The 8th Annual Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival closed its weekend festivities with the production of the first place winning play “One Foot in the Gravy” by Howard Kingkade. Originally from Hammond, Indiana, Kingkade studied Theatre at IU, and his madcap comedy with outrageous antics and exaggerations will keep audiences laughing. Other plays selected for readings were Rebecca Cameron’s “The Unpredictability of Fire and David Edwin Rousculp’ “My Dead Clown.
At the end of the workshop/feedback, Director of the Civic Theatre Phillip Colglazier told the assembled people – mostly writers and theatre aficionados—that he too was disappointed to announce the Festival was being discontinued because, as he said, “it was my baby.” My husband and I looked at each other in dismay. Although I haven’t submitted to the Festival for several years now because I haven’t had the time to write anything new, we supported the event by attending all the readings, workshops, and productions.
There are so few places in this area where playwrights can submit their works. Janet Allen, Executive Artistic Director of Indiana Repertory Theatre in Indianapolis, discussed the difficulties new playwrights have getting their works produced. She pointed out that many get readings, but production opportunities are bleak. One main reason for this is that theatres have to pay their bills, and stage plays generally don’t fill the seats like musicals do. Allen said musicals become addictive for audiences. If a theatre produces one musical, they get requests for another and then another and another.
Next year’s lineup for the Civic is—“Beauty and the Beast,” “Jekyll & Hyde,” “White Christmas,” “LaCage,” “Buyer & Cellar,” and “A Tribute to Rodgers & Hammerstein.” These productions will pay bills—lights, insurance, tickets, marketing, personnel, and a myriad of other necessary expenses because, as one person commented, “people attend musicals.”
So, stage plays often get short shrift. Audiences will attend comedies by known writers such as Paul Simon because they “know what they’re getting.” Same with Shakespearean plays, but taking a chance on a new play by an unknown playwright is iffy. “One Foot in the Gravy,” won’t disappoint, however. I hope Kingkade, an Associate Professor at the U of SC at Lancaster, will find his first place winning play accepted and performed in many places from now on. I also hope someone with deep pockets or some philanthropic foundation will offer to underwrite the Festival—say to the tune of twenty or thirty thousand dollars a year. It would be a fine legacy. Hummmm. Actually if four people were to pledge five thousand, the festival might be able to continue. Talking about this to a friend, she offered five on the spot. “I’m feeling generous,” she said. “I received an inheritance I wasn’t expecting.” That's it. By far the best solution would be for some Foundation or company to underswrite the project.
Who out there is willing to fund or help fund a Playwright Festival?