Saluting the Playwright! by Rose Desena

                             A Salute to

                      Terrence McNally


So You Think You Can Write.


Every season the Skylight Theatre Company launches exciting new plays from some of the best and brightest emerging writers. STC TerrenceMcNallysupports their writing talent by helping them to develop their work through a variety of programs that they offer. In addition, they are now establishing an annual “SALUTE to the Playwright” event.


This first year, the Skylight Theatre will offer their “Salute” to 4 time Tony Award winner Terrence McNally. McNally is a true master of his pen; from 1964 to 2013 his writing and awards have been continuous.  He is truly a multi-faceted writer who can bring the simplest story to a dynamic denouement.


For those writers who have not yet ascended to “legendary” status, and dream of becoming another McNally, the Skylight Theatre Company has a clear and committed mission to assist them in doing so. I really appreciate the work that the Skylight Theater Company does with emerging writers. I have said this a number of times, however, I feel like it’s never enough. We are blessed to have such good innovative work being developed right in our own back yard. In the past year I have seen three plays that this group developed and there recent production of Sexsting was one of my favorites for the year.


Being a closet playwright myself, I wanted to know more about the process, how it works, and where they find the kind of talent that has brought critical acclaim to the STC, so we interviewed their Producing Artistic Director, Gary Grossman.


Rose: Hi Gary, I think The Skylight Theater organization is a great asset to the LA theater community.


Gary: I believe we are an asset to not only the LA theatre community but for theater’s all over.  We develop and produce new works that are seeing life in other theatre throughout the country. And that’s our mission to be a home for and nurture artists, allowing their voice to be heard on our stages and stages around the world. 


Rose: Why is the Skylight Theatre Company so committed to developing new works, and what does the process look like?


 GARY: Our passion is for telling original stories that speak to today’s audience while creating dynamic theatre that resonates within our city. Our mission is to establish Los Angeles as a major center of innovation in the American Theatre. It starts with the playwright. We want playwrights to feel that this is a home to test their new works. Our process begins through INKubator, STC’s play development program. The company presents monthly stage readings with the idea of moving the play forward either to a workshop production or to a fully produced world premiere production. Under the umbrella of INKubator, there are a variety of opportunities for playwrights.




Rose: What are those other opportunities?


 Gary:  One of best opportunities is PlayLAB, which this year was home to 15 resident writers. We began the program in 2011, and it is run by Shem Bitterman who himself has written several award winning plays (our current production OPEN HOUSE, is Shem’s latest work, and it has been extended to run through September 22nd). At the end of each season, the PlayLAB participants present LAbWorks, a festival of new works. All of the plays are conceived, developed, and executed within the last 12 months. Another opportunity available to writers is our unAUTHORized program. This will be available as a writer’s workshop for ages 18 – 25, in 2014. Our SOLOMojo program is a solo performance intensive and is an invaluable process for the writer/performer.


Rose: How would someone be able to get involved in your PlayLAB program?


 Gary: Check our website to find out when our next open submission begins. If a writer is passionate about writing and they are interested in working with us, we ask that they submit a ten-page sample of their work, and a resume (only during our submission dates). They can send it to:


Rose: So, the goal of your writers programs is to produce the plays that come out of the experience?


 Gary: The goal of INKubator is clear-cut… to ready these plays for world premiere full productions as part of the main stage season at the Skylight Theatre. Co-Artistic Director Tony Abatemarco and Artistic Advisor Michael Kearns are facilitators as well as being participants in INKubator. Both have launched new works of their own through STC. These programs are supporting tomorrow’s greatest playwrights, today!


Rose: Personally I am a huge Terrence McNally fan, and I am really looking forward to the Salute you are doing! Other than the obvious, why did you choose Terrence as the first writer for your salute?


