Indie Theater Now: The best thing to happen to NY theater since Edison's light bulb


August 29, 2013


When we were getting ready to launch Indie Theater Now, just over 2 years ago, Gregg Bellon wrote on our Facebook page that ITN was "The best thing to happen to NY theater since Edison's light bulb."

I wrote:

Today is August 7, 2011, which means it's Launch Day for Indie Theater Now. The site goes live at 3pm today EST. I am very excited to share it with you.

Maybe it's not quite as important as the light bulb, but I really do believe that Indie Theater Now is going to revolutionize the way audiences discover, experience, and consume new American plays.

I remember when I was in college (back in the late '70s), living in Washington, DC, and a nascent theater buff. If I wanted to find the newest American plays, what were my choices? I could go to the library and read about them in The New York Times or a Best Plays volume; or I could go to Crown Books and MAYBE a new play by someone like Edward Albee or David Mamet would be on the shelves; or I could (as I did) join The Fireside Theater Book Club and gratefully get one or two brand new plays a month, in a spiffy hard-cover book club edition for $9.99 or whatever. (Fireside Theater was the lifeline for new plays back then!)

Sadly, thirty-odd years later, things have only improved marginally. A few publishers are offering new plays in print that you can buy on amazon or bn.com, NYTE Small Press among them. But the prices are relatively high and the selection relatively shallow. NYTE can only afford to put out one or at most two new anthologies each year--so maybe we can publish 12-18 new plays that way.

And one of our longstanding "rules" for choosing plays for our Plays and Playwrights anthologies has been that we only publish playwrights who have not been published before -- which has meant that for the past decade, a wealth of remarkable work by our alumni playwrights has largely gone unpublished.

Well, Indie Theater Now is the game-changer for us and, we hope, for people everywhere who write, read, and love new drama. There's been a glass ceiling in American theater for a long time now, making it difficult for more than 1 or 2 new voices to break out of the pack each season and get noticed. For every David Lindsay-Abaire or Stephen Adly Guirgis who makes it from off-off-Broadway to Broadway, there are literally hundreds of amazing, talented artists who have not had the good fortune to do the same. We hope that Indie Theater Now will be a tool and a resource that will help reverse that -- that will make getting access to new scripts a lot easier for folks on every side of the equation. (Sorry for that somewhat mixed metaphor.)

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Today, we launch nytheater now -- the new blog of Indie Theater Now. We do so on the same day that we announced to our friends and colleagues that ITN's sister site, nytheatre.com, will be retiring in a couple weeks, with all our emphasis and energy and resources dedicated to ITN from now on.

And again, Facebook provides me inspiration. Playwright/actor/theater man-of-all-talents Nat Cassidy posted a message that really captures what's happening here at ITN with remarkable acuity (emphasis mine):

It's funny - I've found myself thinking a lot about the point/place/mechanics of theatrical criticism lately. And not just because I was perched on that precarious "ohgodwhatwillthebastardssaynext" fulcrum that is theatrical production - even as I myself was reviewing another show in the festival, I found myself more aware than ever of just how odd and arbitrary and slightly archaic the whole concept of performance reviewing can be, particularly within blog culture. But reading this press release, I was like, "Yep, this is exactly what needs to happen."

Now, granted, on the surface, it looks like not too much will be changing, per se. There might be less reviews, and they might be focusing almost exclusively on new works (as opposed to revivals) now, but what's so momentous is that, thanks again to the ingenuity of the Dentons, the New York independent theatre scene is continuing to stake claims as a legitimate, significant, monumental arts field. And I mean "monumental" in the rather literal sense, as in worthy of a foundation, a place, a permanence. Partnerships with educators, an app (huzzah!!), and, perhaps most importantly, an enduring library of what was once a devastatingly ephemeral revolving door of stories? This isn't NYTHEATRE "retiring." It's friggin' graduating.

It can't be overstated how hugely impactful and important NYTHEATRE has been, and continues to be, on the indie theatre scene - and, selfishly, to my own journey therein. Indie Theater Now is such an major step forward for our community and I can't wait to see where it develops from here. Thank you, Martin, Rochelle, and everyone involved with NYTE, for giving megaphones to all of us whose voices are quiet and could have been easily ignored.

* * * * *

Thanks for checking out the new digs here at nytheater now. Much more coming soon.

Onward.

 

 

 

 

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