By Bill Hirschman
Nancy Barnett, former managing director of Florida Stage which focused on new plays, has been named executive director of the National New Play Network, a leading champion in developing new works among non-profit theaters. She takes the post in May.
“This is very exciting, she said by phone Monday, in part because she has been affiliated with the organization for years, even serving as the president of its board who hired its first paid executive director four years ago.
After Florida Stage folded in June 2011, Barnett worked primarily as a consultant, writing articles, speaking at workshops and serving on national committees. She was hired last August as executive director of the Actors Express troupe in Atlanta, but she said at the time that it was only for a year on a trial basis, focusing on setting up their 25th anniversary celebration.
As an association of non-profit theaters, NPNN has grown into one of the foremost developers of new plays in the country since its founding in 1998 in Washington, D.C. New Theatre in Miami is a full member of NPNN and Zoetic Stage in Miami is an associate member.
Among its best known projects is the rolling world premiere program that selects works in progress and guarantees them three or four full productions among its member theaters within a year. That not only provides income to playwrights, but enables them to fine tune their plays through several stagings.
Among the major challenges is expanding the new program to sign up associate member theaters who want to do new works but are not focused on them to the degree of its core members.
“I can’t tell you the memos and files I still have (on the idea) from 20 years ago.”
“The entire membership was unanimous in their zeal over the selection of Nan Barnett as NNPN’s Executive Director,” Board President Tina Parker, artistic director of Dallas’ Kitchen Dog Theater, wrote in a news release Monday. “Her leadership led to the maturation of the Network and its role in the proliferation of the new play universe in America.”
An actress as well as a business manager, Barnett was a founding company member of Florida Stage when it began in 1987 as a college-based troupe. She rose in its management chain as the Manalapan company became one of the country’s leading developers of new works. She also was among the staffers planning ways to keep the financially-strapped company afloat despite a seven-figure debt that had grown over the years. Barnett wrote an essay for the Howlround website last year, detailing the end of Florida Stage. (Read her September essay by clicking here.)
A graduate of North Carolina School of the Arts, she also served on committees and panels for the National Endowment for the Arts, National Alliance of Musical Theatres, the League of Resident Theatres, Theatre Communications Group, the Kennan Foundation, the Shakespeare Theatre Association, the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, Florida Professional Theatre Association, and Florida’s Division of Cultural Affairs, among others. Barnett is also past president of the Florida Professional Theatre Association and received that group’s 2012 Fallon Award for outstanding service to professional theater in Florida.
She plans to continue to shuttle back to Florida for several months as her son finishes high school and decides on a college; her husband, Gordon McConnell teaches locally, and she works with City Theatre on its CityWrights program for playwrights.