Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Simply stated, my research and my experiences as a playwright have led me to believe that the present condition of the playwright is that of a relic: that is, because of the notion that all plays need a developmental workshop, playwrights have not only lost authority over their art, but have also been driven to write plays meant for staged-readings rather than production. I argue that playwrights who create self-producing companies not only reclaim confidence in their craft, but also learn how to engage with the larger community via the collaborative process theatre. In this dissertation, I employ a theoretical lens that relies on Ric Knowles‘s " material semiotics," while suggesting that the " do-it-yourself" playwright is incorporating just a " touch of anarchy " by reclaiming his or her authorial voice (that is, the playwright is not looking to destroy the American theatre production apparatus; rather, he or she is seeking out his or her own definition of success, which may include acceptance from the status quo). I highlight the causes of the playwright‘s diminished role in American theatre via a genealogy of the workshop model, and then offer four case studies in which a playwright (or playwrights) have taken control of his (her, or their) art (the New York Writers‘ Bloc, 13P, Sanctuary: Playwrights Theatre, and Axial Theatre). I suggest that playwrights who build their own writer-driven workshops and their own production companies have given new life to the craft, by bringing theatricality to the fore. I also look at the economics behind new play development and production in America, and suggest that the "do-it-yourself" model frees the writer/producer from the economic (and therefore, ideological) stresses of regional theatre, while fulfilling regional theatre‘s forgotten mission of incorporating the community into the world of theatre (i.e., development and production). I close with some considerations of the limitations of the "do-it-yourself" model (such as the notion of vanity/web publications). I then reassert the argument that a playwright not only has the responsibility to create work for the stage, but also must be a central figure in local community building.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Wade, Leslie A.