The Playgoer: Playwright Writes for TV Show: What Else is New?

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Playwright Writes for TV Show: What Else is New?

Slate's Jack Shafer rightly calls for a moratorium on "playwrights migrating to tv" stories until there's something, you know, new to report.

A quick Nexus search plays like a broken record:

The New York Times noted the "steady flow of directors, producers, and playwrights out of the theater" and into TV in a 1996 piece that name-checks writers Rebeck and Matt Williams. In 1994, the Los Angeles Times made a big deal about playwright Lisa Loomer's work on sitcoms, and in 1993 the newspaper reported the observation of Maria Gobetti, the artistic co-director of the Victory Theater, that one-third of the writers introduced to the public by the theater in the last 12 years were now doing most of their writing for film and TV.

The New York Times' 1990 piece, "Television Commissions Works by Playwrights," reported that NBC and Turner had hired Horton Foote, George C. Wolfe, and Arthur Kopit to write for them. A similar theme informs the Times' 1989 article, "Playwrights Tread the Welcome Mat in Hollywood." Playwrights named include Richard Greenberg, Terrence McNally, Marsha Norman, Albert Innaurato, John Pielmeier, Michael Weller, Tina Howe, Jeffrey Sweet, and the previously mentioned Overmyer.

A Los Angeles Times piece from 1988, "Thriving in Hollywood: Playwrights Can Work in the Industry and Love it—Artistically and Financially," finds playwrights swarming Hollywood productions. (The piece reports the hiring of Jon Robin Baitz by HBO to write a screenplay—his first!) A Los Angeles Daily News article from 1987 calls Mamet, Christopher Durang, Wendy Wasserstein, Terry Curtis Fox, and Overmyer "some of the finest television writers in America." As proof that the Journal trend is no trend, I submit as evidence the Dec. 14, 1986, New York Times article "Playwrights See New Promise on the Small Screen." The article's playwrights in TV-land include Wasserstein, Mamet, Durang, Mart Crowley, Beth Henley, Paul Zindel, Bernard Slade, Andrew Bergman, and Charles Fuller. 
Next you know, they'll be running article on playwrights working in, gasp, movies. Those stories date from the 1920s!


Unknown said...

I hear stage actors are migrating to L.A. now too, thanks to the talking picture craze!

Anonymous said...

I would, however, read a story about theatre artists genuinely and un-sour-grape-ishly refusing to work in two-dimensional media.

matt said...

Just works to keep theatre inside of it's perpetual "artier than though" bubble. a playwright is a writer, and can certainly find something worthwhile about mediums other than the theatre.

Anonymous said...

Matt, your misspelling of "thou" and the lower case "a" hardly encourage me to take you seriously. And "mediums" refers to those often consulted about the future. Signed: a bubble dweller with a degree in film and digital media.