My post inviting theaters to commission me to adapt O Pioneers! has me thinking: what if every production in America was of a commissioned play?
What if every play was written with the expectation of production… for a given audience… in collaboration with all the resources a theater could bring to bear to make it sing?
What would the drawbacks be?
I can imagine some playwrights being concerned that they’d never get to write the plays they want to write… but what if you didn’t accept any commissions you weren’t interested in?
Would playwriting feel like work made-for-hire… or would it feel like work made with others?
Would it feel to playwrights like losing independence… or like gaining collaborators and community?
Let’s assume for the moment that it wouldn’t be ALL productions, but rather MOST productions that came from commissions… wouldn’t that be better than what we have now?
Imagine that I could wave a wand and make, say, 80% of all productions everywhere in the country world premieres of commissioned work, leaving 15% for second/third productions and 5% for chestnuts and Shakespeare—wouldn’t that mean there’d be more production opportunities for us, and more of us able to live outside of New York/Chicago/LA, and more diverse voices in America?
How is that not good? (At least in some ways.)
I’m not asking, to be clear, whether it would be good for audiences… though I genuinely think it would be.
I’m also not asking, mind you, whether it would be good for other theater practitioners… though I hope it would be at least a mixed blessing.
I’m just asking why we wouldn’t want that—and I’d like to know your answer.