Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What If We ARE All Wrong?

After a day of thinking and stewing (and some dancing, but more on that later)...what if those of us who advocate for new plays and new voices and diversity are all wrong? What if we have fought a battle and won? What if, as some suggest, the field is crowded with too many new plays of little merit or strength? So what if the picture is far more complicated than it first appears?

In Outrageous Fortune, the authors post this finding:
While an average season at [theatres participating in the study] includes seven productions of all kinds, they report producing, on average, approximately nine new plays over the past three seasons-45.6 percent of their total offerings. Of these nine new plays, produced over three year, theatres identify slightly more than five (or 30.7 percent of theatres' total productions) as world premieres. Fewer than two of these new works (less than one per season) are second productions of new plays.
Emphasis in the original.

While there is some disagreement about this statistic, if the essence of it is true, what does that mean? Does it mean the new play system is healthy and producing good results? Does it mean that all us playwrights are indeed a bunch of whiners?

I don't have answers to all of these questions. Do you have any?


Ian Thal said...

Assuming this statistic is close to the truth, it tells us that perhaps our problem isn't quantitative but qualitative. Or perhaps the problem is, as I would argue, proportional, in that a disproportionate number of the new, original plays get produced due to networks of patronage.

99 said...

That definitely seems to be part of the problem: too many playwrights struggling for too few spots, with a number of folks getting "a leg up," so to speak. But I think there's also a larger disconnect, a greater dissatisfaction at work. Something is amiss and I'm not sure if it's one thing, a lot of pervasive things, or something more systemic.

Walt said...

Maybe where we're really still lacking is in an intermediary step: not new plays, and not classics, but those second and third productions that are so rare unless the world premiere is one of those fluke smash hits that everyone talks about. Theatres are happy to commit to doing a few brand new plays (or at least workshops) a season, because their funders and their audiences understand that. But there's no commitment to plays that have already been through one production, but were just brief, good blips on the radar. It's so much harder to commit to that kind of play and still have it be sexy to your audiences.