SALT LAKE CITY — While going through the upcoming seasons that are being offered at theaters around Utah, it caught my eye that Salt Lake Acting Company (SLAC) is participating in the Rolling World Premiere (RWP) feature of The Continued Life of New Plays fund, hosted by the National Network of New Plays (NNPN).

I might have just set a record for number of acronyms used in a single sentence.

NNPN is based out of Washington, DC, and I followed their programs with great interest when I was working at Arena Stage.  Naturally, I was excited to see the RWP coming to a Utah theater.  So excited that I asked Jason Loewith, Executive Director of NNPN, and Keven Myhre, Executive Producer of SLAC, if they would be willing to have a little chat about the RWP’s happening in Utah.

Salt Lake Acting Company is producing Sean Christopher Lewis’s Manning Up as part of the play’s rolling world premiere. Show runs November 7 – December 9, 2012.

Luckily, they were both eager to talk about the program so, through the magic of an internet chat room, we were able to pass a lovely together hour talking about NNPN, SLAC, RWP’s (all those acronyms again!) and the upcoming productions of Manning Up by Sean Christopher Lewis (November 7-December 9, 2012) and The Exit Interview by William Missouri Downs (April 10-May 5, 2013).  Here’s a look at how the conversation went.

Jason Loewith: Hey Janine

Janine Sobeck (UTBA): Hello Jason! Hi Keven!

Keven Myhre: Hi Janine and Jason. Thanks to both of you for joining in. I appreciate it.

Loewith: Hey Keven – how’s it going?

Myhre: We are going into Tech Rehearsal of Manning Up on Thursday night. It has been going really well.

Loewith: Great!  Have you guys been in good touch with [playwright Sean Christopher Lewis]? The show was extremely well received in Iowa City.

Myhre: Yes, Sean has been open to all questions and such a wonderful resource for SLAC, NNPN, and the press.

Loewith: That’s great.  The American Theatre article singled him out, and that was even before Manning Up became his first Rolling World Premiere.

Sobeck (UTBA): Jason, could we start off with a little explanation about what a “rolling world premiere” is?  Where did the idea come from?

Loewith: The first impulse for the Continued Life program was to counteract “premieritis.”David Goldman, our founder, was disgruntled about the number of “one-and-dones” in the world. But what began to happen is that, in developing the program, we realized how many different benefits the idea had.

Sobeck (UTBA): And from all accounts, it sounds like so far the program has been a success.

Loewith: Well, it doesn’t always work perfectly. NNPN doesn’t and can’t oversee the collaboration and productions themselves.

Sobeck (UTBA): So NNPN works to pair up the theaters, but it not actually involved in the production?

Loewith: That’s correct.  We enable the collaborations – as is true with all our programs, really. We offer support, some press, and connect the project to the rest of our membership via our Virtual Script Library.We also set up online project management for shared dramaturgy, marketing, etc.

Sobeck (UTBA): Keven, how did SLAC get involved with the program?

Myhre: SLAC has been a member of NNPN for ten years. We want all of our plays to have a life beyond a production at SLAC. It has been good to work with the other NNPN members for multiproductions. It is hard for any playwright to get their work produced once, but to get theater after premiere is even tougher.

Sobeck (UTBA): Keven, have you done this rolling world premiere process with NNPN before?  As mentioned earlier, you are doing it twice this year, both with Manning Up and The Exit Interview.

Myhre: We have produced various plays that came through the NNPN, but these two are the first as Rolling World Premieres.

Sobeck (UTBA): What has the process been like for you?  What “number” are you in the roll?

Myhre: Riverside Theatre has been very helpful with press information on Manning Up. We are the second company to produce it. For The Exit Interview, SLAC is number six. We have got a lot of dramaturgy information from the NNPN chat room.

Loewith: That’s the shared dramaturgy site I was mentioning. And we also had a great Collaboration Fund project on The Exit Interview, whereby Danielle Ward was paid to be the dramaturg for all six productions, visiting four of them.

Myhre: Isn’t it great that The Exit Interview will have six productions in under twelve months?

Sobeck (UTBA): Keven mentioned that they are 6th theater producing The Exit Interview.  So the rolling world premiere does not actually have to be limited to 3 productions?  Is there a limit?  Or is it just a minimum of 3 and up to as many who want to participate?.

Loewith: Correct.  Three are the minimum, no maximum as long as the playwright wants them. NNPN only gives grants to the first three that come aboard, though obviously we support the whole roll.

Sobeck (UTBA): Is there a normal length for the “break” time between productions? Does the playwright have a chance to make changes? Or do they follow each other pretty closely?

Loewith: It happens differently each time.

Sobeck (UTBA): Keven, how long has it been between productions of Manning Up?  Have you seen many changes?

Myhre: Riverside Theatre opened on a Friday night. We started rehearsal the following Monday with all of Sean’s script changes from what he learned through their rehearsal period.

Sobeck (UTBA): That’s quick.  Has Sean been in rehearsal with you?

Myhre: He’s been there in spirit and through the net.

Loewith: He’s a bit of a net-a-holic.

Sobeck (UTBA): You have to love how technology changes how much people can be involved in a process. Sadly we’re getting close to our breaking time. Are there any last minute things you want to say about the program or about the current RWP that is happening at SLAC?

Loewith: I’d say that I’m really thrilled SLAC is doing a RWP this year.This year we’ve got RWPs in four states new to the program:  Utah, Ohio, Montana and Oregon.  I just love that kind of geographic diversity, on top of the diversity of the scripts they’re producing and the voices they’re promoting.

Sobeck (UTBA): Its great to see how it’s growing. Keven? Any last thoughts?

Myhre: We love what NNPN has done for American theatre to promote playwrights work and are proud to be members.

Loewith: Can’t wait to finally visit you guys!

Sobeck (UTBA): That’s a great note to sign off on. Thanks to both of you.

Loewith: Ciao all!

The Continued Life of New Plays Fund is the National New Play Network’s flagship initiative, first launched in 2004.  Since that time, the Fund has supported more than 100 productions nationwide through Rolling World Premieres of more than 30 new plays.  NNPN provides funds of $7,000 to each of three theaters that commit to the same unproduced script before rehearsals begin, and all three theaters agree to share world premiere credit.  As a result, the playwright develops a new work with at least three different creative teams, for three different patron communities, ensuring the play is of the highest possible quality.  And with a minimum of three productions (and three sets of reviews) in a single year, the play attains the momentum it needs to find further productions.  For the playwright, three royalty checks is far better than “one-and-done.”  And for the field, the result is a little less territorialism, a little less “world premiere-itis,” and a lot more collaborative spirit.

For more information on NNPN and The Continued Life of New Plays Fund, you can check out their site here.