Welcome

Welcome
John William Tuohy lives in Washington DC

*** PLAYWRIGHTS OPPORTUNITIES ***



Core Artist Ensemble is currently accepting script submissions for our upcoming 2018 Summer Readings Series. This season, we are fully embracing the resurgence of audio storytelling by focusing on that form as our primary medium.
We are excited to begin development of an anthology-style podcast, which will feature a new audio play every episode. Each story will explore the influence that technology has on our relationships and individual identities — the rapidly shifting and evolving shape of human connection as a consequence of modern advancements.

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The Yale Drama Series is seeking submissions for its 2019 playwriting competition. The winning play will be selected by the series' current judge, Ayad Akhtar. The winner of this annual competition will be awarded the David Charles Horn Prize of $10,000, publication of his/her manuscript by Yale University Press, and a staged reading at Lincoln Center's Claire Tow Theater. The prize and publication are contingent on the playwright's agreeing to the terms of the publishing agreement.

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Funhouse is recurring play anthology inspired by The Twilight Zone, Black Mirror, Saturday Night Live, and Adult Swim. It is a collection of subversive and experimental original content. Each show is comprised of a series of short plays that, when viewed together, give audiences an experience similar to that of walking through a funhouse. As soon as you think you know what’s coming next, the room starts spinning and the floor falls out from under you. Our show serves as a rotating platform for diverse up-and-coming playwrights, directors, actors, and designers. The creators of Funhouse want artists to take bold risks in their storytelling.


*** FOR MORE INFORMATION about these and other opportunities see http://www.nycplaywrights.org ***


*** HOW THEATER HELPS *** 

Artists Are Using Theater to Raise Awareness About India's HIV Crisis
A recent performance in Delhi aims to start a dialogue about the disease.

India has the third largest HIV population in the world, and awareness about the disease is still relatively low. On May 18, on HIV Vaccination Awareness Day, organizations like International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), Delhi Dance Theater, PULSE, and I Am Positive India came together in Delhi and hosted a performance called I am + : Dance Theater on HIV India.

The directors for the performance flew in from New York City, while some performers were chosen from the Delhi Dance Theatre.

Held at the LTG Auditorium, the performance featured characters such as a man who contracts HIV and is ostracized by society, and a doctor who has a powerful impact on an HIV patient. The performance was preceded by an art exhibition at the same venue.

More…

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How Theatre Helped With My Social Anxiety
   
I suffer from anxiety, and have for many years now in my day to day life. Mental illness is a very real thing that so many suffer from, and it doesn't just take a stroll in the park to get rid of it, at least not for everyone. For me anxiety has been a setback but I have also learned how to cope with this and still live my life despite it without any medication. I'm lucky in that way because many can't say the same, but it doesn't mean my anxiety isn't still awful. I suffer from social anxiety really bad, many of my friends and theatre family members wouldn't say this about me but I am an introverted person. I'm loud and outgoing where I'm comfortable but when meeting new people or in large groups of people I am quiet and shy and I try not to draw too much attention unless it calls for that.

More…

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How Theatre Taught Me Empathy

Theatre gave me a lot of things. It was a place where my weird mannerisms and silly voices became unique tools. Performing also got me to break out of my shell and stop fearing what others thought of me, which, in turn, helped me learn to accept and be myself. But most of all, theatre taught me how to empathize with others better.

More…

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What I Learned from Writing a Play About My Transition

In Draw the Circle, now playing at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre in New York, playwright Mashuq Mushtaq Deen tells the story of his transition by taking on the voices of his family and friends. Over the course of 90 minutes, Deen performs the central characters of his life—including his Muslim mother and father, and lesbian-identified partner—as they struggle to accept his gender identity. Deen never performs as himself; his body is instead represented by a white chair, the only object that appears on the otherwise empty stage. It’s a funny, emotionally charged and deeply vulnerable work, in which Deen explores not only his familial and romantic conflicts but the violence and trauma he’s endured.

More…

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Milcah Lalam: Theater helped people heal from trauma in South Sudan

When Milcah Lalam pursued theater studies in college, she always thought of the art form as something more than just entertainment.

“I was looking for the value that it may hold in transforming communities,” said Lalam, who has worked with people suffering from trauma in South Sudan. “You reach not only the mind but also the heart with theater.”

