We are pleased to include below a brief report on the artistic and organizational accomplishments of Playwrights Horizons during our 2016/2017 season.
Your generosity has enabled us to develop and produce new plays and musicals by today’s most talented American playwrights and introduce these works to audiences and the larger theater industry. Your continued support will enable Playwrights Horizons to expand all of our essential programs, including New Works Lab script development, audience outreach and discount ticket programs, theater training and education for college students and aspiring arts professionals, and services for New York City’s theater community.
If you have any questions about this report or about Playwrights Horizons in general, please feel free to contact us through Liz Culp, Development Director, at (212) 564-1235 ext 3140 or LCulp@phnyc.org.
We cannot thank you enough for your commitment to our mission and vision, and we look forward to seeing you at the theater soon.
2016/2017 SEASON REPORT
JULY 2016 - JUNE 2017
MISSION STATEMENT: Playwrights Horizons is a writer's theater dedicated to the support and development of contemporary American playwrights, composers and lyricists, and to the production of their new work.
Playwrights Horizons was honored to receive support from a wide range of donors for our 2016/17 season, which included six exciting and successful productions. We continued to make progress towards the goals of our strategic plan, adopted in 2014, which set goals to expand the scope of our new works development, better compensate artists, support small theaters, and capitalize for the future. We are pleased to report on all of the activities and accomplishments of our 2016/17 season.
2016/17 SEASON PRODUCTIONS
- Aubergine, a New York premiere by Julia Cho, followed a Korean-American man’s struggle to connect with his dying father through the language of food. The Village Voice wrote, “Cho’s wide-ranging imagination and her inventive theatricality…gives this trip constant injections of surprise.”
- A Life, a world premiere by Adam Bock and featuring David Hyde Pierce, extended three weeks, and was recognized on the “Best Theater of 2016” lists of the New York Times, New York Magazine, and Time Out New York. A Life received 13 nominations during the awards season.
- Rancho Viejo, a world premiere by Dan LeFranc, was the result of a Playwrights commission, and was written and developed while Dan was our Mellon Playwright-in-Residence. Rancho Viejo explored the social anxiety and awkward get-togethers of a group of middle-aged neighbors in the suburbs.
- The Light Years was a world premiere by The Debate Society, which is made up of the writers Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen and director Oliver Butler, who create their works as a collaborative team. The play was set during two World’s Fairs in Chicago, in 1893 and 1933, and looked at two families struggling to succeed in ever-changing eras.
- The Profane, a world premiere by Zayd Dohrn about two Muslim-American families, sparked a response from the Muslim-American community, which opened up a conversation between our theater and Middle Eastern North African-American (MENA) artists. We held 21 post-show discussions to allow the audience to share their thoughts, and in the spring we hosted a forum for MENA artists.
- Bella, An American Tall Tale, a new musical by Kirsten Childs, was part of our Musicals in Partnership Initiative. Playwrights commissioned Bella, then partnered with Dallas Theater Center, which produced the world premiere in fall 2016, followed by further development for the New York premiere. The musical followed the adventures of Bella, an African-American woman with a legendary booty in the Old West.
One of the one of the goals of our strategic plan is to produce a seventh show when we find a work produced in a brief run that deserves more attention. During this past season, we produced our first seventh show Men on Boats by Jaclyn Backhaus. This was a co-production with Clubbed Thumb, which first produced the show in its 2015 Summerworks series. We partnered with them to bring to our Sharp Theater for a four-week run in summer 2016, with the run subsequently extended for one additional week.
NEW WORKS LAB
This season, we welcomed Musical Theatre Factory as our second resident company, and Clubbed Thumb enjoyed its third year in residence. Both theaters receive free office and rehearsal space at Playwrights Downtown (440 Lafayette Street) and are activity working in collaboration with the students in the Playwrights Theater School.
We developed 26 new plays and six musicals through New Works Lab readings season. New York Deaf Theater spent a week in residency, during which they developed a new play by Deaf playwright Raymond Luczak. This led to a new partnership where we will host the theater for two one-week residencies during the 2017/18 season.
