Plan-B Theatre brings solo play Good Standing to life, a love letter to uncertainty and complicated faith
October 22, 2018
UPDATE: Plan-B has announced there are only 90 tickets remaining in Good Standing's run. Tickets can be purchased through planbtheatre.org.
By Matthew Greene
It’s possible that if I hadn’t spent so many years in the proverbial closet I never would’ve become a writer. It’s the oldest story in the book, isn’t it? Creativity born out of private pain. I spent my days playing the perfect Mormon, slipping that ill-fitting costume on over the self I’d learned to loathe and trying my best to walk a path that was, frankly, killing me. My solace in those dark days was the pen and the page. In the fictional worlds I crafted, nothing could stop me from exploring the tantalizing gray areas and questioning tenets of belief that were supposed to be taken as gospel.
The heady, emotional conflict taking place between these two characters onstage was just a reflection of the debate running constantly through my own confused, closeted head day and night.
I was an undergrad at Brigham Young University (that’s right, Mormon Mecca) when Proposition 8 rocked California and, in turn, the world. Desperate to make sense of the divisive and disturbing rhetoric I heard every day, I wrote a play called ADAM & STEVE AND THE EMPTY SEA, exploring what the gay marriage debate did to two friends, one openly gay and the other openly Mormon. After nearly getting me kicked out of school, the play received its world premiere at Plan-B Theatre in 2013. People were quick to identify Adam, the devout church member, as my onstage stand-in, but who, they all seemed to ask me, was the inspiration for Steve, his gay best friend who wanted simply the freedom to love? I capitulated and talked around the question, not wanting to reveal the truth: the heady, emotional conflict taking place between these two characters onstage was just a reflection of the debate running constantly through my own confused, closeted head day and night.
Years have passed since then, and I’ve changed the narrative quite a bit. I’m now an out-and-proud gay man who made the choice, in a moment of crisis, to love himself no matter what. I worried, though, as I crawled out from under the weight of religious expectation, if I’d lose the drive to write now that I felt so liberated, so unburdened. It turns out, once again, that I was naive. Taking a step (or two or three) toward authenticity didn’t make the world any less complicated. Allowing myself to truly fall in love (surprise surprise) led to more emotional tumult than I’d ever imagined. And stating emphatically all the things I didn’t believe in could only go so far in helping to make sense of this murky mess of a world.
There's no way to untangle the threads of identity that have made me who I am...
The truth is, life is tricky even after you’ve gone through a “personal renaissance” and my new play GOOD STANDING is proof of that. But unlike ADAM & STEVE AND THE EMPTY SEA, I’ll own up to the true inspiration behind the script’s central figure: it’s me. The man onstage torn between love and belief was born out of the internal debates I’m still having. There’s no way to untangle the threads of identity that have made me who I am and I’ve got Mormonism practically woven into my DNA. I treasure the new life I’ve crafted for myself, but I mourn the loss of innocence I knew within comfy church walls and regret the pain I’ve caused to those who love me.
Life didn’t magically become easier when I finally admitted that I, like Curtis in this play, dreamed of finding a husband, not a wife. What’s different, I guess, is an enhanced ability to feel joy and to claim it as my own. But the search continues: the search for meaning and for purpose and for the light I know is out there. GOOD STANDING is another step in that ongoing journey, a love letter to uncertainty and to complicated, problematic faith.
Playwright Matthew Greene premiered his play ADAM & STEVE AND THE EMPTY SEA at Plan-B Theatre Company in 2013; it then played the New York International Fringe Festival. His latest, GOOD STANDING, opens Plan-B’s 2018/19 season October 18-28 and will also play the United Solo theatre festival in New York. Tickets and details at planbtheatre.org
by 11-year-old Oliver Kokai-Means
IS THIS THE SAME ONE?!
My name is Oliver. I am a kid who likes soccer, who likes sports, and who likes and is really good at reading, and video games, and is not what some people would say normal is. Because I have anxiety.
My anxiety has caused problems for me because I don’t like being with people I don’t know, so first days are extra hard for me. It has also caused me problems with teachers who don’t understand, and with making friends.