Lalam was inspired to help people understand and recover from trauma in part because she suffered a tragedy as a child when her father and sister were killed in a car accident.

Encouraged by the success of using the arts to educate people in Uganda about HIV/AIDS, Lalam began using a model called “playback theater” to help people understand and heal from their trauma.

More…

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Theater is therapy for kids with hearing loss
As a teacher, Christie had been helping them learn to speak -- and listen. Theater, she realized, brought a noticeable improvement in their oral language skills and self-esteem.

"When you have characters in costume and they're all with all their friends who had a hearing loss, they felt like they belonged," Christie said. "I remember just looking at the audience a lot and seeing parents just weep. They're just so happy to see that their child can do this."

More…

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How theatre helped African asylum seekers explain their plight to Israelis

In Israel, African asylum seekers are used to having their fate hotly debated in the media and by politicians, some of whom accuse them of coming to steal jobs. But with the help of Israeli actors, a group of asylum seekers have been able to tell their own stories, in their own words, on the theatre stage – and show Israeli audiences the difficulties they face.

While Israel has signed the UN Refugee Convention, it is almost impossible for the approximately 40,000 Eritrean and Sudanese migrants to get refugee status. Over the past nine years, Israel has approved only 0.09 percent of all asylum requests. The rest live in a legal limbo. They are granted temporary visas that they must frequently renew, or they risk being sent to prison. These visas clearly state that they are not allowed to work in Israel, but the authorities do not enforce this. Most work low-paid jobs in restaurant kitchens or hotel cleaning.

More…

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Theater: The last piece of the puzzle?

William Shakespeare once posed this question for his admirers: “If all the world’s a stage, when are we truly ourselves?” The fact is, theater has allowed me to discover my true self— to NOT just go through life “reading from a script.” I am a 24 year-old person with autism and Tourette’s who has been involved in musical theater for almost 17 years. It opened the door to a new world of infinite possibilities from the moment I had the courage to step through that door as a little boy.
This is a path I never would have taken if it wasn’t for the encouragement of my first grade teacher. At that time, I was repeatedly mimicking the voices and lines of characters that I had previously seen on TV or in movies and plays. Because I would do these voices in the classroom, it became disruptive for my peers in their learning process; it also cast a negative spotlight on me.


More… 
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*** PLAYWRIGHTS OPPORTUNITIES ***




The Robert J. Pickering Award for Playwriting Excellence

This annual award was established to honor past member and playwright, Bob Pickering, and to provide a vehicle for playwrights to see their works produced. Over 30 plays have been produced over since 1984. $200 is awarded for first place, $50 for second place and $25 for third place.

Full length, unproduced plays and musicals. Children’s plays accepted. Unable to return without a self-addressed stamped envelope.

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The Open Eye Theater in Margaretville will accept 10-minute play submissions to be considered for production in “Summer Shortcuts VIII.”

Eight plays will be selected for two weekends of performances, Thursdays through Sundays from Aug. 16 to 26. All performances will take place at 960 Main St. in Margaretville, New York.

Family-friendly comedies and dramas, no more than 10 minutes in length on any subject or theme, and of any style or genre are welcome, according to a media release. The Open Eye is a “black box-type” theater seating 75. The company is especially interested in plays by Catskill Mountains and New York state playwrights, and in plays with good roles for senior adults and young teens.

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What’s On Tom? Productions now invites playwrights, both established and emerging, to submit original 15 minute plays, with a maximum cast of three, on the theme FAKE.

Scripts most suited for our new production will be chosen by our reading panel, and be performed at The Red Door Theatre in Thomastown, Kilkenny and Billy Byrnes, Kilkenny City in autumn of 2018


*** FOR MORE INFORMATION about these and other opportunities see http://www.nycplaywrights.org ***


*** GERTRUDE JEANNETTE ***


Gertrude Jeannette, Actor, Director and Cabdriver, Dies at 103

Ms. Jeannette never wanted to act, she said, but was pushed into the theater.

With the money she earned driving, she had set out to correct her childhood stammer by enrolling in the one speech class she could find, at the American Negro Theater, housed in the basement of what is today the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.

