From Page to Play: The Evolution of The Shabbos List

Ever since my sons decided to follow a different religious path than they’d been raised, I’ve wanted to tell the story. As a non-fiction writer, I’ve shared my journey a little in blog posts. I had ideas about a book or perhaps an anthology that would include stories by others facing similar challenges and never pursued them. Then one day about two years ago, an image came into mind that stayed with me, almost goading me into tackling the subject through dialogue and drama.

I wrote a sentence on a sticky note, and started exploring play writing classes. A writer friend introduced me to Charles Maryan  affectionately called Chuck, a director and college professor who’s offered a playwriting and directors workshop in Manhattan for more than 30 years.   An email led to a coffee date- the first of many in the writing process- and he accepted me into his workshop that meets every two weeks, on Monday nights, from September to June. I began in 2012.

For the first few months, I wrote nothing.

I sat, intimidated by the other participants, some both published and produced playwrights, some beginners like me. Professional actors would volunteer to read the scripts. In true workshop procedure, we offered positive feedback and a few suggestions. I was mesmerized by the entire thing. I remember asking Chuck, “you mean there are hundreds and hundreds of actors willing to volunteer to read?”

His answer startled me. “No, Lisa, there are thousands and thousands.” Acting’s a competitive business; actors never know when something may take off and give them employment.

I had more coffee dates with Chuck at Malecon, and we talked. He suggested I start with a couple pages. Timidly, I gave him 10 pages. Then 15, then 20. And so on. m3

I signed up for a reading slot for the end of April, 2013, giving myself plenty of time to either produce something or pull out and give the slot to someone else. I had about 45 pages by April, which translates into about 55 minutes of stage time. I loved hearing my words  be read and interpreted.

And I felt I was done.

I had said what I wanted; I didn’t have any ideas on how to expand it. Chuck insisted I dig deeper into the story, give the characters more to say and  do; as he says, all theater is “life and death.” I needed to mine the life and death a lot more.

We had a lot more coffee over the summer and I bravely signed up for the first session in September, 2013.   I absorbed the criticisms. “Look for consensus,” Chuck advised. “Go with the humor,” he said.

My play had its third reading in early January, 2014. And this time, there were fewer tweaks and I really felt I was done.

“Write another play,” urged Chuck. I didn’t have any more ideas. This was my story.

“Something will turn up,” he said. In the meantime, he suggested I start submitting it to various theaters and drama festivals around the country that might be interested in the subject matter.

My play met the requirements for the Thespis Theater Festival.  It’s under 90 minutes and I’m from New Jersey. (the playwright had to be from either NY or NJ). Within three weeks of sending my play via email, I received an email telling me I’d been accepted. The theater supplies the space and some marketing and handles ticket sales. They run the festival as a competition too.

Over dinner, Chuck  outlined what I’d need to do to produce the play. A cast of 5, a crew of 5 or 6, set, props, costumes, rehearsal space. I had no idea what goes into a production. I debated whether I should do it. Judd Silverman, a playwright and director and workshop participant agreed to direct.

Suddenly, the solitude of writing turned into the collaboration of producing. We held auditions, inviting actors we were familiar with to read. Instead of coffee with Chuck, I’m having light suppers in diners with Judd and members of the production team. The set, props, and costumes are coming to life. I’ve attended a couple rehearsals and am fascinated watching the actors inhabit the characters and listening to Judd direct them. I’m still revising too; words on the page don’t automatically work as words on stage.

The cast

The cast

The crew

The crew

The Shabbos List  has three performances July 17, 18, and 20.  And that scene that rolled around in my head? It’s in the middle of the play.

 

Shabbos poster text-1

 

 

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About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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43 Responses to From Page to Play: The Evolution of The Shabbos List

  1. Big Mazels Lisa! I’ll be up for a party July 19, maybe we could come?

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  2. hugmamma says:

    Love the story…behind the story. Or in this case…the play. I can relate to all you’ve been through to get produced. Not that I’ve been anywhere close, just that the process sounds like something I’d go through in getting a book published. Which you’ve already done as well. You rock, Lisa! Big time!!! 🙂

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  3. Judy says:

    Wow! So wish i could see the play!! Best of luck.

