The State of Theatre in America: Philly — AAPEX

Monday, May 25, 2009

The State of Theatre in America: Philly

Recently, I asked for feedback regarding theatre in some American cities. Here's one encouraging response from Philadelphia, PA:


The theater scene in Philly is terrific. We have more LORT companies than any city in the country (Chicago, LA, NY excluded -- all have other kinds of contracts) and a lot of SPT's. There are about 90 companies in our Theater Alliance, and you should check out their web site for more info. Philly has a large and vibrant acting community -- virtually all equity -- and actors here buy houses, have families, live middle class lives, and have for a dozen years. Unlike many cities that have large regional theaters, Philadelphia alone among big cities has regional theaters that cast locally. There is also a strong technical community, an established playwriting community and an up-and-coming playwriting community, and decent opportunities for entering artists. There is a terrific fringe festival every fall that is competitive with any American Fringe, and I would argue better than most. (I have been to several of them.) The Fringe Festival has spawned many young companies and is also the yearly venue for both established and new experimental companies -- two of which are Obie Winners: Pig Iron Theater Company and New Paradise Laboratories. One of the nation's premiere black companies is here, Freedom Theater Company, and while they have struggled in recent years they are still producing new and classic work. InterAct Theater Company is one of the premiere new play theater companies in the nation and was among founding theaters of the National New Play Network. The Wilma Theater is a 25 year old company that does new work and European work, often edgy and exciting. The Arden has done amazing work over the years as well, and People Light, about 25 miles west of the city as well -- new plays and classics. I have been the Literary Manager and Dramaturg in house at InterAct Theater Company (1998-2005) and freelance since then. I have worked as a dramaturg at PlayPenn (2005-2009), at Seven Devils in Idaho (it is possible to have a national career from Philly) and at the Lark this past fall. A new company I have gotten involved with this spring is taking a show to Edinburgh this summer and has commissioned a new musical from two amazing young artists. As a playwright, I have had my work produced in world premieres here by InterAct and Theater Catalyst, and I have been commissioned to work from here on pieces for other companies and institutions. I hope I am communicating my basic exuberance for the scene here to you. There are glitches and bad seasons, but over all over the past 15 years, way more positive than negative.

Larry Loebell
Playwright and Dramaturg

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