Anne Hamilton/Hamilton Dramaturgy

Women, Words of Choice and WiredArtsFest

Here is a blog post by my fellow LPTW member Cindy Cooper. The WiredArtsFest is happening right now. Cindy’s theatre company Words of Choice will appear in the festival, as well as ABSTRACT NUDE, a play by Gwydion Suilebhan, whom I met at the Great Plains Theatre Conference last year.


Women, Words of Choice and WiredArtsFest

by Cindy Cooper

The first-ever WiredArtsFest may be the future of theater — live performance on stage in New York, captured by four film cameras, and simultaneously broadcast over the Internet to people everywhere by live streaming technology.

And if this is the future, it’s finally looking good for women. Thirteen performing companies are participating in the WiredArtsFest, running until March 2, 2013.  Of the seven plays, 60 percent of the playwrights and 85 percent of the directors are women. Six of these theater companies have women producers, as does an additional youth program, and women choreographers lead three of the four participating dance companies. One even uses original music from a woman composer, who also plays viola on stage.

I didn’t know this when I signed up to bring Words of Choice, my social-activist theater company about women’s rights and reproductive freedom, to this experimental forum. But I had met the founder, Kathryn Velvel Jones, at events supporting parity for women in theater, and I had a good feeling. I was intrigued by her concept of opening a vibrant presence for theater via live streaming. I also knew that, while Words of Choice had traveled to 20 states, costs were mounting, and it was difficult to reach remote communities where we especially wanted to take positive pro-choice stories. The Internet could go everywhere. We signed up for March 1 at 7 pm and March 2 at 3 pm — an opportunity to kickoff Women’s History Month.

The WiredArtsFest, started by Jones’, offers a new and revolutionary direction for theater, building on our interconnected electronics, but retaining the richness of a collective audience experience. The shows are all performing live before an audience at The New Media Center of The Secret Theatre in Long Island City, Queens. Broadcasting is accomplished via a special linkup to, a platform like YouTube but for events in real-time.

In this form, live theater reaches out through the computer screen — this is no talking heads webinar. During the live streaming, electronically-connected audiences may interact by Twitter, instant messaging, photo sharing, and Facebook posting, creating an ongoing conversation on the side of the “stage” on their device screens. People who are watching live at The Secret Theatre are also encouraged to use their Smartphones — in fact, the theater programs are contained on a free App from the WiredArtsFest. (Even the App designer is a woman; oh, and so is the camera director.)

Although Jones, an actor whose day job is in digital media, had previously presented her own work virtually (and she is in and co-produces a piece, Abstract Nude, in the WiredArtsFest), the idea of creating a festival opened the doors to a variety of artists willing to step out of the box. “Think of a fringe festival, but online, where the audience is global, seating is unlimited and viewers can participate in live chat discussions while the performance is happening,” Jones said.

That women are at the forefront of this movement to expand the arts in new directions, and that women are taking the lead in participating, is one of the more hopeful developments in the whole shape of gender parity in the arts.  Join us in New York at the theater, or online at the Wired Arts Fest.  More information: Words of Choice or or WiredArtsFest.

Why Andrew Barrett Loves SMASH

Here’s a great blog post by my friend and long-time client Andrew Barrett, an L.A.-based playwright, lyricist and librettist. He’s another of my TALFs (Theatre Artists I Love to Follow).

Excerpt from “Five Reasons Why I Love NBC’s SMASH” by Andrew Barrett:

“For the past year, like so many others in show biz (musical theatre, specifically), I’ve been following all of the hating on NBC’s nighttime musical theatre soap opera “Smash.”  It’s already been described in other articles like sitting in Joe Allen’s.  Or better yet, I think it’s like that catty, queeny character James Coco played in “It’s Only A Play” by Terrance McNally who famously delights about everything that happened on opening night with, “Terrible.  Just terrible!”  So I decided to spend a little time spreading some love…”


Dramaturgy: The Lowdown

Here is a terrific article about dramaturgy from the perspective of several UK practitioners. It was published on the website, which is an excellent source of arts opportunities in the UK.

