A Modest Proposal

11.14.10 | 16 Comments

CATEGORIES #2femt, advocacy, awards, conversation starter, development, ideas, new plays, rabble rousing

“We regret to inform you that of the 19 nominated plays, none was deemed sufficiently realized by the selection panel to receive the Prize. As a result, the Wasserstein Prize will not be presented in 2010. While the panel thought that many of the scripts showed promise, they felt that none of the plays were truly outstanding in their current incarnation.”

For a more complete story on the 2010 Wasserstein Prize or lack thereof, check out Kris Vire’s post at Time Out Chicago and playwright Michael Lew’s open letter to the Theatre Development Fund, which has taken over administration of the prize this year.

We find it hard to believe that 19 solicited playwrights failed to create anything worthy of the prize, but our taste shouldn’t be the counterpoint. We thereby propose presenting those plays to a wider audience.

We invite those 19 playwrights to allow readings of their work, convened nationwide and streamed live via the internet. And we invite 19 theatre companies to join us in presenting these readings, one per company, over the next several months.

If your theatre company is interested in presenting a reading, please fill out the form below.

If you are one of the 19 playwrights, please email Travis Bedard here.

We will create a special mailing list to get in touch and coordinate the project. Your information will not be shared outside of the project.

Thank you.

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  • Super

    How should the 19 playwrights get in touch? Are their names currently released?

  • Keith Beck

    The four items here are quotes from a letter by Michael Lewis posted on http://www.youngblood.blogspot.com – probably not going to make a lot of friends with my comments but it just seems this business lives on rejection and the collective always seems to be frustrated by that. Its why those who once walked in these shoes who learn how to survive it and learn from it and are lucky can create an “Outrageous Fortune”

    1. “After all, plays are meant to be experienced and not read on a page.”

    The experience begins on the page. If it doesn’t move you at least a little, if you can’t see the potential or gain a vision then how can it grow to anything that will have breath and life on a stage.

    2.” Celebrate a writer of startling potential. But above all, you must celebrate and not condemn — you must summon the same generosity of spirit that Wendy herself showed young artists.”

    Celebrations are for parties, weddings and if your Irish funerals. The only way anyone grows is from failure, the only way any learns is by missing the mark and learning what missed. Why is it required to have encouragement for 3rd place?

    3. I know you’re aware of the inequalities that persist in this business — the dearth of production opportunities for females and for writers of color.

    Dearth of opportunities in any business, is it harder for minorities? Yes. Does it mean they should expect a paved road? The award functioned as a business. It found no script (not writer) close to being ready. How many of the scripts were tested, read, worked, re-written etc. If the award functioned as a business did the product meet the criteria of a business? If not then maybe the product should.

    4. But this is an advocacy tool – not just a prize – and in an industry that is hostile to providing equal resources for all voices, there can be no bar to advocacy.

    Where does it say advocacy tool? I thought it said cash prize 25K. Interesting how the author writes industry to avoid using the word business again.

    • This is why our response is simply the work.

      We don’t claim to know more than the unknown gatekeepers of the process. What we say is that it seems unlikely that all of the work by these 19 women was unworthy. So let’s hear it and decide for ourselves.

  • Is it possible that the reason none of the 19 plays made the cut is that the actual discovery process is flawed?

    Is it possible that the cultural gatekeepers that nominated the finalists are short changing the best work by women playwrights under 32, and instead offered something else entirely?

    What criteria did the nominators use?

    • Stkbkr95

      Good point Ian, or who are the gatekeepers? Seems all skull and bones like

      • The TDF’s own report took the position that the current system of play development is not necessarily getting the best possible material on stages– so what happens if they rely on that system for prize nominations?

        I don’t want to suggest anything conspiratorial or malevolent. I think that it’s just a matter of people promoting members of their own cliques and plays that best represent the group-think of their cliques. People who happened to spend some years together in graduate school are simply more inclined to want to help their struggling comrades.

        My guess is that some of the best plays out there are being written by folks (male and female) whose work simply doesn’t conform to an MFA program’s conception of how it’s supposed to be done.

        • Stkbkr95

          Ian sounds like your description might fit along the same lines as an Amway, Avon, Mary Kay or pick your multi-level marketing group think event. Yuck!

  • I think you’re going to get a lot of positive reactions and a lot of companies wanting to participate. Great idea!

    • Thanks! So far, we’ve got nine companies signed up. Depending on how many sign up, we might have companies team up and work together. We already have several lined up in Chicago, a couple in New York City, a couple from overseas…

      • Andie Arthur

        I’ve sent the info to my AD to see if she’s interested.

  • Tlaloc Rivas

    Mr. Beck (and 2AMt’s):

    The writer of the original letter is playwright Michael Lew (not Lewis) and the website of the blog is http://youngbloodnyc.blogspot.com/2010/11/no-wasserstein-prize-in-2010-selection.html

    There is also a petition now being signed through Facebook at http://apps.facebook.com/petitions/1/tdf-please-reconsider-2010-wasserstein-prize/?ref=mf

    … and with those signatures come with thoughtful, articulate arguments as to why this issue has ignited this issue. As a director and supporter of new work and emerging writiers, I know for a fact that there talented female playwrights under the age of 32; but there’s something arbitrary about that age for an emerging artist award. There are as many trajectories in a career as there are artists. I know Michael Lew personally, and he is a compassionate artist with an understated demeanor – so I was really rocked on my heels by what he did. All of us should speak up for our comrades – and especially love when men step up, without being asked, and speak on behalf of women.

    Tlaloc Rivas
    Assistant Professor of Theatre
    University of Missouri-St. Louis

  • Tlaloc Rivas

    Ugh – I should proofread my posts before posting. Forgive the grammatical errors …

    This is precisely why I’m NOT a playwright. Sheesh.

    Carry on …


  • The TDF seems to have come out and said that the who nomination process was flawed and so they are going to fix the process and do it over again.

    • We’re very much aware, highlighted it over on Twitter when the news broke. We have been in contact with them to ask if such readings would disqualify the nominees, and if there’s no problem, we’re happy to continue.

      If not, we’ll go ahead with a 2amt reading series with the same structure–table reads or staged readings of new plays from companies around the world, streamed live online. It’s a project we’ve been planning for some time already in any case.

  • Stkbkr95

    Where can we see the list of companies who have signed up?