February 27, 2014

The Pitch: "Midwest Dramatists Center to lure playwrights to the Writers Place" by Liz Cook

Local playwrights are about to get a new venue for developing and staging their work.

The Midwest Dramatists Center, a young playwrights collective, has signed a lease to establish its headquarters and construct a black-box-laboratory theater in the basement of the Writers Place.

The Dramatists Center is the brainchild of founder and playwright David Hanson, but it took the right blend of collaborators to get it off the ground. Local playwrights Alli Jordan, Bryan Colley, Vicki Vodrey and Michelle T. Johnson will join Hanson on the board of directors and serve as the inaugural class of playwrights-in-residence.

Residents will share the space for staged readings and workshop productions as they develop and refine their work - and they'll have to share. Each year, five new regional writers will be added to the collective for a five-year MDC residency.

Twenty-five playwrights in residence? Really?

Johnson confirms the math.

"Unlike actors, playwrights are competing for space not just with other playwrights but with dead playwrights," she says with a laugh. "An actor might be compared to Marlon Brando, but they don't have to compete with him to get a part."

And less competition means more time and space for local writers. "It's all about having a support system in place that's about you becoming a better playwright and a more successful playwright," Johnson says.

Part of that support system will include hiring an in-house artistic director to help residents find new homes for their plays at festivals and theaters across the country.

Construction begins in March, with an open house tentatively planned for April. Johnson says they hope to have programming to announce then, too.

From The Pitch