2014 is the 3rd year of the jewish playwriting contest, and it's been a spectacular ride. 512 plays from 450 playwrights in 26 states and 8 countries.
We've had the distinct pleasure of producing readings or workshops of 20 of those plays, and are stoked that 9 of those (so far) have gone on to subsequent productions around the country.
But we are equally stoked to use this outpouring of new work to get under the hood of contemporary jewish theater. Think about this: say it takes about a year to write a play. If a playwright works a few hours a day for maybe 3/4 of the 365 days (might be on the conservative side, but let's go with it for now), that means these 450 people have spent over 280,000 hours of time trying to express something vital and passionate and new about the state of jewish life. Now that's really impressive.
So, let's get into it. What can we learn from the 3 years of the jewish playwriting contest?
This is one of my favorite infographics - the map of the world, dotted with new jewish playwriting. The global and the specific, all in one. This map shows all 3 years at once (go ahead - scroll all over the world, or click to see each year individually - its fun! Just click the text "3 Years" in the upper right hand corner to start over.)
What I see in this map is that we have done a great job covering the English-speaking jewish world - the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand - with a few satellites in the Middle East and other locations. But I dream of the day we can accept plays in any language from anywhere on the globe. <Sigh>
Our writers come from all over the jewish and non-jewish world, and represent a really wide view of the current jewish conversation.
First, we asked the obvious. Then we dug a little deeper, both into what people were feeling now, and what they were given as kids.
But about 17% of our folks were not jewish, and we wanted to know about how they placed themselves in this world as well.
What our playwrights decide to write about is critical, and it's a part of the field that the jpp is really trying to change. Check out this comparison of subjects since we started:
Things that we like here:
- Holocaust plays down from 23% to 3%
- Social Justice plays up to 12%
- Diversity plays up more than 15 times
Things that we don't like:
- Social justice plays only at 12%.
- Still almost no plays dealing with the environment - a big area of the contemporary jewish dialogue.
- Plays about antisemitism are up a lot. We're not fans of this because we like to steer away from the negative, but also because it makes us wonder if antisemitism in general is up (Hungary, I'm looking at you.)
Moving into 2015, I'm looking for ways to increase artists grappling with justice and morality as it plays out in our world.
When they apply, we ask our playwrights to talk about why they write jewish plays. For many it's simple - "I'm jewish, so the plays I write are jewish." And I get that. For others, it's a complicated and nuanced question that gets them talking (they are writers after all).
I made this word cloud from their answers to get a sense of what was in those longer answers. Just like the plays they write, there is great stuff in here.
Right there at the center, you see three words: excited, feel and challenges. That's what it's about for the jpp- feeling excited about the challenges of understanding our world, our identity, and the ways they intersect.
Thanks for reading, and please - comment on these results!! What do you think about all these dorky ideas!
All best -