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July 08, 1994 - Image 71

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-07-08

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The Play's The Thing

The Council
Theaters is
working to
make sure
new Jewish
plays make
it to the



Ellen Schiff:
Author and

hile aspiring Jew-
ish playwrights sit
in front of their com-
puters working on eth-
nically-focused dramas
and comedies, members
of the Council of Jewish
Theaters (CJT) keep de-
vising new resources to help
get worthy plays produced.
That was the message when
the CJT recently held its annual
conference at the Maple-Drake
Jewish Community Center,
where the Jewish Ensemble The-
atre (JET) was host to adminis-
trators, writers and others
concerned with the development
of new plays.
Playwrights do have
to be patient," said Lau-
rie Wessely- Baldwin,
an independent writer,
director and producer,
who spent four seasons
as the artistic director
of the Washington Jew-
ish Theatre in
Rockville, Md., before
the program lost sup-

"Jewish theaters are primari-
ly very much underfunded and
understaffed. They are, for the
most part, small operations based
on the commitment of one or two
very active individuals.
"I literally had piles of unso-
licited manuscripts 4- or 5- feet
high that I didn't get to every
year. I was desperate. There is
nothing I'd rather do than work
with new plays and playwrights,
but it wasn't always possible."
Ms. Wessely-Baldwin, who has
been directing several of the
pieces produced at Theatre Ariel
in Pennsylvania, was part of a
panel that discussed "The The-
ater's Role in New Play Develop-
About 20 administrators ex-
plained how they evaluate unso-
licited manuscripts for possible
presentation, sometimes work-
ing with an inventory of 150
Those who feel most pressed
for time will return plays they
think will not appeal to their au-
diences based on reading only the
beginning. Others read every

Laurie Wessely-Baldwin, Kitty Dubin,
Elaine Rembrandt: Council of Jewish
Theaters members.

script cover to cover before mak-
ing up their minds.
Ellen Schiff, author and the-
ater scholar, has researched in-
novative development programs
across the country.
For example, while JET se-
lects new dramas and comedies
to introduce at winter festivals
of staged readings, Cleveland's
Halle Theatre sponsors formal
competitions, with judges re-
viewing about 75 scripts before
awarding a winner both
$1,000 and the opportunity to
present the work in a staged
Laurie Wessely-Baldwin:
The informality of a staged Writer, director, producer.
reading allows authors to get
feedback from participants. and thology of American Jewish
members of the audience and plays. "Cleveland, Toronto and
thereby gain ideas for refining Chicago look for money to sup-
their works.
port the writing and production
"One of the stated goals of the of new works."
CJT is to encourage new plays
The National Foundation for
and playwrights," said Dr. Schiff,
who is editing a two-volume an- PLAY page 78





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