach assured Duncan, Lamoureux and Shuck. “They’re all really strong at memorizing lines in a short amount of time. They participate because they like to test themselves and see how well they can do learning a play and memorizing their lines and action in such a short amount of time.”

If the past is any indication of the future, the plays that The Playwrights 03these three playwrights produce will be surprisingly good and really interesting. The action gets under way at 8 p.m. and doors open at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow night at the theater. Season ticket holders will be admitted at no charge.   Or get online tickets HERE.

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Lab Theater’s hugely popular 24-hour playwriting contest takes center stage Saturday, December 5 (12-02-15)

Settling In 03Four playwrights will bring their sleeping bags and coffee mugs to Lab Theater this Friday night, where they will be assigned a theme and a director and actors. Within just twenty-four hours, you will see the fruits of their labor when Lab Theater stages all four 15-minute one-act plays, which will be judged by a panel of area theater and arts professionals. The audience, too, gets a vote, conferring the highly coveted Audience Choice Award. The festivities start promptly at 8 p.m. on Saturday, December 5. A hugely popular event, your season ticket will gain you entry! Or get online tickets HERE.

 

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24-hour Playwriting Project returns to Lab Theater on December 5 (05-17-15)

Registration 1Lab Theater’s 24-hour Playwriting Project returns on December 5, 2015. Here’s how it works. Five intrepid playwrights will arrive at the theater at 8 p.m. on December 4 with coffee mugs, laptops and sleeping bags for a night of high-pressure playwriting magic. The following morning, they’ll be assigned a director and cast of actors, who will have just hours to study the script and learn their Stella and Annettelines. And you’ll get to see the fruits of their labor when Lab Theater stages all five 15-minute one-act plays beginning at 8 p.m. on Saturday, December 5. A panel of area theater and arts professionals will pick a Critic’s Choice. The audience will have their say, too, with the top vote getter receiving the coveted Audience Choice Award. Your season ticket will gain you entry to this hugely popular event. Continue reading for accounts of the past two seasons’ participants, plays and winners.

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West Palm playwright Les Abromovitz wins Audience Choice Award in 3rd Annual 24-Annual Playwriting Project (12-12-14)

Les Abromovitz 1Last weekend, Lab Theater staged its 24-Hour Playwriting Project. Four playwrights, Laura Lorusso, Char Loomis, Deni Sher and Les Abromovitz, each accepted the challenge of producing a 15-20 minute 0ne-act play overnight and having it performed by actors given a scant 6-7 hours to learn and rehearse their lines. Char Loomis won the competition (see below), but West Palm Beach newcomer Les Abromovitz received the Audience Choice Award.

Abromovitz has an unusual theatrical pedigree. He is a semi-retired attorney. But not one of those high-powered trial lawyers turned bestselling author like John Grisham or Steve Berry. Les practiced law for an insurance company, writing S.E.C. compliance documents for Les at Lab Theater on Friday 01decades. Oh, he is an author. Les has drawn upon his education and expertise to author, co-author, edit and ghostwrite business, personal finance and retirement planning books for publishers the like of McGraw-Hill, John Wiley & Sons, and Dearborn Trade, as well as two more books for investment advisers. So, no doubt, the play he turned in on Saturday morning was a dry, stodgy, erudite affair, right? To the contrary, Abromovitz’s offering was so funny, so hilarious, so wry that it rocked the Les Abromovitz Wins Peoples Choice 01house with laughter so raucous it threatened the continence of Lab Theater judges and audience alike.

To be sure, Abromovitz was aided in no small measure by the three accomplished actors who were assigned to him and director Deb Kik. Not Les Abromovitz Wins Peoples Choice 03only did Shelley Sanders, Caitlynn Crawford and Charlie Greer impeccably deliver Abromovitz’s sharp, spritely dialogue, Crawford was a hoot as she brilliantly performed a series of sight gags that would have left Lucille Ball green with envy. But Abromovitz’s premise laid the foundation for his comedic tour de force.

