Self-production, I think, is for artists who also are entrepreneurs who have a burning desire to get their voice heard.
By Ian Thal
The casual Boston theater-goer might be misled into thinking that there are few local playwrights. While many companies in the area present new and contemporary work, and some run development workshops, Boston-area companies rarely stage full productions of the work of local dramatists. The preference is to present a script that premiered on a New York stage in a previous season – even if the play was reviewed poorly during its run there. The Big Apple serves as the Wall Street clearing house for new scripts, a geographical prejudice that disadvantages any play that does travel through that pipeline to the regional theaters. And it is a one-way pipeline. If New York playwriting product goes through a fallow period, as it is now, everybody suffers.
Of course, the regions are only regional because they choose to see themselves on the periphery. When it comes to Boston, a new group wants to reverse directions when it comes to the development cycle for new plays. Boston Public Works is a collective of seven local playwrights that is dedicated to experimenting with self-production, bypassing the traditional submission and rejection process. Its inspiration is 13P, a collective of up-and-coming early career New York-based playwrights formed in 2003.
From 2004 to 2012, 13P produced one play by each of it’s thirteen member playwrights (which included now well-known figures such as Sarah Ruhl, Young Jean Lee, and Ann Washburn) and then “imploded.” During this time, they had few if any imitators. Now a handful of groups, such as BPW, are forming in P13′s wake.
So, how are they doing? And does Boston present unique problems for playwrights who are trying to shake up the way theaters do business? I sent these and other questions to BPW members Jess Foster, John Greiner-Ferris, Kevin Mullins, and Cassie M. Seinuk. Greiner-Ferris’ play, Turtles, is currently playing at the Boston Center for the Arts through November 8.
ArtsFuse: It is very difficult for an “unknown” playwright to get his or her work staged once their script is complete. What are some of the problems you see facing playwrights?
Kevin Mullins: A lot of work goes into a play once it’s finished. We all have had a few plays that have gotten a reading or a workshop and then it just languishes in development till we decide to work on the next play. Productions are development. There is only so much that a staged reading or even a workshop is going to teach you about your play. You learn so much more from actually see your script performed on stage than you ever will from a reading.
Cassie M. Seinuk: The way I see it, there are two real problems playwrights are facing. The first is over-development. Now don’t take this the wrong way, as someone who runs a new play development company [Interim Writers], I am 100% in support of new plays getting ample development time before they go into production However, it’s so much easier to get a new play developed and read than it is to get it produced that many playwrights don’t know when it’s time to say, “it’s ready.” Playwrights need to be able to say, “the next real way I can learn anything about this play is to have it up on its feet and doing what it is called – playing.” Right now I think many unproduced playwrights think if a company wont produce them, then they’d be better off adding development spots on their resume, work with more people, network, and all the great things that come with traditional new play development, then why not! This is where I fear the ease of “development” can lead to overworked plays and sometimes too many cooks in the kitchen.
From my experience as a stage manager working on many new plays, it is amazing to see how much transformation, discovery, and new writing can come from a play being in rehearsal and living on its feet, as it should.
Jess Foster: One of the most pressing problems facing playwrights, and the theater community in general, is that we don’t have plays that represent our “now.” Too often plays go through process that is so long and arduous that by the time the play hits the stage it’s not as relevant as it was when it was first written. This isn’t to say plays shouldn’t be workshopped, but brining plays quickly towards a production is really what makes them come to life. Another thing that keeps us from the “now” is that plays aren’t developed and produced locally as one might think. Some people assume that BPW is a group of playwrights that couldn’t get their plays produced. That’s not true. Our plays have been done all around the country, but for some reason it was harder to have them showcased right in our home town where our biggest audiences, fans, and inspirations are. If something is conceived locally it makes sense to cultivate it and showcase it here.
