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Hit & Run: A History

HRscripts

In its 10-year history, Hit & Run, Spokane’s annual staged reading of short comedic plays, grew from an hour-long reading to a three-day event. Its audience and international reputation grew with it. Hit & Run evolved from a playwriting workshop held monthly at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Spokane Valley, Washington. Members of the small group, called Play-Makers, needed to hear their plays aloud in front of the audience. As the event grew, submissions exploded to 300 per year.

2007—Spring Fling

In 2007, facilitator Sandra Hosking approached Auntie’s bookstore in downtown Spokane, who allowed the group to do a staged reading of a few short plays in the first-floor café in front of a large bank of windows and with the soundtrack of espresso machines. Passersby would stare at us and curious shoppers would sit down for a few minutes to listen. Playwrights included Hosking, Jeanne Gustafson, Penny Lucas and two out-of-town writers. Jackie Davis, Terry Sticka, Rebecca Cook, Kathleen Malcolm and Whitworth students Ray Bunker and Kaliene Roth lent their acting talents. The inaugural event, held in April, was called Spring Fling and was deliberately designed as a Saturday matinee, a time when no other shows would be happening and talent would be available About 20 people attended the free reading. Our style was to simply read the plays with minimal staging, no props and no costumes. Spring Fling was produced by Hosking’s Debut Promotions.

2008—Hit & Run II

The following year, we invited playwrights from across the U.S. to submit scripts. Five were selected. The presentation, held on April 26, 2008, was renamed Hit & Run, reflecting the short scripts and brief show. The idea was to hit the audience with laughter-invoking plays and exit on a high note. In addition, directors volunteered to bring out the best in the scripts—Dawn Taylor Reinhardt, Sandra Hosking and Jone Campbell Bryan. Actors included Jeff Bryan, Melissa Chan Jones, Ron Ford, Susan Hardie, Molly Parish, Terry Sticka and students from Whitworth University.

  • “Con-Science” by Sandra Hosking, of Newman Lake, WA
  • “For Your Convenience” by Nicki Dyer, of Spokane, WA
  • “Teddy Knows Too Much” by Matt Hanf, of Sacramento, CA
  • “The Date” by Robert White, of West Hollywood, CA
  • “Who’s Herbert” by Alan Woods, of Columbus, OH

2009—Hit & Run III

In 2009, Hit & Run permanently moved to the fall, performing on Nov. 14. Our audience had grown enough that we moved to Auntie’s second floor, escaping the espresso machines. Roughly 30 people came to hear readings of several of Hosking’s plays, as well as works by Seattle dramatist Nick Stokes and a poem by Hosking’s 7-year-old son, titled “My Bug.”

Actors included Tony and Maria Caprile, Penny Lucas, Will Lund, Emily Doughty, Nina Kelly and Molly Parish.

2010—Hit & Run IV

dawnHit & Run IV in 2010 brought more script submissions and a longer lineup of plays. This meant more directors and a larger cast. Rehearsals were held at several area libraries and in people’s homes. Auntie’s had reduced the size of its reading room drastically. At least 40 people and the large cast squeezed into a small area at the top of the stairs on the second floor. It was standing room only, and actors had to sit on the stairs. Though we requested more chairs, the store was unable to accommodate and we turned people away. The backdrop was a folding Japanese-style screen and a large wall covered in plastic.

Actors included David McCallum, Lynn Noel, Frank Sullivan, Molly Parish, Emily Doughty, Marek Nelson, Mark Elston, Lori Kramer, Paul Ruch, Judith Albrecht, Vicki McBride, Anne Selcoe, Mark Sims, Sean Taboloff, Lis Motley, Marty Kittelson, Patty Olson and Dawn Taylor Reinhardt.

  • “A Simple Snow” by Elaine Romero, directed by Mike Noel
  • “Almost Connect” by Tom Pierce, directed by David McCallum
  • “Closet Case” by Judd Lear Silverman, directed by Toni Cummins
  • “Herman’s Wedding” by John Franceschini, directed by Toni Cummins
  • “Drenched” by Sandra Hosking, directed by Kat Malcolm
  • “Waiting Lessons” by Laura Pfizenmayer, directed by Sean Taboloff
  • “It’s My Party” by Susan Middaugh, directed by Anne Selcoe
  • “Opening Line” by Mark Harvey Levine, directed by Anne Selcoe
  • “I Thought I Liked Girls” by Nicole Pandolfo, directed by Sandra Hosking
  • “Job Evaluation” by Terry Hagerty, directed by Sandra Hosking
  • “The Review” by Sandra Hosking, directed by Sandra Hosking
  • “Myth of Six Six Six” by Taylor Doherty, directed by Will Gilman
  • “Such a Choice” by Paul Ruch, directed by Ron Ford

