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Todd London

June 11th, 2011 No comments

Artistic Director of New Dramatists
Author of the study: Outrageous Fortune: the Life and Times of the New American Playanother take on this talk. I’ll look to link to the video recorded version once it’s up.

New Dramatists: background — 50 playwrights in former Lutheran church former soup kitchen and homeless shelter; how fitting: metaphorical for playwrights now.

London spoke of the strangeness of creeping around New Dramatists and finding original scripts: Red burning light of the American Life Fornes; “Millhand’s Lunch Bucket” — 1st draft of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. Plays by David Lindsay Abarre and Nilo Cruz

Toyed with more comic elements, song creation, including a song “What a difference a play makes” — Marsha Norman’s response to a request for a song about a play; but seriously, for London, plays do make a difference; there’s not a playwright that he’s met who doesn’t have the answer to the question: can they single out the play that changed their life. London, again, posits the question: “Do plays really make a difference? Do they really change lives?”

London does not shy away from mentioning his own longing for good movies, books, and music from his ipod. So, as such, London often feels that he is a “rabbi in a church for playwrights where I constantly question my faith”.

London wondered: does the difference a play makes pass from writer to writer; that is, is there a charge that can be passed from one writer to another?

Quote: Nothing is ever gone as long as there are people to remember; people to write it down.

London noted that forms of theatrical expression are fading: seder play, burlesque; although, I will point out that in Cleveland, so far as I can tell, vaudeville and burlesque forms are making a come back.

London: find your faith where you can; hoping people meet you where they live.

London bemoaned the “energy of where our culture is directed” and that we all know what that me;ans. The theaters that were supposed to help instead have invested in “large administrative staffs”; “monumental buildings”, and have failed to provide “structures for sustaining playwrights over time”. One need only look at what is happening in Cleveland to see the constant reality of this.

By exploring the needs of playwrights, London was lead to the study that became outrageous fortune.

Highlights (as fast as I could type, so you’ll be better off reading the full report):

American non-profit theaters are risk averse, corporate-board-driven entities that lack daring leaders; what non-profit theater leaders mean by “audience” likely refers to “large donors” or “key assets”; the economics of playwrights is impossible: otherwise employed or poor $20k – $40k per year; half of sources come from elsewhere; of 90+ percent of income only 15% comes from plays; 3% comes from royalties: $750; average was 35-40 and a winner of Obies, etc.

Surprisingly, despite the posturing, the functioning and economics of theaters have made it impossible for playwrights to exist in them.

MFA programs are pumping out playwrights and saddling them with debt that they will never be able to repay.

Without theaters that support playwrights, can one imagine the early plays of O’Neill; the success of Odetts and Albee; the delicacy of the plays of Horton Foote?

Playwrights need to ask themselves, “how do you get sustained by an environment that won’t love you?”

a challenge to idealism
soul in the machine of a capitalistic economic structure

After casting out an immense IMMENSE oppressive darkness, London switched gears to allow a bit of light in: that we seem to be living during a moment of extraordinary change; Mellon was re-evaluating its priorities; there exists now a great moment of energy and intention (for playwrights). That there is “a weird seismic shift” underway.

Arena Stage: a resident theater embracing its historical responsibility to lead

where do we look for inspiration?
when you stare at something long enough it grows larger
large theaters aren’t evil they are misguided
david grimm

keepers of ecstasy and empathy
bitterness kills playwrights (poets)

You aren’t free when you are passive…can’t blame others, theaters, etc. Playwrights must lead, must be a force for change on your own.

Playwright leadership

passivity and blame are the unfortunate response of artists in a market economy

what will you make happen, what will you do with the gifts of this weekend?

guarre to wilder

theaters serve to stop the homogeneity of our society; to defend against a monoculture.

matt–playwrights–lazy writing practices?
what does it mean to be a writer in a collaborative art?

don’t understand the impulse to write something and then give it to others to fuck it up
plays are unfinished (artistic directors)–but the expectations are different now — playwrights know the play will change, etc.
richard nelson — speech several years ago — treat us like children and we’ve allowed ourselves to be treated like children

troubling in research: despite the fact that there were great stories of collaboration; critiquing institutional theaters of a certain size.
let go of the notion that the institutional theater is “the theater”
pig iron
children’s theaters
theaters in their own community
new theater (create your own)
different models

Howl Round
Arena Stage


July 30th, 2016 No comments

I’ve been remiss in my posting, I’ve noted that. I’ll excuse myself by saying that a few friends and I started a theater company in April of 2015, and things have been pretty busy. The name of the theater is Playwrights Local, and we’re dedicated to producing the plays of playwrights in the Greater Cleveland Area.

I’m happy to announce our second full production, which is saying something, I think, for a company that’s a year and some old–and we’ve done plenty more than just productions…

The second production is Objectively/Reasonable: A Community Response to the Shooting of Tamir Rice, 11/22/2014. I’m putting a link here to a recent interview with our Artist Director, David Todd.

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