Ah, spring, when a young editor’s mind turns to mush—wait, that can’t be right. (First of all, I’m not all that young.) In any case, it’s time for the spring preview issue, featuring listings for Bay Area shows throughout the spring—and, as an added bonus, the summer too.
If these vernal delights aren’t enough for you, there’s plenty more in the magazine for your reading pleasure. Our listings editor Caroline Anderson contributes her first full-length feature, examining the far-from-uncommon occurrence of theatre artists who take day jobs in arts administration at theatres. While there’s much to be said for devoting your life to the theatre with both sides of the brain, it’s not without its complications, as evidenced by the fact that half the people Caroline interviewed for the article gave up their arts admin posts before the issue went to press.
Kristin Brownstone looks at several organizations around the Bay Area and environs devoted to providing performance opportunities for senior citizens. Actor Valerie Weak reports back on her first year and a half after getting her Equity card and how it’s affected her own performance opportunities thus far. Associate editor Laura Brueckner profiles not one, not six, but two designers in this issue: lighting designer Kurt Landisman and set designer Emily Greene.
Landisman is also one of the Bay Area theatre-makers honored as part of Theatre Bay Area’s 35th anniversary celebration, “35 Years, 35 Faces.” Director of communications & audience development Clayton Lord explains what that’s about in this month’s Newsfeed. Elsewhere in the magazine, Clay talks about the book-length study on intrinsic impact that our organization’s been working on with research firm WolfBrown for the last two years, unveiled to the public this month.
And finally, Chad Jones takes a long view of the season by looking at the encouraging preponderance of world premieres by local playwrights popping up at various Bay Area theatres.
I’ve been thinking a lot about new plays lately. That’s not an uncommon occurrence, because I’m always interested in and excited by new work. But I’m writing you this note from the not-so-distant past, when I’ve just met with four other critics to pick the Glickman Award for the best play to premiere last year, just as we do every January.
This year the prize goes to playwright Rajiv Joseph for “The North Pool” at TheatreWorks. I’m awfully pleased about the pick, but man, it was a tough decision. The five of us had a long and lively discussion about several strong contenders that had most of us jazzed. But we also had reservations about each of the plays, aspects of an otherwise excellent work that didn’t really ring true. In one case we were talking seriously about one of the candidates in terms not of the play as we all saw it but of the improvements that we’d heard had been made to the script after we saw it.
That in turn led to a conversation about how it’s too bad that critics have to see a new play early on so that theatres can capitalize on any buzz that builds up, because it’s almost always going to be a better show late in the run than it is on opening night. It’s especially a conundrum with new plays, because whether or not it’s billed as such, the world premiere of a new work is always a workshop to a certain extent. Lessons learned from seeing the play on its feet in front of a paying audience, critics and a jury of your peers can then go into rewrites that may make the script stronger for the second and third productions, or at least give it different problems than before.
World premieres are easier to promote than second and third productions, and we always want to encourage supporting new work and getting new plays on the stage. But it’s equally important that the work doesn’t end there, and that those new works have a chance to grow and thrive in order to really become a contribution to the continued vitality of American theatre. Not every script has that potential, but every year there are plenty of great plays that burn brightly for a few weeks only to be extinguished when that world-premiere run closes. That’s one of the reasons that we cover new work—with the hope that if we draw attention to new plays that show particular promise, even if they still need work, maybe people will pay attention who might be in a position to see that they get a chance to fulfill that promise. As invigorating as it is to see a spark catch fire on opening night, it’s all the better when someone’s there to pick up that torch and keep the fire burning.
Sam Hurwitt is editor-in-chief for Theatre Bay Area. He is also the author of The Idiolect, a blog about theater, movies, comics, media and the decline and fall of Western civilization. E-mail email@example.com.