2011—Hit & Run V

martyHaving outgrown Auntie’s Bookstore, Hit & Run V moved to the Blue Door Theatre in Spokane’s Garland district. For the first time, the event had stage lights. The reading was held Nov. 5, 2011 and featured 12 plays. About 50 people attended. Actors also were able to use specially made play booklets, which became a tradition. Admission was free, but donations were gladly accepted.

Directors included Sandra Hosking, Kathleen Malcolm, Toni Cummins, Dawn Taylor Reinhardt, Rebecca Cook and Mike Noel. Actors included Lynn Noel, Jamie Flanery, Mike Noel, Kathleen Malcolm, Marty Kittleson, Paul Ruch, Judith Albrecht, Mary Jo Rudolf, Karolynn Clark, Rebecca Cook, Angie Dierdorff, Bethany Hart, James Pendleton, David Kappus, Mark Elston and Joe Dellwo.

  • “Strange Bedfellows” by Peggy Dougherty
  • “A Bed to Die For” by Paul Ruch
  • “The Date” and “Without a Paddle” by Sandra Hosking
  • “The Fall of Narcissus” by Altenir Silva
  • “Couples Counseling” by Rebecca McNeill
  • “The Home Stretch” by Les Abromovitz
  • “Pomegranate” by Jason Aaron Goldberg
  • “The Gospel According to Bowser” by Dan Borengasser
  • “Paradisium” by Alan Kirkpatrick
  • “Object of Affection” by Thomas Misuraca
  • “Grim Reaper” by Dean Bevan

2012—Hit & Run VI

Hit & Run VI on Oct. 6, 2012, featured another big lineup of plays, selected from over 300 submissions from around the world. Though admission was free, anyone donating $5 or more received a beer cupcake made by Sweet & Stout. The audience at the Blue Door, again, grew, along with our reputation. By this time we had coalesced into a solid team of directors and actors.

Directors: Susan Hardie, Sandra Hosking, Ron Ford, Mike Noel, Toni Cummins, Rebecca Cook and Juan Mas.

Actors included Paul Ruch, Judith Albrecht, Lynn Noel, Ron Ford, Vicki McBride, Rose Liston, Mary Jo Rudolf, Susan and Peter Hardie, Bryan and SueAnn Harnetiaux, Tami Rotchford, Laticia Widman, J.P. O’Shaughnessy, Jason Young, Bob Nelson and more.

  • “Personhood” by Jim Lindheim of Castle Valley, Utah
  •  “The Understudy” by J.C. Svec of Clark, N.J
  • “Not Funny” by Christopher Lockheardt of Andover, Mass
  • “Press Pray” by Seth Freeman of Pacific Palisades, Calif
  • “Red Thing” by Ron Ford of Spokane
  • “Where’s the Fire” by Adam Sharp of Minneapolis
  • “The Clip” by Sandra Hosking of Newman Lake, Wash
  • “Directing Dracula” by Sheri Flannery Verrilli of Branchville, N.J
  • “10-Minute Antigone” by Stephen Dierkes of Pasadena, Calif.
  • “Graveside Manners” by Scott Icenhower of Greensboro, N.C.

2013—Hit & Run VII

LaceyIn 2013, Hit & Run evolved again. As the Blue Door decided not to rent out its space anymore for insurance reasons, the newly formed Stage Left Theater invited the event to make the shoebox space its permanent home. Hit & Run VII was expanded to two nights and held Sept. 27 and 28. Admission was $5. “22 actors. 10 plays. 7 directors. 2 performances,” the press release read.

