I love living in the Hudson Valley. It’s beautiful. It’s full of inspiration. The people are interesting and the food is fantastic. So why, when I think about submitting my work, do I not think of starting at home? Well, for one thing…maybe it’s the only thing: ignorance. I don’t know what’s up here, what’s available to me as a playwright. And maybe it’s a little about insecurity, too. Maybe it’s easier to picture rejection from some faraway theatre that I’ll probably never see anyway, than from somewhere in my own backyard. And then there’s our proximity to the epicenter of American Theatre, New York City. Everything must funnel to and from there, right?
It turns out that that’s a common misperception. And Dominic D’Andrea is trying to do something about that. He’s the new (and first) Hudson Valley Regional Ambassador for the Dramatists Guild (DG). He has the job only because he asked the question: who represents the Hudson Valley? “You, if you want it,” was the answer. Now he’s on a mission.
D’Andrea gathered Hudson Valley playwrights, actors and dramaturgs (both DG members and non-members) in July for a four-hour convening, “…the DG’s very first endeavor to bring together the vast community of playwrights living and working in the entire Hudson Valley area, from Yonkers to the Capital Region.” On the hottest Sunday of the summer, about 40 of us gathered at the Paramount Hudson Valley Theatre in Peekskill. (Fortunately, their air conditioning was working, mostly.)
After a friendly meet and greet, we got to work in a fun, innovative and ultimately very productive way. Dividing ourselves into groups based on which meal is our favorite (breakfast, obviously), we began to learn to work together. Coming up with reasons why we liked that meal the best (coffee!), then coming to a consensus on three things we all agreed made our meal awesome, within each group. These organic groupings kept going, forming and re-forming like a giant theatrical amoeba, until we were discussing what it means to be an artist in 2019, and a Hudson Valley artist, specifically. That’s where the feeling of lack of opportunity started to come up. And was countered by people who were excited about the chances to work here. That’s one of the wonderful things that started to happen, as we pooled our knowledge and experiences.
From there we got down to specifics: why some of us felt a lack of opportunity up here, where the obstacles are, who the gatekeepers to access are, what ishere, just waiting for us, and, most importantly, where we might go from here. We made a map of theaters and groups from Yonkers to Albany (I put Get Lit Beacon up there!) There is a surprising amount, especially in Poughkeepsie. Who knew?
I left the meeting feeling inspired. I met new writers. I learned a lot about what exists in my own back yard. And I’m excited that there is new energy being poured into my beloved Hudson Valley. There is opportunity here, and there will be even more. And we can all be a part of it. The plan is for more of these convenings. I’ll spread the word when the next one is scheduled. You should come.