Each June since 1998, the Program in Educational Theatre at New York University has offered a play development series at the landmark Provincetown Playhouse. The tradition and practice of developing new scripts and new talents dates back to the early days of the Playhouse, originally the Playwrights Theatre, which fostered the early works of Eugene O'Neill, Susan Glaspell, and Edna St. Vincent Millay and where future stars, such as Bette Davis and Claudette Colbert, made their debuts.
Now in its fourteenth season, the New Plays for Young Audiences (NPYA) play reading series focuses more specifically on the development of scripts for child and young people's audiences. The creative vision of the Program in Educational Theatre's co-founders, Lowell and Nancy Swortzell, was to establish a program to encourage the development of plays for youth written by both NYU students and noted authors in the U.S. and abroad. As a playwright himself and editor of several books of plays for children and adults, Lowell Swortzell understood that playwrights need a home where they can take risks in a supportive atmosphere-a place designed to both nurture and evaluate. This is precisely what O'Neill and his colleagues achieved in their small theatre, and what NPYA achieves for young audiences today.
In 14 years, The New Plays for Young Series has:
- Developed 37 plays by both established playwrights and emerging talents which have gone on to national recognition.
- Brought public readings of these plays to the local community and facilitated audience talkbacks with playwright, director, actors, and dramaturge following each Sunday matinee.
- Fostered opportunities for NYU students, alumni and professional actors to perform in the readings.
- Provided a place where individual works can be developed, tested and brought to the wider realms of production and publication without commercial pressures.
- Been praised in print, including Time Out New York which noted: "Some of our best plays for young people have been polished during the NYU Educational Theatre Program's New Plays series."
- Won national visibility, including capturing the 2001 Award from the American Alliance in Theatre and Education (AATE) for Outstanding New Theatre Project.
- Run an attached class, called Problems in Play Production, which studies play development.