Last Friday, I attended the Philadelphia New Play Initiative’s (PNPI) Local Playwright Showcase. There’s a general dearth of opportunities for local playwrights (and new plays) in Philly, and God bless them, the drama animals at PNPI are trying to do something about it. I’m not always on board with their strategies (they produce a one-minute play festival, which, frankly, isn’t my cup of tea), but I can get on board with last week’s showcase. They staged readings of nine scenes, each of which was part of a longer play-in-progress by a local playwright. Artistic Directors, Literary Managers, and assorted Movers-and-Shakers were invited, and in theory, they might see something they’d like to develop and/or produce.
To be honest, most of the audience was composed of playwrights like myself, showing support for our colleagues. I noticed a few Artistic Directors, but I don’t know how much script-requesting actually went down. I do like the idea. The evening was like ordering a sampler platter at an unfamiliar restaurant, which seems like an ideal way for theaters to find new plays without plowing through towers of unsolicited scripts. In the real world, I’m unconvinced that’s how plays get found.
There are a handful of new play festivals that get plays produced; I actually know two Artistic Directors who regularly make the pilgrimage to Louisville to see if any of the Humana plays fit their season. However, much like Sylvester Stallone is the outlier for how to get a self-written, self-directed, self-starring movie produced, I fear Humana is the outlier of play showcases.
In any event, you’d think the PNPI thing would be catnip to tiny local theaters, but they seemed largely unrepresented. Are they not interested in local playwrights? Are they shying away from new plays in general? No clue. I hope that PNPI keeps track of how the readings do (number of scripts requested, number of productions that occur as a result, etc.), because that sort of thing might be telling and might help them adjust their strategy. If nothing else, it was a fun night with lots of camaraderie and beer, catching up with old friends, and making new ones. Let’s all cross our fingers that word spreads about the quality of the scripts, because there was some real game on stage that night.
A final note…there was one script that I particularly enjoyed: Candy Candy by Chris Davis. I don’t know this guy at all (though I did meet him afterward), and it’s unfair to judge an entire script from a ten-minute scene that’s out of context, but I loved the hell out of it. If anyone important is reading this thing, you might want to get in touch with this guy.
- Play nice
- Acronyms suck