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A Letter from Bruce Norris

Okay, so let’s talk about money.

So, everyone keeps going on about this big recession.  They keep saying how we’re in the worst financial crisis since the great depression and how everyone is broke and unemployed and uncertain about the future… meanwhile, those of us who create theater for a living are thinking, "Yeah, now you know how it feels."

But Playwrights Horizons – for whatever combination of perverse psychological factors – continues stubbornly, irrationally, maybe, to produce new plays. 

And the ironic part is, I’m doing pretty well.  I wrote a play (Clybourne Park) which had its World Premiere at Playwrights Horizons and won a bunch of fancy prizes and is being produced all over the country.

And then this summer I was in Nantucket, hanging out (for free) in what has come to be, over the last couple of decades, a playground for billionaires.  And someone said to me, “So, now that you have a hit play, are you going to buy property in Nantucket?”

Seriously.  Do you have any idea what a house sells for in Nantucket?  

Maybe some of you do. Maybe some of you also have an idea of how much money most of us make in the not-for-profit theater, which can be a pitiful amount. For actors, doing a play off-Broadway frequently means earning less than you would on unemployment.  Talk about a disincentive.

And the theaters themselves are faced with the equally problematic dilemma of how to capture the attention of audiences that are faced with endless options of how to spend their time and money – or whether to leave the house at all.  It can seem like an impossible task. It must be tempting to just give it all up, turn the place into an Imax Theater and show The Lion King 3-D.

But Playwrights Horizons – for whatever combination of perverse psychological factors – continues stubbornly, irrationally, maybe, to produce new plays. 

How many other theaters in this city have the exclusive mission of producing new, untested plays? And here’s why they don’t: Because it’s a losing proposition.  It’s not-for-profit, however un-American that concept may be. But that’s where you come in…

So listen:  You know where this is headed.  This is the time of year where we come begging with our little tin cup. When you consider your charitable giving for the year I, personally, would be incredibly grateful if you’d think of Playwrights Horizons.

Maybe some of you can give $10,000, maybe some of you can give $1,000 and maybe some of you can give $25. Whatever you give will make a difference. It will be put to good use.

Your gift ensures that new plays like mine will be produced, and you can come see them.   It also ensures that a lot of incredibly talented, devoted and hard-working people get to continue working for another season.

And in a lean year, what could be better than that?

 

Bruce Norris
Playwright, CLYBOURNE PARK

November 2011

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