Allow me to correct my negligence in failing to report about last week’s kick-off party for the New Play Exchange (NPX). This is the latest brainchild of the National New Play Network, a conglomerate (Pod? Pride? Murder?) of member theaters who love the crap out of new plays. Perhaps the most public service these guys have introduced is the “rolling world premiere,” which means, multiple member theaters from different parts of the country premiere the same play simultaneously (or close to it), allowing the theaters to share premiere funding as well as market the play as a “world premiere” and qualify for local awards that may not award second or third productions. I don’t know if NNPN invented this idea, but they certainly popularized it in the collective playwright consciousness.
However, for as swanky as the “rolling world premiere” may be, NPX may crush it. This is a website devoted to the promotion of new scripts, which playwrights can upload into personal profiles where theaters can find them. To make it extra ginchy, you can tag your plays with all kinds of information like cast size, cast type, genre, and keywords. So, say you’re a theater that’s looking for lesbian science-fiction plays with all-women casts of four or less, you can search the NPX database for those specific tags and find The Do’s and Don’ts of Time Travel. Bob’s your uncle.
To celebrate the inauguration of the website, various NNPN theaters nationwide hosted parties for local playwrights. Ours was in the lovely home of InterAct Theatre Company’s Producing Artistic Director, Seth Rozin. Nan Barnett, the Executive Director of NNPN, was also there to explain more of the nitty gritty and field questions and problems. They’ve been pulling this thing together for nearly two years, and there are still some quirks, but the site is impressive.
Nan and Seth told us there would be additional functionality next year. The improvement that caught my attention the most was the ability for opportunities to find playwrights. Right now, if a playwright wants to apply for a grant or a contest, he has to delve through tomes of lists, research websites, and figure out exactly what he and/or the specific play qualifies for (a task rendered even more difficult by the collapse of the biannual Dramatists Sourcebook, which used to collect a lot of terrific info in one place). The vision for NPX is that theaters will be able to post opportunities, code them appropriately, and then the system will find the plays that fit the codes, contact the playwright, and allow the playwright to submit a script with a click. Holy. Crap. It’s like a benevolent Skynet.
The only beef I have with the whole thing is, predictably, the name. NPX? Come on. Do you think Facebook would have gotten any traction at all if Zuckerberg had named it IFS (International Face-finding System)?
After giving this sixty seconds of thought, I’ve come up with much better names. PlayBlazer. Shakespeare’s List. Dead Cat (as in, “You can’t throw a dead cat without hitting a playwright”). And my personal favorite, Scriptapotomus. I know NNPN won’t use any of them; they probably already have tee-shirts and coffee mugs printed up. But on the off-chance there is a rival script-sharing entrepreneur, “Scriptapotomus” is fair game.