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The Life of Leo Wool, Part One – Writing, Producing, Performing

The following is a guest blog post by writer and teacher Nina Alvarez. Discount tickets for her play, The Life of Leo Wool, are available to Writers & Books members for the May 17th 7:30 performance. General tickets are $20 General Admission and $15 Seniors and Students, and are available at all area Wegmans stores or by calling the East End Theatre box office at (585) 325-3366. For more information,visit our event page on Facebook.

Nina Alvarez On Writing, Producing, Promoting, and Performing a Play:

Rallying people to a show they’ve never heard about by an unknown playwright takes a lot of talking and a lot of making connections. A year ago I was an unknown playwright and producer with only two things on my side:

1) a veteran actor I’d written the play for (Jack Simel)
2) a little social networking know-how

While Jack found my show a great director and that director found it a great cast, I created a blog and Facebook page to bring people in on the process. With posts like “Revising, Desinging, Outreach, and Planning,” and “Putting Your Heart Up to Be Shot At,” I documented this scary, complex, and fascinating undertaking. I launched an Indiegogo campaign and made $1,500 in two weeks, mostly because of very generous friends and family members. Still, we didn’t have the time or resources for a full production (lights, sounds, props, etc.) so we decided on a staged reading. That means actors had scripts in hand but did have blocking (the process of planning where, when, and how actors will move about the stage during a performance.)

When the staged reading of “The Life of Leo Wool” launched during Fringe 2012, the Writers & Books performance space was nearly packed for both shows. Audience response was engaged and enthusiastic. A couple months later I got a phone call from Jack, now on the board of the Greater Rochester Repertory Company (GRRC) telling me that they wanted the show to go to full production.

Giving a Voice and Venue to Aspiring Playwrights:

In 1996, the Greater Rochester Repertory Companies (GRRC) was founded to provide an environment for actors, musicians, and all theatre practitioners to teach and learn. Along with that mission, they vowed to give a voice and venue to local and regional authors.

For 17 years they have produced original works by many aspiring playwrights. The most recent of these is my play “The Life of Leo Wool.” There are a lot of emerging playwrights, a lot of people who would love to have their plays produced. Having a production company invest in your new show is a great honor.
I was thrilled, of course, but then almost immediately overwhelmed. This would mean making me 40 page play into a 60 page play and undertaking a lot of promotion to get people to 6 performances in the East End Theatre that seats 200 instead of two performances of the Writers & Books performance space that seats 60. Though the GRRC board was a great partner in getting word out, I had to practice what I preach to aspiring authors: that we need to be our own best self-promoters. I wrote a press release, pitched an article to Her Rochester, and launched another Indiegogo campaign to help raise money for stage rental costs.

I have been humbled by the donations of time, talent, and money from many people including local illustrator and designer Jeremy Sniatecki, who illustrated and designed all of our posters, rack cards, and program covers. And to Daniel Herd, who got my play in the door for Writers & Books Fringe, helped me develop the play through dozens of incarnations, and let’s me kvetch about everything that stresses me out. These are of course the same things I then am thrilled about when they turn out well.

And then there are the people who, in a very physical way, breathe life into these little marks on a page that we call words. These are the actors and director.