Directors: Susan Hardie, Sandra Hosking, Ron Ford, Mike Noel, Toni Cummins, Juan A. Mas and Dawn Taylor Reinhardt

Actors:  Paul Ruch, Judith Albrecht, Lynn Noel, Ron Ford, Susan Hardie, David Hardie, Tami Rotchford, J.P. O’Shaughnessy, Bob Nelson, Renei Yarrow, Lauren O’Shea-Hauge, Charles Talley, Rebecca Cook, Mike Noel, Brandon Schmadeka, Kathie Doyle-Lipe, Dawn Hunter, Billy Hultquist, Penny Lucas, David and Lacey Olson, and Bob Gariepy

  • “An Honest Arrangement” by David Wiener
  • “Books on Tape” by William Missouri Downs
  • “Close Encounter” by Robin Pond
  • “Dressing in the Dark” by Sandra Hosking
  • “Fair Shake” by Jeffrey Gold
  • “Faking It” by Amy Hollon
  • “Heavenly Inspiration” by Greg Freier
  • “The Proxy” by Philip Kaplan
  • “Singles Night the Safe Way” by J. Thalia Cunningham
  • “The Angel of Troy” by John Byrne

 2014—Hit & Run VIII

The eighth annual comedy festival had an even bigger cast (34) who played to sold-out houses. From a couple debating whether to update their relationship status on Facebook to two kids battling for control of the universe to a humorous version of Jekyll and Hyde, this production had something for everyone. Hit & Run VIII was held Nov. 7 & 8, 2014. Admission was $10. At intermission, one audience member received a play booklet for answering a question about the first half.

The cast included Aaron Carr-Callen, Amy Sherman, Blake King-Krueger, Bob Nelson, Brandon Montang, Chasity Kohlman, Diana Anderson, Gail Cory-Betz, Janelle Frisque, Jennie Oliver, Jhon Goodwin, Joni Elizabeth, Judith Albrecht, Kendra Ann Sherrill, Lynn Noel, Maxim Chumov, Molly Parish, Nick Dennert, Rick Montgomery, Robyn Urhausen, Ron Ford, Sheri Wohl, Stephen Holcomb, Susan Creed and Tami Rotchford.

  • “Dr. Jekyll in Love,” written and directed by Ron Ford, of Spokane
  • “I Don’t Need No Damn Therpaist” by Paul Ruch, of Spokane, directed by Sandra Hosking
  • “Ladies Night Out” by Sandra Hosking, of Newman Lake, directed by Rebecca Cook
  • “Last Words” by Philip J. Kaplan, of Brooklyn, NY, directed by Mike Noel
  • “Misfortune” by Mark Harvey Levine, of Pasadena, CA, directed by Kimberly Roberts
  • “Status Update” by Jamie Pachino, of Los Angeles, CA, directed by Rebecca Cook
  • “The Dunmores at Dinner” by Josh Watkins, of Spokane, directed by Juan Mas
  • “The Maltese Walter” by John Minigan, of Framingham, MA, directed by Toni Cummins
  • “The Wedding Gown” by John Franceschini, of Irvine, CA, directed by Sandra Hosking
  • “Ultimate Battle for Total Control of the Entire Universe” by Rich Orloff, of New York, NY, directed by Toni Cummins
  • “Writer’s Block II” by Mike Noel, of Tum Tum, directed by Ron Ford

2015—Hit & Run IX

doug2015 featured an expanded program dubbed New November. Hit & Run IX grew to three performances, held Nov. 6-8. While the audiences were smaller, the plays were very well received.

Directors: Juan A. Mas, Rebecca Cook, Sandra Hosking, Susan Hardie and Toni Cummins.

The cast: Bob Nelson, Sheri Wohl, Robyn Urhausen, Brandon Montang, Janelle Frisque, Aubrey Shimek-Davis, Jennie Oliver, Doug Dawson, Nancy Gasper, Shane Dean, Tami Rotchford, Scott Roddan, Christopher  Lamb, Blake King-Kreuger, Jason Young, Penny Lucas and Emily Doughty.

  • “Santa Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” by Patrick Gabridge, Brookline, Massachusetts
  • “The Skewed Picture” by Andrew Biss, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • “The Cosmic Dating Game” by R.A. Pauli, Annapolis, Maryland
  • “My Beautiful Voyage” by Paul Lewis, Bainbridge Island, Washington
  • “Indescribably Delicious” by Gail Cory-Betz, Newport, Washington
  • “Last Words” by Jeff Carter, San Francisco, California
  • “Where is Santa Claus?” by Lewis Shilane, Joplin, Missouri
  • “Aftershocks” by Sandra Hosking, Newman Lake, Washington

The following weekend Stage Left and Empire Theatre Co. presented the staged reading of two one-act plays by local playwrights: Man Without A Saddle by Ron Ford and Foxgloves by Sandra Hosking.