Royal Court

Dramaturgy: The lowdown

by Jo Caird

(Published on 03/01/12 at: E2%80%93the-low-down. You may have to join ideastap in order to access the article, or you can download a copy here: Dramaturgy – The Lowdown)

If you’ve ever found yourself gazing at a dramaturg’s credit in a theatre programme and wondering what exactly the role entails, you’re not alone: dramaturgy is one of the least understood of the theatrical professions. Here we talk to experts from the Royal Court (pictured) and Soho Theatre to bring you the lowdown…

Dramaturgical work is a fundamental part of the directing process in British theatre.

Chris Campbell, Literary Manager at the Royal Court Theatre, defines it as “the explication of the text and working with the writer to make it work in the best way possible”. As Katalin Trencsényi, a freelance dramaturg and president of the Dramaturgs’ Network, explains, “there are no productions without dramaturgy. But there may well be productions without a dramaturg”.

What an experienced dramaturg might bring to the table, adding to the talent pool of the rest of the creative team, she says, is “sensibility, practical knowledge of theatre and strong intellectual ability”. It’s no coincidence that so many of the dramaturgs working today came into the profession by indirect routes, such as through directing, writing and acting, and that a large proportion of them perform other roles in the business alongside the work they do as dramaturgs.

Sarah Dickenson, Senior Reader at Soho Theatre, has worked as a dramaturg on a wide range of different productions, from new writing to dance. She stresses that “dramaturgy is always situational”, in that the role of the dramaturg on any given project depends on the specifics of the work and the different skills of the people involved. For her, the heart of the process is “exploring what will make a piece of work successful theatrically”.

That process may occur as a way of preparing a piece of writing for production, long before it has been picked up by a creative team, or it may happen as part of bringing that work to the stage. Either way, in the case of a piece of work by a living writer, Campbell believes that “the dramaturg’s key skill is being able to talk to writers without annoying them too much, without making them abandon their play, without confusing them to the point where they can’t continue to write it because they’re being pulled in all sorts of directions”.

Duška Radosavljević, a freelance dramaturg and lecturer in drama at the University of Kent, identifies that very often the dramaturg can be at his or her most effective when engaging as an outsider to the rehearsal process. She explains that after initial pre-production meetings with the creative team, she might only come into rehearsal on a couple of occasions.

“The dramaturg’s role is of someone who understands intimately what’s going on in the process but at the same time isn’t immersed in the process to the same extent as the other makers of the piece. So they can retain that position of being on the outside, which can be a source of constructive criticism. At the same time the dramaturg can be the first audience member in the process and therefore represent the perspective of the audience before the audience is allowed into the piece.”

When it comes to the kinds of theatre that might benefit from the input of a dramaturg, it is generally acknowledged that certain genres, such as devised work and dance, tend to give dramaturgs greater opportunity for wider ranging creative involvement, looking after a show’s overarching narrative, for example.

That said, our experts agree that there’s no fixed rule as to what works and what doesn’t. “I don’t want to prescribe dramaturgy for every company, director or choreographer”, says Trencsényi, “that would be wrong. Because there are companies and directors who feel they could benefit from the work and they are the ones that should work with dramaturgs. It’s as simple as that”.

Find out more about the Dramaturgs’ Network, an organisation committed to developing dramaturgy and supporting practitioners’ development.

NNPN Receives Grant

Here is news that will change the way dramaturgs and literary managers function within the next five years.

NNPN Receives Cornerstone Funding for Web-based “New Play Exchange”: $110K Award from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

WASHINGTON, DC – The NATIONAL NEW PLAY NETWORK (NNPN), the country’s alliance of non-profit theaters that champions the development, production, and continued life of new plays, proudly announces a two-year $110,000 award from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to support the design, development and pilot of a web-based tool, the “New Play Exchange”.  Combining crowd-sourced recommendations, social media functions and a script database, the New Play Exchange will revolutionize the way playwrights and theaters connect in the nonprofit arena.  A consortium of six nonprofit organizations, led by NNPN, aim to launch the tool to the field in 2015.