Seinuk: Another thing that is missing from many development-only opportunities is the chance to work with designers. Not only to begin to fully realize the words of the play but also the world, which is another reason why at a certain point a production may shed more light on the story you are trying to tell then a third or fourth reading. It’s true, when a play is not fully ready for production, the process might not be as insightful or bar-raising as when a play is ready, but, on the other hand, how many post-reading talkbacks can you have before a play has been talked to death? And since getting your new play produced by someone else is such a challenge, many playwrights either continue to develop a play or put it in the drawer for later.
John Greiner-Ferris: I don’t think it’s just playwrights. All American artists struggle to get their work shown because we are all living and working in a capitalistic society where money is the measure for success, or at least where the availability of money controls so much of what can be accomplished. In the United States, most theaters have to address the bottom line and therefore won’t, or can’t, take a chance on an undiscovered playwright. While there are theaters whose mission is to only produce established work, I don’t get the sense that all artistic directors necessarily feel this way or approve of the current traditional theater model. I’d be willing to bet that there are some artistic directors who feel trapped. They feel forced to shy away from new work because of the theater’s need or desire for profitability. I base my opinion on only a couple of conversations I’ve experienced with artistic directors in Boston whose theaters don’t do original work, but support and applaud Boston Public Works Theater Company and its mission. We had one artistic director donate to our Indiegogo campaign, leaving a note saying that he couldn’t afford to do new work and to “go get ‘em Boston Public Works.” If there are two, then I feel there has to be even more.
AF: Are there problems you see as specific to Boston and New England playwrights? One trend I have noticed is that most of the companies presenting new and contemporary work in this town, rather than fostering local culture, simply stage plays that premiered in New York over the previous two or three seasons – even if the plays did not receive particularly good reviews in their original runs.
Seinuk: The second problem playwrights/new plays face is that theaters find producing new plays risky, which leads to companies choosing plays that have already proven mass appeal and box office sales elsewhere instead of taking on a new play by an unproduced playwright. When a company has to take putting butts in seats into consideration, the idea of confronting an audience with an untried play probably makes them a bit weak in the knees and, let’s be honest, queasy. As someone on the verge of producing my own play, I have experienced these feelings, but no one can believe in your play as much as you can, so it makes sense that you’d have more chutzpah when it comes to producing it than someone who can obtain the rights to last season’s New York smash.
There are also so many theatre companies in Boston and so many talented playwrights in Boston, I always cheer when I see a local playwright getting a production on our own turf, and then bummed out when I see the handful of companies producing new work but not fostering any new work from Boston playwrights. I actually find that the fringe companies in town takes more chances on new plays by local playwrights then the major theaters who have the means to not only produce a top-notch, higher budget productions, but can also use their considerable power to raise a Boston playwright to the regional recognition level. That’s what Boston playwrights need — more support from the whole community — that will make Boston theatre the talk of the nation. Also, because larger theaters are afraid to take risks with a local playwright or an unproduced play, Boston playwrights go elsewhere or get stuck in the development rotary with no exit. The seven BPW playwrights believe that person who will take the biggest risk is the person who believes most in the play, and that person is the author herself.
Foster: There simply aren’t as many opportunities in Boston and New England as there are playwrights. It’s a good problem to have, but we have to make sure we capitalize on the wildly creative and smart playwrights we have right in our backyard. We should never isolate ourselves from the outside world and voices coming from other areas, but creating a community and a relationship with theaters is important. Good plays don’t just come from a playwright emerging from isolation with all of the answers; it takes input from the other theater artists in Boston to create a piece that truly capitalizes on local talents.
Greiner-Ferris: If you’re a playwright in Boston, you are swimming in a very small pond with a lot of talented fish. In Boston, there simply aren’t enough slots for new, full-length work. It’s true that there are a few theaters whose seasons are composed of established productions, and I think that’s fine. And there are a number of theaters that produce new, full-length work, though not necessarily by 617/508/781-based-playwrights —Company One, Boston Playwrights Theater, Fresh Ink, Vagabond, and Argos come to mind. But if you apply the same argument currently raised about the issue of gender parity on Broadway to Boston and its playwrights, you should be seeing a lot more new, local, full-length plays. I would argue that dramatists are a neglected resource in Boston, that if they were better utilized, their work could boost the city’s arts reputation nationwide. There is no reason Boston couldn’t be seen as a hotbed for new plays in the United States, where plays are developed and exported as finished products to other regions of the United States.