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  4. Thanks. This part is very exciting.

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  5. What an amazing journey from inside your head to the stage – and all the steps in between. It sounds like a fascinating play and if we are around in July I would love to see it! So proud of you for sticking with this and seeing it to fruition! MBA

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  6. Thanks, Marci. Maybe it will have another life elsewhere, another time!

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  7. Great post! I am super excited about the play and so proud of you!!

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  8. Wow, Lisa. I admire your courage at jumping into the workshop, and your stamina and perseverance at pursuing your goals. And look at the payoff! Good for you! I wish I could see this play! – It seems right up my alley, and if you’re the playwright, I have a feeling it’s very clever! I grew up in NY, and always enjoyed the theater. I will recommend your play to my family in NY, as I’m in LA – with a broken foot….Lots of luck to you in all your creative and professional endeavors!!

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  9. beachbarb says:

    Lisa, that is very exciting. I am in awe of your accomplishments. Having been very involved in theater in college and then in community theater after I got married, I could share in your excitement as it all started to come together. Best wishes…Break a leg!

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  10. That’s wonderful Lisa – congratulations – I’m so proud of you!
    Diana xo

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  11. Lisa, this might be one of the most exciting and rewarding experience of your life. I am hoping to get to NY to see your play.

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  12. Hope so! Let me know which night you plan to come. The new location makes it much easier.

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  13. Unbelievable wnat you’ve accomplished and how you went about it. Can’t wait to see the play. Love to get the responses of the “critics”.

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  14. Love reading about your process. Congratulations! Quite exciting!!!!!

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  15. ShimonZ says:

    Wishing you great success.

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  16. Drjcwash says:

    Wow, Lisa. This is so exciting. I can’t wait to talk and get all the details. I did order my ticket for July 18. I can’t wait to see your play. This is only the second time I have had the experience of seeing a production of a play written by a friend. The first time was hearing the initial play from a colleague who is a Rheumatologist. He had been a Medic in Vietnam. I was there on opening night and it was thrilling to see his words come to life and learn about his experiences.

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  17. Wow! Well done, Lisa. That was quite a journey, and congratulations to you for seeing it through to the end. Good luck with the productions. You must be so excited.

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  18. susanissima says:

    Break a leg, Lisa, cast and crew! Wishing you every success on your performances of “The Shabbos List.”

    Like

  19. Naomi says:

    Looking forward to it!

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  20. Leah says:

    Mazel Tov, Lisa! I wish I could be there to watch your play. It sounds amazing!

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  21. Thanks! Maybe a local temple or JCC near you would be interested in it. Provocative and great for an audience discussion.

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  22. SO proud of you Lisa!! Man, I so wish I could see it! Please video tape it, and maybe I can see a copy later? Mazel!! Big hug and break a leg! xox

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  23. Colline says:

    I love that your writing led to more than you ever expected 🙂

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  24. Thank you! It’s a lot of fun and fascinating to be part of the process.

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  26. Patti Winker says:

    Wonderful! Break a leg! 😉

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  27. I’m so happy for you, Lisa! I admire you for your following your dream. I respect you for processing your struggle and journey and transforming it into a creative outlet. Now others can enjoy and benefit. Good luck and break a leg! (Oy! Coming from me, that’s NOT a good thing!)

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  28. Thanks! Yes, I’ll take the good luck from you! xo

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  30. Wow! Congratulations, Lisa! How exciting. I am going to keep reading to see how it went–am catching up on my blog-reading after a summer away.

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  31. I haven’t written about how it went- despite requests– it went well- and I learned a ton about producing (and that I much prefer writing). Now to try to find a real producer and a real theater to take it on.

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  32. Lisa, from my early reading on this play I was blown away. Creative, intelligent and meaningful… I really think this play has so much potential (what a great movie it would make!). It’s really fun to read the progress…. though I’d followed it in your posts, prior to the completion. Way to go friend! You worked so hard and it really paid off. I so wish I could have been in NYC for it.

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  35. lisakunk says:

    Wow. How exciting. Enjoy.

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