"Outrageous Fortune: The Life and Times of the New American Play" now on sale!
When TDF was founded in 1968, the serious new play on Broadway was in jeopardy. John Booth, one of TDF's founders and its first president, said that a primary motivation for the fund was the realization that rising costs had caused producers to become risk-averse, stating in the announcement article, "We cannot permit the worthy play to become extinct." That conviction has been in the organization's DNA from that point on.
John Booth's passion for the American play and playwright never dimmed. He stayed an active trustee at TDF from 1968 until his move to New Mexico in 2003. As the 20th century drew to a close, he challenged TDF to undertake a study of the American playwright to determine how TDF and others could "be most helpful in facilitating and encouraging the work of promising playwrights and the performance of their works." The TDF Playwrights Project was born.
From the Project's beginning in 1999, the Committee that oversaw it was firm about several key principles. The work was to focus on new play production rather than development. It was to be rooted in facts, not feelings. It needed to take a broad look across the sectors. TDF engaged Todd London, the Artistic Director of New Dramatists to lead the Project. It drew on quantitative and qualitative research. We surveyed a group of randomly selected Theatre Communications Group members as well as a select group of theatres that regularly produce new plays. A total of 94 theatre surveys were used, and of those, about 75% were from the first group and 25% from the second. Additionally, we identified playwrights from a variety of "universes", including university alumni, members of writers' collectives and labs, fellowship and grant recipients, new work festival and competition submissions, commissions, playwrights whose scripts have been produced, and prize and award recipients. In total, 340 playwright surveys were sent, and 250 usable surveys were returned. The findings were analyzed by Zannie Voss.
To flesh out and garner insights into the survey findings, TDF organized a series of roundtables with playwrights and theatre leaders. In total, we spoke to 31 playwrights during four gatherings in three cities; we hosted 41 artistic leaders in six groups and four cities; 8 new play development mavens and 3 playwright educators in New York. We also spoke with 15 more individuals, including writers and leaders who couldn't make a roundtable, as well as agents, lawyers and commercial producers.
And finally, Todd London and Ben Pesner have written Outrageous Fortune, the Life and Times of the New American Play. It is our deep hope that the book will be both a culmination and a beginning. It is the culmination of years of work and the beginning of a new conversation. If you would like to purchase the book, click the "Buy Now" link at the top right of this page.