Monday, February 25, 2008

And Action!

The last few weeks have been very busy for the IT Awards and I wanted to take a moment to let you know what we are up to.


The Honorary Award applications are now available on our website ( are accepting applications for the Caffe Cino (presented to an Off-Off-Broadway theatre company in recognition of outstanding work OOB, and for demonstrating a commitment to continue to produce OOB) and the Stewardship Award (presented to an individual or institution demonstrating a significant contribution to the Off-Off-Broadway community through service, support and leadership.)

I am always excited by the Honorary Awards because it is our opportunity to recognize some really important contributions to our community.

The 18 members of the Honorary Awards Committee are divided into 3 subcommittees, representing the 3 different honorary awards. Each of the Caffe Cino applications (for example) are then read by the 6 person Cino subcommittee. The subcommittee meets and discusses all the Cino applications and decides on 3 applications to present to the committee as a whole. Then the entire committee reads all 9 applications (3 from each of the 3 subcommittees). We have a big meeting where discuss each of the finalists and vote. Sometimes we argue. Sometimes we miraculously have a unanimous decision. Sometimes we have to vote several times to get a clear recipient. All of the members of the committee are dedicated to our community and are very knowledgeable about OOB. We are also very opinionated and strong-willed and that can make for some spirited conversation. At the end of our meeting, we come to a decision.

Each year, I find myself so proud of our community and wanting to recognize all of the applicants. I've even been moved to donate some of my personal funds to those companies that apply for the Caffe Cino because I get excited about what they are doing.

There is a little change this year. The Artistic Achievement Award (presented to an individual that has an impressive body of work Off-Off-Broadway or has accomplished something truly groundbreaking in independent theatre in New York) no longer requires an application. While applications for the Caffe Cino Fellowship and the Stewardship Awards are made available to the public, candidates for the Artistic Achievement Award are chosen by the Honorary Award Committee. However we still accept suggestions from the community and follow up on those suggestions.


Over the last 2 weeks, we have been shooting a short 5 minute instructional video on how the IT Awards judging system works. We wanted to create something fun and watchable that clearly explains the process.

We had a great crew and a fantastic cast. We are hoping to be able to reveal the finished product by the end of March.

I'm excited to see what you think about it.

Keep checking our website for more updates.

Shay Gines

Executive Director

New York Innovative Theatre Awards

Friday, February 8, 2008

The kids are alright.

Happy Lunar New Year, my fellow OOB-lings. I know this blog finds you busy as the proverbial groundhog, preparing for the enticingly warmer second half of the season. I am no exception -- actively embroiled in semester two of Grad School -- and I even made a new friend! She's a lovely young lady from just outside of town and we immediately bonded over the magic word: musicals.

Just as thrilling as it always is to find another fan of the dramatic form, I was equally saddened to hear her alarming ignorance of our beloved OOB. She l-l-loves going to Broadway shows, she tells me, but her classmates cannot afford to go with her. "What about smaller, more experimental theater?" I ask. "Where's that?" was her reply.

I can only describe my reaction as disbelief. My adorable new buddy, my young potential adoptee, was totally unaware of the thriving theater scene all around her. She lives on the Bowery! She's been in the city two years already! How can she NOT KNOW?!?

I understand. My undergraduate alma mater has no theater major. We had to venture into town to find the goods. Let's try to calmly, rationally look at this as opportunity rather than a tragedy. I think the bright young minds of New York City's large academic community are just waiting to experience your shows.

They are already engaged in the pursuit of human experience.

They are highly literate and sit - listening - for a living.

They live a subway ride away from your venue.

They travel in packs. (I wish I were kidding.)

They have a lot of time on their hands and not a lot of money.

They are an excellent addition to your audience. Please, please, please reach out to this city's phenomenal collection of students. This can be an organized marketing push in school newspapers and campus bulletin boards or a more guerilla efforts at the Columbia library steps, Park Row, and Borough Hall Brooklyn. Honestly, I'm not 100% sure about that part. There are more qualified IT staff members to ask. You must have MySpace if you're reading this. All I know is it's what the business students would call "win-win".

Break legs,

Hillary Cohen

Development Manager

New York Innovative Theatre Awards

Friday, February 1, 2008

About Writing

Once for Halloween, I showed up to my junior high school in costume. I wore an oversized cardigan sweater, button down white shirt, and fuchsia colored denim (don't laugh; this was in the 80s!) while clutching a clipboard and pencil. Any guesses as to what I was supposed to be? Anyone?

