Sarah Benson Reps Soho Rep

02/01/2012 6:00 AM |

That kind of playwriting also presumes that you will have access to a set hierarchy when you're done—that the tableful of people will arrive from somewhere to realize your work for you. And that seems to be less and less how it works anymore.

Let's talk for a minute about your commitment to bringing people into the theater to not only see a play, but also to buy books and to have a glass of wine and chat. It's a very British model, but it's one that a few theaters here in New York are picking up on or have been working on for years. Do people stick around and drink at Soho Rep?
Unfortunately our real estate is definitely challenging. In our strategic plan we have a roof garden and we have a lobby that people can comfortably fit in. [Laughs.] It's a challenge, with such limited square footage, especially because we don't want to eat too much of the stage. Right now we're literally seeing how far we can push the stage and still leave people room to get down to the bar. But I think within those limitations, we have tried to make it more social. Robbie, our production manager, who also runs the building, has just done an incredible job of making the space more welcoming for artists, for audiences. Our FEED programming, I think, has also made a big difference cracking open these plays and encouraging them to be a social experience and not just a ducking in and ducking out.

And then with the bookshop and the fact that you can purchase the script of the show you've just seen that night—that is almost unheard of in most American theaters, particularly when it comes to new work.
That was something that Raphael [Martin, Literary and Humanities Manager] really spearheaded. To me, especially, the work that we do, the texts we do—you gain so much in being able to take it away and read it. So, we had conversations with Samuel French and we were sort of their pilot project. We sell them at cost, which is $5, and we've had a really great uptake. And now we've launched an online bookstore that's not just the plays that we've done, but also a sort of curated selection of plays. We hope it's a place where we can represent other artists' work that we think are in conversation with what we're doing.

Do you find that there are a lot of people who get the script who didn't come see the show?
I think so, definitely. And I think over time we'll have more and more seasons of them. So I think it will be a way for people to be able to, you know, prolong the life of the work. I feel like putting stuff in a book form that people take away is really important. My job, as a producer, is to connect the work and the audience as directly as possible, to create a vital context.

(Photo: Simon Kane)