New England by Patrick Gabridge
Our first regional event of the year was a Meet & Greet and Tool Swap in Providence, Rhode Island. Half a dozen intrepid souls came out in a storm that featured a wide variety of forms of frozen water: snow, slush, sleet, ice, freezing rain, and probably a few others. We gathered at The Wilbury Theatre Group’s new space, hosted by artistic director Josh Short, who welcomed us with a batch of fresh popped popcorn.
Before the meeting, I talked with Josh about The Wilbury Theatre Group and their interest in playwrights and new plays. Founded in 2010, The Wilbury Theatre Group has developed a reputation for taking on work with an edge and developing new plays. Josh grew up in Rhode Island and decided to stay and make theatre in Providence “because of its creative, funky vibe. People are willing to take chances, to be creative, to try stuff. We’re trying to make theatre that is accessible and interesting, and I feel very at home here.”
“I want to meet the next Tony Kushner, with his next fantastical piece that asks the question: what can theatre do that other mediums can’t do? I want to meet someone who wants to take the art apart and find something next.”
In August, after a long, challenging search, The Wilbury Theatre Group moved into a new space in the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence. They develop new plays through their Studio W program (though their main season also often includes new plays—this season it was New and Dangerous Ideas by Christopher Johnson). Over the past few seasons, they have developed more than a dozen new works, including Cold by Guild member Ben Jolivet and Don’t Give Up The Ship by Laura Neill. (They also did the first reading of my play Chore Monkeys.) Wilbury plans to expand the type of material developed in Studio W, with an openness to work, like the upcoming PARt, that involves music, movement, and experimentation. Josh hopes they can continue to create a “place to play, with stakes not so high that they keep people from trying things.”
In addition to Studio W, the Wilbury Group is the driving force behind FringePVD, a summer fringe festival (July 30-August 4, this year), which they started in 2014. Before the festival, Josh said, there was a lot of exciting work happening in Providence, with artists in the old mill buildings around the city, that just couldn’t get any attention or audience. “I learn more by seeing these people’s work and the way they’re challenging their audiences, than from just about anything,” Josh said.
Local writers can get involved with Wilbury by applying through their web site (the synopsis and project goals are particularly important) and get to know them by seeing their shows. Wilbury is the only theatre in Rhode Island that is currently part of the Guild’s Playwrights Welcome program, and Josh hopes that Guild members will take advantage of the free ticket offer.
Our Meet & Greet gave our small group of writers a chance to get to know each other and we spent a lot of time sharing information on other small Rhode Island companies who are producing work by local writers, about our FringePVD experiences (very positive), about NNPN, NPX, the New England New Play Alliance, and the Playwright Submission Binge. Type of writing software was another topic and we shared info about tools that we use, including Scrivener and Final Draft. We also discussed what types of events we can plan for our next Rhode Island get-together. In the meantime, I hope these playwrights will come up to Boston for our upcoming events on contracts and mid-career artist money matters. We will be having other Meet & Greet and Tool Swap meetings later this year in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Western Massachusetts.