Submission of Excellence: HowlRound

Twitter picture of a “watch party for one, while tweeting” of a #NEWPLAY TV event.
Twitter picture of a “watch party for one, while tweeting” of a #NEWPLAY TV event.

We are in a pivotal moment in human history, where internet technologies are greatly impacting our culture and we face seemingly insurmountable economic and environmental crises as a global civilization.  We’re hopeful that #NEWPLAY TV ( ), a project of HowlRound / Center for the Theater Commons, will help contribute to the future by amplifying our theater field’s innate collaborative talents for making art, impacting culture, and building communities that are connected both locally and globally.

A new online resource for the new theater community

#NEWPLAY TV is a livestreaming channel produced by a self-selecting community of organizations and people belonging to the broad spectrum of the U.S. and global new theater/new performance sectors.  The channel is a free and shared resource—open source and open access—with its programming belonging to “the commons.”  The project aggregates and amplifies the new work sector’s local efforts onto a national and global platform and develops a centralized forum around new work activities such as conferences, festivals, interviews, readings, workshops, and performances.

The #NEWPLAY TV project attempts to create two solutions: access to knowledge and new behaviors for innovation and resilience.

Providing new access to knowledge

We aim to facilitate the access that new works practitioners, arts educators, students, and audiences have to knowledge and information.  Given the geographic, professional, and cultural isolation experienced by many organizations, theater communities, and individuals working in theater development, production, and presentation, we want to help stimulate a healthier national and global eco-system of knowledge exchange.

Twitter picture of University of Evansville in Indiana gathered for a #NEWPLAY TV livestreaming watch party of an event taking place on the other side of the country.
Twitter picture of University of Evansville in Indiana gathered for a #NEWPLAY TV livestreaming watch party of an event taking place on the other side of the country.

Creating new behaviors for collective resilience

We aim to create and disseminate new cultural behaviors of resource-sharing and collective participation. Anticipating the time when travel, energy costs, and concern for environmental degradation will make it prohibitive for people in our field to travel or congregate on a regular basis, our field needs to start developing the capacity to be active participants and contributors to a national and global dialogue.  This can be done by engaging with communities outside their locale through better integration of existing internet tools into a normal course of activity.  This shift requires developing the field’s capacity to share and use existing resources and to take a stake in collective advancement.

Utilizing new technology to maximize impact

Within the couple of years of operating this small prototype project, the impact has been huge in terms of breaking silos and changing our mental map of what exists in the theater field.  We have successfully retired the limiting notion and 20th-century assumption that to pool and share resources (technology and audiences) is to somehow lose one’s organizational or brand-identity.  Our innovation lies not in just using new technology, but in our coordination of it in order to unleash a flood of new knowledge sharing and community building.

There have been over 200 livestreamed events by over 50 organizations and artists from all over the U.S. and in four countries — from Pulitzer-prize winning playwrights to the smallest fringe performance companies.

About HowlRound / Center for the Theater Commons

HowlRound / Center for the Theater Commons at Emerson College in Boston is the new embodiment of the American Voices New Play Institute, which was founded by David Dower in July 2009 at Arena Stage in Washington, DC.  Funded in part by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the American Voices New Play Institute was a research and development center for effective practices, programs, and processes for new­play development in the American theater.

At HowlRound / Center for the Theater Commons, we build knowledge platforms and align resources for theater artists and organizations. We want our contribution to widen the gates of opportunity for more accessible and relevant models for theater making in the 21st century. We think theater is for everyone.


Vijay Mathew, Associate Director, is privileged to assist a talented team by leading HowlRound's development of knowledge commons platforms and its notions of cultural innovation.