I presented the panel with six ideas, which I'll be posting here. As I did for the panel, I've decided to list the ideas in order from "Hmm what a sage idea, Mike, we could do that tomorrow" down to "That's batshit crazy." Here's the first idea, which is the most practical idea.
6. The Blacklist - In Hollywood, as in the theater, there is a huge volume of screenplays that are highly praiseworthy but for whatever reason can't be produced. So someone created The Blacklist, an annual list of the best screenplays that were neglected that year. I believe the same thing exists for TV pilots. At any rate, we could very easily do the same thing for theater, and pair up with American Theater magazine or The Dramatist to publish the results (or blog-publish them). This would be a great way to highlight plays that haven't yet gotten their due, as well as unsung writers.
Let's say we survey a diverse group of around 300 people - mostly playwrights and lit managers - and ask them to create a list of their top 5 favorite (other people's) plays that have been kicking around for a while but haven't yet found production. We then tabulate the results and highlight a list of frequently-mentioned plays. We could also ask high-profile playwrights to write up a short testimonial about their #1 pick, in the hopes of bringing more attention to lesser-known writers.
In my experience, fellow playwrights are hugely committed to championing each other's work, and lit managers are enormous advocates as well. But we can't always translate that enthusiasm into any kind of concrete result. If theaters know that there's a wealth of built-in support behind particular plays, perhaps they'd be more willing to take a risk on producing them. I think of how Madeleine George's Zero Hour was so beloved by fellow writers but kicked around for years until she produced it herself with 13P, or how Jorge Cortinas' Bird in the Hand was developed everywhere but produced nowhere until he self-produced it with Fulcrum.
This is something we could do to provide more attention to those overlooked gems.