New Play Exchange Strives to Expand Theatre's Literary Community

A new site launched this week serves as a platform for writers to share their plays and readers to discover exciting new works.

While live theatre still thrives in various forms here in our 21st century world, it's fair to say plays aren't nearly as popular as they once were -- at least not in the eyes of your average American. Whether that's good or bad (there are arguments either way), I'll leave readers to decide. What I can say is that the niche nature of the form, coupled with the advent of our digital age, hasn't been particularly friendly to independent playwrights.

There was once a time when theaters employed reading rooms to sift through script submissions hoping to find a gold nugget. Today, that submission model is dead and has been for about a decade; many companies have done away with reading unsolicited scripts altogether. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that it's not an efficient use of employee time. The second is that financial support for theatre is at such a low that producing an unproven script means taking a major risk. And as strange as it may sound considering we're talking about people who produce stuff like this, artistic directors tend to be a pretty risk-averse bunch.

So as theatre slips further away from the mainstream and industry leaders continue to lean on sure-thing scripts out of New York, theatre professionals across the country have sought innovations designed to engender higher levels of exposure, collaboration, and representation. One possible solution launching this week is the New Play Exchange (NPX), a cloud-based script database from the National New Play Network. Nan Barnett, executive director of NNPN, wrote on the theatre blog Howlround that the new exchange is "a crowd-sourced, open-access database of plays, playwrights, and producers built for everyone who makes, looks for, and loves new work for the theatre."

What's unique about the NPX is how it allows playwrights to upload whole or partial scripts searchable to all kinds of readers -- from bigwig literary managers to play-loving grandmas on a dial-up connection. Each playwright, after paying the annual $10 fee, gets a page of his or her own complete with photo, short bio, and a list of available scripts. It's like an artsy-fartsy version of LinkedIn, which I mean in the most positive way. If the platform's main goal is to facilitate the flow of scripts between industry professionals, a happy ancillary benefit is that it should encourage the reading of plays by laypeople and audience members. 

Check out the platform and read more about the NPX via the links below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. When was the last time you saw a play? Does the NPX sound exciting to you? Do you not care? Did you vow never to see another play your entire life after being forced to sit through a high school rendition of Moon Over Buffalo? Share your take below.

Learn more at New Play Exchange

Read on at Howlround

Photo credit: nito / Shutterstock

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