Who knew the drama, history, romance and conflict one could find in a teacher’s union meeting? Ryan Alpers sure did. The longtime San Jose teacher and frequent Play On Words performer and contributor wrote his first ten-minute play after months of deliberation with his teacher colleagues. The resulting “Union Meeting” captures a fictional teacher’s union as they try—and, spoiler alert, fail—to understand technology, recognize retirees, and raise money for “the children.” We’re thrilled to be performing this hilarious sketch at 5 pm this Saturday, October 19, at San Francisco’s Stage Werx Theatre.
Ryan lives in San Jose with his wife and daughter. He says that his former colleague and fellow teacher Andrew Christian helped him develop the concept. He is—how shall we say this?—also very succinct. Here are his answers to our standard #POWSJ three questions:
What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?
My wife told me to do it.
Which writers or performers inspire you?
As a teacher, I am inspired by the stories my students tell in their own writing.
Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.
TheCrucible by Arthur Miller is a play that inspired this piece, as well as the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
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 email@example.com so we can get the conversation started. Let us fill your house.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s the story, friends? Tonight we are delighted to present Nostalgia-rama at Dragon Theatre in Redwood City. Five years in, we have an amazing cast of Play On Words regulars who are hungry to share the stage. We’re dedicating tonight’s show to our childhoods–to good writing, bad hair, terrible puns and overall awesomeness:
We’re grateful to our amazing readers and to the Dragon for making tonight possible: Melinda Marks, Ronald Feichtmeir, Jeremy Ryan, Adam Weinstein, Erin Southard, Tonya Duncan, Nita Duarte Lambert and April Culver. Artist Clif Gold will also be live drawing the event tonight, and photographer Branden Frederick will be there to take photos.
Join us at 7:30 pm tonight in Redwood City for a wonderful evening. RSVP on Facebook for more details.
Big news, Playonwordsians! We’re returning to Redwood City’s Dragon Theatre on Monday, August 27, for Nostalgia-rama, an evening of comedy and drama performed by our stellar POW cast. If you’re as tired of the news as we are, and hungry for something fun, join us for staged readings of four of our favorite television shows: The Twilight Zone, Cheers, Tales From the Crypt and Wishbone.
Will it be funny? Yes. Will it be goofy? Most definitely. But most of all, will it be entertaining? You can count on it.
We’ll be rolling out more information about the show as the day draws nearer. In the meantime, RSVP on our Facebook page to stay in the loop. Hope to see you there!
On October 9th, 2017, Play on Words was fortunate enough to be given the space to perform on a stage, with lights, sounds, microphones, everything by the Dragon Theatre located in the Redwood City’s downtown theater district neighborhood. Leaving San Jose is hard to do, but the good folks at the Dragon made it all possible with Monday Night Play Space, when they make the theatre available to local artists like us to do cool stuff.
The night was titled “Leading Women,” and you can watch it all on our YouTube page!
Let’s talk about all three segments:
1) “Exposure,” by Julia Halprin Jackson. Read by April Culver.
It begins with breasts, and ends with a camera. What happens in between is a picture of a place, Spain, at a time, the George W. Bush era, that shows us the experience familiar to Americans in college abroad at a crossroads of culture, sex, work, and life.
This translation rules! For real, it puts this Dante fellow in the time and place of the artists and poets and people that hang around artists and poets talking about those things that artists and poets always invariably talk about: death, sex, and love. Sprinkle in some obsessive impulses (does Dante really move away to some other place NOT because of the woman that also moved to that place?) and you got yourself some good old fashioned Dante angst. Check it out.
3) “Unigirl,” by Leah Griesmann. Read by Ivette Deltoro.
Ivette reads this gem by Leah Griesmann, one of the first writers featured by Play on Words, where we walk in the shoes of an unicycle riding escort who is getting their doctorate and needs to make some money in between teaching gigs over a summer. Want more, click the link and tell us what you think!
For the first time ever, Play On Words is performing in a theatre! We are kicking off our 2017-2018 season with a special reading at the Dragon Theatre in Redwood City on Monday, October 9. This show features work by Bay Area women writers who challenge–and occasionally mock–gender norms. Unlike our ensemble shows, Monday’s performance will showcase two short stories and one translated monologue. Look forward to work by:
Leah Griesmann has received grants and residencies for her fiction from the MacDowell Colony, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Key West Writers’ Workshops, Seoul Art Space Yeonhui, the Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai, the DAAD (Berlin), and the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies. Her stories have appeared in Burrow Press Review, J Journal: New Writing on Justice, The Weekly Rumpus, Union Station, The Boiler, The Cortland Review, Boston University’s 236 Magazine, and PEN Center USA’s The Rattling Wall, and have been performed at Litquake San Francisco, The Center for Literary Arts, Sacramento Stories on Stage, the New Short Fiction Series in North Hollywood, and the Shanghai American Center.
Melinda Marks, Play On Words co-founder and casting director, has performed as an actor for more than 25 years. Melinda has an MFA in Shakespeare and Performance with a concentration in directing at Mary Baldwin University and an MA in Theatre Studies from San Jose State University.
Julia Halprin Jackson, Play On Words co-founder and publicity director, is a writer whose work has appeared in Oracle Fine Arts Review, West Branch Wired, California Northern, Fourteen Hills, as well as selected anthologies. She has an MA in creative writing from UC Davis and currently contributes to Washington Square, San Jose State University’s alumni magazine.
We are delighted and grateful to showcase performances by Melinda, as well as:
Ivette Deltoro is the casting assistant and patron experience manager at City Lights Theater in San Jose and artistic manager of the Mini Lights Emerging Artist Program at City Lights. She is also a local actress whose credits include City Lights Theater Company’s I and You and Silicon Valley Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
April Culver earned her BFA in Acting at Drake University. Some recent roles include Mrs. Givings (In the Next Room, Pear Theatre), Cordelia / The Fool (B8 Theatre), Catherine (A View From the Bridge, Pear Theatre), Gillian (Permanent Collection, Piedmont Players ), Constance (Three Musketeers, Silicon Valley Shakespeare), Calpurnia (Julius Caesar, Silicon Valley Shakespeare), Sonya (Uncle Vanya, Pear Theatre), and Olivia (Shakespeare in Hollywood, Silicon Valley Shakespeare).
RSVP for our show here. There is a $5 suggested donation for Monday’s show. Hope to see you there!