2016—Hit & Run X

Our final performance, Nov. 5-6, 2016, at Stage Left. The plays will feature audience and producer favorites from throughout the years.

  • “The Insured” by Sandra Hosking
  • “Teddy Knows Too Much” by Matt Hanf
  • “Closet Case” by Judd Lear Silverman
  • “I Thought I Liked Girls” by Nicole Pandolfo
  • “A Bed to Die For” by Paul Ruch
  • “Not Funny” by Christopher Lockheardt
  • “The Gospel According to Bowser” by Dan Borengasser
  • “Close Encounter” by Robin Pond
  • “Dr. Jekyll in Love” by Ron Ford
  • “Misfortune” by Mark Harvey Levine
  • And the poem “My Bug” by Carter Hosking
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Now Published: Romeo & Juliet: Part II

Romeo & Juliet: Part II

Interview: Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire

FROM INSIGHT FOR PLAYWRIGHTS 2012

Humility, Humanity… by Sandra Hosking. Copyright 2012. Used by permission.

Playwright: David Lindsay-Abaire, 42

Hometown: South Boston, Mass.

Place of Residence: Brooklyn, N.Y.

Education: Sarah Lawrence College, studied theatre and literature; and The Juilliard School, studied playwriting

Selected Titles: Good People, Rabbit Hole, Kimberly Akimbo, Snow Angel, A Devil Inside, Shrek the Musical, Wonder of the World

Selected Honors: Tony Awards, Pulitzer Prize, New York Drama Critics Circle Award

I was introduced to playwright David Lindsay-Abaire at the 2009 Great Plains Theatre Conference by an InSight subscriber and was immediately struck by his humble and genuine personality.

He is the middle child of three, which sometimes made him the peacemaker.  Perhaps this contributed to his ability to listen to and observe people, which, I believe, informs his complex and real characters.

He recently took time out of his busy writing schedule to talk about his craft candidly and with humor.

Lindsay-Abaire’s career is marked by a series of turns.

He wrote his first play in fourth grade for a Christmas pageant and wrote plays throughout high school.  He considered himself an actor primarily, however.  When he went to Sarah Lawrence College, he mainly focused on acting but took playwriting to fill in his course schedule.

“It wasn’t really until I got into Juilliard that I thought, ‘Maybe this playwriting thing is working,'” he says.  “I was in denial about it for a long time.”

Pursing playwriting as a career seemed unrealistic, and he didn’t know any working playwrights – “Not that being an actor is more realistic,” he quips.

Lindsay-Abaire was initially influenced by the work of established writers like John Guare, Christopher Durang, Eugene Ionesco, Anton Chekhov, and even the Three Stooges and the Marx Brothers – “The more absurd the better – things that influenced my absurdist comedies,” he says.

It wasn’t until he enrolled at Juilliard in the late 1990s that he found true playwriting mentorship with Durang and Marsha Norman, whose work he had admired since high school.  Lindsay-Abaire was struck by the fact that the pair spoke to students as if they were peers, and he maintains relationships with both.

“To this day Marsha and I talk often about what’s going on in our respective lives.  She’s been to every one of my opening nights.”

Lindsay-Abaire’s journey to notoriety is comprised of a series of causes and effects.

After graduating from Sarah Lawrence, he attended plays at the Soho Rep in New York.  “I would see these funky little plays and think, ‘If I could just have a play at Soho Rep, nothing would make me happier.'”

He submitted his work to a myriad of theatres and many listings in the Dramatists Sourcebook and received many rejections.  He applied for years to New Dramatists but was rejected, sometimes with a nice note.  Finally, he submitted his play A Devil Inside to New Dramatists, and while he was rejected, a staff member sent him a note saying she passed the script along to Julian Webber, who was then the artistic director of Soho Rep.  That theatre produced the play.  “That was my first play in New York,” Lindsay-Abaire says.  “It felt like a change had occurred.”

Later, one of his plays was performed at the South Carolina Playwrights Festival.  There, he met playwright Stephen Belber (Match and The Laramie Project) who was attending Juilliard at the time.  The conversation prompted Lindsay-Abaire to apply to the school, where he was accepted.  While at Juilliard, Lindsay-Abaire wrote Fuddy Meers, his comedy about a woman with amnesia.  The play was accepted into the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center.

“I was rubbing elbows with professional playwrights – Lee Blessing and other folks like that.”

In 1999, the Manhattan Theatre Club produced the play where it received a favorable review in the New York Times, which called him a “welcome arrival to the mainstream Off Broadway.”  That was another turning point in his career.