In his tale, a very distinguished 50-something by An Hour Before 01the name of Marvin shows up at his ex-wife’s wedding with two gorgeous 20-something sisters. Emily and Angel are worried that someone will say something because Marvin’s invitation only specified “plus one.” But it’s clearly Marvin’s intent to spoil the bride’s sweet victory in being the first to move on. In fact, Marv harbors such ill will that An Hour Before 07he blurts out “it should have been her” as he points to the chalk outline of a man killed in the church vestibule the night before the wedding. The remark should have sent Emily and Angel running for the nearest door. You see, the girls are escorts who advertised their services on Craiglist, of all places. But as this is theater and not real life, what instead ensues is a spirited debate between Emily and Marvin about the dynamics and dangers An Hour Before 08associated with their arrangement from sides of the escort equation ultimately prompting Emily to sigh, “I’ve got to quit advertising on Craigslist” just as Marvin menacingly grabs her and Angel and the lights go out.

Of course, Marvin had just as much to fear from Emily and Angel as the girls did of him. He could have easily been another Troy LaFerrara, the 42-An Hour Before 02year-old electrical engineer from Port Trevorton, Pennsylvania who was stabbed 20 times in the chest by 19-year-old Miranda Barbour after responding to an ad that Barbour posted on Craigslist promising “companionship” in exchange for $100. Barbour claims to be a serial killer responsible for more than 22 murders in four different states, but the cases are legion in which Craigslist escorts, prostitutes and even maids are raped, assaulted and murdered by men answering their ads. And that’s why attractive, seemingly An Hour Before 03sophisticated college coeds like Emily and Angel are turning increasingly to online dating services like SeekingArrangement.com.

Founded in 2005, SeekingArrangement.com touts itself as “the elite sugar daddy dating site for those seeking mutually beneficial relationships.” According to CNN, about 350,000 of the “sugar babies” who advertise on SeekingArrangement are college students, and two-thirds of them use their “daddy” as the main source of paying for their education. SeekingArrangement.com gives an even higher estimate. According to an article An Hour Before 04run by The Atlantic, “in 2013, Seeking Arrangement announced that approximately 44 percent of its 2.3 million ‘babies’ are in college,” which would mean that more than one in six female college students in the United States is paying their tuition or subsidizing the cost of their education in this way.

For some, perhaps, the perks are as important as the finances. For example, The Atlantic article tells the story of a young Princeton coed who is picked An Hour Before 09up by a sleek black limousine at 11 p.m. on a Tuesday night, whisked to Manhattan for a midnight dinner and late night sex with a 60-something Wall Street Banker, and returned to campus in time for her 10 a.m. class the next day. But whether it’s the money or the perks, Abromovitz left the audience to decide whether his play was merely a dark comedy about a couple of escorts stupid enough to advertise their services on a place like Craigslist or a modern-day parable about dilemma faced by the overwhelming majority of lower to middle class college students faced with escalating tuition and Les Gets the Messagedeclining Pell grants and student loans as conservative elements seek to cutter ever more funding from social programs, including higher education. [“We used see affordable higher education as being part of the social contract and that it was a public good for education to be affordable in the United States,” writes blogger Les at Lab Theater on Friday 02Saul DeGraw, “but thanks to the anti-tax far-right revolution, tuition has skyrocketed and now women are turning to prostitution to pay for their college educations because you can’t do it with working in the campus library or coffee shop anymore.”]

Regardless of deeper meaning and putative thematic content, the audience found Abromovitz’s play funny, which was music to the playwright’s ears. “I only started writing plays three or four Les at Lab Theater on Friday 03years ago,” Les admits. “And most have been short comedies.”

His short comedies Quoth the Maven, Nevermore and Seven Bananas have been included in national play festivals. Another play, The Home Stretch, won first place in the 4th Annual International Jewish Short Play Competition and has been performed on several occasions over the past year. And his comedy Boca Raton on Ice has also been Les and Hedy 03performed as a radio play on several occasions. But this is the first time Les has taken part in a 24-hour playwriting project.

“The toughest part of it was staying up past 11 o’clock,” quipped a bleary-eyed Les following the performances.

When asked how he heard about the Lab Theater playwriting challenge, he looked about somewhat sheepishly. “I found it advertised on Craigslist.”

