One and one-half years into its existence, ArtsEmerson: The World On Stage is upping its game. The theater and film series sponsored by Emerson College and headed by former A.R.T. managing director Robert Orchard has already helped to revamp Boston’s theater district with its restoration of the Paramount Center, and brought cutting-edge theater to Boston from the likes of Peter Brook, The Abbey Theater, The Civilians and Mabou Mines. Now, ArtsEmerson has announced the establishment of The Center for the Theater Commons.
Under the leadership of David Dower, current associate artistic director of Arena Stage in Washington D.C. and Polly Carl, director of the American Voices New Theater Institute (AVNT), which was launched at Arena Stage in 2009, The Commons will be, according to a press release, “a center for research into the processes, challenges, opportunities, and best practices for developing new theatrical work, as well as a hub of communication and collaboration tools for the theatre industry, nationally and internationally.”
Foundational to The Commons are a series of tools for communicating about new plays which Dower and Carl developed in Washington with funding from the Mellon foundation. There’s HowlRound, AVNPI’s online magazine, which publishes new work, editorials and interviews with theater makers; #NewPlay TV, a streaming video channel, and the New Play Map, a collectively revised listing of where new plays are currently be produced.
Robert Orchard calls their work in fostering of new plays, “the most important work in American theater today.” He says of the Center for the Theater Commons,” My dream has always been to explore through academic training, professional production and presentation, and rigorous research, structures that enable and celebrate a healthy theatrical culture, and the underlying respect for creativity and excellence that unites the field. Emerson is one of the few places in America that can host this effort. It’s an immense responsibility, and we are honored and energized to be able to take it on.”