“The circle just kept getting bigger.  To get a great review in the Times means a lot…The play was published in American Theatre magazine.  That was a big thing,” he says.

The point is one never knows where an acceptance, or even a rejection, will lead.

Lindsay-Abaire says he was still cementing his identity as a playwright while writing the offbeat comedies Fuddy Meers, Wonder of the World, and Kimberly Akimbo.  Writing the realistic, dramatic Rabbit Hole was a departure for him, and a life-changing effort.  The play earned him a Pulitzer Prize, which elevated his profile even more.

“It’s a nice thing to have, but the next day I have to go back and write a play and the Pulitzer doesn’t help me write it.”

Good People, which premiered in early 2011 at the Manhattan Theatre Club and received Tony Award nominations for Best Play and Best Performance by a Lead Actress in a Play, is a drama about a working-class woman trying to provide for her invalid daughter.

“I thought I had written another naturalistic drama.  That play on Broadway got wall-to-wall laughs, more laughs than any of my comedies did.  It was surprising that people laughed so much,” Lindsay-Abaire says.  “I hope it also says something about class in America.”

He is a dedicated writer, keeping regular business hours.  While his heart belongs to the theatre, he also writes film scripts, including Rabbit Hole and Inkheart.  He’s currently working on screenplays for the Wizard of Oz prequel, OZ: The Great and Powerful, the animated Rise of the Guardians, and the Poltergeist remake.

Redoing a popular film like Poltergeist can be tricky.  “I too love it. That’s the best thing about it and the worst thing,” Lindsay-Abaire says.  “You don’t want to wreck it.  I’m trying to find the balance and not wreck it while wanting to make it current.”

A steady stream of screenplay and play commissions keep him occupied.  “I love saying yes to things I haven’t done before,” he says.  “It’s why I did Shrek the Musical, why I did Rabbit Hole.  I challenge myself to do something different just to see if I can do it.”

As busy as he is, Lindsay-Abaire tries only to take jobs that are fun.  “My heart is 100 percent in theatre, as much as I love movies – and I do love movies – but the process is different.  What’s on the screen is not the writer’s version,” he says.  The film version of Rabbit Hole, however, is different.  “When I look at the screen, I think, ‘That is me. That’s how I wanted it.’”

Lindsay-Abaire is currently working on two plays.  One is theatrical and close to his early absurdist comedies.  “It does feel bigger and certainly stranger.”  The other play is more naturalistic and set in South Boston, although the plot is different than Good People.  Both plays were commissioned by Manhattan Theatre Club, Lindsay-Abaire’s theatrical home.  “I’m the luckiest playwright,” he says.

The husband and father of two has a knack for writing multi-dimensional characters with an appealing vulnerability, such as the grieving mother in Rabbit Hole.

“I don’t think about it.  I just try to write about humans.  I try to write about people that are true and truthful and pathetic and complicated,” he says.

He also writes strong female characters with substance.  “I do deliberately make most of my protagonists female.  I know so many great actresses, and most lead parts are for men,” he says.  “I think it does help me to give myself distance from the protagonist so I’m not writing about myself…Of course I am writing about myself.  It’s a stupid little trick.”

Perhaps he gets his skill from his mother, whom he calls an amazing storyteller and huge personality, the center at most family gatherings.  “It makes sense to me that my plays are peopled by strong women.”

He adds, “I find people fascinating.  They are way more interesting than I am.”

Tips

Submit often.  Put your work out there in every way possible.  Take every opportunity afforded you.  You will be rejected 99.9 percent of the time.  I was.  That’s all you can do…Keep casting the lines because you never know when you’re going to get a fish.

Write more than one play.  Many writers write a play, have a reading, get notes, put it away for several months, then rewrite it later.  This cycle can go on for years.  “In that time, you have changed as a person.  It’s not that you’ve figured out the play…A person has a play for six or seven years because they think they’re going to crack it.  Forget that play.  Take those new impulses and put them in a new play.  It’s better to have 10 first drafts and not one play you’ve written 12 times.  You have to rewrite but not at the expense of the other great plays you can write…Every play is a stepping stone to the next play.”

Be true to the play.  In hopes of getting produced, writers are writing small plays.  “I do wish that the theatre was more conducive to bigger thoughts and bigger plays.  The development process for playwrights encourages them to write small plays…If anyone writes a play – God forbid, with nine people in it – it will never get produced…They’re writing plays that will go over well in a reading atmosphere, which is inhibiting writers from thinking outside the box…I’m trying to shake loose of that myself.”

