Behind the scenes at Orlando Shakespeare Theater

An Intern’s Insight: Take a Risk on New Plays

A considerable number of theaters avoid new plays. Who can blame them? New plays are risky. Tried and true names are sure to bring in revenue, and yet theaters like Orlando Shakes are taking a chance on contemporary playwrights. Given the opportunity, maybe a modern playwright could match the genius of a certain Bard from 400 years ago… But if new plays aren’t produced then we’ll never see another Shakespeare.

NewPlays_BlogAudiences face a similar challenge when approaching a new play. Why pay money to see theater you may not revel in quite like the shows you know? Remember the feeling you had entering the theater to see your favorite play for the first time? One such favorite of mine is Oscar Wilde’s satirical masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest. Like me, there’s a good chance you were hopeful that the show would deliver everything it promised. You may have sprinted down the aisle (to the usher’s dismay) and vaulted into your seat, your eager mind screaming at the technical crew to dim the lights and draw the curtains, as you prepared to witness the hype firsthand.

Shouldn’t we give new art an equal opportunity to “wow” us? It’s capable of eliciting the same emotions as the classics – it merely needs a fighting chance to do so. Orlando Shakespeare Theater has been working to develop new plays since before it was called ‘Orlando Shakespeare Theater’. Orlando Shakespeare Festival started PlayLab (a monthly new play reading series) in 1999, which later evolved into PlayFest in 2003. Since that time, the Theater has developed new plays and musicals including Around the World in 80 Days, Charm, Every Christmas Story Ever Told, Mauritius, Opus, The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge, Wittenberg, and Yankee Tavern. These shows have been produced by theaters across the world – from Dallas to Austria, Japan, and even Broadway.

"(a love story") at PlayFest '13. Photo by Landon St. Gordon.

“(a love story)” at PlayFest ’13. Photo by Landon St. Gordon.

Orlando Shakes most recent PlayFest festival (Novemeber 8-10, 2013) included The Jericho Tree by Michael Aaron Santos, (a love story) by Kelly P. Lusk, Bad Dog by Jennifer Hoppe-House, For the Loyal by Lee Blessing, Broomstick by John Biguenet, I and You by Lauren Gunderson, and Ithaka by Andrea Stolowitz. Lee Blessing delivered a masterful keynote address, and the sellout weekend was a smashing success. For more on Blessing’s advice to new playwrights, click here.

New play development isn’t easy to commit to, which is why it’s rare to see a regional theater that specializes in it. However, after wrapping up one of their most successful PlayFest weekends ever, it is becoming clear to Orlando Shakes that there is a growing interest in new plays from the Central Florida arts community. People are once again investing in new art, and it’s giving them a profitable return.

*Photo collage features Orlando Shakes productions of (from left to right): The Cortez Method, Charm, The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge, Yankee Tavern, Opus, Every Christmas Story Ever Told, Wittenberg, The Exit Interview, and Shotgun. Photos by Tony Firriolo. *


Matt Stephen is a marketing intern at Orlando Shakespeare Theater. He currently studies advertising and public relations at the University of Central Florida. Stephen enjoys film, spending time with his pets at home, and exploring Orlando’s cultural attractions – especially the theater.


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