Mullins: The major issue facing Boston playwrights right now is space. Space is crucial. With the end of the Factory Theatre in sight and the Boston Playwrights Theatre abandoning it’s free space to new plays during its down time, there is a great lack of cheap space where companies can take the risk on new work.
Greiner-Ferris: The recent closing of the Factory Theatre also underscored a serious obstacle for new work: There is a dearth of venues and rehearsal spaces priced for the smaller companies who tend to do more new work. If the closing of just one new-work venue cripples the theater scene the way the closing of the Factory is, then you know you have a serious problem. With the Factory, it was a matter of having most of our eggs in one basket, and as much as I mourned the closing (I’ve slept in that theater!) I think that there is a plus side. It is forcing companies to look at alternative venues and rethink their business models. As soon as you start thinking outside the box—the black box, if you’re looking for a pun—very interesting things can come out of it.
I also think that Boston in general continues to struggle with legacy issues surrounding race, and that affects every aspect of the city, including its culture. I moved to Boston from southern Ohio in 1980, and one of the first things I said was, Where are all the black people? Thirty-four years later I’m saying the same thing, including when I’m attending theater in Boston. Except for a few notable exceptions—Company One and Apollinaire come to mind—Boston theater is uniformly white, all the way down through to the production teams. I’m not saying the Boston theater community is racist, but I will go out on a limb and say it acts in a racist manner. There doesn’t seem much of an attempt to hire non-white theater artists. And while gender parity continues to be a dominant national conversation, I would argue that here race continues to be the dominant issue, even over gender. Until we begin to see more diverse casts—multiracial families and relationships, artists of all ethnicities and let’s not forget ages, working in theater—until we as a theater community address and reflect the ethnicity, age, and gender of our own community, we as theater artists are not fulfilling the responsibilities we have to our own community and that’s going to affect the reception of our art, including new work.
AF: Tell me about 13P and how their model of play production inspired BPW. How does that model address the problems you specifically see for playwrights?
Foster: 13P was a bunch of New York playwrights at the beginning of their careers, who pooled their resources to create production opportunities for the entire group. It’s a nice way to have your work produced, but also have an opportunity to produce the type of work by others that you’d like to see more of. All of the plays we’re producing are voices that Boston audiences desperately need to hear.
Mullins: 13P came of age at a time in the American theater when a lot of people in power knew that there were a lot of playwrights who weren’t getting their plays produced. In Boston right now you have the same problem. There are tons of really amazing, talented playwrights and there just aren’t enough slots for all of them. What BPW is trying to do is take matters into our own hands and create the slots for ourselves.
Greiner-Ferris: 13P, and I hope Boston Public Works, addresses the problem playwrights have by proving that playwrights can produce themselves. It’s possible. If 13P did it, Boston Public Works can do it, and if BPW can do it, then other Boston playwrights can. You have to be adaptable, though. You have to address the specific, unique problems facing you, and not what was facing 13P.
Originally Kevin and I thought that we’d replicate the 13P model, but we quickly discovered that we weren’t [a better-known] group of playwrights in New York City, but instead a group of [lesser-known] writers in Boston facing our own particular challenges. So 13P became more of a departure point for us than a model to duplicate. We’re still going to put on one play each, then implode, but that’s really the only way we recreate 13P.
