In The Water Theatre Company is making Emerging Artist Advocacy a central aspect of our mission. We want to do all we can to help other artists and companies achieve their goals and create the work they feel is important. As an early career director I have often felt that there are not enough opportunities for me to make work. There are a million opportunities to observe and assist, these are wonderful opportunities, but as a creator I need to create. It is our hope that through our Emerging Artist Advocacy Initiative we will help artist make more work.
Kevin Spacey has a saying that when you get to the the top, you should send the elevator back down. We want to pack the elevator on our first trip up.
I recently read Outrageous Fortune: The Life and Times of the New American Play by Todd London. The book is sort of the “Eating Animals” for new play development, it tells you everything you need to know but don’t want to face bout new plays in America. It is a truly amazing book, that I highly recommend to anyone interested in working on plays written by playwrights. What struck me was the amount of playwrights who felt they were being taken advantage of by theatre companies and the divide between what these artists felt they needed and what they were being offered. I finished reading it with a strong need to do something. That something has become the ITW Reading Series.
The Reading Series is a place where the playwrights are given the reigns of the development process. We offer up what resources we have (time, space, artists) and allow them to dictate the type of development they want to undergo. This time around, some of the playwrights have used it as a major re-writing/development process and others want to see what happens when the play is left to speak for itself. ITW’s goal is to support the playwright’s goal, whatever that is.
Now that I have gone through the process of planning the series, reviewing tons of submissions, casting five plays at a time, scheduling and paying for both rehearsal and performance space in NYC and Boston I understand more. Reading the plays out loud is not an easy or inexpensive task. ITW does not expect to earn on this series, but we are leaving with valuable knowledge on how to do it better next time. Not so that we make more money, but so that we benefit the plays more. Play development has so much to do with economics and the prohibitive cost of working deeply on a play. That said I am also finding out how valuable the process can be.
Sam Schanwald is the only playwright in our current series whom I have previously worked with. We met at The SITI Company’s Saratoga Springs Retreat last summer. What struck me then and now is Sam’s determination to speak out for his work and beliefs while maintaining an absolute flexibility. I directed Sam in a piece we created in our composition class. I remember feeling challenged by his ability to collide within collaboration, which is something I always ask of actors (and am disarmed when they oblige). I think that is the ideal spirit of collaboration, one where we fight vehemently for our beliefs and then drop them the moment they are disproven. We have taken that spirit of collaboration further over emails and video chats about his play August 25 Floodpocolypse. It is my hope that each of the plays assembled for this reading have equally productive relationships between the playwrights and their respective creative teams.
This being the first time through, we have realized a hundred things we can do differently or do better next time around. There is time for those corrections, and we plan to make them. We want to better serve the artists who come to ITW. Now though, I am very excited about the good work that is already happening with these plays. I think the plays are funny and touching and challenging. I think the plays are good plays, and I hope you all come out and hear them over the next two weeks.