Acting instruction was part of the curriculum, and she studied alongside Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis. She was quickly singled out for her stage presence and cast in her first Broadway production, “Lost in the Stars,” which had its premiere at the Music Box Theater in 1949.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/26/obituaries/gertrude-jeannette-actor-director-and-cabdriver-dies-at-103.html

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Playbill Vault: Gertrude Jeanette
http://www.playbill.com/person/gertrude-jeanette-vault-0000038379

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A Good Life - Gertrude Jeanette
A short documentary about legendary black theater actress Gertrude Jeanette (November 28, 1914 – April 4, 2018).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gp3gnTjPc2Y

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American Negro Theater

The American Negro Theater (ANT) was formed in Harlem on June 5, 1940, by writer Abram Hill and actor Frederick O'Neal. The group was founded by the influence of the purposes of the Negro Unit of the Federal Theatre Project in Harlem. It produced 19 plays before closing in 1949. Designed as a community theater group, performances were held in Harlem's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. In 1942, ANT began its Studio Theatre training program for beginning actors. Graduates include Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Negro_Theater

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The Harlem Artist’s De¬vel¬op¬ment League Es¬pe¬cially for You, a.k.a. The H.A.D.L.E.Y. Play¬ers, is a non-profit 501©(3) the¬ater or¬ga¬ni¬za¬tion, es¬tab¬lished in 1980 in the Harlem com¬mu¬nity by Ms. Gertrude Jeannette.

Cur¬rently we present three ma¬jor the¬atri¬cal pro¬duc¬tions per year, un¬der the Eq¬uity Show-case Code, that are both in¬for¬ma¬tive and en¬ter¬tain¬ing.

https://www.harlemonestop.com/organization/505/the-hadley-players-theaterthe-harlem-school-of-the-arts-theatre

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Nothing But a Man

Nothing But a Man is a 1964 American independent drama film starring Ivan Dixon and Abbey Lincoln, and directed by Michael Roemer, who also co-wrote the film with Robert M. Young. The film tells the story of Duff Anderson, an African-American railroad worker in the early 1960s who tries to maintain his respect in a racist small town near Birmingham, Alabama, after he marries the local preacher's daughter.[2] In addition to dealing with oppression and discrimination, Anderson must also come to terms with his troubled relationship with his own father, a drunk who abandoned and rejected him.

Although it was not widely seen upon release due to difficulties in finding distribution, the film is now generally considered to be an important example of neorealistic American cinema. In 1993, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Entire movie on Youtube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbNKQwoDrHA

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New York Daily News
November 30, 2000

Fifty years ago, playwright Gertrude Jeannette and actor Engle Conrow teamed up to put on Jeannette's play, "This Way Forward.

" Not much has changed. The two are at it again this year with a reprise of the play at St. Philip's Community Center on W. 133rd St., seven blocks from the original production. "This Way Forward" chronicles a black community in the Depression-era South as it struggles to expand its one-room schoolhouse. Then and now, Conrow plays Mr. Henderson, the superintendent of schools and the only white character. "Fifty years is a long time," says Conrow, whose son was born about the time "This Way Forward" made its debut. "It's haunting. It doesn't matter if you're a plumber back in the same place screwing pipes together. It's still haunting doing the job you did before.

When he was 26, Conrow needed a lot of makeup for the part. Today, well . . . not so much. Though he hastens to point out that "compared to Gertrude, I'm nothing.

Jeannette, or Ms. G, as admirers call her, turned 86 on Tuesday. In 1950, she played the main female character in the play, but today, arthritis prevents her from acting except in commercials. You can see her in ads for Lipton Seasonings and for Procrit. Instead, she directs, rising out of her chair only "when they start getting on my nerves.

Though Jeannette grew up in Arkansas, she got most of her theater training in New York; she moved here in 1933 as the bride of prizefighter Joe Jeannette. She soon signed up for directing classes with Lee Strasberg and acting classes costing $85 every six weeks. The only problem was how to pay for them. Jeannette soon had a solution: She became New York City's first female cab driver. Her husband had to read about it in the papers - she wasn't about to tell him. Jeannette started playwriting at the New School, where her teacher suggested, "Write about something you know. Think back to your childhood.

And she did. She thought back to summers spent on the 365-acre farm her father owned outside Little Rock. Jeannette and her siblings used to curl up under the porch and listen to the women talk as they did their quilting. Jeannette didn't understand much of what was being said then, but it came together later in "This Way Forward.

http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/boroughs/play-fast-forwards-50-years-actor-role-author-86-director-article-1.890393

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“I started writing about women, strong women, that I knew that no one would be ashamed to play.”

