FINAL RIPP POST #52: SEAN DANIELS, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR MERRIMACK REPERTORY THEATRE (FORMERLY ARTIST-AT-LARGE, GEVA THEATRE CENTER)

December 17th, 2014 donnahoke

 

As always, if you don’t know what RIPP: Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project is about, please click here (the original idea) and here (the evolution of that idea) to get some context before reading).

 

Before we begin, let’s congratulate Sean Daniels on his new appointment as Artistic Director of Merrimack Repertory Theatre!

 

And now, as promised, the final installment of the Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project, which began May 2, 2013 with the fabulous Melissa Hillman, Artistic Director of Impact Theatre. I originally had planned to run one entry a week, but, life got in the way and, still, somehow, we ended up with a magic number of 52, so we can almost pretend that’s how it worked out.

 

In compilation, RIPP is a great tutorial on how to get your plays produced, as well as inspiration that it can and does happen with diligence and good craft. If this is the first RIPP installment you’ve run across, I hope you’ll go back to the beginning and read some of the great advice generous artistic directors and literary managers have offered over the past eighteen months year. If you like it, share the posts with fellow playwrights or students. My wish is that it remain a resource available whenever a playwright is in need of encouragement, hard truth, and inspiration. Onward…

 

From SEAN DANIELS, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR MERRIMACK REPERTORY THEATRE (FORMERLY ARTIST-AT-LARGE, GEVA THEATRE CENTER)

 

“When I was at Dad’s Garage [Daniels is co-founder], when we wanted to have a new play, but we didn’t know enough playwrights, we’d do a giant contest; send us your plays and we’ll choose one to do. We had a giant pile, and I read this play called Say You Love Satan, by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who, at that point, was a second year MFA student at Yale. I read it after reading some 200 or 300 other plays, and I fell in love with it. That was the beginning of a relationship with him and his writing, and we’re still fantastic friends to this day. He’s gone on to write for Big Love, Glee, he was the guy they brought in to fix Spiderman, so he’s a had a fantastic career since then, but it started from me finding his script in the pile and instantly falling in love. It was a big moment for him, the first time theaters in other cities were doing his work.

 

“At Geva? We did a show in our 13/14 season that our literary manager fell in love with, Stranded on Earth by Eric Coble. She just found it in the pile, and brought it to everybody and said, ‘It’s beautiful; we should do it,’ and so we did. Theaters like Dad’s Garage, you might expect that to happen, but it happens at big regional theaters, too. [Side note: I have a friend who once read scripts at Buffalo’s former regional theater Studio Arena, and she tried this with Margaret Edson’s W;t; it didn’t work, but the play still won out elsewhere, so that’s a good note on perseverance.] Informed Consent [Deborah Zoe Laufer] came out of an NYU writers group I started that partners with Geva. Tinker to Evers to Chance [Mat Smart] came from the pile; I started asking around to other theaters, what are the awesome small-cast plays that are on everyone’s heartbreak pile, the plays you push for that the artistic director doesn’t choose, so it’s close but it breaks your heart to write and tell them no. And the majority of new work that at Geva comes out of the development program. So new play miracles do happen!”

 

My nutshell takeaway: Miracles happen, and not just at Christmas. These are precisely the stories RIPP was intended to share, so I feel good about closing with several  doozies. (I hope a year from now, Mr. Daniels has even more success stories to share!) New play miracles do happen, but 1) you have to keep submitting and 2) you have to believe in them—and yourself.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed the RIPP series. I’ll be starting another project in the new year, something more fun, less labor intensive, but still intended to motivate and inspire. Happy holidays!

 

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Written by donnahoke

donnahoke

Dramatists Guild Council member and ensemble playwright-in-residence at Road Less Traveled Productions, Kilroys List and award-winning playwright Donna Hoke’s work has been seen in 40 states, and on five continents. Her full-length plays include ELEVATOR GIRL (2017 O’Neill finalist), THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR (Princess Grace semi-finalist, currently in its fourth year in rep in Romania), SEEDS (Artie award winner for Outstanding New Play), SAFE (winner of the Todd McNerney, Naatak, and Great Gay Play and Musical Contests), and BRILLIANT WORKS OF ART (2016 Kilroys List, Winner HRC Showcase, Firehouse Festival of New American Plays); she’s also authored more than two dozen short plays that have had hundreds of productions. Donna is also a New York Times-published crossword puzzle constructor; author of Neko and the Twiggets, a children’s book; and founder/co-curator of BUA Takes 10: GLBT Short Stories. For three consecutive years, she was named Buffalo’s Best Writer by Artvoice, the only woman to ever receive the designation.

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4 Comments on “FINAL RIPP POST #52: SEAN DANIELS, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR MERRIMACK REPERTORY THEATRE (FORMERLY ARTIST-AT-LARGE, GEVA THEATRE CENTER)”

  1. 1 Allen Fitz-Gerald said at 1:04 pm on December 18th, 2014:

    Now that RIPP is over, I hope you don’t take down the Archive on this site, because there’s too much there on which to catch up right away.

  2. 2 donnahoke said at 3:38 pm on December 18th, 2014:

    Oh no, I have no intention of doing that. I hope that people will continue to discover and share it.

  3. 3 Pat Carroll said at 4:35 pm on December 18th, 2014:

    Hi Donna … thanks for this, but the link (and here …the evolution of that idea) seems to be broken. How do I find the archive?

  4. 4 donnahoke said at 5:35 pm on December 18th, 2014:

    Thanks for the heads up; I fixed the link. If you click on Melissa Hillman, that will give you the first post, and if you click on RIPP in the categories to the right, you can find all the old posts. Thanks!


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