So, yesterday was just not enough for all the thanks we have for actors at Seven Devils. We needed one more day!
Today is for all the actors who go the extra mile, who ...
Photos by Sarah Jessup
Ask any playwright who has come to the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference, and they'll tell you that they are utterly blown away by the gorgeously talented actors who Jeni hires for the company. Some are famous, some aren't, but they are all very skilled at an important thing: new play development. Not all actors know that working on a new play, in a new play workshop requires a particular set of skills. (Goodness! n\No: not that set of skills.) Working on a new play requires actors to be quick on their feet, to be fierce, to be emotionally intelligent, to make big, bold choices. So today, we give another huge virtual round of applause for all the actors who bring these new plays to life.
And now, a special word from our friend and collaborator, Ann Pittman Zarate:
Even more actors we love and admire...
There are have been so many actors who've been part of our conferences, that it would be difficult to thank each of them individually (but you can see their names on our website). Here are just a few of these remarkable and generous actors, in moments captured by our company photographer Sarah Jessup:
We are, after all, a playwrights conference!
During our campaign, we have gotten so many lovely letters and notes from some conference playwrights from over the years. So -- today, we're turning our blog over to these lovely writers, to let them tell you why Seven Devils deserves your support, in their own words. Thank you, playwrights!!!
A special note of Gratitude from our good friend and frequent collaborator, Christy Montour-Larson:
I still recall the first time I emerged through the canyon into the valley -- where the Payette Lake opened up to me and reveals beautiful McCall, Idaho for Seven Devils Playwright Conference. It was 2008. For twelve years, being a part of Seven Devils has been a life changing organization for me.
Seven Devils has given me a chance to explore, the freedom to fail, the safety to jump. It has given me exceptionally dear friends, lots of belly laughs, incredible stars, Burgdorf Hot Springs and Bistro 45. The world’s largest cinnamon roll. The teary smile on a playwright’s face because they saw their play cherished, honored and well cared for. Most importantly, Seven Devils has given me stories. Stories that stir my imagination. Stories that make me think, laugh and cry.
And today, we need stories more than ever. Thank heavens Seven Devils exists during this challenging time. For when theatres are able to reopen, our communities are going to need theatre makers and new stories more than ever. I can’t wait to see what American playwrights will share with us.
Since Seven Devils has given me so much, I easily became a Devils Advocate and made a $20 a month donation. Won’t you join me in supporting new plays?
Christy Montour-Larson has directed 22 readings at Seven Devils, including SUICIDE, INCORPORATED, GENERAL STORE, SWIMMING WITH WHALES, FATA MORGANA, NO MORE SAD THINGS, THE OPEN HAND, MINNEAPOLIS/St. Paul, THE SECRETARY, and THE ROBERTASSY. She has served on the Board of Directors for 9 years, President for 6 years.
Though you may not realize it, in its early years, Fay Todd literally made Seven Devils possible. In fact, it would not at all be an exaggeration to say that, were it not for Fay, we might not be here today. A lifelong philanthropist with a special interest in teaching, arts and writing in particular, Fay did something rather remarkable all the way back in 2001: she believed in us. Thanks to Fay, we came out of the first Seven Devils Playwrights Conference in the black. Not only that, we had the wherewithal to fund raise for the following year, and the next. That Fay supported us in these early years enabled us to survive long enough to become eligible for grants that often require a three- to five- year history before making an investment in a company.
Even more remarkable, Fay, who lived in New Jersey, actually drove across the country more than once to attend the Conference. She sat in rehearsals, talked with artists, and endeavored to learn all she could about what we were doing and why. On a personal note, Fay was a friend whose wisdom and advice was invaluable. She was committed to our survival. It mattered to her. She inspired me, and all of us, to live up to the faith she had in us.
When Seven Devils signed on to support a newly-formed arts scholarship, created in honor of a McCall student who had grown up doing theater at the Alpine Playhouse, Fay agreed to match - dollar for dollar - the funds we raised. She did so each subsequent year until she passed away in 2014. This tradition of matching donations became such a part of the fabric of the Conference that it continues to this day, thanks to a handful of donors and businesses (including another person I'm tremendously grateful for, Carol Tiffany, who introduced me to Fay and who now sits on our board). Fay didn't just make things happen, she helped to make them matter. Now they continue to happen, even after her passing. I suspect that's just what Fay would want.
