EST/LA: the Ignite Project

I can’t remember how I got talked into it, but I’m very glad I did. Back in January, a group of us started scheming with Ensemble Studio Theatre/Los Angeles Artistic Director Tracey A. Leigh and Producing Director Troy Loftin about ways to foster new writing through the company. After hearing from members, Tracey and Troy were looking to start an EST/LA program open to the entire company and affiliated artists that would nurture playwrights and provide a safe space for theatrical growth. And so the Ignite Project was born.

Me with David & Makeda – new plays are a serious business.

Created by EST/LA playwrights Makeda Declet, David Johann Kim and myself, the goal of the Ignite Project is to encourage playwrights to take a spark of an idea, then jump off the ledge and feel safe diving “into the muck” as they start on a first draft. (And not be afraid to shamelessly mix metaphors? Maybe…)

As facilitators for the first cohort which was selected in April, Makeda, David and I guided 8 writers (Angela Bullock, Lauren Campedelli, Katie Grant, Harrison Harvey, Michael Kaplan, Jude Lutz, Leilani Squire and Jacob Surovsky) through loosely structured, collaborative feedback for 10 weeks, meeting online. (Thank you, Zoom!)

We couldn’t be more excited about the plays that were initiated during the process. They’re as different as the playwrights, and I like to think that they each reflect a sort of freedom and expansiveness that will help move them forward.

But we were maybe even more excited about the creative energy and community that was generated during our time together. This was definitely on display when we presented excerpts of the plays, inviting the writers to work with directors and actors in what we called “the Ignite Project – First Flame” this past Sunday!

It was a fantastic event, bringing together 40+ amazing artists at Atwater Village Theatre to celebrate these hot new works, and the spirit that ignited them.

So much gratitude to all involved; I can’t wait to see what happens next…

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