Seedlings – 15 Years Later

You know how sometimes you do things because that’s what you do and you just keep doing them because no one else has stepped up and then the years pass and even though a lot of the time you find yourself asking yourself, “Why am I doing this, again?”… there are those times when you get it. Because it’s important. Because it makes a difference. Because that’s what you do.

Still LIfe Rehearsal

STILL LIFE playwright Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich (right), with actors Barbara Tarbuck, Christopher W. Jones, Tania Verafield (left), director Jen Bloom (center), and AD/SM Cheryl Valice

I’m talking about my involvement with Theatricum Botanicum‘s new play development program, Botanicum Seedlings. Yes, I believe art is important and plays make a difference and if you’re reading this, you probably do, too. But I guess I should qualify my initial rambling statement a bit. Over the years – 15 now; yow! – there have probably been just as many times when I’ve been validated by my choice to keep the program (which is pretty much all volunteer) going, as moments when I’ve contemplated sticking my head in the oven. (Don’t worry. I live in a mid-Century pad so my oven’s electric.)

But this summer, Seedlings has been such a positive experience that it’s pretty ridiculous. The plays that we’re supporting (all written by women, which was just the way it shook out – as was our gender parity track record, actually; we like women playwrights – go figure!)  are fabulous and the playwrights (shout outs to Brynne Frauenhoffer, Kerry Muir &  Jeannette D. Farr) and artists, beyond delightful.

I’ve especially had a ball working, hands-on, as dramaturg with playwright Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich, director Jen Bloom and a rock star cast on Barbara’s remarkable play STILL LIFE, the final Seedlings Summer Playreading on August 28th at 11 a.m.  (Like the best love affairs, the feeling seems to be reciprocal. Thanks, Barbara!)

What’s clear to me is that being part of the development process up at Theatricum has fed me in so many ways. I always say that Seedlings is about nurturing plays and playwrights, but it’s kind of wild thinking about how much I’ve grown as an artist over the past 15 years, as the program has grown. Seedlings Playreadings are now supported by a new producer (thanks, Mannette!); we’ve been receiving amazing plays and have a committee in place to select those that could most benefit from what we have to offer (thanks, Pete, Lena & readers!), and over the last three years Seedlings’ Dramaturgy Workshop and Private Dramaturgy have taken root in wonderful ways. I’m so proud we’re able to honor the theater’s first dramaturg, Israel Baran, with our annual “Izzy Award” for new plays. And with the help from more than a few peeps at Theatricum (thanks all!), I have no doubt that we’ll come up with the resources to keep on going. (Additional thanks to our special donors and the Dramatists Guild Fund!)

So please join us up in Topanga. The reading of STILL LIFE is on the 28th. (A new play air in the fresh air… and wine. What more do you need?) And if you’re interested in becoming involved with Seedlings on any level, definitely let me know! Seedlings submission window opens on September 1; we’re also actively looking for some smart new play lovers on the literary front. Check it out here:

Fifteen years later. This is why why we do what we do.

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Jen Bloom & Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich

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