Arts’ Watch: Playwrights as Entrepreneurs

Published 8:46 pm Thursday, March 10, 2022

I’m a playwright, so I know lots of playwrights.

But recently I’ve noticed some of my friends in this field approaching the field as if it were—as it is—a business. The word show is frequently followed by the word business: Show Business.

But like many of my peers, I frequently focus my attention on the writing of new works, and not the marketing of those works. But while seeking a topic for this week’s column I came across three colleagues who are creatively marketing their plays, in different but, I think, effective ways.

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Russell Rechenbach, who writes under the Dramatists Guild registered pen name Richard Cavendish, has produced a one minute video currently available on Facebook—in honor of International Women’s Day—that recognizes five Kentucky women: Emma Watts, an artist; Elizabeth Armstrong, was a seamstress who lived at Pleasant View Farm, site of the Civil War battle of Richmond; Mayme Bull, a poet; Mary Holley, a song writer; and Emily Thomas Tubman a philanthropist whose efforts benefited the poor, colleges such as Midway and Transylvania, and communities in both Georgia and Kentucky.
Rechenbach, a retired minister and playwright has self-published a collection of five plays based on the lives of the women called The Botanic Garden and My Old Kentucky Plays (Author House, 2020).

Asked about the video, Rechenbach said, “I put the book together to get the word out about these women. The video,” he continued, “I first put out about a year ago because unless you promote your works nobody knows about them.”
Rechenbach’s collection of plays, published under the name Richard Cavendish, is available from Amazon.

Steve Cleberg has created a website Small World Plays and Musicals to promote his plays. Cleberg, who retired as professor and director of theatre at Kentucky’s Somerset Community College, explained, “In 35 years at the college I wrote many adaptations of classic plays that were in the public domain to make them more stageable for colleges—reducing the cast size, reducing their technical and special effects demands and so on. Those are among the Cut-to-the-Chase Classics. Additionally, I wrote a couple of musicals, so there is a ‘muscicals’ category.”

Finally, I’ve written seven Radio Suspense Theatre plays all of which are a bit different. They are radio plays for the stage. Each one is a radio play that has a back story. The back stories are backstage stories about my small-town community theatre.”

These plays, Cleberg related, are popular with high schools and community theatres here in the United States, and also in Canada. “I think in part because they can be done with less rehearsal time—the radio play portions can be read from scripts (as they would have been) leaving only the backstory portion of the scripts to be memorized.”

Cleberg established the website to help him build a production history for his plays so that eventually he can get them published. For information about his plays or to investigate producing one of them visit the website: https://sites.google.com/view/small-world-plays-musicals/home?fbclid=IwAR20crXTxrs_2NVauVv2XzjEMEibGn_iiYCTaWHenyFZFa6UvmVNI5N-TB4

The third playwright who has promoted his works in a unique way is Larry Muhammad of Louisville who has adapted a portion of his full-length play, Jockey Jim, about two-time Kentucky Derby winning jockey Jimmy Winkfield, into a radio drama that is being produced by Eastern Kentucky University’s WEKU (88.9 FM) radio program, Eastern Standard, for airing over this year’s Kentucky Derby weekend.

Tom Martin, Eastern Standard’s host and producer said, “We’re looking forward to adding ‘theatre-of-the-mind’ to the Eastern Standard menu. And the story of Jockey Jim Winkfield and his connection with Kentucky’s most iconic annual event is a great way to begin this series of radio plays.”

The excerpt from Jockey Jim will air on Thursday May 5th at 11 am and 8 pm and on Sunday May 8th at 6 pm.

Register for NaPoWriMo

April is National Poetry Writing Month. If you are up for the challenge of writing 30 poems in 30 days and would like to have your efforts considered for

publication as a chapbook register for the contest at https://www.localgemspoetrypress.com/napowrimo-contest.html There is a cost involved. But first prize is $300, publication and 25 copies of the winning chapbook.

If you have no interest in writing 30 poems, write one and send it to miles.layton@winchestersun.com by April 8 and I’ll select a few of my favorites– I don’t pretend to be a poet- for publication in a future column.

Bill McCann is an arts columnist, playwright, member of the Dramatists Guild, and a host of the Theatre Series, an occasional feature of WEKUs Eastern Standard news magazine. For more information visit www.whmccann.com