Under “Construction” with Jon Ford

The freedom of being in a new place can take a character in many directions. We were compelled by Jon Ford‘s”Construction,” a short story that depicts the liberating and at-times heartbreaking explorations of a young gay man visiting New York City for the first time. We’re looking forward to performing this piece on Wednesday at Play On Words: New Horizons.

 

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Jon Ford

Jon is a writer from New York City, an area which informs much of his work. Formerly an actor in theaters across the country, he studied English and Creative Writing at Hunter College and received a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of California – Davis.  Jon received a number of scholarships and fellowships during his academic period and is currently working on two writing projects, The Tenth Ward, and a shorter detective novel, The Tinker’s Damn, which is set in Manhattan’s Hells Kitchen neighborhood.

His publications, honors and awards include:

  • “The Return” – The Olive Tree Review, Fall 2011, No. 46, Hunter College, New York, NY
  • “Moving Day” – The Olive Tree Review, Fall 2007, No. 40, Hunter College, New York, NY
  • Residencies at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Ragsdale, and The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow.

Jon answered a few questions for us from his NYC home in advance of this week’s event.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?  

While I’ve often read my work aloud I was intrigued with the prospect of having someone else interpret my work and see the results a different point of view would bring to the piece.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

This sounds a bit corny, but my mother read aloud to me when I was growing up and she inspired my interest in reading, writing, and the arts in general.  Later, she began writing children’s stories and had a number of children’s books, poems, and memoir pieces published. She seemed to write simply because she loved doing it and I try to keep that mindset in my own work.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

It’s hard to pick only one. I live in New York City in the theater district so I am lucky enough to be constantly exposed to new (and old) plays which keep me hungry to write.  Also, my reading interests are spread all across periods and genres. However, I recently saw a new production of Angels in America and the play’s wide scope of social ideas combined with the tight, intense understanding of its characters really fired me up.

Want to hear his work performed aloud? Join us Wednesday at Cafe Stritch

Griffin’s Question: To Journal or Not to Journal?

Just what does the writing process look like–and how our creative habits carry over into our personal lives? We were taken by John “Griffin” Lamachy’s hilarious piece, “Journalissimo,” which we will be performing on Wednesday at Play On Words: New Horizons.

29790535_1241367555997066_1930253660190529930_nGriffin describes himself as a “former screenwriter, filmmaker, video producer, musician, slam poet, stand-up comedian, Mahjongg champion…. Okay, maybe not former … just on hiatus.” He is currently working on a full-length stage place that he plans to produce locally–so stay tuned. He shared a few thoughts about himself for us today.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

My wife, Arcadia Conrad, an excellent writer and performer, has been involved.  And I like what POW has to offer the downtown scene, as well as the local writing and performing community.  It’s always fun to see how one artist interprets another’s work, and unless one writes for theatre or film, one never gets to hear one’s work heard aloud.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

Inspiration comes from everywhere for me.  I just look for truth without a lot of embellishment.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

This question haunts me, because you never hear the bullet that kills you.      

Want to see us perform Griffin’s work? Join us Wednesday at Cafe Stritch.         

Maria Judnick’s Fowl Play

It’s not every day that you read a story written from the perspective of a chicken–and a dark, slightly absurd one at that. We were blown away by Maria Judnick’s “Sister Fowl,” a macabre, fascinating and funny piece that we plan to perform next Wednesday at Play On Words: New Horizons.

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Maria Judnick

Maria is a Bay Area freelance writer and educator whose work can be found at KQED Pop!, The Santa Clara Weekly, and various literary journals. She enjoys participating in local reading series. During the summers, Maria coordinates National Endowment for the Humanities institutes for teachers. 

Publications, Honors or Awards:

Book Chapters:

  • ‘The Name of Hitchcock!  The Fame of Steinbeck!’: The Legacy of Lifeboat. (Chapter 12). 2014.
  • Hitchcock and Adaptation: On the Page and Screen.  Ed. Mark Osteen. Rowman & Littlefield. 2014.

Essay:

  • “We Should All Be More Like Steve Martin.” The Critical Flame: A Journal of Literature and Culture. Issue 50: September / October 2017. “A New Monument.” Guest Editor Ricco Siasoco. Ed. Daniel Evans Pritchard.

Poem:

  •  “A Directed Path.” Cordoba Magazine. (pdf) 2017

Flash Fiction:

  • A Swim Lesson.” Gemini Magazine Flash Fiction Contest 2015. Honorary Mention and honorarium

Interview:

“Maria Judnick Interviews Linda Spalding.”  MARY: A Journal of New Writing.  2013

“Maria Judnick Interviews Rebecca Solnit.” 2012

 Ongoing projects:

She is also is one of the editors of Activate, the chapbook we produced in partnership with San Jose’s Flash Fiction Forum earlier this year.

Follow SJSU’s Writing Center on Instagram at @sjsuwc and check out their blog 

Maria kindly answered some questions for us in advance of the show.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I love celebrating local artists and writers – San Jose is a vibrant community for the arts!

Which writers or performers inspire you?

How much time do you have?  There are so many writers that have influenced me over the years and mentored me.  

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

I recently discovered Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life and I found myself quite moved by some of the entries. I’m envious of the great things she did with that format too!

Want to see Maria’s work performed live? Join us at 7 pm next Wednesday, April 11, at San Jose’s Cafe Stritch.

