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Monday, December 14, 2015

A COLLECTION OF PLAYS ABOUT LOVE



As a playwright, it is always an honor to be included in an anthology of plays.  Particularly when it is an anthology of plays about love.

It's a terrific subject, isn't it?  According to the musical Aida, or, at least the lyricist Tim Rice, every story is a love story.  While I agree with this to some extent, there are certainly plays that stand out as either a celebration or close examination of the human spirit in love.  Certainly their are classics from Shakespeare like Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream, to name but a few.  And contemporary theater is chock-full of plays examining love, from A Streetcar Named Desire to Barefoot in the Park, from Same Time, Next Year to Angels in America.  Don't even get me started on musicals!

That is why I was honored when my play A Forgetful Remembrance (click the link to learn more or order) was recently included in an anthology of ten minute plays about love called Head Over Heels.   I wrote the piece as part of a longer play made up of ten minute scenes about love called Bees are in the Park.(click the link to learn more or order)  It is all about an elderly couple, sitting in a park, remembering their life together.  As the play progresses, we learn that the elderly gentleman, Colin, is in a bit of denial about a very important event.  I wrote the play as an expression of what I consider to be the truest kind of love.  At the time, I felt this short play said everything that needed to be said about love and devotion that I could possibly say.  Whether or not this is true, I can say that the the play is packed with emotion.  I have received countless messages from people who have performed the piece, telling me about how the audience was in tears by the end, both guys and gals.  I find this gratifying, as, I must confess, I still can't read through the piece without tearing up at the end.  It is one of those rare plays that I can read and almost forget that I was the one who wrote it.

A photo from a production of "A Forgetful Remembrance" by the Reedy Point Players in Delaware

 I think ten minute plays are great way to put together a night of theater on a small budget, and with cast restrictions. Because they are short, they have a clear conflict, and are usually pretty dynamic.  Ten minute duets in particular give actors a chance to really delve into a character, and make it shine, without having to worry about carrying an entire evening.  This is a gift for student actors and experienced actors alike.

I don't only recommend Head Over Heels  because my play is in it.  There are eleven other short plays that deal with love, ranging from the hilarious to the dramatic to poignant and touching.  Here's a look at the table of contents:

Coaster of Doom by Lisa Cestowski
Lunch Date by Sally Jane Kerschen-Sheppard
Dance in Venice by John Shanahan
A Forgetful Remembrance by Bobby Keniston (Me!)
He Loves Me by Tim Mogford
Say it With Flowers by Jim Gustafson
Real Beatlemaniacs by Leslie Bramm
1st Floor, 2nd Floor by Olivia Arieti
Almost by Krista Dalby
Leslie and the Boys by Tim Mogford
Measuring Matthew by Patrick Gabridge
First Impression by Matt Thompson

Again, I don't just say this because I'm featured here (although, that is a plus), but in all seriousness, this is a terrific anthology that would be a great addition to any drama teacher's collection, any community theater's collection, or just for anyone who loves to read plays.

Who doesn't want to experience an evening full of love at the theater?

You can order Head Over Heels from Brooklyn Publishers by CLICKING HERE, or from Heuer Publishing by CLICKING HERE.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

APPRECIATING THE LITTLE (BIG) THINGS

a VERY cool production photo from a school group in Virginia who did my play "Confession:  Kafka in High School"

It is easy making a life for yourself in the arts. I don't say this to discourage anyone from trying--- indeed, if it is what you love, and you can't imagine yourself being happy doing anything else, then I encourage you with a whole heart to pursue your passion and follow that dream.

Just know that it's not always easy.

My first two plays were published in March of 2010.  One of them was Rumplestilskin the R-Dawg: Hip-Hop Minstrel, from Brooklyn Publishers and the other was Confession:  Kafka in High School, from Playscripts, Inc.

Now, almost five years later, my plays have been performed in 44 different states and 4 different countries.  I have 32 publications in four different catalogs, and my work has been chosen to be a part of three different anthologies.  I have self-produced a few plays for adults, been to different festivals and competitions, met some really great people, and even have a script that some kind folks in Delaware are working hard to make a movie from.

Best of all, I hear from students every now and then from all over the country (and, sometimes, all over the world).  They'll drop me a line on my Facebook Page or at theater.is.a.sport@gmail.com, and ask me questions, or just say hi.  Sometimes, they'll send me cool pictures like the one above.  Or, this one below:

A poster for a production of my play, "Avoiding the Pitfalls of High School Dating"

All of this is super cool, and I love it.  But, still, it is easy to get down on myself many days.  After all, I'm 37 years old and I don't have a "steady" job (or, according to some, a "real" job--- but that's for another post), I struggle financially a great deal, and have no money put away for the future, because I barely have money for the present.  Such things can make one lose faith in themselves a little from time to time--- while I'm grateful that my work is produced, and I'm thankful for every group who chooses my plays, I've yet to have a definite "hit" per se.  A few have come close, but not quite.  And that's okay.  My playwriting career grows a little every year, and it feels wrong to ask for more than that.

