The series began in 2000 and is now four books old. It was started and is still edited by Martin Denton, the founder and executive director of New York Theatre Experience, a New York-based theatre website which features reviews, features and listings of Gotham productions. Denton—a former full-time accountant from the Washington, D.C. area, who halted a successful career with the Marriott Hotel chain to cover theatre non stop—hatched the idea after he realized that many of the small, black box plays he saw, and admired, would likely never see the light of day again. What to do? Why, publish them of course, with the hope that other theatres would produce the work. Thus, an independent theatre imprint was born.
Funding for the current book was provided, in part, by the New York State Council on the Arts and the Peg Santvoord Foundation. The benefitting authors are Joe Godfrey, Catherine Gillet, Andrea Lepcio, Ato Essandoh, Edward Musto, Nat Colley, Marc Morales, Leon Chase, Joseph Langham, Maggie Cino and Kelly McAllister. The plays were produced by such below-the-radar companies as Vital Theatre Company, CreZZle Productions and Horse Trade Theater Group—the sort of troupes Denton spends his night surveying.
The anthologies have yet to produce a break-out success story, but several of the published authors have found success they wouldn't have encountered had they not been selected for inclusion. According to Denton, 10 of the plays published by NYTE have gone on to new productions in cities around the world.
Horse Country by C.J. Hopkins, of the initial 2000 collection, was staged at the 2002 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and won the First of the First Award. It will tour the UK in 2003. Julia Barclay's Word to Your Mama, found in the second volume, will have productions in London and New York this winter. Garth Wingfield's Are We There's Yet? (2000 collection) was workshopped by Massachusett's Cape Cod Theatre Project in 2002. Marc Chun's Match (2001 edition) was seen Off-Broadway last year and well-reviewed by the New York Times.
This year's play are as follows, with thumbnail plot outlines provided by Denton: A QUEER CAROL by Joe Godfrey : Interior decorator Ben Scrooge learns the true meaning of Christmas in this warm-hearted, gay-inflected update of the classic Dickens tale. Originally produced in New York City at The Duplex by SourceWorks Theatre in December 2001.
PUMPKINS FOR SMALLPOX by Catherine Gillet: A brief and incisive play about two teenage girls raising money for a good cause in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. First produced at the Vital Signs new works festival, Vital Theatre Company, May 2002.
LOOKING FOR THE PONY by Andrea Lepcio: A beautiful, intensely thoughtful one-act drama about the places breast cancer takes a woman and her sister. First produced at the Vital Signs new works festival, Vital Theatre Company, May 2002.
BLACK THANG by Ato Essandoh: True love battles stereotypes and other hang-ups in this charming romantic comedy about the blossoming relationship between a black man and a white woman. Debuted at manhattantheatresource in August 2002.
THE NINTH CIRCLE by Edward Musto: Ronald Reagan’s 1980 landslide election victory is the backdrop for one man’s spiraling descent into hell in this moody and harrowing drama. First produced by CreZZle Productions at the 45th Street Theatre, March 2002.
THE DOCTOR OF ROME by Nat Colley: In this provocative sequel to The Merchant of Venice, Shylock’s grandson relentlessly pursues the truth, with unintended consequences. Originally produced by Revolving Shakespeare Company at the Greenwich Street Theatre in May 2002.
GALAXY VIDEO by Marc Morales: A comedy for the MTV generation about trying to find a copy of Midnight Cowboy and other adventures inside the biggest video store ever. Premiered at The Red Room Theatre, produced by Horse Trade Theater Group and Edge of Insanity, March 2002.
THE LAST CARBURETOR by Leon Chase: A gripping drama of a dysfunctional family, set in Detroit at the turn of the millennium. Originally presented at The Present Company Theatorium in October 2001, and again at Access Theatre in July 2002, both times by Overlap Productions
OUT TO LUNCH by Joseph Langham: An outrageous absurdist farce about two losers camping out in a restaurant that is quite possibly an allegory about apathy. First presented at the New York International Fringe Festival in August 2002, and revived by Horse Trade Theater Group in their HA! Comedy Fest in January 2003.
ASCENDING BODILY by Maggie Cino: A fantastical solo play in which an unusual lady with many handbags muses about life, love, and llamas. Debuted as part of Screaming Venus Productions’ "Eve’s Apple" festival at the Kraine Theatre, January 2002.
LAST CALL by Kelly McAllister: A wise and moving comic drama about the ways some of us heed life’s wake-up calls—and the ways the rest of us ignore them. First presented at the New York International Fringe Festival, August 2002.