Spotlight Series: Meet Los Angeles-Based Playwright Phil Olson


This Spotlight focuses on Phil Olson who was born and raised in Edina, Minnesota before he moved to Los Angeles. He has won over 30 playwriting and theatre awards with his 16 published plays that have had over 400 productions in seven countries around the world, with ten of his plays published by Samuel French/Concord Theatricals. This past Christmas, his new play, A Twisted Christmas Carol, had its world premieres in eight cities, concurrently, across the U.S. including a production by Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in NoHo. But what’s he up to now with such a vast theatrical quarantine in place?


After graduating from Dartmouth, Phil Olson tried out for the Chicago Bears. After his "summer with the Bears," he went on to receive an MBA from The University of Chicago and pursued a business career while writing stage and screenplays. So far, he has written 16 published plays that have had over 400 productions in seven countries around the world, with ten of those plays published by Samuel French/Concord Theatricals. His screenplay, Sioux Falls, is currently under option. And he has sold two screenplays and script doctored three screenplays that were produced. Phil also went through all four levels of The Groundlings, writing and performing with many talented people including Maya Rudolph.

Phil's play Mom's Gift was set to open at the Western Ontario Drama League Festival in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, on March 20, but was canceled due to COVID-19. The Western Ontario Drama League communicated the cancellation with the cast and crew, and since the entire Festival isn’t taking place, there are no plans to bring back the production.

 

So what's he up to now, I asked. "I wrote a new play and will soon be doing a Zoom reading of it with five actors. If that goes well, I'll do more Zoom readings with theaters around the country. For me, the quarantine has been a good time to write. I'm sort of a hermit anyway, so the shutdown hasn't affected me that much other than motivate me to work a little harder at writing. I would just encourage all the playwrights to keep writing, and don't let the shutdown discourage you. We'll get through this. But it certainly saddens me that theaters are dark right now. It encourages me to see actor and director friends of mine do live Facebook feeds, blogs, and Zoom rehearsals to get through this. The creativity I've seen in using social media to continue with the arts is a shining light."

Phil and I both send a big Thank You to everyone who supports live theatre, and we ask that everyone please continue to support your local theaters so they can remain open to welcome you back when the "Stay at Home" quarantine is over. After all, they need your support now more than ever.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



PODCASTS: An Interview with Heather Keller of Chemo Barbie Now in Edinburgh

I interviewed Heather Keller of the "Chemo Barbie Show" which has made its journey from the Hollywood Fringe Festival to this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival, now currently underway until the end of the month.
In this series of five podcasts, Keller talks on her cancer diagnosis, the ups, downs, and side effects of treatment, "cold-capping" (to keep her hair), healthy living, the enduring and lost relationships (the other side effects of cancer), workshopping at Samuel French and Johnson's Soaring Solo, woman power, the desire and plans to raise a family with her husband Brian McCarthy, and motherhood and planning for Edinburgh Fringe.
After her breast cancer diagnosis on December 30, 2015 and a few months into her treatments, Keller has been documenting her experience through a series of YouTube videos on her channel "Keep Abreast W/ Heather: A Cancer Survivor's Story," with her videos reaching cumulatively over 150,000 views.
Inspired through a few propitious events in her writing and further encouraged by her director Jessica Lynn Johnson through her solo artist workshops, and encouraged by the many comments from those affected by cancer on her YouTube channel, Keller then developed the funny and charming, with only a smattering of bittersweetness, "Chemo Barbie: My Lady Bits' Journey Through Breast Cancer."
Premiering at Studio C in Hollywood for the 2017 Hollywood Fringe Festival, it was nominated for Best Solo Show and won the Encore Producers' Award. After running its encore, it then went to the Whitefire Theatre's annual Solofest in 2017 where Keller began to think even broader for the future of the show.
Still currently being treated to stay cancer-free, through crowd-funding assistance and with producers Michael Blaha and Nigel Thomas, Keller has brought the "Chemo Barbie Show" to Edinburgh's Gilded Balloon Teviot for a coveted run in annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
The Chemo Barbie Show plays at 1:30 p.m. every day from now until Tuesday, August 28, 2018, with the exception of this coming Monday, August 13, 2018, (the only day the show is dark) at the Gilded Balloon Teviot. For those planning to visit Edinburgh this month, visit the Edinburgh Fringe Festival ticketing page for tickets.



For more podcasts like these visit Better Lemons on Soundcloud.


Samuel French bookshop in London to close after 187 years

London's longest-established theatre bookshop Samuel French, currently located in the Fitzrovia area of central London near Tottenham Court Road, is to shutter in April, after a continuous run of 187 years. It has been in its present premises since 1983.
The company also operates as a major theatrical publisher and licensing house on both sides of the Atlantic. Those activities will continue, as will its bookselling operation, but that will be via its online portal only.
In an interview with U.K. trade paper The Stage, Managing Director Douglas Schatz attributed the bookshop closure to an "unsustainable rental increase," stating that these had increased by about 200–300 percent over the last five years.
He also told The Stage, "It's the way the market, the landscape of retail and bookselling in particular, is going. In the last few years it's changed immeasurably, with online retailing and ebooks. There has been a pressure on traditional bookshops and, at the same time, property costs in London have continued to rise, alongside rates and rents. It drives small, independent business out.”
The company will relocate its offices to the company's offices new premises near Euston, where it plans to continue to host customer-focused events, with enough space to host about 50 people. Shatz commented, "We want to stay in touch with customers as there is nothing like face to face."
We face similar issues here in Los Angeles, which makes one wonder - what will happen to our own Samuel French in Hollywood?