The Man Behind the Curtain performance at SLC Main Library Mon Sept 11

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Dr. John Newman will perform his solo play, THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN, at the Salt Lake City Main Library, 220 E 400 S, on Monday, September 11 at 7p in the Nancy Tessman Auditorium, just off the atrium. This free public performance runs approximately 75 minutes.


The main character in the play is L. Frank Baum, best known as the author of The Wizard of Oz and 13 other Oz books. The play is set on New Year’s Eve the stage of the Hudson Theatre as one of Baum’s popular theatrical productions has been abruptly cancelled because of its excessive costs. The “Royal Historian of Oz” offers the expectant audience his own story of how he “found his way to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Before finding his calling as a writer of children’s stories, Baum struggled to make his living as an actor, director, store-owner, baseball team secretary, small-town newspaper editor, reporter, and traveling salesman. In the play, L. Frank Baum tells how each of his professions developed his abilities as a storyteller and how he transformed his dreams and nightmares into his best known story. His life intersects with American notables including author Charles Dickens, inventor Thomas Edison, and his mother-in-law, suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage.

While the play is G-rated and features a famous children’s book author, it is aimed at adult audiences, though all ages are welcome to attend. Children as young as ten have been engaged by the play; younger children might be bored by it.

The play will also have public performances at the Provo Library, Monday, October 9 at 7p and the Orem Library, Monday October 23 at 7p. It will be performed on Saturday, September 23 at 2p at the United Solo Festival at Theatre Row on 42nd Street in New York City. Tickets for all shows at United Solo are $35 plus fees and can be obtained by following this link. In buying tickets on line, note that the ticketing site will list the time (Sept 23 @ 2p) but not the title; this is only show at United Solo scheduled in that timeslot.

Dr. Newman developed the play during a residency at the Open Eye Theater in upstate New York in October 2016, with the premiere production under the direction of Dr. Tania Myren. He has since performed the play in Syracuse, New York and Coronado, California; places associated with L Frank Baum’s life and writing. Newman hopes to perform the play in other places associated with Baum, including Aberdeen, South Dakota; Chicago, Illinois; and Holland, Michigan.

John Newman earned his PhD in Educational Theater at New York University, with concentrations in theater for young audiences and playwriting. He has been a professor of theatre at Utah Valley University and Director of the Noorda Theatre Center for Children and Youth since 2010, after teaching and directing theatre for eighteen years at Highland High School in Salt Lake City. As a playwright, Newman has created stage adaptations of novels for Newbery medalists including Avi, Paul Fleischman, Richard Peck, and Jean Lee Latham.

For questions or for more information, email





The Man Behind the Curtain on tour

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Following its premiere at the Open Eye Theater in Margaretville NY, J. D. Newman has performed The Man Behind the Curtain at the Onondaga Historical Association Museum in downtown Syracuse NY, Utah Valley University in Orem UT, Chapman University in Orange CA, and Holladay City Hall in Holladay UT. The show will return in the summer of 2017 with performances anticipated in Utah libraries, New Orleans LA, and in sites associated with the life of L. Frank Baum. Contact if you are interested in booking a

The Man Behind the Curtain and Sandy & the Weird Sisters Premiere at the Open Eye Theater in New York

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For Fall 2016, I am taking a one-semester sabbatical from Utah Valley University and doing a six-week residency at the Open Eye Theater in the Catskill Mountain region of upstate New York. I am performing my original one-man play, The Man Behind the Curtain, under the direction of Tania Myren, and directing my adaptation of my novel Sandy and the Weird Sisters. 

The Man Behind the Curtain centers on L. Frank Baum, best known as the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In the play, Baum confronts an audience disappointed by the cancellation of his theatrical production “The Fairylogue.” He offers them his own personal story of his life as the head of a theatre troupe in New York, as a merchant, baseball promoter, and newspaper editor in South Dakota, as a reporter and china salesman in Chicago, and finally as a writer of children’s stories. The play encourages the children in the audience to imagine impossible things, as he did throughout his life. The drama shows how elements of Baum’s life came together in his best-known story that can be seen as his personal myth.

