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Meet Elizabeth Earle of Wordsmyth Theater Company

Today we’d like to introduce you to Elizabeth Earle.

Elizabeth, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I began writing plays in the early nineties; in order to learn more about the practicalities of producing plays, I started stage managing at Company OnStage, a local community theater. I also began taking classes through the University of Houston with Edward Albee, where I learned the benefits of readings, and with Lanford Wilson. While I was taking Lanford Wilson’s class, Company OnStage’s board told me if I formed a company, they would let me produce my play and the play of one of my classmates at their theater.

They also offered to let me use their set pieces, props, costumes — really anything that wasn’t a power tool. The other classmate was Asher Wyndham, and he and I and one other friend — Karen Schlag — joined together and produced the plays. After that, we went dormant a bit while we got all the paperwork done. We also had more people join our board and then began producing readings, first of plays by Houston playwrights, and by now — we get plays from all over the world.

Has it been a smooth road?
We’ve had struggles, but probably not any out of the ordinary. We produce our readings for free, but we pay everybody. So money is always an issue. However, we have yet to go into debt. We’ve been very lucky, we get help from so many people and organizations.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Wordsmyth Theater Company story. Tell us more about the business.
We mostly produce readings of unpublished/unproduced plays. We put out a call for plays, and we get hundreds from all over the world. We winnow those down to 6 — however, we reserve one slot for a play from a Houston playwright; and we reserve a slot for a bilingual play. For the bilingual play, the second language can be any language, and we have done a variety, Korean, Polish, and Malay — as well as Spanish, Italian, etc. Once we put out a call and receive all the plays, we have a group of evaluators read the plays. once we have decided on the plays, we bring the playwrights down and have the plays read by professional actors and directed by professional directors in front of an audience. Afterwards, we have a moderated talkback with the playwright, director, actors, and most critically — the audience.

This gives the playwright the opportunity to not only hear is work, but also the chance to watch the audience’s reaction and then to later hear the audience’s thoughts about the work.

Afterwards, there is a reception where the playwright, actors, and audience all mingle. I think I am most proud that we have survived 10 years! But aside from that, we have started a Texas Playwright Festival which is in Houston once every third year (next one is Summer of 2018!) And also the play reading in Korean — it was really hard to find an actress fluent in Korean!

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Houston is becoming increasingly known for its theater scene. We have so much great talent here! And so many theaters, so many new ones! Every time you turn around, there is a new theater forming, and many seem to be succeeding. Also, there is more and more interest in new theatrical work.

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