Essential Theatre Play Development

One of the Essential Theatre’s most important goals has always been the production and encouragement of new plays by Georgia writers. Ever since our first annual Festival in 1999, we’ve been committed to the production of at least one World Premiere a year by a Georgia playwright, which led us to institute the annual Essential Theatre Playwriting Award, the only such competition exclusively dedicated to new works by writers from this state.

Along with producing fourteen World Premieres since then, we’ve done some work developing new plays, holding private and public readings and offering consultation to playwrights. Although production remains our primary goal, we hope to put more time into development work in the future.

Earlier this week we had a private reading and discussion of BLEACH, a dark comedy by playwright James Beck. The readers included some of the top acting talent in Atlanta: Robin Bloodworth, Kathleen Wattis, Bart Hansard, Jill Hames and Christie Vozniak. I always feel that the best way to help a playwright is to let them hear their script read by a talented group of well-cast actors. Playwright Beck says: “In organizing a reading of my play BLEACH, Peter pulled together a terrific group of actors who gave a great reading. Then Peter led the group in a constructive feedback session that allowed me as the playwright to experience my play, to question it and to gather new creative energy to apply in crafting the work. Peter did a great job of understanding that the playwright has to solve the riddle of the play but offered, through open discussion, and some really great reflection about the piece.”

A few weeks back we had another private reading, this time of a play that we’ve had a longer history with. Playwright Glen Slattery has been working with us for several years on a dark comic fantasia about some of the members of Hitler’s inner circle, in a script that has gone through a number of titles (“The Foreign Minister,” “Hitler’s Parrot,” “The Last-Love Nazi” and “Von Who?”). This was the third time we’ve had a reading/discussion of the play, which has really been coming along. This time around our excellent readers were Bill Murphey, Michael Strauss, Yolanda Asher, Robin Bloodworth, Jill Hames, Theo Harness and James Baskin.

Glen says that:Essential Theatre provided a setting for several readings of the play that were crucial to its development. Gifted actors brought the roles to life, while feedback from Artistic Director Peter Hardy was invaluable in sharpening the dramatic focus. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work with such a fine organization.”

Coming up next fall, Glen’s play will receive the benefits of a week-long Ethel Woolson Lab development workshop provided by our friends at Working Title, Atlanta’s foremost playwrights’ organization. We look forward to seeing its next incarnation.