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12 on the isle: Which playwright will last?

June 22, 2003|Mike Boehm

A dozen playwrights will show up at Stagestheatre in Fullerton on June 30, knowing that over the next 13 days all but one of them will have been told, in effect, "Your script ain't cutting it. You've been voted off the island."

Or at least off the stage. That's how it will go in the Playwrights' Survival Challenge, in which the rules of "Survivor," that staple of reality TV programming, are applied to dramatists vying to have a play produced by the storefront company.

Johnna Adams, who coordinates a playwrights' circle at Stagestheatre, hatched the idea a few months ago and put the word out over the Internet. Applicants have sent their resumes, writing samples and short essays on why they think they will win. Candidates from Arizona, Michigan and New York have stepped up, although most will come from L.A. and Orange County.

The daring dozen will be divided into "tribes," a la "Survivor," assigned writing ideas and told to get to work. Over four consecutive nights, they will winnow themselves by axing the least competent dramatist among them -- although, Adams admits, there's no way to stop the tribes from just being catty and voting on personalities.

Whether it's aesthetics or personal vendettas that determine the outcome, she says, "it's going to be the meanest thing."

The humiliations will remain private until July 12, when the four surviving plays, having grown to a half-hour each, will be read by actors in front of an audience. The eight writers who previously had been dumped by their peers will be on hand; they and the four finalists will vote to pick an ultimate survivor -- who will get to complete his or her play for a production during Stagestheatre's 2003-04 season.

The storefront company, founded in 1993, aims to make Playwrights' Survival Challenge an annual event, and it's dreaming up other ideas for a series called Extreme Writing Sports. Next on the agenda: "Ghostwriter: the Playwriting Adventure Challenge," in which several writers will be picked to spend a night writing, alone, in a known haunted house -- after a credentialed psychic has summoned the phantom who inhabits the place to keep the brave scribbler company. The results will be produced in a Halloween program -- assuming the writers don't all fill their laptops with line after line of "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."

-- Mike Boehm

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