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Inside the Writers Room

The L.A. Writers' Workshop, Center Theatre Group, and the Future of American Theatre

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The L.A. Writers' Workshop at The Music Center Annex on June 3, 2017.

Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging
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(L-R, back row) Center Theatre Group Artistic Development Program Manager Patricia Garza, playwrights David Meyers, Eliza Clark, Dominique Morisseau, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, (L-R, front row) Qui Nguyen, Herbert Siguenza, Center Theatre Group Literary Manager Joy Meads, and playwright Deborah Stein.

Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging

Late June. Sunset. Silver Lake. A group of writers chat about living in Los Angeles and their upcoming projects. Among them are Hollywood showrunners, nationally produced playwrights, and award winning screenwriters. What do they all have in common? They’ve all participated in the L.A. Writers’ Workshop, a Center Theatre Group program devoted to supporting authors as they create new works for the stage.

Founded in 2005, the L.A. Writers’ Workshop invites seven local playwrights to participate in a year-long development cycle with the aim of supporting their artistry. Participating playwrights gain research assistance, dramaturgical support, a reading with professional actors, and (most importantly) a community.

This May, playwright Tracey Scott Wilson (FX’s The Americans, The Good Negro) was named the Center Theatre Group 2017 Fadiman Awardee, an award which supports the commission of a new play from the recipient as well as a one-week residency at Center Theatre Group. That night in June, the Writers’ Workshop alumni were gathered to celebrate Wilson, to catch up on recent goings-on, and (of course) to discuss the state of American theatre.

While Los Angeles is perhaps best known as a film town, the truth is that the city has a robust theatre scene and is home to many renowned playwrights. And these playwrights are not only responsible for creating exciting theatre, but also some of the most exciting (and award-winning) serialized television shows.

It hardly needs to be stated that we are living in a television renaissance. The exploits of networks such as Netflix and Hulu are so well documented that it has almost become cliché to mention them. But it should be noted that this content revolution has been fueled, largely, by playwrights. In the relatively small rolls of the L.A. Writers’ Workshop alumni association, there are over 40 writers who have worked in the television industry, including Jessica Goldberg (Hulu’s The Path), Marco Ramirez (Marvel’s Daredevil and The Defenders, and Netflix’s Orange is the New Black), Sarah Gubbins (Amazon’s I Love Dick), and Carly Mensch (Netflix’s GLOW).

Of the workshop's nearly 80 participants, over 60 have had their plays produced at regional theatres around the country. Theses theatres have included the meccas of new play development such as the Actors Theatre of Louisville and Playwrights Horizons, as well as founders of the American regional theatre system including Center Theatre Group. Recent notable plays include Pipeline by Dominique Morriseau (Lincoln Center Theater), Vietgone by Qui Nguyen(Manhattan Theatre Club), and The Nether by Jennifer Haley (Royal Court Theatre, Kirk Douglas Theatre).

At Center Theatre Group, we have a long history of fostering new plays. Some of our most notable World premieres have included Angels in America, The Kentucky Cycle, and Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. What makes the L.A. Writers’ Workshop special is that it allows us to also foster relationships with artists behind those works.

As that night in June wound down, the attendees gathered for a toast. They spoke of community; they spoke of the future. And as Center Theatre Group Literary Manager Joy Meads raised a glass to those in attendance and the community they represent, she also toasted the future of L.A. Theatre. It’s a future that looks bright, indeed.

Center Theatre Group would like to thank Elliott Sernel and Larry Falconio for opening their home, and making this L.A. Writers’ Workshop reunion possible.

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