It’s been a year since our last Play On Words performance at the San Jose Museum of Art. Since then, the world has been broken open by the COVID-19 pandemic, civil uprisings and a seemingly never-ending presidential election. Though we had to cancel our spring 2020 performance, we are excited to announce that we’ll be partnering with the San Jose Museum of Art once more on June 17 for our first-ever virtual show.
Starting in March, we’ll be seeking original fiction, nonfiction, works of theatre and translation that center on Immigrant Heritage Month. What is generational immigration? How and why do people find themselves in new places? How does origin relate to originality? Check out our new submissions form to share your work with us.
Until then, we’re focused on raising money to pay for future artist honorariums. Thanks to our membership in San Francisco’s Intersection for the Arts, a nonprofit that provides people working in arts and culture with fiscal sponsorship and resources to grow, we can now accept tax-deductible donations. Our goal is to raise $1,000 by June 1. If giving financially is not an option for you now, we encourage you to spread the word so we can continue to incentivize artists to share and perform their stories.
Exciting news: Reading through submissions for our LitCrawl show this fall, we received so many amazing pieces through the transom that we have more than enough to feature in San Francisco as well as for our next show. Our challenge? Finding a space to showcase all of this great work. Today we’re going to go behind the scenes at Play On Words to illustrate to potential community partners why you should partner with us to make these shows a reality:
We do all our own marketing and we promote the hell out of everyone involved, from writers and actors to photographers, videographers, and venues themselves. Play On Words shows typically attract 70 patrons at a minimum–more than 140 at our last sold-out show. Our homegrown marketing is the result of partnering with people and organizations we truly believe in, and promoting their work alongside our own. We will never stop singing the praises of our beloved Blackbird Tavern (RIP), Cafe Stritch, the San Jose Downtown Association, Anne & Mark’s Art Party, San Jose’s Flash Fiction Forum, Redwood City’s Dragon Theatre, City Lights Theatre and the San Jose Museum of Art. We’re always looking for opportunities to promote our downtown and Bay Area partners.
We don’t need much. Our performances are stripped down–no major production beyond having a few actors on stage. The only requirements to host a show are ample seating, a stage or elevated area to perform, and amplification. We provide a photographer and videographer and are happy to share assets following a show. Most shows are about 90-120 minutes in length with a brief intermission.
There’s a message behind our work. We pour our heart and soul into every show because we believe in the work we do—we see art as a civic responsibility and an opportunity to learn from our community. In 2017 we partnered with the Flash Fiction Forum and a few community members to create Activate, a chapbook created in response to the 2016 election. We are currently planning a show that could elevate the voices of people stuck in immigration detention. We see art as an avenue to change, and we want to partner with organizations who share these values. Our mission to elevate, promote and perform the work of unknown and established voices is behind everything we do.
And finally: we are mobile, pop-up and adaptable. Play On Words exists thanks to the network of tremendous writers, artists, community partners and patrons who have made each show possible. Because we have no brick and mortar theatre, we can bring a fully-imagined, 100 percent-planned show to any venue that can support performing artists.
Interested in partnering with us on our next show? Email Julia and Melinda (because it’s just the two of us!) at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can get the conversation started. Let us fill your house.
Over the last six years, we’ve noticed a trend in two different types of writers: Those eager and excited to send their best work into the world, and those who often plan to submit but claim their work is never “perfect” enough for our performers to interpret. To them we say, there’s a difference between your work being perfect and your work being ready. It can feel like a fine line, because we certainly aren’t interested in reading first (or even second) drafts—we want work that is polished, thoughtful, provocative, surprising, and full of pizazz. But we also want our community to create and produce, get feedback on works in progress and share stories that they think deserve to be told. As we gear up to review submissions for our LitCrawl show this month, we’re offering five reasons you (or the writers in your life) should submit to us:
A professional performer will interpret your work, which means you get to sit back and enjoy the show. No more stage jitters for you!
You will hear your work in a new way. Without your words printed in front of you, you’ll notice innate patterns in your writing that are hard to notice on the page. Believe it or not, you will discover new ideas listening your words being read back to you.
Your work will be presented in conversation with the stories, poems, plays and essays of other writers. When we accept work, we reflect not only on the strength of individual pieces, but how they should be presented as a whole. We spend a lot of time thinking through how the order of pieces can contribute to a greater narrative, and when you get a chance to hear your work presented alongside others, you’ll find that you are in great company.
You will meet new friends and potential collaborators. A number of our contributors have teamed up on joint projects or connected for future collaborations. What better way to meet fellow artists?
You will be joining a very special tribe. Since 2013, we have performed the work of 60 artists—some more than once. Part of our mission at Play On Words is to promote the work of people we believe in, artists who shape our perspectives, and voices who need some time in the spotlight. We always like learning news of previous contributors and make every effort to promote news of books, publications, shows, collaborations, etc., whenever possible.
We produce shows because we believe that your work is important. We believe that for every great poem, surprising story, or funny one-act we’ve produced, there are just as many amazing pieces yet to be discovered. We hope that you will consider trusting us with your work and that you’ll help us spread our call for submissions.
Email your submission of original fiction, nonfiction, theatre or poetry (>1500 words), along with a 20-word bio and a headshot, by June 18 to be considered for our LitCrawl show.
Five years ago, we had the pleasure of performing in San Francisco’s Clarion Alley as part of LitCrawl, an evening of events hosted by LitQuake, a weeklong literary festival. Today we’re thrilled to share that we will once again participate in the SF LitCrawl, this time at the amazing Stage Werx theatre at 5 p.m. on Saturday, October 19.
We Need Your Words!
