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Plays Inverse creates a literary experience for readers of the printed play

Tyler Crumrine grew up in rural Ligonier with a love of dramatic literature. Too far from Pittsburgh to see live shows, he became a voracious reader of plays. Crumrine would research playwrights and read through their entire body of work. He channeled this early passion into a career at Pittsburgh’s City Theatre Company where he handles charitable contributions.

“I love [City Theatre] and am grateful to have a day job in my field that's not only fulfilling but also allows time to work on my own projects on the side,” he says. 

One of those projects is Plays Inverse, a small press publisher of plays and play-like literature that Crumrine was inspired to create because he was tired of the poor production quality of the plays he loves to read for pleasure. 

“I started to find that these acting additions…they were hard to distinguish from each other on the shelf and reading them wasn’t the easiest thing either.”

Most plays are published in trade paperback on poor quality paper. They are often riddled with typos and cram as many words onto the page as possible. They serve as a most basic instruction manual for performing the play. Other books Crumrine read paid meticulous attention to typography and design--he wanted to translate that experience to reading plays.

Additionally, through his work with City Theatre, Crumrine came to realize that new or lesser-known plays will often have just a couple of performances and disappear without publication. He knew that Plays Inverse could be a platform to publish these types of plays.

The name of the press was born out of an auto-correct error from a text Crumrine sent. For once there was no need to curse the often-pesky editing tool, “Plays Inverse” perfectly encompassed the publisher’s mission to invert traditional play publishing and create stylish editions of plays in verse, or in a poetic lyrical style.

The press' first release, The Holy Ghost People came to Crumrine coincidentally.

“I met Tyler, strangely, on Goodreads, [a social media site for reading],” explains Chicago writer Joshua Young. After Crumrine left an encouraging comment on Young’s first play, they started emailing back and forth. When Crumrine asked if Young had written anything new, he decided to share an excerpt of what would become The Holy Ghost People.

The Holy Ghost People centers around two groups of performers or choruses: the Holy Ghost People and the Speakers. The Holy Ghost People claim to have traveled space and time to bring a galactic gospel to Earth. They preach a wrathful god who plans on destroying the planet if the Speakers don't repent. The Speakers mostly laugh them away, but as the Holy Ghost People start gaining converts, the Speakers become less patient and resort to violence. The play tackles subject matter including faith, science, dogma and community with a dark sense of humor.

Producing The Holy Ghost People was a labor of love for Crumrine. He learned how to use Adobe InDesign to plan the layout and interior design of the book and recruited Ryan Spooner, a designer and writer in Chicago, to create the cover. Crumrine also helped edit the play and provided feedback for formatting.

“We talked about style and form as a written play,” says Young. “In fact, Tyler's suggestions really brought the play to life by allowing scenes to breath.”

Luckily, this first attempt was a success.The Holy Ghost People was published in February and was well received in both the publishing and theater communities.The initial printing ran 250 books and Crumrine reports that sales have already recouped those costs.

The Holy Ghost People was printed and bound by Spencer Printing in Honesdale, PA. Crumrine was pleased to keep the printing local and would like to continue to keep the manufacturing close to home.

“Different books and different sized runs always have their own needs, so I'd be happy to talk with and continue to consider businesses here in Pittsburgh,” Crumrine says.

Young hopes to visit Pittsburgh on his book tour to help celebrate with Plays Inverse and connect with Crumrine.           

“I've still never met the dude,” Young says.

Following the success of its first release, Plays Inverse has already announced its next publication: Bloodletting in Minor Scales [A Canvas in Arms] by Justin Limoli, for which a release date has yet to be announced.

Also, Plays Inverse is looking for submissions; “There are a lot of things we'd love to see, but as a small press a lot of what can we do next depends on the types of submissions we've received. The more options/variety we have to choose from, the better,” explains Crumrine.

Keep in mind that Plays Inverse publishes plays that read well and “come to life on the page”, not just on stage. Interested writers can submit work through Play Inverse’s website.

Crumrine has also been approached to create staged readings of his publications.

“Full stagings of our plays, especially some of the more experimental ones, is definitely something we'd like to see in the future, and would be happy to help work with organizations on,” Crumrine says. “It's just a matter of finding the space, resources, and time.”

However, full stagings aren’t necessarily the endgame for Plays Inverse’s publications. Good dramatic literature can be visualized in the mind, explains Crumrine. “It's a unique literary experience, not to mention the fact that poets write the coolest stage directions.”

The Holy Ghost People can be purchased locally in Amazing Books, Calaban Books and the East End Book Exchange or can be ordered online.

Photos by Brian Cohen.
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