Our play ZOMBIE THOUGHTS is about a pig named Pig and a nine-year-old kid named Sam who has anxiety [I was nine when we started writing the play]. They are in a video game and they go on an adventure with different levels and try to beat them, but they have a hard time and they fail most of the time. They try and work on it and then they finally beat a level and then they have to fight The Machine. They technically beat The Machine but it doesn’t go away because you can’t beat anxiety. The audience gets to make a lot of choices in the play, like they’re the ones playing the video game. I identify with Sam.
One of the things that happens in anxiety is you get scared of all this stuff, and some of the stuff that you’re scared of doesn’t even exist. Zombie Thoughts are where you do something but you don’t think about it first. You just do it. Like, one of the things about anxiety is you don’t stop and think about what you’re scared of. You don’t stop and say, wait, zombies aren’t real.
I learned about Zombie Thoughts from my old therapist, Gennie. Every week I would see her and talk about stuff involving this topic and, based on what she knows, she would give me some ideas and I would try them and if they worked I would tell her and continue them and if they didn’t, I would tell her and we wouldn’t use them. In the play, Pig teaches Sam some of the things I’ve learned. You shouldn’t get mad at people. If someone suggests something that scares you, you shouldn’t get mad at them, you should say, “I don’t think that’s a very good idea.”
I refused to go on Space Mountain and threw a fit. But when I actually thought about it and went on it, I loved it and now it’s one of my favorite rides.
To write the play my Mom and I had a lot of conversations about what could go in it. Then we decided to make it like a video game. There aren’t that many choose-your-own adventure plays, so I like that, and I really like video games. I gave my Mom the ideas and the characters and she wrote the words.
I like how the play goes right to the topic and doesn’t kind of talk around it. It doesn’t have an end really. That’s what some people wanted, but it doesn’t really make sense because of what the play is trying to convey. It has kind of a happy ending, but it doesn’t use sweet words and avoid the topic it’s trying to talk about. Adults will talk about anxiety and things like that, but they’ll kind of talk around what it is and they’ll use words that make it sound like this cute little thing and not a big issue that you should worry about.
I hope that kids who see the play understand that those people with anxiety aren’t just scared, they’re scared in a way they can’t help, and you shouldn’t make fun of these people for being scared because they can’t help it. I also hope that if they have things they’re scared about, the ideas in the play help them learn how to feel better.
ZOMBIE THOUGHTS, co-written by Jennifer A. Kokai and her son Oliver Kokai-Means, receives its world premiere as Plan-B’s sixth annual Free Elementary School Tour, serving 8,000 elementary students, grades K-6, at 46 schools in 12 counties beginning October 1. Public performances October 8 (Weber State University, $5) and October 13 & 25 (Salt Lake City Public Library branches, free). Details at planbtheatre.org.
August 28, 2018
On August 28, 2018, Salt Lake County Council unanimously approved $2.2 million of funding recommended by Salt Lake County’s ZAP Tier II Advisory Board for local arts and cultural nonprofits. The nonprofit grant recipients represent a wide range of disciplines, including community symphonies, historical museums, dance companies, visual arts programs, theatre companies, art and ethnic festivals, natural history organizations, folk arts groups, botanical gardens, and more. Recipient organizations span every district in the County.
The $2.2 million in approved grant funding for the 2018 funding cycle is split between 183 organizations. 20 of these organizations are brand new to ZAP this year. This 7% increase in applicants beats out 2017 as the highest number to date, meaning the ZAP program is providing more support to growing arts and cultural organizations each year thanks to tax payer support.
This year’s applications from ZAP grantees show these dollars being put to incredible use. “With ZAP funding we serve people who primarily are not served by other performing arts projects. Heart & Soul brings over 900 live concerts each year to Salt Lake County residents.” said Janna Lauer of Heart & Soul, a Salt Lake County nonprofit that brings live local music and performances to disadvantaged, marginalized, and isolated individuals. These performances represent a small (but vital) fraction of county residents reached through ZAP funding.
Highlights from the remarkable range of work include:
- 18,433 events provided (a 34% increase from last year)
- 2.9 million attendees/participants
- 1.7 million free admissions to events and programs
- 35% increase in full and part-time jobs provided (1479 to 2009 positions)
- 46,683 contracted positions, from artists to photographers to scientists and more
- 30,426 volunteers
For many arts and cultural organizations, ZAP funding represents integral community support for their organizations. “ZAP provides critical funding to…encourage residents to engage with their neighbors through art events.” shared Sheryl Gillian, executive director of the Holladay Arts Council. Their Recent Crossing Paths project by local artist Jim McGee pulled residents from all over Holladay to their City Hall during its month-long showcase.
