Meet WeGoCentric for the pro-active playwright — The Loop — AAPEX

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Meet WeGoCentric for the pro-active playwright

A very smart, very savvy group of playwrights from Chicago got good and tired of waiting for the big theatres to notice/produce/support them. So they thought, "What the hell? We'll just do it ourselves." Read about their fascinating work as WeGoCentric.
The Loop

I have been a playwright for over thirty years with some successes and many failures. I have always felt at the mercy of theatre companies, submitting scripts and then waiting . . . and hoping . . . and waiting . . . and . . .self-doubting . . . and, well, you get the idea.

I thought many times — who is going to come to my aid? What theatre is going to say, “We love your musical!” Where was my Angel (who, I fantasized I would somehow meet at a party) who would (after I charmed her and explained my musical) say, “Here’s $1,000,000 to produce your show!” Yeah, sure, all of this could happen. And I could win the Lottery, too. The odds are about the same.

I live in Chicago. The Windy City has a thriving theatrical community and literally hundreds and hundreds of talented playwrights call it home.

Companies such as Chicago Dramatists, Theatre Building Chicago, and others provide a fabulous service, supporting playwrights through classes, readings, and production opportunities. But due to budgets, staffing, space and time, these opportunities have limitations. There is a shortage of opportunities and a wealth of very good, if not experienced, playwrights in this town. For every opportunity, there are ten playwrights who believe they deserve that chance. And they are right. Here are excerpts from an article written by Gary Garrison, Creative Director of the Dramatists’ Guild of America, discussing self-production with a group of dramatists in Seattle in 2008:

“. . . Guild members quickly articulated a common concern . . . dramatists can’t get produced in their own backyards.”

“What was extraordinary . . . was the almost instant call — by representatives of three large theatres . . . for playwrights to stop focusing on something that’s probably not going to happen for a variety of predominantly economic reasons, and instead to channel that passion and energy to either co-producing . . . or self-producing.”

“. . . there was something empowering in dramatists realizing that if they want their stories told to a local audience, they’d most likely have to figure out for themselves how best to do that. And they should. They should figure it out because every voice should be heard, and every story desperately needs to be told.”

So, how do playwrights who have a finished piece, either a play or a musical, get their play from the page to the stage? I faced this very situation in the fall of 2007 when I finished the first draft for musical, Song-Poems Wanted! The Musical. Although I was a member of Theatre Building Chicago’s Musical Theatre Workshop, we had missed the deadline for submission to their 2008 Stages Festival. And though I knew the show had potential, I wasn’t very optimistic that it would be chosen for one of the Monday Night Readings at TBC (there are only 8 each year) for the 2008-2009 year. At that time Chicago Dramatists didn’t support the development of musicals.

I had a choice. I could wait a year or try the traditional submission route (which basically still takes a year or more to come to fruition, if it ever does) or I could take the bull by the horns and force the development of this show. I knew the show needed to go through the development process (table readings, public readings, workshops) for it to become polished.

Self-production. Self-promotion. Those were the answers I discussed. In order to achieve what I wanted to do without waiting in a long line, I was determined to do it myself. Fortunately, with a background as an actor, director, producer, I had self-produced my own works in the past.

So I took the leap of faith, put almost ten-thousand dollar of my own money into developing the show, and as a result it will be presented at the Stages Festival, Theatre Building Chicago on August 22nd and 23rd, 2009. And this is just the beginning of the process of obtaining a commercially viable production of the show.

I wanted to share my experience with other writers, so I formed WeGoCentric, the Writers’ Entrepreneurial Group of Chicago in May. The Mission of WeGoCentric is to assist writers to become entrepreneurs by helping them self-produce, self-promote and self-publish their plays and musicals.

Think of yourself, the playwright part of you, as a business. Of course you are an artist, too. But for most artists, to be fulfilled, your art needs to be exposed to the public.

