May 2, 2014
"Dramatists Guild National Report: Missouri" by Hartley Wright
Something outstanding has happened in Kansas City which will likely produce lasting contributions to the theatre. On February 24, the Midwest Dramatists Center established its headquarters at The Writers Place, a local writer’s haven, near Kansas City’s historic Uptown Theater. Founder and playwright David Hanson states, “Our mission is to give regional emerging playwrights the home, the family and the support they need to grow themselves as artists and impact the creation of new theater.” Hanson was once an intern at New York’s New Dramatists and personally experienced the benefits of crafting new work among a supportive, cultivating community of writers. In a sense, the Midwest Dramatists Center is the reality of Hanson’s dream for having a similar organization in this region.
Each year, five regional emerging playwrights will be selected to serve a five-year residency with the Midwest Dramatists Center. Strictly committed to the development of new work, the Center offers a play lab with full support services and a black box theatre. Its community of playwrights will be encouraged to explore and experiment with their works-in-progress in a setting conducive to artistic growth and playmaking. Members will discover the nuances of creative control within three phases of readings and development: an internal workshop, inviting feedback exclusively from their fellow playwrights; staged readings before public audiences; and, a backer’s audition for any potential producers. Resident playwrights will look to find their greatest support from the MDC’s Artistic Director, whose biggest task, according to Hanson, “will be to develop relationships with local, regional and national theaters and with the member playwrights. On this foundation, the Artistic Director will seek to match the new plays developed at MDC with theaters that are likely interested in producing new works.”
“The home (for regional emerging playwrights) is really our lab at the Writer’s Place,” Hanson continues. “It’s a place where the member writers can always come and have their work read…in an effort to test their work and themselves in pursuit of their dramatic goals. The (MDC) family allows artists to be surrounded by other artists going through roughly the same things. It also fosters a wonderful chance for writers who work in different genres of theater to experience and work with people (crafting) other types. It makes writers better to be around peers who (write) things differently.” Michelle Johnson, who, along with Hanson, is among the Center’s five inaugural resident playwrights, agrees. “I’m thrilled to have a small group of people who are as invested in my growth and success as I am in theirs,” she said. “There is strength in numbers.” With a commitment to add five playwrights serving a five-year residence to the Center each year, such strength will only continue to build—and probably shape an impressive body of new work in the process.
The Center has just officially launched last month (April), and plans to announce programming, criteria and its submission calendar as soon as possible. Regional dramatists wishing to apply for the first class of five playwrights should consult the organization’s web site: www.midwestdramatists.org, or Facebook page: www.facebook.com/midwestdramatists.
It seems clear to me the Midwest Dramatists Center is an important organization not only for Missouri’s regional playwrights but also for Guild members from other parts of the country. As Hanson proclaims, “Our role is not to produce a season, or a single play. Our job is to develop playwrights. Playwrights whose work will carry theatre and those who love it into a new and wonderful future.” This organization promises to be seeking talented emerging playwrights and developing their work for many years to come. Its future success will be built on all playwrights from this region who take advantage of the unique opportunities this new playwrights’ collective has to offer. David Hanson believes it will be a great place for playwrights to call home. It is certainly a home where my heart could easily rest.
from The Dramatist