Scene4 Magazine — International Magazine of Arts and Media
Scene4 Magazine: Michael Bettencourt
Michael Bettencourt
Playwrights' Forum: A Real Forum for Playwrights

Three years ago, I spent a wonderful weekend in Memphis, Tennessee, with Playwrights' Forum, a producing organization putting on my full-length play "A Question of Color," about an illegal interracial marriage in North Carolina in 1907 (based on the memoir of the same name by Sara Smith Beattie). Four years before that, they produced "Dancing At The Revolution," about Emma Goldman's two years in federal prison. Not an easy script to do, technically, and it opened on August 16, the anniversary of Elvis' death and the start of what locals call "Dead Elvis Weekend."  But we managed to survive and sell out the run.

And once again, Playwrights' Forum and I have connected with the just-concluded run of "Hardball," what I affectionately call my "Jewish baseball player play," because that is, in fact, what it is about.  Created with Dean Kaner and Bob Ozasky, "Hardball" is grounded in the story of Dean Kaner's grandfather, Henry Kaner.  At the age of 22, in 1922, Henry was a minor-league pitching phenomenon in Superior, Wisconsin.  He was offered a chance to play in the majors for the St. Louis Browns, but if the took the offer, more than likely he would have to play on Shabbos.  Which he decided not to do, opting instead to take up the middle-class life of a salesman.

I want to use this space, as I did on both of those previous occasions, to thank  the volunteer staff and board members, as well as all the directors and cast members with whom I've worked, for making Playwrights' Forum the gutsy, tenacious, and gracious organization it is.   And "gutsy" is the right word, because Playwrights' Forum takes on an incredibly risky enterprise in the "theatre community": producing entire seasons of unknown work by unknown playwrights.

That is correct: producing.  Not an offer of self-producing (you get everybody and everything, we'll let you use our space and we'll do some marketing), not the starved offer of a script-in-hand reading, not the almost-there-I-can-taste-it breadcrumb of a workshop -- but full production: "overture, hit the lights, this is it, the night of nights / no more rehearsing and nursing a part...."

They have taken chances with me because it is their reason for being to take chances, and I wish I had more than kudos to use to repay them for their generosity and faith.  But kudos I can offer, so hats off again to Playwrights' Forum for their courageous mission to give unknown playwrights and their unknown but eager-to-be-seen plays what they really need: three dimensions embedded in the fourth dimension of time and the fifth dimension of camaraderie and bravery.


©2008 Michael Bettencourt
©2008 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Michael Bettencourt is a produced and published playwright and a Senior Writer and Columnist for Scene4.
Continued thanks to his "prime mate" and wife, Maria-Beatriz

For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives


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july 2008

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