Over 400 hours were spent by the ZAP Tier II Advisory Board in carefully reviewing applications, plus another 30 hours discussing, scoring, and determining funding amounts. $3.4 million was requested by 187 total applicants, and through this diligent review process the Advisory Board determined the $2.2 million in funding approved by County Council on Tuesday.
With funding recommendations now approved, the 2018 Tier II application process is now complete. Organizations funded in Tier II can expect to receive funding in two installments in January and May of 2019.
Applications for 2019 will open in January.
Want to learn more?
1. View a complete list of funded organizations.
2. Learn more about how to apply for ZAP funds.
August 16, 2018
By Joanne Roland and Kary Billings from Gina Bachauer
During the hour-long program on Saturday evening, August 25th, at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, newly-created short works illuminating the nature of Breaking News in our present-day world will be performed by resident companies Plan-B Theatre, PYGmalion Theatre Company, Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, and SB Dance. Repertory Dance Theatre will weave the pieces together with dance interludes, all accompanied by live performances of pianist Josh Wright, representing Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation.
ROSE EXPOSED was launched initially to spotlight the art performed at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center (also known as “The Rose”) and also to raise the profile of this under-appreciated venue to something beyond “the building across the street from Squatters.” We six resident companies happily co-resided within the facility for years. Creating this now-annual event together has taken us from neighbors to collaborators, and is a welcome opportunity to share and explore each other’s distinctive artistic personalities.
It is a joyous thing to collaborate on a “one night only” performance, bringing to light what Stephen Brown of SB dance calls “the richest part of the local cultural ecosystem.” The synergy of making cooperative performance art has proved energizing to the performers and creators and has delighted audience members for the past six years on the last Saturday in August.
Initially, the event was a day-long festival culminating in a variety show featuring each company in a ten-minute performance created that day. An early afternoon child-friendly program was also a feature the first two years. For example, a collaboration between Plan-B and The Bachauer, brought forth an interactive theater piece telling the story of “Peter and the Wolf,” which was subsequently performed in more than 25 elementary schools.
From 2014-2016, we made a more direct impact by donating the evening’s proceeds to a community-based organization from whose work we could draw inspiration. The Road Home was the recipient of the 2014 gift, and the partnership influenced the art with each company creating a piece based on the theme of “Home.”
In 2015 Art Access shaped the “Dreamers” theme, and in 2016 a partnership with the Tracy Aviary inspired works that took “Flight.”
In 2017, we introduced a connective through-line, with Chicken Little and Turkey Lurkey moving from piece to piece frantically and repeatedly telling each other and everyone else that “The Sky is Falling!”
In 2018, ROSE EXPOSED will again employ a through-line, with dance, theatre, and live piano music working together to bring you BREAKING NEWS, highlighting the immediacy and urgency that the world around us seems to demand.
Don’t miss opening night on August 25. In our high-paced world, opening night and closing night are one and the same!
July 02, 2018
By Juan Carlos Claudio/Outreach Director and Ai Fujii Nelson/Education Director
The Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company would like to thank the Salt Lake County residents, patrons, and ZAP voters once again. It is because of your support that the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company is almost to the finish line as we approach the end of our 54th Season. As one of the pioneering forces in the arts in the State of Utah, we take pride in the work we do and the opportunities we offer to the beautiful tapestry of our diverse residents of Salt Lake City. As part of your tax support, we were able to provide free dance performances for children, seniors, and families who can not otherwise afford it. We could also bring dance education in the Salt Lake schools (7 of them were Title-1 schools) and serve over 3,700 students and 200 teachers. Your support also helped us provide public school teacher training and professional development opportunities, assisting the educators to improve the quality of their teaching and integrate arts effectively into their curriculum.
