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Playwrights Foundation Announces Programming Changes

The Bay Area Playwrights Festival will become a biennial hybrid offering, the Resident Playwrights program will become a 2-year residency, and the foundation will conclude their Rough Readings program.

SAN FRANCISCO: Playwrights Foundation has announced a new purpose and reimagined its core programs, designed to deepen their support for playwrights. The foundation’s updated mission is “to support and empower playwrights’ artistic growth and careers while championing their voices on a national level.” This new purpose shifts organizational emphasis from new-play development toward a greater commitment to playwrights’ overall artistic growth and career advancement.

After listening to feedback from playwrights and other constituents, the foundation has also reimagined its core programs. The Bay Area Playwrights Festival will change from an annual festival to a biennial hybrid festival, in turn expanding the pre-festival program from four to 12 months. The Resident Playwrights program will shift from a four-year to a two-year residency with public presentations of new work in the second year that will alternate with the BAPF public readings and heighten the visibility of the local resident playwrights. These changes were implemented in order to allow staff to be more intentional and responsive to each playwright’s needs and to increase the amount of time, care, and resources dedicated to each program.

The Resident Playwrights program will open applications to San Francisco Bay Area writers in July for a 2024-2025 residency, and the 46th Bay Area Playwrights Festival public readings will be held April 12-21, 2024.

“Being a playwright is heart-centered work,” said executive artistic director Jessica Bird Beza in a statement. “Playwrights are visionary leaders illuminating the depths of our very souls with their stories. In our theatre industry, the focus often is primarily on the development of the script, toward a reading with playwrights working under extremely tight deadlines without much input on their needs or support afterwards. These past few years have highlighted how broken many of our collective systems are. It’s crucial to reexamine how we do things and prioritize the people in the process over the product. We want to give playwrights greater agency, more money, and support them holistically, by not only supporting play creation but also their mind, body, and spirits, which will lead to even more impactful storytelling.”

Playwrights Foundation has worked to increase playwright agency and leadership in artistic decisions at all levels of the organization, increase wages for all staff and artists, eliminate unpaid internships and free artistic labor, create more year-round part-time staff positions, as well as increase diversity on their board and staff. The foundation is also sunsetting their Rough Readings program following a 15-year partnership with the National Center for New Plays at Stanford University

The organization hopes these changes will allow staff to develop new engagement initiatives to serve all playwrights over the next few years, including stronger alumni engagement, educational programming, and networking opportunities. Playwrights Foundation is inviting their community to engage around these changes through a series of town hall conversations.

Founded in 1978, Playwrights Foundation is a playwright service organization and new-play incubator located in the San Francisco Bay Area. The foundation envisions a future in which playwrights are radically centered as visionary leaders who transform the world through storytelling.

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