Seinuk: The 13P model, to me, is all about playwrights taking action and producing their own plays. In New York it’s about getting that first review. In Boston it’s about having a production that is strong, meaningful, and generates a good word-of-mouth. One of the key elements to working in a group like Boston Public Works is believing in the playwrights you are producing, that is at least how I see it. I believe in John, Emily [Kaye Lazzaro], Kevin, Jess, Jim [Dalglish], and Laura [Neubauer] and producing their plays is almost as important to me as producing mine. Individually, self-producing is a great thing, but what we saw from groups like 13P and The Welders is that there is more recognition when we combine all seven of our voices, skills, and awards into one caldron and make magic together.
To go off what I said above, the people who will take risks in you are often you and the people who you would take risks for. The riskiest and most challenging part of a group like BPW is trusting that your P’s will stand beside you as you did/do for them, and on the cusp of opening our first production, I can see our power in our numbers and how we come to each others aid at first call. Now I think producing alone would be pretty lonely.
AF: Several of the playwrights from Boston Public Works met through Interim Writers, which Cassie co-founded and leads. Can you tell me something about that group and how one led to the other?
Seinuk: Interim Writers has a writers group called The Accomplice. The group began as 11 playwrights from the Greater Boston Area; the playwrights were chosen by a submission process and narrowed down from 52 applications. The group ended up as a mix of playwrights that IW had worked with in the past, producing short readings of their plays at its monthly ‘Have You Read? Evening of Staged Readings’ event, and the other half of the group were playwrights we had never worked with but rose to the top of the batch in our selection process. Ultimately we, Max Mondi (co-founder) and Laura Neubauer (Operations Manager) were looking for playwrights that brought different styles to the table, worked well with others, and had the right chemistry.
Mullins: I’ve been thinking back to how it began. The origins of Boston Public Works was John, Max Mondi and myself. We had all met through Interim Writers. We were a part of its writers group The Accomplice. 13P imploded the same month that The Accomplice started meeting. I think the implosion party at Joe’s Pub was a week or two before our first meeting. So the work that 13P had done was all very fresh in our minds. Also Rob Handel (one of the founders of 13P) was my advisor and mentor at Carnegie Mellon, which I had just graduated from, so it was really fresh in my mind.
Greiner-Ferris: When I was accepted as an Accomplice in September, 2012, there was a 15-month limitation on how long Accomplices would be with the group, and the group focused solely on writing, and not development. So, in January, 2013, I was already wondering what I would be doing in a year when my time with IW ended. I had already been playing with the idea of self-development and approached Cassie M. Seinuk, who heads up Interim Writers, about development and she told me IW wasn’t interested in development. So BPW, in essence, came about to fill that development hole that I was craving. Since my joining, Interim Writers has lifted the time limit on membership.
Seinuk: After the first year and a half residency of the IW, Accomplice was nearing its end. Some of the members of the group, including John Greiner-Ferris, Kevin Mullins, and Max Mondi, were looking for a next step, post-IW, thinking that their residency with us was about to be up. They began sourcing other playwrights that they felt could take on this challenge, and also people whose work they believed in – I’m not surprised that a large portion of that group turned out to be members of the Interim Writers Accomplice.
Mullins: It was either January or February. I was walking to someone’s apartment in the South End for a reading and I wound up running into John coming out the T. It was bitter cold and we were walking together and talking about what we had recently seen and that was the moment where we said to ourselves “Ok, we’ve got to start this. We’ve got to do it.”
Seinuk: After IW announced to the group at our annual Into the Woods Retreat that we would extend our group’s residency indefinitely, the group stayed out all night around the bonfire taking about our plans for world domination, ie: producing our own plays. Little did Laura and I know that the rumbling of a Boston Public Works was underway. Just a few months later Laura and I were asked to join BPW. When offered to join BPW it was important to me that it didn’t take over IW and that the two groups remained separate, and due to life and three of our writers moving to NYC, we held another application process and added three more members to the IW Accomplice. Now, even more than before, you can feel the separation in the room between IW and BPW – separation, but not polar. I still believe IW and BPW have a symbiotic relationship. Many of the plays that will be produced by BPW have been workshopped around the table at an Interim Writer’s Accomplice meeting or presented at a ‘Have You Read?’
