Lassig wins international contest; Earning kudos for playwriting skills
David Lassig, West Fargo, now has official playwright status after being selected winner of the 2009 International Comedy Playwriting Contest conducted by The Mountain Playhouse, Pennsylvania's oldest professional summer theater specializing in farces, for his comedy 'Who Maid Who?.' The play was written specifically for the local prestigious theater group, Harwood Prairie Playhouse, to be performed last season. Lassig is an actor and member of the board, as well as technical director for the group.
In honor of winning, a play reading was held August 23, with Lassig also the recipient of a $3,000 cash prize, the Grindstone Award, and a celebratory reception in the Jenner Art Gallery adjacent to the theater.
Lassig found out a week before he won that he was one of the finalists, and in doing so, it dawned on him that he might actually win. A week later, he and his wife, Shanara, were driving to the cities when he received word that his play had been singled out from 74 entries submitted from across the United States as well as Nova Scotia, England and the Ukraine.
He said contest organizers were looking for a script that was "knock-down funny" and he felt extremely fortunate his was deemed as such and ultimately chosen.
Lassig and Shanara, also a talented actor in her own right and member of the Harwood Prairie Playhouse, attended the ceremony, with Shanara given the opportunity to read one of the parts. "After the reading I was presented with the award and also answered questions from the audience members who attended the reading," Lassig said. "It was really neat to answer questions from professional actors about how I wrote the script. There were about 40 people in the audience and they all told me how much they enjoyed the script. A few said it was the best play reading they had been to and many said they would like to see the show done on the Mountain Playhouse stage next year."
Lassig's introduction to acting goes back to his college days at UND-Lake Region in Devils Lake, and performing in summer musicals at Fort Totten Little Theatre near Devils Lake. The first farce he appeared in was Ray Cooney's "Run For Your Wife" and after that show he realized he wanted "to be in farces all the time because it is such a great feeling to make the audience laugh and know they are having a good time," Lassig said.
Lassig came up with the idea for "Who Maid Who? about five years ago and when he finally sat down to write it the process took about four weeks. "There were two main reasons for writing the play," Lassig said, "the first, to make people laugh, the second, to write a brand new show that theatre groups could possibly add to their schedules instead of having to do the same shows every year."
He credits his wife with being a big help, as both an actor and co-director assisting in the writing process. "Shanara is a very good director and is so talented at timing, pacing and blocking. Watching and learning from her helped me to be able to figure out all the timing and blocking in "Who Maid Who?"
With his newfound fame comes a few changes, but Lassig still plans on staying involved with Harwood Prairie Playhouse. "I would never have written the script if it weren't for the Harwood Prairie Playhouse and the great audience members."
He has also recently completed a second new script called "Barely Heirs," which will fittingly be premiered at the Harwood Prairie Playhouse during their next season performance run in March of 2010. Lassig said it is different than most farces in that it has a woman as the central character. He has also been cast in the Fargo Moorhead Community Theatre production of "Foreigner" which will be presented in September.
On a brand new note, Lassig and Shanara have established their own theatre group titled The Bare Stage Theatre, which will be producing "My First Time," currently playing off-Broadway, at the FMCT. "Shanara and I were in New York City right before we went to the award ceremony and saw this play," Lassig noted, "and are really excited to be able to present it as we will be one of the first groups to do this show." They plan on doing one a year in the fall to begin with. Lassig said they came up with the name The Bare Stage Theatre, since they will be relying on a minimal set and minimal props.
Lassig currently serves as a mortgage credit underwriter at US Bank, a position he has been able to balance nicely with his theater aspirations, which he would like to include watching other theatre groups perform his plays. "One of my goals is to have one of scripts produced at the Old Log in Excelsior, Minn., a professional theatre where Shanara and I go to see shows every year. To see one of my shows produced there would be an honor. Right now, I am just sitting back and seeing if any other groups are interested in producing "Who Maid Who?"
He presently has a contract in place with Playscripts, a New York firm, to publish "Who Maid Who?," so this show will be available for other theatre groups to perform in the near future. They also have the script of "Barely Heirs" in their possession to consider for publication and Lassig expects to be hearing back from them shortly on that venture.
"To have my script published and to win the contest have truly been unbelievable. I never in my wildest dreams thought it would happen. The script was written for the Harwood audience and I figured I would take a chance on trying to get it published and also enter the contest. One thing I've learned from the whole experience and would be good advice for others is "you never know what can happen unless you try" and "dreams are only dreams unless you try to make them a reality." To me this is truly one of the greatest achievements I could ever hope for and I can't thank the people at The Mountain Prairie Playhouse enough."