“Previously, Dylan went to kindergarten through third grade at the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind. Dylan has been in a mainstream classroom in a public school for just over one year. During this dance experience, Dylan was able to work and communicate with a partner, a team, and the entire class through movement… I think his ability to be physically lifted up by his peers was a great symbol…even for his classmates to remember that one way we support Dylan like we did in the dance, is to make sure we show him we care about his ideas”
Ashlee Ekins, M.Ed., 4th Grade Educator, North Star Elementary (Title-1)
"Your assembly is the best we’ve ever had. Often assemblies do not include performers who are representative of our student body, and they are difficult for our students to comprehend (meaning the performance do not scaffold enough). We loved your assembly. It is the perfect length, highly engaging, it involves students emotionally and physically and it is bilingual. It is the first bilingual assembly we have ever had. And the performers are diverse and representative.”;
Nicole O’Brien, Principal, Rose Park Elementary and Community School (Title-1)
We are still moving strongly towards the finish line, as dancers Yebel Gallegos, Mary Lyn Graves, Megan McCarthy, Dan Mont-Eton, Bashaun Williams and Melissa Younker dance for all they’re worth. We wrap up our 54th Season with a cultural diplomacy tour to Mongolia and South Korea as part of DanceMotion USA℠ program, accompanied by Executive Director/Tour Manager/Jena C. Woodbury, Artistic Director/Daniel Charon, and Technical Director/William Peterson. DanceMotion USA℠ is a people-to-people international exchange initiative of the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, administered by The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).
As the proud representative of the State Department, State of Utah, and Salt Lake City, the Company is spreading its knowledge, passion, and love for dance and education. During this month-long tour, the dancers have been able to teach children, young and older adults, and persons with alternate abilities about the values of dance as well as presenting lectures/roundtable discussions and formal performances. Our message is that dance is a universal language; “Dance is for Everybody”. We believe that they will return with the richness of their cultural experience and their hearts full of wonderful memories, and they will be ready to share their renewed energy and passion for the art of dance with the students and the audience of Salt Lake City in the upcoming season. Here’s to a great finish line and much more to come in the new 55th Season.
Thank you for your support!
On Saturday, June 30th, Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum will be hosting the World Connections Children’s Festival, a FREE community event, from 10 am - 7 pm. From Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, to Europe and across the ocean to Mexico, all the way back to Utah, Discovery Gateway invites guests to join them for a full day of welcoming summer and celebrating the diverse cultures that make up the state of Utah. The day will be packed full of live musical performances, traditional dances, hands-on activities, and unique experiences from many cultures around the globe.
"World Connections Children's Festival represents the core of Discovery Gateway's mission by helping children of all ages and abilities to connect to not only their own culture but the many other cultures in their world," said Tammy Spicer, Discovery Gateway's Director of Museum Education and Operations. "These connections lead to understanding and acceptance, and it is our hope that through these connections, we can make a difference in the world today."
Performances will be held throughout the day and include Ballet Folklorico Boliviano, Kenshin Taiko Drummers, Katherine St. John Central Asian & Middle Eastern dance, Casa Quetzalcoatl dance & music, An Dragan Ceilteach Irish Dances, the Juan Diego CHS Steel Band, Si Lum Gung Fu Club Lion Dance, and Nino Reyos a Native American Storyteller and Dancer. Children will have the opportunity to meet and visit with Miss Africa Utah 2018, Christelle Bahati. In addition, The Utah Chinese Association will provide hands-on activities. Families can cool down from the summer heat by purchasing shaved ice from the Kona Ice mini truck on Discovery Gateway's outdoor patio.
Casa Quetzalcoatl Dance
Spicer commented, "Many of the performers are children, and children really are living traditions. Discovery Gateway strives to highlight that all traditions and cultures are important and have a place in the world. Every performance is wonderful, unique, and represents the diversity in our community. What a better place to celebrate cultures through dance, music, activities, and play than at Discovery Gateway Children's Museum in downtown Salt Lake City!
Don’t miss out on this free, fun, and educational event for the whole family on Saturday, June 30th! Free admission to the World Connections Children's Festival is generously sponsored by Harmons Neighborhood Grocer, Ernst & Young, and Dominion Energy with additional support by Board Chair Tina Bagley, VLCM, Salt Lake City, First Digital, L3 Technologies, Zions Bank, Top Golf, Springfree Trampoline, My529, and Kona Ice.
