Recap: The First LPTW Theatre Connections Convenes at The Public

By Laura Caparrotti, with notes from Cindy Cooper

The first LPTW Theatre Connections event took place at the prestigious and iconic Public Theater on Monday, January 22, 2018. It was organized by the LPTW’s Programming Committee (Co-Chairs Ludovica Villar-Hauser and Yana Landowne) with League Member Cindy Cooper heading this program. A full house of LPTW members attended (capped at 50), listening to representatives from The Public Theater, including Joe’s Pub. League Member Malini Singh McDonald masterfully moderated the conversation and audience interaction.

The Public Theater is a multifaceted entity with many departments, and staffers described some of the artistic and decision-making processes related to different aspects of producing.

Those participating from The Public Theater were ShantaThake (Director of Joe’s Pub; programs artists and artist development at the Pub); Caity Joy Smith (Production Manager; coordinates behind-the-scenes, engaging stage managers, designers and creatives); Nidia Medina and YuvikaTolani (Line Producers; engage directly with the writers and directors of readings, workshops and shows); Jack Phillips Moore (Associate Dramaturg, New Writing; works with new material and emerging writers); Kate Murray (Casting Director); Alyssa Simmons (Under The Radar Festival General Manager) and Tom McCann (Senior Director of Marketing).

One of the major aspects of the work is to observe, cultivate and train “emerging” playwrights. The Public New Work department receives over 1,000 cold submissions a year, and each is read, the staffers said. The word “emerging” is undefined, they conceded, but may include theatrical newcomers, as well as people who have been working underground but have received lesser recognition.

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Staff members also attend hundreds of shows and readings in person and said that they can receive as many as 300 emails a day inviting them to events. Most spend their “off-time” doing just that. Their advice: keep sending, keep reaching out, keep inviting.

The Public often pairs writers with directors who have caught their eye in order to develop scripts.Writers and directors (and others)are often invited to meet over coffee so that staff members can get to know them better. Some director candidates come to the attention of The Public from courses that Artistic Director Oskar Eustis teaches at NYU, staffers said.

The Under the Radar festival, which runs in January, looks for shows year-round, general manager Alyssa Simmons said. The submission guidelines are set out on the website. Under the Radar is a great way to introduce work to the Public, whether it is chosen or not. Projects also come to Under the Radar from recommendations from the Public “family” or from connections with festival director Mark Russell.

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Joe’s Pub works in a somewhat different way. With three performances a day and 750-800 per year in Joe’s Pub, the staff creates a calendar that includes a mixture of cabaret acts, touring bands, spoken word, solo shows and other works. To make sure that the calendar offers a variety of performances, Shanta Take and her staff treat the calendar like a puzzle where each performance is unique. Joe’s Pub also has its own development and commissioning programs.

Actors are cast show-by-show because the production needs can vary so greatly. Kate Murray, Casting Director, said that the Public conducts open calls and uses equity principal auditions (EPAs) as a genuine opportunity to meet actors. Staffers are on the lookout at shows they see, too. They hope to advance the greater inclusion of people with disabilities.

Hundreds of stage managers are engaged each year, and the theater maintains a database of stage managers, along with a separate database of designers called The Watch List. The producers said that designers and technicians often come to their attention through positions as assistants to other designers or from working in an unrelated position at the Public. An understanding of the Public “culture” is highly prized in people hired as producers.

Staffers said that the Public is receptive to international work and is open to submissions coming from everywhere in the world; translations are not always necessary.

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Senior Director of Marketing, Tom McCann, who organized the event within the Public Theater, said that his department works with artists to further their work and to promote shows. To that end, he hopes to partner with League members in the future.

Diversity is a topic of constant conversations at the Public, said Shanta Thaki, who heads staff diversity efforts. “We try to ask the questions,” she said.

Find Public Theater staff listings at www.publictheater.org/About/Full-Public-Theater-Staff/. The Public Theater email formulation is first initial, last name (at) publictheater.org.