Playwright and actor Kim Porter knows a thing or two about writing for the stage. The Texas-born Arizona resident's yarns have been staged at theaters on both coasts and garnered multiple awards. (Most recently, she received two L.A. Drama Critics awards and three L.A. Weekly awards for the Los Angeles run of her solo production, Munched).
She's got a lot of tips for aspiring playwrights, and she shares them in her eight-week "Writing for the Stage" workshops. You can see her latest students' work in action on Saturday, May 15, when Space55 hosts performances of their theatre works.
We recently exchanged some e-mail Q&A with Porter, who filled us in on the workshops and upcoming reading.
There are four artists participating in this showcase reading. Two are working on long plays and we will see excerpts from those, and two have written short plays, which we will see in their entirety. The topics are as varied as the artists who wrote them...a disenchanted used book-store clerk pockets an unusual book which crosses the buy-counter and ends up opening a mysterious portal, which sets a deadly supernatural game in motion...a house-bound elder with a shopping channel addiction develops an unexpected friendship with the heartbroken young man who delivers her meals... a father and a teenager daughter debate what it means to be a monster... two star gazers find love where they least expect it.
What's the most important thing you teach writers in your workshop?
The most important tool I give these participants is helping them figure out what they need to do in order to keep writing. After all, it doesn't matter how great a writer you could be or how great a story you've dreamed up in your head, if you aren't putting pen on paper. The greatest danger isn't that we won't write good stories; the greatest danger is that we won't write. I also think it's pretty important to know that everyone writes a shitty first draft.
What are some of the activities you have your students do in these workshops?
We always start with a variety of visualizations and in-class writing exercises designed to inspire and hone skills within certain areas -- dialogue, conflict, character, dynamics, structure, etc. We also do these exercises to figure out what we want to write about, because sometimes we don't know. We read pages that were written over the week and we give each other a very specific type of supportive feedback, which is meant to teach the participant how to hear their own inner voice and intuition. We teach ourselves how to notice what we are noticing...
At the end of each session, we have a showcase on a weekend night, at which their pages are read by professional actors in front of a paying audience. This is a major milestone and an important part of an artist's development. The story isn't done until it's been heard.
The "Writing for the Stage" readings, featuring the works of Janet Burruel,
Harmony De Leon,Carrie Behrens ,and Ashley Naftule, take place from 7 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, May 15, at Space55. Admission costs $5. For more information, visit www.space55.org or www.kimporter.net.