Inside the Writer’s Mind – Ojai Playwrights Conference returns to premiere new plays

I love writers who dare and care to talk about the world we live in,” says Robert Egan, head of the Ojai Playwrights Conference, which starts its 16th annual event this coming Wednesday. “Sometimes those voices are not celebrated and nurtured because quite frankly, many theaters are afraid of those voices.”

Those voices will have nothing to fear at the conference. It’s a five-day event in which playwrights bring their new work, perform it or bring actors to do so, then sit in with the audience and fellow writers to hear feedback. Plays that started at the Conference have gone on to success in New York, Los Angeles, and cities in Europe. Playwrights have made breakthroughs. Careers have moved on to the next level. And everybody has been entertained.

Starting from top to bottom: Luis Alfaro Lucy Alibar Jiehae Park Alice Tuan Laura Shelhardt Ojai Playwrights Conference photos
Starting from top to bottom:
Luis Alfaro
Lucy Alibar
Jiehae Park
Alice Tuan
Laura Shelhardt
Ojai Playwrights Conference photos
“We’re not a theater company,” Mr. Egan says, “So we are not here to make something to suit our subscribership and make us money. We are here to help writers fulfill their vision.”

The artists — actors, writers, and directors — live together for two weeks during the conference. The writers often tell Mr. Egan that this is exactly what they want, but rarely what they get: a chance to sit around with fellow artists and discuss craft, without the competitive nature.

Tickets are selling out fast, so check it out, and sign up on the website below. Here’s a quick overview of the week:

Wednesday, August 7

Milestones #2: The Men

The previous year’s all-woman writer show returns with male writers, including Norman Lear, OPC’s benefactor and television genius, with stories about major life moments.

Thursday, August 8

Breathing Life into Musical Theatre: An Evening of Performance and Exploration

Mr. Egan is very excited about this new event, a collaboration of OPC and Walt Disney Imagineering. Performers will discuss their challenges making musical theater, then perform, then discuss the creation of what they just performed.

Friday, August 9

Dogs of Rwanda, by Sean Lewis

Sean Lewis’s play is about a former missionary back in Rwanda; the horrors he saw 20 years ago, and the friendship he made.

Fighting Shadows, by Richard Cabral

Richard Cabral used to be a gang member who once looked at a 35-year-to-life sentence for a crime, then turned his life around and now presents his one-man show.

Saturday, August 10

OPC Youth Workshop Performance

A chance for the young writers at the workshop to present the fruits of their two weeks.

The Comparables, by Laura Shellhardt

Ms. Shellhardt’s blistering play is set in the cutthroat world of real estate with three female agents — the owner, her underling, and the new hire — battling it out.

Carl the Raping Goat Saves Christmas, by Lucy Alibar

Lucy Alibar is best known for her script, “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” and this new play features a father enlisting his daughter’s help in his Florida Panhandle criminal law office.

Goliath, by David Wiener

Award-winning playwright and current staff writer for “The Killing,” Mr. Wiener’s intense, two- person play is about a right-wing talk-show host, whose incendiary rhetoric leads to violence, and the liberal lawyer he hires to help defend him.

Sunday, August 11

Hannah and the Dread Gazebo, by Jiehae Park

A Korean-American must return to South Korea after her grandmother’s suicide, only to find that grandma’s deathly jump landed her on the other side of the DMZ.

Rest, by Sam Hunter

During the last days of a soon-to-be-closed retirement home, a wild Idaho blizzard strands three residents and staff inside, while another goes missing outside.

St. Jude — Part Two, by Luis Alfaro

Alfaro debuted this piece last year, a memoir about his father’s ailing health. Now, with his father passed away, Mr. Alfaro has rewritten, rethought, and reshaped the piece into Part Two.

Ojai Playwrights Conference
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through 6:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Various locations around Ojai
Cost: Varies, mostly between $20 and $25
Information: 640-0400, www.ojaiplays.org

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