Upstate New York by Donna Hoke
New York is a big state. I live way over in the western corner of it, which makes it hard to reach members in other regions. I’m thrilled to announce the appointment of two regional ambassadors who are going to help get that job done: Donna Stuccio in Syracuse and Bryon Nilsson in Albany. There were so many stellar applicants for these positions that geography became the priority in selection. By having the three of us dot the state, we’ve got the three major regions of Greater New York State covered: Western New York, Central New York, and Capital District—which includes Upstate New York. (Metropolitan New York now has its own rep, Winter Miller.)
I’m delighted to let the two new ambassadors introduce themselves and talk about their regional visions. I’d also love to hear from members in Greater New York State about ideas for programming in these regions, and especially collaboration among regions.
Donna Stuccio: About 23 years ago, without one completed play, I found my way into a playwriting group. That bit of miraculous fortune reset the course of my life. As a Dramatists Guild ambassador, I can work to facilitate opportunities for greater access to a close community of playwrights and a solid link to all that the Dramatists Guild can offer. I believe in the life-changing impact those connections can facilitate.
I hope to build and strengthen that access through strategically planned meetings and social media groups. I’d like to pull in locally-based writers to present workshops on craft. As far as individual playwriting groups focused on new play development, I’d like to meet with them to see what is working and what is not and then set up a system of sharing best practices. And finally, I would like to increase awareness of new work generated at the local level and match those works to willing community and professional theater companies.
The opportunities for production of new works in my region are not yet ideal but they are expanding. Syracuse and Ithaca have vibrant theater communities. There are a handful of colleges in the area with strong theater programs and an enthusiastic audience base and I believe this has contributed to a large contingent of like-minded people who want to make theater. The camaraderie is strong and has led to the generous pooling of limited resources.
Byron Nilsson: I’m delighted to be able to serve as DG ambassador because it extends the work I’m already doing as chair of Albany’s Equity Liaison Area. Helping area actors get work also means building opportunities for area playwrights. As playwrights, we don’t work in a vacuum. Sharing one another’s company helps validate the lonely craft we pursue and pooling our skills not only can improve the quality of our work but also help us learn about opportunities for readings and productions. And it can’t hurt to show area producers that there’s an appreciable quantity of us with quality new work to offer.
Like many who choose to live outside of a major city, I’ve had a number of different jobs-for-money along the way, including work as a waiter, chef, electronics assembly technician, radio announcer, private investigator, arts writer, technical writer, restaurant reviewer, cabaret singer, and photographer. I live on a small farm in rural Montgomery County, where I raise bees, make cheese, and bottle maple syrup.
That so few of these writers have been produced locally is a tribute to the area’s dependence on Neil Simon or whatever was popular on Broadway two seasons ago. We are an area of nervous theatergoers who need to appreciate theatergoing as a living, vital social force. Local opportunities have improved in recent years, especially in the realm of community theaters offering places for short plays in their rosters, but there’s room for more. Our best approach for now lies in creating our own opportunities, something I’ve already been doing but would love to expand into a consortium approach. Thus: I look forward to meeting with all of you!