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Wigglesworth, Rizley and Bottinelli judge Lab Theater’s 2014 playwriting project (12-10-14)

The Judges 04SThe Laboratory Theater of Florida hosted its third annual 24-hour playwriting project over the past weekend. Part of what lured Laura Lorusso, Les Abromovitz, Char Loomis and Deni Sher into accepting the challenge of writing a 15-20 minute one-act play virtually overnight was the prospect of having their work judged by a panel of experienced The Judges 01theater experts, and Lab Theater didn’t disappoint. This year, the plays presented on Saturday night were judged by Connie Bottinelli, Nikki Rizley and Louise Wigglesworth.

Connie Bottinelli is an international documentary filmmaker and human rights advocate. Since 1986, she has written, directed and produced for a host Char Loomis and the Judges 04of national TV and global cable programs including TLCDiscovery Communications (1996-2000), Lifetime TV, America’s Most WantedMedical Detectives (1998-1999) and Court TV (1999-2005). She is the CEO and Executive Producer of Grinning Dog Pictures and has received five Emmys over the course of her career.

Crowd Shot 01Nykkie Rizley is a founding member and Secretary of the Board of Directors at The Laboratory Theater of Florida. After attending the University of Michigan, where she received a degree in Theater Prop Design, Nicole trained in both Chicago and New York. She now teaches Acting I, Acting II, and Acting for Seniors for Lab Theater and creates wounds and bruises for area film and stage productions. She directed House of Q and A 04Yes last season and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest the season before.

Lousie Wigglesworth worked for three decades in secondary and college theater arts education in New Jersey, teaching playwriting and directing classic and contemporary plays and musicals. Char WinsSince moving to Florida ten years ago, her directing credits have included The Lion in Winter, Picnic, A Streetcar Named Desire and Shakespeare in the Park. For Lab Theater, Louise has directed Death of a Salesman, The Stranger, Twenty-Seven Wagons Full of Cotton, The Laboratory TheaterLaramie Project and The Rimers of Eldrich, as well as writing the world-premier stage play of Camus’ The Plague and In the Shade of Old Trees, which was given a staged reading last season. Louise serves on Lab Theater’s Board of Directors and is a member of the Theatre Conspiracy Playwrights and The Dramatists Guild of America.

The judges chose Char Loomis’ play as their winner. A review of Loomis’ winning production follows.

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Char Loomis wins Judges’ Choice Award at Lab Theater’s 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge (12-09-14)

CharAfter winning the Audience Choice Award the past two seasons, playwright Char Loomis received the coveted Judge’s Choice Award for Best Play in the 2014 Laboratory Theater 24-Hour Playwriting Project with an edgy one-act play that crackled with humor, wit, sarcasm and irony that had both the judges and the audience howling with laughter.

Loomis is the Chief  Video Editor at Waterman Broadcasting, a post she has held for the last ten years. She also moonlights as a freelance video editor on a range of projects. Char has dabbled in Char Loomis 01various aspects of film, television and theatre, and her credits include one line in Rat Bastards, an award-winning independent film directed by Emmy award winner Mike Stivala, a small acting bit in Florida Repertory Theatre’s production of WIT, and making eye contact with Kevin Spacey while working for MSNBC. A jack of all trades, Char mostly enjoys working behind the scenes on any project and writing in her spare time. Originally from upstate New York, Char made the journey to the Sunshine State many years ago as a Florida Repertory intern following graduation with her The SetMaster’s Degree from Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

This year, each of the four playwrights who participated in the single-day playwriting project were challenged to write a 15-20 minute play taking place in the vestibule of a church in which a Char Contemplates the Murder of Thaddeusmurder has recently occurred. The victim was a rather robust man by the name of Thaddeus, who was offed by a closed black umbrella thrust so forcefully through his throat that it pinned him to the opposing wall. Now his chalk outline casts a pall over the nuptials of Muffy and Gavin, a couple the audience is destined to never meet. Rather, it was left to the fertile imaginations of the four participating playwrights to craft characters and storylines explaining or deepening the mystery surrounding who these people are and who and why Thaddeus was slain.

Char Gets to Work 02Adding to each playwright’s torment, Lab Theater Artistic Director Annette Trossbach and Production Manager Stella Ruiz decided that each play should take place at a different point along the sequential timelines on the day of the wedding. The time slots were chosen at random, with Scrooge TV playwright Laura Lorusso drawing the morning of the wedding, retired West Palm Beach attorney-turned-comedic-playwright Les Char Gets to Work 01Abromovitz getting the afternoon of Muffy and Gavin’s big day, and Weston author Deni Sher being assigned the night of the couple’s wedding.