In light of all this, it should be no surprise that in her memory, her family created a scholarship fund in her name, the Frances Starr Todd Fellowship. Because Fay cared so deeply about education, the Fellowship focuses on supporting our internship program, most notably through the Frances Starr Todd Design Fellowship, which you can read about below.
On this Giving Tuesday, I can think of no one more deserving of gratitude. I wish I had a photo of Fay to share, but she was never one to have her face billboarded up on the things she supported, so perhaps it is fitting that the remainder of this post focus on work that is the legacy of her efforts on behalf of the Conference.
If you've ever attended the conference, you'll have heard me express my thanks to Fay Todd and the AK Starr Charitable Trust. Through Fay, the Trust was the first foundation to support the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference - support that made the entire endeavor of Seven Devils possible.
- Jeni Mahoney, Producing Artistic Director
About the Frances Starr Todd Fellowship
The Design Fellows then work on a set rendering that we display in the lobby of the Alpine Playhouse so that the audience can see what a set might look like, what the functionally neutral gray furniture and props stand in for.
To the right is a slide show of some of the Design Fellows and their work (2017, Sabrina Reed; 2018, Shay Dite; 2019, Katherine McCann; 2020, Jay Tyson).
We hope you will join us in honoring Fay, her family and their support for these amazing student artists.
We are grateful for every donation.
Learn more about the Frances Starr Todd Fellowship on our webpage.
Today's blog post is by Tira Palmquist, president of the Seven Devils New Play Foundry Board of Directors.
The Seven Devils Playwrights Conference focuses on new work by amazing playwrights from across the country, but it truly takes a village to make it all happen -- interns, stage managers, company managers and our staff. On behalf of the entire board, I want to make sure that we send our most sincere thanks to these hardworking individuals -- because without their work and dedication, the conference just wouldn't happen.
First, none of what happens at the conference would be possible without the year-long efforts of Jeni Mahoney (Producing Artistic Director), Paula Marchiel (Managing Director), A.P. Andrews (Literary Manager), Mallory Metoxen (Artistic Associate) and Ed Baker (Production Manager). From the entire board, a HUGE thank you to all of them!
I know that Jeni, Paula, A.P., Mallory and Ed would join me in thanking the stage managers and interns who make sure that the daily work of the conference goes off without a hitch. As Ed will frequently remind the company, these are the people who get there first, and leave last. These are the interns who clean our spaces, who build the props and sets, who paint everything gray to build the world of functional neutrality (there might need to be another blog post just for that!). These are the stage managers who make sure that there are sharpened pencils, new script pages, water and coffee to keep the company alert, and snacks in the kitchen to feed everyone at breaks. These are the individuals who help with technical work, doing errands for the company, driving folks who don't have drivers licenses... It may be impossible to list every task they do during their time at the conference.
Suffice it to say that is a group of individuals who don't often get the limelight, but who truly deserve it today!
Your support of the conference helps make it possible to hire all of these individuals, too. So if you haven't made a donation yet, we hope knowing that there are so many people dedicated to the development of new plays will inspire you to do so! And, as ever, we thank you for your support!
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but it would difficult for me to put a word count on the gratitude I have for Earl Brockman and Sarah Jessup, two amazing photographers whose hard work and vision has become an integral part of the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference experience, has enabled us to share that experience with friends, family and funders and serves as the basis for an incredibly rich archive of the past 20 years. - Jeni Mahoney
Of course its notoriously difficult to snap a good photograph of a photographer, but I do like this photo of Earl of the deck of my cabin in Idaho. Earl (on the left) is with my Dad, Jim (right). I love this photo because it reminds me of what great friends they would become over the years.
I met Earl just before the very first Playwrights Conference in 2001. I was looking for someone to take few photos, just so we'd have a record of the work, and someone recommended Earl as being one of the few photographers who could take decent photos in the Alpine - something that would be especially tricky as we'd be working in a dark theater, against a black background with grey set pieces and props and - because everyone was working - I didn't want him to use a flash. Earl agreed to give it try, though I didn't get the sense that he was particularly excited about it. His wonderful wife, Frances, was a regular at the Alpine and acting in a show for us. I suspect his willingness to snap a few photos for us had more to do with that than with anything we were doing.
