Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Town Hall Meeting for Dramatists

On July 14, 2008, The Dramatists Guild of America, which is based in New York City, held a town hall meeting in a hidden away rehearsal room in the Kennedy Center. The Guild under the auspices of Gary Garrison, Executive Director of Creative Affairs for the Guild, and the Guild’s DC area representative Callie Kimball organized and presented a panel discussion by area theater artistic directors in an effort to foster relationships between local playwrights and theaters. When this active member (the Guild has three levels of membership: Active—those who “have been produced on a First-Class/Broadway, Off-Broadway, or mainstage of a regional theatre (LORT) contract,” Associate—those yet unproduced authors of theatrical works, and Student) and a half dozen others finally found the location, the panel discussion was well underway and the room was packed with what turned out to be participants of a workshop that Garrison (author of The New, Improved Playwright's Survival Guide) was leading at the Kennedy Center.

The Artistic Directors included: Randy Baker of Rorschach Theatre, Christopher Henley of Washington Shakespeare Company, Jessica Burgess of Inkwell, Keith Bridges of Charter Theatre, and Deborah Randall of Venus Theatre. Also on the panel was dramaturg Richard Washer of Charter Theatre. Most of these theaters have produced work by some local playwrights. Nonetheless, Garrison cautioned audience members that this was not the time to approach these directors with an unproduced play. Adding a bit of levity after the panel had disbanded and the workshoppers had left the room to about 25 Guild members, Garrison said, “you can’t marry a theater, but you can have an affair.”

Garrison went on to say that personal contact is everything in finding a theater for your play. In fact one of the panel members—Keith Bridges of Charter Theatre— said that his theater does a temperature check with potential playwrights by first giving them a reading and then gauging how well this author will support the goals and needs of his theater company. For this theater company, working with locals means a better production because the playwright is able, without financial burden, to be on location when the play goes into development.

Among the people this playwright met or knew at this event included Frankie Little Hardin, Al Lefcowitz, Patricia Montley, Juanita Rockwell, Emily Solomon,
and Paula Stone. Frankie Little Hardin is the artistic director of 4Oth Street Stage of Norfolk, VA, that welcomes new plays. She created a buzz of excitement after the meeting convened. Juanita Rockwell also created a stir when she spoke about The Network of Ensemble Theaters (NET), a national coalition of theater groups driven by artists.

Garrison said that the Guild is working toward a national conference in the next couple of years. Although this playwright is a librettist and part of a minority group within the Guild, the networking opportunities offered by the Dramatist Guild are tremendously important and a big wow to have them extended beyond New York.

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