If Michael Greif isn’t returning your calls, cut him some slack. He’s in the midst of a busy season, helming five consecutive shows in a theater-swapping “La Ronde” of New York nonprofits.First he’s got “Mr. Marmalade,” Noah Haidle‘s comedy starring Michael C. Hall, which started rehearsals in early October and began performances Nov. 1. at the Roundabout’s Laura Pels. Meanwhile, he’s already prepping for “Beauty of the Father,” the latest drama from Pulitzer winner Nilo Cruz, at MTC. Rehearsals begin in mid-November and previews start Dec. 15. Then Greif moves on to “Grey Gardens,” a new tuner that starts previews at Playwrights Horizons in February, followed by the Signature production of John Guare‘s “Landscape of the Body” that goes up in March. He’ll wrap, finally, with Diana Son‘s “Satellites” at the Public, skedded for May or June. Greif has been an in-demand director since his production of “Machinal” at the Public in 1989. His original production of “Rent,” getting a boost from the upcoming movie version, celebrates its 10th anniversary this winter. Even for him, though, this daredevil season is unusual. “A lot of these projects had been simmering for a while,” he says. “It took a lot of juggling and cooperation on the theaters’ parts.” Although he’s seemingly always employed on the nonprofit circuit, he’s not a regular presence on Broadway. His second foray onto the Great White Way, the commercial tuner “Never Gonna Dance,” fizzled at the box office in the 2003-04 season. He prefers, he says, to be able to build work in the nonprofit world. “If the commercial world is interested, they’ll come and get it” — as they did with “Rent.” In the meantime, he’s enjoying careening from play to play and tone to tone. “It’s nourishing,” he says. “It hasn’t been confusing. So far.” Brothers hit the pub Adam Bock‘s “Swimming in the Shallows,” Adriano Shaplin‘s “Pugilist Specialist” and Deb Margolin‘s Kesselring Prize winner “Three Seconds in the Key” are among the recent prominent Off Broadway offerings that will see publication this year — but not from either of the theater world’s big two publishing and licensing houses, Samuel French and Dramatists Play Service. Instead, they’re being offered in the latest catalog of Playscripts, a five-year-old upstart that’s aiming younger and hipper than its rivals, the 175-year-old Sam French and the 70-year-old DPS. (Playscripts is also the sole publisher of the work of Rinne Groff, who just won a $35,000 Whiting Writers’ Award; her play “The Ruby Sunrise” opens at the Public Nov. 16.) The brainchild of brothers Doug and Jonathan Rand, Playscripts offers extensive online script samples — encrypted to prevent piracy — and prints the majority of its scripts on an on-demand basis. And it makes a lot of its money in the education sector. “We’re able to create hits in the school market from scratch,” Doug, 28, says, citing popular scribes that are obscure to the rest of us, such as Alan Haehnel and Ed Monk. Both brothers are playwrights themselves, and Jonathan, 25, says he can eke out a “modest but decent living” from royalties alone. He wrote three of the five plays most produced in high schools last season, according to the Educational Theater Assn. The brothers are still deciding the best strategy for going toe-to-toe with Sam French and DPS, which can offer big advances for Broadway hits. In any event, there’s not an enormous amount of profit to be made publishing plays. “One of the reasons we’ve been able to do well is that the major money people in the world aren’t looking at play publishing,” Doug says. “We’re not going to be billionaires next week.”
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