RIPP #45: DEEN KEEGAN, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR. SOCIETY HILL PLAYHOUSE

April 3rd, 2014 donnahoke

 

 

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.

 

From DEEN KEEGAN, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR. SOCIETY HILL PLAYHOUSE

 

“Over the past several years, the new plays we’ve done have each come in a different way. One piece came to me because friends in Maryland saw it and said they thought it was a piece we’d like to do; the gal who wrote it is a college professor, and she had not sent it out, so that was a match made through a theater patron. A couple of years ago, I saw a piece at a musical theater festival showcase, and the writer was very anxious to get it produced outside of the workshop, and that was another thing we did. One writer from San Francisco sent a query (when we look at plays, we want to see hard copy), and it was intriguing, so we did a reading and liked it enough to do a full production. Some years, we develop original material at the theater. One of the determining factors for us we do not have a subscription audience, so it’s really risk-taking when we do a new play and the financial aspect is very important. I have one now that I really like but it has no commercial appeal. I do lot of work with crime fiction, produced a lot of conferences, and I have a piece that’s two characters, very noir, and I would really like to do it, but we’re not going to get an audiences. It comes down to that judgment so much.

 

“A writer needs to look at what the theater is currently doing. For instance, I got a query about historical play with 18 characters; that was a waste of the playwright’s time. Our experiences with new playwrights have been very good and very bad. You take their child, and I won’t be specific, but one play was not perfect and the writer got hysterical: “You’re ruining my play!” We wanted him to look at the piece and see what didn’t work. We have a playwright we’ve worked with over the years, Walt Vail, who wrote a piece called Branch, and we did that. It’s great fun to have that relationship and that’s another thing we see: playwrights do they get established with a theater and that’s a really good thing for a playwright.

 

“We started 54 years ago, when there were no theaters in Philly other than main commercial houses. It was not easy to open, but for 25 years, we were really unique in that we did all modern pieces—European and American 99 percent premieres. But the times changed radically and, to continue operating, we knew that we were going to have to change format. There are about 80 theaters in Philadelphia now; it’s a very vibrant scene, but I look for something very commercial and audience appealing for the mainstage, which seats 250. The electric company doesn’t want to know about art; they want the bill paid.”

 

My nutshell takeaway: 1) the truth hurts 2) believing in long shots is a vital part of one’s strategy 3) :(

 

Until next time, don’t forget about Trade A Play Tuesday!

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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