Thursday, January 25, 2007

Mr. Excitement News: Panel Report-Out: Changing Mindsets:

Richard Nelson, whose missive on "the damage this culture of 'development' has done and continues to do to my profession" ignited a dialogue that continues to reverberate throughout the blogosphere, called playwriting “a glorious and wonderful profession” that “supported myself and my family”. Over his 30-year career, Nelson said he’s seen the profession “come under siege” and the role of the playwright questioned in “unfortunate” ways. Development “implies that something outside of ourselves is going to tell us what to do.” Nelson railed against “this terrible word called ‘text’”, which is employed, he said, to “push the playwright aside.” In fact, he said, “Words are only an indication of the play that I have written.”

Morgan Jenness, the dramaturg on the panel, agreed with Nelson’s assessment of the situation. “I totally agree”, she said, offering that “the way the institutions are structured” was to blame. Something has happened “across the board” in the regional theaters, she said. Previously (Jenness worked for Joe Papp at the Public), there was a “core attitude that everyone in the institution was responsive to the work”, but “now it really feels like the institutions are these factories”, lacking “real dialogue with the audience”. Also, “Institutional artists are not honest with themselves about their prejudices or desires.”

Following the money trail is one way to assess what’s happened, Nelson said. Over the course of his career, he’s seen the new play move from the mainstage to the second stage and now into non-production situations. 13P and SPF are the way to go, he said. “Pure production for young emerging writers. It is the answer.”

1:29 PM