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Wilsonville's Cynthia Whitcomb contines her prolific career in writing drama, teaching

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE  - Playwright C.S. Whitcomb sits next to the book wagon used in her play Parnassus on Wheels, currently being presented by Lakewood Theatre Company at Lakewood Center for the Arts. Wilsonville resident Cynthia Whitcomb, aka C.S. Whitcomb, has seen entertainment formats evolve over her long career as a playwright.

She was known as the Queen of the Two-Hour Made-for-TV-Movie for three decades before that genre all but disappeared. Regardless of the current favorite genre on screen or stage, throughout her career she has endeavored to present stories that cause audiences to experience something special and bring tears, smiles and laughter.

IF YOU GO

"Parnassus on Wheels" runs through Feb. 11 at Lakewood Center for the Arts, 368 S. State St., Lake Oswego. Showtimes at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday with select performances on Sunday at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are priced at $34 for adults and $32 for students and seniors. To learn more and to purchase tickets visit lakewood-center.org or call the box office at 503-635-3901.

To say Whitcomb is prolific is an understatement. She has sold more than 75 screenplays, 30 of which have been produced on prime time television. She has been nominated for Emmy, Cable Ace, WGA, Humanitas and Edgar Allen Poe awards, and was twice a finalist for the Angus Bowmer Award for drama. She has written roles for such stars as Jason Robards, Ellen Burstyn, Kevin Spacey, Martin Sheen, Gabriel Byrne, Gena Rowlands and Angelica Houston.

As a playwright, screenwriter and writing coach Whitcomb is always working on something. This summer Artists Repertory Theatre hosted a reading of her play "Santos" during the Proscenium Live Festival sponsored by Portland Shakespearean Project. She taught two classes for Willamette Writers and her book "The Heart of the Film: How to Write Love Stories in Screenplays" was released. She says she is pitching a couple of ideas for plays to a producer and her play "Parnassus on Wheels" is in production at Lakewood Theatre Company.

Whitcomb says she credits her third brain — the subconscious brain — for the abundance.

"My subconscious mind takes over," she said. If she is struggling with a play she presents the situation to her subconscious, and she says "much like the shoemaker's elves, in the morning I have my play."

Whitcomb doesn't have a favorite between film and stage, but notes there are differences.

"A film is showing you the story, while plays are about how long you can keep the secret (of the play from the audience)," she said.

Whitcomb is preparing for her spring basic screenwriting class, "From Idea to Completed Script," to be held at her north Wilsonville home.

"This is basically the same class I taught at UCLA film school," she said. Topics covered include structure, scene cards, storyboards, set ups, payoffs, subplots, character development, hiding exposition, buttoning scenes, plus how to write great openings, great endings, how to make 'em laugh and cry and all you need to know about selling, marketing, agents, producers, deals and breaking in.

At the end of the class students submit a draft of a screenplay, which Whitcomb then reads and gives feedback. Many of her past students have gone on to successful careers in screenwriting and writing for television.

Whitcomb is a woman who loves mixing business with pleasure, so each year she coordinates Writing on the Waves, a 14-day Transatlantic Learning Adventure Cruise. The cruise leaves Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. April 13, enjoying writing at sea and stops at ports in the Canary Isles, Malaga, Cartagena and Barcelona in Spain, Corsica and Rome in Italy. The "at sea" days are spent in writing workshops from 9 a.m. to noon, then participants spend the afternoon writing on their own. They reconvene to talk shop over dinner, then the evening is spent reading works aloud, critiquing work and solving writing problems. Whitcomb says writers should be able to complete more than 50 pages on the voyage.

Did Whitcomb write "Parnassus on Wheels" on a previous voyage?

"I always come back with something," she says.

To learn more about Whitcomb and the screenwriting or Writing at Sea programs visit CynthiaWhitcomb.com.

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