For her part, Loomis started her vignette as the first strains of Felix Mendelssohn’s Wedding March in C Major pierced the darkened theater, only to be interrupted by the flower girl bursting into the vestibule, frantically searching behind and beneath chairs and table tops for a place in which to hide. She is followed in short order by her soon-During the Wedding 03to-be-stepbrother, who promptly chastises her for selfishly spoiling their parents’ moment. But as Sandy and Juan Pablo banter back and forth, the audience discovers that both children have serious misgivings about the propriety of their folks’ union, concerns that are soon exacerbated by their drunken Aunt Ellie, who comes to find out why the children have disappeared from the church in the middle of the wedding.

During the Wedding 01The ensuing juxtaposition of flower girl Sandy and Aunt Ellie provided a poignant indictment of the ways in which present-day children are compelled to become the adult in the room in the face of the increasingly self-absorbed, petulant and irresponsible behavior of their narcissistic parents During the Wedding 05and the other adults to whom their care is often entrusted. Like Aunt Ellie, who reveals that she is not only actually their nanny but has been having a longstanding affair with the groom. After she darts out of the room to throw up, Auntie Ellie goes on the divulge that she’s pregnant – probably with Gavin’s baby, “although I did have a one night stand a couple of months ago with some guy named Thaddeus that I met at a bar.” It gets worse. Ellie also had a brief tryst with Muffy while Gavin was out of town one weekend, although neither Muffy nor Gavin known about the other’s indiscretions with Ellie – at least not yet.

During the Wedding 04Armed with these nauseating facts, little Sandy and Juan Pablo come to the conclusion that they have no choice but to put a stop to the wedding. “We don’t want our parents to end up like that poor bastard,” Juan Pablo exclaims pointing over his shoulder to Thaddeus’ outline on the wall behind them. There’s still time. “It’s a Catholic wedding,” Juan Pablo remarks, “and they’re like 14 Char Winshours long, aren’t they?” But only as he and Sandy rush into the church to “speak now” rather than forever holding their peace does Juan Pablo hear a smug, sardonic laugh that lets him know they’ve been played by Ellie, who believes she and not Muffy should be the one exchanging “I do’s” with Gavin.

Char Loomis Wins 01Although the play was replete with contemporary social commentary (“If it’s on Facebook, it has to be true,” proclaims Sandy at one point, as she implores Juan Pablo to take a good, hard look at the world around them, advising him to “just Google it; that’s what I always do.”), Loomis’ overarching aim is to simply entertain.

Char Loomis 03“My goal is always to create something that the audience finds engaging and enjoyable,” Loomis explains. “I experience pure joy when the audience laughs at a joke or responds appropriately to something I’ve written. It makes all that hard work in college worth it. It also gives a boost to my ego. I’m very critical of myself and it helps me branch out and try new things.” Like writing, production and perhaps even a little more acting.

Loomis has participated in all three 24-Hour Playwriting projects that the Laboratory Theater Coming Together 03has conducted. Last year, she won her second consecutive Audience Choice Award for a one act play called Coming Together that featured a young man who returned from taking a haunted history tour in New Orleans with the ghost of a young girl attached to him. [See below for full review.] The reception to that piece was so favorable, in fact, that Loomis is at work expanding the shortie into a one-hour play.

“Last year I knew I was going to do something a little weird,” said Loomis in a telephone interview Coming Together 01prior to the start of this year’s 24-Hour Challenge. “In the week leading up to the challenge, I had this Rod Serling motif going on in my head, and so that influenced my thinking as I looked at the set and chose my props.”

Loomis declined to say what she had Char Loomis and the Judges 04banging around in her mind leading up to this year’s Challenge, but one sequence that brought down the house featured Juan Pablo, the bride’s sexually-conflicted son, donning a pink silk bathrobe and brown woolen shawl while singing “I Feel Pretty” and lamenting that he just wanted to be part of a “nice, normal family.”

