New Dramatists Awarded $350,000 from the Rosin Fund of the Scherman Foundation for NEW PLAYS/MORE WAYS

April 14, 2014

New Dramatists, the nation’s longest-running community of playwrights, was awarded a three-year, $350,000 grant from the Scherman Foundation’s Katharine S. and Axel G. Rosin Fund to support NEW PLAYS/MORE WAYS, a comprehensive initiative that deepens the organization’s support of a resident company of 50 outstanding playwrights. NEW PLAYS/MORE WAYS extends and enhances the writers’ programming of week-long creative development sessions through the Creativity Fund, a highly-successful initiative that places writers at the center of the new work development process. The Rosin-Fund sponsored project also underwrites New Dramatists’ launch of a Virtual Home, enabling writer access to New Dramatists-sponsored technology tools, from anywhere, at any time.

“Theatres and organizations need to change to support new web-based technology. It would be like twenty years ago not having telephones or faxes in the building. We are not yet at the point where we are expecting people to have iPads at rehearsal, but it’s not far away.”

Resident playwright and chair of New Dramatists’ playwright “Virtual Engagement” committee, Dan LeFranc, comments, “Theatres and organizations need to change to support new web-based technology. It would be like twenty years ago not having telephones or faxes in the building. We are not yet at the point where we are expecting people to have iPads at rehearsal, but it’s not far away.”

For over a decade, New Dramatists has partnered with several key institutions to extend more workshop time to playwrights and build up the treasure chest of resources it can offer writers. With successive pilot initiatives funded by the Jerome Foundation, the NYC Theater Subdistrict Council, EmcArts, and most recently, the Time Warner Foundation, and with milestone support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, New Dramatists piloted the Creativity Fund. A significant departure from project development sponsored by producing organizations, the Fund empowers playwrights to set the course and process for the development of both plays and musicals. The playwrights determine goals for the process and bring together a full team of paid collaborators of their choice. Under the writer’s guidance, this team enjoys the full benefits of expanded time and resources in a creative space designed specifically for this kind of laboratory exploration.

The impact of the program in the field of new play development has been tremendous. Since its establishment in 2009, over 50% of Creativity Fund projects have inspired outside producer interest, with a majority of these (29 new plays and musicals) finding full productions.

Through NEW PLAYS/MORE WAYS, the Rosin Fund will usher the Creativity Fund into its next phase of its growth, ensuring that 50 Fund sessions will be offered during the three-year grant period.

LeFranc elaborates, “What I found so useful about the Creativity Fund—outside the time and space it affords, the great actors you get to work with—is that the playwright is in charge. It’s such a small difference but such a powerful difference. The way we develop plays in this country often leads to a stunted play. When you go to programs or institutions dedicated to developing new works, you are trying to serve that organization. In that context you have to give a public reading. You are pressured to “solve your play” too soon because audience, funders, and board members are coming. My play Troublemaker would not have gone on to production without having the Creativity Fund workshop first, because I was free to let the play tell me what it wanted to be. I feel like I’ve taken that experience of Creativity Fund and brought that model to producing entities.”

“What I found so useful about the Creativity Fund—outside the time and space it affords, the great actors you get to work with—is that the playwright is in charge. It’s such a small difference but such a powerful difference. The way we develop plays in this country often leads to a stunted play."

Alongside the provision of full creative authority over developing works, the Virtual Home project employs the most current technical resources available to expand playwright productivity and increase vital playwright-to-playwright connections for a “resident” writer company whose physical residences range across the country. Utilizing a Virtual Desktop Interface (VDI) server, all 50 residents will be provided with a “virtual” computer that is fully connected to New Dramatists’ network and can be immediately accessed from their device of preference (computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone), from wherever the playwright is located – all that’s required is an internet connection. New Dramatists maintains the system, ensuring that each playwright has free use of a fully-licensed and rigorously updated suite of personal, business and creative software. Writers will have universal access to script drafts (backed up and stored by New Dramatists) as well as software for word processing, script formatting, video and sound editing, musical composition and scoring, website/blog creation, and personal finance. A custom-built community intranet will support playwright company conversations and connections.

LeFranc stresses the importance for writers who often travel and work remotely to have uninterrupted access to New Dramatists’ community: “I stay in touch with NYC playwrights and national members whom I met at New Dramatists through technology. There is a bond between writers through our laptops. Far flung brothers and sisters feel like they are closer. It’s important to be able to plug into that hub. It’s important to have access at your leisure, just as the rest of the culture does.”

About the Rosin Fund and The Scherman Foundation
The Katharine S. and Axel G. Rosin Fund (Rosin Fund) is a new initiative of The Scherman Foundation, which nurtures excellent nonprofit organizations and leaders in the fields of community development, environment, reproductive justice, human rights, the arts, and governmental accountability by providing long-term general operating support. Established in 2012 through a bequest from Katharine Scherman Rosin, the Rosin Fund will provide multi-year funding for a limited number of innovative and high-impact projects in the areas of Arts, Environment, and Strengthening New York Communities. The Fund’s Arts Program will focus its support on a small number of innovative, short-term and high-impact projects in New York City’s performing, visual, and literary arts fields. The Foundation has chosen to initially do this in collaboration with the City’s many excellent art service organizations (ASOs) that support the creative process, provide the infrastructure that sustains artistic life, and help artists develop skills necessary for their creative pursuits.
http://scherman.org

About New Dramatists
New Dramatists is dedicated to the playwright and serves a singular mission: To provide playwrights with time, space and resources in the company of gifted peers to create work, realize their artistic potential, and make lasting contributions to the theatre. Founded in 1949, New Dramatists is one of the country’s leading playwright centers and a nationally recognized new play laboratory, unrivaled in the depth and duration of its commitment to playwrights. In the 65 years since its founding, over 600 new dramatists have passed through its doors, including many whose work laid the foundations of the contemporary American theatre.
http://newdramatists.org

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