TRASH writer: Gwendolyn Rice

Gwendolyn RiceGwendolyn is a professional writer and playwright returning to LILA for TRASH after her work appeared last season in The Suitcase Dreams. She holds an MA in Theater Literature, History, and Criticism from UW-Madison, and a BA in English and Theater from the University of Iowa. She has worked in marketing, communications, and fundraising for a variety of non-profit arts organizations including Forward Theater Company, First Stage Milwaukee, the Friends of the Coronado, and the Rockford Symphony Orchestra–and we’re lucky to have her support in these areas here at LILA too. Gwen has also had full-length plays, readings, and monologues produced on the East Coast and throughout the Midwest, at theaters such as Shakespeare & Co., Forward Theater Company, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Metropolis Performing Arts Center, First Stage Milwaukee, Riverside Theater, Barrington Stage Company, Polarity Ensemble, Edenfred Artists’ Retreat, and Rock Valley College. She has also won several awards for short fiction.

Mara McGhee in Rice's Sad News Blues

Mara McGhee in Rice’s Sad News Blues

Five Questions for Gwen…

What inspired you to write for LILA’s TRASH?

Both of my pieces are based on true stories of loss. They both hit me really hard — such a waste of lives and talent.

What will you NEVER throw away?

My outdated music collection. I have a bunch of my parents’ records from the 1960s (including Beatles ’64) and some mix-tapes from college that I just can’t part with — even though I no longer have the technology to play them!

What’s the one thing you’ve thrown away that you wish you hadn’t?

I threw away a really good recipe for sugar cookies when I was in the middle of moving once. And now, it’s like a curse. I’ve never found a recipe as good as that one.

Is there something you really need to throw away but won’t?

There’s a box of old t-shirts from high school that I can’t throw away — they contain such great memories. But I know I’ll never wear the shirts again.
If you had to live with just five material possessions, what would they be?
-super cool notebooks and pens
-my cookbook
-my iphone
-a great pair of shoes
-the bracelet made of typewriter keys that my husband gave me


TRASH Writer: Katrin Talbot

imageSome of the contributing writers for the TRASH project were folks we’d worked with before, and some of them were strangers that submitted their work in response to a nationwide call for short pieces on the theme of trash. Katrin Talbot, however, was in her own category: we found her in the pages of Madison Magazine in their 2015 Best of Madison issue. Voted as one of the three best spoken word artists in Madison, we got in touch and asked if she might be interested in contributing something. Before we knew it, we had a small collection of her poems that she thought might work for our project, and we were off and running. The Talbot poems that found their way into the final version of the show are both conceptual approaches to the theme: Broken Promises and Supernova Remnant N132D. We asked her to respond to our writers questions, and she did it in her own way, writing to us “of course I had to write a poem about one of the questions…lordie!”

Karl Iglesias performing Talbot's Supernova Remnant N132D

Karl Iglesias performing Talbot’s Supernova Remnant N132D

Five Questions for Katrin Talbot

What inspired you to write the piece(s) you created for TRASH?

As soon as I saw the subject, I thought about a poem called Broken Promises in a collection of mine (Freeze-Dried Love (Finishing Line Press)). I had sensed that the title had more potential than one little poem, so I wrote more installations on the subject. For the Supernova Remnant piece, I had been gazing at one of my favorite remember-you-are-just-a-speck-in-the-universe books, Astronomy 365, and I thought about Astral Trash—stars exploding, hearts exploding, and wrote the poem.

What will you NEVER throw away?

Seriously, my favorite coffee cup. And a bad habit or two.

What’s the one thing you’ve thrown away that you wish you hadn’t?

My first wanna-be Cuisinart, taken from me in a well-intended switch to a bigger (hand-me-down) actual Cuisinart.

Is there something you really need to throw away but won’t?

About 1023 expectations

If you had to live with just five material possessions, what would they be?


It was a shock when
asked, If only
five material possessions,
How much I’ve let go in
the thorny realm of
Need, even when I’m
floating around in a
Big Enough house full of
The word now in
my head more than Need is


Five Material Possessions,
Assuming I could find charcoal and birch bark for writing.
-swim goggles
-violin or viola, if the climate allowed–if not, camera.
-volume of favorite poet
-glasses or contacts

TRASH Writer: Ajanae Dawkins

headshot-DawkinsAjanae Dawkins is a poet and performance artist living in Michigan, New York, and Wisconsin depending on the time of year. She is a First Wave Scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who uses her art to “explore God, love, trauma, and identity.” Her most recent project was a one woman show, Atlantic. Next year she’ll be studying in Barcelona, Spain and Fes, Morocco. She told us that she hopes to one day tour universities, and teach workshops surrounding art and activism. Needless, to say, we think she’s great — and her poem, Trash, is a powerful part of our show.

Mara McGhee performing Ajanae Dawkin's poem, Trash

Mara McGhee performing Ajanae Dawkin’s poem, Trash

Five Questions for Ajanae Dawkins…

What inspired you to write for TRASH? 

