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JoJo Ruf, left, associate executive director, and Nan Barnett, executive director of the National New Play Network, at the organization's 2014 National Showcase in the Goldstein Cabaret at Florida Studio Theatre. (Photo by Nicole Clayton)

Offscript: Rolling on the New-Play River With Nan Barnett

On this week’s podcast, we talk about how the nation’s and the world’s political tumult is affecting theatres (and how they’re responding), about the departure of critic Charles Isherwood from The New York Times, and with National New Play Network executive director Nan Barnett about the nation’s new-play landscape.

Every other week, the editors of American Theatre curate a free-ranging discussion about the lively arts in our Offscript podcast.

This week editors Rob Weinert-Kendt, Suzy Evans, and Russ Dembin talk about the sudden departure of polarizing New York Times theatre critic Charles Isherwood and what it means for the field. But first they delve into a few ways theatres are being affected, and are responding to, the state of the country and the world. There are the ways the (now-suspended) Muslim travel ban has affected theatre efforts of Waterwell and Sundance Theatre Lab, which held its main workshop last summer in Morocco, with a particular effort to recruit refugees and immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa. There are programming efforts like last year’s NYC production of Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (and an upcoming reading of same featuring Christian Borle), or Forum Theatre’s upcoming repertory bill of two plays pointedly about reproductive rights, Monica Byrne’s What Every Girl Should Know and Ruby Rae Spiegel’s Dry Land. And there’s Robert Schenkkan’s rapid-response what-if scenario, Building the Wall, about to kick off a multi-theatre run starting at L.A.’s Fountain Theatre.

If “multi-theatre run” sounds a little clunky, maybe “rolling world premiere” sounds better? In fact, Schenkkan’s play is part of an official rolling world premiere from the folks who coined the term, and who seed new plays at theatres of all sizes around the country, the National New Play Network. We caught up with NNPN executive director Nan Barnett this week to talk about its ambitious programs, how the New Play Exchange is being used, and why she has the best job in theatre.

Download the episode here. Subscribe via RSSiTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher.


Suzy recommends the Manhattan Theatre Club’s production of August Wilson’s Jitney.

Russ recommends the Atlantic Theatre production of Paola Lazaro’s Tell Hector I Miss Him.

And for any theatre fan who hasn’t paid their respects yet, Rob recommends checking out the film of Wilson’s Fences, flaws and all. (Incidentally, that essay Rob recommends as his favorite on the purpose of criticism? It’s by Fintan O’Toole and you can find it here.)

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