– Gertrude Jeannette


http://thefoundrytheatre.org/1995/09/22/1995-legacies-series/

Where it began


A young Mark Twain



*** PLAYWRIGHTS OPPORTUNITIES ***


Bismarck State College Theatre, in collaboration with the Humanities North Dakota, as part of the HumanitiesND year-long “GameChanger Ideas Festival” is pleased to announce a call for brand new ten-minute plays exploring the question: What happened to the American dream?
Theatre has had a long history of examining the American dream: whether through Arthur Miller’s cutting critique in Death of a Salesman, August Wilson’s poetic and revelatory Pittsburgh Cycle, the modernist anxiety of Sophie Treadwell’s Machinal, Suzan-Lori Park’s “Rep and Rev” of The America Play, or Lin-Manuel Miranda’s re-envisioning of the Founding Fathers as played by actors of color in Hamilton, the theatre has always been a forum for exploring the possibilities, anxieties, limitations, and opportunities afforded to people pursuing the American dream.

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RAZE THE SPACE In association with the Literature & Fiction Department of the Los Angeles Public Library 2.00 - 3.30 pm Saturday, August 11, 2018, @ the Mark Taper Auditorium, Central Library, 630 W 5th St, CA 90071
                 
This year’s theme, EXIT STRATEGIES, must be reflected in all work submitted. What does EXIT STRATEGIES mean to you? And how can you use this year’s theme as a springboard into your own creative process?

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Theatre Three 22nd Annual Festival of One-Act Plays

• Only UNPRODUCED works will be accepted.
• Plays that have had staged readings are eligible.
• No adaptations or children’s plays.
• Cast size maximum: 10
• Length: 40-minutes maximum. No minimum.
• Settings should be simple or suggested.
• Playwrights may make multiple submissions.
(These need not be made under separate cover.)
• Please do not submit works that have been previously submitted.


*** FOR MORE INFORMATION about these and other opportunities see http://www.nycplaywrights.org ***


*** SPRING ON STAGE ***


SPRING AWAKENING

A rock musical with music by Duncan Sheik and a book and lyrics by
Steven Sater. It is based on the controversial German play Spring
Awakening (1891) by Frank Wedekind which was banned in Germany for
some time due to its frank portrayal of abortion, homosexuality, rape,
child abuse and suicide. Set in late-19th century Germany, the musical
tells the story of teenagers discovering the inner and outer tumult of
sexuality. In the musical, alternative rock is employed as part of the
folk-infused rock score.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spring_Awakening

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEYV5bNMZVo&feature=youtu.be

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THE DAY BEFORE SPRING

A musical with a book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by
Frederick Loewe.

The plot concerns a married woman who, at a college reunion, meets the
man with whom she almost eloped ten years before. Romantically stirred
by a novel he has written about her, she considers leaving her husband
and reuniting with her former flame.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Day_Before_Spring

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ENCHANTED APRIL

Written by Matthew Barbert. Four unhappy English women rent a villa in Tuscany for a month, discovering unexpected passions and renewing their appreciation of life.

http://www.playbill.com/production/enchanted-april-belasco-theatre-vault-0000010756

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VERY WARM FOR MAY

Very Warm for May is a musical composed by Jerome Kern, with a
libretto by Oscar Hammerstein II. It was the team's final score for
Broadway, following their hits Show Boat, Sweet Adeline, and Music in
the Air. It marked a return to Broadway for Kern, who had spent
several years in Hollywood writing music for movies, including Swing
Time for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Very_Warm_for_May

http://youtu.be/-lL76reqdng

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MAY WINE

May Wine is a musical with a book by Frank Mandell, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein, II, and music by Sigmund Romberg. The show was adapted from the novel The Happy Alienist by Eric von Stroheim and Wallace Smith. The story concerns the rich and absent-minded psychology professor, Johann Volk, who falls in love with Marie (Baroness von Schlewitz). The malevolent Baron Kuno Adelhorst, who also loves Marie, tries to get the professor's money by having Marie marry him, but after they are married she comes to love the professor and doesn’t want to blackmail him. However, the Professor thinks he’s been deceived and tries to shoot Marie. Fortunately, he does not hurt her and all ends well. The subplot involves an artist's model, Friedl, who wants a man's attention and gets it from the Baron.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_Wine

