I’ve said it before – I’m a huge proponent of new plays. Since 2011, I’ve been lucky enough to spend at least 90% of my theatre time in any given year devoted to developing new plays. While I think it is endlessly important to understand our theatre history and continue to read old plays, I think we live in a time that has not added enough to the canon, yet there’s so much happening now that will go down in history, and so much change in technology that we’re not utilizing simply because we’re not creating and producing scripts that fully understand and promote cultural development.
Gwydion Suilebhan and an awesome team of developers and playwrights are actively working to change that. The New Play Exchange launches tomorrow, 1/15/15. Here’s how Suilebhan himself describes the Exchange: “What we’re about to reveal to the world, I should note, is a lot bigger and more ambitious than the database I wrote about in HowlRound back in 2012. It’s the product of hundreds of minds, talking and thinking and challenging each other’s ideas about how to serve the new play sector. It’s the beginning of an attempt to replace the submission model—which is very badly broken, as we all know, and well beyond repair—with a new paradigm built around sharing and discovery. At the same time, the New Play Exchange is also a great deal simpler than it will be down the road; we’ve deployed the foundation of what will become, in time, a multi-faceted platform, but there are a great many features we have yet to build. Our hope is that the current iteration of the New Play Exchange will at least offer an alternative means by which playwrights and producers can connect… and that in time we’ll earn a significant role in the regular business of the new play sector at all levels, large and small. To get there, though, we still have a lot of work to do: more conversation, more testing, and more ongoing, always-in-beta development. If it’s another five years’ worth for me, personally, it’ll never be enough, because the New Play Exchange is a seriously big dream-come-true for me—just as it is, I think, for those of us who make and produce new plays—and I never want it to end.”
It starts with the growing ideal of self-publication, and aims to help get new playwrights out of the “development death-spiral.” It aims to make literary managers’ and artistic directors’ lives easier. There’s lots of new work happening out there right now, and lots of great so-far-undiscovered playwrights, and self-producing just isn’t cutting it anymore. The New Play Exchange employs obvious, simple technology that we’ve all used for years and applies it to theatre. Finally!
Personal update: after having an odd and personally difficult year last year, I’m emerging with a busy theatre year ahead. The first week of March, I’ll be working with my peeps at RiOT Productions on a short show produced as part of a designer-based new play creation festival at Pocket Theatre. Then, the end of March/beginning of April, my solo performance, “Infinite Expectation of the Dawn,” will remount as part of Theatre Off Jackson’s SPF: Solo Performance Festival. Theeeeeen, I’m working with Annex Theatre on The Zig Zag Festival (six women will write, direct, and dramaturg shows). Finally, I recently agreed to dramaturg/conceptually design Copious Love’s final show of the year, CODENAME: KANSAS. In between all this stuff I’m going to have to do some traveling, but hey, I’ll figure it out.
Did I mention all of these are new plays? I mean, I’ve produced my solo show before, now, but it’s still fresh in the development process. Two of these projects are short play festivals in which I will specifically develop a script in some fashion. And then CODENAME: KANSAS involves me doing all the nerd work for a scifi show because I’m a huge scifi nerd and also published author (not to brag or anything, but I’m bragging).
So the New Play Exchange is good timing, because Seattle is becoming a hub for new work. I wonder how we shape up compared to NYC and Chicago? I bet we’re better than NYC.
And this is what I’m going to feel like until November: