This year got off to a busy start with two events in two weeks.
On January 4th, Michael Bobbitt, the new artistic director of New Rep in Watertown, MA, invited Guild members to the theatre offices for a meet and greet session. Almost twenty playwrights circled up in the conference room for an extended conversation with Michael, who has recently arrived in Boston from Maryland, where he ran the Adventure Theatre-MTC for twelve years. In addition to being an artistic leader, Michael is also an experienced playwright and director.
Since his arrival, Michael has been actively working to get to know the Boston theatre scene and reaching out to playwrights to understand their needs and the needs of the community. We spent a couple hours doing a major brain dump about what we know, and then he let us know his priorities and challenges for New Rep.
Michael was quite clear that the company is not in a position to produce new work for next few years, but he does want to find other ways to support playwrights and new plays, possibly by hosting some readings (perhaps a Footlights series) or finding another way to collaborate with small groups focused on new work. He is not interested in “issues” plays, or generally in plays that focus primarily on group trauma—he’s much more interested in well-developed characters in compelling stories.
We spent a good chunk of time brainstorming what we see as challenges and opportunities for the Boston theatre community. Ideas and suggestions varied a lot, but there was strong interest in some sort of Boston Fringe festival, or a Boston version of Sundance or Humana.
The next weekend, about a dozen Guild members just north of Boston, in Lowell, MA, welcomed Guild playwright Audrey Cefaly to town. Audrey was in Lowell for the production of her play, Maytag Virgin, at Merrimack Repertory Theatre, and in the midst of an eleven-play/city rolling world premiere of her play, Alabaster. We very much enjoyed talking with Audrey about her trajectory as a writer, starting out writing many ten-minute plays, then moving on to writing full-length two-handers (of which Maytag Virgin is a prime example). At the beginning, she sometimes self-produced, but now she’s seeing productions all across the country.
After our afternoon conversation, some of us took Audrey out to dinner (where we were joined by Michael!) at a local Mexican restaurant, and then attended the production of Maytag Virgin (after she and I did a pre-show discussion for the eager audience). It was delightful to have a chance to get to know her and her work. She has an infectious energy and a deep commitment to helping playwrights with their craft and careers.
The event was also a chance to continue to open doors for Guild members at theatres within our region. Merrimack Repertory Theatre committed to producing significant amounts of new work under the previous artistic director, Sean Daniels, and now we’re hoping to encourage the incoming artistic director, Courtney Sale, to continue the company’s commitment to new work and get to know the plethora of strong playwrights in Greater Boston.
With so many leadership changes happening at Boston’s mid-size theatres, it feels like we’re at a moment of great possibility for new plays and playwrights.