New Works Needs Nashville by Nate Eppler
We asked our Playwright-in-Residence, Ingram New Works Playwright, author of Larries, and dear friend to Nashville Rep Nate Eppler to guest blog for us about the journey of his new work from page to stage. Here is what Nate had to say to you!
You know, I was going to write a little blog about how Nashville needs New Works. About how new plays for the stage cut through the Gordian knot of some of our knottiest problems (and so that I could use smarty-pants phrases like “Gordian knot”). About how all too often too much theatre flows from New York out to the regions instead of the other way around, and how that centralization causes a serious lack of diversity of voices and a lack of opportunities for new artists. About how New Works lead directly to New Audiences which consequently expands our field. About how locally grown art quantifiably strengthens communities. About how a strong arts community is just plain good news for local economies, if for no other reasons than it promotes tourism and creates jobs. About how art created in a community express and codifies the values of that community. About how communities are known by what they export not what they import. And about how the Nashville art scene is going to be the Next Big Thing in a city of Big Things.
But you know all that. ‘Cause you’re smart. And, you know, because little blogs about stuff like that are all over the internet. Also, I don’t need to tell you why you should support new plays. You already do that. Do that so strongly and so well in fact that my play Larries was written here, developed here and is currently running here at Nashville Rep. You wanted to see my little skit at Nashville’s flagship theatre, you told them so and they said yes. You did that. Not me.
So I think maybe the thing I ought to be writing my little blog about is not why Nashville needs New Works but why New Works need Nashville.
I believe in Nashville. And I love working here. Because working here makes my plays better. You can’t work on a new play by yourself. Sure, you do the typing alone, but you need a space to do it in, actors to speak it aloud, an audience to receive it and a community that inspires the damn thing in the first place. There would be no Larries without Nashville. This is what I’m talking about when I say the play belongs to Nashville as much as it belongs to me. Without this city and the people in it, I wouldn’t have made it any farther than the typing alone part.
So. Why should a playwright come here? Why will a new play thrive here? Why do New Works need Nashville?
1) Nashville has amazing actors.
We all agree on this, right? Nashville has one of the very best acting pools I’ve ever had the chance to work with. Maybe it’s just my opinion (and who the hell am I?), but I’d stack them up against any pool of actors in the country (bring it on, Chicago.) Nashville actors are daring, smart, honest, brutal, funny, and total pros about it all. And when you take into account how hard it is to make a living in a town that has such a comparatively small number of paying gigs, you realize that the actors aren’t here to just make a living at it; they’re here because they love this city and believe in the work. And they’re damn good at it.
2) Nashville has amazing audiences.
Okay, yes: I am writing about how great the audiences are in Nashville while a play I wrote is running in Nashville and so maybe this sounds like straight-up old-school pandering, however… Nashville does have amazing audiences. Nashville has smart audiences who are willing to take a chance on material because their interest is in the live community experience that theatre offers. Think of it this way: There probably isn’t an hour that goes by on the weekend that you can’t find live music somewhere in this town. And not because there’s a glut of singer-songwriters but because there is an insatiable appetite for them. Nashville likes it live and in person. Luckily, that’s what my field offers. And there’s no pretense with a Nashville audience. They know what they like, they know what they don’t, and they’re willing to tell you about it.
3) Nashville loves Locally Grown
Nashville has begun to embrace the farm-to-table spirit across the board (or maybe always has and farm-to-table just has better PR nowadays.) From our music to our food to our sports teams to our art, we buy local when we can. Sure, we enjoy imports as much as the next city, but there will always be a special place in our hearts for those things that are made right here in Music City. The support for New Works is fits in very nicely on this scale. I’ve seen audiences for new plays grow steadily over the past five years and that trend doesn’t show any sign of slowing. New plays need an audience, and if they’re written by our neighbors, starring our finest local talent and presented by companies with the community’s best interests at heart, Nashville is willing to shell out the ticket price to support them.
4) Nashville is an Open City
The wave of New Works making its way through Music City is in its infancy. We’re, what, five years old? It’s still all brand new. And that means Nashville is an Open City. The Wild West. You can do anything. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be at the start of a new thing than at the end of an old one, knowwhatImean? For those playwrights looking for a more structured home, there are well-built open development opportunities at Nashville Rep with the Ingram New Works Project and at Playhouse Nashville, not to mention all of the companies in town that are putting new plays on their stages. And for those playwrights looking to forge ahead on their own, there’s plenty of room to invent, innovate, and build what works best for you. The sky’s still the limit. Who knows what the next five years holds?
That’s why it’s good to be a playwright in Nashville. That’s why I’m here. The actors, the audiences, the spirit, the support and the opportunities. What more could a growing playwright ask for?
And that’s my little blog. More of a love letter, huh?
Nashville, you’ve done right by me. I hope I’m doing right by you.
Thank you Nashville for supporting new works! Like Nate said we couldn't do it without you. If you haven't seen Nate's new work Larries there is still time. Click here to learn more and buy tickets to Nashville Rep's production of Larries.