Showcasing new and original playwriting is a top priority for Meredith Alvarez, marketing and artistic associate at The Playhouse San Antonio. She recently spearheaded the launch of Playhouse Potentials, a unique artistic program which hosts a monthly script reading in the Cellar Theater, The Playhouse’s smaller performance venue for newer and more experimental original works.
The program is meant to engage and broaden the San Antonio theater community, including artists, actors, directors, designers, playwrights, and patrons alike by hosting a one-night-only staged reading of original work.
“Playhouse Potentials grew out of the desire to regularly showcase new, original, and lesser-known plays,” Alvarez said, “thereby introducing a larger number of scripts to a wider audience without committing to a full-scale run of a show.”
What is especially unique about the program is that the script selections for each reading are made from open community submissions, cast with local actors, and read in front of a live audience. The Playhouse plans to look to the pool of past Playhouse Potentials readings for inspiration in selecting future season productions.
The next scheduled reading is “Crimes of the Heart” by Beth Henley on Jan. 31.
All readings take place on the last Sunday of every month in the Cellar Theater, located at the back entrance of The Playhouse building. Patrons are invited to arrive at 6 p.m. where they can enjoy refreshments from the Cellar Bar, as well as light hours d’ouvres.
The readings begin at 6:30 p.m., with an open discussion regarding the themes, merits, challenges, timeliness, and producibility of the evening’s selection following directly after. Anyone and everyone is invited and encouraged to participate.
Making decisions about a season’s show selection, Alvarez said, is one of the most “challenging and crucial” choices a local theater has to make.
Theaters are constantly thinking about what plays or musicals they should produce, the feasibility of each production in their respective spaces, how that particular show will relate to the audiences, and so on. Building a compelling, thought-provoking season is harder than one would think, and the difficult choices really come down to whether a theater should select an established classic, or take a chance on an unknown playwright with an incredible new script.
The number of full-scale productions a theater will produce each year is finite, but the amount of producible scripts is infinite. That’s where Playhouse Potentials hopes to bridge the gap, providing opportunities and exposure for under-recognized scripts.
Submissions are accepted online through The Playhouse’s website here. Once a submission is received, it is reviewed by Alvarez, and if selected, the process of securing rights for the script begins. If the publishing house grants permission, the rights are secured, scripts are ordered, and a reading date at the theater is set.
For local playwrights submitting original scripts, rights and privileges are discussed with the playwright themselves. Once a reading date is scheduled, the individual who submitted the approved script becomes the “Director” of that specific reading. He or she casts the show, schedules rehearsal times, and leads the discussion after their allotted reading.
Since opening submissions to the public on Jan. 4, Alvarez said that The Playhouse has received an “overwhelming number of submissions” as well as an “incredibly positive response from the artistic community at large.”
From playwright, to actor, to director, to patron, Playhouse Potentials offers a monthly promise of collaboration, creativity, and conversation. The Playhouse hopes that other theaters are inspired by the program, and will continue to develop innovative ways to offer artistic opportunities for San Antonio and beyond.
All Playhouse Potential readings are free and open to the public, and all submissions come from the greater San Antonio community. Playhouse Potentials is made possible through the generosity of patron donations. A $5 donation is encouraged at each reading to offset the cost of monthly licensing fees and scripts. For more info, you can visit the Playhouse Potentials page here.
Whether through script submission, reading participation, or reading attendance, it is the hope that Playhouse Potentials continues to grow and strengthen San Antonio’s theatrical community.
The program is crucial to San Antonio, Alvarez said, because it “gives a voice to all members of the artistic community.”
*Top image: (From left) Rick Frederick, Andrew Thorton, and Guy Schaffs participate in the first Playhouse Potentials reading in December 2015. Photo by Andrea Medina.