In my daily life, I long for the new. I change my hairstyle every few months, I never watch television reruns, and (much to the chagrin of my friends and family) I'm loathe to reminisce. I am too busy looking for what's next. Give me the fresh, exciting, and unexpected every time.
In grad school, I focused on dramaturgy for new play development. It was at once wonderful and emotionally exhausting. Surrounded by playwrights (the most exotic of creative creatures!), I was continually amazed at both the height of their imagination and the depth of their insecurity. Someone told me once that writers don't like to write; they like to have written. Writing itself is painful and personal and incredibly difficult to do. If you've never tried it, I actually don't recommend it--unless you enjoy feeling vulnerable, frustrated, and generally unsatisfied on a regular basis. It can be hard, and often thankless work. Sometimes I think of all the plays that have been dreamed up and never written down and get really sad. Then I think about all of the great plays that have been written, and are just sitting there unproduced and I get...sadder.
[This is the part where I say hooray for things like the National New Play Network: http://nnpn.org/, which exists to play matchmaker to awesome plays and the theatre that might produce them. Here in Baltimore, we have the Cohesion Theatre Playwrights Fellowship: www.cohesiontheatre.org/the-playwrights-fellowship/, Footlights Readings produced by our chapter of the Dramatist's Guild: https://www.dramatistsguild.com/event/baltimore-baltimore-footlights/, the Baltimore Playwrights Festival: http://www.baltplayfest.org/, and FPCT's own 10x10x10 festival. Have you noticed a pattern though? None of those opportunities allow for a fully-supported, fully-staged production of a new work.]
As the playwright, you write, you revise, you revise again, and then usually, you send your carefully wrought masterpiece of word art out into the void and wait. You wait and wait for someone in an office someone to see it, and like it, and consider it worthy of production. Here in the middle of an inherently collaborative art form, playwrights are siloed. They have writer's groups and table readings, which are both great, but only take you so far. Plays, after all, are meant to be seen in action, not read on a page. Workshop readings can be great for beginning playwrights to hear their work out loud, or even for established ones to work out the kinks on a new script, but what happens after the workshop reading and the subsequent draft?
Playwriting is a peculiar art form. There is a reason, I think, why it's spelled playwright. They are craftspeople of both words and images; they dream bodies into space. They're creating the outline of an event, and handing it off to strangers who will animate it for three-dimensional reality. It requires a balance between breathing room and specificity. When I teach playwriting to kids, I talk a lot about intention. The ideas in your brain need to make it to the page, and then to the actors and then to the audience. If the audience doesn't receive them, it's often you that hasn't done your job. A good play (and one that directors get excited to direct!) finds a sweet spot where the structure and intention are strong, but leave plenty of space for actors and the production team to play.
The Quickening strikes that balance, and when TCT founder Anthony Lane Hinkle read it, he felt strongly that it deserved the care necessary to take it from page to stage. Theatre companies depend on ticket sales to survive, and giving a brand new, unproven play a slot in their season can be an incredibly risky proposition. This process is a real luxury. We in the cast and crew have the time to get to know each other, to weigh our design options, and to ask Mark--our primary source--about the script he has brought into being. I feel honored to shepherd it through that process.