Playwrights bring the words, actors bring the voices to monthly workshop

Playwrights bring the words, actors bring the voices to monthly workshop

You don’t have to be a published playwright to get involved in the Arkansas Playwrights Workshop — although you’ll meet plenty of them. Neither do you have to be an established actor to help authors bring their words to life. But you’ll meet the region’s best actors, too.

“All are welcome,” says Mark Landon Smith, a playwright himself and co-director of the organization created by TheatreSquared founder Bob Ford. “APW is a great way to get plugged into the theater community, and anyone interested can be involved.”

“I got my start as a playwright when I began attending a similar workshop in Hoboken, N.J., back in the early ’90s,” says Ford, who is the author of plays like “My Father’s War,” “‘Twas the Night,” “The Fall of the House” and “The Spiritualist.” “I went in as an actor, cold-reading other writers’ plays, and eventually worked up the courage to bring in a scene.

“The result was a play called ‘Tierra del Fuego,’ which I submitted to the Mount Sequoyah New Play Retreat in (to me) far off Fayetteville,” he continues the tale. “It’s a much longer story, but that experience catalyzed my move from New York City to Fayetteville. Putting down roots in Northwest Arkansas, I began meeting other playwrights, and it was a no-brainer to start a similar workshop — as it happened, at the Fayetteville Public Library, where I happened to be working as a part-time reference librarian.”

“The initial goal of the APW was to give playwrights an opportunity to hear their work and to receive feedback from the APW directors, actors and others,” Smith picks up the story. “This has remained unchanged, although we have also added practical tips for playwrights to have their work produced and provided opportunities for playwrights to have public readings of their work and tools for production, contests and publication.”

Smith says the process is simple.

“A playwright submits their work, which is then reviewed and added to the APW schedule,” he explains. “If the work is a full-length, we will read a portion of the piece and provide feedback. If the work is a one-act or a 10-minute piece, we will read through each piece, with two or more being read during the evening.

“Some work is given a full public read,” he adds. “The benefit for the playwright is the opportunity to hear their work. Sometimes what looks good on the page doesn’t work when read aloud, and sometimes what is on the page needs to be expanded. Hearing the written word is invaluable for the playwright, as you quickly discover what isn’t and is working.”

Smith has been published 17 times, including “Dupont, Mississippi,” “Night of the Living Dead,” “Plan 9 From Outer Space” and “A Dickens of a Christmas Carol.” He says his success hasn’t been the direct result of the APW — although he happily shares his process — but he can point to playwrights like Dan Borengasser, Nathan McKinney, Mary Sue Price and Gary Loss as examples of authors whose work was produced or funded.

“What I love about APW is — just like I did back in Hoboken — anyone can come in, experience or no, and try their hand at dialogue,” Ford says.

“For the actors, APW provides an opportunity for actors to help develop a piece from the actors’ perspective,” Smith adds. “And it’s exciting to see a piece develop based upon feedback.”


Arkansas Playwrights Workshop

WHEN — 6:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Sept. 12, Oct. 10, Nov. 7 & Dec. 12

WHERE — TheatreSquared in Fayetteville

COST — Participation is free

INFO — Email

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