Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Theater director expresses regret for controversy

Daved Driscoll, artistic director of Words Players , said he was "totally and completely" taken by surprise when the Rochester-based youth theater troupe became the target in recent days of criticism, anger and vitriol from playwrights nationwide.

At the same time, Driscoll said he takes full responsibility for the controversy, which erupted after playwrights shared on websites the guidelines Driscoll wrote for submissions to the upcoming Eighth Annual Words Players Original Short Play Festival.

"I regret it as deeply and profoundly as I can," Driscoll said Wednesday.

Playwrights, including Pulitzer Prize-winner Doug Wright, president of the Dramatists Guild of America, took exception to several sections of the guidelines, including in particular Words Players' apparent intention to change, as needed, play scripts that were selected for performance.

"Your call for submissions expresses a fundamental disrespect which goes beyond contempt for authorship," Wright wrote Tuesday in a letter to Driscoll. He called the published guidelines "shockingly errant" and "an arrogant assault on playwrights."


In an interview, Driscoll said, "We don't mean disrespect to authors. We don't change stuff around on a whim."

Changes that do occur have to do with the theater's production capabilities, and are cleared in advance, he said. "Our budget for this is exactly $0, and sometimes we make that," Driscoll said. Usually, the festival loses money, he said. "A play that has to be done in a certain way won't work in our festival."

The play festival began as a way for a small circle of budding playwrights to see their work on stage, he said. Two years ago, information about the festival was apparently circulated via social media to playwright message boards and websites. Words Players suddenly received more than 200 scripts from around the world. But the festival was never intended or prepared to stage works by professional playwrights, Driscoll said.

That's why last year he wrote extensive guidelines which, he hoped, would send a signal to established playwrights that the Words Players festival is not for them. The same guidelines were published this year.

"It backfired," Driscoll said. Blogs and message boards lit up with playwrights decrying the same things Wright expressed in his letter to Driscoll. Even Playbill, the influential theater publication, carried a piece about the controversy.

Ironically, before announcing this year's festival, Driscoll had planned to rewrite the guidelines to add clarity but simply ran out of time.

"The guidelines are exactly the same as last year," he said. "I haven't changed a word. I received a couple of emails last year along these same lines. I ought to have changed them."

The Words Players Short Play Festival will be held Oct. 23 and Oct. 24.

What To Read Next
Get Local