March 6, 2014

The Star: "Playwrights Get Organized" by Robert Trussell

The Midwest Dramatists Center, a new collective designed to serve and support local playwrights, has signed a lease to set up shop in the basement of the Writers Place, 3607 Pennsylvania.

The Writers Place, established in 1992 as part of the nonprofit Midwest Center for the Literary Arts, hosts readings and workshops about all facets of professional writing with a strong emphasis on poetry and fiction. Play readings have been held there, but the arrangement with the Midwest Dramatists Center is something new.

The playwrights’ collective intends to construct a small black box theater in the Writers Place basement to workshop new plays and stage readings. Each year the organization will select five playwrights for five-year residencies to develop new work. If the plan succeeds, 25 playwrights will be serving residences by the fifth year.

The inaugural five include David Hanson, who founded the organization, as well as Bryan Colley, Michelle T. Johnson, Alli Jordan and Vicki Vodrey.

Hanson said the organization was inspired by New Dramatists, which was founded in New York in 1949 and whose alumni include such estimable playwrights as Doug Wright, Lynn Nottage, Suzan-Lori Parks and John Guare. Hanson, who once lived in New York, said he interned at New Dramatists.

“This has been kind of a dream of mine for 10 years,” he said. “When I got to Kansas City, I sort of missed that community of writers and a place where people could go and develop new theater. Then I started running into people who had similar ideas.”

Hanson said discussions with Jose Faus, a poet and playwright who is the Writers Place board president, and executive director Mary Bunten led to the arrangement.

“We went to them and said, ‘Hey, this is what we’re thinking,’ ” Hanson said. “They were very helpful and supportive. They saw it as an opportunity to give back. It turned out to be a great partnership …. The Writers Place is one of those venerable institutions in Kansas City as a place where writers are welcome. And the other thing they had, from a pragmatic point of view, is they had a basement.”

You can learn more about the collective at

From The Kansas City Star