Next Act

Scripts that rise to the top

Proctors and theREP partnership winnows nearly 500 new works to find 1 to stage each season

NEXT ACT! New Play Summit is a unique collaboration between Proctors and Capital Repertory Theatre, and a powerful engine for creating new works for the American stage.

NEXT ACT! which brings together writers, actors and audience members in the creative process, is more than just a reading series. Across four days, new plays are test driven in a variety of ways, ranging from The First 15 (featuring the opening moments of a number of works) to Second Look (an opportunity to revisit a piece after further development) to staged walks through full-length dramas, comedies and musicals.

Begun in 2012, NEXT ACT! honors tradition at theREP, which has produced almost 30 world premieres since its inception in 1981. But it also harnesses the administrative power of Proctors—which had previously experimented with a presentation of Stageworks’ Play by Play and a Kevin McGuire-led New Play Festival—allowing both venues, which each host elements of the summit, to bring creative forces to bear.

Each spring, committees made up of theatre professionals from across the region—including representatives from the Upstate Equity Actors’ Alliance—pore through close to 500 submitted scripts, winnowing down over successive rounds to the bright handful that make up the final roster. All scripts are read blind, and the final 20 are subject to rigorous real-world discussion, including aspects of future production, casting and economic viability as well as artistic merit.

“The selection process is arduous but proves that wonderful writing rises to the top, says theREP’s Producing Artistic Director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill. “Every submission is read by at least three readers, who are seeing these texts without knowing who the author is or where they come from. We concentrate on finding compelling stories with dimensional characters. I’m extremely pleased with the method and I know our audiences enjoy having a ringside seat to experience the first stages of bringing new plays to life.”

Subscribers, patrons and local theatre wonks weigh in at the event, with post-performance conversations over complimentary refreshments being a key part of the process.

The system works, and the true test of NEXT ACT! “winners” is the fact that they merit a full run during a following season at theREP. 

Susan Bradbeer’s political potboiler The God Game, developed, after its initial reading, in association with Gulfshore Playhouse, was not only a success in downtown Albany, but went on to become a regional favorite published by Samuel French. Bradbeer’s Naked Influence—a searing portrait of a stripper trying to make a life in the same seedy Washington, D.C. milieu—was another triumph.

Other titles to make it to theREP’s MainStage include Sherry Kramer’s How Water Behaves and Bob Morris’ Assisted Loving: Dating with My Dad. The latter pair were both helmed by Broadway/West End director Gordon Greenberg, who began his career as an actor at theREP and has since become an important mainstay on Pearl Street as well as across the globe.

Steven Peterson’s Paris Time, which received a Second Look in 2014 is on the slate for a full production in the 2017-2018 season.

And Pulitzer Prize winner William Kennedy also participated in NEXT ACT! in 2014 using the showcase as a workshop for a full reading—starring Aidan Quinn—of The Light of The World, which lays bare the curse of the Phelan family, whose members dominate the Albany cycle of his works.