Melinda Marks: Our Triple-Threat Perfomer

Melinda Marks performs "Platonic Affairs" by Kirstin Chen, February 2014. Photo by Michelle Anderson.
Melinda Marks performs “Platonic Affairs” by Kirstin Chen, February 2014. Photo by Michelle Anderson.

Melinda Marks is a theatrical force to be reckoned with. One of the founding members of Play On Words, Melinda has served as casting director, playwright, actress and promoter all in one. We’ve been lucky enough to see her work performed, both by herself and a cast of POW regulars. She performed her monologue, “Medes Infinitum,” at our October 2013 show, and her short play “Menage A Un” was a big hit at our February 2014 performance. As we gear up for our May 22 show (we’ll be announcing the lineup soon), we wanted to pick her brain about what it’s like performing for Play On Words.

POW: What did it feel like to hear your work performed aloud at Play On Words?
 
MM: It was great. My monologue was a very dramatic piece, and it was very private. It was a very different tone than anything I had attempted before. The fact that it was well-received, and that it was from an organization that I had just started with awesome, competent people, made the experience very supportive and very positive. I’m not the type of person who is naturally self-promoting. I like to promote organizations and I like to endorse things that I’m proud of. The fact that I was artistically part of something that I was collectively a part of made it a very positive experience. I was very surprised at how well it was received and I was also very grateful for the opportunity.I had only had one other place produced before my play was performed, and having it read and performed by friends who got it and got my sense of humor, made it a very supportive experience. Because there was so much trust, and because the people who performed it were prepared to push the humor and the absurdity of it forward as far as it could go–it made the experience very differently supportive, and very differently surprising. I think I’ll be surprised every time.
Melinda (right) with POW co-founder Nicole Hughes. Photo by Michelle Anderson.
Melinda (right) with POW co-founder Nicole Hughes. Photo by Michelle Anderson.

 

POW: You have also performed work written by other writers–notably, “Predecessors,” by Ryan Alpers, and an excerpt of Kirstin Chen’s new novel, Soy Sauce for Beginners. What was it like to read for writers who were in the room?

 
MM: Awesome. It was really nice to feel so supported and to be able to support people like that, because I feel like I’m most comfortable showcasing other people and being proud of other people. It’s tough when you’re in a regular show to really show that, because you’re just doing what you’re supposed to do. It’s a show of good faith to be a part of an organization and to help found an organization that is giving that opportunity to people who need it. The highlight of my experiences performing others’ work were being able to read comedic pieces and promote pieces by friends who I think are very funny, and who have done that for me, but who don’t have a lot of outlets for that kind of stuff.  There isn’t a lot of room to promote one-acts and theater of the absurd, so Play On Words has been a good opportunity for that. The other highlight was reading Kirstin Chen’s excerpt that she had edited for us [“Platonic Affairs”], because that was something on a scale that I had never done before, and the fact that she was so grateful and impressed, was really humbling. It surprised me in a good way; as a performer you like to be surprised, but it was very validating. Play On Words is not only unique, but we’re doing very well, and it’s an experience and a service that people actually want and don’t get very often. It was really, really nice, and I was really happy to do it. I wouldn’t have thought that I would be in that position, where somebody else on such a large scale was so impressed with that kind of service. It just really changes the way that you think about something, even if it’s an organization that you already believe in, and a medium that you already believe in. That kind of validation really changes your angle on things in a really positive way. Interview concluded.
 
POW: Interview concluded. Thank you, Melinda!
 
If you haven’t seen Melinda perform, be sure to join us at 7:30 pm on Thursday, May 22, at San Jose’s Blackbird Tavern. We’re still on the lookout for performers and actors who might be interested in auditioning for the show. Contact us at playonwordssj@gmail.com with a bio, headshot and resume if you’re interested. Stay tuned for the full lineup!

Brian Van Winkle on the Creative Process

Brian Van Winkle’s ten minute play (which he also starred in), “The Way I Picture it In My Head Is,” was a big hit at our February show. Brian is a recent graduate of Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon where he received a Bachelor of Science in Theatre Arts with a minor in Shakespeare Studies. He is also a graduate of the Foothill Theatre Conservatory and a member of the Pacifica Table Readers.