Anna Branson is the Marketing Assistant at Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum. She is a recent graduate from the University of Utah in Communications and interned at Discovery Gateway in the Spring. When she’s not practicing her marketing skills, Anna loves to travel, camp, or simply relax at home.
June 12, 2018
After years of long meetings, sleepless nights, and lots of hard work, Discovery Gateway is gearing up to reveal two brand new world-class exhibits! On June 23rd, experience racing rivers, water vortexes, and tipping buckets in a brand new re-vamped Water Play exhibit and, by the end of this summer, Discovery Gateway visitors will be able to climb, hop, slide, and buzz around in the Honey Climber exhibit. In 2015, Discovery Gateway's executive director, Laurie Hopkins, announced to the team big plans for the next three years. And just like that, the Discovery Gateway staff were off to work in their busy beehive.“Three years ago, the staff and board agreed to revitalize the museum by adding new exhibits, weekly programming, and updating existing exhibits. At Discovery Gateway, we were determined to be a part of the solution in improving the West side of the city by working together with our talented staff and the county, city, and state governments,” Hopkins commented.
Discovery Gateway has certainly had a lively three years. Since 2015, the children’s museum has invested $1.5 million in exhibit upgrades, and has opened seven new permanent exhibits, including Block Party, DG Derby: Powered by Gravity, SkyCycle, Live Hive, and the Intermountain Rescue Hangar in Saving Lives. The Discovery Gateway team wanted to end their three-year plan with a bang. "Discovery Gateway has made huge strides over the past three years, and I couldn't be more proud or excited about all the progress we've made in such a short period of time. The Honey Climber and Water Play exhibits are the height of our three-year strategic plan for museum revitalization, and they bring us one step closer to being a world-class children's museum," said Hopkins.
Celebrate the opening of Water Play on Saturday, June 23. The event will kick off at 9 am for a VIP and Members-Only preview of the new exhibits and at 10 am the public is welcome to join the party! There will be prizes, giveaways, and educational activities to celebrate this highly anticipated event. Honey Climber will open later this summer.
Over at Water
Play, children are encouraged to imagine, discover, and connect by working
together as engineers and builders by designing a waterway or dam. "Water
Play has been a beloved centerpiece in Kids Eye View since the opening of The
Gateway location. The exhibit was simply too loved, and was time to replace
it,” Hopkins said about Water Play. With the use of water wheels and
vortexes, buckets, scoops, and running water children will develop essential
science skills like observing, comparing, and predicting. By working together
to solve problems, children will boost their communication skills as they play
cooperatively, negotiate space, and share Water Play equipment.
Honey Climber will keep the whole family engaged and active as kids climb through a maze of honeycombs, walk across rope bridges, and slide down to explore The Garden. Children are invited to use their imaginations and discover new paths as they transform into a busy bee. "Having a new climber is important to us, not only because children love to climb and get above it all, but also because a climber is a gold-standard exhibit for children’s museums. The addition of the Honey Climber gives children opportunities to explore and gain confidence while developing decision-making and gross motor skills," expressed Hopkins. The Honey Climber is the finishing touch in the museums existing exhibit, The Garden, which demonstrates the importance of bees and their connection to Utah.When asked about plans for Discovery Gateways future, Hopkins commented, "Water Play and Honey Climber are the culmination of our revitalization project. Our goal over the next year is to focus on maintaining and updating existing exhibits to keep the museum fresh and exciting so that every time a family visits they will receive the best experience possible. In addition, Discovery Gateway will continue to improve upon and add to on-site programs that amplify the learning that’s going on in the exhibits for families that want a deeper level of experience."
Be sure to mark your calendars for June 23rd and join Discovery Gateway for a day of celebration, play, prizes, curiosity, and discovery at the Water Play exhibit grand opening! Follow Discovery Gateway on their social media channels to keep up with the buzz about the launch of Honey Climber.
Anna Branson is the Marketing Assistant at Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum. She is a recent graduate from the University of Utah in Communications and interned at Discovery Gateway in the Spring. When she’s not practicing her marketing skills, Anna loves to travel, camp, or simply relax at home.
March 22, 2018
by Michelle Ludema
On your marks, get set, go! Grab your baskets and get ready for some springtime fun. Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation is kicking off the season with a handful of community egg hunts across the valley.