“In a grant competition round which resulted in a record-breaking number of applications, the NNPN project distinguished itself as an innovative solution to an ongoing field challenge,” said Ben Cameron, Program Director for the Arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. “The New Play Exchange has enormous potential, not only for the members of the network but for the larger field as well, and we at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation are honored to support it.”

“The engine driving the success of the New Play Exchange is the active engagement of our five visionary partner organizations,” said Jason Loewith, NNPN’s Executive Director.  “We modeled the consortium on the Network’s core values:  a passion for new plays, a passion for collaboration, and a passion for playwrights.”  The partners are Chicago Dramatists, New Dramatists, the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, the Playwrights’ Center, and the Playwrights’ Foundation.


Drawing on NNPN’s history of crowd-sourced literary management leading to multiple productions, the New Play Exchange will combine a script database, crowd-sourced recommendations, and the interactivity of a social networking site to change the way literary departments and playwrights function field-wide.

Database.  The Exchange will have two portals – one for readers and one for playwrights – accessing the same central database.  Playwrights will create profile pages where they may upload scripts or synopses, provide sample pages, links to their own sites, reviews of their work, and other details.  Theaters, Literary Managers, and Dramaturgs will create reader profiles.  Uploaded scripts will be classified across a variety of rubrics such as genre, cast size, playwright identity or region, and keywords.   Theaters will be similarly classified, and the entire database will be easily searchable.

Crowd-Sourced Recommendations.  The power of the Exchange springs from crowd-sourcing script recommendations.  Users will receive play recommendations from readers, and those recommendations can be filtered according to who’s giving them.   For example, a user may create a “trusted readers” list of mission-aligned friends or mission-aligned theaters, and be immediately notified when one of those trusted readers has recommended a script… and of course, by clicking a button, that user can either obtain the script or contact information for the playwright.  By privileging recommendations (instead of ratings or reviews), the Exchange creates virtual networks of positivity surrounding plays and playwrights of promise.

Interactivity.  The Exchange will learn from systems like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest about mechanisms that keep people engaged and involved.  For example, Facebook’s “news feed” may have a valuable analog in a feature that shows when new scripts have been uploaded by favorite playwrights or produced by favorite theaters.  The feed might notify users about new reviews of scripts they’ve tagged to follow, or other milestones like productions and awards.  Readers might be able to flag scripts, requesting a private “second opinion” from trusted friends.  Playwrights would similarly see notifications that their scripts have been recommended, or if another playwright has posted a script that matches some of their criteria.


A Core Development Committee composed of consortium partner constituents will meet with playwrights, artistic directors, literary managers and dramaturgs in seven cities over the next eight months to gather feedback about evolving plans for the Exchange.  That Committee process will feed into web design, with deployment of the pilot site to consortium constituents through 2014.  NNPN hopes to open the New Play Exchange field-wide in 2015.


The mission of the Doris duke Charitable Foundation is to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and the prevention of child abuse, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties.  Visit for more information.

Listen to TheatreNow! Podcasts

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“I LOVE SATAN” Staged Reading in L.A.

Here is a message from my long-time friend and client Andrew Barrett, who is based in Los Angeles. He developed this play while in a Royal Court International Residency. I dramaturged the play when he returned from London.

Time: Saturday, February 16th, 2-3:30pm PST

Place: 3269 Casitas Avenue in Atwater Village, Los Angeles, CA 90039
“Here is your chance to enjoy the 90 minute version of my darkly comic play (I revised it after The Blank Theatre reading this past fall). It’s based on a true story of a NYC teen who got beat up by a high school classmate for being a Satanist. Who is going to win in court: God or Satan?Directed by Kirsten Sanderson with an amazing cast.It was selected for The Winterfest Festival at The Ensemble Studio Theatre in Atwater Village. Tickets are FREE (but there is a suggested donation of $10). General seating, so just show up!

I hope you can make it.”