What's Happening!

  • OUR 2024 SEASON HAS COME TO AN END

    The last six months were the busiest in our history. We started with Winterworks at Houghton Hall in January, followed by six weeks of Grief Hotel at the Public in the spring, and we rounded it all out with Summerworks at the Wild Project, where we managed to cram in 47 performances over seven weeks.

    Some of you saw it all, some just a piece, and some met our work for the first time. We were thrilled to share it with all of you.

    Here are some photos and essays from the season, to tide you over until we have work to share again in the fall (or when we see you at our gala honoring dots!)

    Lastly: We had our most successful season at the box office ever. If you were there, you know it was full to overflowing. And you might remember that your ticket was pretty affordable—maybe even free. That’s important to us.

    But what that means is, even when we sell out all the time, tickets only cover a fraction (about 1/7th) of what it all costs, especially considering we pay people better every year (That’s important to us too!)

    Throughout the year, we support hundreds of artists, mostly early in their careers, whether in our writers or directors groups, readings, workshops, commissions, retreats, or in production. So, if you can, make a donation today and be a part of our effort to pay artists, to make beautiful, affordable work, and to do it even better next year!

  • SAVE THE DATE FOR OUR ANNUAL GALA

    As we prepare to tech our 10th collaboration with the design collective dots – and as they prepare for the Tony Awards this week – we are thrilled to announce we’ll be celebrating them at our gala on October 7th! The annual gala is a fundraising cornerstone, as well as a stylish, fun and deeply-felt event, which will be held once again at the industrial chic Etsy headquarters. Tickets at info HERE

  • ANNOUNCING SUMMERWORKS 2024

    We’ll be back at the Wild Project May 16th through June 29th with the 27th iteration of SUMMERWORKS, featuring: Usus by T. Adamson, directed by Emma Miller; Coach Coach by Bailey Williams, directed by Sarah Blush; and Find Me Here by Crystal Finn, directed by Caitlin Sullivan. Tickets on sale now! Learn more & get yours here

  • MEET THESE WRITERS DURING SUMMERWORKS

    Join us during Summerworks for free afternoon readings of plays by 10 exceptional playwrights. First, we’re teaming back up with Brown University’s MFA Playwriting Program in the Department of Theatre Arts & Performance Studies to present readings of plays by two graduating playwrights. CLICK FOR MORE

     

    Then we’ll present eight readings of work-in-progress by the 23/24 Early-Career Writers’ Group. CLICK HERE TO RSVP

  • GRIEF HOTEL'S MAGNIFICENT ENCORE RUN AT THE PUBLIC THEATER

    We were thrilled to bring Summerworks 2023’s Obie-winning hit production Grief Hotel back for a six-week run at The Public Theater, in partnership with our friends New Georges. It was very special to dig back into the play and production with the exceptional group of artists who made it, and such a joy to share it with so many more people. We had a tremendous run – sold out, extended and beloved by critics and audiences – thank you to all who attended and to all who made it possible. CLICK HERE TO READ ESSAYS AND MORE ABOUT THE SHOW

  • NEW PLAY DIRECTING FELLOWSHIP APPLICATIONS ARE NOW CLOSED

    We received a record number of applications for the 24/25 New Play Directing Fellowship – thank you to everyone who submitted. We’ll be back in touch by July and applications will open for the next cohort in Feburary 2025. CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT THIS PROGRAM

  • CONGRATULATIONS - AND A SAVE THE DATE

    This weekend, we were delighted by the news that Maryann Plunkett, dots, Liza Birkenmeier and Tara Ahmadinejad had all received Obie Awards for their work on Summerworks. Richly Deserved!

    Maybe you are one of the many many people who heard how amazing Liza, Tara and dots’ work on Grief Hotel was, and were sorry to have missed it??

    WELL GUESS WHAT! It’s coming baaaack…. this spring! Location to be announced when ticket sales open — but SAVE THE DATE!

  • WINTERWORKS 2024 HAS COME TO A CLOSE

    Thank you to the hundreds of people who joined as at Houghton Hall for the 9th annual Winterworks. We were so proud of the work these amazing artists made — and we managed to cram everyone in to share it.

  • WINTERWORKS 2024

    Happy new year! We’re back with our 9th Annual Winterworks – a progressive performance of three short-ish plays, which culminates our New Play Directing Fellowship – featuring:

    Lauren Zeftel directing MY SIX THERAPISTS by Julia Izumi

    Carsen Joenk directing WATCH ME by Justice Hehir

    Miranda Cornell directing CHAIRS by Hayley Stahl

    with an incredible ensemble of actors. There are only 7 showings, and capacity is extremely limited! Tickets are free, but an RSVP is required.

  • MEET THE INCOMING COHORTS OF OUR EARLY-CAREER WRITERS' GROUP AND NEW PLAY DIRECTING FELLOWSHIP

    We’re back in action with two new groups to introduce you to! Meet the Early-Career Writers – with whom we’ll convene for play reading and dinner eating, often joined by one of their estimable mentor writers – by CLICKING HERE. During Summerworks we’ll present readings of their plays-in-progress, so join us then to get to know their work.

