1926 blueprint Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, CA

Plays in development / plays in the making / plays in the news / plays on the brain / plays for life.  Later this month, the 6th annual PlayPenn new play conference will begin here in Philadelphia.  Or better said: the public programming associated with this year’s conference will begin later this month.  Basic description of the 2010 arrangements here: http://www.playpenn.org/, and the public events calendar is here:  http://www.playpenn.org/calendar.html.  It’s a conference for the playwrights with bonus benefits: free public performances of the works in progress.

Work on this year’s conference began months ago of course, with the submission of scripts to the conference offices in fall 2009, and their distribution to scores of readers in November 2009.  I was one of those many readers asked to experience the developing plays on paper, reflect on their status as too early, too late, or just right for the intense two-week workshop rehearsal and rewriting experience that PlayPenn offers to its participant playwrights.  Is this play too early in its development for these intensive resources to assist it on its way?  Is the play too close to being a final draft that is in fact submittable as is to theatres around the country? Or is the play in the perfect yeasty middle state with a playwright who wants actively to engage with the play with others in a rehearsal room, perhaps rewriting, perhaps just hearing her words aloud?  As readers we were asked to keep in mind what all script readers must keep in mind — the fact that a play on the page is a blueprint and a framework for possibilities.  We were also asked to keep in mind this additional dimension: the conference doesn’t want finished plays but plays that are evolving with clear elements, going somewhere. Resources to the selected participants include rehearsals, professional actors, a director, a dramaturg and a final public performance.  My first experience of this conference in person was last year’s public performances, my first year in Philly, and I experienced them lustily, almost greedily.

In addition to the several playwrights and plays selected for this rehearsal intensive treatment, other readings are planned among the 2010 PlayPenn public events.  In particular I am looking forward to a reading of a play that caused quite stir a few months ago for a range of reasons — including, depending upon to whom you speak,  the subject matter, the choice to fictionally dramatize a living person, the timing of the adventure, the role involved public people might have in the development of said play.  Imagining Madoff by Deborah Margolin. I observed at the time and did not participate in these animated and important discussions about how theatre is made.  There was a fair amount of back and forth on this play, the upshot of which is that the Washington DC theatre that had announced the world premiere of this play decided along with the playwright not to continue with that planned production.

Philly for several weeks in July might be the place to be in the country for those interested in new play development.  For a week some of my favorite theatre people from around the country will be in my temporary hometown.  Within a few weeks of this fabulous conference I will have moved my life to Manhattan.  But for this special time, my life will be lived most every night at 2030 Sansom Street in Philadelphia.  Energized by events on the stage created by the playwrights and dramaturgs and directors and unplanned interactions among the audience members .  We become a unique community for that week, composed of friends and long time acquaintances and strangers who convene to watch something possibly magical: life exposed on stage.

Theatre Royal 1917 (not your typical PlayPenn audience)

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