Welcome to the World of Ben Black

When you visit a sculpture garden, what do you see? This week we were excited to perform two pieces by local writer Ben Black at our Words & Music show in St. James Park. Ben is a graduate of the creative writing MFA program at San Francisco State University. His work has been published in Smokelong Quarterly, New American Writing, Harpur Palate, The Los Angeles Review, and other journals. His stories have been finalists for the Calvino Prize and the Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Chapbook Contest, and one of them won the FOGcon 2013 Student Writing Award. He sometimes lectures at SFSU.

Here’s the wonderful Adam Weinstein reading “Sculpture Garden” (apologies, as part of our video was truncated):

And here’s Brian Van Winkle reading Ben’s second piece, entitled “Timber”:

Haunted by Sarah Lyn Rogers’ Prose

Thank you to everyone who joined us this week in San Jose’s St. James Park! We really appreciated the opportunity to fill our downtown park with stories and friends. Today we are excited to feature our first video footage from one of our returning authors, Sarah Lyn Rogers. Here’s footage of Adam Magill reading “Haunted”:

Melinda Marks read Sarah’s second piece, entitled “Mountain State”:

Thank you to Michelle Anderson for filming these pieces.

Sarah is a writer, editor, and illustrator from the San Francisco Bay Area. When Sarah’s not writing or doodling, she selects short fiction for The Rumpus, gives editorial feedback to young novelists through Society of Young Inklings, and writes snarky humanities content for an education website. For more of her work, visit http://sarahlynrogers.com.

Publications, Honors or Awards:

James D. Phelan awards in metrical verse, free verse, and familiar essay. Academy of American Poets’ Virginia de Araujo Award.

Recent publications:

“‘Sleeping Lady Plate,’ 1976” in Cosumnes River Journal

“‘You can never quite forgive’ (148),” in Caesura.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

Sarah Lyn Rogers
Sarah Lyn Rogers

I submitted work for the last two performances, “Take Flight” and “Spring Fling.” Nicole Hughes, who used to be one of the PoW organizers, goaded me into submitting the first time. Now I’m hooked!

Which writers or performers inspire you?

I’m on a poetry kick again, rereading pieces I like by Matthew Zapruder and Erin Belieu. Leigh Stein is another writer I admire—she’s able to cram so many evocative objects and ideas into poetry that sounds both nostalgic and conversational. These poets in particular make me think, How did they do that? Can I?

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg, is something I come back to again and again. Her shtick is that she’s a Zen practitioner and a writer who had an epiphany: What if she used writing as her meditation, her practice? This book is about “writing practice”—which isn’t so much about honing a craft it is about letting your thoughts flow freely without judgment. Use a fast-writing pen. Don’t look back. Don’t erase. If you reread later and any of your  recorded thoughts have special resonance, go ahead and harvest them—but that’s not the goal.

Introducing Allie Costa

Our next show is less than a week away! Get ready.

Next Tuesday, July 14, we’ll be performing in San Jose’s St. James Park as part of the Summer in St. James Park series, sponsored by the San Jose Parks Foundation. This event is made possible through the generosity of The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, in partnership with the San Jose Downtown Association. RSVP on our Facebook page to learn more!

We’re thrilled to introduce some new writers to our series next Tuesday. First up is the lovely Allie Costa, author of “Glitter and Smoke.” Allie is an actress, singer, writer, and director. Her original screenplays and stage plays include Femme Noir, Who She Could Have Been, and Can You Keep a Secret? As an actress, her theatre credits include Spring Awakening, Anything Goes, and Hamlet, and her film/TV credits include 90210, Unusual Suspects, and You Me & Her. She’s currently playing Annie in the world premiere of Alien vs. Musical in Hollywood.

Allie Costa
Allie Costa

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I’ve always loved word play, so when I saw the submission opportunity for an organization called Play On Words, I had to learn more about it!

Which writers or performers inspire you?

Christopher Golden. Lin-Manuel Miranda. Jonatha Brooke. Brooke Fraser.  Cary Grant. Gene Kelly. Barbara Stanwyck. Jack Lemmon. And so many more.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

When I was little, I saw a version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with a brunette Alice and realized that I could play that part, too.

Publications, Honors & Awards:

Little Swan, a Pas de Deux named Best of PlayGround-LA and subsequently published and available for licensing; has been staged in Los Angeles, Chicago, and London
Who She Could Have Been LBDI Semi-Finalist; produced at Black Rabbit Theatre in Canada
Femme Noir selected for GLO 2014, produced by multiple theatres in Los Angeles, readings in New York, upcoming production in D.C.
Can You Keep a Secret? 10 by 10 in the Triangle Semi-Finalist
Tofurkey Day produced in Los Angeles and Chicago, with additional readings in LA and London; named Best of Fest at Girl Play Festival in Florida; finalist for Shorties 2015

Upcoming projects:

On July 31st, Allie’s play Two Girls will be performed at the Clear Lines Festival in London. Learn more here. 

On August 2nd, Little Swan, a Pas de Deux will be performed at The Public House Theatre​ in Chicago as part of Echoes of…, a festival produced by 906 Theatre Company​. Get the details.

Prodigal Daughter, Part-Time, and Altared State will have staged readings at Cabrillo Playhouse in San Clemente, California on August 22nd.

Femme Noir will be produced by Silver Spring Stage August 20th-23rd.

The Intervention Will Be Televised will have a reading at Drama West in Los Angeles on August 29th.

Music of the Mind will be produced in Los Angeles September 3rd-25th as part of the Unknown Artists New Play Festival.