I thought about the word trash and it’s significance in my own life. The power of it when I thought about it in depth was that trash is essentially representative of something that you don’t want anymore, and consequently move it to a space where it will be concealed/masqued. But generally speaking trash is not destroyed. It may be moved, given to others to take care of, compacted, recycled even but almost destroyed. What inspired me about that is what that meant for the emotional trash that we gather in our lifetimes, how we dispose of it, and where it actually goes.

What will you never throw away?

The letters my family has written me. Particularly one my father wrote me for my 13th birthday that he sent with dozens of roses to my house, that simply said, “I wanted to be the first man to ever send you flowers. Happy 13th birthday daughter.”

What’s the one thing you’ve thrown away that you wish you hadn’t?

I’m a hoarder so I don’t know that I’ve thrown away anything that I wish I hadn’t. If I have any doubts about whether I could use it or not, I keep it. Now losing things is a completely different story for me.

Is there something you need to throw away, but won’t?

Yes. I desperately need to throw away some of my hair and skin products because I have boxes full but I love prodcuts so much that I don’t want to in case I ever decide I want to use them.

If you had to live with just five material possessions, what would they be?

A blanket, a magic bullet, a laptop, coconut oil, and a family photo.

TRASH Writer: Olivia Dawson

imageOlivia Dawson is a Chicago-based artist/storyteller and wears many hats. Perhaps you’ve seen her on the stages of Forward Theatre, Madison Repertory Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Next Act Theatre, New American Theatre, Georgia Shakespeare Theatre, The Barter Theatre, Portland Center Stage, or Steppenwolf. Or maybe you’ve seen her on TV? She recently played Fatimah on the FOX drama series, Empire. She directs too, like Good Kids at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A writer, you say? That’s right: in 2014, she directed and co-wrote the critically-acclaimed play, Out Loud, presented at eta Creative Arts, and nominated for seven Black Theatre Alliance wards, among them Best Writing and Best Direction and four African American Arts Alliance wards, among them Best Production and Best Director. We could go on and on. We feel fortunate to have her as a part of TRASH, for which she wrote A Fruitful Waste, an exploration of one woman’s journey from childhood to adulthood.

Kelly Coffey in Dawson's A Fruitful Waste

Kelly Coffey in Dawson’s A Fruitful Waste

Five Questions for Olivia Dawson…

What inspired you to write for TRASH?
I wanted to challenge myself in a two-fold way: I wanted to see if I could write from a prompt that was given to me. Also, I wanted to exorcise my own personal feelings and thoughts in response to people always asking, “Why don’t you have kids?!” as if everyone is supposed to have them.

What will you NEVER throw away?
My connection to God. When everything else goes away (money, work, friends, loved ones) I have always been able to rely on that. To be able to pray, meditate, take a walk and just give thanks always gives me perspective that is invaluable.

What’s the one thing you’ve thrown away that you wish you hadn’t?
Again, it goes back to my relationship with God. I trust that everything/everybody that has passed through my life and is no longer there doesn’t need to be there. I believe that everything happens for a reason, a season or a lifetime and when that is through, it’s best to breathe, relax and release it/them.

Is there something you need to throw away, but won’t?
My sugar craving! I’m working on it…

If you had to live with just five material possessions, what would they be?
In no particular order: athletic shoes, a Bible, my journal, a toothbrush, chocolate!

TRASH Writer: James Caputo

imageJames Caputo lives in San Diego, California and his writing has been awarded numerous times, including in the Ashland Oregon New Play Competion, the Theatre Oxford Competition, and the New York Public Television Competion. For LILA, Caputo submitted a short piece called Alfred & Eloise, which was quickly put at the top of our list for inclusion in TRASH. We liked the piece so much, how Caputo wrote his characters and interpreted our theme, that we asked him to write more in order to expand the characters storyline and give them a larger home in the overall work. He obliged us wonderfully, and we are fortunate to have Michael Herold and Laura Gordon bring Caputo’s characters to life.

Michael Herold and Laura Gordon in Jame Caputo's Alfred & Eloise.

Michael Herold and Laura Gordon in Jame Caputo’s Alfred & Eloise.

We recently asked Caputo to answer five (somewhat) silly questions for us….

Five Questions for James Caputo

What inspired you to write Alfred & Eloise?

It is time to recognize that the homeless are not stupid, lazy or uneducated. There but for the grace of God, go we.

What will you NEVER throw away?

My Macbook.

What’s the one thing you’ve thrown away that you wish you hadn’t?


Is there something you really need to throw away but won’t?

That damn email program.
If you had to live with just five material possessions, what would they be?

Family photo album, a poetry anthology, a ball point pen, a composition book and a ukulele.

Exciting Times in 2015-16

We are simply thrilled about the goings on here at Theatre LILA lately. There is so much activity, it’s hard for us to keep up!

The highlights:

  • Our staged reading presentation of Tyler Marchant’s The Seagull: Rehearsed, a clever adaptation seen through the workings of a director and his cast rehearsing the classic Chekhov play, was well-received this month at Madison Opera Center.