But it didn't take long for Earl and the Conference to fall in love with each other. Earl enjoyed a challenge, photography in the Alpine is challenging! He also enjoyed the rehearsal process and the opportunity to catch glimpses of artists at work (the magic behind the magic) and managed to do it all without ever distracting from the work that was happening in the room.
Much to my surprise, the day after the first reading, Earl came to me with a handful of gorgeous 8x10 photos and asked me if I wanted them. Did I??? And just like that a tradition that has lasted 20 years was born. Each day Earl would bring in new photos and we would post them in the lobby. By the end of the Conference, the lobby would be covered with photos. These photos became a living history of the Conference in real time.
Amazingly, after a lifetime of working with film, Earl transitioned to shooting and printing digitally in 2003 and he did it without skipping a beat. Even when he was put on oxygen and had to carry a canister around with him, Earl was there and the photos were masterful. Looking back on the impact Earl had on the Conference, it's hard to believe that 2004 was his last year with us as company photographer. Of all Earl's many gifts to the Conference, perhaps the greatest was talking Sarah Jessup into taking his place.
Believe it or not, its even hard to get a picture of Sarah Jessup! Here she is talking to Paula Marchiel - again on my porch in McCall.
For 15 years, Sarah has been the Conference photographer. Oh, did a mention that she's also a doctor. A cardiologist. And still, like Earl before her, she shows up at the theater every day with the most amazing 8x10 photographs! Oh, and the only thing better than her company photos, are the company photo shoots featuring hypeman and funny lady Maggie Rosenthal (who is herself a talented photographer.)
Sarah is super stealthy. She has an astonishing ability be in the room taking photos - even during an actual reading with an audience - without anybody even noticing. Sarah also takes it upon herself to make sure that we get a photograph of every artist, intern and staff member at the Conference. This is no small undertaking. And these aren't just photos, they are portraits. I find this tremendously moving. She sees us. All of us. And she gets us. Seven Devils is about the work that we do together, and Sarah has become an integral part of that work.
And so today, we are sharing our gratitude for Earl Brockman and Sarah Jessup. Two amazing photographers whose talent and vision have truly helped to shape Seven Devils and make it what it is today.
Seven Devils Fall Fundraising Campaign in happening right now!
Slideshow: one photo from each year of the Conference
Our work with the high school playwrights wouldn't be possible without all the conference playwrights, actors, directors and dramaturgs who sign on to serve as mentors for these young writers. So today we're sharing our gratitude for all of you!!!
Yesterday's post was dedicated to the nearly 100 McCall-Donnelly High School Playwrights we've worked with over the past 20 years, so it seemed only fitting that today we'd honor Judy Anderson and Audrey Swanson, the two amazing drama teachers who have kept this partnership alive and thriving!
In 2001, the intrepid Judy Anderson was already teaching the only High School playwriting class in Idaho, so the partnership with Seven Devils seemed like a perfect match. Working with Judy, we designed a program that would give those drama students with a particular interest in writing and a strong work ethic, the opportunity to actively develop the plays they'd been writing in class with a professional director and mentor and a cast made up of professional, student and local actors.
From the beginning, Judy made it clear to the students that participating in Seven Devils wasn't a prize for good classwork, it was an opportunity to do more work with professionals who expected you to show up on time and ready to go. She challenged students to dig deep and write about the things that mattered to them. For the community, the student plays quickly became a window to students' dreams, fears, ambitions and concerns. The talkbacks following student plays fueled exciting and sometimes surprising cross-generational discussion.
When Judy retired in 2014, we didn't quite know what to do. Judy not only taught a kick-ass playwriting class, she also cast student actors and helped to sort out scheduling for students, many of whom had jobs (and all this nearly always during finals week!)
Imagine our joy when Audrey Swanson stepped onto the scene! She jumped into the Conference feet first, and with some support from long-time Devil Amy Rush, got the students up to speed and in a new and exciting groove. One of the amazing and unexpected gifts of this moment was the opportunity to revisit the program as a whole and figure out how to find a path forward that matched Audrey's teaching style and sensibility.
We were thrilled to find exciting new ways to work with Audrey when the pandemic shut down McCall-Donnelly High School in the spring.
When you support Seven Devils, you help to make this amazing program possible!
To donate go to: https://www.sevendevils.org/support.html
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Seven Devils Playwrights Conference Family and Friends