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Northern Kentucky, Greater Cincinnati playwrights offer insight into why they write plays


By William H. McCann, Jr.
Special to KyForward

For most theatre professionals, their world is on hiatus. For the indefinite future theatres are shuttered on Broadway in New York City as well as in large cities and small towns all across America where high school musicals and community theatre productions are the weekend norm. Indeed, actors, directors, designers and crew are largely shut out; only playwrights can work regularly in such a theatre environment.

The Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati region has playwrights galore writing on every topic imaginable. Their works are winning awards and productions across the region and the nation. So I asked them each the same question: why did you become a playwright?

Roger Collins (Photo provided)

For Roger Collins, Emeritus Professor of Education, University of Cincinnati the challenge was to engage with more people when he wrote, “In all honesty (and why wouldn’t I be?!), I wanted a change from the aloneness of publishing short stories where my only “contact” with another artist (typically an editor) was through email! I thought: if only I could tell a story using just dialogue, I might be able to join that crazy creative community of theater artists! Well…several workshops later and the rest is history (as they say!).”

Morgan Patton Coleman, of Covington, earned a BFA in Play Writing from NKU then attended Ohio University to get an MFA in play writing. She was the first person to win the Kentucky Theatre Association’s Roots of the Bluegrass 10-minute Play Contest with her play Strangers in the Park.

Ms. Coleman’s reason for turning to playwriting was “I started undergrad at NKU as an English and Theater double major. My heart was a bit more in the theater department so I looked into their BFA programs out of curiosity, and discovered all but Playwriting required a dance class (NOT my thing). It dawned on me that writing plays would be a fusion of my two interests so I decided to try writing a short play and applied to the program. Happily, I was one of only two accepted into the program that year. It ended up being a great fit for my writing style because I’d always liked creative writing but never loved writing scenic-type descriptions, and of course playwriting is essentially pure dialogue. So basically I stumbled on it because I’m a very bad dancer.”

Teri Foltz (Image provided)

Teri Foltz, since retiring from teaching English at Highlands High School, has experienced success as a playwrights first with her full length play The Faculty Lounge which has been produced twice in Kentucky and at Oil Lamp Theatre in Glenview, IL. Her second full-length play Incorrigible received the Kentucky Theatre Association’s Roots of the Bluegrass Playwriting Award in 2017. She lives in Fort Thomas, Ky.

Speaking of her playwriting interests, Ms. Foltz said, “I’ve always been an eavesdropper and I deem others’ lives more exciting than mine. Also, I can never think of the clever thing to say at the time, so I give lines to my characters and enjoy them vicariously. I used to be a teacher and a standup comic and when I retired from teaching and got too nervous to continue stand up, I decided I would write the funny lives and let others say them.”

Angela Forbes who writes under the name A.K. Forbe has had plays produced at the Village Players of Ft. Thomas where she leads a monthly playwriting group. Explaining how she came to playwriting she said, I’m a playwright because it’s an art form that is both solitary and collaborative, social and introspective. It reflects and nudges. And it feeds my soul.”

Laila B. Hameen, formerly with The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati’s touring company, is now touring her own one-woman show, Laid Off explained, “There was a role that I wanted (to play); I felt I had to create it.”

Brian Robertson who has more than 30 years’ experience in film, television and opera is now director of NKU’s BFA in playwriting program said, “For me, getting into playwriting is a natural extension of my curiosity and interest in how stories are told in the performing arts.  Different mediums use different tools, yet, there are some universal truths that span across mediums and historical conditions.  For me, playwriting is the engine that drives theatre, and elements of good storytelling can be found in dance, opera, etc.  I’ve been intrigued by the continue study of playwriting and learning to recognize the components in other mediums and how they are employed.

Ken Jones, has had 27 plays produced a including an Off-Broadway production and 10 published scripts said, “When I was undergrad student at University of Florida in the BFA Acting/ Directing program… there was a graduate student, Phoef Sutton, and I was in awe of him. He would write scenes and short plays for his fellow students. I thought it was amazing how he created the world of the characters from top to bottom. I decided, then and there, that I wanted to do that, so I went home (San Juan, Puerto Rico) for the summer and knocked out a play on my Smith-Corona typewriter. It was terrible. So I wrote another. It was less terrible. So then I wrote another… and I was lucky enough to have that play produced Off Broadway in New York City. Suddenly, I was on my path to being a playwright. (By the way, that graduate student, Phoef Sutton, became the Executive Producer of the sitcom, CHEERS!)

The best answer to the question, why did you become a playwright may have came from Cincinnati playwright and actress Tammy Minges Brady, who simply said, “For the love of theater…a desire to entertain through storytelling.” And indeed that is what playwrights and screenwriters do better than almost anyone: tell stories.

Yet, it was Phil Paradis, a retired professor of English who resides in Ft. Thomas, author of A Soldier’s Christmas, Evening with Stephen Crane, and Footprints of the Polar Bear & Other Eco-Centric Plays, who gave the most poetic and evocative answer to the question, “Even if I knew all the reasons and attempted expression, they’d be as morning mists rising and vanishing.”

William H. McCann, Jr. is a member of the Dramatists Guild, founder and former producer of the Kentucky New Play Series. His newest full-length play, Boats Against the Current, premiered on February 28 at Flashback Theater, Somerset, KY for eight performances. He lives in Winchester.


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