Playwright in the House: Peter Sinn Nachtrieb
Friday, June 20, 2014
By Peter Sinn Nachtrieb
For the last year and a half, I have been Z Space's "Playwright in Residence," thanks to this ridiculous/awesome grant we got from the Andrew W. Mellon foundation that is currently placing 14 playwrights into three-year residencies at theatres across the country (including Andrew Saito, just down the street at Cutting Ball. Hi, Andrew!). It's a pilot program, so they're gathering information about how they all go to see if this is an idea/program worth funding in the future.
What the hell does this "residency" thing mean, exactly? It means I'm getting a salary, health insurance, a desk in the Z Space office (which I go to, on average, four days a week when I'm in town), with copy machine access as well as the opportunity to make inappropriate comments at weekly staff meetings as together we work to develop and showcase art and find meaning and hope in the American Theatre. I also have a fund available to me for research, travel, and paying collaborators. Ridiculous.
What the hell have I been doing here so far with my time? (And that is the most amazing gift of this residency, TIME!!! Space is a close second.) Shockingly, I have spent most of my time writing things. I actually write things here at Z Space though sometimes my attention span and focus compels me to diversify where I write (especially when they're teching a rock opera). So far, I have honed my play The Totalitarians (which Z will produce as the third leg of its NNPN rolling world premiere this November), continued work on a musical, finished some smaller projects, and begun writing a play for Z Space that is inspired and influenced by this place's unique capabilities.
Z Space resident playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb.
But what the hell has Z Space gotten out of it? Other than the full use of my height, I've read scripts, introduced artists I know and love to Lisa Steindler, done some programming, helped invite more artists and audience into the space, wrote the end of year ask letter, done my own fundraising outreaches, sat at Lisa's desk and gabbed about stuff (she was there, too), hosted a new play bake-off, gone to Board retreats and meetings, given notes on stuff in development, attended table readings, gone to shows and showcases on behalf of Z Space, tweeted, Facebooked, shared anecdotes I've encountered out in the field, and I also donated a bottle of wine. Oh, and they get to produce my work. You're welcome.
But what the hell kind of mystical San Francisco things have I gotten out of it? I think there has been a less practical or pin-down-able effect of being here. Part of it comes from being backed by an amazing organization, and that making me feel empowered, with freedom and space and resources to grow my practice. Another part of it is me feeling like I am part of something that is not just me or just the play I happened to write. There is an amazing group of folks working here and there is an energy at Z Space that I am excited by. I am enjoying being part of the conversation about making this place better by finding new ways to develop art or find money or respond to the rapidly changing San Francisco landscape. I feel a collective desire here to look outside whatever box we might be in and see how we as artists and administrators and artsadminboths can best create a great space with great art that makes people at least a tiny bit more fulfilled in their lives. I hope I can be a valuable part of that effort. At least, until my money runs out.
Peter Sinn Nachtrieb is one of 16 playwrights around the United States awarded a three-year playwright residency funded by the Andrew F. Mellon Foundation at an established theatre company. The other Mellon residency playwright is Andrew Saito, in residence at The Cutting Ball Theater. Peter likes to promote himself online at peternachtrieb.com. The National New Play Network (NNPN) rolling world premiere of his play, The Totalitarians, will be at Z Space starting November 19, 2014.