Where to Find New American Playwrights?
After seeing numerous theatrical productions over the years, including Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off Broadway and so far off Broadway
you look up to find your in Weehawken, I often wonder why so many plays get done over and over again? How many times are Broadway
producers going to bring back 42nd Street? Is there really a need to revive Ol' Calcutta? And is there anyone in the United States who
has not seen Phantom of the Opera? Really?
inues to come up year after year when I see the revival of productions on Broadway and theatre houses across the country with these "old favorites." Now don't get me wrong, as some of these shows had ridiculously long runs when they first opened and obviously continue to draw patrons, otherwise why would we continue seeing them? So there in lies the question... are there no new playwrights out there putting out new works worthy of a Broadway run? Personally, I think that there are plenty of fantastic up-and-coming playwrights out there worthy of the opportunity to showcase their works to the masses. So where are they you ask? Well, there are a lot who tirelessly continue work-shopping their pieces in a variety of ways. A great way to catch some new works are through readings which happen across most cities, submissions of new works as well as the smaller theatre festivals that happen on an ongoing basis at a theatre near you.
One of the most popular is the Fringe Fest, which most cities now participate in at different times throughout the year. Fringe theatre is a term used to describe alternative theatre, or entertainment not of the mainstream. Fringe festival productions often showcase new scripts, especially ones on more obscure, edgy or unusual material (according to Wikipedia.) A lot like film festivals, works are showcased in an effort to potentially have this piece picked up and taken to another level whereby it may be produced at a larger theater.
Other festivals occur throughout the year. In Los Angeles there are two festivals currently running. The first is the West Fest 2009, which runs from the end of January for 5 consecutive weekends. Although not all works are being performed for the first time, (for example West Fest is currently featuring Arthur Millers' The Price) it is safe to say that most are from new playwrights or are new pieces being performed for the first time.
In regards to West Fest, Theatre West states that "When Theatre West was founded forty-seven years ago, its initial purposes included serving as a laboratory situation where writing, acting and directing could be developed and perfected. This included the development of new and exciting works, works of a non-commercial and experimental nature, as well as the loving reconsideration of established material with an eye to enhanced performances." Thus, Theatre West provides an opportunity to showcase exciting pieces that are not so "mainstream." Some of the works being produced are: Bleacher Babes, book, music and lyrics by Scott Martin, Traces of Memory, written by Ann Wuehler, Sally Spectre: The Musical, written and directed by David P. Johnson and The Socialization of Ruthie Shapiro written by Barbara Nell Beery to name a few.
Another festival happening in Los Angeles is the 4th Annual Echo One-Act Festival being produced by Echo Theater Company at Stage 52. The Echo One-Act Festival "features original commissioned one-acts by some of the nation's top playwrights." According to the website, "The evening will be a series of six plays, commissioned by The Echo Theater Company: Three Women by Julia Cho, The Dirty Laundry of Marjorie by Padraic Duffy, Local Color by Hilly Hicks Jr, The Other Woman by David Ives, I Know Who You Are by Brian Tanen, and The Collection by Sharon Yablon."
And for those of you aching for more... it looks as though there will finally be a huge Fringe Fest in Socal the summer of 2010 in Hollywood, California. The Hollywood Fringe Fest will be an "annual event uniting local, national, and international artists." For more information on the Hollywood Fringe you can visit their site directly for dates, submissions etc.
Lets support these up and coming playwrights, actors and producers to help cultivate new works.