    Theatre LILA reading of Tyler Marchant's The Seagull Rehearsed on April 24.

    Theatre LILA reading of Tyler Marchant’s The Seagull: Rehearsed on April 24.

  • We were recently granted 501(c)3 status by the IRS, which enables us to do so much more as an organization. We would like to thank Arts Wisconsin for all of their support as we worked towards our independence — it is a vital organization for the arts in our state.
  • We now have an enthusiastic and active board of directors, including Shana Lewis, Tyler Marchant, Karisa Johnson, Nathan Berken, Brad Kose, and Kelly Parks Snider. We are fortunate to have such a great team of experienced and passionate members of our community on the board.
  • In May we will again start up our Actors Lab 360°, where we invite actors, writers, designers, directors and other performing artists to our theatre artist’s gym where we workout once a week.  Theatre LILA is committed to running the LAB to keep us challenged and connected as active working artists.

    Actors from our Actors LAB 360 do an open Lab at Madison Museum of Contemporary Art last year.

    Actors from our Actors LAB 360 do an open Lab at Madison Museum of Contemporary Art last year.

  • We have received support from both Dane Arts and Madison Arts Commission for 2015-16 projects!
  • LILA is especially honored to receive 2015-16 season support from the Madison Community Foundation‘s Pleasant Rowland Great Performance Fund for Theater. MCF’s mission is to “use its local knowledge and assets to inspire giving, support meaningful initiatives, and connect people for the common good.” It’s great to be supported by such a sweepingly focussed and effective organization!
  • Finally, we are pleased to announce our 2015-16 season! In October, we will produce TRASH — a Theatre LILA invention. We received about forty submissions for the new work from across the country–ranging from monologues, and short scenes, to poetry and dance pieces–and are now gearing up to announce the finalists. In January 2016 we will present, in collaboration with Bronzeville Arts Ensemble, Aishah Rahman’s The Mojo and The Sayso at the Tenth Street Theatre in Milwaukee and then again in February in Madison at Overture Center for the Arts. It’s our first season of two fully LILA produced shows, and we’re excited to expand into Milwaukee and share the important story told in The Mojo in not one, but two Wisconsin communities.
The cast for The Mojo and The Sayso will feature Malkia Stampley, Di'Monte Henning, and Chike Johnson

The cast for The Mojo and The Sayso will feature Malkia Stampley, Di’Monte Henning, and Chike Johnson. (photo: Dan Myers)

In Tandem Theatre Company’s Tenth Street Theatre

Thank you to everyone–organizations and individuals–who have supported us along the road to establishing ourselves in Madison. Here’s to a great new season!

(Another) Call for Submissions

So we realized something today.

Okay, really Jess realized.

And what she realized was this: our call for submissions for Trash is “playwright-centric” in a way that was intended but not really. What we mean to say is that we like to be inventive and think differently about the work we put on stage and we want to encourage inventive submissions from folks that think differently too. So, here are a few addendums to our original call for submissions and a slight extension of the deadline (see the original call for submissions here).

The deadline for submissions is March 15, 2015 and selected playwrights will be notified no later than April 15, 2015.


  1. Running time of script the performance piece should be 3-20 minutes
  2. Work submitted must be entirely the property of the author*
  3. Plays The performance piece should need only 1-5 actors (doubling is acceptable)
  4. Theme of the play performance piece should be “trash” or should include physical trash in some way (think of a stage with a huge pile of trash)

*Plays Performance pieces must be new works. Adaptations (or any other use of material protected by copyright) must include proof of rights to use source material. Translations will not be accepted.

Entry fees

A non-refundable reader’s fee of $20 must accompany each submission.

Submission guidelines and requirements

  1. Play Performance piece must be an original work that has not previously been fully produced.Plays performance pieces that have had staged readings are eligible. At this time, musicals, TYA scripts, and screenplays will not be accepted.
  2. Non-traditional pieces are encouraged, including Spoken Word, Songs, Instrumentals, Silent pieces, Dance, Puppetry, and more. Surprise us, shock us, do something different.
  3. Scripts Performance pieces should follow the standard professional play format when applicable. All script performance pieces must be submitted electronically in PDF format. Save files as AUTHOR CREATOR LAST NAME – PLAY TITLE.pdf. (For example: Miller–The Crucible.pdf)
  4. No reference to the author creator is permitted in the body of the manuscript – including on the title page.
  5. Submit electronic entries to: using the subject line: Trash – Play Title.
  6. Entry fee of $20 must be received in order for a script to be considered. You will receive an invoice via email after submitting your work. Please submit your payment online via Paypal with invoice or send check to the address below. Your work will not be read or considered until payment is received.

Theatre LILA

PO Box 5221

Madison, WI 53705

Deadlines and notification

  1. All entries must be submitted by 5:00 PM Central time, on March 15, 2015.
  2. Selected playwrights artists will be notified on or before April 15, 2015 by email.