Sandy and the Weird Sisters tells the story of 12-year-old Sandy Hunter as she redefines herself one summer when she is dropped on the doorstep of her three great-aunts, referred to by the family as the “weird sisters.” The dramatic adaptation has been customized for the casting pool of the small town in New York, with roles for older actors and young girls.MC Photo 3.jpg







Old Miner Children’s Playwriting Contest

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The Noorda Center is sponsoring the second annual Old Miner’s Children’s Playwriting Contest.  Submission deadline is Wednesday, February 3.  Plays must be appropriate for performance for or by children 12 years old and younger.  The winner of the national division (playwrights living in the continental United States) will receive $1000 and lodging, airfare, and per diem for a one-week development process culminating in a staged reading by UVU student actors in April 2015; dates to be arranged between the writer and the Noorda Center upon selection.  The winner in the Utah college division will receive $250, a preliminary reading, and a final reading a week later and will participate in the development of the national winner’s script.  There is also a $500 “Strike It Rich” prize available for a winning play that is based on the lives of real children.

Follow this link for guidelines and submission form:

Old Miner Children’s Playwriting Contest Guidelines and Submission Form 2.1

Leicester Bay Publishes 10 Plays by J.D. Newman

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Leicester Bay Theatricals has recently published ten plays by J.D. Newman.  Leicester Bay is a new and relatively small publisher that now represents work by an impressive group of writers with connections to Utah theatre and/or the national LDS community including James Arrington, Newell Dayley, Michael McLean, Eric Samuelsen,  Marvin Payne, Eric Samuelsen, Tim Slover. Doug Stewart, and Jack Weyland.  The following plays are now fully published by Leicester Bay and are awaiting additional productions:

ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL (adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy)

AWAKENING GALATEA (original verse drama)

DeGRUCHY’S MANTLE (formerly published by Encore)

THE DOCTOR IN SPITE OF HIMSELF (translation of Moliere’s comedy)

GATHERING GRIMM (original drama)

LIBERATION (formerly published by Encore)

The following plays are listed in Leicester Bay’s Premiere File and while they have had staged readings and development workshops, they are awaiting a full premiere production.





For more information, follow this link:

Leicester Bay Books has also published J.D.Newman’s first novel SANDY AND THE WEIRD SISTERS, available from

Information on AATE Unpublished Play Reading Project

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The AATE Playwriting Network is sponsoring its biennial Unpublished Play Reading Project.  Scripts are due December 17, 2015.  All scripts will receive written critiques from playwrights, directors, and professors in the field.  Five scripts will be chosen to be showcased in a scene reading at the 2016 AATE National Conference in Boston in July 2016.  Rules and submission guidelines can be found by following this link:

UPRP 2016 Guidelines

Newman’s adaptation of Carry On Mr Bowditch now touring to Utah schools

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Utah Valley University’s Noorda Theatre Center for Children and Youth will be presenting John Dilworth Newman’s adaptation of  Jean Lee Latham’s Carry On Mr. Bowditch as a touring production in Utah Schools through December 11.  There is still one touring date available on Wednesday, December 9 for a school in Utah Valley.  Contact Kynsie Kiggins at 801-863-KIDS or to book this performance.

Newman’s adaptation of Voyage of the Basset at Mountain View HS

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Mountain View High School in Orem is performing a stage adaptation I did for them of a James Christensen art storybook called VOYAGE OF THE BASSET. It’s playing Thur, Fri, Sat @ 7p (Jan 15, 16, 17) in their auditorium. I did the first draft of the adaptation in Suzan Zeder’s class 16 years ago when I was getting my masters at the University of Texas but the rights were tied up with a Hallmark film version at the time. Mountain View was able to get rights to do a “readers theatre” version rather than a fully staged version, but did get rights to use the projections, so the project has been a great experiment for the advanced drama class in creating an experimental, multimedia performance mode.


Here’s what a Playwrights In Our Schools residency looks like!

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This article in AATE’s Incite-Insight online journal depicts the development of Ric Averill’s Escape from the Labyrinth at DaVinci Academy in Ogden, UT in March 2013 under the direction of Adam Slee.  (Follow the link below).

Utah high school teachers, apply to be the host of the 2015 residency, using the submission form below.

PIOS10 Call for Utah Host Schools D3.1


New article by John Newman: Shakespeare’s Advice to the Playwrights

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John Newman has just published a new article in the 2014 issue of Teaching Theatre, “Perchance You Wonder at this Show: Shakespeare’s Advice to the Playwrights.”  It presents the idea that just as the Bard gave his advice to the actors in Hamlet, he gave his advice to the playwrights, and teachers of playwriting, between the lines of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Here’s a link to the complete article on EdTA’s website, http://www.schooltheatre. org:

Scroll down for information and applications for the Playwrights In Our Schools Project!

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