In fact, the second reading IW ever had back in 2011 included an excerpt of John’s Turtles. It’s funny how things come around full circle.
Greiner-Ferris: I don’t know if every writer needs a group like Interim Writers, but I know it has been a tremendous source of support, advice, criticism, and friendship for me. It serves the purpose of offering the early support—the safety to make mistakes and false starts—that I need as a writer. Readings, however, are a different matter.
I have found readings to be only marginally beneficial to my work, and I’ve found it relatively easy to receive a reading. I’m afraid not all, but some theaters offer readings to fulfill, as much as anything, a requirement of being a 501(3)c because readings are relatively easy and low-cost to produce. But personally, a reading only takes me so far. A script reaches a point when the playwright needs to see it up on its feet. For every script, this comes at different times. A script is not composed of only dialogue, but also action. Not seeing a script acted out is akin to writing a song, and handing someone just the lyrics without playing the melody. You have to hear a song to feel it, and you have to not only hear a script, but you also have to see it to feel it.
Seinuk: IW and BPW are two very different organizations. Interim Writers is a non-producing company and has been so since our birth and, as of now, continues to be one. We consider ourselves a development company, whether it’s through readings and workshops of new plays by local playwrights, or around the table at our writers group Our goal at IW is to give playwrights in Boston the chance to hear their work aloud, get feedback, and work with teams of actors and directors to foster their work. Two examples of this are our partnership with Fresh Ink for The Mad Dash, a 24-hour play festival every summer, and our annual Winter and Summer retreats for The Accomplice. This past summer we took eight playwrights to the woods, plus some alumni, two directors and a handful of actors and workshopped four new plays. We’ve been a little quiet lately, because so many of us have our noses in BPW. I am P2, so I’ve been knee deep in producing From The Deep for the past few months, but my hopes is that once we get the ball rolling at BPW I can return to planning more development projects for Interim Writers’ future.
I hope Interim Writers outlives BPW for many years, and continues to develop new work and foster the new play scene in Boston as it continues to grow and change.
AF: What are the challenges and joys you’ve had as a member of BPW?
Greiner-Ferris: The challenges are many and the joys are very rewarding. I want to point out that while I am a staunch proponent of self-production, I will be the first to say that it’s not for everyone. It takes a special kind of person to do it, someone who is adept at using both side of their brain; someone, I believe, who is comfortable in the gray area where things are not always going to be perfect, and who doesn’t get discouraged by rejection and a constant, almost daily dose of obstacles. Self-production, I think, is for artists who also are entrepreneurs who have a burning desire to get their voice heard.
I’m very much the point person for BPW, and that responsibility has taken me away from my creative work. I have plays that are on the back burner that should be a lot further along than they are now. Many times BPW has taken enormous time and energy away from my family and personal life. BPW has turned into a full-time job for me, and while it is very rewarding — I am passionate about self-production and spreading the gospel of self-production to playwrights — the amount of work that was need to keep BPW on track and produce a play at the same time has really pushed me to my limits.
One of the biggest challenges as one of the co-founders is keeping the group on track with its vision, which is two-part: produce our own plays and preach the gospel of self-production, which may sound simple enough. But when Kevin and I started the group we invited other playwrights, and naturally people—especially smart, opinionated playwrights—want a say in how things run. The difficulty comes from trying to be fair and open and weighing the opinions of some of the playwrights that run counter to the original vision of the group. People—playwrights who you have given complete freedom to change everything—will still revert to the old traditional methods, which is antithesis to everything BPW stands for. BPW has the opportunity to redefine — from the bottom up — how plays are developed and produced in Boston. I don’t take that lightly and I tend to question everything.
