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Rogue Theater Festival is Back and Bigger Than Ever

Rogue Theater Festival is making a wave in person and digitally this year with a new hybrid theater festival for a new generation of artists

Rogue Theater Festival is Back and Bigger Than Ever

Rogue Theater Festival is excited to be making a wave in their fourth year of presenting brand new works of all lengths in person and digitally. Tickets are ON SALE NOW! Check out our in person shows playing at The Players Theater HERE and our digital shows streaming on ShowTix4U HERE!

This hybrid theater festival was born out of necessity in 2020, but now it's here to stay. This hybrid theater festival offers opportunities for playwrights to have live performances this year at The Players Theatre in New York City and opportunities for playwrights from around the globe to stream their show via ShowTix4U.

Rogue is a self described 'mom and pops' theater festival where the emphasis is always on the artists and supporting them in the exciting process of putting up their show! In their four years of existence, Rogue has been able to present over 125 new shows and work with over 500 artists in New York City and around the globe. The other exciting thing about Rogue is they're don't stop at only presenting traditional works of theater. Rogue is all about including all types of art in their festival and encourages artists with talents like clowning, burlesque, improv, dance, multimedia ad beyond to submit their work and find their place in the arts scene! As Rogue has continued to grow, they've started to offer a playwrights in residence program to share the love even more. These artists have been new to their craft, veterans, traditional playwrights or not, but all have been unique artists that presented exciting stories that need to be shared.

This year, Rogue has three artists that will be featured as playwrights in residence and we're so excited for the world to get to know them a bit better. But first, check out Rogue and get to know the mom and pops theater festival that operates for the artist.

What's the history behind the Rogue Theater Festival?

I started Rogue Theater Festival in 2019 while working at The 13th St. Repertory Theatre in New York City. I had participated in a handful of theater festivals all over the city and loved the sense of community and creation they provided along with the opportunity of presenting art that is new and risky. But, as someone who had participated in a lot of theater festivals, I had a clear idea of what I wanted Rogue to be and, even more importantly, what I didn't want it to be. Our first year provided so much insight to what creators deserved from a festival environment in order to feel supported and successful and right away I knew I wanted to keep providing this experience for artists to share their work.

What happened in 2020?

It was a tough time for the arts, for everyone. We were at the point in the process where we had accepted the plays, we had rented the theater, and we were starting to look forward to elevating the festival in our second year! As we progressed further and further into the year, we kept postponing the festival. We were determined to still put on an in person festival like had been promised to the participants. By August, we started to realize this might not be possible and brainstormed a way to still do something. This brainstorm brought us to putting on a digital version of Rogue. So, we created two different options! The first was for the participant to film their piece however they saw fit and safe and the second was for the participant to come into the theater that was rented to safely film their show with us. We had fifteen participants do this experiment with us and we were all thrilled by the results! After figuring it all out on the fly in 2020, we felt ready to elevate this same model of theater festival for our next year. In 2021, we presented, what I now call, a fully planned hybrid version of Rogue with over forty participants in NYC and around the globe.

What's happening this year and what does the future look like for Rogue?

This year, we are finally back to presenting for a live audience! We're psyched to welcome back everyone back into the theater, dim the lights, and present twenty fantastic new works! But, that's not all.... We're sticking with the discoveries made in the last two years and presenting twenty new works digitally as well. This has allowed us to work with artists from around the globe and expand the creative opportunities we can offer. We also started a playwright in residence program last year that we're excited to continue to grow each and every year.

What should people know about Rogue Theater Festival?

Rogue is committed to providing opportunities for the artistic communities in New York City and beyond. We identify as a mom and pops theater festival because we want to make known that our participants are provided a homegrown and personalized experience. In this festival, you are not just a number. We're so proud of the participants that have come back year after year and have been with us through the growth over the last four years. We're really looking forward to you joining us at the theater this year, either in person or on your couch, where you have a choice of forty new works to choose from! Rogue is excited to let our three playwrights in residence take over the rest of this article!! Get to know them, their shows, and the amazing talents that keep them writing and working.

Avery Grace

Fanna fi Hayati: Love, Sex Work, and the Sacred

What made you want to participate in the Rogue Theater Festival this year?

Ultimately, it was both a deep desire and an unignorable impulse to broadcast (pun intended) a fringe story that is queer in every dimension of the word, which motivated me to participate. True to its mission, "make a wave," Rogue makes a point to support LGBTQIA+ artists, and I was eager to engage with the festival's hybrid model and have a digital offering be the play's world premier for the purposes of access and exposure. In fundraising, organizing, and publicizing a live recording of the reading, it has become an event and rallying point for LGBTQIA+ community in Central Oregon which is not very cohesive. Not only do we need more queer stories, but we need more community around our stories. Also, the digital streaming of the work brings underrepresented issues such as the sacredness of sex work, its stigmatization, and nuances of queer and trans relationships to a broader regional, national, and global audience. Though the work has not gone on to full production yet, I feel confident that the momentum behind it locally and the attention it will receive as a result of being a part of Rogue will result in it manifesting where it is needed most.

