Friday, February 13, 2015

Grad Profile: Chris Ulloth, Professional Playwright & Dramaturg

Alumnus Chris Ulloth writes:

Chris and Dano Madden in a workshop of First Snow
at the 92nd Street Y. 
Photo credit: Miki Murata.
When I graduated from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania last year, I moved to New York City with my newly-minted BA in Creative Writing and a minor in Theatre Arts.  I came in pursuit of being a playwright but have come to realize there was another career my education had prepared me for in addition to writing.

During my studies, Professor David A. Miller introduced me to his New York City-

based theatrical collective, The Artful Conspirators.  He took a handful of students to the city to experience the collective's Open Rehearsal Series in which a playwright, director, and actors would spend a weekend rehearsing and developing a new work by the playwright.  I do not know exactly why, but the process of developing a new play specifically for the purpose of development, not production, took me by surprise.  Maybe I thought, rather naively, that writing development ceased to exist after college, that you either learn to be a good writer and your works go on to be produced/published, or you don't and that's just too bad.  In any event, I was enamored by the process.  I found myself using the same tools for theatrical and literary discussion I learned at University, but in a professional environment.

After my studies at Bloomsburg concluded, I took an internship with the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference in McCall, ID.  There, I was surrounded by several emerging and established playwrights whose plays were handpicked from hundreds of submissions to be developed at the conference.  I noticed there were people hired by the conference specifically for the purpose of developing the plays and using those familiar tools for discussion.  It was about that time I came to realize my studies had not only prepared me to be a writer, but also a dramaturg.

What the hell is a dramaturg?  Well, the definitions vary based on the needs of the company and/or play, but essentially the function I serve is as an advocate for the playwright.  I assist playwrights with their needs pertaining to their play, which can include anything from researching the play's topics to analyzing the plot structure or character trajectories.  Little did I know, I had begun honing this skill long before I knew what dramaturgy was, back in Creative Writing workshops with Professors Claire Lawrence and Jerry Wemple.

Enamored with and exhilarated by the process of developmental theatre, I came to New York City seeking more.  In NYC I worked with id Theater (the company responsible for Seven Devils) and The Artful Conspirators as dramaturg for BAD HUSBAND, a new play by Dano Madden.  Dano, who I met through Professor Miller, is an esteemed playwright who I am proud to say has become an invaluable mentor and a dear friend to me.

Rehearsal of First Snow at the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference.
Photo credit: Sarah Jessup.
In addition to dramaturgy, I have been using my knowledge base from my studies to create programs that allow others the opportunity to develop and create.  Early in 2014 (with the help of many talented 92nd Street Y residents and staff to whom I owe so much), I started a 92nd Street Y based arts collective called the Resident Artists.  The name was remarkably uninspired for one reason: to let the inspiration come from its members without restriction.  And so, over the course of three months, we held a reading of a new play and screenplay, produced and premiered a short film, and produced a short play festival.  As our members transitioned, so did the company.  Now several of us are working with another company in which I am Co-Artistic Director with fellow Bloomsburg University alumnus Lauren M. Shover.  The company, Elephant Room Productions, will debut its first season this November which includes the development and production of new works.

While developmental theatre is part of my career, I am first and foremost a writer.  Since I graduated, I have written two full length plays which have received professional development and one short play which has received production.  My most notable work has been First Snow, a play which takes place in a town based on Centralia, Pennsylvania, and makes reference to a few Bloomsburg-inspired landmarks.  I submitted this play to the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference, and lo and behold a year after my internship I was invited back to develop this play.  I am currently a playwright intern with Project Y Theatre, a NYC theatre company, where my plays have also been developed with their playwrights group.

Now I am in the midst of submission season—both submitting my own plays to theatres all over the country and working as a reader for Seven Devils—cognizant of the careers I can pursue and grateful to the educational system which has enabled my pursuit.


To learn more about Chris, please visit:

Update: Chris was recently named the Associate Literary Manager for Project Y Theatre Company in New York City and is a semi-finalist for the prestigious National Playwriting Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center.

No comments:

Post a Comment