The New Play Blog — run by NEA’s New Play Development Program at Arena Stage — has an extensive interview with Amy Mueller, artistic director of the Playwrights Foundation. It covers everything from the history of the Bay Area Playwrights Festival to the criteria for choosing the plays in the first place, including a discussion of the all-important retreat before the festival:
The artist retreat is a kind of a crucible for the writers, a brain trust of the artistic members of the team, and is a time for the company to bond and get to know one another. No one is ever allowed to make suggestions for the writing of the plays, but asked to respond only to the work itself. We follow the Artist Response Format modeled after Liz Lerman’s well known process. We’ve found, and playwrights tell us, that for the retreat, writers find this incredibly useful. It allows the playwright to think about the questions s/he has at this point in the process, and gives them info about how the play is landing and that sort of thing.
I was a part of BASH (Bay Area Shorts) a few years back and can attest that the retreat is a really amazing experience, particularly the part where playwrights read their entire play out loud. Nothing like hearing a writer read a work-in-progress to really understand their intentions. Plus there’s free food and occasionally bourbon.