Marquee Dinner Spotlight on Douglas Williams | Theatre Philadelphia
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Marquee Dinner Spotlight on Douglas Williams

Feb 1, 2018

On February 5th, we will host the Marquee Dinner, honoring the Independence Foundation and celebrating new plays and playwrights in Philadelphia. This spotlight shares some background on the key artists that make our region a hotbed for new theatrical work. 

My name is Douglas Williams and I am the Playwright-in-Resident at Azuka Theatre and a co-founder of Orbiter 3, Philadelphia’s first playwrights producing collective. I’ve had collaborative and experimental work produced in the Fringe Festival as well as the SoLow Festival. Orbiter 3’s Peaceable Kingdom and A Knee That Can Bend have both received Barrymore nominations, and the former won the Virginia Brown Martin award at last year’s ceremony.

After graduating from Temple I moved to New York City where I got an internship in the literary office of a leading non-profit theatre. It was super exciting! I was working in the office by day, seeing shows and writing by night. However after two years of churning out draft after draft of work and finally, desperately scraping together a group of actors, a director and some studio space to hold a reading of my new, what I was sure was the next Hamlet, of a play – only to have three people show up to see it – I decided it was time to move back to Philly. That decision has rewarded me time and time again. Philadelphia’s theatres are an amazingly supportive group that champion new voices. Philly also boasts possibly the most adventurous audience I’ve ever come to know. We have an audience here in Philadelphia that supports new, bold stories whether they’re produced in a 500-seat theatre, or in someone’s living room. It’s a community that produces an incredibly accomplished and diverse body of work year after year, and I am so privileged to be a part of it.

Right now I’m writing two plays, the first is about someone who tries and fails to grow the longest fingernails in the world, the second takes place seven years in the future after God has returned to earth and raptured all the Republicans to heaven – only to have mistakenly left Ivanka Trump behind. The first was inspired both by my obsession with the Guinness Book of World Records when I was a kid, as well as my friendship with my little sister, who the main character is based on. The second is my attempt to grapple with what I’m sure most of my fellow playwrights are going through right now, how to reflect the frightening nature of our current political climate and put it on our stages. For me, the answer is by writing a ridiculous play where God is real, but turns out to be a major asshole.   

Oh wow, there are dozens and dozens of people who have supported me over the years, but the institutions that immediately come to mind, the real pillars of my career thus far, are Kevin Glaccum at Azuka, Orbiter 3, and The Foundry, a lab for Philadelphia’s emerging playwrights. And they’re all tied together in a certain way. As a member of The Foundry, I developed two plays that were subsequently produced by Kevin at Azuka. I honed my craft and my plays through the Foundry, then Kevin took the rough edges of that work, invested and committed to them wholeheartedly, and brought them to life on Azuka’s stage. Also during my time in the Foundry I met and collaborated with the playwrights who would one day come together to form Orbiter 3, which in just three years has brought six world premiere productions to Philadelphia, with our final seventh production on its way this May. 

The creators in our city that inspire me are all the writers and theatre-makers in Orbiter 3 (Maura, Erin, Emma, Emily, Mary, L, James, Sam, Cat) Kevin and the entire team over at Azuka who every year seem to invest more and more in new work and new writers in Philadelphia, the rich and diverse devising scene Philadelphia is so lucky to have (Applied Mechanics, No Face, Lightning Rod Special, New Paradise, Pig Iron), Paul and Michele and the PlayPenn team, Sam Tower, Chris Davis, Nicole Canuso,  FringeArts, InterAct, Theatre Horizon – everyone and every institution who are not only developing plays by local writers and theatre-makers by giving them readings, but the theaters that are giving local writers productions. 

Hear more stories like Doug's and share meal alongside creators of new work at the Marquee Dinner on February 5th at Panorama Restaurant!