Gary: I can’t take the credit for honoring Terrance, that idea originated from Suzi Dietz our board chair. She brought the idea to us and we agreed. What better way to shine a light on every theatre’s most necessary ingredient for success than to pay tribute to a living American playwright whose body of work exemplifies the qualities of greatness. Quoting Suzi, “Terrence’s work paved the way for the expansion of our country’s civil rights to include members of the LGBT community, who were forced to live their lives in the shadows for so long.  In addition, we are paying tribute to a writer who, in the great tradition of all dramatic literature, holds a mirror up to our society, revealing the goodness and the wickedness, the frailty and the strength, the cowardice and the bravery, the hypocrisy and the authenticity of all human kind. His work is marked by compassion and humor, and he has shown us how art can truly change the world.”


Rose:  The event is a lot more than a “salute,” it’s a four day extravaganza of fun events for writers and patrons. Please tell me about it so that I can salivate a little beforehand.


 Gary: It’s a very exciting four-day event, with play readings, panel discussions, and a master class, all it culminating in a Star-Studded show at the Saban Theatre on the final evening. This year we’re honoring 4 times Tony Award winner Terrence McNally. On Sept 26th, we will include a VIP dinner with Terrence at a private residence; on Sept 27th at 8pm we will have a panel discussion, spotlighting writing gay themes in modern times; on Sept 28th at 3pm and 8pm at the Skylight Theatre, we will have a star-studded premiere reading of Terrence’s updated comedy classic. It’s Only A Play; a master class on writing (taught by Terrence); and then the an all-star celebration at 8pm on Sept 29th at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills directed by Tony Award nominee Sheryl Kaller and featuring celebrities from stage, television, and screen.


Performances will include excerpts from Terrence’s wide body of work, including the musicals’ Ragtime, The Full Monty, and Kiss of the Spider Woman as well as his Tony Award winning plays Master Class, Love! Valor! Compassion! and others.


The lineup will include performances from Mary McDonnell (Major Crimes), Jason Alexander (Seinfeld), Johnny Galecki (Big-Bang Theory), Bang Theory), Tim Cummings (Rogue Machine, New Electric Ballroom; LADCC and LA Weekly Awards), Mary McCormack (In Plain Sight; Welcome To The Family), Michael Arden (Broadway: Big River; Off Bway: Swimming In The Shallows), Christopher Hanke (Broadway: Rent; In My Life), Sharon Lawrence (Rizzoli & Isles), Richard Kind (Broadway: Big Knife), Ed Asner (Lou Grant), Shoshana Bean (Broadway: Wicked), Tyne Daly (Broadway: Master Class), Barrett Foa (NCIS Los Angeles), Jorge Garcia (Lost), John Benjamin Hickey (The Big C), Lisa Kudrow (Web Therapy, Friends), Stacy Keach (Frost/Nixon), Doris Roberts (Everybody Loves Raymond), Steven Weber (Studio 60), Cheyenne Jackson (30 Rock), Peter Jason (Arrested Development), Leslie Odom Jr. (Smash, Broadway: Leap of Faith), James Wolk (Mad Men) and more!


I will be producing the event along with Andrew Carlberg and Suzi Dietz (Skylight Theatre-Boar President). It’s a perfect opportunity to bring the Los Angeles theater community together and to pay tribute to the men and women who create the plays that resonate with audiences for generation. Proceeds will help to support the great playwrights of tomorrow!


Rose: Thank you so much for your time, just one more thing. Can I meet Terrence; I promise I will behave myself? It’s just I think if I can shake his hand maybe a tiny bit of his talent will rub off on me. What do you think?


Gary: Let me see what I can do.


ROSE: Great, thanks again, I will see you at the Skylight.


I think any or all of these events will be a blast to attend and I would love to see both McNally and STC get the support they deserve. So clear you calendar and log on to their site and get yourself tickets for one if not all these events.  I am going to try and attend a few myself, and who knows, I might get to meet the master.  Starts September 26th


Because there are different venues and events, check the website for more detailed information, or call 702-582-8587. Here’s a little preview:

Special thanks to Judith Borne of Borne Identities.

Please read all my reviews and articles @ www. and as always comments are welcome.




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