Tell us about your play! What inspired you to write it? Have you faced any challenges getting it on its feet?

The play follows the relationship of a trans woman turned professional sex worker and her partner as they simultaneously navigate the transition amidst their own limitations, prejudices, and fears. They share mystical spiritual ideas to try to make sense of the change as they struggle to grow in order to honor and love who each is becoming. I wrote this play because it demanded that I write it-the shared experiences of my partner and I as former sex workers and the relationship challenges that we each faced being partnered to a sex worker formed the amalgamated basis for the protagonists. Given our unique positionality-trans/GNC queer sex workers with deep spiritual practice-we had the opportunity to try and articulate more collective experiences through the lens of our personal life. The challenges that arose related more to humbly doing justice to diverse communities without being appropriative than to actual production. For example, relaying elements of Sufi practices through a Persian character without speaking for that ethnocultural group or for Islam generally. Or communicating pain and difficulties sex work clients face having never been one and having only experienced them vicariously as a sex work provider.

Tell us more about you! How did you get into writing? Why theater? What's next for you?

I am an accidental playwright. I'm a latecomer to theater-I didn't do drama growing up, didn't study theater in college, never considered myself a theater buff. I've always written, but I have what Chuck Palahniuk calls a, "kitchen table MFA". Any skill I have has either been self-taught through relentless trial and error and a rabid consumption of others' writing I respect, or developed by participating in community-based writing activities. I've started a writing group most everywhere I've lived. I ask most anyone and everyone to read my stuff and give me feedback. I stumbled into the practice of theater by doing the 24 Hour Plays in New Orleans. I thought I'd end up writing a script-instead they had me act. Because of acting, and being directed, and receiving a script from a writer, I learned how to write for actors and directors. It was an invaluable experience, and it exposed me to the collaborative magic that is theater. By writing scripts, we midwife an idea into existence, and the rest of the world raises it. Beyond my own work, what's next is theater education and making it more accessible in community and for youth.

What is your hope for this play?

My secret hope for this play is that audience members will see themselves in a character or experience that they didn't expect to (or even initially might have been appalled to relate to). I want the working class Trumper from Central Oregon to see their insecurities in a middle eastern person, and their desires to be authentic and free in a trans woman. I want those who are unfamiliar with or judgmental of sex work to see the beautiful potential it has for healing trauma and supporting people in being their fullest selves. I want audiences to connect with their heart's longing to be recognized and to love and be loved radically and vulnerably. I want people to experience a catharsis of grief at the inevitable change we all experience in relationships. I want all parts of this play to be seen as ordinarily and extraordinarily human, and for us to share a collective remembrance of the sacredness of our experiences and the divine experiments that are our lives.

Larry Rinkel

The Three Prayers Answered

What made you want to participate in the Rogue Theater Festival this year?

I have been with Rogue since its inception in 2019, and counting this year, I will have produced a total of six plays with this festival. The Rogue model allows playwrights a chance to make money from their productions so long as a minimal number of tickets are sold, and I have found their hybrid approach - with some plays being presented live and others streamed - allows considerable flexibility in casting and direction.

For instance, last year I presented my full-length play "Capriccio Radio," which was recorded for on-demand streaming, and which allowed me to use actors from all over the United States in a way that the viewer would have no idea that an actor from New York was interacting with actors from D.C. and Texas.

In addition, Allison Hohman has always been extremely cooperative and responsive to my numerous questions, and this year I was honored to be chosen "Playwright in Residence" for my short play "The Three Prayers Answered," while my full-length "A Kreutzer Sonata" will also be streamed on-line. What more could I ask?

Tell us about your play! What inspired you to write it? Have you faced any challenges getting it on its feet?

"The Three Prayers Answered" is an adaptation in modern verse of the "Knight's Tale" from Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales." This is one of six adaptations from Chaucer which started with a comic tale I wrote in response to a prompt for a competition. I eventually wove the set into a two-hour play where six actors play a total of 36 roles, and it was published as "Canterbury Sextet" in 2021 by Next Stage Press.

The original "Knight's Tale" takes place in Greek antiquity, but I found that setting artificial and updated the action to the aftermath of a hypothetical Second U.S. Civil War. This tale is the only tragic piece in the collection, and the one that departs most radically from Chaucer's original.

I would love to get the full play into production, but each of the tales can be performed separately, and three already have. I was fortunate with "Three Prayers" to enlist my old friend Bob Budnick as director and one of the actors, and Bob had the inspired idea of adding a brief prologue and epilogue to the tale based on language from other sections of my play.

Tell us more about you! How did you get into writing? Why theater? What's next for you?

I originally planned to become a composer, and was accepted to the Oberlin Conservatory, class of 1970. That didn't pan out, and instead I took my degrees in English at Stony Brook and Rutgers. For a while I taught English at Rider College, but after losing a close tenure decision, I spent my remaining career as a technical writer.

