I recently had the pleasure of seeing the splendid (too cheesy?) world premiere of Kirsten Greenidge’s play, Splendor. I thought the production was stunning. The performers did a fabulous job of telling a story of Thanksgiving. Viewing this play felt like the roller coaster of emotions one feels when returning home for the holidays, and so I was with the actors the whole way through. Although I am not from a small town in Massachusetts like the town this play takes place in, I felt the similarities between this fictional town and my own hometown.
I was so happy to see this production because Kirsten is my playwriting professor and Ilana (the production’s dramaturg) is my dramaturgy professor here at Boston University. I feel so lucky to be immersed in current theatre through each of my professors. Now, as good theatre usually does, I left the building in a reflective state, skimming through my own memories of Thanksgiving. But after reminiscing on my own memories, and thinking more about the show I moved on with my life. It wasn’t until I sat down to do my homework that this play came back to me
For Dramaturgy, we were required to read the book, Outrageous Fortune: The Life and Times of the New American Play by Todd London with Ben Pesner and Zannie Giraud Voss. The book had detailed findings from surveys completed by American theatres and their cohorts. The book was fascinating and the most significant question it led me to was: what’s next? This question is in regards to many aspects of the American theatre: what’s next with playwrights, with my own career, with the relationship between playwrights and theatre companies, etc. I did not get the chance to speak up in that class, so I left the room with the burning question of: what’s next for the world premieres of plays?
After viewing Splendor and reading Outrageous Fortune I couldn’t help but wonder what goes on in the theatre when the world premiere ends. Theatres seem obsessed with boasting a world premiere of a show and that’s wonderful for many people, however, what about after that? I don’t see any theatres flaunting their production of a show that is the second or third revival. I don’t like that. Even though I loved Splendor, I believed there were still aspects of it that could be expanded on or cut. This piece deserves many more revivals and maybe more rewritings, but the American Theatre doesn’t seem to lend itself to that.
I have recently stumbled upon a play submission contest from my hometown and noted in the “rules” for submission that they would not accept pieces unless this would be the world premiere of the show. Again, this is great for emerging artists, but this mode leaves a huge gap between new plays and classics. We seem to love world premieres and the good old classics but what about the people in between? Where do they fit in at the table?
I don’t really have any answers for the questions I posed, but I believe these ideas are something to tackle. The theatre is all about community and reaching out, so why not make sure we include people at all walks of artistic life?