I'm not as patient as my friend and colleague Art Hennessey, so I just did a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation this morning against the current seasons of our major local theatre producers: the Huntington, the ART, the New Rep, SpeakEasy Stage, the Lyric, Merrimack Rep, Company One, the Central Square Theater, Zeitgeist Stage, and Boston Playwrights' Theatre.
I decided to class plays into three categories - "Brand New," as in a premiere or written in the last year or two; "Newish," as in written in the last decade plus; and "Classic," meaning at least twenty years old.
The numbers I got for the current season are the following:
Brand New - 76%
Newish - 12%
Classic - 12%
That's right - more than three-quarters of the plays on our major stages this season were written in the last two or three years. Almost 9 out of 10 were written in the last decade or two.
If you throw in the Actors' Shakespeare Project, our only local troupe dedicated to the classics, this moves the numbers a bit, but not much:
Brand New - 72%
Newish - 11%
Classic - 17%
Recent work still accounts for something like 83% of our productions. And I'm not even looking at the seasons of fringe and start-up groups, like Whistler in the Dark, which skew quite strongly toward new plays or self-generated work. Nor did I include the new-play "slams" or festivals or marathons that have sprouted like wildflowers in the last few years.
Now I know my friend and colleague Art Hennessey has taken on the mammoth task of tabulating the whole area's output for the past ten years. Which I think is a worthy project - but my impression has been that the production zeitgeist has been moving toward new work for some time now; it will be interesting, in fact, to see if Art can demonstrate the declining trend in classic work on the local stage. Certainly right now we have three or four Boston theatres which are essentially dedicated to new work, and many more which present it frequently. The "four classics and one new play" theatre-season cliché has become a canard as far as Boston goes. Indeed, the new model is obviously "four new plays and maybe one classic."