But the rewards! For all of the sleepless nights I’ve had and all of the upset stomachs (I’m one of those people who actually gets physically ill when things aren’t going well), the minute we went into production for Turtles with me in the role of artistic director, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I’ve known for a while that I wanted to work with Jeff Mosser, and when he accepted the role of director, I knew I was well on my way to seeing Turtles become the production I wanted for it, and especially the process for getting there.
Foster: Unlike 13P we don’t have a person helping manage the daily business. Playwrights are doing everything. It’s a steep learning curve, but one that we hope will help us better understand the process and hopefully recreate it in different ways afterwards to create new opportunities. It is a joy to see the progress of our ragtag group. The response and support has been tremendous and helps validate that this type of group was much needed in Boston.
Greiner-Ferris: We don’t have a [13P's] Maria Goyanes as an executive producer or any associate marketing people or any of that. We can’t afford them. Or rather, we’d rather put our money elsewhere, for instance, in paying our artists. The world has changed since 13P. They didn’t have social media. They tell stories of sitting in a room together writing letters and licking stamps. There wasn’t crowdsourcing sites and robust web development tools or email services like Mail Chimp. Today is a very DIY world, and Boston Public Works is doing a lot of it ourselves.
Foster: I’m a details person so I often rally and bring the troops together on the same page. But I have to say that some of the most valuable moments have been when I’m not sure what came from my input or someone else’s. And that’s the ideal: when you find the members of the group on the same page to the degree that an idea feels like a true collaboration.
Greiner-Ferris: Somewhere along the line playwrights were relegated to a rather impotent role in theater production. No one would think of buying a painting and then hanging it upside down because they felt it looked better that way, or adding brushstrokes. But that, in essence, is what happens to plays and dramatists all of the time. Jeff [Moser, director of Turtles] and I are of like minds when it comes to the kind of theater we want to do, using elements of non-traditional theater to tell stories. In the process, we pushed each other; the cast and production team of Turtles were all great collaborators. Collaboration requires a finely-honed combination of talent, respect, and trust, and we all had that. It was the exact process that I wanted to have, exactly the way I envisioned it, and that’s what I’d like to see for all playwrights.
Mullins: I have a rule that I always say in BPW meetings, which is: “No Whining.” Playwrights whine a lot. A LOT. And when you whine and when you complain, people stop listening. I sure stop listening. If you think your work is good enough put it up yourself. If you think you’re not being granted enough opportunities then make those opportunities for yourself.
AF: BPW’s first season opens with John’s Turtles, which will be followed by Cassie’s From The Deep, running from March 12 through 29 at the Boston Center for The Arts. Can you tell me about these plays, and why you decided to do them with BPW?
Greiner-Ferris: I sent Turtles to a lot of theaters in Boston, large and small, and the response I got was that artistic directors and lit managers seemed to like it, but I never even got a nibble. I don’t know why it wasn’t ever picked up, and frankly I don’t care. I don’t concern myself with things I have no control over. I’ve taken my artistic career into my own hands, and when I learned I was going to be P1 in Boston Public Works, I didn’t have to think twice about which play I would produce. I knew Turtles was a good script, and again, having a voice in the process and working with people who wanted to hear what I had to say produced a production I’m proud of. I’ll never go back to working in the old traditional way again.
Seinuk: From The Deep is a play about survival and what people do in order to mentally survive captivity. It’s a two hander that revolves around Ilan, an Israeli POW, and Andrew, a missing Boston University student, and how this unlikely pair fights for survival in the surreal Land of the Missing – a white room with three doors but no clear way out.
