The New Jersey Play Lab is dedicated to developing production-ready plays through comprehensive hands-on dramaturgy.
This unique approach to play development serves both New Jersey playwrights and producers by offering an alternative to the often fractured process by which plays arrive at their first production.
The New Jersey Play Lab offers developmental residencies, play development forums, and dramaturgical services, designed to foster the creation and production of outstanding new work in The Garden State and beyond, thus strengthening the ongoing movement to establish New Jersey as a valued and vibrant hub of new play development.
The New Jersey Play Lab is a home for playwrights of all career levels who seek collaboration, methodology, and excellence in their work, and for actors excited to lend their talents to the development of new plays for the stage. At each and every point of engagement at The New Jersey Play Lab, whether through our developmental residencies, play development forums, dramaturgical services, or partnerships within our community and our region, the focus is on providing the knowledge and opportunity to move forward in one’s artistic and professional journey.
These days, many plays are developed through short workshops and readings at multiple companies and institutions. This can lead to a play remaining “in development” for an extended period of time, and to a playwright responding to many voices and perhaps contradictory feedback.
Yet, despite all of this play development, we have noticed a trend towards plays being fully produced before they are fully cooked, and that good reviews of new plays often include a host of caveats.
The New Jersey Play Lab was born out of a desire to address these concerns by offering an alternative approach that ensures that new plays are dramaturgically sound prior to receiving their first production.
Our unique experience has given us the expertise to condense the play development process without sacrificing the quality of the journey or the results.
Whereas other development opportunities are designed to move a play forward as much as is possible within the time frame of a given program, we are committed to continuing to work on a play until it is ready for production.
We use the term “hands-on dramaturgy” to describe our approach because we see ourselves as a partner to the playwright, bringing all of our knowledge to the table in all aspects of our work.
Our process is thorough and demanding because we share a reverence for the art of playwriting, the utmost admiration for writers, and a deep appreciation and respect for audiences.
We are big on structure, arc, intention, stakes, and revisions, but all of this must stem from vision: the playwright’s vision. Our process always begins with identifying and articulating the playwright’s goals of “production-readiness” around a particular play. This shared understanding facilitates a more direct, detailed and engaged collaboration. In this process, it’s not enough to identify and ask the questions: we continue to ask the questions until we find the answer. And not just any answer—the one that we all deem is the strongest, most true, and most useful in service of the play.
The artistic staff of The New Jersey Play Lab has a combined experience of over 40 years of developing new plays for the stage, four of which have been as a collaborative team.
We have worked with writers of varying degrees of experience, who write in an array of styles, under all sorts of timelines. What has allowed us to be successful in each of these collaborations is our ability to be flexible enough to adapt to the needs/style/language of the playwright while still acting from core principles of craft and a rigorous pursuit of excellence.
We recognize that being “ready” is a completely subjective state. However, we believe there is a threshold from which playwrights are best prepared to make informed and confident decisions, leading up to and during a first production.
“Production-ready” means that all of the questions and all of the hiccups have been satisfactorily addressed while still in the development process.
“Production-ready” means that playwrights have the clarity of purpose and execution to ensure that they enter into a first production with their vision intact.
“Production-ready” means that the play has been developed to the point where its deliberate, thoughtful construction elevates and underpins its subject matter to create outstanding and important theatre.
We bring this commitment and belief in the value of “production readiness” to all of our work. Although it is unlikely that a play being developed in one of our classes will reach production readiness in the course of a 10-week session, playwrights working on full lengths in our classes may submit their play for one of our Residencies, work on the same play in subsequent class sessions, and/or work one-on-one with a dramaturg through our script consultation services. The New Jersey Play Lab has been conceived and structured to offer opportunity for every writer to bring their play to this optimal stage.