Outside the Lines

Two groups explore new ways of doing things

Tucson is full of creative types who continue to find rather mainstream ways to do their thing. But they are always searching for new avenues to find connections with each other and with the community.

Playwrights constitute a healthy chunk of Tucson's artists, and there are places for them to gather and critique each others' works. Perhaps most well-known is Old Pueblo Playwrights, which has been around for years, meeting weekly and then hosting a couple of public events which showcase their work and invite audience feedback. And there are quite a few mainstream theaters that have made it part of their mission to produce new plays on a regular basis. There are also groups which sponsor new play contests that draw entries from across the country.

About nine weeks ago, a group of women decided that, although they appreciate OPP's ways of doing things, and have themselves been the recipients of OPP's nurturing ways, they would like to experiment with a different approach to writing plays. So they gave birth to sheworXX. This Saturday they invite us to take a look at what they are all about.

According to Eugenia Woods, a long-time Tucsonan whose works have been produced here and elsewhere, the group felt they would like to work within a process which seems more in tune with how women, by nature, work together. This is an idea that has taken root in the evolution of feminism. She calls it a “non-linear” and a collaborative endeavor, from start to finish.

However, men are in no way to be excluded from the group. “We are simply interested in a non-hierarchical approach to the entire process, creating real women characters and to address by the lack of parity” which is so obvious in the representation of women playwrights and directors.

And it is a rather alarming lack of parity. The group's web page cites some jolting statistics. Women make up 60-70 percent of American theatre audiences, and 70 percent of theater tickets are purchased by women. But over the past 25 years, only 12-17 percent of staged plays in the U.S. were written and/or directed by women.

The Saturday event, which is a fundraiser with a silent auction, will be at the YWCA, which is the home of the group. It will feature a reading of “The Fat Free Chicana and the Snow Cap Queen,” by Tucson playwright Elaine Romero.

The following weekend will showcase yet a different way of creating new material. It combines some of the talent central to Live Theatre Workshop, blended with some input from a rather unusual source. Michael Martinez is on the staff of LTW and is a crucial part of their the All Together Theatre children's theater group, for which he writes much of the music and lyrics.

“I really love composing,” says Martinez, who says he's been at it for years.

So he had this idea, and next weekend we will see how it has been given legs. “It's called 'Your Song in My Mouth.' It's a collaboration of Tucson writers and poets and LTW musicians.”

A few weeks ago “we put out a call for submissions for short stories or poems or even just ideas and thoughts.” He and another composer, David Ragland, read everything that came in, and together they picked “the ones that inspired us.” So the chosen submissions became their “muses” and they have joined with some familiar LTW faces to create and deliver the results.

Martinez says he is all for community collaboration and hopes this is not only fun and interesting, but an example of how we can inspire each other.

“Some of the authors will read their stories, although some will not. Some are from people we know and some from folks we didn't know--one is from a nine-year-old girl. We've put together twelve songs, and there is one story that has been translated into a dance performed by a couple of students from Empire High School in Vail.”

Martinez says there are folks playing bass, piano, drums, and guitar. “It's kind of like a musical theater rock folk band. We are a small group, but we make a pretty big sound.”

He says if the response is good, more of this type of creative effort could be forthcoming. “I would love to continue creating a 'loop' between community and performers.”

Actually, that sounds pretty “non-linear” as well.