Where Are The Plays? — The Loop — AAPEX

Friday, May 4, 2007

Where Are The Plays?

The following editorial by Gary Garrison for The Loop has resonance for all playwrights struggling to get their works seen on stage and we thank him for allowing us to post it here. The Loop is a net based newsletter aimed at playwrights. One of its unique features is that it regularly posts info about theater companies looking for new plays and refuses to hype any fee based playwrighting contest. AAPEX highly recommends requesting a free subscription at looptyloop@gmail.com.

Look how many people (new Loopers) joined this month. Staggering. AND, if you saw their private data, you’d know they’re from Texas, Great Britain, Georgia, Hawaii, California, Maine, Missouri . . . in other words, many other places BEYOND New York.

I love New York. I’ve lived here for twenty years. But it’s not the center of the friggin’ universe, okay?! Can we all agree to that? I mean, don’t get me wrong: it’s a fun place to live and practice your art. But great theatre, really great theatre, is being written and produced all over the country – all over the world. And it’s just plain ill-informed for everyone to collectively bob their heads toward New York to see what’s happening in the theatre. And it’s even more wrong-minded to think you can’t have a career as a playwright if you don’t get produced here.

Over the last several months, I’ve been really fortunate to travel around the country meeting folks and talking to writers, actors, artistic directors, designers and literary managers. There is some BRILLIANT theatre being done in Atlanta. Pittsburgh is bursting with creative energy and playwrights who love play-making. Washington, D.C. is a literal open invitation to anyone who wants to commune with like-minded artists that want to share a dramatic story while earning the artistic respect we all want. Don’t like those cities? How about Chicago, Boston, Portland, Minneapolis, Ft. Wayne, Dallas or Los Angeles?

What New York is learning to do – sadly – is produce amazing commercial theatre; theatre intended for your mother, father and Aunt Sweezie who’s never stopped talking about Cats – The Musical. People who point to Disney are fooling themselves; it ain’t Disney, baby. It’s every sane producer looking to make a profit in a market that is shrinking by the day. Sad cases in point: Legally Blonde – The Musical, Beauty and The Beast, Tarzan, Grease, Hairspray, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Mary Poppins, Spamalot – need I go on? And before anyone tries to bust my chops about musicals, I like musicals, okay? But is there a dearth of original ideas, or are producers banking on a horse that’s already successfully crossed a finish line?

“That’s Broadway,” you say. Have you seen Off-Broadway lately? Of the thirty-four productions listed on Playbill On-Line, fourteen are musicals – almost half. So where are the plays? Off-Off Broadway, yes. But, poor baby. OOB’s gotten such a bad rap for being inconsistent that few people (beyond friends of the cast, director, designers, t.d.) make the effort. So where are the plays?

Baltimore, San Diego, Ft. Lauderdale, Provincetown, Bangor, Philadelphia. You follow me? The real work of playwrights all across this country is happening, more times than not, where you live – or close by. So embrace it. Love your geography; keep your heart there while looking around. And if you just gotta get out, get away, there are a lot of places to live in this great country, and even more to practice your art.

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