Friday, April 17, 2009

For Playwrights - A View From the Other Side

Tony, the Artistic Director of Halcyon in Chicago, gives us an idea of what it is like to try and put together a season:

Needless to say I'm behind on my reading. We've gotten around 450 submissions since August. That's not including published works folks recommended and festival submissions. At my best I can usually average a script a day with everything else and the day job. When it rains it pours I guess.

I'm reading as fast as I can, and probably have some pissed off some playwrights. Well at least one, as we passed on "a play that was optioned for Broadway, simply because they thought it was one of the most important plays of the last decade." Or something like that. He was quite angry.

Due to the amount of submissions we have adjusted our selection policy to a rolling basis as well. We are no longer considering plays for production times based on when we received them. We also found that we've received far more great plays than we can produce in any given year. So for plays that are still being reviewed they are still under-consideration, even if not for this next year.

The one thing we want to make sure of is we are not giving playwrights short shrift, simply to get through them quicker.


Ian Thal said...

Ironic that Adams is saying that he has more great scripts than he can every produce. Just last month I had an email from an actor/playwright (and sadly, not producer/AD) who was interested in my thus far unproduced play simply from the premise because she saw a dearth of interesting new plays.

Of course, Adams is writing from Chicago, and my correspondent was from New York. Could geography or job play a role? Could it be that there are lots of great new scripts out there but most theatres are refusing to produce them-- and thus, the scripts aren't being seen by the actors?

Tony Adams said...

Ian, I think there's a couple of takeaways I've found.

First, most submissions and reading processes put more focus on being gatekeepers and weeding out works than in looking for great plays. IE more time putting in barriers than in facilitating the search.

Second, way too many theatres focus on name recognition and having a writer of suitable stature (often waiting for someone else to produce a writer first.)

Third, we get works from all over the world simply because no one else is doing them. Most writers can tell in 30 seconds on your website if it's worth them sending a play in.

I used to think there was a dearth of great new plays. The more we've opened up our programming and process of reading the more great plays we received.

Of course the trade-off is having to read them all, which a lot of folks decide is too much to add to their already swamped plates.

Ian Thal said...

Tony, thanks for the explanation.

I've suspected that name-recognition was a factor, and certainly had noticed instances of what appear to be unnecessary barriers, but it's better to ask questions and hear it from your side.

Most importantly, thanks for making the effort to be different from everyone else.