With the permission of the Dramatists Guild, I am re-publishing my regional reports here on my blog after they’ve been published in print and released to members. My thinking is that (in some cases, at least) the columns I write will interest other theater practitioners and non-Guild members as well. The following column has been updated slightly from the printed version, given that more accurate data have since become available.
What percentage of the plays being produced in your community were written, do you think, by playwrights who live in your community? How many of the stories available to you and your fellow citizens were grown in your own soil, so to speak, and how many were imported from elsewhere?
I can actually answer that question for the DC area with respect to the upcoming 2012-13 season. I’ve crunched the numbers. With almost all of the upcoming season announced, 14% of the plays being produced were written by DC-area playwrights or devised by DC-based ensembles. And that number doesn’t include the plays being produced in any of our three big summer theater events: the Source Festival, the Capital Fringe Festival, and the DC Black Theatre Festival, all three of which typically include high percentages of locally-created work.
Does 14% strike you as high or low? I’m guessing that if you live in New York, it probably seems miniscule by comparison. I’d venture a (very) wild guess that the number closer to 40%—could it even be 60%, or higher?—in the Big Apple. So many of the country’s playwrights, after all, live in the New York metropolitan area. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that more of the plays being produced in my city next year were written by playwrights who live in New York than by playwrights who live in DC. The numbers would seem to make it likely.
On the other hand, if you live in, say, New Orleans, does 14% really seem like an embarrassment of riches? Is almost every story being told on your stages arriving into Louisiana from out of state? Penned by a playwright who lives in Chicago or Minneapolis or Los Angeles or who knows where else? Is the number in your area closer to 5%… or is it even lower?
A better question for me is this: what does 14% mean? Is it indicative of a robust community of artists generating new work for their fellow citizens, or is it evidence that the city still has room to grow as a creative hotbed? I would like to believe it’s the former, given the increasingly strong theatrical reputation DC has been developing in the last five years, but without comparisons to other parts of the country, it’s hard to know.
(For the record: I would LOVE to have data like this for every major metropolitan area. If you happen to know where it might be found, please drop me a line! I’ll be continuing to gather data for DC during the next few years, for what it’s worth, just to see how things progress.)
I can at least say, anecdotally, that it seems in the last few years as if more work by DC-area playwrights is ending up on some of our city’s big stages than ever before. The upcoming season will feature plays by Jon Klein (YOUNG ROBIN HOOD, Round House), Natsu Onoda Power (A TRIP TO THE MOON, Synetic, plus a yet-to-be-titled show at Forum Theatre), Jacqueline Lawton (THE HAMPTON YEARS, Theater J), Aaron Posner (STUPID FUCKING BIRD, Woolly Mammoth), and Allyson Currin (CAESAR AND DADA, WSC/Avant Bard), just to name a few from a list that includes many others. (I’m compelled to note that my own new play, REALS, has also just opened the season at Theater Alliance.) That seems like a rich bounty of new work… and I’m proud to say we grew it in our own garden.