Review: ‘Bat Boy’ the musical at Lake City Playhouse

By Sandra Hosking

COEUR D’ALENE, IDAHO—July 25, 2013—The contemporary musical BAT BOY  is part urban legend, part Frankenstein, part V.C. Andrews novel and part satire. The dark themes of Lake City Playhouse’s second annual “Stage Left” production follow the vein of “Sweeney Todd” and “Into the Woods,” which the theatre produced this season.

While some might find BAT BOY’s violence and sexual content unsettling, it’s nothing not found in ancient Greek and Roman myths where man-beasts and gods roam the hills looking for humans to prey upon.

BAT BOY, with book by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming and music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe, is derived from a story that appeared in a supermarket tabloid. The musical centers on a family who takes in the teenage bat-human. They are surrounded by a town full of quirky mountain folk and dying cows. Fear, aggression and love ensue amidst rock beats, haunting ballads and chipper sendups to the Broadway musical canon.

The production, directed by Troy Nickerson and assistant directed by Melody Deatherage, features a cave-like set, some strong performances and intriguing choreography by Angela Pierson that befits the dark yet campy mood. Music direction is by Zachariah Baker who makes an appearance as Pan in “Children, Children.”

The title character is played by Cody Bray, who reprises his recent role at Eastern Washington University. Bray is endearing as Edgar the bat boy, especially during “Show You a Thing or Two” when he learns to read, speak and act human. But he demonstrates the power of his voice in “Apology to a Cow.”

Marianne McLaughlin gives a spot-on performance as Mrs. Parker, the woman who raises the boy. She is a tortured wife but shows great caring in her sweet rendition of “A Home for You.”

BAT BOY contains one of the most chilling villains in a stage production, veterinarian Dr. Parker, played by Daniel McKeever. The fact that he speaks softly while committing murder is particularly unnerving. In “Dance With Me, Darling,” he adeptly sings and dances a quasi-tango with his wife while holding a syringe.

The 13-person cast is mostly solid with a few standouts, including Madison Rasmussen (Shelly) Gianinna Damiano (Mrs. Taylor) and Eric McGaughey (Rick). The Act One finale “Comfort and Joy” speaks to the hypocrisy of the townspeople and the soul searching of the Parker family. The music and staging is full, well-orchestrated and touching. Group number “Another Dead Cow” is less polished and the lyrics are unintelligible at times.

The pacing throughout the show needs tightening. But like a Shakespearean tragedy, BAT BOY careens toward its harrowing end, delivering a message of acceptance and showing the price for spurning it.

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BAT BOY runs through Aug. 10 at Lake City Playhouse (www.lakecityplayhouse.org). Not recommended for children.

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Sandra Hosking, M.F.A., is a corporate writer based in Spokane. She is the resident playwright at Stage Left and a member of the Dramatists Guild of America.

Interview: Donna Hoke

Playwright: Donna Hoke

Hometown: Cheektowaga, N.Y.

Place of Residence: East Amherst, N.Y.

Education: BS in speech pathology/audiology in 1985 and BA in English in 1986, SUNY Fredonia

Website: http://www.donnahoke.com

Selected Titles: The Couple Next Door, Write This Way, Greater Good, Hard Cell, and Life Lines

What’s a four-letter word for a Buffalo-area playwright?  Hoke.  Donna Hoke, that is. For more than 25 years, Hoke has been a magazine journalist and editor.  She also has created crossword puzzles for publications like the New York Times and Soap Opera Digest.

Hoke’s foray into playwriting began in 2007 when she joined the Emanuel Fried New Play Workshop, a development program for local playwrights in Buffalo, N.Y.  She had been a subscriber at the host theater and decided to apply to the workshop when it was offered.  That decision led to a continuing working relationship.

“The following year, I was accepted into the workshop again, and the sponsoring theater, Road Less Traveled Productions, produced The Couple Next Door’s world premiere,” Hoke says.  “I’ve been writing steadily ever since and am now an Ensemble Member at Road Less Traveled and have been produced in four other theaters in Buffalo, as well as theaters across the country, and even internationally.  The Couple Next Door is currently being translated into Turkish!”

