Let me start by admitting I’m as guilty as anyone of avoiding the bound versions of new plays. Scanning the list of Tony Award-winning best plays for the past five years — Doug Wright’s “I Am My Own Wife” (2004), John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt: A Parable” (2005), Alan Bennett’s “History Boys” (2006), Tom Stoppard’s “Coast of Utopia” (2007) and Tracy Letts’s “August: Osage County” (2008) — I’m embarrassed to realize I have seen only one (the fiery “August: Osage County”) and read none at all.
Theater is a social and collaborative art form, and a playwright’s work is no doubt most fully realized on the stage. But to encounter plays on paper is to encounter them in their platonic form. You’re glued to the playwright’s words, not sitting in Row K jostling for an armrest while gawking at, say, Jane Fonda (who stars in “33 Variations”), wondering if all her years of aerobics paid off. While reading, you can submit more perfectly to the author’s spell and, what’s more, you are your own casting director.
He goes on to give a quick review of his experience reading the plays.
I try to follow reviews of new plays from across the country. After I read about an interesting premiere, I will make a note to look for the play when it is published by Dramatists Play Service of Samuel French.
The cost can add up, but acting editions are still quite affordable and reading is necessary in this field. I feel I want to keep up with the latest in playwriting, but I certainly don't have a budget to go to New York and see shows there on a regular basis - or to Chicago, Seattle, Austin or Washington, D.C., etc.
Of course, I prefer a full production to be my first experience with a new work, but when will that be? Here in Boston it is sometimes impossible to wait. It could be sometimes take 4-5 years for even a very successful Off Broadway play to reach our stages.
The blogosphere has introduced me to some playwrights as well and I have made sure to put some of them on my reading list.
Here are just a few of the plays I have read in the last two months:
Apostasy by Gina Ilorio
When is a Clock by Matt Freeman
1001 by Jason Grote
Body Awareness by Annie Baker
Jack Goes Boating by Bob Glaudini