Think of WeGoCentric as a business-to-business, service-based company, with writers paying fees for the services they desire to achieve those goals.

WeGoCentric hopes to become a bridge that will take your work from the page to the stage and lead you closer to a legitimate production of your play or musical. We encourage writers to be entrepreneurs and to further their work via alternative methods.

WeGoCentric provides writers with a safe and trusted support system (typically provided by a theatre company) by connecting them with producers, directors, actors and support people who know how to develop and produce new plays.

We hope to create a level of artistic trust so that you know your play will receive the attention it needs. We help writers produce table readings, public readings, and workshops of their plays and musicals. We help writers format their plays correctly, write synopses and cover letters for the submission process, and we even provide help with the actual submission process. We also develop web pages for writers and their plays. In the future, we hope to originate creative and cost effective ways of promoting new work to theatres across the country.

But by no means is WeGoCentric the only outlet for playwrights to move their projects forward. Here a few other suggestions. First, every playwright who has a play finished needs to join the Dramatist’s Guild of America. Period. That’s the first $95 you should invest. The membership provides so many benefits and the Chicago branch is strong and growing under the guidance of Doug Post. By attending the meetings and participating in the group discussions, you might find a writers’ cooperative that you could join (or form) that supports new work. Second, explore Chicago Dramatist’s and Theatre Building Chicago’s programs and find out how you can take advantage of the classes and developmental processes offered. Both programs have allowed members to self-produce shows using their facility within the last year. There are no guarantees, but at least there are opportunities. Third, find a theatre that you feel is perfect for your play, and be realistic. If you are a novice playwright, the chances of the Goodman producing your work are very, very slim. So find a smaller theatre whose mission statement resonates with your play, and vice versa. Then focus on seeing their shows, making contacts and maybe even volunteering, just to get your foot in the door and your name known.

There is no question that playwrights will self-produce and self-promote more and more as theatre companies offer fewer and fewer opportunities. The only question is how to do so without falling prey to the “vanity production” syndrome. Russ Tutterow of Chicago Dramatists says, “. . . if the production is good, no one cares who produced it. If it is bad, and it was produced by the author, then it’s a vanity production.”

So how do you make sure your self-production is one of the good ones and not one of the vanity productions? Let’s assume you have a finished first draft of a play or musical. That doesn’t mean it is ready for Broadway. I don’t care if you are Stephen Sondheim or Edward Albee. It needs to go through a developmental process before it is time for serious money to be invested. The process can be shortened with experience, but for less experienced playwrights, it might goes like this: Finished first draft, followed by a dramaturg or a director reading and commentary and evaluation, followed by rewrites, followed by a table reading with a few friends and mentors, followed by evaluation, followed by rewrites, followed by a table reading (this time using actors who are age appropriate, etc.), followed by evaluation, followed by rewrites, followed a public reading, hopefully in front of 100 or less audience members that represent the audience you are hoping to attract (i.e. not just friends and family).

By this point, the writer should have worked most of the bugs out of the script and the public reading will allow an audience’s reactions to “tell” the writer if the play is communicating what the playwright thought it was. If positive, their response will excite the playwright to move ahead with the project and find a way to take the next step. If not, it may be time to move on to another project. And at least the writer didn’t put his work in front of a paying audience and critics, spending thousands of dollars to find out that his or her play needs more work.

If you are a playwright, good luck and good fortune, for it can pay off, artistically and financially. But it doesn’t just happen. Angels are few and far between. At least I know I’ve never met mine. If you want your play to move forward, you are going to have to play an active role in its development.

For more information about writer support groups and self-production, take a look at these websites: WeGoCentric, You can visit the Dramatist’s Guild of America at and ask for information about the Chicago area meetings. Contact Chicago Dramatists at, and Theatre Building Chicago at

Source: The Loop

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this. This is the writer of the article and the creator of WeGoCentric. If you have any other questions, let me know.

    Larry Carpenter