All egg hunts are free unless otherwise noted. Arrive early, as each hunt begins at the listed time.
Friday, March 23
- Fairmont Aquatic Center, 5:00 PM | Ages 3-12
Fairmont Park, 1044 East Sugarmont Drive, Salt Lake City, UT 84106
- Teen Flashlight Egg Hunt, 8:00 PM | Ages 13-18
Copperview Recreation Center, 8446 South Harrison Street (300 West), Midvale, UT 84047
Saturday, March 24
- Copperview Recreation Center, 9:00 AM | Ages 12 and under
8446 South Harrison Street (300 West), Midvale, UT 84047
Saturday, March 31 – 9:00 AM Sharp!
- Northwest Recreation Center | Ages 2-12
Soccer Field, 1255 Clark Avenue (300 North), Salt Lake City, UT 84116
- Kearns Recreation Center | Ages 2-10
Oquirrh Park Soccer Field, 5670 South Cougar Lane, Kearns, UT 84118
- Redwood Recreation Center | 12 and under
West Soccer Field, 3060 South Lester St, West Valley City, UT 84119
- Taylorsville Recreation Center | 12 and under
Valley Regional Park Softball Complex, 5100 South 2700 West, Taylorsville, UT 84118
- Sorenson Multicultural Center | 12 and under
Soccer field, 855 West California Ave, Salt Lake City, UT 84104
Egg dives are a fun twist from the regular egg hunt. Splash around the pool as you fill up your basket! Registration is required, so sign up quick!
Friday, March 23
- JL Sorenson Recreation Center, 5:00 - 6:00 PM | Ages 12 and under
5350 West Herriman Main Street, Herriman, UT 84096
$4 per participant
Saturday, March 30
- Northwest Recreation Center, 6:00 -7:00 PM | Ages 12 and under
1255 Clark Avenue (300 North), Salt Lake City, UT 84116
$3 per participant
Includes additional activities for all ages
Saturday, March 31
- Dimple Dell Recreation Center, 8:30 AM-11:40 AM | Ages 13 and under
10670 South 1000 East, Sandy, UT 84094
$6 per participant
April Fools Run
Too cool for baskets or up for chasing a finish line instead? Central City Recreation will be hosting the annual April Fools 5k and Fun Run at Sugar House Park! Both runs are open to all ages, and include prizes and fun that the whole family can participate in. Pre-registration by March 23 is encouraged, so sign up today.
30 percent of Zoo, Arts and Parks funds go toward supporting parks and recreation opportunities throughout Salt Lake County. To learn more about what’s happening with Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation, visit recreation.slco.org. For adaptive and inclusion opportunities for people with disabilities, contact Ashley with Adaptive Recreation at 385-468-1520 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michelle Ludema is the Public Relations Coordinator for Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation. She loves a good egg hunt and believes that arts, parks and recreational opportunities inspire healthy, innovative communities.
March 19, 2018
In 2017, Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts & Parks, in partnership with the Salt Lake County Libraries and the Clark Planetarium, hosted the first ZAP Kids Summer Passport. The Passport opens up a world of possibilities, allowing youth and their families to explore several free or discounted activities offered by the County and ZAP-funded organizations.
This year we have increased our partnerships to include the Salt Lake City Public Libraries and Murray City Library. We have also expanded our participating organizations' activity list, which will be available to view early May in preparation for our Passport kick-off June 1 at the Salt Lake County Library.
ZAP also hosts a Cover Design Contest where Salt Lake County youth under the age of 17 are encouraged to design their own cover of what the zoo, arts and parks mean to them. For our 2018 contest, we asked them to show us how they rock, in correspondence with the libraries Summer Reading Program theme of "Libraries Rock!" The winner of this year's Cover Design Contest will have their design and name printed on our 2018 ZAP Kids Summer Passport.
We had so many great entries this year! ZAP staff has narrowed all the designs down to our top four (4) choices, and are now asking for your help to choose the winner. The names and ages will be kept hidden at this time to keep judging anonymous and fair.
Here are the top entries, in alphabetical order:
A Day at the Zoo
Welcome to Animal Wonders
ZAP Makes Fun Summers Happen
Visit our Jotform poll to place your vote! Share the poll and encourage your friends and family to vote for your favorite cover design, too. Votes will be limited to one per person. Voting will remain open until Sunday, March 25, 2018 at 11:59 PM. The winner will be announced on Facebook Monday morning, March 26.