Loomis is quick to acknowledge just how arduous Char Chooses Wedding Bouquetthe 24-Hour Playwriting Project is. The playwrights assemble inside the reputedly-haunted Lab Theater at 8:00 p.m. on Friday night and have until only 7:00 a.m. on Saturday morning to produce a 15-20 minute long one-act play. But Char finds the immediacy of the feedback that the playwrights receive from each other, the judges and the audience to be well worth the lack of sleep and pressure of writing under such severe time constraints. “Besides, I thrive on pressure,” Loomis quips. “I was always very good at cramming for finals. But creating something that During the Wedding 02resonates with the actors and audience in such a short amount of time is pressure in a whole different sense.”

Her process is fairly straightforward. She spends the first 45 minutes or so just jotting down ideas that come to her stream-of-conscious style. Then she bangs out an outline and goes to work on the dialogue and stage directions. Like the other playwrights, Loomis found the concept this year so Char 05difficult that she barely got a couple of hours sleep. But that seemed inconsequential Saturday night after the results were announced from the stage.

“I’m still in shock,” Char admits. In fact, she was so involved in reveling in Les Abromovitz’ victory in receiving the Audience Choice Award, that she didn’t hear Stella Ruiz announce that she’d received the Judges’ Choice Award. “Annette [Trossbach] had to lean over and tell me again that Char 04I’d won. Then I had this Sally Field moment. I was so pleased and happy that they liked what I wrote.”

Gracious to a fault, Loomis went out of the way to praise director Lauren Redecker. “Lauren got me and how I wanted my characters portrayed,” Char effused. “She got the comedic element so well, it really contributed to each character’s development, which freed me to just kind of walk around and hang out.”

She was equally impressed by the actors who were Char 06assigned to her and Redecker. “I gave Sandy a lot of lines and when Lauren and I asked her if she wanted to take the script on stage during the performance, she was offended. ‘I know my lines,’ she insisted. And she did. She delivered them flawlessly,” Char chuckled. “And the boy who played Juan Pablo added physical gestures and things I simply wasn’t expecting from someone his age. He’s going to be a great actor going forward.” But then again, Loomis is a firm believer that kids are smarter than adults give them credit for, which 2013 Playwrights 3is why Loomis writes roles that make them look as insightful and intuitive as they really are.

There was plenty of praise to go around Saturday night as each playwright turned in a superlative effort. “The writing this year was at a whole new level,” beamed Annette Trossbach. “Each play epitomizes the laboratory in Laboratory Theater.

The Laboratory Theater of Florida is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which is dedicated to the promotion of the performing arts, through live Laboratory Theaterperformance, education, community outreach, experimentation and the development of ensemble work. The company features ensemble productions, produces classic works, takes artistic risks and features and challenges local performers of various skill levels. Stay up to date with its news and events on Facebook and Twitter @LabTheaterFL.  For more information, please call 239-218-0481. The theater is located at 1634 Woodford Ave. Fort Myers, 33901.

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Author Deni Sher one of four playwrights taking part in Lab Theater 24-Hour Playwriting Project (12-03-14)

Deni Sher 01On Friday, four playwrights will meet inside the Laboratory Theater to take on a unique challenge. At 8:00 p.m. they will be given a set, props, wardrobe, and some lines and sound effects they must use and given the rest of the night to write a 10-15 minute one-act play. In the morning, they will have breakfast with two local published playwrights, Louise Wigglesworth and Peter Swet, who will help guide their new plays. After rewrite time, directors will arrive and start working with playwrights, and at lunchtime, the actors who will star in each play arrive to start learning and rehearsing their lines. The curtain goes up at 8 p.m., when the plays will be performed before a live audience. It’s called the Lab Theater 24-Deni Sher 02Hour Playwriting Project, and Deni Boehm Sher will be one of four Florida playwrights who is taking place in the challenge.

Deni lives in Weston, Florida with her husband, Arthur. Possessing a love for writing, she returned to college at age fifty and received her B.A. in English at fifty-two. As the adult child of an alcoholic father and recovering, codependent and enabling mother of an addicted son, Deni possesses a consuming passion to shed light on familial dysfunction, codependency, denial, enabling, alcoholism and drug addiction. Her first-hand experiences serve as the basis for her poignant memoir, How One Parent Engaged Addiction (A Mother’s Healing Journey Through Her Son’s Addiction), which she wrote over a span of 12 years. Deni On Stagedreams of one day converting the book into a musical called Tough Love. In fact, she has already written a number of songs for the production. She believes her spiritually-inspired message of hope will translate well to a staged musical production. “But I really need the help of someone with experience writing musicals to finish the piece,” she stated in a telephone interview yesterday. “The stage is such a great medium for getting messages across, but musicals are really tough.”

