Thursday, December 01, 2011

A Hard Knock Life

A stimulating read at HowlRound today, by Howard Sherman:
I wonder whether the not-for-profit theater is guilty of what we accuse “popular culture” of doing, that is to say, constantly embracing the new and abandoning anything that can be accused of being “so five minutes ago” (as is that particular phrase). Do we lionize only the true hits and consign the vast body of literature engendered by and created for our stages to the dustbin of history? Yes, you can browse for them at the Drama Book Shop in New York or the Samuel French shop in Los Angeles, but beyond that, they require archeological hunts, facilitated by sites both commercial (Amazon) and altruistic (the dizzyingly thorough Doollee.com). But how many never even saw publication, relegating them to permanent anonymity?

I wonder if there is any research on the number of new plays that debut each year?  The number of new shows in Los Angeles is dizzying; I can only imagine that in more "dedicated" theatre towns, the numbers are greater.

There is a huge wealth of material out there, most of which will never be seen again.  It's kind of depressing to think about, particularly if you're one of the playwrights generating that material.  I wonder what is being done -- or could be done -- to facilitate the archeological hunts that Sherman mentions.  Doollee seems to be a step in the right direction.  Perhaps there is something we could do regionally to help producers find underproduced gems?  Something as simple as Bitter Lemons adding a "original work" tag to their LemonMeter would make it easier for producers to search for the best reviewed new plays.

Here's a thought:  We should put together our own version of "The Black List."  Instead of a list of the best, unproduced screenplays, we could generate a list of the best original plays produced in Los Angeles in the previous year.  Such a list might just encourage play producers in other cities to consider producing our homegrown drama.  Perhaps other cities would generate their own lists, and we could exchange and share our wealth.

This list would be specifically for unpublished original plays, the exact sort of work Sherman says are relegated "to permanent anonymity" for lack of publishing.

Where to start?  Digging through the LemonMeter for 100% sweet debuts?  Emailing critics?  Asking Ovation voters?  I wouldn't mind doing the tabulation, but I'm not sure where to start ...

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