Hoke’s work is more realistic and relationship- and character-oriented.  “I try to focus on how people feel when confronted with difficult situations and how those feelings make them act.  And I try to find the humor in everyday life,” she says.  “People have said things to me like, ‘When I see a Donna Hoke play, I know I’m going to laugh but I also know I’m going to leave thinking.’ I really like that description, because that’s what I like to see in theater so I’m happy if I’m delivering it as well.”

The playwright is the Dramatists Guild of America’s western New York representative, and she is a member of the International Center for Women Playwrights and Chicago Dramatists.

In addition to being a journalist and dramatist, Hoke writes poetry and has written a children’s book called Neko and the Twiggets.  Writing in multiple genres interconnects.  “Writing for magazines teaches me how to be precise with what I want to say and how to write, even when I don’t want to.  Poetry teaches me to use language differently.”

She only wishes she would’ve started writing plays sooner.

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This profile is an excerpt of an article that appeared in the August 2012 issue of InSight for Playwrights. Visit http://www.insightforplaywrights.com for information.

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Sandra Hosking, M.F.A., is a Spokane-area journalist and teacher. She is editor of InSight for Playwrights, a national publication, and Co-playwright-in-residence at Spokane Civic Theatre.

Editorial: ‘8’ the play at the Bing Crosby Theater

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By Sandra Hosking

What is marriage? A contract? A corporate merger? An institution? A spiritual joining? Whatever the definition, the word “marriage” has meaning globally. So do “husband,” “wife,” and “freedom.”

On Aug. 8, the American Foundation for Equal Rights and Broadway Impact presented a staged reading of the play “8” by Academy Award-winner Dustin Lance Black to a full house at the Bing Crosby Theater in downtown Spokane.

The play uses trial transcripts from Perry v Schwarzenegger and interviews to portray the debate over gay marriage and how that debate has affected the lives of people involved.

In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 8, which rewrote the state constitution to ban marriage for gay and lesbian people. In response, two couples, Sandy Stier and Kristin Perry and Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami filed suit against the proposition in federal court.

The evening seemed to carry more weight as plaintiffs Zarrillo and Katami were in attendance. Katami is a former schoolmate of one of the performers.

In the beginning, director Troy Nickerson gave a heartfelt statement about the recent loss of his partner of 21 years, David Gigler, a man he was never able to call husband officially. “We need you,” Nickerson told the audience, “because it is right.”

“8” is a serious play about serious issues, and the legal jargon is difficult to follow at times. But some things are universal: love, acceptance, hurt, love.

It brings to light how such laws are discriminatory and detrimental to individuals and how the state of California had no real defense in the lawsuit. The phrases “I don’t know,” “no evidence,” and “the state doesn’t need to prove …” popped up several times.  The government is not exempt from presenting evidence. It doesn’t get a bye on proof.

At one point, the state’s attorney, Charles Cooper (Thomas Heppler) suggested that marriage exists for the purpose of procreation. Same-sex couples obviously can’t conceive together. But the judge asked: What about heterosexual couples who are barren? Should they then be banned from marriage? Of course not. The state’s argument didn’t hold water.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys grilled so-called experts who claimed that gay marriage would corrupt children and society, exposing that they had conducted no studies, nor did they have any empirical evidence to prove those claims.

But the play was not without levity. When it opened, we met Stier and Perry (played by Marianne McLaughlin and Kate Vita) and their sons. When one of the children asked how long the trial would take, Stier responded, “I don’t know. I’ve never sued Arnold Schwarzenegger before.”

The 21-person cast featured familiar Spokane actors and some fine performances. Wes Deitrick and Rick Rivera, who played attorneys for the plaintiffs, Thodore B. Olson and David Boies, respectively, each had poignant moments. Heppler adeptly portrayed state attorney Cooper, a man trying to do his job and hold together arguments that dissipated under scrutiny. Kim Roberts played Maggie Gallagher, a commentator and opponent of gay marriage rights, as a woman on a crusade who ignored how her actions make other people feel.

Following the play, Ramon Alvarez, of the Washington State Human Rights Commission, mediated a discussion with Zarrillo and Katami, as well as another couple, Rabbi Tamar Malino and Elizabeth W. Goldstein, a professor at Gonzaga University.

It isn’t common for people on whom characters of a play or movie are based to be available to illuminate their story for an audience in person.

When Alvarez asked the panel why marriage equality was important to them, Rabbi Malino responded “to live a life of freedom.” The word “husband” has global recognition, Zarrillo said. “Freedom, association, protection, access,” Katami said.

