I wanted to take a few minutes to update you on the state of the Huntington’s exciting new play programming. This season marks the fifth anniversary of the Breaking Ground Festival of new play readings (this year it’s scheduled for April 3-6, so mark your calendars), as well as the fifth year of the Huntington Playwriting Fellows (HPF) program.
Here’s a stunning statistic: by the end of this season, the Huntington will have presented or produced FIVE plays by Huntington Playwriting Fellows, and EIGHT plays that have debuted in the Breaking Ground Festival (there is some overlap in these numbers). Why is this important? One of the unfortunate truths of the American theatre is that many worthy plays become entangled in endless cycles of development – that is, numerous script-in-hand readings or workshop productions at theatres that are interested in the material, but not interested enough to produce it. The play gets vetted for months or years, but never finds its home, and so, never gets a full professional production. All the while, the playwright has to fend off the too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen trend, whereby at each reading or workshop production, there are people with excellent advice on how the writer might refine the work, but there are also plenty of people with opinions on how the writer might “fix” the play. There are, of course, no guarantees that once “fixed,” the play will get a production, so playwrights have to become ever-vigilant in sorting out the very good and helpful suggestions from the dross. It can be exhausting.
There are many many excellent development programs in this country, but there are also suspect ones (like those described above). When I created the Breaking Ground Festival and the Huntington Playwriting Fellows program in the 2003-2004 season, the goal was to find ways to execute good and helpful programming, to make our resources available to writers in a useful way, and to be aware of the ways in which we might avoid poorly executed new play development. Five years on, I feel confident in saying that statistics prove us out: we have put our producing mettle where our rhetoric is. It’s not just the playwright who benefits from this effort, it’s the audience as well. Those who were lucky enough to see the first Breaking Ground Festival in 2004 caught the very first public showing of Melinda Lopez’s Sonia Flew; it premiered at the brand new Calderwood Pavilion mere months later, and since then has had an active production life all over the country. If you attended Breaking Ground in 2006, you might have seen the debut of Theresa Rebeck’s Mauritius, which went on to premiere at the Calderwood that fall, and just this October it opened on Broadway. Consider this: where else does one have the chance to see the progression of a newly conceived and executed piece of art, from its inception through its premiere? How often do you have the chance to be present at the birth of a young playwright’s career? We aim to give you just this kind of opportunity.
All this is to say: there are a lot of great plays by Huntington Playwriting Fellows in Boston this season! At this very moment, there are THREE: Brendan by Ronan Noone at the Huntington, Comp by John Shea at Boston Playwrights Theatre, and The Bluest Eye by Lydia Diamond at Company One – all play until the weekend of Nov 17-18. Later this season, catch Rebekah Maggor’s one-woman cabaret Shakespeare’s Actresses in America (which, she emphatically states, “is not like school”), and Sinan Ünel’s heartbreakingly immediate The Cry of The Reed – both will be mounted by the Huntington at the Calderwood Pavilion.
Furthermore, we are about to officially announce the members of the newest class of Huntington Playwriting Fellows, some of whom also have productions scheduled for this season around Boston. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on this blog as soon as the news goes public.
Your support of new plays is so important to us; thanks for being there for us, and for our writers. We can’t wait to bring you even more exciting new works by playwrights from near and far. Stay tuned!
-- Ilana Brownstein, Literary Manager