Wood helps produce documentary on 'The Drama of Creation'

3:24:02 PM CDT - Thursday, March 02, 2006

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

Since 1987, Mike Wood has amassed a virtual who's who collection of videotaped interviews he's conducted with more than two-dozen American playwrights.

Mike Wood

File photo by Melissa Lacey

Mike Wood, shown last year with the videotape collection of playwright interviews he's conducted, is involved with two projects a documentary and Web site that preserve and share those notable conversations.

Since 1987, Wood has produced the festival's annual multimedia tributes to noted playwrights such as Jerome Lawrence ("Inherit the Wind"), Neil Simon ("The Odd Couple"), Arthur Miller ("Death of a Salesman"), Edward Albee ("Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?") and Stephen Sondheim ("West Side Story").

Now Wood, the executive director of WSU's Media Resources Center, is helping make those interviews and insights available to others.

"With this being the 25th year of the festival it makes it a convenient crossroads to look at all the archives and decide how we can make things more available," Wood said. "We have a rich archive."
A new documentary and a soon-to-be-launched Web site will offer opportunities to share those interviews.

Wood collaborated with Films Media Group, North America's leader in educational video, to produce the newly released documentary, "The Drama of Creation, Writers on Writing." The MRC's Steve Worley did editing for the documentary.

Wood describes the 46-minute documentary as a sort of "best of" the interviews. Through colorful anecdotes and practical advice, the featured playwrights 15 in all for this piece share their sources for ideas, writing routines and advice for aspiring writers.

In between working on the documentary, Wood has been developing a Web site that will feature the archived interviews, as well, with funding by a National Endowment for the Arts grant. Since the Web site will include both transcriptions and streaming video of the interviews, MRC staff digitized and transcribed the interviews.

Preserving those interviews and sharing them has become more important as a number of the playwrights featured have died. Three of the 25 playwrights Wood has interviewed died in the past year alone: August Wilson, Arthur Miller and Wendy Wasserstein.

In the documentary, Wilson reveals he used napkins to jot down his most creative ideas. Miller discloses that he actually wrote and then forgot about the concept for "Death of a Salesman" during his college days.

To help introduce and transition into the topics shared in the documentary, Wood wrote the narrative, which was done by Peter Ellenstein, artistic director of ICC's William Inge Center. The MRC's Lonny Quattlebaum shot the new video, as well as many of the playwright interviews.

"(Ellenstein) became our 'Masterpiece Theatre' narrator," said Wood, referring to PBS's long-running series hosted by Alistair Cooke.

The documentary, according to Films Media Group, is targeted at aspiring high school and college-level writers in need of inspiration and practical advice.

FMG is offering "The Drama of Creation" for $99.95, which is $50 off its regular retail price, until March 31. A preview is available at http://www.films.com/LXN.

But Wichitans interested in seeing the documentary will get a better deal. Wood plans to hold a free screening soon for local audiences.


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