Where Do New Plays Come From? Pt 2

By Pat Gabridge

Originally posted at http://writinglife3.blogspot.com 10/28/10

So yesterday, I took a look at this season’s outlook for new plays and Boston playwrigthts.  But what about the rest of New England?  Boston writers are close enough to most theatres in the rest of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine to be take part in the development and production process of their work, if their plays were being produced.  Are they?  How are New England playwrights faring at home, generally?

Let’s take a look at how many world premieres we have, state by state:

Massachusetts:

Stoneham Theatre:  none

Merrimack Repertory Theatre:  1 world premiere, The Exceptionals by Bob Clyman

Gloucester Stage Company:  ?  They haven’t announced their season yet.  They were founded by a pretty well-known playwright, so there’s always hope here.  (Last year they did one world premiere, of Tender by Kelly Younger, but the rest were plays that had started elsewhere.)

Williamstown Theatre Festival:  2 world premieres, Samuel J and K by Mat Smart and After the Revolution by Amy Herzog.

Berkshire Theatre Festival:  1 world premiere, No Wake by Boston-area writer Bill Donnelly.

Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater:  none.  (In 2008, they did four world premieres.  And have a history of working with writers.)

Wellesley Summer Theatre Company:   none

Connecticut:

Connecticut Repertory Theatre:  none

Goodspeed Musicals:  3 world premieres, Radio Girl, book by Daniel Godlfarb,music by Henry Krieger, lyrics by Susan Birkenhead, Band Geeks, music by Mark Allen, Gaby Alter, and Tommy Newman, Lyrics by Gaby Alter and Tommy Newman, and book by Tommy Newman and Gordon Greenberg.  And James and the Giant Peach, music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, book by Timothy Allen McDonald.

Hartford Stage:  1 world premiere, Divine Rivalry by Michael Kramer

Long Wharf Theatre:   none

Seven Angels Theatre (Waterbury):  1 world premiere, Mad Bomber,  book and lyrics by Charles Monagan (he lives in Waterbury, CT), music by Richard DeRosa.

Yale Repertory:  2 world premieres, We Have Always Lived in the Castle–book and lyrics by Adam Bock, music and Lyrics by Todd Almond, and Bossa Nova by my friend and fellow Rhombusmember, Kirsten Greenidge (go see it).

Maine:

Portland Stage Company:  2 world premieres, Last Gas by John Cariani (who is originally from Maine, but I think he’s in NYC now) and The Center of Gravity by Gregory Hischak.

The Public Theatre (Lewiston/Auburn):  none

Mad Horse Theatre Company (Portland):  none

New Hampshire:

Peterborough Players:  none

Seacoast Repertory Theatre:  1 world premiere, Gay Bride of Frankenstein, book by Dane Leeman and Billy Butler, music and lyrics by Billy Butler (New England writers).

Rhode Island:

Trinity Repertory Company:  1 world premiere, Edgar Allan Poeby company member Stephen Thorne.

The Gamm Theatre:  none

Perishable Theatre:  none  (they did some new one-acts in their women’s festival, but I’m only looking at full-length plays for now)

Vermont:

Northern Stage:  none

Vermont Stage Company:  none

Weston Playhouse Theatre Company:  1 world premiere, The Oath by Gavin Broady.  (Their first world premiere ever.)

To sum up:  In the seasons of 24 professional theatres of various size in New England (not counting Boston), there are 16 world premieres (by 11 theatres).  Quite a few musicals.  Only six of the writers are from New England.  Not exactly great numbers if you’re a New England playwright (okay, they’re kind of depressing).   It’d sure be nice to see an average of at least 1 new play per theatre, and a lot stronger commitment to New England writers.  (I’m not sure about where the teams from Goodspeed are from, so there could be a few more New Englanders in the mix.)

If you add the Boston numbers from yesterday’s post to the mix, you get 34 professional theatres offering a total of 27 world premieres between them.  Twelve of those world premieres are by local writers.  That’s twelve playwrights getting full-length professional productions in the entire New England region, in the next season.  On the plus side (I’ve got to find one in there somewhere), there are smaller theatres giving playwrights a chance to get their work on stage, especially in Boston.  (I’ll have to figure out how many.)

It all feels like a lot to think about.   As I said yesterday, there is no shortage of talented New England playwrights, writing plenty of scripts.  Many of which are being staged in other cities and regions.  How can we encourage more theatres to develop and produce new work by local writers?

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