Thursday, November 4, 2010

a response to New Play Ecology

I've been having an interesting discussion with Thomas Garvey about the New Play Ecology posts I wrote.  He's responded in detail on his blog, The Hub Review.  Our thoughts are pretty different on whether there should be more or fewer new plays by local writers, but I understand where he's coming from.  One of his main assertions, that the biggest deficit in the quality of professional theatre in Boston is local playwrights is an interesting one.  In some ways it's hard to compare actors, directors, and designers with each other--is Cristina Todesco a better designer than Paula Plum is an actress than Lydia Diamon is a playwright?  As a Boston playwright, I like to think we hold our own, but clearly not everyone agrees.

One small note:  I'm hoping to continue the New Play Ecology posts, making them into a series doing a national survey of cities and regions across the country, to see how this season looks for professional theatres doing new plays and staging plays by writers in their own regions.  I'll have a number of guest bloggers writing about their regions and giving some numbers, in an attempt to give a picture of what's happening for playwrights this year.

I'll post my comment to Tom Garvey's post below, just for fun, and to help clarify my own previous posts:

Thanks for the detailed and thoughtful response.

I just wanted to clarify a few points:

1)  We should definitely have more plays produced by people named Gabridge.

2)  I think there are actually lots of opportunities in Boston for early-stage development of plays.  The Huntington and Boston Playwrights Theatre both have reading series, as do a bunch of the smaller companies (I've been fortunate to have readings from the Huntington and BPT this year already).  New Rep is doing some readings.  Rhombus has staged two festivals featuring readings of new plays.  And there are lots of new things happening at the small-theatre level--Boston playwrights have plenty of opportunities to have their short plays staged in various festivals.  But it's professional productions of full-length plays that seem to be lacking (in my opinion).

3)  I'm excited about all the regional premieres, and glad that Boston audiences are getting to see plays by Annie Baker and Alan Ayckbourn and Neil Labute, but those plays all were developed somewhere, through readings, and workshops, and productions.  That's the key thing to keep in mind, that even Sarah Kane and Caryl Churchill's plays grew and developed and transformed in rehearsal and production.  New plays don't just get sucked off the page and mounted as is.  All the classics you see were extensively rewritten in rehearsal, over and over again.  If the Boston theatre community wants to have some importance nationally, and I think it does, it has to become a place where plays get that chance to grow in rehearsal, where writers have the chance to work with the top-notch professional actors, directors, and designers that you mention in your post.  I think one can reasonably argue whether the modern "development" process of multiple readings and workshops ends up helping or hurting new plays, but I don't think you can avoid the central nature of how plays are ultimately made and refined, and that's in rehearsal for full-staged production and then in response to what happens in that production.  One of my plays, Blinders, received five productions in various cities, and from each one, I was able to make improvements and learn more about the play and playwriting in general. 

Clearly what we need to satisfy us both is more theatres--a few who focus on new work and local writers, and a few who focus on classics and rarely staged work.  (A guy can dream, can't he?)

No comments: