Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Playwrights' Week
In the spirit of our 25th Annual Playwrights’ Week, I figured it’d only be fitting to interview our lovely office jokester, the Director of Scouting and Submissions, the one and only, Andrea Hiebler! For those who are new to The Lark, Playwrights’ Week is an annual, intensive, seven-day festival designed to foster a peer-based community among a cohort of writers with new work in development. The five playwrights selected are provided with crucial creative resources, which includes a series of group conversations around their work, and a staged reading open to the public. Sounds like a lot of work doesn’t it? That’s why we’re honored to have someone like Andrea on our team. She first joined us at The Lark in the summer of 2006 as an intern. She then served as the Literary Associate for Playwrights’ Week before becoming a full-time member of the artistic team in 2009. She now manages multiple submission and fellowship selection processes, program goal setting and assessments as well as writer scouting and tracking. It goes without saying, but without Andrea, Playwrights’ Week would not be the exciting and successful event that it is for playwrights from all over the world. So without further ado, here I present to you the inside scoop of the celebratory week that is Playwrights’ Week through the eyes of Andrea Hiebler!
How has Playwrights' Week evolved over the course of 25 years?
It's mind-boggling to me that I've been around in various capacities for nearly half of Lark's Playwrights' Weeks. It was during my first year with the program that it switched from an annual summer to fall event. So I have always associated it with a back to school, season opener type of vibe while it used to be more of a culmination to the year. The week has evolved in quintessential Lark spirit as an ongoing experiment. Pieces both large and small have been adjusted each time around, whether it be the configuration of the selection process, or the widely varying amount of plays selected, or the structure of the events of the week itself according to feedback from the writers. We have shifted from committing the federal crime of hoarding postal bins full of mailed hard copy scripts to a different beast altogether in e-submissions. At the heart of the program remains a commitment to providing open access and an artistic process driven by the writer's self-stated goals for a piece, with the communal aim of placing those writers and plays in conversation with one another, as well as a larger audience.
What's your favorite part of Playwrights' Week?
By saying this, I'm not saying "the end," but the energy of exhausted contentment as the group gathers for the assessment brunch the morning after the last reading of the week is so palpable every year. Most of the writers arrive as strangers or acquaintances and over the compressed course of seven to ten days, they become deeply invested in and wonderful advocates for each other's work. As the writers reflect on their own processes and those of their peers, it becomes clear just how much work gets accomplished and how quickly bonds can form among the cohort. By the time things wind down and the mimosas are finished, everyone is hugging goodbye and promising to write like it's the last day of summer camp.
What are some of your favorite memories from past Playwrights' Weeks?
Lots of late nights celebrating at Cancun, Rumours, Matt's Grill, House of Brews, and McGee's while we were uptown and then Robert Emmett's, Reunion, and Smith's in our current space. As you might have guessed, these are all bars. The "Meet the Writers" panels have provided such fascinating windows into the creative impulses behind each play's creation. Hearing playwrights read portions of their own work is a rare occurrence and consistent highlight of the week. And seeing all of the participating playwrights scattered throughout the audience of every public reading.
Do you ever notice any common themes among the plays that are chosen? Is there a way they all connect?
Totally! And often accidentally! It is readily apparent when looking at the entire submissions pool that there is something in the ether. The collective unconscious is on display both in terms of the writers writing and the readers reading plays. We rely on the "fierce advocacy" (a term coined by a past reader) for individual plays on the part of readers and then the curation of a diverse cohort during final selection. Although we're not intentionally going for an overarching theme, common threads that connect the selected plays often emerge. It might be reverse engineered dramaturgy, but the individual pieces do end up building a unique dialogue based on their shared inclusion in the week.
Did her answers intrigue you? How could they not! If you’re interested in attending our public readings, we hope you'll join us! Tickets for sold out readings often open up at the last minute, so be sure to swing by our box office half an hour prior to readings to get your name on the waitlist. Playwrights’ Week will take place from November 5-9. Can’t wait to see you there!