Tomorrow’s Classics: The Old Globe brings new plays and new playwrights to their audiences in The Powers New Voices Festivalby Jacqueline Bull December 12, 2018
When you think of the behind the scenes (if you’ll pardon the pun) of theater, you might think of directors, stage hands, or costume designers, but you probably wouldn’t think about what happens before the script gets handed out.
This is Danielle Mages Amato’s domain as both the literary manager and dramaturg (like a theater’s literary agent) for the Old Globe.
“At the Globe, because I’m both literary manager and dramaturg, it can be hard to separate and sort of the jobs by title, but I am involved in season selection process, I bring in new scripts I think the Globe should consider, I help the Globe track down plays that it’s interested in doing (so I correspond a lot with agents and writers and directors who are the source of a lot of work that we do), and I also work with the plays when they come in,” Danielle said.
Susan Chicoine, Public Relations Director, chimed in tongue-in-cheek, “She is the goddess of art.”
“It’s about helping actors, audience and creative team to find pathways into the world of the play is how I like to describe it,” Danielle said.
And on the dramaturg side, she handles what they call the humanities programming. It could be an exhibit in the lobby or a film screening – any number of different ways to help the audience learn more about the world of the play.
“To finalize the list, I also work with playwrights on the new plays that they are doing here. And that could be from the point where we commission a playwright to sort of brainstorm with them what work they might write for the Globe, to developing a work that we might not ever do (but that we want to explore and form a relationship with that writer), to developing work that we are actually in rehearsal with and definitely planning on performing and producing in our season.”
New plays and new playwrights are highlighted and celebrated in the Powers New Voices Festival.
“New plays are what keep the future of theater alive. These are the classic plays of tomorrow. So we definitely have a strong commitment to doing new work. And because we want theater to matter to more people, doing that work in as accessible a way as possible is important,” Danielle said.
Commissioning new work is a big part of the Globe’s passion for new, contemporary work. New work commissions can come from many different starting points and ultimately involves working with a playwright to develop a play that the Globe would have the first option to produce.
So far, they have produced almost every single play they’ve commissioned in the last five years, which is fairly unusual. Danielle credits that with how hands-on they are with the playwrights from the beginning of the process.
“We want them to write a play that we can produce, not just write any play, but for us, for our spaces, for our audience and so we are very hands-on from the idea of it to absolutely giving feedback,” she said.
The amount of feedback and involvement depends on the playwright and the play, (“Every relationship is different; every play is different.”)
“We are sort of a sounding board and artistic partner … ‘What kind of play do you want this to be? This is how I see what you are doing’ – like an editor in the prose world,” she said.
But in theater, the playwright holds more final decision making power.
“Unlike other performance fields (like you could call film similar in the way that it involves actors and directors), the writer in film is not the central artist… That is where theater brings together literature and the pleasure of writing,” she said.
Danielle says the complete immersion and totality of many different arts coming together is addictive.
“You get passionately committed to the work, to the value of the work, to making theater matter and you just want to do more and more … The Globe is never dark. We are in operation 12 months a year,” she said.
“The Globe has always premiered work; a home for new musicals is one of its big reputations and also new plays, but I think in recent years what we have been wanting to do is bring the development of that work to the audience. They don’t get to see when we do a workshop in New York of a new musical, they don’t get to see when we do a development week on a new play here at the Globe. So the New Voices festival is our one time every year where we welcome you into the process – here is how it works, here are some actors standing in music stands reading a play and maybe you haven’t seen a play that way before, but this is your peek into the process of planning and choosing and doing work,” she said.
The New Voices festival is in its sixth year and will be Jan. 18-20. (The dates are chosen by literally looking at what two weeks the Globe had nothing on the stage.)
“We try to do a blend of commissioned work that we are developing and new plays that already exist, that we want a relationship with that playwright and we want a chance to introduce their work to our audiences,” she said.
“There can be in the theater a sort of fetish of the world premiere … A play can have its world premiere, and it maybe it didn’t land, or it didn’t have all the things in it the playwright really hoped it would have, but it can be hard to get a second production because it is not a world premiere, so it doesn’t have the same jazz or pizzazz or marketing potential always of a world premiere. Plays need second productions. They need third productions. They need to keep developing through second and third productions and the Globe has always been committed to giving plays that continuing future life and continuing to launch them into the American theater, sort of stepping it in, ‘OK, we are going to keep it going, keep the life of this thing going a little.’ Bring it to a new audience, give it a chance to grow a little more and keep it going,” she said.
And though audiences might be tempted to only attend shows that they recognize, contemporary plays are instrumental in shaping our culture.
“In classic plays, they are universal and timeless in that way, but it is just like if you only read classic novels and didn’t read anything written in the last 25 years, you would be missing amazing insights in the world that we live in. And that is what contemporary plays and new plays give us, they are able to respond to social issues, to cultural issues. They are able to speak to us in our own vernacular about the things that we face, just like picking up a contemporary novel, coming to a contemporary play, gives you an insight into your moment, your life of 2018.”
At press time, the selections for the New Voices Festival were not announced. One night will be just for local playwrights, part of the arts engagements initiatives. The second night will include a variety of existing plays and original commissions.