But in retrospect, I was always drawn to theater. I remember writing my first musical comedy back in 1966. I experienced my first Shakespearean epiphany about that time, and by age 18 I had read almost all his works.

It wasn't until I retired in 2014, however, that I began playwriting in earnest. Since then, I have written six full-length plays and several dozen shorter ones. Like most other writers, I have faced my share of disappointments and rejections; however, over time I have achieved a respectable number of productions and publications. The pandemic, I admit, has slowed me down somewhat, and I have not been as productive these past two years as before 2020. But I still have plans for several plays, and let's hope the next few years will see them fulfilled.

Besides your two plays in this year's Rogue Festival, which of your dramatic works do you most want directors, actors, and audiences to know about?

Many of my plays dramatize the challenges faced by artistic people. "Capriccio Radio," seen in 2021 at Rogue, questions the survival of this music in a culture where it is becoming increasingly marginalized. "A Kreutzer Sonata," presented this year at Rogue, depicts a Jewish college piano student trying to integrate his faith within the demands of a secular world. "Scenes from the Lives of Twins" spans 35 years in the lives of a composer and an artist. In "L'Ultimo Castrato," a renowned opera singer reflects bittersweetly on his fate as a modern-day eunuch.

Some of my shorter plays focus on gay relationships. In "A Semicolon is a Double," a teenaged nerd finds an unexpected connection with the jock he has worshipped from afar. "Brian's Poems" presents an elderly man who encounters the ghost of his deceased high-school crush. "The Flying Dutchman Boards the Staten Island Ferry" is another ghost story, featuring two quarreling boyfriends.

I have a few purely comic pieces as well, such as "Peas in the Fried Rice," set in a Chinese restaurant, and "My Piano Doesn't Like Me," where a piano rebels against an inept amateur player. You can find my work on New Play Exchange:

Serena Norr

The Rainbow Method

What made you want to participate in the Rogue Theater Festival this year?

I've had an incredible experience with the Rogue Theater Festival over the past 2 years! This festival was actually my first in person (while filming) production after COVID lockdown for my play "Morning Ritual." I love their professionalism, dedication, and focus on promoting and supporting our shows. Last year, we also filmed without an audience for "Zoom Like No One is Watching" so I am thrilled that we can be in person with an audience (!!) for the production of "The Rainbow Method!"

Tell us about your play! What inspired you to write it? Have you faced any challenges getting it on its feet?

"The Rainbow Method" is about Juley, a wellness "expert" who rose to fame for her "method" that taught people to see the beauty in life by following rainbows. The method, however, was made up but through her words, she captivated and grew a following that made her incredibly successful. As she got famous for her method, her inner world started to crumble as the reality of the method she created became her downfall. After an incident, she was forced to pause and stay at a retreat called The Foundery. The play opens when her manager, Sami, comes to pick her up with own agenda, pushing her to get back to work where all she wants is to stop pretending. As the power shifts, Sami uses the very method that Juley created on her. Is Juley's method real, or is the power of manipulation the real strength?

I think because it is a shorter piece (around 15 minutes), I have been able to get it in development but every time I hear it, I do find new layers that I have tweaked here and there. I am thinking of developing it further, going into Juley's teenage years and how she decided to create the method. Stay tuned!

Tell us more about you! How did you get into writing? Why theater? What's next for you?

I was always a writer/creator, though it's only recently that I called myself that. As a kid growing up in Brooklyn, I was always imagining/creating worlds and making shows with my sister. I even wrote a movie called "The Debt" at 14 starring Brad Pitt - ha.

When I entered college, I thought I wanted to teach, then act, then I eventually found my spark in a Playwriting class at Hunter College. I LOVED reading the layers of dialogue in plays and became captivated by this form of story-telling. I went on to writing/editing roles at magazines (remember those) and websites but I was always writing plays "on the side."

It really wasn't until 2018 when I finally took a playwriting class at my local community college as a part of a continuing education that I consistently found my way back to playwriting. During COVID lockdown was also a big time for me to write and create - I had 15 Zoom productions - and had the rare opportunity to connect with some people from around the country - in this strange moment of creating worlds through our screens.

Theater is connection. For a brief moment, we can better understand one another while also realizing that we have a lot to learn about each other. It's a way to question, reflect and feel as a collective.

I'm going to Valdez for a theater conference this month and North Carolina in July as a part of the National Women's Theater festival to lead a monologue workshop.

I'm working on a full-length about abortion as well as a movie about a character who is obessed with getting new teeth. I also teach playwriting to kids in my community, which has been incredible to see their stories come to life.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in playwriting?

You don't have to go to a fancy school to tell stories. We all have stories to tell and can tell them in any medium we'd like, including theater. I used to be limited by my own beliefs so I want others to know that there are so many resources out there (and many that are free) to help you tell your story. Take a class, go see live theater, meet other writers, and write - even if it's only 5 minutes a day. The world needs your stories!

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