I was dressed as what I imagined a successful working screenwriter would look like (didn't the oversized cardigan sweater and clipboard give it away?) because in seventh grade, my passion was to be a screenwriter. Truth be told, I spent more time going around and telling my classmates that I would write parts especially for them than I did any actual writing. Nonetheless, there was a time when being a writer was definitely a part of my identity.

These days my writing mainly consists of business writing, some grantwriting, and the occasional email bon mots. However, one of the things I hope to accomplish in 2008 is to finally write and perform a one-person show based on an idea that has been batting around my head for over a year. When faced with a blank page, though, to pour out these creative ideas, I instantly freeze up, start perspiring around the forehead area, and slowly step away from the mocking blank page.

For inspiration and instruction (i.e. while procrastinating), I've been looking through writing and playwriting books and asking various writers how they manage not to run away in terror from writing. Nearly all of them say that you just have to do it. It seems like pretty simple advice, but I follow up with questions that I hope might illuminate how they are able to "just do it." Because although I might know how to dress like one, I'm a lot less confident about what it means to BE a writer. I want to know: where do you write? how much do you write in a day? when do you know it's done? how do you know it's good? The answers, I figure, will show me what I should be doing and how I should be doing it.

What I've discovered in these answers are the different rituals, philosophies, and work attitudes about writing. I love hearing these very unique motivations and ways of working. Truman Capote, for example, wrote daily in 3 hour sessions starting at the age of 11! He also spoke about his preference for writing while in a horizontal position sipping coffee in the morning and martinis in the afternoon. Playwright David Hare follows the prescription of eating alone at restaurants so he can think about his play all day, while also revealing the luxury of going away to really focus. Dramatist David Ives sets a rather intimidating standard: "For me, there's only one rule of playwriting. Don't bore the audience." In more practical terms, my playwright friend stated to me simply: "I give myself a 2-page quota per day. It's non-negotiable: 2 pages."

I also asked 2007 Innovative Theatre Award Recipients for Outstanding Original Short Script and Full Length Script a few of these questions. Daniel Reitz and Saviana Stanescu were good sports for answering.

DANIEL REITZ, Recipient for Outstanding Original Short Script (Rules of the Universe, prod. Rising Phoenix Repertory)

1. What is the title of the play you are working on right now?

The title of my current play is a temporary, working title: STUDIES FOR A PORTRAIT.

2. Where do you do most of your writing?

I write at home, New Dramatists (where I'm a member), and any handy, not-too-crowded Starbucks.

3. Do you write daily? For how long? How many pages? How long does it
take to write a play?
I try to write every morning, all morning. Number of pages varies. It takes me anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 years to write a full-length play.

4. What is the title of the last play you read?

Currently, I'm rereading Sarah Kane's "Crave."

5. How do you know when your play is "finished"?
I know when my play is finished when there's nothing more I can think to do to it, or want to. It's finished either way.

6. What is the best writing advice you have received?
I've gotten more from the experience of writing and watching the good plays of others than any advice that immediately comes to mind.

SAVIANA STANESCU, Recipient for Outstanding Original Full Length Script (Waxing West, prod. East Coast Artists)

1. What is the title of the play you are working on right now?

I'm working on two plays: ALIENS (with extraordinary skills) - a NYSCA commission for Women's Project
FOR A BARBARIAN WOMAN - a commission from myself for myself :)

2. Where do you do most of your writing?

At home, somtimes on my laptop in my bed, other times on my laptop at my desk

3. Do you write daily? For how long? How many pages? How long does it take to write a play?

I don't write daily but I think daily about the projects I'm working on. I write when something
that I've been thinking about needs to be put on page. And the word "needs" means an internal need or an external one: commission, deadline, workshop

4. What is the title of the last play you read?

"The Pillowman" by Martin McDonagh

5. How do you know when your play is "finished"?

"Finished" is a tricky word, you can work on the same play for ever and never "finish" it, but
there is a moment when the play needs to jump onto the stage and leave the page. So probably a
play is finished when it is produced.

6. What is the best writing advice you have received?

Find your own voice and stick to it!

But at the end of the day, no matter how they get it done, thank god for writers. They're out there alone in a universe of their own making. And they encounter characters and stories so wild and yet so like us. And what they bring back is in written form for the rest of us—the directors, actors, designers, and audience—to recreate in our own image. Like God using an instruction manual to create the world in seven days. Really, it's awesome what writers do.

You know, I think I really should get started on writing my one person show. Start with the blank page. Breathe. Just do it. Write.

Nancy Kim

Member Services Manager
New York Innovative Theatre Awards