Sher does have a background in Children’s Theatre. Wardrobe 03After majoring in it at Emerson, she went on to perform for a decade in children’s theatre, portraying such characters as Peter Pan, Cinderella, Brer Rabbit in Brer Rabbit’s Big Secret, Androcles in Androcles and the Lion, and Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web. . These experiences equip her to write in a unique, positive, and creatively poetic style.

Deni loves theatre, but the 24-Hour Playwriting Project is unique. “I took part in the 24-Hour Playwriting Project two years ago,” Deni notes. “I Mike 01love that it challenges the brain to create a piece of work without any preconceived notions about the end product.” Last time around, her characters were a woman her own age and a boy her son’s age. “But I have no idea today what I’m going to write Friday night.” That doesn’t scare Deni, who describes herself as a risk taker who is always up for a challenge, including the physical demands that an overnight playwriting project entails.

“Last time, I finished around 3 a.m.,” Deni recalls. “If I get three or four hours of sleep, I’ll be fine.” A Taylor 01college athlete who competed in basketball and field hockey, Deni is not really planning to do anything special to prepare for going without much sleep. “Adrenaline takes you through the rest of the day,” she laughs.

Deni is especially looking forward to having a director this year. “Having another set of eyes and ears can only add to the stageworthiness of the play,” says the playwright, who loves the idea of collaboration. While Sher has no aspirations to be Awaiting the Results 3on stage as an actor, she is an accomplished public speaker. She is proactive in the prevention of addiction while working to take both shame and blame out of being in recovery. Deni wants teens and young people to know alcohol, drugs, and other vices are not the answer to emotional pain, and to understand how easily addiction can happen––even to them. Toward that end, she gratefully accepts speaking engagements whenever and as often as she can.

The 24-Hour Playwriting Project sold out last year, so don’t wait to get your tickets. See above for ticket information, location and directions

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Lab Theater issues call for playwrights up for a 24-hour challenge (10-27-14)

Wardrobe 03The Laboratory Theater of Florida is seeking talented local playwrights for its upcoming third annual 24-Hour Playwriting Project, which takes place from December 5th to the 6th.

Here’s how it works. Playwrights meet inside the Lab Theater on Woodford and Second at 8 p.m. on the night of December 5. At that time, they will be given lines they must include in their play as well as props and costumes. They will then have the rest of the night and following morning to write a one-act play. In the morning, actors arrive to Mike 01memorize their lines and rehearse the play. That evening, all plays are staged for the public and a panel of local celebrity judges. The audience and judges will select a winner, and prizes will be awarded.

The theater will provide all meals, along with actors, costumes, and props. Playwrights will also receive guidance and critiques from professional, published playwrights.

Playwrights wishing to enter must submit writing samples. Samples must be one scene between 4 and Carmen 028 pages. The deadline for applying is November 16, 2014. Please email submissions to 24hpp@laboratorytheaterflorida.com. Submissions without a writing sample will not be considered. Playwrights will be notified of acceptance via email. Space is limited.  For further information, please visit www.laboratorytheaterflorida.com or call 239-218-0481. The Laboratory Theater of Florida is located at 1634 Woodford Avenue (corner of Second Street and Woodford) in the Fort Myers River District.

 

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THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES ARE ABOUT LAST YEAR’S (2013’s) 24-HOUR PLAYWRITING CHALLENGE.

 

Esteemed panel judges Lab Theater’s ‘Second Annual 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge’ (12-10-13)

Judges Deliberating 2The Laboratory Theater of Florida hosted its second annual 24-hour playwriting challenge over the past weekend. This year’s challenge not only attracted five area playwrights with exceptional writing and directing talent, but an esteemed panel who agreed to judge this year’s productions.

The judges included Connie Bottinelli, Nykkie Rizley, Di Saggau, Dr. Sidney Simon, Nancy Stetson and Marsha Wagner.

Judges 01Connie Bottinelli is an international documentary filmmaker and human rights advocate. Since 1986, she has written, directed and produced for a host of national TV and global cable programs including TLCDiscovery Communications (1996-2000), Lifetime TV, America’s Most WantedMedical Detectives (1998-1999) and Court TV (1999-2005). She is the CEO and Executive Producer of Grinning Dog Pictures and has received five Emmys over the course of her career.