     

    And get to know the directors and writers in this season’s New Play Directing Fellowship by CLICKING HERE. Program mentors Anne Kauffman and Daniel Aukin, along with Clubbed Thumb staff, will support these new play processes in two phases: first with Playwrights Horizons Theater School students this fall, then in quick and scrappy workshop productions at Winterworks in January. Stay tuned for more info on that and more!

     

  • OUR NEW ANTHOLOGY - ON SALE NOW

    We’ve been eager to put out a second anthology since Funny, Strange, Provocative was published in 2007, and the last year finally provided us with the time to take on this long-awaited project. We are thrilled to announce that Unusual Stories, Unusually Told, published by Bloomsbury/Methuen, is now available!

    In it you’ll find seven Clubbed Thumb plays that span 18 years of our history, as well as essays and interviews about the work, and the often atypical processes that led to their productions.

    Read more about the book and get your discounted copy (and our first anthology) HERE

Past Biennial Commission Prompts

Every two years we host an open-application, blind-read commission for new plays inspired by a prompt that we devise. For anyone who may be craving a bit of external inspiration, we thought we’d share our past prompts, many of which take the form of a Paul Vogel bake-off. Enjoy!

2020
For this year’s commission consider The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio – but don’t write about the Plague. Consider The Decameron as a piece that came from the ashes of the Plague but is decidedly a piece of the Renaissance. Consider it as a celebration of voice and style, as a compendium of stories from a wide span of sources. Consider it as an opportunity to take a deep research dive, if that’s your thing.

Then do with that what you want, jump off it in form, content, what have you. Feel free to take inspiration from just a little piece.

Your play should have no fewer than three people, and up to ten, and most of them should be female.

Very few of these characters should be blood relatives.

You may only specify three props.

You may have no stage directions longer than twelve words. You may only have seven stage directions.

Time: (of all scenes) night — except for one which can be dawn or dusk.

One very fancy costume.

An insect.

These constraints apply to the whole play.

2018
For this commission, Clubbed Thumb is interested in plays that employ alternative structures and shapes. We ask you to consider one of five alternative play shapes–landscape, spider web, nesting dolls, circle, double helix–and craft a proposal for how you will employ that play shape to best suit the story you wish to tell. This is subjective, of course, and meant to trigger the imagination, not be academic analysis. Some examples of what we mean:

Landscape: in which we learn about the world through accumulation
Our Town by Thornton Wilder is structured a bit like a landscape painting–we are introduced to everything all at once and Wilder zooms in and out of the landscape in order to tell the story.
Other examples might include: Wilder Gone, God’s Ear, Mlima’s Tale

Spider Web: in which we learn through disparate scenes that seem disconnected but are linked at odd angles and actually cohere around a central theme or argument
Booty Candy by Robert O’Hara could be seen as a spider web play–at first each scene feels like a vignette exploring a discrete idea, however, as more and more divergent worlds are explored we begin to realize that each world is connected in exploration of a single theme.
Other examples might include: Lear (Young Jean Lee), Doll’s House Pt. 2, Of Government

Nesting Dolls: in which we learn through analogies and juxtaposition
Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play by Anne Washburn might be seen as a play shaped like a set of nesting dolls–each act is its own entity and the dramatic movement lies in building out from what came before.
Other examples might include: Fairview, An Octoroon, Barbecue 

Circle: in which we learn through reflection
Fefu and Her Friends by María Irene Fornés might be a circle play. The most important dramatic events happen in the middle; act one leads us into these events and act three deals with the aftermath; the end of the play reflects themes that are present in the beginning of the play.
Other examples might include: A Map of Virtue, The Aliens, Father Comes Home From the Wars

Double Helix: in which we learn through thematic associations between the narrative threads
Stop Kiss by Diana Son could be a double helix play – the story is told in two threads simultaneously–what happened before and what happened after the inciting event–with thematic links between these narratives.
Other examples might include: Midsummer Night’s Dream (might be a triple helix), We are Proud to Present…, The Tomb of King Tot


You are also welcome to come up with your unconventional play shape.
Should you choose to do that, be rigorous about it.

Your play should also include the following:
1) At least three characters in every scene (no two character scenes)
2) Some simultaneous talking
3) Some found or repurposed text
4) A character pretending to be someone else
5) No indoor spaces

(Many thanks to Erin Courtney for developing this prompt with us.)

 

2017
For this year’s commission please consider the oeuvre of Caryl Churchill.

We paid particular attention to Top GirlsFen and Far Away, but by all means read and consider any and all of her plays.

Your play should feature:

– Three sections, the second of which is set in a workplace;
– A cast of mostly (perhaps all) women—of differing ages, cultures, and especially, classes/means/education levels;
– A formal event (a pageant, a parade, a number, a dinner party) involving many people;
– An ersatz mother/daughter relationship.

Embrace economy of language, and specificity and fidelity of language to character. Consider if and when those rules explode.

