NEW PLAY DEVELOPMENT

New Plays Live Here
    To the PlayPenn Community:

     

    I am writing to you today with both a heavy heart and with a commitment to do better, for PlayPenn and for the entire theatre community.

     

    PlayPenn is in crisis.  A crisis not of one person’s making.  A crisis that every one of us let happen.

     

    We allowed the comforts of familiarity to stall our progress toward making PlayPenn’s administration and board more welcome to different voices, to LGBTQ+ people, to people of color. Our shared culture, whiteness, history, and vernacular, comfortable to us all, lulled us into inaction.

     

    We failed, and it’s on all of us.

     

    We allowed photographs that did not represent us to be published in the recent Metro article. We didn’t realize what impact it would have, because we have been largely blind to those concerns.

     

    We failed, and it’s on all of us.

     

    We allowed this year’s Conference playwright selection not to adequately represent the diversity of the field.  We made bad judgements in equitable promotion, in reader diversity, in the curatorial selection of our playwrights.

     

    We failed, and it’s on all of us.

     

    We allowed the friendship, conviviality, history and generosity of a former member of our board to cloud our better judgement. This action breached the trust of, and made unsafe, members of PlayPenn’s family.

     

    We failed, and it’s on all of us.

     

    Over the past several days, on some social media platforms, a select number of individuals have levied the charge that PlayPenn’s recent roster of Haas Fellows who are taking part in our upcoming July Conference is not sufficiently representative of the diversity of our sector.

     

    Let me make this perfectly clear: we agree.

     

    While the percentage of playwrights of color in any individual year’s Conference has ranged from 16% to 50% over the past several years, and while the percentage of people of color participating in the 2020 Conference comes in at more than 65%, we understand that we could do better at putting in place various practices that would lead to a more equitable participation rate.
    Here is what we intend to do to rectify this:

     

    • Increase solicitation of applicants of color by reaching out to theaters, other development organizations and writers’ groups to encourage their application to our programs
    • Reconsider all elements of our evaluation and selection process
    • Work harder to engage readers, evaluators and panelists for our blind application process
    In addition, PlayPenn has been charged with proactively ensuring that our staff remain white.  While the current make-up of our staff is, indeed, of Caucasian descent, we have been actively engaged in work to ensure that as opportunities become available on staff, we will assertively promote these jobs toward more equitable hiring.

     

    We will endeavor to achieve these objectives through the following methods:

     

    • Make more aggressive outreach in identifying qualified candidates of color
    • Learn more about candidates who are already a part of our community
    • Establish a mentorship program for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) administrators as we fill future staff openings
    We have engaged David W. Brown, a PlayPenn supporter and expert in diversity, equity and inclusion, to help us in our work toward organizational self-awareness and anti-bias and anti-racism learning.

     

    Finally, I want to say a few words about a long-time PlayPenn donor.  In light of the allegations made against this individual of inappropriate behavior from a handful of former PlayPenn interns and staff, we have made the decision to return the individual’s most recent leadership gift and to end ties going forward.

     

    PlayPenn takes very seriously the vulnerabilities of the theatre community. We also take seriously the donors who support our work. We are, at our core, a learning organization.  Everyone at PlayPenn will learn from this moment.  As we move forward, we believe that learning will manifest in action that will make PlayPenn better as a result.

     

    Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
    Paul
    7.10.20

    PlayPenn advances Philadelphia’s reputation as a crossroads for theatre artists.

    The Art and Craft of Playwriting

    PlayPenn is an artist-driven organization dedicated to improving the way in which new plays are developed. Our annual Conference and year-round development workshops result in staged readings of new plays each year for over 1,800 artists, producers, and theatergoers. Additionally, our educational programs serve another 250 writers from around the globe.

    Our 2020 Playwrights

    We support artists at all career stages across a broad spectrum of cultural, economic, ethnic, and gender experience.

    Want to know more about the application process and selection? Learn more here.

    As an organization devoted to the theatrical telling of stories that represent the breadth of society and culture in our country, we are aware of the responsibility we have to our community and to ourselves to redouble our efforts to ensure that stories from every quarter find support toward public telling.

    Read our full statement here.

    PlayPenn hosted an evening with renowned playwrights Ayad Akhtar and J.T. Rogers. Read the transcript of their conversation here.

    "What PlayPenn is doing directly strengthens the lifeblood of the American Theatre."

    -J.T. Rogers, playwright