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JUNE MOON

At the center of June Moon is Fred Stevens, a young aspiring lyricist who journeys from Schenectady to New York City, where he hopes to make a name for himself in the world of song publishing and night clubs. On the train he meets dental assistant Edna Baker, and the two embark upon a friendship that evolves into love for her and fondness for him. While struggling to become a Tin Pan Alley notable, Fred takes a shine to his composer partner Paul's glamorous, gold-digging sister-in-law Eileen. The two men sell a song to a music publisher and it develops into a hit. Ultimately, revelations about Eileen's true character help return Fred to his senses and Edna, whom he realizes he truly loves.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/June_Moon

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JUNE BRIDE

June Bride is a 1948 American comedy film directed by Bretaigne Windust. Ranald MacDougall's screenplay, based on the unproduced play Feature for June by Eileen Tighe and Graeme Lorimer, was nominated for the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Comedy. The film starred Bette Davis and Robert Montgomery. The Warner Bros. release marked the screen debut of Debbie Reynolds, although her appearance was uncredited.

Foreign correspondent Carey Jackson (Robert Montgomery) returns to New York City when his newspaper's Vienna office is closed and is offered a job on a women's magazine called Home Life. He accepts the position only because it will put him in daily contact with editor Linda Gilman (Bette Davis), whom he once loved. Linda is averse to the idea because of his leaving her three years earlier, but agrees to hire him if he will keep their relationship on a strictly professional level.

Movie excerpt
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJQAEQaYJSY

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Marinism

Marinism: (muh-REE-ni-zuhm)  A literary style marked by extravagant imagery, elaborate metaphors, etc. After the Italian poet Giovanni Battista Marino (1569-1625). 



Because being a writer isn't difficult enough already................

  



