Members of the 45th Parallel playwrights mug for the camera at a recent meeting.
The 45th Parallel Playwrights expected to work on their original plays for a year. Two years later, their work will finally debut at the Keizer Cultural Center.
Lynn Millar moved to Salem from California three years ago and started looking for a playwright group to help improve her writing.
“I went to the Saturday Market and walked up to the Salem Theater Network table and asked, do you have a playwriting group? He said, no. And I said, well, let's start one,” Millar said.
The man working at the Salem Theater Network table then gave Millar emails of people that he knew were also interested in joining the group. Soon after, the Keizer Homegrown Theater offered a space for their meetings.
The 45th Parallel Playwrights will be hosting free showcases of all the writers’ works on July 18 at 3 and 6:30 p.m. in the Keizer Cultural Center. The production is titled Eight Unparalleled Plays.
The group started meeting in person once a month in 2019 but switched to online meetings twice a month due to COVID. In the future, Millar hopes to do a meeting online and then one meeting in person every month, although she is unsure when that change will be made.
Each meeting, members will bring several copies of their work depending on how many roles are in their play, Millar said. The other members will read out the play so that the author can hear the words of the characters and make adjustments if needed.
The members then offer critique in helpful and encouraging ways.
“I think everybody understood that the goal was to improve everybody's work, not to prove that you knew more than somebody else.” Millar said.
Jenifer Kay Hood, one of the group members, felt that the style of the club was much more helpful than others she had taken part in.
Hood had a finished draft of her play before joining the club and was looking for someone to stage it. The groups she joined before normally ended up competitive and toxic, she said. She noticed the difference immediately with Millar’s club. Writers could expect honest critique and understood that the other members were there to help.
“I was delighted to find that this group was really well-led and very constructive.I learned a lot.” Hood said.
Hood felt that Millar was learning at the same level as the rest of the members and that most of the other writers had the same levels of experience, which made it easy to connect.
“If a little baby doesn't fall a few times when they learn how to walk, something's wrong because it's the nature of humanity to fail at things and have to try and try again,” Hood said.
The showcase production later this month includes excerpts from all the writers’ works that vary in length. The plays will be performed by members of the community and some of the playwrights themselves.
Millar originally planned for the showcase to be last year but postponed it due to the pandemic. In the end however, the unplanned delay resulted in some changes Millar leaned into.
“The original concept for the showcase was to have each play presented and then have a discussion with the playwright. This time I wanted something more peppy, more fast paced,” Millar said.
More time also allowed the group to plan for sound effects, costuming and more movement on stage.
Hood is hoping for a large audience, but not for selfish reasons.
“It encourages and supports local theater and a small theater company like Keizer Homegrown. They deserve and need your support,” Hood said.
For more information on the showcase, visit www.keizerhomegrowntheatre.org/shows-and-events.html. For more information about the 45th Parallel Playwrights, contact Millar at [email protected]