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Stephen Stewart, LISP Film Festival 2023 Stage Play, Official Selection

LISP Film Festival 2023 Official Selection, Stage Play, The Study of Life (And Other Expectations) by Stephan Reid Stewart

-When and how did you get into writing?

I began writing short stories when I was young lad visiting my grandmother in the summers.  She would have me read them to her and would encourage me (and gently teach me grammar rules).  Then in college while earning a degree in Journalism, I took a couple of playwriting courses and became enamored with writing for the stage. During my career in public relations, I became involved in a fundraising comedy show in Houston, Texas, called, "The Gridiron Show."  The producer liked the first few comedy sketches I submitted for the legendary show.  She then asked me to join the cast, which I did.  Shortly after, I became head writer then later producer of the show for a few years.  This experience truly fueled not only my comedy writing style, but also my short play pursuits. Since 2021, I've been fortunate to have close to 100 plays produced on stages across the United States, including in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, Washington, Houston, and in some small but artistically large towns you've probably never heard of. 

-How does it feel to have your work recognized?

Of course, it's quite gratifying to have a play produced for an audience. I'll admit: Sitting in the audience on opening night is still rather nerve wracking. But I truly enjoy the collaborative experience of working with a theater, a director and a cast of actors. It's art and talent coming to life. There's nothing else like it.  In addition, I very much appreciate the opportunity to participate in "talk backs" with audiences after my plays are performed. (Not all theaters do this, however.) An audience's comments and questions inform my writing and my ideas, oftentimes giving me more to consider.  Some playwrights steer clear of "talk backs," I suppose due to either shyness or fear of criticism, but not me.  I'm not very shy and I can handle the questions, especially after a 35-year career in media relations being grilled by reporters for alleged or actual actions by the company I was working for at the time.  

-What's the most challenging thing about writing a play?

Easy, it's the idea.  What's the plot? What's going to happen in my play that would capture the interest of an audience?  Once you have that in mind, the other stuff follows and flows, I find.

Tips for writing a stage play.

Again, make certain you have a compelling story to tell on stage, and that your story has the complete story arc.  This holds true for short plays, too. For example, a play that features two actors having a 10-minute argument isn't a strong play -- it's a 10-minute argument. I've seen a few of those, actually. Even a couple during which the "conflict" is never resolved!  I'm also fond of surprises in my plays, particularly as an ending.  However, it needs to be a convincing, true surprise for the audience or it will fall flat. 

-Do you recommend LISP?

Without a doubt, I do.  This is a supportive organization for a writer and a welcoming community of writers.  I'm very pleased I got involved and I am grateful that my play, "The Study of Life (And Other Expectations) was selected as a finalist in 2023.  I intend to stay involved with LISP and would love to visit London for an event in the future. Cheers and happy writing.



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