Many enter… not everyone leaves

Have you worked on a play in Development Hell? Tell us about it here!

In imperial China, a protracted form of execution had the self-explanatory name “death by a thousand cuts.” Many playwrights can relate, although instead of knives and wooden stakes, the torture instruments are red pens and dog-eared scripts.

Many theatres offer workshops, staged readings, and other opportunities for writers to hear their plays out loud. Who could object to that? Well, after the third staged reading and the inevitable nuggets of creative input (many of which directly contradict the suggestions from the second staged reading), it’s hard not to covet a way out of development hell.

The concept of development hell is familiar from the deep-pocketed land of Hollywood, where studios buy the rights to far more properties than they ever actually make. But while the people involved in these years-in-the-making efforts may bemoan the endless waiting, it tends to be a fairly well-compensated limbo. In the world of theatre, by comparison, re-re-rewrites tend to saddle the playwrights as well as the participating dramaturgs and literary managers with lots of work and not very much money.

Staged productions are obviously the desired result for all concerned, and the plays that survive the gauntlet of development hell tend to be the ones that ultimately reach that promised land. The hope of getting there is what keeps these workshop series chugging along. But in the meantime, they can consider themselves in good company. Dante’s “Inferno” described the first, most (relatively) innocuous circle of hell as Limbo, and he peopled it with such like-minded folks as Ovid and Aristotle. Perhaps asking the latter some questions about Poetics might help get that play over the final hurdle.

–Eric Grode

This video was made by Lark Play Development Center.

Here’s the team:
• Narrator – McKenna Cox
• Staff Member #1/Child #3/Playwright – Tyler Griffin
• Staff Member #2/Child #1/Chimer-Inner #1– Caitlyn A. Oenbrink
• Staff Member #3/Child #4/Chimer-Inner #2 – Caitlin Wees
• Child #2/Chimer-Inner #3 – Jessica Penzias
• Director – Thomas Weaver Jr.
• Writer – Jessica Penzias
• Editor & Cinematographer – Giancarlo Bauzulli

Founded in 1994, the LARK PLAY DEVELOPMENT CENTER is a laboratory for new voices and new ideas, providing playwrights and their collaborators with resources to develop their work in a supportive yet rigorous environment and encouraging artists to define their own goals and creative processes in pursuit of a unique vision. We embrace new and diverse perspectives here at home and in all corners of the world, supporting innovative strategies to help new work reach audiences through a network of evolving partnerships. We strive to reinvigorate the theater’s ancient and enduring role as a public forum for discussion, debate and community engagement, and to strengthen society’s capacity to imagine its future through storytelling.