The Playgoer: B'way More Wecloming of New Writing?

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Monday, May 23, 2011

B'way More Wecloming of New Writing?

"Of the 25 plays that made it to Broadway for the 2010-2011 season, a robust 14 productions were new."

So says Mark Kennedy, in an article celebrating Broadway's sudden hospitality towards new plays this season. And not just British imports!

Even the modest success of a Lombardi perhaps bodes well for the willingness of audiences to pay Broadway prices to see something without singing and dancing and that isn't an already famous dramatic title.

Then again...

Lombardi is biography of a famous sports figure. And Bengal Tiger and Motherfucker feature A-list Hollywood stars.

And speaking of stars: it's easier to pull off star/stunt-casting in a play than in a musical where they would have to do more than learn lines and say them. (Daniel Radcliffe barely gets away--or doesn't, depending on your taste--with uncertain singing in How to Succeed, for instance.)

Moreover: I believe the rise in new plays opening directly on Broadway has a lot more to do with the demise of commercial Off Broadway than with any enlightened thinking on the Great White Way.  Motherfucker, for instance, was definitely slated for Off B'way, before the producers came to the same mathematical conclusions that many producers before them have--why mount a show at nearly the same expense as Broadway and only sell less than half the number of seats?

That play could weather the move-up thanks to Chris Rock's name on the marquis. But even Kathleen Turner (star from the eighties!) was not enough to elevate a mild exercise like High to a 1000-seat house. In the old days, many of these plays would thrive in smaller theatres at lower ticket prices. But now they must bulk up to Broadway size or pack it in.

By the way, interesting aside in Kennedy's piece that I hadn't realized about the hotness of the development program over at the Lark: "Last year, all three Pulitzer Prize nominees shaped their breakthrough plays at the Lark, including The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz, In the Next Room or the vibrator play by Sarah Ruhl and Bengal Tiger." Get ready for that November submission deadline, playwrights...

1 comment:

Zev said...

While there are certainly asterisks, I still think this is good news. After all, Chris Rock and Robin Williams (and Frances McDormand) could have chosen to do low-risk revivals instead of challenging, quality new plays.