But, in my defense, it is human nature to want to climb to the top of your field, or, at the very least, have a good view of the top from where you are.  And everyone wants stability, as well as a reward for hard work (and writing plays can be very, very hard work).

So when I get down on myself, I'll look at the messages I have received from students, or at the many cast photos and production photos.  I'll stop and remind myself of something very important:  the productions of my plays aren't just a list on a piece of paper I receive from my publishers.  They are teachers preparing a group of students.  These students practice to memorize words that I put on a page to tell a story.  They stand backstage before a show, feeling that same excitement and energy that I feel when I'm in a play, and they are feeling it for my work. My work!  This group of kids have come together to CREATE, they have formed a CAST BOND, all revolving around a play I WROTE!!

When I think of my work in these terms, I smile, and feel very special and honored and lucky.  No, I am not rich.  But my work is important.  In some small way, I have touched lives.  My work has taken on a life outside of me, and belongs to all of these other people now, and not just me.

And that's something that money can't buy.

Friday, December 11, 2015

HOW THEATER CAN SAVE YOUR SANITY

Yours Truly as Jacob Marley in "Scrooge and Marley"
Welcome to theater is a sport.  My name is Bobby Keniston, and I will be your host.

When I first moved back to my home town of Dover-Foxcroft, ME, about seven years ago, I was in a pretty bad way.  I had just gone through a broken engagement, couldn't keep a job where I was living, or, at least not a job that paid enough for me to have my own apartment.  I came back to my parents house, and, to be honest, I was pretty depressed.  My days consisted of the following:

*Eating
*Filling out applications for jobs I didn't really want
*Staying in my room, watching TV
*Missing my ex
*Staring at the TV without really watching
*Eating

Not a great time in my life.  I rarely went outside, even though it was getting close to autumn, my favorite season, I didn't really talk to anyone except for my parents.

Since I had been gone, a place called the Center Theatre had come to fruition in my hometown.  I knew a little bit about it--- when I was in college, a group of people had started the dream of fixing up the decrepit old theater of yesteryear, and creating a facility to celebrate the arts in our small town. I was now in my early thirties, and the place had been functional for a few years by the time I got home.  I noticed the difference in high school kids I would run across.  Theater was now something they were being exposed to, which is a very good thing.

There was a casting notice for the Christmas play.  It was an adaptation of A Christmas Carol called Scrooge and Marley by Israel Horovitz.  It's the story that everyone knows, only in this adaptation, Jacob Marley serves as a narrator, or Greek Chorus if you will, to the audience.

I had no intention of auditioning.  That would mean leaving my room.  My parents kept encouraging me to just go down and audition, to get out of the house.  "I don't know any of these people anymore," I said.  "Why should I bother?," I said.

But, whether it was because of my parents' prodding or some inner voice that knew me too well, I did end up auditioning.  And, since I was auditioning for someone who I had never worked with and who didn't know my work (now a dear friend named Rhonda Kirkpatrick), I was nervous.  For the first time in a long time, I was nervous to audition.  And that's a good thing.

Why is that a good thing?, you may ask.  A few reasons.  It gave me a sense of inner stakes.  I wanted to do well, which means, all of a sudden, as I waited for my turn to audition, I wanted a part.  I wanted to impress this new director I'd never worked with.  And, the right amount of nervousness ensures that you are taking it seriously, want to do a good job, keeps you on your toes.

Long story short, I got the part.  Now, this did magically turn my life around and make me a shiny, happy person again over night.  No, not necessarily.  But it gave me something to focus on.  And I was focusing on something that I love to do--- create a character, work towards a performance, and lose myself for a little while.

And, as days went by, and I attended rehearsals, I met more and more people, made some new friends, reconnected with some old ones, and, yes, I was smiling and laughing again.

Don't underestimate this one true fact:  THE ACT OF CREATION CAN SAVE YOU.  It has me, time and time again.  It is an outlet, a chance to work with people from all different backgrounds with the common goal of CREATING SOMETHING GOOD.  Something positive.  Something to share with the world for moments in time.

My funk lifted.  I felt better, stronger, appreciated.

So if you're blue, or going through a rough time, or just bored with the same old routine, keep your eyes open on local community theater auditions.  Get involved.  If you don't want to be onstage, volunteer to work backstage.  You will automatically become a part of something that will transport you.  It won't solve all your problems, nothing does that, but it will help your problems seem less intense, more manageable.

And that's why I love the theater so much.