Looks like another mediocre ATL Festival. This festival used to be a consistent source for some terrific new American plays. What has happened? Every agent in America sends what they believe to be their best stuff there.
"Emerging...on Sunday afternoon, a little dazed after seeing six mostly disappointing plays over the weekend." New York Times
Because I know several of the playwrights included in this year's festival, I can tell you that they are people who do create some very interesting and vibrant work. Whether the particular play presented at ATL was representative of their potential, I don't know, but several of the playwrights are on their way to being major voices. In regard to helping cultivate playwrights who are beginning to make their way in the world of theater, ATL appears to me to be successful.
I am all for the playwrights. I am in their corner. I've helped a lot of them out over the years and have been a champion of new plays. If ATL moves them up a notch in exposure, that's great.
However, when I go to a major theatre - which I consider ATL to be - I want to see the best that is available in their theatre.
So, I go back to my original post: with the agents submitting their best stuff, and MFA programs sending their best stuff, one has to wonder...what kind of sensibility is making the decisions in this pipeline? Or what is the goal of the theatre? The question is: "Does a theatre produce good playwrights? Or does a theatre produce good plays?" As an audience member, I would prefer to see good plays regardless of the playwright.
Admittedly, it is a difficult decision.
One person I met at a theatre festival I attended put it perfectly: "The only thing I ask of a play is for it to change my life entirely. Is that too much to ask?" I think we all live in hope of that when the lights come upon a play. I recently saw "Black Watch" in Chicago and felt it hit the mark in that category.
I'm all for people being promoted, and I don't want to sound like sour grapes (I don't know "any" of the playwrights connected w/ATL), but based strictly on background information I was able to garner, some of the plays might have chosen by author recognition and not by content.
Nepotism is alive and well in real life, not only in theatre, and I understand that, but a truly blind read should somehow be verified by those same folks who check up on lottery numbers to make sure it's a level playing field. I think sometimes it's all a crapshoot for the remaining one or two slots leftover "after" the nepotism/prearranged picks are made.
Still, lightning does strike in a bottle and I will keep at it. A hometown girl (28 years old) recently signed a seven figure deal w/a major publishing firm to print and promote her "supernatural" series (movie to follow). She started by selling e-book serials for 99 cents. She went to $2.99 and now to real books.
Perservence. It does happen and there are always stories to keep us writing. I felt honored to be a ATL finalist, but that lasted about three minutes. I want more.
IMR -- The ATL New Play Festival is one feature of their season. The festival is for taking some chances, and sometimes those chances pay off big, and sometimes (perhaps even more times) things fail.
A prime example is DEVIL AT NOON - a play that I saw as a staged reading last summer at the O'Neill Playwrights Conference. The play attempts to present one of the most difficult genres for theater - science fiction. While the play may not be successful - I can tell you that I'm glad that I watched the experiment, because there are many aspects of the work that have stuck with me.
Sometimes a festival like this one is about bringing the playwrights to the table, while the best plays go into their regular season.
I'm curious, Kato, what you feel are the challenges of bringing science fiction to the stage? I'm working on a Sci-Fi full length right now and the knowledge of any potential pitfalls would be of great use to me.
QG -- It's a difficult form to make work in the theater because of the limitations of theatrical space. It's not impossible, and there are some great sci-fi inspired pieces - but they are rare.
Theatrical time and space is already a weird thing - so layering the weirdness of sci-fi onto the weird way that time and space are utilized in live performance, plus the limitations of effects that have to be presented in a real space - it can be hard to make work.
Of course, it's always worth trying - because when it does work it ca be electric.