You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

NFP world premieres on the wane

Many plays avoid critical Gotham legit community

NEW YORK – “Can you dim the lights a little bit?”

That rhetorical question, coming from George C. Wolfe, artistic director of the Public Theater, emphasizes the dark side of not-for-profit theaters’ current moment in the media spotlight. Although more and more new American plays are being produced in the New York orbit of NFPs, there is a noticeable downward spiral in the number of world premieres.

At the Public, New York premieres of American plays (Tina Landau’s “Space,” Nilo Cruz’s “Two Sisters and a Piano” and Anna Deavere Smith’s “House Arrest”) in the 1999-2000 season outnumber the world premieres (Suzan-Lori Parks’ “In the Blood”) three to one.

Michael John LaChiusa musical “The Wild Party” — with book by Wolfe — is a world premiere; the show will open on Broadway in April. Regarding plays, however, many — if not most — playwrights now prefer not to open in New York City.

“They’re cautious about New York because of the critical community,” Wolfe says. He mentions last season’s play “Stop Kiss,” by Diana Son. “It got great reviews and is now having an extra life in the regional theaters.” In the same breath, Wolfe mentions another play produced at the Public in the 1998-99 season that got mixed reviews, and as a result “is having a very modest life.”

Lynne Meadow, artistic director at Manhattan Theater Club, also notices the growing trend toward fidgety playwrights: “The whole out-of-town tryout notion that used to exist with Broadway now certainly exists with Off Broadway.” That said, MTC has three, and possibly four, world premieres of American plays on its new season schedule, including David Auburn’s “Proof,” David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Fuddy Meers” and Charles Busch’s “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife.”

The Vineyard Theatre’s new season offers nothing but world premieres. However, artistic director Douglas Aibel is quick to point out that all five plays have undergone — or are about to undergo — long incubation periods before reaching the Gotham audiences. “If you’re making a step to present a world premiere,” Aibel says, “it’s important to give the play its proper development prior to that premiere.”

The Vineyard has given its initial offering, Becky Mode’s comedy “Fully Committed,” and two upcoming plays (“True History and Real Adventures” by Sybille Pearson and “The Altruists” by Nicky Silver) several readings; “True History” also was performed in workshop at Sundance two years ago.

Laurence Klavan’s “Creation of the Humanoids” received a Vineyard lab production last season and will play special latenight dates in April. “Every season we commit one production to the lab,” Aibel explains. “It runs for a couple of weeks, with no press and it’s open just to our subscribers.” The Vineyard’s lab production in 2000 is Craig Lucas’ new drama “Stranger,” featuring Mary-Louise Parker.

“I don’t think there are too many new plays that have suffered from having a production prior to New York,” says Todd Haimes of the Roundabout Theatre.

Some artistic directors, however, express a slightly more dramatic take on the situation, especially when it’s their own play that’s hitting the Gotham boards. “You have to be protective of your play,” says Douglas Carter Beane (“As Bees in Honey Drown”), whose new play, “The Country Club,” opened at the Long Wharf Theatre in Connecticut before getting its New York debut this season at the Drama Dept., where Beane is artistic director. “When your play goes into New York, that is the alpha and the omega for the play. It will dictate any kind of life your play will have for the next five to 10 years.”

More Legit

  • Clueless review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Clueless' the Musical

    How does a musical stage adaptation of Amy Heckerling’s 1995 film comedy of oblivious privileged teens, “Clueless,” play in the era of female empowerment and millennial engagement? True, the principal skills of lead teen Cher Horowitz are the superficial ones of mall shopping and makeovers. But her sweet spirit and independence, plus some added P.C. relevance, [...]

  • Ley Line Unveils Brian Wilson Documentary,

    Ley Line Unveils Brian Wilson Documentary, 'Hugo Cabret' Musical

    Producers Tim Headington and Theresa Steele Page have unveiled Ley Line Entertainment with a Brian Wilson documentary and a “Hugo Cabret” musical in the works. Ley Line said it’s a content development, production, and financing company with projects spanning film, television, stage, and music. Headington financed and produced “The Young Victoria,” “Argo,” “Hugo,” and “World [...]

  • Daniel Radcliffe

    Listen: How Broadway Made Daniel Radcliffe a Better Actor

    Acting onstage has been a regular part of Daniel Radcliffe’s career for more than a decade — and the “Harry Potter” star says there’s a good reason for that: It’s made him better. “It gives me a lot of confidence as an actor, which is not always something that I’ve felt,” Radcliffe said on the [...]

  • The Jungle review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Jungle'

    With the rumbling of semis careening by and the sound of Middle Eastern music in the distance, “The Jungle” aims to vividly immerse audiences into the world of the real-life migrant and refugee camp of the same name. By telling the story of the Jungle’s creation in Calais, France, in 2015, and its eventual destruction [...]

  • Hillary Clinton'Network' play opening night, New

    Hillary Clinton Attends Opening of Broadway's 'Network'

    A 1976 film might not be expected to translate seamlessly to Broadway in 2018, but for the cast and creative team behind “Network,” which premiered Thursday night with Hillary Clinton in the audience, the story still feels uncomfortably close to home. “It was a satire then, and now it’s documentary realism,” said Lee Hall, who [...]

  • 'Network' Review: Bryan Cranston Stars on

    Broadway Review: 'Network' With Bryan Cranston

    The 1976 film “Network” won four Academy Awards, including best original screenplay for writer Paddy Chayefsky, for its blistering portrayal of an American society fueled by greed and bloated on corruption. A haggard Peter Finch took the best actor trophy for his harrowing performance as Howard Beale, a TV newsman who is so disgusted by [...]

  • Faye DunawayVanity Fair Oscar Party, Arrivals,

    Faye Dunaway to Play Katharine Hepburn on Broadway

    Faye Dunaway will return to Broadway to play another acting diva. The Oscar-winner is set to portray Katharine Hepburn in “Tea at Five,” a one-woman play that charts the movie legend’s career over the course of a winding monologue. Dunaway last appeared on Broadway in 1982’s “The Curse of the Aching Heart.” In the 1990s, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content