Thursday, October 28, 2010

New Play Ecology, part 2, New England

So yesterday, I took a look at this season's outlook for new plays and Boston playwrigthts.  But what about the rest of New England?  Boston writers are close enough to most theatres in the rest of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine to be take part in the development and production process of their work, if their plays were being produced.  Are they?  How are New England playwrights faring at home, generally?

Let's take a look at how many world premieres we have, state by state:


Stoneham Theatre:  none

Merrimack Repertory Theatre:  1 world premiere, The Exceptionals by Bob Clyman

Gloucester Stage Company:  ?  They haven't announced their season yet.  They were founded by a pretty well-known playwright, so there's always hope here.  (Last year they did one world premiere, of Tender by Kelly Younger, but the rest were plays that had started elsewhere.)

Williamstown Theatre Festival:  2 world premieres, Samuel J and K by Mat Smart and After the Revolution by Amy Herzog.

Berkshire Theatre Festival:  1 world premiere, No Wake by Boston-area writer Bill Donnelly

Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater:  none.  (In 2008, they did four world premieres.  And have a history of working with writers.)

Wellesley Summer Theatre Company:   none


Connecticut Repertory Theatre:  none

Goodspeed Musicals:  3 world premieres, Radio Girl, book by Daniel Godlfarb,music by Henry Krieger, lyrics by Susan Birkenhead, Band Geeks, music by Mark Allen, Gaby Alter, and Tommy Newman, Lyrics by Gaby Alter and Tommy Newman, and book by Tommy Newman and Gordon Greenberg.  And James and the Giant Peach, music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, book by Timothy Allen McDonald.

Hartford Stage:  1 world premiere, Divine Rivalry by Michael Kramer

Long Wharf Theatre:   none

Seven Angels Theatre (Waterbury):  1 world premiere, Mad Bomber,  book and lyrics by Charles Monagan (he lives in Waterbury, CT), music by Richard DeRosa.

Yale Repertory:  2 world premieres, We Have Always Lived in the Castle--book and lyrics by Adam Bock, music and Lyrics by Todd Almond, and Bossa Nova by my friend and fellow Rhombus member, Kirsten Greenidge (go see it).


Portland Stage Company:  2 world premieres, Last Gas by John Cariani (who is originally from Maine, but I think he's in NYC now) and The Center of Gravity by Gregory Hischak.

The Public Theatre (Lewiston/Auburn):  none

Mad Horse Theatre Company (Portland):  none

New Hampshire:

Peterborough Players:  none

Seacoast Repertory Theatre:  1 world premiere, Gay Bride of Frankenstein, book by Dane Leeman and Billy Butler, music and lyrics by Billy Butler (New England writers).

Rhode Island:

Trinity Repertory Company:  1 world premiere, Edgar Allan Poe by company member Stephen Thorne.

The Gamm Theatre:  none

Perishable Theatre:  none  (they did some new one-acts in their women's festival, but I'm only looking at full-length plays for now)


Northern Stage:  none

Vermont Stage Company:  none

Weston Playhouse Theatre Company:  1 world premiere, The Oath by Gavin Broady.  (Their first world premiere ever.)

To sum up:  In the seasons of 24 professional theatres of various size in New England (not counting Boston), there are 16 world premieres (by 11 theatres).  Quite a few musicals.  Only six of the writers are from New England.  Not exactly great numbers if you're a New England playwright (okay, they're kind of depressing).   It'd sure be nice to see an average of at least 1 new play per theatre, and a lot stronger commitment to New England writers.  (I'm not sure about where the teams from Goodspeed are from, so there could be a few more New Englanders in the mix.)

If you add the Boston numbers from yesterday's post to the mix, you get 34 professional theatres offering a total of 27 world premieres between them.  Twelve of those world premieres are by local writers.  That's twelve playwrights getting full-length professional productions in the entire New England region, in the next season.  On the plus side (I've got to find one in there somewhere), there are smaller theatres giving playwrights a chance to get their work on stage, especially in Boston.  (I'll have to figure out how many.)

It all feels like a lot to think about.   As I said yesterday, there is no shortage of talented New England playwrights, writing plenty of scripts.  Many of which are being staged in other cities and regions.  How can we encourage more theatres to develop and produce new work by local writers?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Daddy Where Do New Plays Come From? (New Play Ecology, part 1, Boston)

That's an excellent question, Virginia: where do new plays come from?  Well, now that the upcoming seasons have been announced, we can actually start to answer that question.  Since we live in Boston, let's take a look at which theatres are doing new plays here in Boston.  And by new plays, I mean either world premieres or fairly new plays by Boston writers.  (Recent Off Broadway hits do not count as new plays.)

In particular, let's talk about large and medium-sized Boston theatres who putting on professional productions.  There are smaller theatres doing new work, which is important, too, but we'll hit those another day.

Huntington Theatre Company:  2 world premieres:  Vengeance is the Lord's by Bob Glaudini, and Son of the Prophet by Stephen Karam (though the fine print says "Commissioned and produced by special arrangement with Roundabout Theatre Company, and I'm not exactly sure what that means.)

