UPDATE: A number of people have written in on e-mail and twitter to say something to the effect of "Wow, that's enough material for several posts you put up there". And I agree! However, since I have at least two more (probably not short) posts based on TCG Conference stuff and a car ride from DC to Brooklyn to do today... I don't see why I need to be the one to write them! If you find any of the points below worth talking about, please feel free to leave a comment and, if you're a fellow blogger, write a blog post if you feel so inclined and drop the URL in the comments box. I'll add a link to you here in this post.
Attended a breakout session called "New Plays: Derailed in Production?" about how new plays often go horribly awry when they make the lead from development to production, how to put the playwright in the driver seat, how to fix NPD. I have been in a lot of meetings that take this as its subject. This is one of the few times I've been in a meeting talking about this with a group densely populated with institutional power players however.
One of the things that can happen with blogs that's kinda weird is the conversation can get a little perverted by the selection process of readers/commenters. Another way to put it is that successful artists and admin people tend not to blog about issues of actual controversy. So, sometimes when i talk to people about stuff that's going on on the blogs, they'll dismiss it by saying: "well, yes, but those people actually have very little real worl experience". Well, you know what? The conversation we had today... not super different from the conversations i've had with bloggers, or on the lincoln center directors lab with early career playwrights etc.
I have decided to simply type up, without any kind of comment, my minutes from that meeting today. NB: I do not necessarily agree with everything I'm writing below, I simply wrote down everyting that interested me. This is offered here to my readers in the hope that they can take these conversational threads and do something with them. Have fun!
(A) What is up with the term "stakeholders"? Where did that come from? Why is it everywhere now?
(B) What is a playwright an expert on about their play? What are other people in the process experts on?
(C) Context of the institution itself? How does conversation change if we stop thining about LORT theaters?
(D) Designing customized processes for each play
(E) Smaller companies named more often as ideal places that playwrights want to work
(1) Playwright feels in charge
(2) Stakes lower, lower risk to failure vis-a-vis theater's career
(F) Risk at large institutions working on new work is not just to the institution, it's also to the playwright for the level of exposure they're getting on their work, given that they don't have institutional power to fall back on.
(1) How does producing change if you consider this risk?
(G) Ex of producing models that work best?
(1) When theater is jazzed to produce the play
(2) When playwright is asked about role of institutional dramaturg and what they want it to be
(3) When they're included in as much of the producing process as possible and transparency
(4) When youi're a black playwright and work isn't produced in February
(H) The term "emerging"... what the fuck are you if you're over 35 and haven't won a pulitzer/tony?
(I) "I don't think theaters should invest in plays; they should invest in playwrights."... is this part of building audiences for new work the same way that having long-term commitments to actors can help build audiences?
(J) There are times when an institution can help a writer by being more involved in theirproduction, you wouldn't just want to hand the keys of the McCarter over to Tarrell Alvin McCraney and go "have fun doing your trilogy of plays in rep with each other, dude!"
(K) Communication... institutions don't ask enough ?'s of their playwrights... trust... how to build it
(L) Starting from asking ?'s
(M) The dramatists guild contract is a good place to start./.. it gives playwrights approval over director, actor, designers and more. (Info here for those interested)
(N) Emily Mann is pretty awesome. so is lydia diamond.
(O) Issue of playwright's director being replaced... what do you do when the isntitution wants another director?
(P) the "marriage" of writer-director-institution can often feel like a mail order bride relationship. How do we date first?
(Q) "In my work w/ playwrights, I gotta say, they're baffled by institutions."
(R) Are then reading/workshops a way to date?
(S) Lets be honest about the power differential in institution/writer relationships. "If a writer sits down with someone from roundabout, that person from roundabout has steady work, health insurance, a whole organzation backing them. The playwright has maybe their agent."
(T) What does the phrase "we want to produce this play" mean? it might mean different things between playwright and producer
(U) You can't build trust sans opportunities to build trust
(V) "To what degree is the fact that theaters have custody of an audience part of the process?"
(W) THe audience in our imaginations can exist somewhere. Finding the right place with that audience part of the process.
(X) Director-playwright relationship (Mason-Wilson, Bogart-Vogel etc.) now being mediated by dramaturgs and ADs etc.
(Y) Theaters have a POV that they have to do everything themselves instead of partnering with other orgs. Let Sundance do the development, or whatever.
(Z) How much power is there really in the power to say no?
(AA) Quote from George Thorn (nolt in attendance) "No models, only examples."
(BB) Development Hell = "Going back to sqaure one with each new group that wants to develop the show"
(CC) Is the problem going for perfection? "I'm directing Fool for Love right now and i find the ending very problematic, but I love the play and I'm doing it anyway." "We could do a better job celebrating our failures"