Playwrights remains one of the only major theaters in the country that accepts unsolicited scripts. All scripts are reviewed, and every writer receives a personal response. This season we received 848 scripts and scores.
Eight commissions were awarded to a diverse group of writers, including our first Amal (meaning “Hope” in Arabic) commission for Arab American writers awarded to Mona Mansour. All of these commissions, with the exception of the Duke/Mellon Commission, are fully funded by individual and institutional donors:
Steinberg Charitable Trust Commissions:
Kate and Seymour Weingarten Commission:
Eric John Meyer
Jody Falco and Jeffrey Steinman Commissions for Emerging Playwrights:
Jeremy O. Harris
BUILDING AND SERVING AUDIENCES
At the start of this season, we introduced our new brand in all print and digital materials, created in partnership with Michael Bierut of Pentagram, featuring a rotating “Playwrights” logo in the handwriting of our season writers. Our tagline now announces that Playwrights is “where theater begins.”
Our 2016/17 season productions were seen by 55,000 people, including 5,600 subscribers and members. Students and “30 & Under members” purchased more than 4,000 tickets through memberships, rush tickets and group sales. Online and on-site activities enhanced the audience experience of each new play, including videos (26 posted on social media this season, with 500,000 views), post-show discussions with writers and directors for each show; and interactive lobby displays.
As a way of engaging our audience more directly and deeply with our writers, we introduced the Perspectives on Playwriting class last year. Participants learn about and discuss with seasoned playwrights the wide-ranging techniques that go into playwriting. Now in its second year, 15 adults attended a once-a-week Core Workshop class in summer 2017 led by a different guest playwright each week, and 45 to 100 students attend three larger master classes. Our long-range goal is to make these conversations available to a wider audience using digital technology.
EDUCATING THE NEXT GENERATION
The Playwrights HorizonsTheater School provided theater training to 196 undergraduate students at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. The School continued to integrate with Playwrights by collaborating with our writers, directors, and resident companies, and conducting classes and workshops taught by our senior staff. In addition, our Theatrical Fellowship Program trained 13 young people for arts careers this season. The Fellows worked closely with their mentors in the theater’s artistic and administrative departments, attaining valuable skills and connections. Four of the 2016/17 season fellows have already gone on to their first jobs in the industry.
SERVING THE ARTS COMMUNITY
Ticket Central provided high-quality, low cost box office services to 82 small and mid-sized arts organizations in New York City and beyond. During the 2016/17 season, Ticket Central sold 250,000 tickets to our clients’ productions.
At Playwrights Downtown, we rented 15 rehearsal spaces and two theaters to more than 1,000 groups.
OTHER ORGANIZATIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS
In October 2015, we launched the $15 million Campaign for Playwrights Horizons and have raised $7.6 million for artistic reserve funds and capital improvements.
Productions that premiered at Playwrights were produced in more than 50 regional and international theaters during the 2016/17 season.
Our commitment to diversity continued both on and off our stages. Our season featured four playwrights of color, and 58% of the actors in our productions were people of color. In the New Works Lab, 53% were women, 48% were LGBTQ, and 27% writers of color. We offered free work space to individual writers and theater companies, purposefully seeking to give opportunities to underrepresented writers and theater-makers, including a deaf playwright through the New York Deaf Theater and several writers from the transgender community. Our increased travel budget for artistic staff has enabled our Literary staff to seek out the work of a more diverse array of writers, traveling across the country to attend performances, build relationships with colleagues at other theaters, visit graduate school playwriting programs, and participate in conferences. We have also continued to focus on diversifying our Theatrical Fellowship Program. Last season, 25% of our fellows were people of color. To expand the opportunities for young people of color to participate in this program, we applied for over grants from multiple funders to be able to provide housing stipends and mentoring for multi-cultural fellows (awarded grants will be used during the seasons from 2017/18 to 2019/20).
Thank you again for your support of Playwrights Horizons. Our success would not be possible without you.