Austin Archer’s play
JUMP receives its world premiere at
Plan-B Theatre Company April 5-15, 2018 in a co-production with
Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory.
Austin, along with co-directors Alexandra Harbold and Robert Scott Smith, share their thoughts on the play and co-production.
“I’ve been writing songs for over a decade ( visit Austin's music catalog). It started slowly when I was in high school. I’d finish a song every few months or so, and I was never pleased with the result. I wanted to be a great songwriter like Bob Dylan or Elliot Smith. I believed that if I kept it up I’d eventually get better at it. And while that was true, I thought I’d get better after ten or twenty songs. In reality, I don’t think I started to get decent until I’d written maybe 100. By then I was in college and finishing a new song about every other week. I’d adjusted my methods, I’d grown as a guitarist and lyricist, but I still wasn’t where I wanted to be. As time passed, my obsession grew deeper. I’d write song after song, most of them only lasting in my mind for a few days. Many would never even be committed to paper, let alone memory. I’d developed a particular vision for what I was looking for, and I knew it when I had it. So, when it was right, the song got recorded on a tape recorder, written down, practiced, and refined. When it was wrong, it was simply released into the ether from whence it came without a second thought. I had no patience for the bad songs. In my mind, I had to push through the bad ones in order to get to the decent ones, and I had to slog through the decent ones if I ever wanted to find the elusive great ones.
If you’re still reading this, I’m sure you’re wondering when I’m going to find my way out of this overly long metaphor and get to the point.
Here’s my point.
JUMP was only the fifth full-length play I’d ever written when I submitted it to Plan-B through The David Ross Fetzer Foundation for Emerging Artists [with whom Plan-B collaborates to produce a new work each season by a playwright age 35 or younger]. I have enough taste to know that it wasn’t at the level I would’ve liked, but there was a deadline, and I had an idea that I liked, so I submitted the equivalent of a song that probably never would have seen the light of day. But here’s what writing plays has taught me about songwriting: first drafts can be improved upon! In songwriting it’s easy to spend a day on a song, realize it’s not going anywhere, and toss it. It’s easy to be impatient. But if you spend several weeks, months, or possibly even years on a play or a book only to find out that it isn’t up to snuff, it’s a lot harder to just put it in the trash.
So, I’ve been looking at JUMP like a very long, narrative song. One that starts with a compelling idea: a melody that has legs. In this case the idea was simple: what would happen if I dramatized the conversation between a first-time skydiver and his instructor as they realized the chute had malfunctioned and they’d both be dead in a matter of minutes? If a three-second car wreck can feel like ten minutes of slow motion, playing out in agonizing detail, then surely a three-minute free-fall could fill the space of a 70-minute play (and who wouldn’t want to see a live skydive staged, am I right?). What I found: not only was it hard to fill the space of a full narrative with a single moment, it was also possibly ill-advised. My first draft lacked individual characters and story and that’s because my focus was more on the idea than the actual play. In my mind nothing in the play was really happening, it was all part of some pre-death fever dream so who cared if the characters were two-dimensional? It was all about the concept. The style. The challenge. And while I’m still interested in that initial question of whether or not a person’s thoughts during a free-fall to certain death could fill an evening on stage, that’s not the play I wound up writing. I realized that even if I could script those thoughts, they might not be all that dramatically interesting: they might just be random and freeform and chaotic. I have nothing against chaos in art. I think it can be quite beautiful. But JUMP initially unveiled itself to me as a narrative surrounding four characters. I had to figure out what that narrative was outside of the central incident of the failed skydive.
And I honestly had very few ideas.
Luckily, what I did have was time and a group of more experienced playwrights to sound the play in front of. The Lab at Plan-B is such an enormously valuable resource for writers trying to troubleshoot a script. It’s basically the musician’s equivalent of being able to test and workshop each new song in front of Neil Young, Paul Simon, Mariah Carey and Stephen Sondheim (Didn’t know that Mariah wrote all her own songs? Well, now you do. You’re welcome.). It’s amazing. With their insight, I was able to begin the process of fleshing out the characters. I began to work through each character, one at a time, to turn them into people with individual circumstances, arcs and behaviors. Remarkably the story followed right in suit: turns out character and story are kind of joined at the hip. When one suffers, the other suffers, when one improves, the other goes right along with it.