Before I tell you why I needed to produce it, I want to tell you about why I needed to write it. I read an article about the Israeli POW Gilad Shalit at around the one-year anniversary of his five years of captivity [Shalit was captured by Hamas on June 25, 2006 and was released on October 18, 2011 in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners]. In the article, when asked how he spent his time he said that he played games like throwing paper balls into a basket, writing lists, and drawing maps. Around the same time I was seeing flyer after flyer with the face of a student who had gone missing right here in Boston. His body was found shortly after his disappearance, and there were never any answers provided about what had become of this young person. These two separate stories got me in the gut, and I kept thinking about what someone has to do to mentally do in order to stay present when faced with those circumstances, and it led me to question what we do everyday as plain-old free people to escape our demons. For me I always found my escape and my center in writing. Producing this script as my BPW play seemed like the obvious choice – here I am as a playwright who has had many ten minute plays produced nationwide but not one full-length play. Doing From the Deep now is me saying ‘here I am!’ ‘Surviving!’
From a more practical standpoint, this is a two-character play that is set in one location, and the costumes never really change – which makes the production aspects of it much lighter. This play has also seen some success already, which I think will help the promotion of the show; it was the 2013 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival 2nd place winner of the Latinidad Playwriting Award, the 2014 Winner of the Pestalozzi New Play Prize and The Firehouse Center for the Arts, and a semi-finalist for The Actors’ Theatre of Charlotte’s nuVoices Festival. The play could draw a large audience here because of its Jewish and Israeli content as well as its connection to Boston and a Boston story.
I don’t know if I needed BPW to produce this play because there was some interest from a few other companies, but I wanted BPW to produce this script. I wanted a strong hand in gathering my team of collaborators and creative control in the way the initial production would be presented. As the artistic director of my BPW play I was able to do just that. It’s been a godsend to have producer Nick Medvescek and director Lindsay Eagle at the helm of our team, and I can’t wait to see what we can do together.
AF: What else can we expect from BPW this season?
Greiner-Ferris: Three, a coming-of-age story by Emily Kaye Lazzaro. [No date has been announced.]
AF: 13P decided to “implode” after all thirteen member playwrights had produced their plays and their website currently operates purely as an archive. By contrast, The Welders, another 13P inspired group based in Washington, D.C. has explicit plans to pass the torch to a Welders 2.0 once they’re done. What are the long term plans for BPW?
Foster: We plan to implode but we don’t have specific plans to pass on the pieces. We want to leave a road map for others to do this themselves afterwards and we hope this changes the landscape of Boston theater, that artists will be inspired to take control of their own work.
Seinuk: I look forward to our final curtain on the 7th and last BPW show. Perhaps some of us may go on to continue producing their own work, and maybe we will even use our own roadmap to do so.
Mullins: IMPLOSION! The fact that we have a shelf life makes what we’re doing all the more wonderful. We have a set goal. We’re going to do these seven plays and then we’re done. We don’t have to worry about seasons. We don’t have worry about where we’re going to be in five years. It’s exactly that kind of freedom that allows us to make great art.
Greiner-Ferris: We would like to leave a road map behind for other playwrights to follow, to show them how we did it, and what worked for us, and what didn’t. What form that will take, I don’t know. We’re fond of saying that we are laying track in front of an oncoming locomotive. We’ll figure it out when we get to that point in our process. Conversations like this are a good start. I’ve had plenty of playwrights ask me pointed questions and expressed specific concerns about self production—raising money is always the biggest concern, it seems. But we can start talking now. As I write this, we’ve just finished the first week of our first play, and it’s going very well. I understand that until we actually produced something, people would be taking a wait-and-see attitude. But for playwrights who are interested, I can already walk them through the first year.
Ian Thal is a performer and theatre educator specializing in mime, commedia dell’arte, and puppetry, and has been known to act on Boston area stages from time to time, sometimes with Teatro delle Maschere, and on occasion served on productions as a puppetry choreographer or dramaturg. He has performed his one-man show, Arlecchino Am Ravenous, in numerous venues in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and is currently working on his second full length play; his first, though as-of-yet unproduced, was picketed by a Hamas supporter during a staged reading. Formally the community editor at The Jewish Advocate, he blogs irregularly at the unimaginatively entitled From The Journals of Ian Thal, and writes the “Nothing But Trouble” column for The Clyde Fitch Report.