The series began in 2000 and is now five 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 that includes 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.
The anthologies have resulted in dozens of new productions of the included plays. 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, had productions in London and New York in 2003. 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 in 2002 and well reviewed by the New York Times. Joe Godfrey's A QUEER CAROL, from the 2003 book, will have new productions in San Francisco and Atlanta this winter.
This year's plays are as follows, with thumbnail plot outlines provided by Denton:
• Sugarbaby by Frank Cwiklik
"A young woman runs away from home in search of the real America —and finds it—in this brilliantly epic satire of contemporary values in the USA. It premiered at Horse Trade Theater Group's Red Room Theatre in June 2003.
• WTC View by Brian Sloan
"A smart and incisive drama depicting life in Lower Manhattan just after 9/11, as seen through the eyes of a young man who advertises for a new roommate on the night before the terrorist attacks. First produced at the 2003 New York International Fringe Festival." • United States: Work and Progress by Christy Meyer, Jon Schumacher and Ellen Shanman
"A fascinating docudrama about three Ph.D. candidates working in the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Originally presented by Singularity at HERE Arts Center in October 2002."
• The Shady Maids of Haiti by John Jahnke
"The Haitian slave uprising of 1803 is the backdrop for this potent and disarming examination of sexual, racial, and gender politics. It was first produced by The Hotel Savant at Walkerspace in September 2002."
• Cats Can See The Devil by Tom X. Chao
"A bizarrely eclectic puppet show morphs into a kaleidoscopic tour inside the mind of an obsessive performing artist in this hilarious send-up and celebration of fringe theatre. It premiered at the 2003 New York International Fringe Festival and was revived by Horse Trade Theater Group in October 2003."
• Survivor: Vietnam! by Rob Reese
"This ripe, ribald parody of reality television puts a group of eager contestants in the middle of the War in Vietnam, where they vie for a $1 million grand prize. Produced by Amnesia Wars Productions at Peoples Improv Theatre in May 2003."
• Feed The Hole by Michael Stock
"Six twenty-somethings fill the void of their meaningless lives through sex, drugs, & Crunch-Ohs in this affecting, articulate, and incisive dramatic comedy. First presented by Sideway Theater Company at Altered Stages in April 2003. "
• Auntie Mayhem by David Pumo
"This warm, wise, and funny play is about a gay man and his partner who become foster parents to three gay/transgender teens. It was originally presented by The Fourth Unity at the Bank Street Theatre in May 2003."
• The Monster Tales by Mary Jett Parsley
"In this lovely and fantastical fable, a young woman discovers her singular humanity when a monster appears from under her bed one night. Developed with an Emerging Artists Grant from the Durham Arts Council, it premiered at Actors' Playground where it was produced by Boomerang Theatre Company."
• Sun, Stand Thou Still by Steven Gridley
"A hitchhiker, a cop, a lady selling apples, and a man journeying eternally westward cross paths in this rich, enigmatic drama of escape and discovery. Produced by Spring Theatreworks at Altered Stages in June 2003."
Playwright Kirk Wood Bromley provided an introduction and Denton furnished critical commentary on each play. Plays and Playwrights 2004 is 414 pages, and has a suggested retail price of $16.00. It will be available in book stores and at the www.nytheatre.com website.