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September 4th, 2013 donnahoke



If you don’t know what RIPP: Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project, please click here to get some context before reading. I have a feeling not everyone is doing this, as I keep getting emails from playwrights wanting to send me their plays or asking how to get produced which, again, is not the point of RIPP




Airmid generally doesn’t seek out new writing, but adaptations and translations of classics by women. That being said, generally and realistically, if there is an existing English language version of a play, I won’t take on an adaptation that will mean paying a playwright a royalty for something that already exists and I can cut/adapt myself. Funds are always tight and we have to be honest about that. We have done several adaptations, some with commission fees attached, others without. All are meant to have a shared royalty with Airmid since they are generally conceived, developed, and produced by our company.


My research in classics by women leads me to look for early and pre-twentieth century plays in all languages that are relevant either because of their production history or their connection to current events. After that, they just need to be a good story with story characters and something important to say. What grows out of that regarding new works/commissions comes from how the story’s themes, production style, or history etc. resonate with me.    


I find my inspiration for development and production in so many places, but I guess what I look for the most is a story that is unique and is teaching us something about society that we still need to address today, or readdress from a different perspective which is often the woman’s perspective. What we produce doesn’t have to be “feminist” in nature; it just needs to be written by a woman. We have had one male adaptor who was a scholar of the woman’s work he adapted and maintained her perspective in the adaptation.


I am interested in works that span all cultures and time periods as well as genres. Much of what we have produced in the past has been some realism or period verse/costume drama.  I’m hoping we find works that move beyond that as well. The key to what gets me interested in a work is to understand the original and to hold fast to it and its intent, but to make it resonate for a modern audience. 


I haven’t found that yet, but if someone was following those guidelines I would consider it. Most people ignore my mission and send me new works that are simply period pieces, or a woman wrote it herself but again never paid attention to the “classics” part of the mission. Plays about women in previous centuries are a dime a dozen, but that’s not what the mission means. Then there are the men who never even look at the mission and get pissed off when I say we don’t produce work by men.  


When I was a literary manager at Primary Stages, and if I ever do this anywhere else, I would say that writers need to do their homework and know why the theater they are sending it to might produce it.  What is the theatre’s annual budget and how does that translate to the stage (i.e. how many shows with an overall number of actors per year)?  What is the theater’s production history and mission and how does their play fit into that aesthetic? I get annoyed at writers who don’t do their homework but expect me to read their work.  And worse are the people who either complain to you when you respond with a “no thanks but good luck” (I got a multi-page rant in the mail one time from a playwright after several of his plays were turned down over a number of years and various LMs) or who don’t realize you are unlikely to produce their work and keep sending to the same kind of play to the same company (see last parenthetical again). Neither of those actions endear the writer to the people who could ultimately champion their writing. 


It’s hard to be on both sides of the desk when picking a season. We aren’t adversaries but sometimes I think it comes across that way after you’ve been turned down enough.  ADs and LMs have lots of things to consider and many of those things change over time or with the changes in their community’s needs, production budgets, and world events. 


I have lots of plays I love and I wish everyone a chance to get produced with the right company.  That is the key to good to a healthy and successful show.”



My nutshell takeaway: Holy salamander shit! There’s a theater with a SPECIFIC mission (see my mission rant here) and NOBODY is filling it. I’m not saying run right out right now and write a play that fits this bill… but then again, if you think you can, why not? If it’s a good play, it’s a good play, right? Maybe it’s time to try something new.


 Until next time,




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