Southeastern theater instructor's play picked up by independent film company
Contact: Tonya Lowentritt
HAMMOND – Southeastern Louisiana University theater instructor James Winter has attracted the attention of an independent film company. His original full-length play, Dead Flowers, has been picked up by Ghost Rider Pictures.
Winter wrote the play in graduate school at the University of New Orleans in 2001 for a class project. It was the first full-length play that he had ever written.
The play, Winter said, “deals with a love triangle between a mother, who’s on heroin, her son, who is trying to get her to shake the habit, and the drug itself, which I’ve chosen to personify in the play. It’s actually a character who magically appears and sings to her and there’s this battle between those two over her soul.”
Winter is thrilled about the success of his play. “The play is very close to me and I never really thought anything would come out of it; it was just for a class,” he said. The play is important to Winter because his mother suffered and ultimately died from an addiction.
“I wanted to write a play that showed why it’s so hard to shake the addiction,” he said. “There are all these plays about addiction and recovery, but I’ve never seen one where you understand why it’s so hard.”
The play was actually produced and given a full-stage production as part of UNO’s theater season in 2002. Later, Winter submitted it to some contacts. Dead Flowers was a semi-finalist in a few playwriting contests and ultimately made its way to the prestigious Actor’s Studio in New York.
For the past two years, Winter has traveled to New York several times a year and “workshopped” the play through the Actor’s Studio, the New School for Drama and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. The groups held several staged readings and helped Winter develop the play into what it is today.
Ghost Rider Productions has almost completed adapting the screenplay and plans to begin shooting the film this summer in New Orleans. Although Winter isn’t actually writing the screenplay, he does have artistic control. Ghost Rider Productions hopes ultimately to enter the film in the Telluride Film Festival. Then it’s simply a matter of finding a distributor.
Winter has received many awards for his playwriting, including the honor of regional finalist for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival’s Ten-minute Play Contest in 2002. He has also had numerous original works produced in Cleveland, Fort Worth, New Orleans and New York City.
Winter hopes one day Dead Flowers will make its way to the stage at Southeastern. “Personally, I think it’s a good piece for a college. With the exception of the mother, all the roles could easily be played by college students,” he said. “I think a college audience would respond well to it. I’d love to see it brought to life again and on stage, which was my original vision.”
In the meantime, students will have the opportunity to read the play, since it is one of 12 included in a new textbook Winter has written for Southeastern’s “Introduction to Theater” course. Southeastern theater faculty will begin using Theater Through the Ages: A Concise Anthology of Drama this summer.
Winter said it replaces a text that was big, heavy and dry. “I wanted to write something that was fun and interesting,” he said. “I tried to add a little personality to the book and give the students some fun facts about the plays and playwrights.”Southeastern student actors are pictured on the book’s cover. If other universities use the textbook, royalties will go toward a scholarship for theater students. “The students deserve that – they work really hard,” he said.