Interview by Steve Peterson
[NoHo Arts District, CA] – Artistic Director Doug Haverty brings back the Group Rep‘s Playwrights Unit with a collection of selected short plays performed as stage readings that are free to the public. The NEW WORKS Summer Festival is running now through September 7, 2022.
The Group Rep’s first artistic director, Lonny Chapman, was interested in developing new works. Were there ongoing sessions to develop new works, and what was that like in the early days of the company?. (Did you participate then? Did all or some of the plays get produced by the Group Rep or elsewhere? Any of the new works get published?)
Lonny Chapman built up the Playwrights Unit and we had about 30 writers. Plus, there were additionally members of the company who endeavored to write plays.
I was invited in at the beginning of this process. I would estimate that 40% of the plays developed were eventually produced. It was an exciting time. Lonny was very committed to developing new plays and encouraged it. He was in several Broadway premiere plays and loved the idea of presenting world premieres at his theater. And several authors have had their Group Rep developed plays published by notable play licensing companies.
After Lonny’s death, were new works still being developed for the company (and maybe elsewhere)?
After Lonny’s decline and passing, the Playwrights Unit sort of faded away. There would be occasional new plays that popped in, but it was not the same dedicated curriculum and vigorous enterprise.
How did this New Works Summer Festival of staged readings come about?
At present we are developing 20-25 new plays. They are all at various stages and many were ready for their “two-nighter,” (a brand Lonny Chapman created which means that after sufficient development, the play could be performed for two nights, for free, for the public). The Board of Directors decided to pause our production schedule to gear up for our 50th Anniversary season and celebrations. So, I thought it would be a good idea to present several of these “two-nighters” together in a festival of sorts and thrive on any synergy that might be derived from all that creativity. Whereas many theaters solicit plays from across the country and present readings, these are all homegrown here. I’m very proud of the versatility, variety, originality and courage of our writers.
Last summer, another collection of plays centering around a stay at a local MOTEL 66 was successfully performed outdoors (due to covid). Audiences were looking forward to another round of MOTEL 66 plays. Will that be happening?
Yes, we plan to offer an all-new installment of MOTEL 66 in the summer of 2023 in our Upstairs-at-the-Group theater space. While it was great fun to do plays outdoors (in our converted parking lot), it’s a lot of logistics and work to maintain an outdoor space. We will develop these new short plays over the course of the next nine months. Read the MOTEL 66 reviews: West | East.
Will any of the plays in the NEW WORKS SUMMER FESTIVAL be chosen for full productions at the Lonny Chapman Theatre?
It is very possible that some of the plays will go on to have full productions at Group Rep. This is a possibility with every “Two-nighter,” but the main purpose is for the writers to witness their plays being performed in front of audiences. Audience reactions can be very informative.
Is there anything else about the NEW WORKS SUMMER FESTIVAL: the plays, the writing process, about the creative artists who have contributed their new works, their directing, acting, producing and other creative contributions that you’d like people to know about.
For the most part the eight plays that are being read in the festival are staffed by Group Rep members: the directors, the cast and, of course, the writers. So, the entire enterprise is an organic Group Rep creative adventure. There are adaptations of known works, historical plays, out-and-out comedies, and plays with music. It’s quite an assortment and truly amazing. Equally amazing is that we have a dozen more plays in development. The creative think tank is at full operation.
Doug, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions regarding GRT’s NEW WORKS Summer Festival. It’s a great opportunity for the public to see a staged reading of a short play that has been developed in a workshop situation. Performances are available now through Sept. 10 at 8 pm. Free Admission. First come, first served. For information, and health and safety protocol please visit www.thegrouprep.com
Performances are available now through September 10 at 8 pm.
The Lonny Chapman Theatre
10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood 91601.
Free street and early bird lot parking is available. The theatre is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible.
Free Admission. First come, first served.