Audience members often ask how projects are chosen and produced. Plays and film scripts come from a variety of sources including the national and regional scenes, relationships with collaborators, and ideas from sponsors. Each production process is different. Below is a 'Process 101' overview, seen through the work on the stage production of The Christians by Lucas Hnath (2017), produced in association with The Pine Hill Project. Hnath is one of America's most notable new playwrights and was nominated for a 2017 Tony Award. With a critically acclaimed track record in New York and at many theatres around the country, The Christians is an unusual and dynamic play that's compelling for believers and non-believers alike. Employing members of Actors' Equity Association and other professional disciplines, the year-long process began with four months of work to coordinate production details and full team. Read more in the slideshow and below.
Full-fledged stage productions like The Christians are generally produced observing the standards and practices of Actors' Equity Association, the national union representing professional actors and stage managers in the U.S., as well as The League of Resident Theatres (LORT), the largest professional theatre alliance of its kind in the U.S. LORT has member theatres in every major market.
There are many theatres in the U.S., professional and non-professional; LORT members are some of the leading professional resident, or regional, theatres. (LORT theatres collectively issue more contracts to professional actors than Broadway and national tours combined.) Because the economics of commercial theatre are often prohibitive (only 1 in 5 Broadway shows recoups investment), the non-profit regional theatre movement was created as a relatively affordable producing alternative. Read more in these short articles, about the cost of commercial production, and the relationship between commercial and non-profit theatre. Now, as entertainment choices and competition for dollars increase, performing arts companies continue to seek new ideas and models for this new digital age.
New scripts have a process all their own, apart from the one described above, as writers and creative teams develop the work often over long periods of time. The Playworks production of Lunch at the Piccadilly, for example, began in a series of table readings. The musical then grew and changed over the course of four productions - all of them with markedly different scripts and songs. A prominent example of new play development is Oslo by J.T. Rogers, which won the 2017 Tony Award for Best Play. Oslo started its journey to Broadway at PlayPenn in Philadelphia, one of the country's leading conferences for new play development. Read about Oslo here.
Another development path for new material is by commission, through which a company contracts writers and artists to create work. The Christians was commissioned for Actor's Theatre of Louisville's Humana Festival of New American Plays, one of the most renowned U.S. new play conferences. Learn more in this short video interview with the writer. The vast majority of scripts and screenplays, however, won't be produced on Broadway or in feature film. The Christians found its home in productions among the network of LORT companies and other theatres across the U.S. Each script has its unique audience; the development process helps a script find its path and its place. Follow the link for a map and more about those U.S. LORT member theatres, many with development programs.
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