Last week I hit the road and made my first ever drive through the state of Wyoming to reach Sheridan, where the Wyoming Theater Festival takes place each year. It was intimidating; the drive, meeting a whole boat load of new people, having to teach. The day before I was set to leave I had this whole slow hyperventilating thing going on, where I’d randomly just gasp for air every 20 or so minutes (an unfortunate nervous tick of mine), but I packed my bags, double checked I had all the directions in case of a google map incident, and tried to get as much sleep as I could. I left on Monday, and drove straight through, not able to stop for food because as it turns out there isn’t a whole lot of places to stop and grab food in between Salt Lake and Sheridan (fun life lesson!), but thankfully there were places to eat when I reached my destination. Sheridan is such a beautiful spot, and I got to see a ton of wildlife during my stay; a fox, an owl, deer, rabbits, antelope (are there even antelope in the US?), little deer, and tons of big beautiful birds of pray hunting from the sky above. I didn’t see any moose, but I hear that they have them.
As for the theater side of things, the Wyoming Theater Festival is dedicated to developing three new theater pieces a year, this year included, East Of Heart Mountain by Edward Allan Baker, a play about a real woman from Sheridan who intercepted Japanese radio broadcasts during WWII in order to inform families of the fates of their sons, Alice Formerly Of Wonderland by Mark Saltzman, a charming love story about the young woman that Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland was based on, and Cast Of Thousands book and concept by Eric Michael Gillett and Arthur Masella, a one person musical featuring songs by Craig Carnelia.
In addition to the three new plays being produced, the festival brings in a larger show, this year was Ring Of Fire; The Music Of Johnny Cash created by Richard Maltby Jr., which I sadly missed, and hosts workshops by visiting artists and readings of plays in development. I taught my very first workshop, The ABC’s of Playwriting, and had a total of THREE whole students (we all need to start somewhere, right?). I’d meticulously put together a plan, talked to two master playwriting teachers, edited my plan, and quickly threw my plan out the window as soon as the workshop started. All in all, it was a great learning experience for me, and I think the people who joined me learned a little something too, at least I hope so.
The next morning we did a reading of Ripped, which was the first time it had an audience. This was a lot less nerve wracking, as hearing words of mine in front of people isn’t new to me, but I was a little tense over this particular play (about rape) being read in front of a small town audience. No one stormed out, in fact most of our audience stayed to give me their reactions and feedback, and now I’m super pumped to head into rewrites to get the play ready for its San Francisco Playhouse reading this coming October.
Overall, I was impressed with the range of the type of material being developed, the variety of artists from around the country brought in to put the shows on, and the enthusiasm of all the locals who make the festival possible. Artistic Director DannyLee Hodnett really has put together a great festival. If you happen to find yourself near or in Sheridan next July, be sure to check it out. And if you do go, try and stay at the Hotel Sheridan which was built by the real life Buffalo Bill and is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most gables, because apparently Buffalo Bill was a huge gable fan. I’m hoping to get invited back, so maybe I’ll see you there!