We’re looking for fresh, smart, funny, provocative, absurd, thoughtful, goofy, surprising work to perform at this year’s show. We will be curating about 45 minutes of content, which means we’re especially interested in flash pieces, poetry, ten-minute plays—anything that can be performed aloud with gusto. We are looking for:
Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, theatre, work in translation accepted under 1500 words.
This week marks five years since our first Play On Words show at San Jose’s Blackbird Tavern. With every season, we’ve tried something new–performed at festivals, partnered with Flash Fiction Forum on a chapbook, staged live readings of television shows. This fall, we’re delighted to partner with the San Jose Museum of Art on its upcoming “New Terrains: Migration and Mobility” cross-disciplinary exhibit. We’ve got our first 2019 date on the calendar–Sunday, February 24, from 3-5 pm–which means that we need you, faithful writers and artists, to share your work with us!
What Does New Terrains Mean to You?
For our February show, we are seeking work that responds to the theme of New Terrains: Migration and Mobility. What does that mean to you? Does new terrain denote geography, movement, space? Could it be a crossing of emotional territory? Or a literal reflection on what it means to move your body, your family, your city?
We’ve been invited to present at the museum’s November 15 partner kickoff, which will feature many of the organizations contributing to the New Terrains exhibit. Mosaic Silicon Valley will offer a number of special performances during the evening. The international creative collective known as RadioEE will roll up to the party with Autopiloto, a marathon radio transmission that will be broadcast while on-the-move in a semi-autonomous vehicle traversing the Bay Area, examining how emerging autopilot/AI technologies are transforming the world. RadioEE will be live streaming their interactions with partner organizations and visitors while at SJMA, as part of their project commissioned by the Lucas Artist Residency Program at Montalvo Art Center.
Play On Words will be reading a few show selections at the event. We’ll be there to promote our call for submissions and enjoy an evening of performance, artistry and excitement. We hope to see you there!
This year marks our fifth anniversary of producing original content in the Bay Area. Every year, we’ve been lucky enough to find great collaborators–our 50+ contributing writers, many of whom we’ve gotten to perform more than once; our 20+ amazing actors, working professionals who perform regularly in San Jose and beyond; and the community partners who have exposed us to new opportunities, venues, and artists. For our 2018-2019 season, we’re thrilled to announce that Play On Words is partnering with the San Jose Museum of Art as part of its “New Terrains: Mobility and Migration” exhibit.
Through “New Terrains”, South Bay arts organizations band together to present a series of cross-disciplinary exhibitions, programs and experiences that explore how bodies move through spaces–social, political, literal and figurative. Projects address timely topics such as transportation and urban planning, navigation and orientation, public protest, immigration and migration, and mobility in its many forms. With expanding partnerships, “New Terrains” will embrace multidisciplinary thinkers and cultural producers through a growing range of events. Collaboratively presented through spring of 2019 by organizations of all sizes and types–from museums and artist residencies to community centers and civic think tanks–events and programs will take place across the greater Silicon Valley.
We are thrilled to throw our artistic hat in the ring, and can’t wait to learn from the multitudes of creative partners involved in this exhibit. Play On Words plans to host at least one (and hopefully more) performance as part of this show, and we will be sharing a call for submissions on the theme New Terrains: Mobility and Migration in the coming months.
Until then, we encourage you to check out the amazing programming at the San Jose Museum of Art–and if you have a short work of fiction, nonfiction, poetry or theater that responds to this theme at the ready, feel free to send it along for consideration at email@example.com.
Today we share our final video from our January 17 show at Cafe Stritch: the inimitable Arcadia Conrad reading two poems by award-winning writer, activist and educator April Halprin Wayland. It was important for us to close our Activists Unite show on hopeful note–to show that though some struggles for justice take generations to gain traction, the legacy of the fight endures.
Many thanks to the many artists, writers and activists who made our January 17 show possible. We are grateful to you for loaning us your words and your talent–and we hope you submit this week to our April 11 show!
Anyone interested in purchasing Activate, our new chapbook produced in partnership with Lita Kurth, Tania Martin, Maria Judnick and Peter Caravalho, may place an order here.
And finally, to all our fellow activists: We’re here to carry your sign.
When we were planning the lineup for our January 17 show, we staged our pieces in an intentional chronological order. The idea? To show how different generations of activists have grappled with some of the same big questions, year after year, campaign after campaign, president after president. Melinda Marks was proud to perform Cindy Stewart-Rinier’s “Under Trump, No Good Deed,” a poem particularly suited to today’s world:
Hard as it can be to grapple with the challenges of today’s world, we’re glad to promote artists whose work we feel offers a little respite, a little tiny dagger of truth, a gasp of hope in a changing environment. Cindy’s poem is included in our new chapbook, Activate, which you can order here.
We’re still looking for short stories, poems, and plays under 1500 words for our April 11 show. Got something you’re proud of? Send it along as an attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sometimes nothing is funnier than repeating the words “Dick Cheney.” The amazing Michael Weiland proved that by reading Ken Weisner’s comic poem, “Ghazal,” at our Activists Unite show at Cafe Stritch. Couldn’t make it? Check out Michael’s performance below:
Ken recited some poems and read his own work last week at DeAnza’s Euphrat Museum during our chapbook launch party. Want to get your hands on our beautiful new book, designed by Peter Caravalho of Black Kites Press and produced in partnership with the Flash Fiction Forum? Fill out our order form to purchase your own copy!
We’re currently reading submissions for our April 11 show at Cafe Stritch–and we need more work! Submit your poems, short stories, and works of theater to us at email@example.com. Please note we cap submissions at 1500 words.