 

2015
For this commission, please consider the work of María Irene Fornés, a godmother of formally innovative playwriting in the U.S.

Please take a look, specifically, at The Danube and Fefu and Her Friends. (If you have not read the work of María Irene Fornés you might want also to dip into Mud, Abington Square, The Conduct of Life, and Promenade — or others!)

In crafting the idea for the play, please utilize the following:

-a cast made up entirely of women

-a play broken into 5 scenes, at least three of which are set in different locations

-voices from people who are not in the room, and the faces of people who are not in the room
(cannot be puppets or language tapes)
(probably avoid screens or screen containing devices)

-a singalong

-a scene which is repeated

And please begin your play (ala Fornés) with one of the two sentences:

-“Something like that could never happen.”

-“That’s why they left.”

Finally, some helpful thoughts from Ms. Fornés:

-Be always true to the character, respectful of the character.

-Something inside you eventually shifts into the perspective of the character.

-It’s important not to be seduced by style

 

2013
For the fifth Biennial Commission we’d like you to consider Robert Altman’s movie Nashville.

No, we aren’t looking for a cast of thousands, a 2 1/2 hour opus, a dissection of country music or of red state culture. But we love the way Altman’s movies move from the ridiculous to the heart-breaking, we love the combo of the highly auteured and the DIY, the obliqueness, the leitmotifs and the red herrings, the imperfection of the characters and of the movie itself, the excruciating humanity that is never ever mawkish, and the monumental and surprising accrual. So watch the amazing Nashville and if you like, other Altmans, and let ’em inspire you in whatever way that happens for you.

Please explore the following possibilities:

-What if you created a cast with no dominant racial or cultural group, or/and in which more than one significant character was from a racial or cultural background different than your own?

-What if your play started just as something BIG has just ended OR the moment after someone has been terribly hurt.

-What if temperature is a factor?

-What if there is at least one scene where there is a difficulty with a light source?

-What if “close ups” are a factor in your play?  Yes, we are referring to cinematic-style close ups, but how might that translate in world of your play?

-BONUS (just for fun):  What is the theatrical equivalent of an Altman-style epic tracking shot

 

2011
We are delighted to open the 2011 Clubbed Thumb Biennial Commission to application. This year’s iteration is slightly different than that of recent years. The Biennial Commission is supported exclusively from funds given by two dynamic, complex and generous women: Alice Tang and Margaret Thrower. Both of these women passed in recent months, and we wanted to invoke them in this year’s commission. So instead of giving a theme as a jumping off point for the commission, we offer an iconic character: the Matriarch. 

We’re also trying a different model to inspire the writing: the bake-off, familiar to anyone who has studied with Paula Vogel, who generously helped us brainstorm and shape this one.

We’ve gathered some material that offers a range of characterizations of Matriarchs as well as some ingredients, culled both from these sources and from those connected with the commission’s creators. Customarily with the bake-off, the writer can take as long as she wants to contemplate the ingredients, including the source “texts”, but when she sets down to write, she is to do it in 48 hours. You are welcome to take this on, or go about writing however you see fit.

The  Texts
1. “Good Person of Szechwan” by Bertolt Brecht
2. “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams
3. “Unforgettable Elephants” PBS Nature Series
4. “Whistler’s Mother” Season 1 Episode 20 Arrested Development

The Ingredients
a man in uniform
tobacco
a song
a crappy job
a body part that doesn’t work right
a home with too many inhabitants
a robe
an epilogue
price tags

also:

Joan Baez’s 1968 recording of “Tears of Rage”
and the photo you see before you

 

2009
The Clubbed Thumb Biennial Commission was created to encourage the writing of plays that consider the relationships between truth, power, history, and personal responsibility. For each commission, Clubbed Thumb will ask a question or pose a theme to serve as a jumping-off point for this examination. Please use the theme as inspiration. The result need not be immediately recognizable as a product of the initial examination. The theme for year 2009-2010 is “The Crisis of Confidence Speech.”

2007
The Clubbed Thumb Biennial Commission was created to encourage the writing of plays that consider the relationships between truth, power, history, and personal responsibility. For each commission, Clubbed Thumb will ask a question or pose a theme to serve as a jumping-off point for this examination. Please use the theme as inspiration. The result need not be immediately recognizable as a product of the initial examination. The theme for year 2007-2008 is “The Tragedy of the Commons.”

2005
The Clubbed Thumb Biennial Commission was created to encourage the writing of plays that consider the relationships between truth, power, history, and personal responsibility. For each commission, Clubbed Thumb will ask a question or pose a theme to serve as a jumping-off point for this examination. Please use the theme as inspiration. The result need not be immediately recognizable as a product of the initial examination. The inaugural theme for year 2005-2006 is “Yamashita’s Gold.”


BASE INGREDIENTS for 2005/2007/2009
1. Running time between 1 hr and 1:30 hr.
2. Intermissionless
3. Must have a reasonable representation of women, both in quantity and quality of roles
4. At least 3 characters