Title page for ETD etd-06022011-110116

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Bray, John Patrick
Author's Email Address JohnPatrickBray@yahoo.com
URN etd-06022011-110116
Title Process as Product: The Culture of Development and the Twenty-First Century Dramatist
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Theatre
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Wade, Leslie A. Committee Chair
Euba, Femi Committee Member
Fletcher, John Committee Member
Sosnowsky, Kristin Committee Member
Yongick, Jeong Dean's Representative
  • community-oriented-theatre
  • Playwriting Workshops
  • Post-War American Drama
  • New Play Development
  • New Play Production
Date of Defense 2011-05-19
Availability unrestricted
Simply stated, my research and my experiences as a playwright have led me to believe that the present condition of the playwright is that of a relic: that is, because of the notion that all plays need a developmental workshop, playwrights have not only lost authority over their art, but have also been driven to write plays meant for staged-readings rather than production. I argue that playwrights who create self-producing companies not only reclaim confidence in their craft, but also learn how to engage with the larger community via the collaborative process theatre.

In this dissertation, I employ a theoretical lens that relies on Ric Knowles‘s " material semiotics," while suggesting that the " do-it-yourself" playwright is incorporating just a " touch of anarchy " by reclaiming his or her authorial voice (that is, the playwright is not looking to destroy the American theatre production apparatus; rather, he or she is seeking out his or her own definition of success, which may include acceptance from the status quo). I highlight the causes of the playwright‘s diminished role in American theatre via a genealogy of the workshop model, and then offer four case studies in which a playwright (or playwrights) have taken control of his (her, or their) art (the New York Writers‘ Bloc, 13P, Sanctuary: Playwrights Theatre, and Axial Theatre). I suggest that playwrights who build their own writer-driven workshops and their own production companies have given new life to the craft, by bringing theatricality to the fore. I also look at the economics behind new play development and production in America, and suggest that the "do-it-yourself" model frees the writer/producer from the economic (and therefore, ideological) stresses of regional theatre, while fulfilling regional theatre‘s forgotten mission of incorporating the community into the world of theatre (i.e., development and production).

I close with some considerations of the limitations of the "do-it-yourself" model (such as the notion of vanity/web publications). I then reassert the argument that a playwright not only has the responsibility to create work for the stage, but also must be a central figure in local community building.

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