A Word for the Day that takes on many meanings.
Quote of the Day: A writer lives in awe of words for they can be cruel or kind, and they can change their meanings right in front of you. They pick up flavors and odors like butter in a refrigerator. John Steinbeck
Word of the Day: West
West is a word that shows direction, a place or region, The Wild West, the wicked witch of the west. We have the West Coast. It's hard to remember when it should be capitalized and when it's lower. But, most importantly today, it is a name. I'd like to introduce you to playwright Cheryl L. West who wrote the stage adaptation of Lizzie Bright and The Buckminster Boy, a play that I thoroughly enjoyed at the Children's Theatre in Minneapolis in March. You can read my review here. I asked Annie Rees, public relations at the Children's Theatre, if I could ask the playwright a few questions. She set up an email interview. I am honored to have this award-winning playwright here on my blog. (My appologies. The spacing gets a little weird when you cut and paste onto blogger.)
Traci Allen as Lizzie
Photo by Dan Norman, CTC
First, thank you for the fabulous production of Lizzie Bright and theBuckminster Boy. I was captivated by the story and thrilled with how
well all of you brought it to life on stage. I had listened to the
audiobook before I attended the performance. You did a marvelous job ofbringing out the main elements of the story and translating them to the
stage. The scene with the whale was amazing.
Thank you. It was an amazing experience to collaborate with CTC.
1. I was wondering how much you consulted with Gary D. Schmidt for the
play adaptation? The only major change I noticed was that Turner's
mother was dead in the play version, but not in the book, sort of a
reversal of what happens to his parents. I think it worked. In fact, it
made the relationship between Turner and his father even more tense and
I didn’t consult with Gary Schmidt at all. He was generous enough to allow
and trust my vision for his work. Always, my goal when adapting is to do it
with integrity and with the original author’s vision still a part of each
decision I make.
2. Do you have a strategy for adapting other work, like novels, into
First and foremost, adapt something you love. When I first read Gary’s
book, I knew immediately it was a good fit for my sensibilities. The book
was charming, interesting and so compelling. I knew it was going to be a
play that featured the importance and the drama of the sea. Second, it’s
important to know what to include and what doesn’t yield itself to live
dramatization. Some things are better read and some things live
beautifully on stage. A playwright has to know the difference. On my
second or third read of the source material, I like to mark it up with post-its
and highlighters for situations I want to use or specific dialogue.
3. Have you written other plays for a younger audience? Do you usually
write for adults?
I adapted for American Girl and Seattle Children’s Theatre – ADDY, THE
AMERICAN GIRL STORY. It premiered at Seattle Children’s and then did a
21-city tour, which included, I think, a stop at the Ordway. Yes, I’d say
most of my work has been for adults but I wrote and directed plays for my
kids elementary school every year as a way of giving back. They are now in
4. I thought the pacing was excellent for a children's play. Do you have
tips for playwrights who write for a younger audience?
Be stingy with exposition. Kids like discovery, not lectures. Show don’t
tell. Sprinkle humor throughout. We all love to laugh – parents and
5. Did you have a breakthrough moment, or work, as a playwright?
What/when was that?
I wrote a play called Before It Hits Home back in the early 90’s. It won a few
awards including the Helen Hayes, and the international Susan Smith
Blackburn playwriting award.
6. I have a writer's blog and I try to keep it inspirational. What are
some ways that you keep your enthusiasm up for new work, and how would
you encourage other writers and artists to keep trying despite
rejections and set-backs?
Continue to work on your craft. Read, write and read more. Find a
community of folks who will support you through the ups and downs of
this business. I have always had a few key people who always urged me to
keep going and would be “duly outraged” that others didn’t recognize my
talent in a timely fashion. I love them for that and it was and remains so
helpful during the occasional midnight hours of doubt.
Thank you for your time and talents for this play and in answering my
questions. I am inspired by your success.
You’re very welcome. CL. West
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: Have you ever made it a point to seek out an artist and ask them about their craft? What would you ask your favorite artist/writer if you could spend a few minutes with them?