I’m still fine tuning. Still trimming, adding bits and pieces. I’m still allowing the play to continue to reveal itself, note by note, stanza by stanza. But it’s there now. It’s something I can step away from and set free. It’s a song I’d put on an album.
One more thing: former Davey Foundation grant winner Carleton Bluford brought me to tears with his play MAMA at Plan-B a few years before JUMP was selected as the winner of the same competition. It wasn’t just that Bluford is a dear friend and I was beaming with pride, it wasn’t just the beauty of his words and the lovely sentiment he showed for mothers everywhere (I mean it was those things), but the play closed with a song David Fetzer had written for his mother before his death, and that really was the blow that broke my emotional dam. I was moved by the reality of a living legacy for this kind and generous artist taken far too soon. I am so honored to have my play added to that living legacy, and I couldn’t be happier with the approach Plan-B is taking with it. Jerry’s decision to collaborate with Flying Bobcat was a genius move that I believe will really make the play take flight. Alexandra Harbold and Robert Scott Smith aren’t only friends of mine, they’re also a team I’ve previously worked with to create two devised pieces. We have a knowledge of each other’s artistic vocabulary. I trust their vision and their commitment to finding solutions through imagination and good old-fashioned play. If the few conversations I’ve had with them discussing ideas for the show are any indication, they are going to blow this whole thing wide open and create something bolder and more thrilling than anything I could have done on my own. And hopefully it will be a worthy addition to the legacy of David Fetzer!”
– Austin Archer, Playwright, JUMP
“Connessione. When Robert Scott Smith and I first began devising work together at The Leonardo, we were hunting for inspiration and working methods and happened upon Michael J. Gelb’s How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci. The da Vinci principles have become a divining stick of sorts, a way for us to navigate and dig deeper into the layers of the work. When Jerry invited us to co-produce Austin’s JUMP, connessione, my totem animal of the principles, lit up strong and bright. Gelb defines connessione as 'a recognition of and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena (systems thinking).' This speaks to this powerful act of collaboration and co-producing work; suddenly, the patterns and possibilities come to the fore. Disparate points become constellations.
JUMP is sinuous and capable of effortless time travel. It stirs up questions of how we metabolize loss and grief, what it means to be yoked into someone else’s experience, interdependent – what it means to take the responsibility/burden/choice to take someone else’s wellbeing upon ourselves – or to step away when that weight becomes unbearable. The contracts of love we keep and break. Our dueling impulses to calculate/mitigate risk while hungering for an experience of absolute transcendence. Connessione.”
– Alexandra Harbold, Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory | Co-Director, JUMP
“If you’d asked me five years ago where I’d see my career, I never would have expected to have a theatre company, or that I’d be an assistant professor, or that I would be a successful actor living in SLC. That was not the plan. However, five years ago when I first asked Alexandra Harbold to collaborate with me on the POP-UP@LEO series at The Leonardo, I’d secretly been dreaming of this type of work for what seemed like a lifetime. That invitation led to the creation of three devised original works: SENSES 5, LOVE (our first collaboration with Austin Archer), and MIND|MATTER. This newfound collaboration stirred up our curiosity about forming an ongoing creative partnership and ultimately inspired us to form our own company, Flying Bobcat. Something must be working because once again we find ourselves with another invitation to collaborate. I was thrilled when Jerry approached us to co-produce Austin’s new play JUMP with Plan-B. We jumped at the chance (see what I did there?). Jerry has not only reunited Flying Bobcat with the amazingly talented Austin Archer, he has also given us a platform to share our work with Plan-B’s audience.
Jerry asked me, ‘Why would you want to do this with Plan-B specifically?’ Just look at what they’ve done as a company and you’d have to be insane not to. It’s almost unbelievable to imagine that Plan-B is the only professional theatre company in the country producing full seasons of new works by local playwrights. Artists supporting other artists. This is what David Fetzer was doing all along. With JUMP, it feels like the perfect collaboration of companies working in tandem to give flight to Austin’s play.”
– Robert Scott Smith, Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory | Co-Director, JUMP