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German Munoz

The discussion really got going after this. What a rush! Thanks for posting these moments from the talk, Paul.

I really wanted to add something the Outrageous Fortune folks and others have been saying in response to the "poor play quality" issue. I think it's a little unfair to expect a masterpiece from a new playwright (sure, there are prodigies, but that’s probably rare). I think good playwrights can become great playwrights with practice. It’s not a sure thing, but it’s definitely likely. And by "practice" I mean "staged productions". Not readings or workshops that are mostly attended by friends and family. I mean seeing your work in front of a live, paying audience. Someone who disagreed with the "aesthetic absolutes" argument at the talk mentioned that it's really hard to know how good a new play is until you see it live in front of human beings. I wholeheartedly agree with this. I do think there are good plays and there and bad plays... but it’s hard to tell on the page, and it’s hard to learn from it if you never see it on stage.

I think it's unfair to demand high quality material if you do nothing to foster or grow playwrights in order to get them to that level. No wonder people feel the supply of good plays is small, the on-going support for mid-career playwrights and subsequent productions of a single play seems to be the most weak. Not enough “practice”.

I've read several folks talking about creating the infrastructure of formal and longer-term playwright commitment at theaters. And not just at the big LORT houses, but in theaters of all sizes (i.e. http://fluxtheatreensemble.blogspot.com/2010/01/homing-project.html). I would love to see this idea pursued. Give a playwright an occasional slot in your lineup (doesn’t have to be every year, say 3 plays in 3-5 years as proposed above), commit to their work and to helping them grow and learn their craft. As a playwright, it's really hard to always guess whether your stuff will work in front of an audience, especially if you want to take risks and try something new. Hopefully you will get better at “guessing”, but in order to do that you need to practice. I love this little tid-bit of data I read on the blogosphere recently: “Angels in America: Millennium approaches” was Tony Kushner's 13th play. Not first, not second... lucky number 13. It takes time and practice to pop out a really great play, even for accomplished playwrights. You need to invest in the talent to reap the benefits. I feel this needs to be stressed more in the conversation.

Will theaters help us practice more often so we can raise our game? Can they commit to working sort-of-regularly with a playwright they love? How can we make this easier for them (i.e. what incentives can we offer)? New plays from merely “good” playwrights will likely lose money. Are you willing to invest in the long-term on someone until they become a “great” playwright? Or would you rather someone else invest in them and you just get to produce the really really good plays? Something’s gotta give here. I feel the general concern was that the system was not sustainable as-is.

Ultimately an exciting talk, glad to have been there.

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