Is Your Script Gender-Balanced? Try This Test
By Melena Ryzik
May 11, 2018

The stats are familiar to anyone who cares about the place of women on screen: year after year, they appear less often, say fewer words and generally don’t do as much in front of the camera. Numerous studies have corroborated the disparity between male and female characters in films, TV shows and ads.
But what if there was a way to analyze the gap before a movie hits the multiplex, when there is still time to address that persistent imbalance?
Now, a few Hollywood players have developed technology that aims to do that: new screenplay software that can automatically tell whether a script is equitable for men and women.
The idea came from Christina Hodson, a screenwriter who is involved with Time’s Up, the activist Hollywood organization addressing inequities in the industry. said Ms. Hodson, who specializes in female-driven action movies like the coming “Bumblebee” and a spinoff of Harley Quinn, starring Margot Robbie, “it made sense to me that we can do a lot ourselves, before they even leave our desk.”
She wondered if screenwriting software — which writers almost universally use to format scripts — could easily tabulate the number of male and female roles, for example, and how much each spoke. That way, writers could see and tackle the problem even before casting directors or producers had their say.
Ms. Hodson approached John August, a creator of the script software Highland, to see if he could make something of her brainstorm. In a word, yes. It was a snap: On Thursday, just weeks after that initial conversation, Highland 2, with the gender analysis tool that Ms. Hodson dreamed up, became available in the Apple app store as a free download.
 “I was immediately on board,” said Mr. August, a screenwriter himself whose credits include Tim Burton’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and the forthcoming live-action “Aladdin.”
“During the writing process, you’re not always aware of how little your female characters are interacting or speaking,” he said, “because you’re only looking at a scene at a time, a page at a time. It’s not a good overview.”
Highland 2 provides a real-time snapshot of the overall gender balance. The results are sometimes surprising. With her heroine-centered movies, “I expected all of my scripts would be over 50 percent” female, Ms. Hodson said, “and they weren’t.”
That knowledge provides an opportunity to rethink some of the storytelling. “It’s a tool for people to self-police and look at unconscious bias in their own work,” she said.
In conceiving the interface, Mr. August was careful about how the data was presented. “In no way did I want this to feel like scolding,” he said. “I wanted this to feel approachable, and invite you to make changes.”
Madeline Di Nonno, chief executive officer of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University, which has done extensive research into representation on screen, welcomed any innovation to push Hollywood into a more balanced direction.
“It’s about systemic change,” she said, “and it’s about what are the touchpoints along the way where critical decisions are being made, and how can we provide an intervention at the very beginning.”
In 2016, the institute, along with its partners at the University of Southern California and Google, announced a software tool that used video and audio recognition and algorithms to decode gender and other details of characters on screen. Late last year, the group also developed a script-level gender assessment — what Ms. Di Nonno called “a spell-check for gender bias” — which has been quietly used by some studios and ad agencies in the last few months, she said. (It’s not available commercially.)
The big hurdle in the industry will be buy-in. In response to questions from The New York Times about its products, Final Draft, maker of a leading screenplay software, said in a statement on Thursday that its next iteration, Final Draft 11, due out within the year, will offer “enhancements” that allow writers “to analyze many different aspects of the script, including gender representation.” (The company has long offered a free add-on called Tagger that lets writers tag attributes, including gender and race, for characters. The new version will make this a bigger standard feature.)
Even before Highland 2 hit the marketplace, it was making waves. In April, Ms. Hodson and Mr. August released a podcast about their collaboration and their hopes for it. Guy Goldstein, the founder of WriterDuet Inc., another screenplay software product, was listening, and inspired. His team immediately got to work.
The podcast “made us know that it was something that we really needed to do,” Mr. Goldstein said. “We didn’t realize the impact we could have until then. I think it’s our responsibility as software developers to offer tools that help build awareness.”
The WriterDuet tool, available online now, also includes an automated Bechdel test — which measures how many female characters there are and whether they discuss something other than a man — and even a reverse Bechdel test, which looks at men the same way. The tool also noted how many times the test was passed, using a minimum of seven lines of dialogue to qualify.
An examination of the last 10 Oscar winners for original screenplay offered dismal, if not surprising, results: Only one screenplay, Spike Jonze’s “Her,” passed WriterDuet’s Bechdel test, Mr. Goldstein said in an email, when the unseen digital assistant, voiced by Scarlett Johansson, has one conversation with a little girl. “In contrast, every single script passes our reverse Bechdel test multiple times (as many as 40 times, in ‘Spotlight’),” he said.
Ms. Hodson and the software makers say they expect their tools will be expanded to address other issues of representation, like race and ethnicity, although that is more complicated, because those details are not always mentioned in scripts.
But in general, “This is all pretty easy,” Mr. Goldstein said. “Technology can do this, and technology should be doing this.”
Ms. Hodson envisioned these analytics being applied to projects already in development. “We can’t enforce anything, but my hope is that people will be more invested in doing this as this conversation becomes more important,” she said. “Why wouldn’t you?”



A writer is..........



Great Photography present by John William Tuohy: Vivian Maier.

Great Photography present by John William Tuohy: Vivian Maier.

Dear Reader: You Misunderstood My Story. Signed, Truman Capote.



