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Up Next: Paint Chips!

Today at 2 pm is the final performance of Jessica Moss' The Do-Gooders, our mainstage production with the Pittsburgh New Works Festival! If you can't attend in person today, don't forget that you are able to purchase tickets for an online viewing here. And while The Do-Gooders is the only show the Bobcat Players are producing as part of PNWF, our involvement with this fantastic festival doesn't end there. Board member Keith Zagorski will perform in Mike Kosarowich's The Confession alongside Veronica White (who has stage managed for the Bobcat Players multiple times!) under the direction of Dave Joseph (who has acted in multiple productions on our stage!) as part of Program D, September 23-26.

And while it's not unusual for the talent of the Bobcat Players to make their way to the Pittsburgh New Works Festival, this year we do have a first--our first playwright. That's right! Our very own Artistic Director, Patti Ross, has written a play entitled Paint Chips that will be performed September 9-12 as part of program B. So while we have known for years that Patti is a gifted writer (think Unexpected Gifts and A Very Oblonski Valentine), it is wonderful to see her receive the recognition she deserves. Hear about Patti's journey as a playwright below:

"My first venture into playwriting happened in college when I took a playwriting class my senior year. It was daunting, to say the least; I labored in that course. Needless to say, years passed before I tried my hand at the art again. As an English and theatre teacher, I had occasion to draft some minor silly skits but nothing major to speak of. The closest I got to a bona fide play was drafting a holiday take-off on Dickens' A Christmas Carol and another spoofing a series of fairy tales for our scholarship committee. They were lots of fun--but hardly art.

It wasn't until late in my career that I attempted another script. At the time, I was artistic director of the Bobcat Players, and our play-reading committee was searching for a Christmas show. It wasn't easy. Every script we read proved unsatisfactory in some way. Finally, exasperated, I suggested that I just write a show, inspired by actors in our company. The people on the committee looked at me as though I had three heads. Noting their doubts, I volunteered to write one act for their vote of approval. I had no idea what I would come up with; I just had an initial image of a small teahouse tucked somewhere in the mountains. From that image evolved the first play I actually completed since my college days, Unexpected Gifts. The committee gave me the go-ahead to complete the script. The Bobcat Players actually produced it twice. Eventually, I followed that up with a sequel, A Very Oblonski Valentine. And I figured that my days as a playwright had ended.

When Covid-19 struck, like most people, I found some free time on my hands. I had dabbled in writing a one-act based very loosely on a disturbing incident that a friend and colleague had experienced. It was an uncomfortable and accidental intrusion on a family dynamic that appeared to be very odd. I took out the piece during those first months and worked at it, not with the intention of having it produced, but simply to see how far I could go with it. By that time, the Bobcat Players had established a relationship with Pittsburgh New Works, and I knew that if one submitted a play for a nominal entry fee that it would be critiqued by at least two professionals. I was curious about what kind of critique I would get.

Like most scripts, Paint Chips underwent several transformations in those months. I was helped enormously by the Bobcat Players' first ever playwright for PNWF, Dennis Moore of Washington State. After we produced his award-winning one-act, Unlikely Event, we struck up a long-distance correspondence and traded pieces we were writing. My friend and colleague (who provided the impetus for one of the central characters) also offered input, which helped me to make that character credible. And I remembered an artist-in-residence from my teaching days who led my writing classes by scattering paint chips on this desk and having them use those chips as inspiration to create some beautiful works. All of these factors combined in the development of my play.

I submitted Paint Chips by the deadline and pretty much put it out of my mind. When the director of Pittsburgh New Works wrote to all the involved companies that nearly three hundred scripts had been submitted, I didn't hold out any hope that my script would make the cut. So that Memorial Day evening, when we got the list of 36 plays that were eligible for production, I was astonished to see Paint Chips was one of them. Covid was still going strong, but nonetheless, the New Works board went on to have 18 companies involved select the shows for production. My amazement increased when Sue Kurey, a veteran of New Works and a mainstay of the Theatre Factory in Trafford, actually chose Paint Chips. It was an incredible moment for me.

Of course 2020 was not easy, and Pittsburgh New Works postponed the season until this year. During the audition process, Sue and I exchanged fast and furious text messages, and she assembled an incredible cast. She has been working diligently with them and keeping me in the loop. Because our own production for the Bobcat Players goes up the first weekend of the festival, I have been unable to attend any of her rehearsals--but I certainly plan to be involved during their tech week. It definitely is awe-inspiring and humbling and exciting and overwhelming all at the same time."

We are so incredibly proud of Patti's accomplishment and we hope you'll support her play by attending, either in-person or online. In fact, we hope you'll support the entire Pittsburgh New Works Festival--because we think keeping the arts alive in Western Pennsylvania is essential, especially during these desperate times when we need theatre the most. We also want to thank everyone who made our production of The Do-Gooders possible; while it wasn't an easy road this year, it was worthwhile! We hope to be back to our regular blog entries soon and will keep you posted with updates as soon as we have them. Have a wonderful Labor Day!


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