Judges Deliberating 1Nykkie Rizley is Secretary of the Board of Directors at The Laboratory Theater of Florida. After attending the University of Michigan, where she received a degree in Theater Prop Design, Nicole trained in both Chicago and New York. She now teaches Acting I, Acting II, and Acting for Seniors for Lab Theater and creates wounds and bruises for area film and stage productions. She directed House of Yes in August and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest last season.

Awaiting the Results 2Di Saggau writes for The Island Sun and The River Weekly. In a previous life, Di worked in radio in Omaha, Nebraska, and was director of communications for Nebraska public schools.

Dr. Sidney Simon is Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is an internationally and nationally recognized authority in the areas of values clarification and values realization, self-esteem and negative criticism. Dr. Laura Wins 3Simon has published numerous books including the best seller Values Clarification and Getting Unstuck. His articles have appeared in Reader’s Digest, Ladies Home Journal and Glamour, among many others. He also reviews theater for The Sanibel-Captiva Islander and The Island Reporter.

Nancy Stetson is the Arts and Entertainment writer and reviewer for Florida Weekly. Arts writer Nancy Stetson has received numerous commendations and awards for her introspective look at area theater productions.

Laura Wins 2Marsha Wagner is a reviewer for the Captiva-Sanibel Islander, an actress and community advocate. Her background includes ballet dancing in New York City and assistant directing at Radio City Music Hall. She will be bringing her production of Copenhagen to Lab Theater in March as a staged reading.

Although individual scores varied widely, the judges’ consensus winner was playwright Laura Lorusso for The Hall: Last Sunday, a one-act play that featured a cement Bertie Bloomer birthday cake, neurotic delivery man with melting feet, and an apartment resident who just wanted to watch some football on the last Sunday before his life changes forever as a result of the The Last Sunday 02impending birth of his first child. The 12 minute 45 second vignette sparkled with snappy dialogue, rib-splitting one liners and even a little song and dance that brought down the house.

The Laboratory Theater of Florida is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which is dedicated to the promotion of the performing arts, through live performance, education, community outreach, Crowd Shotexperimentation and the development of ensemble work. The company features ensemble productions, produces classic works, takes artistic risks and features and challenges local performers of various skill levels. Stay up to date with its news and events on Facebook and Twitter @LabTheaterFL.  For more information, please call 239-218-0481. The theater is located at 1634 Woodford Ave. Fort Myers, 33901

 

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Playwright’s experience on haunted history tour inspires People’s Choice play (12-09-13)

Coming Together 01On Saturday night, Char Loomis won her second consecutive Audience Choice Award in the Lab Theater’s 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge. Her one act play, Coming Together, featured a young man who returned from taking a haunted history tour in New Orleans with the ghost of a young girl attached to him.

Haunted History courtesy Sherri Brusco 1How could this happen? Well, it seems that young Damien foolishly ignored the warnings of his guide and left the tour before the portal through which the ghosts pass could be closed back up again. “People were seeing orbs. It was just too weird, so I left the tour. This ghost attached to me and now I’m stuck with it,” Damien laments to his love interest, who fears that her erstwhile boyfriend has slipped a cog. She become convinced of it moments later when Damien tells her that he’s returned to town to kill the down-on-her-luck old woman who lives in the abandoned restaurant where the play takes place. “I have to do it,” Damien wails half-crazed. “It’s the only way I can be free of the ghost.”

Coming Together 02Well, of course, the bereft and bedraggled woman was the young child’s mother. “We were taking a ride on a paddleboat,” she tells Damien and his girl. “I just turned my head for a moment. When I turned around, she was gone. The found her body floating in the river two days later.” Murdering her is the only way that Damien can reunite mother and child.

“I got the idea for Coming Together from a haunted history tour I took in New Orleans,” Char 04Loomis said on Saturday night. Although many cities (including London, Manhattan, Savannah, Gettysburg and St. Augustine) offer haunted history tours, post-Katrina New Orleans is reputed by the History, Discovery and Travel channels to be the most haunted city in America. With its colorful history and fair share of outlandish personalities, it is small wonder so many New Orleans homes and taverns have been investigated by paranormal investigators, but Loomis did not encounter any ghosts or orbs on the tour she took. Still, the stories made an impression and surfaced on Saturday night during the Lab Theater’s Second Annual 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge.

