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March 01, 2010


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Zev Valancy

Interestingly, from what I've been able to gather, "Next Fall" is also Geoffrey Nauffts' first produced full-length play. But he is the artistic director of Naked Angels, which may have had an impact on the company's decision to produce it.

Zev Valancy

Okay, so I do have another thought. Everyone talks about American companies not crossing the line and doing new plays that don't get stuck in development hell. It's all over Outrageous Fortune and everywhere else.

Who's going to take the plunge and just do it? Risk a little, do a play you love just based on the script. If you promote that you just produced it, you'll probably get tons of good press, and if it's good and even decently successful, you'll be a hero. Go for it, already.


Dear Kris, I've just read your blog and thought it only right to respond if only to make things a little clearer...biogs can be misleading in the way they've been edited and mine in the Playbill program is a case in point. It should actually read : "The Pride" was his first produced play".
I did in fact write another full length play before that. It was called "Death in Whitbridge" and was a black comedy. I sent it out to nearly all the the theatres that produce new plays in Britain and received quite a positive response. Hampstead Theatre and The Bush both asked to meet me to talk through the play and eventually, (after I was given quite a few notes and expected to make some changes) I was offered a reading of it by a commercial producer. The reading went ahead and there were more notes and conversations. The play was flogged about a little more but nothing more came of it apart from a repeated encouragement from various theatre Ad's and literary managers to 'keep writing'.
When I finished 'The Pride' again I sent it out and again began receiving warm responses. The National Theatre offered to do a reading of it which I took them up on - we used the actors and facilities of the National Studio which was incredibly helpful and then afterwards I was given some very useful pointers/notes from the literary manager there. After a few months, and a lot of meetings I was offered my first production at one of the above mentioned theatres (I'm being discreet) and within a few days a well known touring company also offered me a production.
The way the play ended at the Court is a long and complicated one. For obvious reasons (nepotism does not go down well in the UK, especially in the Arts) Dominic and I did not want it anywhere near the Court stage. Under other circumstances there is no other theatre a new writer would prefer having his play produced at but the risk/price did not seem worth it, especially since I had already been offered a production in another prestigious theatre. It was only because of the passionate support of the RC's literary manager and the backing of most of the artistic team and its submission into the script meeting under a pseudonym (at which it received a favourable response) that the choice was eventually made to program it. I think the thought was that the play would have been programmed were it by another writer so that I should not be penalized against because I happened to be Dominic's partner. However, it was a difficult choice I think for everyone involved that could have seriously back-fired.
Once at the Court I again worked on the play (some cuts, some re-writes) working alongside the assigned director of the play and the literary manager, preparing it for rehearsals.
I suppose the reason I've written all this to you is to show that the process here can also be long and complicated. Personally I'm a big re-drafter and the thing I have felt I have had the most advantage at is having many actor friends ( I was an actor myself). There is nothing more useful to me than getting actors in a room and listening to your play along its various stages of development..I am thrilled that you enjoyed the final result.
All the best, Alexi

Kris Vire

Many thanks for the background, Alexi. The details do tell a different story.

James Peters

I'd also like to chime in on this: if theaters want audiences to take new work seriously, they sort of HAVE to obscure the development history of a play. I feel strongly that the more a theater bills a play as "new! young! trying really hard! please come see it! please like it!" the more license it gives audiences to hate it. (Think of how many lousy productions of classic plays are touted by audiences and critics as amazing just because it's a more established play.)

Also, if a play was commissioned or developed by a competing theater, the producing theater is often unwilling to make that information widely known. Resumes are the places where writers list the full development history of a play; listing how many readings you've gotten and how many meetings you've had about a particular play isn't sexy. As Alexi points out, the full story behind a play isn't that exciting or noteworthy - it's the production that matters.


I'd like to point out that the Royal Court has a long history of producing first plays by young writers, including Christopher Shinn's Four and Lucy Prebble's The Sugar Syndrome. Both of those seem like no-brainers now, as those playwrights have gone onto considerable success, but the Court produced them when they were, by American standards, incredibly young and had no production history to speak of.

In the US, one might be inclined to look for some sort of chicanery when we hear about a writer enjoying such success with an initial play. In the UK, however (and especially at the Court), this is considerably more common.

Kris Vire

Indeed, Mark. I didn't intend to imply chicanery, but rather to point out how much rarer such things are in the US.

Only reason I mentioned the Campbell-Cooke connection is in anticipation of someone else bringing it up if I didn't.

renaissance costume

wow.. good luck on your first play.. i hope you all the best. God Bless

Curtis Johnson Realty

We tend to have better understanding about other things as we devote much attention to it. Thanks a lot for sharing the good views and needless to say that your ideas are fresh and timely. I must say that having been in a turmoil of a lot of piles of work can be very stressful. Managing the time schedule can help us do it. You nailed it and keep it up.

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  • Kris Vire
    I write about theater for Time Out Chicago. I write more about it here.

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