When it comes to artists, the birth of something exciting often leads to a kind of community which fosters even greater art. Here in our town of Mount Pleasant, that very thing is happening thanks to the efforts of the Culture Arts and Pride (or “CAP”) Commission and a few individuals who have blended their creative resources to help Lowcountry writers find a home for their craft.
The brainchild of council member Chris Nichols, the CAP Commission is made up of individuals in Mount Pleasant who care about arts and volunteerism. Soon after CAP began, a sub-committee formed to start a new project known as the Writers’ Workshop. The members of that sub-committee include Susan Sloate, Charlie Williams, Marie Louise Moreto – all members of CAP – plus Teralyn Reiter, a talented theater teacher, actor and director who was recruited from the community to help the cause. The sub-committee began meeting back in April of 2014 for the inaugural Writers’ Workshop, which was in November. According to the workshop’s founders, much more is to come.
“The idea for a Writers’ Workshop in Mount Pleasant came to me after I attended one myself in Los Angeles with Bob McKee,” remarked Susan Sloate. “Bob invited 12 writers to bring in their in-progress plays to share.”
According to Sloate, these 12 writers responded well to the opportunity to collaborate, taking notes of constructive feedback from one another and talking about ways to improve upon the work. So why not bring the same sort of artistic community to Mount Pleasant? Because Sloate and Marie-Louise Moreto each care about theater, it came naturally to them to start the process, ask for the support of the town’s CAP commission and form the sub-committee along with Teralyn Reiter, who heartily dove into the project as well.
The idea of the Writers’ Workshop is to present a safe place for Lowcountry playwrights to have their pieces performed by actors from within the community; directed by professionals and observed by other workshop members. No one else is allowed to attend the workshop, a rule that perpetuates the idea of a closely knit community solely for artists.
That said, although I attended the first ever workshop, I am not allowed to say much about what happened. I can, however, vouch for the fact that it was well-received by everyone who attended – from the writers to the directors to the actors to the sub-committee members themselves. I caught up with Sloate, Reiter, Moreto and Williams during the workshop’s lunch break, and they all expressed joy at the “beta version” going well.
“The workshop offers the opportunity for directors to meet writers, for one thing,” remarked Reiter. “And from the perspective of the participating actors, it’s cool to see the screenplay all the way through.”
Reiter’s background in teaching theater has shown her the importance of writers receiving feedback on their work – and the special treat of watching the work performed. As a theater teacher at East Cooper Montessori, Reiter also remarked how her student’s mother, Julie Hussey, is on the CAP commission and has shown enormous support for the project.
“The feedback has been great and insightful,” she continued, “from the directors and actors especially. I anticipate that the workshops will become a regular event and we can eventually perform these plays on stage around Charleston. That would be awesome.”
All of the committee members agreed that though the first workshop had a few things to tweak, the writers most definitely found it beneficial and looked forward to coming back.
“I’m thrilled with the response,” said Sloate. “Everyone said they loved the collaborative process and that they felt comfortable and safe. All of the writers want to come back with new scenes – and even one of the stage managers was inspired to write a scene!”
The future of the Writers’ Workshop is bright for 2015. The CAP commission met again in early December and garnished continuing support from the town of Mount Pleasant, much to everyone’s delight. Interested writers and actors can stay tuned for the second workshop, set to happen in the spring.
“Having the town’s support is invaluable,” Sloate said. “I think this is good for the town as well as writers and theater community – and this will build that theater community for years to come.
For more information about the upcoming Writers’ Workshop and how to participate, email Susan Sloate at Susan@SusanSloate.com.
By Denise K. James