Playwrights often write in isolation for months at a time, prior to sharing their work in workshops, readings, and, eventually, productions. But there are a number of ways to become part of a larger community, to sharpen skills, and to feel connected.
Behind these opportunities are passionate leaders hoping to support District artists in their evolution. Recent conversations with Arena Stage’s Director of Artistic Programming Robert Barry Fleming and Capitol Fringe’s President and Chief Executive Officer Julianne Brienza highlighted their hopes for the next year – and the things to keep in mind if you’re planning on applying for their programs.
Applications are due Friday, December 12. Click here for application criteria.
Apply if: You want to work on your craft and help others develop their own. “Anyone with a real interest in nurturing their development” said Fleming, “is someone I’d have a real interest in having a conversation with.” He went on to say that he’s hoping for artists who have a specific project they want to focus on and who will use the program to go further with the piece’s development than they could do on their own.
Who should apply: Fleming was excited as he talked about Arena’s hopes for their second group of playwrights. This year they are hoping to have more “multi-hyphenates” in the group. He explained it as “people who self-identify as playwrights” but also as something else (or many things), be it performer, designer, or journalist.
What you will do: The meetings are on monthly cycles from February 2015 to the following June and then again from September until April of 2016. There will be a public sharing of the new work as the cycle ends. Throughout the process, you’ll meet with Fleming and Arena’s Dramaturg Jocelyn Clark as well as other staff members, visiting artists, and critics.
Why Playwrights' Arena: The program is structured towards practice instead of production. “It’s an opportunity to connect with others and investigate all the things that go into playwriting,” Fleming says. He sees Playwrights' Arena not just as a nurturing ground but as an opportunity to find out what supports playwrights, what distracts them from doing their work, and how to develop the playwright’s process in tandem with developing the playwright’s final product.
Apply If: You want to self-produce your work in front of an appreciative audience in one of the most vibrant festivals in the country.
Who should apply: Self-producing is not easy, so apply if you are ready for some hard work. Brienza commented, “If done under the right circumstances, Fringe can be one of the most rewarding experiences. However, it is not for the faint at heart. If the producer is not prepared or is not naturally someone who can take criticism or ask for advice, it can be especially hard.” In addition to creating the work, self-producers will put in long days promoting that work to guarantee an audience.
What’s new this year: Fringe moved to their new headquarters at 1358 Florida Ave NE, so, in many ways, it’s a whole new festival. The central neighborhoods will be Trinidad (site of their new home) and Brookland, NE, with shuttle busses assisting audiences. Brienza was particularly excited about Dance Place in Brookland. “I am hoping that we have many dance productions in this year's Festival,” she said, “to make use out of their updated facility.”
Will you get sleep during Fringe? Probably not, but that’s what makes it a blast. In addition to the work you put in and the shows that you’ll see, this year will introduce a free nightly cabaret at the Trinidad Theatre. Brienza describes it as, “a free flowing performance with a mix of live music, standup, and hopefully lots of once-in-a-lifetime moments that you simply have to be there to understand and experience.”
Why Fringe: Capital Fringe is a non-curated festival, meaning that artists will not be judged for the potential quality of their work. It’s a great opportunity to have a platform for your artistic expression. Brienza notes, “[Not being curated] does not mean we don’t care about the art that someone is trying to produce. The more an applicant can let us into their process [through the application], the better our relationship can be with them. When we know more, we are able to provide the artist with a better service. No’s generally get turned into Yes’s.”