The Texas retreat is housed at a beautiful, quiet, extremely remote family compound in the Hill Country, two and a half hours outside San Antonio. Each writer has a private stone cabin, roomy and comfortable but very basic. Cement floors, simple bunk beds, stone walls. Shower/toilet facilities are shared. It’s kind of a “camp” setting. There is also a river, a swimming hole, armadillos, stars.
We eat together in silence, and everyone has a few chores (generally one half hour task every other day, like washing up or sweeping) to make it all run smoothly. Food is mainly vegetarian (and fully vegetarian for any so inclined). There is internet, only for very urgent usage. There is no cell service at the ranch though there is a land line for emergencies. This retreat is fully funded but writers are responsible for travel in and out of San Antonio.
The Stillwright retreats are intensives in which artists gather in silence and make a piece of work entirely from scratch. The retreats are structured by Erik Ehn, who leads the group in regular sessions of writing exercises that punctuate the days.
Unlike other retreats or residencies, this is very much geared toward the generation of new work; it doesn't work well for writers who want to revise an existing play, or even write a play they already have in mind. Some playwrights have come away from these retreats with plays they were later able to produce, others have left with work which interested them, but which they didn't want to put forward for a further life, and both groups have found the retreat equally valuable. The real goal of the retreat is to have a chance to work in a thoroughly absorbed and uninterrupted fashion and to perhaps work in a new and entirely idiosyncratic way. The silence is part of the challenge, and part of the unusual level of concentration the retreat creates.
Here is the 2015 American Theatre magazine article about the retreats.
If You’re Coming
If you are selected to come on retreat you will only be fully confirmed once you have sent us your flight information (or let us know your alternate travel arrangements). We’ll let you know the deadline for that.
WHAT TO BRING
Please bear in mind that the nearest town/drugstore is an hour away and you won't be able to get to it anyway so, do pack with cunning and foresight.
A bath towel, and another towel, if you like, for swimming
Wrist watch and/or travel clock with alarm
A notebook or pad of paper, and pen (for the sessions with Erik)
Any personal first aid items (aspirin, bandaids, Neosporin, moleskin, etc.)
Hat and/or sun block
Bug spray if you're sensitive (though it’s not too buggy there)
Optional but Probably Handy
Fave snack. We will have snacks, but if you have a particular something you really like to be assured of having, bring it.
A personal water bottle.
Books (Erik’s advice is to bring books which aren't particularly taxing—this isn't the time to bring that serious book you've been waiting to for an opportunity to concentrate on; especially bring books you wouldn't mind sharing when you're done).
Yoga mat if you want to do yoga.
A bandana or handkerchief is handy to wet and put in freezer, in case you get very hot.
We'll be doing warm ups so bring something you can move around in easily.
Bring a light sweatshirt or sweater and maybe pants and socks for the evenings which can get cool.
There is laundry on site so you can pack light if you like.
Bring extra hangers if you have more than 4 or 5 items which need to be hung.
Check the weather forecast before you come; it’s usually hot there, but as we know, the climate is a bit unstable of late.
Sturdy shoes or sneakers for walk/hikes
Sandals, or something easy to slip on and off for around the compound
There are plenty of electrical outlets and extension cords at the ranch.
There is NO cellphone coverage and we discourage the use of the limited internet service which is available there. This should be used only for emergency check-ins with family or something which absolutely completely utterly has to be addressed in that week. We recommend putting an ‘out of office’ notification on your email accounts while away and bidding your nearest and dearest farewell for the few days that you’ll be out of contact.
There is a landline number, strictly for real emergencies. No one will pick this number up, but it rings in the Lodge where someone will almost always be in the daytime, and it will be checked for messages.
A COUPLE OF THINGS TO NOTE
In recent seasons some retreaters have had encounters with fire ants, an invasive species in that area; we will discuss the best methods for avoiding them and will have some treatments on hand, but if you know yourself to be particularly susceptible you might want bring your own remedy.
These retreats are set up and run by playwright volunteers who contribute their time and will be undertaking the retreat in its entirety; to that end, we do ask all participants to help keep the retreat running; please be prepared to contribute in the form of light chores: striking the breakfast set-up, doing dishes after dinner, helping to set up before lunch, sweeping the common area at night. The commitment is fairly minimal and generally welcome as a respite from the immense uberchore of writing!