By James Barron
May 13, 2018

Writers can get grumpy when they get letters from clueless readers. When Susan Akers discovered an irritated reply from Truman Capote among some papers she was going through, what surprised her was the identity of one clueless reader who had sent Capote a note after his first published story appeared in Mademoiselle magazine.
That clueless reader was her mother, a junior in college at the time — which was mid-1945.
Ms. Akers discovered the letter among papers her father had set aside after her mother’s death at 91 in 2014. The letter was a brush with not-yet greatness: Capote was 20 when he tapped it out on a typewriter in his mother’s apartment on Park Avenue. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was 13 years in the future, “In Cold Blood,” 20. The story in Mademoiselle, “Miriam,” would win an O. Henry Prize the following year.
Ms. Akers’s mother was Katherine Warner then, but Capote began the letter “Dear Miss Warren.” There is no way to know whether he misread her name or mistyped the right letters in the wrong order, but there is no question that it was Capote at the keyboard. A secretary would not have sent the letter looking the way it did: Three words were marked out with X’s, the way fumble-fingered typists fixed mistakes when they did not bother to retype an entire page.
Just as prehistoric was the typewriter’s inability to correct misspellings. Capote had to write in a missing letter here or a missing word there — “understand” needed an s, “experienced” needed a d and a sentence needed a “was.”
Ms. Akers did not picture her mother as someone who would fire off a letter to an author. “Mother always painted a portrait of herself as a wallflower,” Ms. Akers said, “but it turns out she was quite a social butterfly. She had more confidence than she confessed to me. Who thinks to write an author and say, ‘I don’t get your story, explain it to me’?”
“Miriam” was about Mrs. H. T. Miller, a widow who, Capote wrote in the opening line, “lived alone in a pleasant apartment (two rooms with a kitchenette) in a remodeled brownstone near the East River.” There is a second character, a girl with strange-looking hair — “a demon child,” as Capote described her in the letter to Miss Warner.
“I take it you do not understand Miriam’s relation to Mrs. Miller,” Capote wrote in the letter. “Well, Miriam IS Mrs. Miller, or rather that evil element in her (as there is some degree of evil in all humans) that has never had a chance to expand, or flower as it were. In other words, Miriam is a projection.” Capote said there were clinical terms for what was actually wrong with Mrs. Miller. He mentioned schizophrenia.
Puzzled as to why her mother had not figured out “Miriam” on her own — or why, after Capote became famous, she did not say much about her letter and his answer — Ms. Akers sought clues.
Her mother’s stored-away belongings yielded evidence that Miss Warner might not have been the sharpest reader at Wellesley College. In the spring semester of 1945, just before she wrote to Capote, she received B’s in every subject except one, English. She got a C-minus, according to an entry in her mother’s diary. (The C-minus made Ms. Akers laugh. “My mother used to edit all of our papers before we handed them in,” she said. “She prided herself on English, but we didn’t know about this.”)
Image
Miss Warner had all but predicted that she would have trouble with literature. In a short autobiography written when she was a freshman, Miss Warner declared: “I know myself to lack the feeling for serious high-toned writing which I consider to hold the place of honor in college.” (Grammarians would say she also lacked the feeling for punctuation and would probably put a comma before “which.”)
Ms. Akers’s conclusion? “Maybe ‘Miriam’ was not her cup of tea,” she said.
In the wider world, however, “Miriam” caused “something of a sensation,” the Capote biographer Gerald Clarke said in an interview, and got Capote’s career going.
“In those days, the best fiction in America was published in women’s magazines,” Mr. Clarke said. “Mademoiselle and Harper’s Bazaar, those were the magazines. They had published Virginia Woolf, really avant-garde stuff, whereas The New Yorker was publishing suburban manicured stuff.” Capote, who had been a copy boy at The New Yorker, had been rejected by that magazine. “Part of it was he was trying to imitate The New Yorker style, which he couldn’t do very well,” Mr. Clarke said.
Ms. Akers sent him a scan of Capote’s letter, seeking advice on its significance. “It doesn’t change anything in the interpretation” of “Miriam,” Mr. Clarke said, but it is important because it was contemporaneous, “not something he’s remembering 30 years later.”
“This sounded like him, but I didn’t know him when he was 20 years old, which makes it interesting,” Mr. Clarke said. “I knew him starting in his early 40s. There’s a difference. When he wrote this letter, he was not a famous person. I think it’s charming that he sat down to write the letter. I’m not sure how many fiction writers would do that. Fiction writers don’t like to explain their stories. They like to think people can interpret them, and if they have to explain them, it’s a bit much.”
Ms. Akers decided to donate the letter to the New York Public Library, which has Capote’s papers but will keep the letter separate, as it does with material acquired from sources other than Capote’s estate. Thomas Lannon, the library’s assistant director for manuscripts, archives and rare books, said the library accepted the letter because “there’s not much correspondence” from Capote.
“He didn’t keep copies” of letters he sent, Mr. Lannon said. “To find other Truman Capote letters, you don’t go to the Truman Capote papers, you go to other people’s papers.”
In a folder from the papers of Diana Vreeland were postcards Capote had sent her — one from Leningrad in 1956, another from somewhere in Greece in 1958. From a folder of the papers of Irving Berlin, Mr. Lannon pulled a letter Capote had written to the composer of “God Bless America” in 1948. That is the year he wrote the novel “Other Voices, Other Rooms,” and he told Berlin it was one of four accomplishments that year.
But Ms. Akers’s letter was striking, he said: “The Capote of that letter is so young.”
Ms. Akers’s mother was young herself — she was 10 months older than Capote.