When an emerging writer has a breakout hit, a couple things tend to happen:
2) that breakout play gets done EVERYWHERE all across the country
3) the writer gets quickly scooped up by Hollywood, never to write another play ever again
4) theaters go into the writer's back catalogue and do every play they've ever written before then, thus ensuring the writer's continued output and longevity in the theater.
#1 is the expected outcome. #4 is the ideal outcome. #3 is a big pervasive problem. But - unexpectedly so - #2 is actually a big problem too.
If you're a theater that feels particularly moved by a writer's breakout hit, and that play has already been done several times, don't just re-mount the same play. Consider asking the writer what they're working on, and make plans to do a world premiere of their next play. Or perhaps more importantly, go through their back catalogue and consider world premiering one of their overlooked plays. More often than not, my experience has been that a writer's breakout hit is definitely NOT their one and only "great play." It's just the one play that finally broke through after years and years of writing. What's most useful to a writer - what begets even more great work - is seeing a variety of their work done, not just seeing the same play done over and over again.
I'm thinking particularly of writers like Kris Diaz (for The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety) or Rey Pamatmat (for Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them). Both are hugely talented writers, but after riding a huge wave of excitement over their breakout hit (and perhaps even garnering a number of commissions in the process), they're essentially back where they started: scraping by financially, searching for homes for their other work, and wondering whether they'll be able to come up with another breakout.
You want to keep fueling writers like these - writers with exciting and unheard voices who have finally broken into the national conversation. Unfortunately, second productions (or especially commissions) just aren't enough to keep them sustained and engaged. After production #4 or so, they really aren't learning anything new or deepening their craft.
I get why it might seem risky not to go with the proven hit, but I think there's huge potential for audience excitement here. You'll already be able to capitalize on the buzz of bringing in "today's hottest young playwright." But instead of just rehashing something that's already succeeded elsewhere, you'll be giving your audience the chance to be the very first people on Earth to see something new from that writer. When I was in Atlanta for the Kendeda production of Bike America Susan Booth at the Alliance was particularly good at getting the audience to shift their perspective on how they took in a new play. It wasn't a bid to "support a new writer's voice," which has the whiff of paternalism on it. It was about embracing the adventure of going into a play and having no idea what's going to happen next.
This strategy also brings huge potential for the theater to create a more substantive relationship with the playwright. Writers are hungry to forge new relationships with theaters nationally, and by actively collaborating on something untested, you'll become that writer's home base instead of just a stop on the circuit.
As more and more of my peers start to burn out on theater (or get poached by Hollywood), I get hugely sad by all the great talent we're letting slip through our fingers after so much training and initial investment. But what I'm starting to recognize is that this flight from the theater is not just financial (even as the money thing is a deep-seeded and REAL and intractable problem). More than anything, the burnout comes from being unable to find theaters that are interested in a sincere engagement - in following a writer wherever their impulses take them. If the search for plays were less mercantile and more based on "what's going to fuel you to write the next play, and the next play, and the next one," more playwrights would stay in the field despite all the financial hardships. But that engagement comes at a high price: not just remounts. Not just go-nowhere-commissions. Full productions of something new, something that launches them into bold new creative territory.
Which is risky, yes. But the potential rewards are great.