The Rapidian

Local playwright talks Lake Effect Fringe Festival and more

Dog Story Theater presents the 5th annual Lake Effect Fringe Festival. A collaboration of artists alike, joining in the intimate space of Dog Story’s black box theater. Stephen Douglas Wright sat down with The Rapidian to talk about his experience with the Lake Effect Fringe Festival.
Cast performing Moon Will Rise and Grow

Cast performing Moon Will Rise and Grow /Fiona Campbell

Tickets and date information:

Tickets for The Ghost of Jimmy Dean:

March 1

March 2


36 Questions at LEFF:

Friday, February 17, 2017 8 pm

Saturday, February 18, 2017 8 pm

Sunday, February 19, 2017 3 pm

Cast for Doctor Arthur and Moon Will Rise and Grow

Cast for Doctor Arthur and Moon Will Rise and Grow /Evan Wright

Scott Pell as Orpheus and Brittany Devon as Eurydice

Scott Pell as Orpheus and Brittany Devon as Eurydice /Fiona Campbell

The Lake Effect Fringe Festival is a great way to showcase the original works written by local community members here in Grand Rapids. Original work is gaining momentum, and Dog Story Theater supports this to its fullest extent. LEFF is showcasing many original pieces, such as Love and Semiotics, 36 Questions, The Ghost of Jimmy Dean, and a reading of Collage of a Dystopian Midwest. Stephen Douglas Wright, a lead engineer of original works that are done in Grand Rapids, sat down with The Rapidian to talk about his experience with the Lake Effect Fringe Festival and his involvement with Dog Story as a local playwright. Stephen has been consistently making original theater in Grand Rapids over the last few years, and has showcased pieces in support of LEFF.

Stephen’s writing process:

Stephen started writing plays in middle school, but he was always a storyteller from a very young age. The first story he wrote was about George the Elephant and his mother.

Stephen shared some advice that has helped him over the years. “This advice about writing plays has guided my writing process, and reinforced some already good practices. Here are five pieces of advice, all from different playwrights, that I have received.

1. The first piece of advice is write what you love. I wrote to Charles Mee a few years ago, asking for advice, and received that response. He said that because you're not from Mars, if you write what you love, then it will at least touch someone.

2. The second piece of advice that I received was from Michael Hollinger, to whom I also wrote. His main advice is to listen. This of course can apply to the outside world, and this is important, but it also applies to the voices in my head as I write. Writing plays generally go smoothest for me when I feel more like I'm transcribing a conversation than inventing one.

3. I received a third piece of advice from a playwright whose name I unfortunately cannot remember, but it is indispensable. He told me that he writes about what bothers him, and that this ends up working out well.

4. Randy Wyatt, my advisor at Aquinas College, helped me see that it is personally important for me to write fast. Trying to write fast is advice I'd pass on to anyone, because it can circumvent the critical faculties, and get right to the good stuff. It has also made my dialogue much less awkward.

5. The best advice on playwriting and some of the best life advice that I have ever gotten is to ‘keep going.’ I received this from Noah Haidle who taught a script writing class at Aquinas some years back. I like this in regards to writing, because nothing will happen if you don't make it happen. And there will be nothing to judge as good or bad if there is nothing made to begin with.

And as life advice, this is great because it doesn't contain the promise that things will get better. It's a simple two word command that contains the possibility that all is worth continuing.”

One of his greatest inspirations is American mythologist Joseph Campbell. Stephen follows Campbell’s story the Hero’s Journey, and these world mythologies have inspired multiple ensemble pieces that Stephen has since produced and directed at Dog Story Theater.

“This is a concept introduced by Joseph Campbell. He found that stories in world mythologies generally follow one pattern wherein a hero is called to adventure, goes on the adventure and overcomes trials, and then acquires what he has wanted. It's a bit more complicated than this, but the very interesting part is that Campbell looks to Carl Jung, and finds that the stories we tell in our dreams, and the characters that populate our nights, mirror world mythology. So, the individual psyche is almost a microcosm of a larger narrative that crosses cultures.”

Stephen’s experience participating in the Lake Effect Fringe Festival in the past:

Stephen wrote three ten minute plays that were featured in LEFF a few years back. One is called The True Story of Creation, another is called LuLu and Beth, and the last one, Eugeneakleas.

Stephen is very involved with The Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company, and has supported them and many other shows at LEFF throughout the years. Last year, he was in two ten-minute plays that were produced as part of a series by Urban Arts.

Stephen’s connection to Dog Story Theater:

Stephen has acted in a number of plays at Dog Story, some of which he has written, produced, and co-directed. He is continuously going to shows at Dog Story Theater and shares, “Dog Story Theater is a great organization that makes it possible for local artists to host events. It has catalyzed original theater in Grand Rapids.”

Projects Stephen has produced:

In 2015, Stephen started a company called 1 yr Theater Company. This company spanned from the summer of 2015 to the summer of 2016, producing four of his original plays. All of these productions were showcased at Dog Story Theater and were directed by Stephen Douglas Wright and Brittany Devon, now an intern at The Rapidian. The shows were Journey to the Stars, Doctor Arthur, The Moon Will Rise and Grow, and Asteria Rising.

“The idea was that the company itself would live for only one year, to increase the urgency with which plays were produced. I had hoped to produce five plays, but the underlying premise of creating a theater company that would die did increase the urgency with which the plays were produced, and thereby unleashed creativity created by the pressure. Putting up all of the shows was insanely fun and relentlessly stressful. It may be my single most valuable endeavor. I made some of my best friends by putting up these plays, learned how to lead people better, how to graciously accept help from others, how to listen better, and began to find my voice as a playwright.”


This year at LEFF Stephen is producing a reading of The Ghost of Jimmy Dean on March 1 and 2. “This is a script that has been dear to my heart for several years.” In The Ghost of Jimmy Dean, Guinevere, a therapist, is hired by Germain to move into a famous actor, Sebastian's mansion, to "fix" him.

Later in March he will produce either a full length script or two one acts at Dog Story Theater. In May, Stephen alongside Brittany Devon are hosting a ten minute theater festival called Here2There at Dog Story Theater. In July, Stephen is helping Brittany produce and premiere an original script by her.

To gain insight into Stephen’s work, join him March 1 and 2 at Dog Story Theater to support LEFF and many other local playwrights and productions.

LEFF is also showing 36 Questions, a world premiere of a new play by Michigan native playwright, Cassandra Chance. Produced by Blue Star Players and directed by Ann Celeste Cloyd, with music direction by Stephen Douglas Wright, and stars Anessa Johnson as Cat and Michael Pollock as Dan.

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