Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sheer joy + raw theater ambition = panic attack

Contributed by Michelle T. Johnson

I've never been known for doing things the easy way and producing my play in New York City before putting it on its feet in my home town of Kansas City is no exception.

Wiccans in the 'Hood was originally written to debut at the 2013 Kansas City Fringe Festival. As a playwright, I was excited to be organized enough to have cast and crew in place by last Fall.

But I couldn't leave well enough alone.

I hear about the Midwinter Madness Festival in New York City last October, enter my play  and next thing I know, the festival is saying yes.

Sheer joy plus raw theater ambition equaled  panic attack.

So, by late November, suddenly I'm trying to figure out how to put a five-person, one-act play in the Big Apple in the next three months when I have no money and don't know any directors or actors in New York City.

While I did briefly think about flying my Kansas City cast and crew to NYC, when  I crunched those numbers I figured building a rocket ship in my backyard with tin foil and left over wasabi paste would be easier.

So, with my trusty little iPhone I found myself creating an Indiegogo campaign to raise money and using the wonders of Google and Twitter to find the amazing NYC director Kevin R. Free to direct my play. And Kevin was able to find James Masciovecchio to be the assistant stage manager and assistant director and actors Kimberlee Walker, Bloo Rodriguez, Michael Murray,  Samantha Debicki and Shay Gines to bring it all to life.

From my home in Kansas City and with the help of associate producer Vicki Vodrey (a friend and Kansas City playwright who has self-produced two of her plays in NYC festivals) I was able to pull off the miracle that allowed me to see Wiccans in the 'Hood premiere in New York City before my Kansas City cast and director has a chance to have one rehearsal.

The biggest challenge to doing it this way has been one leap of faith after another. While I'm not a control freak, like any one who has artistic vision about their own work, it's been difficult to surrender as much as I've had to.

What I've learned the most from this process is that whether you're self-directing a play that will be 10 minutes from your house or 2,000 miles away, you have to trust in the collaborative spirit of theater. You have to trust and believe that the people you entrust your story to will live up to that trust so that it all works out.

And when it does, it may not be like turning water in to wine, but it sure feels that way.

Wiccans in the 'Hood will be part of the Third Annual Midwinter Madness Festival at Roy Arias Stage II, 300 West 43rd Street, 4th Floor · Tickets on sale through Feb 23.

 NYTheate Interview


Michelle T. Johnson is a Kansas City area native who works in the diversity field nationally and locally as a national speaker and writer. She's a former journalist and former employment attorney of several years.

In addition to her three published books on workplace diversity, Johnson is the "Diversity Diva" whose freelance column has run twice a month in the Kansas City Star's Business section since 2008.

As a playwright, her plays have been produced in the Barnplayer's "2011 Six By Ten Festival," the 2012 Kansas City Fringe Festival and by Potluck Productions in 2012. She has been selected as a featured playwright by the Unicorn Theater's Writer Showcase in February 2013. Johnson's play "Wiccans in the 'Hood" makes it World Premiere in February 2013 where it has been selected for the "Midwinter Madness Short Play Festival" in New York City. The Kansas City premiere of "Wiccans in the 'Hood" will take place in the 2013 Kansas City Fringe Festival.

1 comment:

  1. A true testament of how faith in your ability, talent, and passion can supersede the lack of financial means to turn dreams into reality! Nothing stands in the way of the Believer who dares to challenge the improbable!