“One thing I always wanted to be was a playwright’s playwright,” says recent Tony nominee Paula Vogel. Between her 2017 Tony nomination for Indecent, her Pulitzer Prize for How I Learned to Drive, and now her honor by the New Dramatists (made official at the organization’s annual luncheon May 16), Vogel has earned nothing if not the respect and gratitude of her peers.
The New Dramatists honored Vogel alongside ten-time Tony-winning producer Daryl Roth (who produced Vogel’s Indecent) for their outstanding contribution to theatre. Dedicated to the nurturing of promising playwrights, New Dramatists provides time, space, staff and financial resources to develop new work—and it’s paying off. All four of this year’s Best Play Tony nominees—Lynn Nottage for Sweat, Lucas Hnath for A Doll’s House, Part 2, J.T. Rogers for Oslo, and Vogel for Indecent—are alumni of New Dramatists.
“I started A Doll’s House, Part 2 in the library of New Dramatists,” Hnath told Playbill before the luncheon.
“It allowed me to finish this play,” seconded Rogers of his Oslo. “It allowed me to finish my last play, Blood and Gifts.”
The institution is the birthplace of the careers of a multitude of playwrights because it serves as an “incubator” of talent, as Hnath called it.
“[New Dramatists] makes you your own artistic director,” said Rogers. “In essence, the staff is there to serve you and you have to grow into the realization that you are the boss of your own development. [It] became a laboratory where I could just summon actors, I could rehearse, I could invite an audience, I could do whatever I wanted.”
More than resources, the relationships New Dramatists foster are invaluable to these artists. “Paula is a mentor to us,” said Hnath. “She was giving me advice three days ago.”
And it’s not just playwright to playwright; as a producer, Roth also offers her time to growing writers.
“She gave me notes on my play line by line,” comedian Lisa Lampanelli, who has begun to flex her playwriting muscles, said of Roth. “Who does that? Who just says, ‘I’ll take time out of my 80-hour day and help you.’”
“The goal in producing a show is to create a family out of everybody involved,” said Jordan Roth, Daryl Roth’s son and a theatre producer and owner. “That’s how she thrives.”
And that’s how New Dramatists will continue to prosper, as well. “It’s an organization built to make us the leaders of our own artistic process,” said Hnath. Added Rogers, “It really is the mothership of American playwriting.”
Flip through photos of the honorees and 2017 Tony nominees at the celebratory luncheon: