UPDATE (8 November): Diane Ragsdale, who was there to document the event, writes about this controversy here; and the Arena Stage press release about the event, which includes a list of the participants, is available here.
I’m not sure that there’s much to be concerned about regarding the closed-session Arena Stage event this past weekend focusing on the development of new American plays, as reported (perhaps it’s better to say “as non-reported”) here by the Washington Post‘s Peter Marks. Yet another tiresome series of panel discussions to establish Arena’s recent mission to brand itself as the premier institution for new play advocacy and dissemination in America does not appear to me to be particularly newsworthy, even if some top dogs attend; it’s not the presence of a journalist that would keep the dialogue from being “honest” (whatever that may mean), but the fear of offending the gatekeepers of these institutions and jeopardizing the possibility of getting one’s own play produced there sans personal prejudice. And on the other side of the discussion, I’m sure theatres’ artistic directors are loathe to reveal the tiny (and probably entirely necessary, given the internal politics rife in any institution) hypocrisies that drive their creative decisions. The imposition of a cone of silence rankles; it’s not like they’ll be revealing the ICBM launch codes, after all. But there you are.
On the other hand, there is some transparency to note — and that’s the transparency of some playwrights and their working process, a few examples of which have come to my attention in recent days. Matthew Freeman, for example, is posting about the ongoing composition of his new play, and in the Guardian, Steve Waters has launched a new series, “Secret Diary of a Playwright,” which promises some interest. And of course there is my own notebook on The Elf King here. So in these days of Occupy This and Occupy That, at least a few dramatists are implementing their own sunshine laws and revealing the machinery behind their work — even if the institutions that claim to be advocating for these new plays don’t seem to want to do so.