Critics conference journal #4: Who gets to participate as a playwright in American theater?

March 24, 2013
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

As part of the American Theatre Critics Association conference in Indianapolis, playwright Tammy Ryan accepted the 2012 Francesca Primus Prize on Friday at the Columbia Club. The $10,000 award was for her play "Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods," which was developed, in part, at Indiana's New Harmony Project.

Given annually, by ATCA and the Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation, the Primus Prize goes to an emerging woman theater artist and is open to playwrights, artistic directors and directors.

One hope, of course, is that Ryan's visit to Indy is the first of many. And that perhaps next time it will be to see a production of one of her plays.

In the meantime, here are the words she shared at the gathering, which was hosted by the Cabaret at the Columbia Club.

“One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t control what other people think. You only control what you do and if you’re a writer, what and how you write. But what people think often comes into play on whether or not someone gets to participate in the American theater. Someone has to say yes to produce your play, give you a grant or a prize. Sometimes, out in the hinterlands, a playwright can feel a little left out of the party. The people who get to participate are often Ivy-League-educated, with connections and MFAs costing the price of a mortgage, and with theater tickets over $100, economics comes into the picture. You begin to wonder who’s able to participate in the American theater anymore; is it only the 1% who can afford to educate themselves or buy season subscriptions?

“But the American theater is thankfully not just in New York; it’s in the regions, the smaller cities, towns and universities, and I think that’s one of the things the Francesca Primus Prize recognizes. For though I don’t think any playwright in this country male or female does this work for fame and fortune (unless they’re deluded), when fortune comes, or a bit of fortune, and recognition, it does feel good. It’s both validating and encouraging not just to the playwright, but to her friends and family who’ve often blindly supported her in this endeavor. And it also validates her community – the place where she makes theater.

“OK, I’m going to stop talking in the third person now. Pittsburgh, the place where I make theater, is also recognized by this award. I’m blessed to have a home at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. Without that family of theater artists holding me up there, or the many enormously generous, talented and willing actors in Pittsburgh who’ve participated in readings, workshops and productions often for little or no compensation, I don’t believe I’d have this thing I call my career.

“Critics, I’ve come to realize, are also important. Not just because they sometimes give out awards to playwrights, although that’s nice and I encourage that practice, but because the good ones that I know, I’m talking about the ones who love theater – they validate the theater experience, not just with their opinions, which they’re entitled to have, but just by the act of going to the theater and taking the time, energy and heart required to respond, to fight for shrinking space in newspapers, or to make time to blog on the internet. The practice of going to and writing about the theater keeps theater relevant in the mind of the public, even if that public doesn’t always buy a ticket to see a show. Playwrights would no doubt keep scribbling away at their desks without critics. But I do think audiences need that cheerleader in the desert telling us this is important, that theater is worthwhile.

“So I want to thank our cheerleader in Pittsburgh, Chris Rawson. He’s been a supporter of my work since my first production in Pittsburgh — even when he didn’t always like it… . And thank you all for awarding me the 2012 Francesca Primus Prize and for adding me to this intimidating list of gifted writers. I am truly honored and humbled. The fortune part of the prize is past tense now, but was very much appreciated. The recognition I hope to parlay into writing more plays with more confidence, and continuing to work in my community however I can to make sure good plays and playwrights from Pittsburgh continue to contribute to the American theater."

More information on the Primus Prize can be found here.

Your thoughts?




Post a comment to this blog

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
  1. Of what value is selling alcoholic beverages to State Fair patrons when there are many families with children attending. Is this the message we want to give children attending and participating in the Fair, another venue with alooholic consumption onsite. Is this to promote beer and wine production in the state which are great for the breweries and wineries, but where does this end up 10-15 years from now, lots more drinkers for the alcoholic contents. If these drinks are so important, why not remove the alcohol content and the flavor and drink itself similar to soft drinks would be the novelty, not the alcoholic content and its affects on the drinker. There is no social or material benefit from drinking alcoholic beverages, mostly people want to get slightly or highly drunk.

  2. I did;nt know anyone in Indiana could count- WHY did they NOT SAY just HOW this would be enforced? Because it WON;T! NOW- with that said- BIG BROTHER is ALIVE in this Article-why take any comment if it won't appease YOU PEOPLE- that's NOT American- with EVERYTHING you indicated is NOT said-I can see WHY it say's o Comments- YOU are COMMIES- BIG BROTHER and most likely- voted for Obama!

  3. In Europe there are schools for hairdressing but you don't get a license afterwards but you are required to assist in turkey and Italy its 7 years in japan it's 10 years England 2 so these people who assist know how to do hair their not just anybody and if your an owner and you hire someone with no experience then ur an idiot I've known stylist from different countries with no license but they are professional clean and safe they have no license but they have experience a license doesn't mean anything look at all the bad hairdressers in the world that have fried peoples hair okay but they have a license doesn't make them a professional at their job I think they should get rid of it because stateboard robs stylist and owners and they fine you for the dumbest f***ing things oh ur license isn't displayed 100$ oh ur wearing open toe shoes fine, oh there's ONE HAIR IN UR BRUSH that's a fine it's like really? So I think they need to go or ease up on their regulations because their too strict

  4. Exciting times in Carmel.

  5. Twenty years ago when we moved to Indy I was a stay at home mom and knew not very many people.WIBC was my family and friends for the most part. It was informative, civil, and humerous with Dave the KING. Terri, Jeff, Stever, Big Joe, Matt, Pat and Crumie. I loved them all, and they seemed to love each other. I didn't mind Greg Garrison, but I was not a Rush fan. NOW I can't stand Chicks and all their giggly opinions. Tony Katz is to abrasive that early in the morning(or really any time). I will tune in on Saturday morning for the usual fun and priceless information from Pat and Crumie, mornings it will be 90.1