Narrative History: See below or download the first file above
Production History: Download the second file above
A Brief History (by William Moseley) (as of 2005) (updated 2012 by William Roeder)
In the beginning . . .
JANUARY 1985: In Brevard County, Florida, William Kirberger (AKA Bert Hines) is writing plays, but feels he’s doing so in a vacuum. He has no one to discuss his scripts with; and although Brevard has a very active theater community, it limits itself to certainties: well-known comedies, mysteries and musicals. No one’s willing to risk premiering a new play—especially one by an unknown writer. So Kirberger sends out letters to local writers and theater people, calling for a meeting to read and critique original plays.
The first meeting is held at the Cape Canaveral Library at the end of January. A half-dozen or so pioneers show up and agree to begin a critique group, with monthly meetings in which actors will give readings of new scripts and the group’s members will discuss and make suggestions for revisions.
This format is followed for a couple of months. But by April, it becomes obvious that just discussing new scripts isn’t enough. Plays aren’t written to be read—they’re written to be performed. “Let’s don’t just talk about plays,” says Arlan Ropp, who’s been with the group from the beginning; “let’s put some of these on a stage, in front of an audience. That’s final proof— that’s where we’ll learn the strengths and weaknesses.”
As a faculty member at Brevard Community College in Cocoa, Ropp is able to schedule a production date for the Experimental Theater there. The members of the playreading group give themselves a name, The Space Coast Playwrights Workshop (the “Space Coast”) is later dropped), select three one-act plays for a pilot show, and rehearsals begin. From the start, The Playwrights Workshop has operated differently from community theaters. Not only are all its plays new and original, each playwright chooses his/her own director, and playwrights and directors together actors—who appear by invitation, not by audition.
JUNE, 1985: On June 21st, Lift-off ’85 is launched, the first production by a Central Florida organization dedicated to giving audiences brand-new dramatic works by regional writers— and to providing those writers with first-hand critique of their work from audiences, as well as input from directors, actors and fellow playwrights.
Those attending Lift Off ’85 loved the unique experience of being the first to see new one-act plays live on stage. And so a second production was mounted in November, with even stronger audience support. Thus began The Playwrights Workshop’s long history of successful seasons. No longer a writers’ group only, it was now a producing company as well.
With the 1986-87 season, the Workshop inaugurated the annual Bencich Playwriting Award, in honor of John D. Bencich, a member whose untimely death occurred only a few weeks before production of his first play. At the end of each season (usually in June), the three plays receiving the highest audience ratings are presented at PLAYREAD, when independent judges choose the Best Play and Runners-Up for the Bencich Award. PLAYREAD, open free to the public, is also a social event with food and drink, celebrating not only the previous season and our playwrights, but also the directors, actors and backstage workers who make our shows possible.
JUNE, 2005: Who would’ve believed it? Twenty years later, and The Playwrights Workshop is still going strong. (Most new theater groups last fewer than five years.) Thanks to the continued sponsorship of Brevard Community College and the loyal support of playgoers who appreciate the new and different, the Workshop concludes its twentieth season in the Experimental Theater with a record of premiering over 150 one-act plays and other original work by 52 different writers. A number of the plays (some expanded to full-length) have gone on to production elsewhere, hopefully improved by feedback from the Playwrights Workshop team.
It’s doubtful any other Florida organization (and few, if any, nationwide) can match such a record.
But . . . “What’s past is prolog.” Prolog to the future!
THE FUTURE: The Playwrights Workshop is always looking forward, welcoming new scripts and planning our next production. To join us in the thrill of original live theater—as aspiring playwright, or experienced actor or director, or an audience member who’s interested in how plays are made--you're invited to attend our next scheduled meeting (usually the last Saturday of each month, August through May, in the Cocoa Library*—see our website for updates, www.playwrightsworkshopbrevard.org).
* Updated in 2012 by William Roeder. Playwrights Workshop began meeting in the Cocoa Library in 2009, when the theater at BCC-Cocoa was closed for renovation.