Ever headed off to London for a theatre binge? Maybe you crammed half-a-dozen shows into one long weekend, or stretched your stay to accommodate a full week of trundling between funky fringe theatres and the bright lights of the West End. Don’t try bragging about your exploits to Robert Hedley and Harriet Power, though. When this Philadelphia-based scholarly duo goes on a London theatre binge, the very concept takes on formidable new dimensions.
Hedley and Power’s visit across the pond—call it a binge, a sojourn, a sabbatical, a stopover extraordinaire—lasted a hefty five months, and resulted in the affable, information-packed document that appears in these pages under their dual byline and the title “Over There.” The theatres they frequented, the productions they saw, the leading artists and administrators they talked to—all were factors in a well-choreographed investigation of Great Britain’s new-play culture. The conclusions Hedley and Power ultimately reach may jibe with or differ from your own binge-induced observations—but you’ll find the comparisons and contrasts they draw with our own stateside ecology of new-play development and production revelatory.
New plays and their destinies are also on the mind of the amiable fellow staking out this issue’s cover, Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis. We seized the occasion of a $40-million, see-it-to-believe-it renovation of the Public’s downtown Manhattan home, the 158-year-old Astor Library building, to quiz the voluble Eustis about his seven years at the company’s helm, and about the challenges he expects to grapple with in the next seven or so. “What I set out to do is to try to build up the institutional muscle of the place,” Eustis tells arts reporter Alexis Soloski, who’s anything but shy about asking him seriously tough questions about the venerable institution’s aspirations and long-term well-being.
And what better way to bring into focus this issue’s disparate chatter about new plays and how they blossom than to print the text of a genuine find, a fierce, uncompromising two-hander by early-career playwright Johnna Adams called Gidion’s Knot? In her introductory interview of the playwright, Adams’s teacher Tina Howe lauds her acolyte’s “heart-stopping, beautifully crafted scenes” and her “uncanny approach to dialogue”—qualities that thrilled audiences in the play’s sole production to date, at the indispensable Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown, W.Va., and will do so again as the play gains wider currency.
From the bustling venues of London and Manhattan to the West Virginia hills, new plays are a tonic that keeps our theatre vital, energized, relevant, in the moment. That theme courses through the varied contents of this issue—and welcomes you to join the conversation.
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