Define your terms


Isaac Butler at Parabasis asks how we should define “new play”.

In the face of how the phrase has been treated in recent years, and rung like a gong again and again in Outrageous Fortune, and with it being the focus of the Arena Stage convenings it seems fair to ask how we define it.

Oh, you’re saying to yourself, that’s just being pedantic, we all know what a new play is!

I know you are because that’s what I opened this window to say.

I opened this window to say that a new play is one that had never been performed anywhere before, and any other attempted definition was just sales slipping into the art. And to an extent that’s true, but we’re selling to our funders AND our audiences so this matters a little.

Try it.

Try to define it. Really define it, with specificity and limits. Nail it down, I’ll wait.
It’s slippery isn’t it?!

Okay, so begin with  my obvious stab at it:
It is a play that has never been performed anywhere else before.
Straightforward and concise, but how long does it play before it isn’t new anymore? How many scenes can be rewritten in this production before it is new again?
How much needs to be rewritten for it to be considered new for it’s second production?

So obviously that’s too elusive a corner to nail it down in.

Do we simply take the author’s word for it? Even when they are motivated by premiere-itis to keep it new as lnong as possible?

Is it some sort of definitive production? Is it Is it New York?
Are we just waiting for Isherwood on his cross to declare. “It is Finished!” and then the true second comings can happen?

I really am open to any definition you may have, with the caveat that I’m not looking for the term of art for sales.
I want to really get underneath what it is we’re supporting with these convenings and this funding and our conversation.

What are YOU talking about when you’re talking about #newplay?

  • February 8, 2010
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