By MARK BLANKENSHIP
Some of them are cheering, and some of them are jeering, but at the end of the day, plenty of people are talking about Outrageous Fortune: The Life and Times of the New American Play.
Published late last year by TDF, the book fuses interviews, surveys and analysis to explore how playwrights and not-for-profit theatres see the present and future of playwriting in this country. Perspectives veer from hopeful to grim, and they are passionate across the board.
More than anything, the book, which was written by Todd London with Ben Pesner and Zannie Giraud Voss, asks readers to continue the conversation it starts. It has always been TDF’s belief that Outrageous Fortune should only be the beginning of a nationwide dialogue about the state of plays and playwriting in American theatre.
Currently, that dialogue is being spearheaded by journalists and bloggers across the country. On his blog Parabasis, Isaac Butler—a director, designer and occasional contributor to TDF’s online magazine—has invited theatre bloggers to dissect the book chapter by chapter while also detailing his own reactions.
Butler’s invited writers include Mead Hunter, a Portland-based script consultant and former literary manager who praises the book for “its demystification of the commissioning process” but argues that literary managers should be included in the research, and playwright Matthew Freeman, who wishes quotations weren’t anonymous but supports some of the book’s arguments about how a playwright’s career should be defined. Butler himself uses the book to explore whether the theatre relies too much on artistic directors and other top administrators.
The traditional media have also joined the discussion. In The New York Times, Patrick Healy asked several playwrights and artistic leaders for their responses, and the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones, though he agreed with some of the points the book raised, wondered if playwrights weren’t merely whining.
All of these responses are valuable, since they ask us to take a closer look at new American plays. We invite you to join this conversation yourself. You can purchase a copy of Outrageous Fortune here, and once you’ve read it, you can send your thoughts to Mark Blankenship at firstname.lastname@example.org. In a future story, we will feature as many of those responses as we can. We look forward to hearing from you.
Mark Blankenship is TDF’s online content editor