Expanding the Idea of New Work: Part I

by:  Lisa Timmel at 04/13/2010

For the next couple weeks, Lisa Timmel and Charles Haugland are going to have an ongoing conversation about new work at the Huntington. (They actually have that conversation everyday; they're just inviting more people in for a bit.) Stay tuned for more updates. Respond to the posts to join their conversation. Here's the first post from Lisa:

Believe it or not, next season is just around the corner. While I can’t divulge any details yet, I can say that next season features two world premieres and two highly acclaimed contemporary plays, plays that you might call “newish” including Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize winning drama, Ruined. Having taken a season off of brand-spankin’ new world premieres, jumping back in has got me thinking about the whys, the wherefores and the conventional wisdom of new play production. 

Way back in January, critic Terry Teachout set the theatre blogosphere aflame when he compiled a cursory list of the most often produced plays in the States and concluded: “It suggests to me that American theaters have a pronounced bias in favor of new and newish plays by American authors, especially ones that have high public profiles.” Art Hennessy, at his Mirror up to Life blog compiled statistics for the Boston area and by his calculation new/newish plays account for well over half of all play productions here. David Mamet on the other hand has a different view: “ In 1967, when I was at acting school in New York, there were 72 new Broadway plays produced. In 2009, there were 43, of which half were revivals.” He concludes that various social and economic factors have contributed to the decline of an educated, engaged middle class audience, his requisite habitat for new plays. Although I should note that he, like the Pulitzer Prize board (according to Charles McNulty), thinks new plays only count in New York. So, it seems that contemporary plays are both thriving and dying at the same time. 

Some local critics have complained that there is too much new work going on in Boston. The pleasure of experiencing a new play is very different from the pleasure of experiencing an older play and I think everyone has their goldilocks point: this theatre has too many new plays, this theatre has too few, and we’re all looking for the one that gets the balance just right. But that kind of categorical thinking unfairly limits the expansive and expanding experience of attending live theatre. A play is not important simply because it is old or because it is new. A play is important because of the specific story it tells and the unique way it is told. A play is not important simply because we choose to produce it; it is important because you come to see it.

So, why new plays? Because the world changes and perspectives shift. Because American theatre, in all its forms, thrives on the new, it always has. Our theatre history is full of the degenerate melding of forms: immigrant melodramas, minstrelsy, vaudeville and musicals all of them bubbling up into the mainstream one way or another and getting whitewashed along the way. There simply is no other way to tell the story of this country and our selves without including new work. 

Incidentally, the answer to the question “Why classic plays?” is exactly the same: Because the world changes and perspectives shift. There simply is no other way to tell the story of this country and our selves without including plays from other places and other eras.

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  1. you are the best There are certainly a lot of delatis like that to take into consideration. That is a great point to bring up. I offer the thoughts above as general inspiration but clearly there are questions like the one you bring up where the most important thing wil
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  3. - 22:14 I hear this, too, and no doubt it's a legitimate coerncn for professional companies. The alternatives are to either A) resign these classics to the annals of history, B) adapt them to include fewer characters, oftentimes until they turn into something else completely, C) produce fewer plays in a season which then allows you to do these classics. I look at a company like Punchdunk, which somewhat ominously advertises that the company is on hiatus while they research their next production. While they have produced a fair amount of plays in a single season in the past, to date they have only done around 20 in their 12 year history and one of those was remounted a few times. When they do perform, the reviews are amazing. Agree with their style or not (site specific theatre), it's an experience that many won't soon forget. I guess I'm on that side of the fence- I would much rather see fewer shows that had enormous power and impact, shows that become events when they happen. I'm not a producer, so I know their needs are different, but that's my view from an actor's perspective. http://jprlbjdhgdz.com [url=http://crzeyiy.com]crzeyiy[/url] [link=http://jvldijwrbhp.com]jvldijwrbhp[/link]
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  7. - 22:14 I hear this, too, and no doubt it’s a legitimate concern for professional companies. The alternatives are to either A) resign these classics to the annals of history, B) adapt them to include fewer characters, oftentimes until they turn into something else completely, C) produce fewer plays in a season which then allows you to do these classics. I look at a company like Punchdunk, which somewhat ominously advertises that the company is on hiatus while they “research” their next production. While they have produced a fair amount of plays in a single season in the past, to date they have only done around 20 in their 12 year history and one of those was remounted a few times. When they do perform, the reviews are amazing. Agree with their style or not (site specific theatre), it’s an experience that many won’t soon forget. I guess I’m on that side of the fence- I would much rather see fewer shows that had enormous power and impact, shows that become “events” when they happen. I’m not a producer, so I know their needs are different, but that’s my view from an actor’s perspective. order prednisone online no prescription cheap auto insurance in nj quotes buy online viagra with online screening
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About me

Lisa Timmel,  Bevin O'Gara, and Charles Haugland share their thoughts on New Plays, Dramatury, and their experience sharing nightly conversations with the audiences that come to see our shows. Get the inside scoop of new scripts and play development!

 
 

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