Greetings from Madison, the state capitol of Wisconsin. With its bike paths, massive student population, growing tech sector, and thriving restaurant scene, Madison has a reputation as a progressive town, which may or may not be justified. For a city of around 264,000, Madison has an astonishing 40 theatre groups—at least, before COVID.
Many Madison theatres offer potential opportunities for playwrights. We’ll introduce two; Forward Theater Company and Broom Street Theatre.
Forward Theater has the largest institutional footprint of Madison’s theatres. It is a professional company and a resident arts organization at the Overture Center for the Arts, a performing arts facility with multiple venues and galleries.
Forward has a strong commitment to new works, hosting a Monologue Festival and Wisconsin Wrights New Play Festival in alternating years. Artistic Director Jen Uphoff Gray explains, “We’re a company that pretty exclusively focuses on newer works. We recognize those plays exist because other theaters invested in those works and this is our contribution to paying it forward.”
The Wisconsin Wrights Festival selects three unproduced plays by Wisconsin playwrights, sets them up with a director, dramaturg, and professional actors, and produces them in a staged reading. Those whose plays aren’t selected still get feedback from the theatre professionals reviewing their scripts.
In 2020, Forward moved the festival online for live-streamed performances in late June. Next up is the 2021 Monologue Festival, accepting submissions from August 1 to October 1, 2020. Submissions must be inspired by the theme, “Within These Walls: Stories of Home.” Monologues should be unproduced and run for two to ten minutes. Authors can submit up to two monologues for free. See the company website, www.forwardtheater.com, for full submission information.
Broom Street Theatre has focused pretty much exclusively on new works since its founding in 1969. The company was able to hunker down reasonably comfortably in its small, black box venue during the shutdown.
“We’re in a fortunate position in that we own our building and it doesn’t cost us a lot to keep it dark,” noted Artistic Director and playwright Doug Reed. “We’re taking it slowly and conservatively when it comes to re-opening.”
Slow and conservative are not words that typically come to mind for Broom Street. Once called “experimental,” the theatre’s aesthetic is non-commercial and ready to take chances.
With eight to ten new shows a year, Reed said, “We’re constantly looking for new material. I’m a sucker for a snappy pitch.” Submission guidelines are available at www.bstonline.org. Reed added a plug for a pet project, “I’d love to produce a play that’s not in English. I don’t know how I’d evaluate a play that’s not in English, but…”
Moving to the northeast of the state, in the heart of the scenic Door Peninsula, the nonprofit Write On, Door County offers residencies of one week to one month at their facility, situated on nearly 40 acres between the water of Green Bay and Lake Michigan.
Applications from emerging and established writers in any contemporary literary genre are eligible, and dramatists are encouraged to apply. Pairs of writers or collaborators are also encouraged; each should apply separately.
There is a $40 application fee; applications are accepted year-round. In exchange for a residency, writers agree to complete a community service project in consultation with Write On’s artistic director, which could take the form of an opportunity to present a public workshop, reading, school visit, or other activities.
For full details, visit writeondoorcounty.org/residency. Write On is located within three to six hours driving distance of Milwaukee, Madison, Chicago and Minneapolis/Saint Paul; the nearest airport is in Green Bay, WI (GRB).