Char 07Loomis has a Masters in Communication Arts from Maryland University, where she also concentrated on script writing. Char has been writing as a hobby for several years, but with two Audience Choice Awards in a row, the theater community may be seeing a lot more of her in the years ahead.

“I’ve heard about it and am dying to take it,” answered Char when asked if she’d been on True Tours‘ haunted history tour of downtown Fort Myers. Let’s hope that’s just a figure of speech.

Laboratory TheaterThe Laboratory Theater of Florida is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which is dedicated to the promotion of the performing arts, through live performance, education, community outreach, experimentation and the development of ensemble work. The company features ensemble productions, produces classic works, takes artistic risks and features and challenges local performers of various skill levels. Stay up to date with its news and events on Facebook and Twitter @LabTheaterFL.  For more information, please call 239-218-0481. The theater is located at 1634 Woodford Ave. Fort Myers, 33901.

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Six local playwrights accept Lab Theater 24-hour writing challenge (11-27-13)

Laura Answers Questions 1The Laboratory Theater of Florida will be showcasing six original plays this December 7 at 8 p.m. The plays will be the culmination of a 24-hour writing challenge issued to six regional playwrights.

The playwrights will be given a theme, some lines each of them must use in her script, and about 18 hours in which to write a 10-15 minute long one-act play. Directors and actors will be assigned to the playwrights. Community support comes from published playwrights who will offer guidance once the first draft is complete.

Accepting the challenge are:

  • Laura Lorusso (top right), who has been an active member of the Char 06local theater community for the past decade. During that time, she’s starred in several shows with The Naples Players, toured with a local comedy show (Joey and Maria’s Comedy Italian Wedding), and just this fall wrote and co-directed her first play, Afterlife of the Rich and Famous, with Let’s Put On A Show Productions in Naples.
  • Char Loomis (right), who graduated from Marywood University with a Master’s degree in Communication Arts. One of her concentrations Mike 01in her studies was script writing. Char has been writing for several years mainly as a hobby, but her first public acknowledgement came last year at The Laboratory Theater’s first annual 24-hour playwriting showcase.
  • Michael Tomes (right), who has written short stories and plays for most of his adult life. His plays have been critically acclaimed by the Key West Waterfront Playhouse and at the Firehouse Playwriting Contest in LaBelle.
  • Carmen Crussard (lower right), who has been Carmen 01acting, directing, writing, and teaching for many years. Carmen co-wrote and directed Naked with her theater company, City Scenes. She was also honored with the critic’s choice award at last year’s 24-hour Playwriting Project at The Laboratory Theater of Florida.

Other playwrights include Taylor Adair Nave and John Fry.

Taylor 02“The jeopardy involved for writers and for actors is delightful!” says Artistic Director Annette Trossbach. “The audience can feel the energy sizzle – and of course there are running gags that are woven into each play.”

Playwrights will be judged by a panel of professionals as well as by the audience. The theater will award Critics’ Choice and Audience Choice Awards.

The 24-hour Playwriting Project will be presented at 8 p.m. on Saturday, December 7. Tickets are $12 and are available for purchase online at Wardrobe 02www.laboratorytheaterflorida.com or at the door. Seating is limited and advance ticket purchases are suggested. Doors will open at 7:30 p.m.

The Laboratory Theater of Florida is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which is dedicated to the promotion of the performing arts, through live performance, education, community outreach, experimentation and the development of ensemble work. The company features ensemble productions, produces classic works, takes artistic risks and features and challenges local performers of various skill levels. Stay up to date with its news and events on Facebook and Twitter @LabTheaterFL.  For more information, please call 239-218-0481. The theater is located at 1634 Woodford Ave. Fort Myers, 33901

  1. Thanks again for your detailed story on our 24-Hour Playwriting Project! It was a special challenge that each playwright met with grace!

  2. Congratulations to Annette and Stella for making the 24 Hour Playwright Competition’s 3rd year a reality – and the highest acknowledgement to the playwrights, the actors and directors for an amazing act of stretching and being fearless! Kudos to all.

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