Why We Do New Work

Audrey Zielenbach is the Artistic Assistant at Gulfshore Playhouse.


Photo by Hansueli Krapf.

From storytelling came theatre. Stories can serve all kinds of purposes, they can be factual or fictionalized, teach a lesson or simply entertain, but most importantly, they form the basis for how we understand our own stories and how we understand the stories of one another. Storytelling is a form as old as language itself and once upon a time, became not just something done around a fire or told from parent to child, it leaped onto a stage so that it could be seen and heard by the masses.

In Ancient Athens, theatre first emerged during festivals held to honor the god Dionysus and nearly half of the week-long festival was dedicated to new plays. As many as seventeen plays would be presented over four days (which is quite a lot of theatre if you think about the 4 plays we produce during our New Works Festival in the same amount of time). And to give you even more of a hint of the scope of these events, each performance was attended by anywhere between six and twelve thousand people. This festival was attended by citizens of all kinds: rural farmers, merchants, aristocrats, and everyone in between. Even inmates were temporarily released from prison to be able to come and partake in the festival!

This is the excitement that we theatremakers bring to new works and this is the legacy we have silently promised to uphold. Presenting new work is a tradition as old as theatre itself (which is to say very, very old). The plays performed during the City Dionysia bravely explored the most contentious social issues as well as stories from their own culture that they did not want their fellow citizens to forget. In the 21st century, we have the incredible ability to present many of these plays thanks to generations of people willing to keep stories alive but, we are still forging ahead with brand new plays.

Every person on this planet has a story to tell and some, like Karen Siff Exkorn, are willing to turn their story into a play. New plays give us new perspectives and maybe help us see things in a new light. New plays also need development and audiences are vital to that process. A playwright can only get so far sitting in a room with only themselves as an audience. Audience feedback is a guiding force to the future life of a play which is why, when you come to see Do This which is currently playing at Gulfshore Playhouse, you will find a piece of paper tucked inside your playbill. We hope that you will take the time to fill it out and return it to our lovely staff and we promise that all of your feedback will be read by us. This gives you a unique opportunity to make your voice heard, to share your story with us, and to become an active and essential part of this process.

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