American Repertory Theatre:  1 world premiere (though Ajax is a new translation...), Prometheus Bound by Steven Sater.

Those are the big guys.  How about some of the mid-sized and bigger small theatres in Boston:

Lyric Stage:  none

Speakeasy:  none

New Rep:  1 world premiere, afterlife: a ghost story by Steve Yockey (this is a "rolling world premiere" with the National New Play Network, which means the play will be premiered by several NNPN members this year).

Boston Playwrights Theatre:  (these guys always win) 3 world premieres:  Five Down One Across by Michael Towers, Two Wives in India by (my pal) Leslie Harrell Dillen, and Waking the Volcano by Jon Lipsky.  Two of these are Boston writers, too (Leslie abandoned us for New Mexico).  I'll just highlight all the Boston writers receiving premieres (or even productions of full-length plays)  (Theresa Rebeck is not a Boston writer anymore, sorry.)

Company One:  1 world premiere, on their Second Stage (you know they're getting bigger when they have a second stage), Cartoon Confessions by John Kunz and Rick Park.

Actors Shakespeare Project:  2 world premieres (both by Boston writers).  Okay, I didn't expect to see them doing as many new plays by Boston writers as BPT, but they are.  Their Winter Festival will feature two-week runs of The Hotel Nepenthe by John Kuntz and Living in Exile by Jon Lipsky.  Both these guys seem to be about to have a pretty good season.

Central Square Theatre:  1 world premiere (though they had a good year of new plays last year), Silver Spoon by Amy Merrill and Si Kahn.

Zeitgeist Stage:  none.

So, in the seasons of ten Boston theaters, we have 11 world premieres (out of more than 50 productions), though BPT skews the average a little.  Of those 11 world premieres, 6 are by Boston writers (only 4 out of 10 theatres are producing work by local writers).  If you take BPT out of the mix, since they exclusively produce new work by BU alums, that leaves us with 4 full-length plays written by Boston writers getting professional productions in town. 

Given those numbers, you wouldn't know that we have a wealth of playwrights living in or near Boston, whose work has been widely produced.  There are no full-length plays on Boston stages this season from Kirsten Greenidge, Lydia Diamond, Ronan Noone, Ken Urban, or Melinda Lopez.  (or that Gabridge guy)   And there are more, too.  I can't list everyone, but some of these come to mind: Joyce Van Dyke, Peter Snoad, John Shea, Jacqui Parker, Kate Snodgrass, Bill Donnelley, Janet Kenney, Monica Raymond, my fellow Rhombus members--Joe Byers, Carl Danielson, Ginger Lazarus, Alexa Mavromatis.  And there are scores more (who I hope will forgive me if I haven't included them in this list, including the new HPF members, whose names aren't public yet).

So what does all this mean?  I'm not sure.  To me, the numbers of new plays by Boston writers seem very, very low.  (Imagine if only four out of ten professional theatres hired ANY local actors or directors.  It's not the same, but...)   Most Boston playwrights aren't getting the chances here at home to fully develop their work, and to learn by seeing how those plays succeed or fail in front of audiences. 

It also shows that while Boston audiences are getting plenty of exciting imports, they're not seeing plays produced by people who live and work in their communities.  And audiences are not developing relationships with local playwrights (though they do with local actors and directors)--this creation of an audience for a certain writer's plays can play an important role in the growth of a playwright, because it helps level out the hit/flop mentality that can come with the production of only a single show or two by a writer--audiences (and critics) start to follow a writer, and a two-way relationship forms and actually helps shape the work.  Audiences might not love every show by that writer, but they want to see what's going to come next.

The numbers might to point to gaps in the market that could potentially be filled by new companies who have a stronger focus on new work and work by local writers.  For now, Boston remains a town where exciting new work can be imported (just look at ArtsEmerson), but very little new work written by Boston writers and produced by Boston theatres gets exported to other cities.  I'd sure like to see that change.

Coming next:  New Play Ecology, part 2, the rest of New England)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Video with tips on how to market your book (from me, Trisha Gura, and Sarah Smith)

A couple years ago, a bunch of Brookline writers got together and started the Brookline Authors Group.  It's since cooled down (everyone got busy with other stuff), but for while we put together some good programming.  Especially good, I thought, was a series called Brookline Writes, filmed by Brookline Access Television (Jonatha Ceely helped run things, and Polly Hogan was the host).

Two of the shows we focused on marketing, and I was one of the guests, along with Trisha Gura and Sarah Smith.  Trisha and Sarah are a lot more experienced than I am (so really pay attention to what they say), but I'd had some useful experience with smaller publishers and a lot of hands-on marketing (and spend a lot of time thinking about ways to market plays and books).

For some reason (maybe building the new gorgeous studios), it took Forever for these videos to finally be posted online.  But I just discovered today that they're now available.  So check them out.

If you have a novel coming out soon, you might want to check these out.

Here's part 1:

and here's part 2:

I hope they're helpful.