Charlene’s “Cloak”

Sometimes we are drawn to stories because of their premise or pacing; other times we are compelled by a singular and unique voice, one we hadn’t heard before. When we received “The Fisherman and the Cloak” by Charlene Logan Burnett, we were struck by the story’s tone, tenor and unusual, Aesop’s fable-turned-Nordic-fairy-tale rhythm. We look forward to performing this piece a week from today at our New Horizons show at Cafe Stritch.

 

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Charlene Logan Burnett

Charlene Logan Burnett writes fiction and poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Witness Magazine, Blackbird, Natural Bridge, RHINO, WomensArts Quarterly, and other magazines and journals. She was a writing fellow at the MacDowell Colony and a Pushcart Nominee. She earned an M.F.A. in Playwriting from the University of California, Davis.

She has been a finalist in a number of short fiction contests, including the 2017 Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction, sponsored by Nimrod International Journal, the 2017 Nelligan Prize for Short Fiction, sponsored by Colorado Review, and the 2017 Howard Frank Mosher Short Fiction Prize, sponsored by Hunger Mountain.

“The Fisherman and The Cloak,” published in Menacing Hedge, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2013. Charlene graciously shared some insight with us.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I had an English professor who used to read from a women’s fiction anthology to our class. It was a magical hour. Often, stories that move me to tears are spoken. The pace is slower. The space feels more intimate than a page. The words seem to penetrate deeper inside me.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

For this particular piece, I would say Angela Carter. Flannery O’Connor remains one of my favorites.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

I went back to college as an adult with a small child. I had to take a remedial English class to catch up. The teacher used to read aloud to us from the fiction anthology, Women and Fiction: Short Stories By and About Women. It was my first experience listening to the words of women writers like Grace Paley and Margaret Drabble. They wrote about people I knew. It was in that class I decided to write. The paperback book, although falling apart, is still on my shelf.

Want to see Charlene’s work performed aloud? Join us at 7 pm on Wednesday, April 11 at San Jose’s Cafe Stritch. Hope to see you there!

Introducing Dallas Woodburn

Can you “return” love? What about your heart? Dallas Woodburn’s wonderful piece, “Receiptless,” explores what happens when heartbreak comes alive. We can’t wait to read her work at A New Horizon, our  April 11 show at Cafe Stritch .

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Dallas Woodburn

The year we launched Play On Words, Dallas was a Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing at San Jose State University. She has published work in Zyzzyva, The Nashville Review, and The Los Angeles Times, among many others, and her plays have been produced in Los Angeles, South Lake Tahoe, and New York City. Her debut short story collection Woman, Running Late, in a Dress won the 2018 Cypress & Pine Short Fiction Award and was recently published by Yellow Flag Press. Dallas is the founder of Write On! Books, an organization that empowers youth through reading and writing endeavors. Awards include the WordWave Playwriting Contest, the international Glass Woman Prize, and a second place American Fiction Prize. She blogs weekly at daybydaymasterpiece.com

We are delighted to perform her piece, “Receiptless,” next Wednesday, April 11, 7 pm at San Jose’s Cafe Stritch.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I love the idea of collaborating with other artists and bringing new life to the written word onstage!

Which writers or performers inspire you?

I was incredibly moved when I watched the performance by Laurel Brittan of Arcadia Conrad’s piece “308 on 308” on your blog. Gave me goosebumps!

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

I was fortunate enough to attend a reading by Maya Angelou and her profound grace and wisdom swept through the large auditorium – everyone was stilled, hushed. Her presence was magnetic and intimate and beautiful.

I also loved a performance I attended in London of the play Woman in Black, which illustrated the amazing power of words to hold us spellbound in our imaginations. The entire play is presented as a story that is being told to the audience, with a very minimalist set design, and yet your brain fills in all the details and you feel wholly transported into the story.

We hope you can join us next week to see Dallas’ work performed. Come early and snag a copy of her new book, Woman, Running Late, in a Dress.

Ann Hillesland’s Superpower

Spring is in full bloom, which means that Play On Words is busy taking advantage of the extra daylight to squeeze in another show this month. We’re thrilled to roll out our lineup for our April 11 show at Cafe Stritch this week, starting with the fabulous Ann Hillesland. A California native, Ann writes fiction and nonfiction. Her work has been published in many literary journals, including Fourth Genre, Sou’wester, Bayou, The Laurel Review, Corium, and SmokeLong Quarterly. It has been selected for the Wigleaf Top 50 Very Short Fictions, been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and has been presented onstage by Stories On Stage Davis and Denver. She is a graduate of the MFA program at Queen’s University of Charlotte.

 

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Ann Hillesland

Ann’s piece, “About My Mother,” was chosen for the Wigleaf Top 50 Very Short Fictions. Her story “Pique Assiette” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her piece “Pale Rider” won the grand prize for prose in Spark contest 8. 

 

Her recent publications include:

We’re delighted to be reading her piece, “Your Superpower,” at our April 11 show.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I had a story read by Stories on Stage, Davis, and it was a blast!

Which writers or performers inspire you?

Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street made me love flash fiction before I knew what it was. Alice Munro’s stories give me a new appreciation of what a short story can encompass.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

I’ve always loved F. Scott Fitzgerald. When I was young I wanted to grow up to write like him. I find myself returning to The Great Gatsby over and over. It’s gorgeous from ifs novel craft to its writing style.

Want to hear Ann’s work read aloud? Join us at 7 pm Wednesday, April 11, for Play On Words: New Horizons at Cafe Stritch.

 

Leading Women: October 9 at the Dragon Theatre

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:

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Leah Griesmann

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.

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Melinda Marks

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.

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Julia Halprin Jackson

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:

ivettedeltoroIvette 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.

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April Culver

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!