As you read this, a newly elected New York State Regional Rep will be in place, and I will have transitioned to Western New York ambassador and member of the Dramatists Guild’s new Regional Committee. In these positions, I’ll continue to create programming for WNY playwrights; assist the new rep in broadening the scope of DG activity across the state; and act as advocate and liaison between the Guild and not only the WNY theatre community, but also regional playwrights at large.
In my eight years as Regional Rep—first for Western New York and then for New York State (excluding greater New York City)—my primary mission was to help playwrights advocate for themselves and their work. While we had exciting events like discount-ticket Playwrights Mobs and Banned Together, and special gatherings featuring guests like GARY GARRISON, TERRENCE MCNALLY and Tom Kirdahy, CHRISTINE TOY JOHNSON, TOM DUDZICK (Buffalo), JEFFREY SWEET (Rochester), and HUNTER FOSTER at Redhouse (Syracuse), by far the most successful in terms of both attendance and ongoing value were:
1. Submission seminar: Perhaps the first iteration of a now-ubiquitous presentation topic, then Central New York Regional Rep AOISE STRATFORD and I designed this inaugural event (as well as the state Roving Readings) to help playwrights look beyond their backyards. I then brought it to the 2015 La Jolla Conference, and the subsequent repetition of this material across the country has created lasting and undeniable results.
2. Community theatre new work roundtable: Attracting the highest number of playwright attendees, this roundtable featured six community theatre artistic directors discussing opportunities for new work development. It was a microcosm of the kind of networking playwrights need to do, because, again, it’s always about teaching each other how to fish.
3. Plays at the Burchfield Penney Art Center: Three judges selected entries from regional playwrights that were inspired by the works of Charles Burchfield. These plays were then presented on the museum’s Second Friday free event to a standing-room-only crowd (many others were turned away). While the chosen playwrights were thrilled at the experience, the real benefit was that playwrights who had never written for a contest and submitted according to guidelines now knew how to do it—and continue to. (This also inspired member JAMES MARZO to launch a reading series at cultural landmarks across the region.)
4. Annual Playwrights Holiday Potluck: Started years before I became a rep, the potluck will continue as long as I am able (though, sadly, this year I’m sure we won’t be able to have one in person). It’s helped create and maintain our community, given us a chance to ask/answer questions, and bridged Rochester and Buffalo playwrights—something I’m particularly happy about.
I’m not leaving, neither the Guild—I have too much love and pride for it to ever do so—nor any playwrights I’ve supported and come to call friends since 2012. Please continue to connect, view me as a resource, and, most importantly, believe in yourselves, your work, and its need to be seen.