One Monday a month every theater in the country…from the Shuberts and Nederlanders, to Seattle Rep to South Coast Rep, from Florida Rep to the Portland Stage Company, all the way to the second best dinner theater in Pocatello, Idaho … one Monday a month every theater in this country should give twelve minutes on their stage to any playwright who signs up.
The twelve minutes may be a rehearsed scene. The playwright may simply sit on a chair and read from a script. It might be possible to have a pool of actors on hand to cold read. No sets are allowed, nothing but work lights should be used, and the twelve minutes includes any introduction or setting of scene. There is no talk back afterwards only “thank you” and “next” or if the occasion demands, “your time is up.”
Plays are not meant to be read. Plays are meant to be heard. If not heard their value can never be rightly judged. Plays are notes of music for body, voice, mind and being, and if not heard the music remains only notes on a page. Could you judge Chopin or Saint-Saens from a sheet of paper blackened with bar notes and musical notations? No, you could not.
Two examples from my own life: when young I tried Waiting for Godot three times and never got beyond page 15. “I don’t get it,” is all I could think. “What am I missing? Am I stupid or they stupid?” Then I saw a production at the Los Angeles Actors’ Theater with Donald Moffat, Dana Elcar and Ralph Waite. Ten minutes into that show I knew it was a great play, knew why it was a great play, and was utterly captivated. But on the page I saw nothing at all, which is not the same nothing Mister Beckett intended.
I had no idea why Hamlet was a great play until one afternoon at The Public Theater Kevin Kline showed me why it is a great play. But from the page I had no clue. Even its greatest words were as blank to me as an ocean. Without the resonance of a human voice plays can not be fairly judged.
There are multiple benefits to what is proposed above. It would cost almost nothing, it brings new people and energy to your theater, and most importantly you are going to find new plays and playwrights. All of us have sat through bad plays where two hours is an unhappy taste of eternity. But anyone can survive twelve minutes. The major houses might develop rules such as one time slot per five years, or after x number of appearances one has to be invited back in order to appear again. Major houses should at least have a literary manager present for all such Mondays.
I put forth this modest proposal of One Monday a Month and hope to see it happen in my lifetime.