RIPP #29: KEN WEBSTER, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, HYDE PARK

September 17th, 2013 donnahoke

 

 

If you don’t know what RIPP: Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project, is about, please click here to get some context before reading.

 

From KEN WEBSTER, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, HYDE PARK

 

We’ve come across several gems since I became Artistic Director—Art Stripped Naked by Wayne Alan Brenner 2001 (World Premiere), Blur by Melanie Marnich 2002, The Lonely Highway by Hans Frank 2002, Quake by Melanie Marnich 2003, Something Someone, Someplace Else by Ann Marie Healy 2003 (World Premiere), Perdita by Monika Bustamante 2003 (World Premiere), Ham by Hans Frank 2004 (World Premiere), Pageant by Daniel MacDonald 2005 (U.S. Premiere), The Evidence of Silence Broken by Zell Miller III 2005, Chopper by Leah Ryan 2005 (Southwest Premiere), You’re No One’s Nothing Special by Ann Marie Healy 2006, My Child, My Child, My Alien Child by Zell Miller III 2006 (World Premiere), and Bombs in Your Mouth by Corey Patrick 2009 (World Premiere). You’ll notice that we have produced multiple plays by some of these playwrights–Marnich, Healy, Frank, and Miller.

 

Over the past twelve years, about thirty percent of the plays we have produced were submissions from playwrights, but about fifty percent of our submissions are from playwrights who haven’t really researched what programming we’ve done over the past five or ten years. So we often get submissions of scripts we would be unlikely to produce—musicals, farces, plays about espionage in foreign lands.

 

From 2010 to the present, we have not produced any submissions. During that time we have produced scripts by more established playwrights such as Annie Baker, Will Eno, Greg Pierce, Morris Panych, Daniel MacIvor, Martin McDonagh, Kim Rosenstock, and Conor McPherson.

 

It’s not so much that we moved away from new plays. We are currently producing the second production in the country of Slowgirl by Greg Pierce, we did the third productions in the country of Annie Baker’s plays The Aliens, Circle Mirror Transformation, and Body Awareness. We did the Southwest premiere of Will Eno’s Middletown, and two of the earliest productions in the country of A Behanding in Spokane by Martin McDonagh and Tigers Be Still by Kim Rosenstock.

 

Throughout my time as artistic director, we have tried to bring audiences exciting new voices in the theater scene as well as established ones. I’m a huge fan of Baker, Eno, McDonagh, Harold Pinter, McPherson, Rebecca Gilman, Eliza Anderson, and Canadians Daniel MacIvor and Michael Healey.

 

I think one reason we have done fewer submissions since 2010 is because of a contact I have in a literary department in NYC, who is quite familiar with my taste in scripts. He sends me new scripts that have been produced recently or have yet to be produced. So I’m seeing some scripts before the playwright or their agent have had a chance to submit them to us. For example, my contact found Slowgirl and Tigers Be Still for us. Had those two scripts been submitted to us by the playwrights or their agents, I would have snatched them up.

 

There have been some submissions that were near misses for me in the past three years, And I think it is safe to say we will be producing more submissions in the near future, even with my invaluable NYC contact providing me with scripts.”

 

My nutshell takeaway: “You’ll notice that we have produced multiple plays by some of these playwrights–Marnich, Healy, Frank, and Miller,” says Mr. Webster. In researching theaters, I have found this to be true: a theater’s past production lists every play by Stephen Adly Guirgis, or Tom Dudzick, or Sara Ruhl. I’m guessing this is, at least in part, because the first play by this person did well enough to warrant a second production, but it also stands to reason that the first production created a rewarding relationship between theater and playwright.

 

Not that I want to start harping on relationships again, but in this case we’re not talking about establishing one, but caring and nurturing one that already exists. It might not be enough just to send your next play to a theater who produced the first; you might need to keep in touch, talk about your ideas, attend shows and fundraisers, maybe even make the theater part of your collaborative process. The worst thing would be to send your brilliant play to a theater, only to have them sniff: “She never calls, she never writes, and now we’re supposed to produce her play?” Every relationship is different but one thing is certain: loyalty and attention are at the heart of the best ones. If a theater has been generous enough to offer an artistic home even once, it means that theater has taken a risk with you, which is no small thing. Stay in touch—and not just at the holidays.

 

Speaking of which,  it’s getting so cold, I feel like they’re almost here. Until next time,

Donna

 

 

 

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 THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR (Princess Grace semi-finalist, currently in its third year in rep in Romania), SEEDS (Artie award winner for Outstanding New Play), FLOWERS IN THE DESERT (AACT top 20 finalist), SAFE (winner of the Todd McNerney National Playwriting Contest, Naatak National Playwriting Contest, and the 2015 Great Gay Play and Musical Contest), and BRILLIANT WORKS OF ART (2016 Kilroys List, Winner HRC Showcase, Firehouse Festival of New American Plays, top ten Woodward/Newman finalist); 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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