There are currently 1,050 rights that gays are denied federally, Katami said. And federal law gives states the choice not to recognize same-sex couples’ rights as a married pair if they cross state lines, a situation Katami called a “crazy quilt.”

Prior to the Emancipation Proclamation, slaves were not permitted to marry. When they were freed, they flocked to the altar. And until the Civil Rights Movement, it was illegal, even criminal, for interracial couples to wed. There are two basic reasons why those oppressive laws have been stripped from the books: Freedom and society got a clue.

When asked by an audience member how gays can combat the religious right who wields the words of the Old Testament like a weapon, Malino responded that there are many ways people interpret the text, but one thing is certain, “God said we were never meant to be alone.”

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In 2010, the federal court ruled that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional. Opponents appealed the decision, however, and the case now sits before the Supreme Court. At the end of September, the Supreme Court will review submitted cases and decide whether to put it on the docket. If selected, a final decision would be made by June 2013. If not, the lower court’s decision will stand, re-establishing gay couples’ rights to marry.

In Washington, civil unions between gay couples are permitted but the partnership is treated as a corporation. This fall, Washington citizens will vote on Referendum 74, which will ask voters to approve or reject existing laws that allow same-sex couples to marry. For information, visit, Washington United for Marriage at http://www.washingtonunited.org.

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Sandra Hosking, M.F.A., is a Spokane-area journalist and teacher. She is editor of InSight for Playwrights, a national publication, and Co-playwright-in-residence at Spokane Civic Theatre.

Review: ‘Spring Awakening’ at Lake City Playhouse

By Sandra Hosking

COEUR D’ALENE, IDAHO—July 26, 2012—Lake City Playhouse launches its inaugural “Stage Left” summer production with a bang with Duncan Sheik and Steve Sater’s SPRING AWAKENING, based on a German play by Frank Wedekind. The musical holds both shocking and tender moments, as well as humor.

The show, set in the late 19th century, opens with Wendla, a sheltered fraulein played by Abby Anderson, looking at her reflection and singing “Mama Who Bore Me,” setting a soulful tone. This is not West Side Story’s “I Feel Pretty.” Anderson’s character is vulnerable with long, dark curly tresses and a sweet voice, but some of her words are muddled.

When the other young women join her in a reprise, their voices blend perfectly.

We meet Wendla’s lover Melchior, played by Jordan Taylor, at his school for boys where free thought and failure aren’t tolerated. He and his classmates adeptly display their angst in the explosive number “The Bitch of Living.”

This is where Siri Hafso’s aggressive choreography shines.

We also encounter Melchior’s friend Moritz, played by Ross Mumford. Moritz is a horrible student with an overbearing father. Mumford captures his character’s absolute fear of ineptitude very well, especially in “Don’t Do Sadness,” and we ache for him because we know what lies in store.

Emily Cleveland, who is known for portraying cute and quirky characters, goes deep in “The Dark I Know Well,” a song about the abuse her character Martha endures. The song becomes a duet between Martha and Ilse (Hafso), and the abrupt ending makes us hold our breath.

The teens are tightly controlled by the adults in their lives, all played by Janean Jorgensen and George Green, who also directs. Most of these portrayals are effective, especially Jorgensen’s German schoolmarm and Green’s father figures.

The first act presents one powerful moment after another. In one scene between the lovers Wendla and Melichor, the girl asks him to hit her with a switch just so she can “feel something.” But the instant where Melichor decides to go too far happens too fast.

Their coupling at the end of the act, which is slightly graphic, is handled artfully though.

Act two waxes more serious as we see what social restrictions do to these teens. While the title, SPRING AWAKENING, implies a promise of abundant blossoms, it becomes a tragedy. Wendla’s mother makes a decision for her that has terrible results, and that transition happens too quickly onstage.

The solid performances are accented by a creative set, costumes and even hair. Zack Baker provides the music direction with an orchestra led by Mike Saccomanno.

It all comes together in a reflective, almost spiritual, “The Song of Purple Summer.” We’re not sure what a purple summer is but one thing is clear: this cast is fully committed to this story.

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SPRING AWAKENING runs through Aug. 11 at Lake City Playhouse (www.lakecityplayhouse.org).

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Sandra Hosking, M.F.A., is a Spokane-area journalist and teacher. She is editor of InSight for Playwrights, a national publication, and Co-playwright-in-residence at Spokane Civic Theatre.