Over the last few weeks, playwright William Missouri Downs has been crisscrossing the country to catch productions of his brand new play, “The Exit Interview.” And Downs has put this unique opportunity to good use, making plenty of adjustments along the way before arriving in Philadelphia this week for InterAct Theatre Company’s production.
This circuitous route to new play production has been gaining traction over the last decade thanks to The New Play Network, an alliance of non-profit theaters committed to producing new work.
“Theater in this country grew up as a commercial industry. A play only made it to significant audiences through Broadway, and producers that got on board were very territorial about it,” explains Seth Rozin, co-founder of InterAct. “That improved a little in the ’60s with the regional theater boom. But now, the idea of holding out for better deals — bigger productions — often keeps plays from ever being done. We’re trying to provide an alternative to the New York-or-bust model for plays. We’d rather give plays an opportunity to bubble up to New York, rather than trickle down.”
InterAct discovered “Interview” at NPN’s showcase of new plays, a forum for partner theaters to watch readings of new scripts together and, basically, go shopping for a hit play. “Interview” centers on a Bertolt Brecht scholar getting forced out of his teaching position, touching playfully on Brechtian theater techniques in the process.
“So many very good, very promising plays get done just once at a midsize or small theater and then die, even if they get decent reviews. It’s just hard to generate momentum,” says Rozin. “But when a play gets three or four productions, there’s a lot more reviews out there, there’s a lot more attention and there’s a better chance it’s going to be done by somebody else.”
‘The Exit Interview’: A National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere
Through Nov. 11
The Adrienne Theatre
2030 Sansom St.