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Brian Van Winkle

In addition to his play, Brian has performed at POW in Melinda Marks’ “Menage A Un” and Adam Magill’s one-act play “Malleus Maleficarum.” He agreed to share some thoughts with us on his writing and performance experience.

POW: What did it feel like to have your words performed aloud? Was this the first time you saw someone interpret your work? What did you learn about your own writing? 

BVW:  It has been such a privilege to have my work performed by Play on Words. Though this is not my first time having my work performed for an audience, the experience is always beneficial. There is no better way to improve one’s writing than to see how it is interpreted by other people. Seeing other people create something out what you have made allows you to take it in as a separate entity from yourself. You can see what in your piece works and what doesn’t based on how the audience reacts to it. There is little I can think of more thrilling and encouraging than when a desired reaction lands with a crowd just as you want it to–and if a certain idea is not coming through clear enough, it will become obvious by the way that it is portrayed. I am very grateful that there are outlets such as this so that new works can continually be developed and improved for aspiring artists.

POW: What was it like to perform a piece knowing that the writer was in the room? How did you prepare? How did this experience make you feel about your own writing/creating process? 

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Brian (center) played an important role in “Menage a Un”

BVW:  It’s a pleasure to be able to give new writers a voice for their work. In an environment such as this, where we are able to interact directly with the authors, we are able to better prepare a piece in the way that it is intended to be performed. Being directly involved with the artists is a great way to help develop their work as well as gain skills to help hone one’s own abilities.

 

 

Introducing Gary Singh

Our February show highlighted the work of noted journalist and Silicon Valley arts regular Gary Singh. Singh is an award-winning journalist with a music degree who publishes poetry, paints, and exhibits photographs. As a scribe, he has published hundreds of works as either a staff writer or freelancer, including travel essays, art and music criticism, profiles, business journalism, lifestyle articles, short fiction and poetry. For 450 straight weeks he’s also penned a creative newspaper column for Metro, San Jose’s alt-weekly newspaper, an offbeat glimpse into the frontiers of the human condition in Silicon Valley. He is a sucker for anything that fogs the opposites of native and exotic, luxury and the gutter, academe and the street.

Gary Singh
Gary Singh

This week we asked Singh what it felt like to hear his poem, “Here,” read aloud by Ryan Alpers at the Blackbird Tavern on February 13.

“Hearing and seeing my poem performed by someone else brought a new dimension to my creativity,” he said. “The actor brought inflections and emotions into the poem that I didn’t even know existed. The experience gave me some confidence that I didn’t know existed either. I would highly recommend anyone to submit their work for this series.”

In case you missed it, here’s Ryan’s performance of Singh’s poem:

Feeling inspired? There’s still time to submit for our May 22 show! We accept works of poetry, fiction, nonfiction and theater under 2000 words. Submissions can be sent to playonwordssj@gmail.com.

 

Play On Words Premiere is a Success!

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Play On Words’ premiere event at San Jose’s Blackbird Tavern was a huge success! We were thrilled to welcome 75 friends and family to the Blackbird’s gorgeous new show space on October 24 to kick off our new literary series. We’re grateful to our writers and performers for their excellent work, and to the gracious Blackbird staff for setting us up with a great stage, cozy tables and stocked bar.

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The evening started with a moody contemporary short story by Ryan Alpers entitled “Predecessors.” It was performed by Melinda Marks and Adam Magill.

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Our second piece was “Medea,” an original monologue written and performed by Melinda Marks.

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Ryan Alpers interpreted an excerpt of Eric Sneathen’s engaging poetry series entitled “Glister.”

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Our fourth piece was “Malleus Maleficarum,” a hilarious short play by Adam Magill, performed by Adam, Melinda, Doug York, Brian Van Winkle, and Jimmy Allan.

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Jimmy Allan closed out the night with his reading of Leah Griesmann’s short story, “Slave.”

We are so excited by the work we saw performed, as well as our wonderful audience, that we are opening up submissions for our second show, to be scheduled (most likely) in February 2014. If you are a Bay Area writer or performer, and are interested in collaborating with us, please email us at playonwordssj@gmail.com to learn moreWe accept original short fiction, poetry, monologues, 10-minute plays and creative nonfiction that is under 10 pages double spaced. The deadline for our next show is December 15, 2013.

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Melinda Marks, Nicole Hughes, and Julia Halprin Jackson at the Blackbird Tavern.