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Monday, December 29, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 17.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Playwrights get to hear their stuff in Wisconsin Wrights New Play Project
Writing out loud
Brown, Schanker and Higbee (from left) are the program's
Brown, Schanker and Higbee (from left) are the program's finalists.
Credit:Michele Traband

Madisonian Kurt McGinnis Brown has some advice for fellow writers: Treat writing like work.

"Don't assume you should be enjoying it," he says. Relevant words for anyone who has ever sat in front of a blank computer screen and felt like running off to do the dishes, pull weeds, do anything but write. "In time," he says, "you'll develop the same guilt feelings at being late to your desk as with whatever paid job you might have. Eventually, a play gets written."

Brown is a finalist in this year's Wisconsin Wrights New Play Project. Wisconsin Wrights was started in 2006 to encourage new works by Wisconsin playwrights. Brown's play, Broken and Entered, tells the story of two men who inherit the house in which they grew up. The house is in a poor neighborhood, and the two devise a plan to clear everything out and start over with new stuff...stuff stolen from other people's homes.

Wisconsin Wrights artistic director Trevin Gay hopes his program helps Wisconsin playwrights in "continuing to be vital contributors to the great American theater tradition." "We all want a new story to be told or even an old story told in a new and interesting way," he says.

Brown and fellow finalists David Schanker of Madison and Rand Higbee of Hager City are treated to a weeklong residency at the west-side artists' retreat Edenfred, extensive workshops and a public reading of their plays.

Since the plays chosen for Wisconsin Wrights have not yet had a public performance, the workshops are an essential tool. They're an opportunity to rehearse a play using real actors, which lets the authors hear their work off the page, aloud.

"It takes a brave and determined individual to put their story down on paper, give it to others to read, allow a collaborative team to digest the tale and then allow that same team to present it to the public," says Gay. "The words sound great on paper, but coming out of an actor's mouth...well, they may not be as brilliant or may convey something completely different than intended."

During the weeklong workshop experience, Brown can make many small edits that often contribute to bigger changes later. In fact, since finishing Broken and Entered last year, he's been toying with the idea of a very different ending. The workshop will help him decide if the current ending stays or goes.

Broken and Entered will be presented in a public reading June 6 at Hemsley Theatre in UW Vilas Hall. Schanker's Kiritsis and Higbee's The Lightning Bug will be presented there June 4 and 5, respectively.

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