There have been rumblings and articles and a lot of talk about the "workshopped to death" syndrome plaguing playwrights of late. At the O'Neill Theater Center, which boasts the most prestigious workshop experience in the United States, it is not uncommon to see a list of five or six, sometimes ten or eleven, previous workshops and development processes that the play and playwright have been thru. All of these workshops were worked thru by the playwright with the hopeful expecation that someone would see it, get connected to the play, and want to produce it.
No such luck.
Onto the next workshop.
Here's the thing...aren't playwrights complicite in this trend? If you're a playwright who's done workshopping the play, then hold out for a production and stop sending it to workshop opportunities. If that isn't working, produce the damn thing yourself.
Look back at the careers of all of the great or succesful (or both) playwrights. Everyone knows Shakespeare wrote, produced, directed, yada yada yada; but so did O'Neill; so did Gurney; so did Bullins; Vogel; Brecht; Becket; the list goes on and on.
This is one of those "push comes to shove", "will there's a way", "I'm a playmaker, dammit" kinda things.
Yeah, yeah, theaters get money for doing workshops, and the more readings, the less production money goes into the list of "here's what we did this year" that they have to hand in to get their grant money. It's a non-profit world that the theater exists in, and numbers are very, very important.
It's up to the playwright to be sure their play becomes more than grist for the non-profit mill. It's up to the playwright to push for production. If the theater won't do it, then the playwright needs to find a space and make their play a reality. Be a playmaker.