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Episode 156 — Playwright Elaine Liner

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Elaine Liner

Elaine Liner, Playwright, Finishing School.

This episode, Texas playwright Elaine Liner joins us to talk about her latest work, Finishing School, which gets its world premiere September 8 at the Geeks home theatre, Elkhart Civic Theatre at the Bristol Opera House.

The heartwarming comedy was chosen as one of the 12 winners in the AACT (American Association of Community Theatre) 2017 playwriting competition. It was the first choice for production by Elkhart Civic Theatre and is set to open its 2017-18 season at the Bristol Opera House in September.

Playwriting, however, was not the first profession for Liner, a native Texan who left the Lone Star state for a number of years but later returned to her Dallas roots.

Like many other successful vocations, it grew out of necessity.

For the majority of her early years Liner, 63, was a newspaper woman. After college in Texas, she went to New York City with a group of friends, all of whom “wanted to do something job-wise” in the Big Apple. Her first job, with Hearst papers, was proofreading knitting instructions. This led, eventually, to an editorship on one of the syndicate’s smaller papers.

“It was a great time,” she said. “Seeing great theater and music and shows on- and off-Broadway. But, in the ‘80s, everybody got laid off.”

When her unemployment ran out, Liner headed back to Texas to work on a new alternative weekly in Big D. That job lasted about 10 years and ended for the senior writer when the paper was sold.

“So I went to another paper,” says the lady with the glass-half-full attitude, reporting her following nine years as media critic in Corpus Christie. From there she headed east to papers in Toledo and Columbus, Ohio, and, since for a Texan all roads lead back to you-know-where, she was theater critic for the Dallas Observer for 15 years.

“Dallas is very accepting of people who reinvent themselves,” she says with a chuckle.

Then, “I got laid off in 2016,” Liner recalls. “Papers everywhere were getting rid of media and arts writers. I had felt the curtain coming down.”

Never without a backup plan, Liner
looked at a future “with fewer dead-
lines,” and began in earnest to write plays, an avocation she began in 2012.

“I always had ideas,” she says. “A lot of creative ideas, but no time. There was always a newspaper deadline to meet. Now there were a lot fewer deadlines.”

One of her earliest efforts, which combined pieces from her life and “instructions” from that initial Hearst job, was a one-woman, one-act play titled Sweater Curse: A Yarn About Love.

“I thought I ought to premiere it big,” she recalls. She checked and decided Scotland’s annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival, known as “the largest arts festival in the world,” was the place.

By the end of 2012, “I knew how to get it (her play) to the Fringe.”

She hired a professional director, production people and a trainer (“to get me into shape”) and even though she had done no acting since college, performed it herself.

By August 2013, she was at the festival. On an 8×12 ft. stage, her hour-long show ran every day for a month in the 30-seat theater. She has returned to the festival several times.

Not only did she write, produce and perform her “knitcom,” “I did all my own media,” Liner says. “I  wrote a Q&A for myself and, for any and all possible audiences, contacted senior communities.” She also put together a workshop on Mastering the Media Matrix and has written a book “107 Publicity Boosters That Work.”

In addition, the enterprising lady is a Dallas tour guide. She leads interested visitors on the final route of JFK, complete with “minute by minute details,” she says, adding “I look at it as a performance.”

In a different vein, another tour destination is Southfork, the TV home of J.R Ewing & Co.

In the absence of deadlines, Liner has turned out a novel as well as several more plays, most all geared to the older set.

“I saw 3,000 plays as a critic,” Liner says. “I got tired of walking out of the theatre depressed. You need to feel extra added value to your life. To walk on air a little bit. The plays that I love do that.”

All my plays, she declares, are geared to older actors, “even though all ages love my plays.”

She believes actors over 50 “age out” of plays. “I decided I was going to write for older actors who are sexy and smart and want good parts.”

She has never been married but romance does figure in Liner’s plots. Realizing that “many find happiness late in life,” Liner is all for taking another chance “on life and love.” “I put the ‘spin’ in ‘spinster,’” she laughs, adding “I’m kind of a loner but I love love.”

Liner plans to spend the rest of this year promoting her novel, titled 2084: An American Parable, but first she is excited to see her award-winning play in production.

“I wrote this,” she says, “to give older actors good roles in a funny play with a happy ending.”

In Finishing School, that comes with the diploma.

Music for Theatre Geeks was provided by MusicAlley.com

155 – Speak up and don’t talk with your mouth full! Enunciation and diction on stage.

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The Geeks return to the issue of enunciation and diction in community theatre productions, how to deal with actors that just don’t get it, and why it’s so important.

Music provided by Music Alley.

154 – Interview with a college intern for a community theatre

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In this episode, the Geeks chat with Bronson Bontrager, Elkhart Civic Theatre’s college intern for the spring 2017 semester.  We discuss the benefits of internships, for both the theatre and the student.