New Plays Now and Then

It’s 2010. 2010! How can that be? An entire decade into a new century. A hundred years since George Bernard Shaw wrote Misalliance… 1400 years after some scholars say Shakespeare penned A Winter’s Tale and two thousand four hundred and forty years since Sophocles etched out Oedipus the King. And yet perhaps the greatest tragedy of all… Twenty three years since I won the Kentucky Playwright Award for By Reason of Insanity. During the festival of new plays legendary playwright Horton Foote (A Trip to Bountiful) likened the work to Strindberg. The audience erupted with questions and comments. I figured 10 years best and I’d have my first Broadway opening. Twenty some plays later I still haven’t quite figured out the mystery of success but I have figured out that there are a whole lot of playwrights out there that have work that deserves a spot up in lights. Pair that with a whole lot of audiences that support their local theaters whether they’re attending the work of a centuries known playwright or the premiere of a brand new play and you just might have a bead on one of the long roads to success. The key is, the play has to be good. Okay, so it helps in Community Theatre if your sister’s playing the lead or the director is your second to last best friend or you’re interested in checking out the new seats you helped pay for with your last donation. The point is, however, that communities have a tendency to support their community theaters and community theaters produce a lot of plays in this county. So it’s hard to imagine that lots of really outstanding playwrights still have trouble getting their work seen, let alone making a decent living off their talent. And yet nobody owes them that opportunity and few over the centuries die anything but penniless if they counted on talent for their daily bread. But persistence does make a difference. And so does publishing, especially in this time of cyber communication, interstate interlocking and multi-national interfacing. The future of publishing as a means to reach new audiences particularly in communities all across America follows a well-known premise that Shakespeare him-or-her-self espoused. That is, that plays are meant to be performed. Few people pick up a play to read so publishing plays in book form has its limitations. I happen to read lots of plays but I’m an editor and a publisher. And besides that, I love reading fine drama. But when a theatre is looking for a new play, particularly a Community Theatre, who’s going to sit down and read a list of two thousand descriptions of new plays, select 20 or 30 of interest and pay for a perusal copy of six or eight or ten playbooks? So why not go the easy route and just pick a title everyone knows, avoid the perusal copy and the shipping cost and the time it takes to fill out the paperwork. Let Actors Theatre of Lousiville spend the time and resources to tell us what new plays are worth seeing. Or not. Play publishing is looking ahead at saving theatres time and money and a few trees along the way. Heartland Plays, Inc. is a role model for new play publishing. Using the Internet, allow theaters access to your plays so they can be read for free. It’s a lot easier to take the chance on a new play by a less than world reknown author if it doesn’t cost anything but time to read it. That’s where play publishing is headed and Heartland Plays, Inc. has arrived. What better opportunity for a theatre then to read a description of a play that sounds interesting by one of our truly gifted authors, click on the sample button and read the script. For free. Heartland Plays, Inc. offers reasonable licensing fees and the convenience of downloading the play for a nominal fee and making as many copies of a play as is needed or wanted without violating copyright. Now, isn’t that novel, since we know almost every theater has violated copyright at one time or another. Imagine, the director can send an e-mail to every cast member and every single member of the production staff with an file attachment of the play and each can copy his own script on his own recycled paper (we all accumulate more than we can imagine) and the theatre saves a whole lot of money on individual scripts that end up lost or never returned. Heartland Plays, Inc. is moving ahead one script at a time behind the greatest paradigm shift in play publishing since the turn of the century. The 20th century, that is. My, how time flies!