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The members of Orbiter 3. (Photo by Lindsay Ladd)
The members of Orbiter 3. (Photo by Lindsay Ladd)

4 Companies Who've Picked Up Where 13P Left Off

From Orbiter 3 to the Workhaus Collective, companies have taken 13P’s playwright-focused production model and put their own spin on it.

NOTE: This post has been amended from an earlier post.

Fans of playwrights or ensembles surely know the tale of 13P, the New York–based collective of 13 playwrights who formed for a limited time (2003–2012), produced work by each of its 13 members, and then “imploded.”

The idea of 13P—whose members included Sarah Ruhl, Anne Washburn, Young Jean Lee and Sheila Callaghan—went against the grain of most theatre companies’ inevitable institutional stagnation. The ensemble’s motto, “We don’t develop plays. We do them,” meant that once their plays were done, they were done. But even though 13P is gone, their example—the self-producing aspect if not the foreordained ending—has inspired other ensembles to follow suit.

If three makes a trend, we’re overdue: With the recent launch of both the Philadelphia collective Orbiter 3 and of Boston Public Works, AT put two and two together to make this list of four of 13P’s most noteworthy successors. Sure, there are plenty of writer-driven collectives, like Ensemble Studio Theatre and Echo Theater Company. But what these children of 13P have in common is a commitment to producing work by all the playwrights in its roster, with an emphasis on the playwright’s vision and on the hyper-local.

LakeUntersee_Workhaus-Collective
Michael Booth, Adelin Phelps, and Jennifer Blagen in “Lake Untersee” from the Workhaus Collective. (Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp)

WORKHAUS COLLECTIVE

This Minneapolis–based ensemble, founded in 2006, is comprised of a rotating roster of eight local playwrights. The current group includes Trista Baldwin, Alan Berks, Jeannine Coulombe, Christina Ham, Carson Kreitzer, Dominic Orlando, Joe Waechter and Stanton Wood, and emeritus members include Cory Hinkle, Deborah Stein, and Victoria Stewart.

As with 13P, each playwright in the collective takes a turn as the company’s artistic director for the duration of their show, developing and overseeing all things related to its production. So far, Workhaus has produced 17 world premieres by its playwrights.

Workhaus just launched its eighth season with Lake Untersee, written by Collective member Joe Waechter. Of the company’s production model, Waechter told AT in September, “It really removes the administrative barriers that traditional theatre models have of producing theatre, and the hope is that by doing this we’re putting playwrights in direct relationship with audiences.”

Its next production is Skin Deep Sea, written by Stanton Wood, directed by fellow Collective member Alan Berks, running Feb. 13–28, 2015. It’s billed as “an unusual love story about a two-headed witch, a pirate airship captain cursed with bad luck, a Cuban war hero in search of a meaningful cause, and the two feuding daughters of robber baron Penelope Cooke, the fifth richest person in America (and ruthlessly intent on being the first).”

The Welders members Bob Bartlett, Renee Calarco, Ally Currin, Gwydion Suilebhan, Jojo Ruf and Caleen Jennings.
The Welders members Bob Bartlett, Renee Calarco, Ally Currin, Gwydion Suilebhan, Jojo Ruf and Caleen Jennings.

THE WELDERS

The Welders is made up of five Washington, D.C. playwrights (plus an executive director, Jojo Ruf, who’s responsible for dramaturgy and upkeep). It aims to produce the work of each of its membership within a three-year period, after which the company will be turned over to a new generation of five playwrights. Each Welder gets to take a turn as the artistic director of the company during their production slot.

The Welders’s first production premiered earlier this year (The Carolina Layaway Grill by Allyson Currin) and its next production (Not Enuf Lifetimes by Caleen Sinnette Jennings) will play Oct. 29-Nov. 15, 2014.  Not Enuf Lifetimes follows a man looking for his missing son and explores “rifts and potential bridges between the Boomer and hip-hop generations” via a “hip-hop–inspired structure with rhymes and music.”

The Welders is currently looking for its next generation of Welders. More info here.

"Turtles" by John Greiner-Ferris (photo by Joan Mejia)
“Turtles” by John Greiner-Ferris (photo by Joan Mejia)

BOSTON PUBLIC WORKS

This Boston–based collective is made up of seven playwrights, and aims to produce a play from each of its members over a three-year period. Unlike the above 13P-derived collectives, they’ve embraced the original troupe’s implosion strategy; following their disbandment, they will leave documentation of their process for future playwrights to follow.

BPW’s focus, as its name indicates, is specifically local, and each production employs only Boston artists. Their inaugural season, presented at Boston Center for the Arts, just began, with John Greiner-Ferris’s Turtles, about an on-the-run family, running through Nov. 8. Next up is From the Deep by Cassie M. Seinuk, March 12–29, 2015, which follows two prisoners-of-war. The final show in the season will be Three by Emily Kaye Lazzard, which doesn’t have an opening date set but is pegged as a coming-of-age story with lots of genitalia jokes. Three also boasts a female director and a female producer.

Orbiter 3 members (from left): James Ijames, Mary Tuomanen, Emily Acker, Doug Williams, Maura Krause, and Emma Goidel. (Photo by Lindsay Ladd.)
Orbiter 3 members (from left): James Ijames, Mary Tuomanen, Emily Acker, Doug Williams, Maura Krause, and Emma Goidel. (Photo by Lindsay Ladd.)

ORBITER 3

The newest (or shall we say youngest?) of 13P’s descendents is this Philadelphia–based troupe. Over the next three years, Orbiter 3 plans to produce plays by its five members, plus a sixth production from a local playwright. Their membership includes James Ijames, Emma Goidel and Maura Krause (who’s presently the artistic director of the company). Like BPW, Orbiter 3 plans to run its course, then disband in 2018, leaving behind a record of its plays and its development process.

A statement on Orbiter 3’s website reads: “We believe the next step in Philadelphia’s growth as a theatre community lies in fostering new work by local artists, and that a playwrights producing collective is integral to that effort.”

Orbiter 3 will officially launch on Nov. 17 with a big party. More info here.

  • John Greiner-Ferris

    Boston Public Works Theater Company, a confederation of playwrights in Boston, is one year old and we are opening our inaugural show, Turtles, one week from tomorrow. http://www.bostonpublicworks.org

    • Diep Tran

      Thanks for giving a shout-out to your 13P-inspired company. Great to see there’s more than what was on this list.

      • http://tcg.org/ Rob Weinert-Kendt

        We’ve added you in! The squeaky wheel etc.

        • John Greiner-Ferris

          Thank you so much! I agree with you: This is more than a trend; it’s actually a movement.

  • John Greiner-Ferris

    Boston Public Works Theater Company, a confederation of playwrights in Boston, is one year old and we are opening our inaugural show, Turtles, one week from tomorrow. http://www.bostonpublicworks.org

    • Diep Tran

      Thanks for giving a shout-out to your 13P-inspired company. Great to see there’s more than what was on this list.

      • http://tcg.org/ Rob Weinert-Kendt

        We’ve added you in! The squeaky wheel etc.

        • John Greiner-Ferris

          Thank you so much! I agree with you: This is more than a trend; it’s actually a movement.

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