Monday, May 9, 2011

Enjoying Plays by Robert Francis Flor

A guest blog from Robert Francis Flor, past New Play Lab Class student.

In 2003 when my father died, I found myself sorting through my Uncle’s trunks that he stored in the garage of our Rainier Valley home. My dad immigrated from the Philippines in 1932 to join his brother, Baltazar. Baltazar or “Bob” was the dramatist for the Filipino Community during the 30’s. He’d died suddenly in 1942 shortly after graduating from Seattle College.

My dad stored his trunks for safe keeping. On opening them, I found a treasure trove consisting of two plays, a song, love letters, poems and correspondence Baltazar had written. There were also programs from his productions. I shared my discovery with close friends who thought these might make an interesting play.

Growing up in Seattle, I enjoyed plays. The first full-length production I’d seen was “Rumpelstiltskin” when I was in 4th or 5th Grade. I’m not even certain which theater staged it but the memory stuck with me. Since that time, I’ve attend productions from a variety of theaters such as Seattle Repertory, ArtsWest, Balagan, Stone Soup, Theatro Milagro or the Ashland Shakespeare Festival.

Writing plays had never crossed my mind. Up to then, my creative writing consisted of a few poems and vignettes. My professional career was built largely on writing policy papers, reports and grants. My interests were about to take a major turn.

I began to outline ideas based on the findings in my Uncle’s trunks and events in the Filipino community. For months, I toiled at these. I skimmed a few books on playwriting hoping they’d help me better understand the craft. Writer friends reviewed my drafts. I sent them to a few agencies for critiques. And finally, I realized I really had no idea what I was doing.

Tony Bajado, a writer friend, mentioned she took courses in playwriting at Freehold Theatre. Her play “Fish” had been selected for a Studio Lab.

I searched Freehold and discovered a body of courses in playwriting. My first course, Playwriting I was from Paul Mullen during which we focused on dialogue. During this class, I settled on writing a play I titled Daniel’s Mood. Initially as a short-story about my foster brother’s death in 1972, I began to reconsider it for a possible play.

I honed Daniel’s Mood (photo above) through several classes at Freehold Theatre with Elizabeth Heffron and Dickey Nesenger. The play changed course as they will, a new protagonist emerged and I began thinking more about its arc and the underling themes. In 2010, Daniel’s Mood was performed as part of Freehold's New Play Lab class. In the class, characters and conflict were sharpened with mapping exercises.

Beyond class exchanges, re-writes and readings, I worked with David Tucker in the casting and rehearsal processes. He and the actors, Eloisa Cardona and Matt Riggins brought my characters to life. My understanding of how directors choose actors and how actors interpreted characters increased. Rehearsals and discussions resulted in a further character refinement that made them more authentic. Daniel’s Mood – Mestizos was published in 2011. Freehold’s Studio Lab and courses were invaluable. I continue to work toward a complete staged reading.

Looking back on my Freehold playwriting class experience, what I really appreciated was the personalized attention of the instructors and the friendship and support of my fellow students.

It was definitely yet another treasure trove find.


Want to jump into the playwriting waters? Freehold's Summer Classes will be opening up for registration this week which will include Playwriting I and The New Play Lab.

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